Aug 202013
 

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

Titus 2:1 (ESV)

Titus was a faithful companion and co-laborer of the apostle Paul. God used Titus much to encourage the saints in Corinth. At one point, Titus went Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10), but here, in Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul tells us that he left Titus on the Island of Crete. The only time we see Paul on the Island of Crete is when he’s on his way to Rome (Acts 27:7). Apparently, Titus was with Paul on this trip and, before Paul entered a terrible storm and was ship-wrecked, he left Titus in a storm of a different kind. The believers in Crete had not appointed the proper leadership in the churches, there were false teachers upsetting whole families, and there seemed to be confusion among the believers in Crete as to proper gender relationships in the church and in the home. The believers in Crete did not understand how the Gospel applied to all areas of their lives (Titus 2:11-14).

So Paul tells Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine.” He makes a sharp contrast between what the false teachers were teaching and what Titus is to teach. Paul links sound doctrine with gender roles, and this is very important.

Some want to say that the gender issues addressed are merely cultural and are not in effect today. Many today claim that these ideas are archaic and old fashioned. But this view is easily debunked because, as you will notice, the gender roles spoken of here are rooted, not in culture, but in sound doctrine. They are rooted in God’s truth. We see other places in Scripture that make it clear that gender roles are traced back to the created order (see 1 Timothy 2:12-15).

The men of RBC have been reading and studying Mark Dever’s Book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. It is not an exhaustive treatment of everything that the New Testament teaches about a healthy church, but it’s a great start. We see in Paul’s letter to Titus that one of the evidences of a healthy believing community is how that community handles gender roles in the church and at home.

Titus is to address the older men of the congregation. They are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. The men are to lead their homes and their church in this way. As men grow older, a certain responsibility rests upon them. They should not be living in the foolishness of their youth. By this time in life, older believing men should be Christ-like examples to their families and church. As we learned in Richard Phillips’ book, The Masculine Mandate, men are to be builders and keepers, workers and protectors, nurturers and tenders of those around them.

Paul tells Titus to address the older women. They are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands. Older women have an extremely vital role in the church. They are to teach the younger women how to care for their respective domestic responsibilities in the home. Lots can be said about this: notice that young women need to be trained to love their husbands and children. For starters, let me say that when I was a young husband and father, I was not easy to love. I was very immature and I did not love and care for my children as I ought. I could be hard to live with! I don’t think that testimony only applies to me! I think many young husbands and fathers are foolish, and impulsive, and selfish, and inconsiderate. Young wives are often shocked to learn that their “Prince Charming” is not so charming once they are joined together in matrimony. Very often, young wives need to learn a special patience and grace for their husbands. An older and more experienced husband should become easier to live with! The older women are then better equipped to help younger women flourish during that season of their life.

And children…young women not only have to deal with (perhaps) an immature husband, but also immature children. Young mothers have a very difficult task of living what is sometimes a very isolated life in the home with the demands of child-rearing. Older women are to train the younger women how to serve their husbands and children and tend to the home. This does not mean that a woman cannot work outside the home (See Proverbs 31), but it is clear that the woman’s main role is to maintain the home. If work outside the home hinders work inside the home, the work outside should cease. Remember, this is sound doctrine. When the structure of marriage and church is properly in line with Scriptural gender roles, so the marriage and the church will be healthy.

Titus is also to address the young men. They are to be self-controlled. Enough said!

In all of this we should see that the believing community is a beautiful harmonizing of the generations! I take this text to mean that Titus was to teach this in public from the pulpit and privately as the need arose. When they were in church, all age groups would hear the same instruction together. As for Titus, he was to show himself to be a model of good works, teaching with integrity, dignity, sound speech, putting the evil world to shame (verse 7). The young were not primarily to be taught about life from their peers (although they will learn things from peers, either good or bad). Rather, older, more experienced believers in life and in the faith were to train the young.

I love our small groups at RBC. I am so thankful that my children can glean wisdom from older, godly men and women. Older believers that neglect to teach and train younger believers in the church are in great disobedience. And the young should seize every opportunity to learn from and listen to and emulate the more experienced. So, let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together – old and young! And let us spur one another on to love and good deeds. This is how we grow to full maturity in Christ!

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Nov 222012
 

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:26 (ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I love this holiday. If we look around we will see just how much we have to be thankful for. God has been so good to us. Americans really have been blessed like no other nation on earth. The way of life we enjoy now did not come easy. It started with the Pilgrims that came to the New World in 1620. Back in September, Beth and I watched Kirk Cameron’s new documentary called Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure. Cameron wanted to research what had made our nation great, so he went over to England to learn from some Pilgrim experts. What I learned from this was fascinating. I will never eat a Thanksgiving meal with a casual attitude again.

The Church of England held sway over the people. To be British was to be a member of the Church of England. The Puritan movement was an effort to purify the Church of England of the abuses of the bishops. Like the Roman Church, they wanted to keep the people in darkness. The Church did not want them to have the Scriptures in English. The Puritans were people of the Book. They were staunchly reformed in their doctrine and were serious about glorifying God in all of life. There is no group of believers that has documented their spiritual journeys and sermons and writings like the Puritans. (We should all read them!) As these believers grew in their understanding of the Scripture, they realized that the Monarch had no say over the Church. One was not a Christian by virtue of being born in England; rather one became a Christian only through faith in Jesus Christ.

With this understanding, these Puritans were being persecuted by the British authorities. So they separated from the Church of England. (It is from these Separatists from which our heritage as Baptists draws its connection.) So the Pilgrims, this Separatist congregation, led by Pastor John Robinson, planned to make an escape. But not an escape to nothing: they had a 500 year plan of how to build a democratic republic and to evangelize the world.

To leave the Church of England meant treason to the King. For four years this congregation met in an underground church in Scrooby. If they were caught meeting unlawfully, they would be taken to prison. The leaders of the Pilgrims met a Dutch sea captain who agreed to take them to Holland. What they did not know was that this captain had also made an agreement with the British authorities to turn the Pilgrims over when they got on the boat. So that’s what happened. They got caught and were put in prison. Upon release a year later, they planned another escape. This one would almost leave them with no more hope.

The men separated from the women and children because they would draw more attention from the British authorities. The women and children were sent down a stream to go to the shore to get on a boat, and they were to meet up with the men. The women and children got there a day early and became sea sick. They got caught and did not make it to the boat! The men got on board hoping to see them. The boat was put out to sea when a 2 week violent storm struck the sea. Over hundred ships sank in the sea during the storm and the men Pilgrims thought it was over for them. They cried out to their sovereign God, “Even now, You can save us!” The storm ceased! That boat carrying the male Pilgrims was the only boat still floating on the sea! The men made it to Amsterdam, but it took a year to get the women and children there. Remember, they were doing this for religious freedom. They believed in educating their own children and proclaiming the Gospel wherever they went. They loved England and they wanted to go back to England to set the people free from the tyranny of the King.

The Pilgrims would be in Amsterdam for 12 years! While there, they met a British publisher named William Brewster. They published 15 books and sent them throughout England. Well, this upset the British authorities, who came to Amsterdam, found them, destroyed the publishing house and brought them back to England.

So, now they were back in England. They hired two ships that would carry them to the new world, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Speedwell was not well! It sprung a leak and so those Pilgrims had to get off. The Mayflower was not big enough to carry all of them, so their Pastor John Robinson would stay in England with half of his congregation and send the rest with William Bradford to the New World. The journey lasted 66 days in the cold North Atlantic. It was a brutal trip. Before they got off the boat, the Mayflower Compact was drawn up. This was a democratic document guiding the Pilgrims and other settlers in self-government.

Well, that first winter was terrible. Forty seven died. There was a time when only six or seven were even strong enough to stand. The women would sleep on their children to keep them warm. Most that perished were women. The children survived with about 20 adults. They buried the dead in a common grave.

The captain of the Mayflower said he would take them back in the spring of 1621, but none went back. Things began to improve for the struggling settlers. They found favor with the Indians because they noticed that the Pilgrims brought their families with them. They did not come to pillage them and steal from them. The Indians helped them greatly that first summer, but their desire to start a new society came at a great price.

Today, in a suburb of Plymouth, MA is a monument erected in the 1800’s outlining exactly how these Pilgrims designed our Republic. The monument was paid for by the US congress and the State Legislature of Massachusetts. The statue is named Faith. There is a Geneva Bible opened pointing to faith in our Triune God. We are given wisdom through His Word. Then there is character and morality. It points to the heart transformation that only comes through the Gospel. There is a picture of an evangelist with the Bible open sharing the good news. In the New Covenant, the Law of God is now written on the heart. True liberty and a just society can only come as those in it have been born again. Then it moves to civil law, with God’s standards as the foundation. There is a standard of justice, but there is also a picture of mercy to those who are lawbreakers. Then there is education. The Pilgrims knew that this was the key. Education of children was to be done at home with responsibility given to the parents to educate their kids. The Bible was the curriculum! There is a picture of a woman sitting with her child representing the victory and joy of raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Finally, there is liberty! A man pictured conquering tyranny!

Let me tell you: these Pilgrims were not wimps!! They endured extreme hardships for years to pursue the plan of a just and godly society. This is the heritage of our nation. Watching Monumental made me want to go to New England and see all the monuments and graves. “There is nothing like bones to remind you of your heritage,” one of the historians said.

So, as you sit down to eat today, remember your heritage. Remember those who have gone before you and have sacrificed so much for your freedoms. Pray for our troops, pray for our leaders and pray that God would restore our nation. Pray that the Church of Jesus Christ would stand for truth. Pray that His Church would be built and that all nations would be glad in our great God!

I am thankful for each of you. We at RBC have had many hardships in planting a Reformed Baptist church in the mountains of Georgia. I will not quit the fight. God is doing great things among us. Keep a close watch on your heart and let us keep our marriages and families strong. Let us remember God’s covenant, steadfast love for us and let us be truly thankful.

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Oct 312012
 

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:16 (ESV)

This is a very important day for Redeemer Baptist Church. As Protestants, we have been affected by what happened on this day almost 500 years ago more than we often realize. While our culture spends millions on costumes, decorations, and candy for Halloween, at RBC we celebrate an event that has literally changed the course of history and brought a true recovery of the Gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ. Yes, it is Reformation Day! On this day in 1517, a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther posted ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church.

The theses were ninety-five points of debate. Luther wrote them in Latin, not his native German, to promote discussion in the academic community over the insufficiency of the sacerdotal system of the Roman Church. The belief in sacerdotalism[1] (sacraments as means of salvation) led to the use and abuse of indulgences. Though indulgences first appeared in the 11th century, a popular monk who worked for Albert of Mainz by the name of Johann Tetzel devised a means by which Pope Leo X (Albert wanted Leo’s favor) could pay for the elaborate decorations he desired for St. Peter’s Basilica. Tetzel claimed that buying indulgences would absolve a person of his sins, granting him and his dead loved-ones escape from purgatory.

Tetzel even developed a marketing jingle for his shady practice:

Sobald das geld in Kasten klingt

Die Seel’ aus dem Fegfeuer springt.

As soon as the money in the chest rings,

A soul from purgatory springs.

People came from all over into Albert of Mainz’s district to buy Tetzel’s indulgences. It began to affect Luther’s congregation. Tradition has it that one evening Martin Luther, while walking the streets of Wittenberg, happened upon a parishioner lying drunk in the gutter. As Luther rebuked him for public drunkenness, his parishioner fumbled around in his coat. Finally his hand emerged holding a piece of paper. He waved it before the priest, proclaiming that brother Tetzel had issued him an indulgence that offered, “Complete forgiveness of all sins – past, present and future.” This scene illustrates the dilemma facing the young monk and priest.

Luther spent the years of 1515-1516 lecturing on the book of Romans. Obviously, this would have a profound influence on his thinking. One could not be made right with God through the sacerdotal system. One could only have peace with God through Jesus Christ. The righteousness of a sinner comes not from within him, but from without him. It comes from another. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. He, in his life, achieved our righteousness. Then he died in the place of sinners. The righteousness a sinner receives is reckoned to him by grace alone, through faith alone, on the ground of Christ’s death alone, for the glory of God alone.

The five solas of the Reformation recovered the Biblical Gospel missing in the Roman Church: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria. Scripture alone, Grace alone, Faith alone, Christ alone, for the Glory of God alone!

Although Luther’s 95 Theses never use the words “justification by faith”, and even though they contain holdover elements of his Roman Catholicism which he would eventually reject, the main argument that Luther wants to debate is that salvation does not come through adhering to the Sacerdotal traditions of the church, but rather in Christ alone. Listen to some of Luther’s statements:

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the indulgence commissary or the pope himself were to stake his soul upon it.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy Gospel and the grace of God.

68. {Indulgences} are the absolute smallest graces compared with grace of God and the piety of the cross.

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up by preachers of indulgences (once again referring to Tetzel), is of equal worth with the cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

86. Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the riches of the richest, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?

89. Or finally: since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted prior to now, since these have equal efficacy?

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

94. Christians are to be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations, rather than through the false assurance of peace.

Assurance of salvation, to Luther, only comes through faith in Jesus Christ! This was the main point he wanted to make in the 95 theses. His theology would develop more fully in the years following this. In 1519 he began to lecture on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Luther said regarding Galatians, “The Epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Katherine.” Luther loved Galatians so much because all over the letter is written the doctrine of justification by faith.

I love it too, and so do the believers at RBC! The Gospel is our very life. We need it at the beginning, in the present and in the future. The Gospel is so precious. Oh how we need to remember, as Luther said, “Simul iustus et peccator,” which means, “At the same time righteous and sinner.” In justification, a sinner is declared righteous. Even though he is full of guilt and condemnation, when he trusts in Jesus alone for salvation, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and he is then treated as though he had kept the whole law. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Through faith in Jesus we now have peace with God (Romans 5:1). We are no longer enemies of God, but we are now His children, adopted into his family, called Beloved, vessels of mercy!

So friends, this is a special day. I long for a true recovery of Gospel to take place in the mountains of Georgia. It is desperately needed here. At RBC, we will declare the doctrines of the Reformation that brought forward again the glorious truths of sovereign grace. “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God” (Jonathan Edwards). He has elected a people by sovereign grace! He is to be the center, not man!

Soli Deo Gloria!

– * –

[1] The Roman Church developed seven sacraments: baptism (they baptized their infants), confirmation, priesthood or ordination, the Eucharist, marriage, extreme unction or last rites, penance. Luther reduced the list to the Biblical two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This developed through his realization that the Scriptures alone are the authority, not the pope and not tradition, and baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only Scriptural, visual means of representing the Gospel and the doctrine of justification by faith.

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Jun 052012
 

Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:13 (ESV, emphasis added)

This is a jaw-dropping verse! I bow in awe and humility before the One True and Living God who is sovereign over all things.

In God’s gracious providence, He has allowed me to pastor the most wonderful and caring people in the world! Though we are small, the sheep at RBC are very significant and precious in God’s sight. Every single one is worth every sacrifice I need to make. My dream is that the Doctrines of Grace would fill these mountains through a faithful, Reformed Baptist Church. The people at RBC have given so much of themselves for the church as a whole and for me as their pastor. I write today with a heart burdened for our people. I sense the weight of helping our people through the crooked lots in their life.

A “lot” is a word that describes all the things that God has ordained for our lives. The famous hymn, “It is Well with My Soul,” says it like this: “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well, with my soul.’” As you can see, Horatio Spafford, the hymn writer, uses the word “lot” in reference to every circumstance, whether straight or crooked, that God has sovereignly ordained for us. Prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, triumphs and trials, have all been ordained by our loving Father. As we are learning in our catechism time, each comes not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand. Spafford’s words are very difficult to live out. Can I truly say that whatever God has ordained for me, it is still well with my soul?

Ecclesiastes 7:14 says this: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that (or “for the purpose that”) man may not find out anything that will be after him.” Oh the wisdom and power and sovereignty of God! God ordains all things so that we would constantly depend on him, because only He knows the big picture. We have no clue as to what might happen next. We can only guess what tomorrow will bring, and that truth reminds us that we are the creatures and that He, the Creator, rules.

I have been pondering the lots of our people (what God has ordained for us) and the entire ministry of RBC. I woke this morning to find an email ad for a reprint of an old Puritan book, written by Thomas Boston, entitled The Crook in the Lot. I found that I could download it on my Kindle for $.99. I quickly did, and as advertised, Amazon had that book in my hand in less than one minute! Then I began reading… and I couldn’t help but see that the message of this book was so desperately needed for me and our people. It is based on Ecclesiastes 7:13, the verse quoted above.

Only by the means of faith can we have a right view of our lots. Believers must “walk by faith and not by sight.” What does Solomon say here? The crook in our lot is His doing. Yes, you read it right. The crook in your lot is His doing! There is absolutely nothing we can do in our own power to make straight what God has ordained to be crooked. Boston says, “Such a view of the crook in our lot is very suitable to still improper risings of heart, and quiet us under them.” What are the improper risings of heart that you are experiencing right now? Only the biblical view of God’s sovereignty can quiet them. Listen further: “As to the crook in your lot, God has made it; and it must continue while He will have it so. Should you ply your utmost force to even it, or make it straight, your attempt will be vain: it will not change for all you can do. Only He who made it can mend it, or make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is a proper means at once to silence and to satisfy men, and so bring them to a dutiful submission to their Maker and Governor, under the crook in their lot” (empahsis mine).

God designs our circumstances for His glory and for our everlasting good. He is faithful to conform us into the image of His Son. Do we want to become more like Jesus? Do we want to grow spiritually? As Beth and I were talking about these things this morning, she reminded me of a hymn written by John Newton. It’s one you and I should memorize and carefully consider. Here is “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow,” by John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace.”

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

To my brothers and sisters at RBC, and to whomever reads this post, please read this carefully. God wants us to find our all in Him. Let your lot, which God has graciously designed, cause you to pursue Him with all your heart. Do we want to be like Jesus? This is the path. Yes, the Bible does say that if we trust Him He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6), but remember that Proverbs are not promises![1] They are general principles of life that are meant to guide us in wisdom and grow us in the fear of the Lord. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 does not mean everything will be smooth for us; it does not teach that if things are not smooth, then we must not be trusting God. This is a great error. God is sovereign, and He designs crooked lots in His wisdom. I will write about this more, but what we see in this world of sin is that God might straighten one thing and then make another thing crooked. He might ease your headache today, but the car might break down tomorrow, and then the headache starts again!

“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, O for grace to trust Him more.” L. Stead, 1882.

I need grace to trust Him in my crooked lot. How about you? Let us cry out to Him together and love Him and trust Him more!

– * –

[1] A prime example is Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he old he will not depart from it.” I have known many children that have been trained in the ways of the Lord that are not walking in God’s truth. God is sovereign over every heart. This verse is a general principle. It simply means that wherever our children go, their training goes with them. They can never escape the lessons that godly parents have taught them, but such teaching does not guarantee that the child will walk in God’s ways. Only God can change a sinner’s heart.

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May 102012
 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Yesterday, at about 10:30 AM, I completed my last final exam for my Master of Divinity. It has taken seven years to complete this. I am truly thankful to God for His abundant mercies and provisions; to my wife who has supported me on this journey every step, even a hard move to Southern, then back to Blairsville to support a church plant effort; ro my children, who have only known me to be studying for some test or working on some project – I haven’t been able out and play with them as much as I would have liked; to my father and step mother, and my two brothers; to my mother who went home to be with Lord three months after I started at Southern; to my church family, Redeemer Baptist, for your constant love and prayers and support.

I thought I would have a feeling of relief, but I do not. Perhaps if I wasn’t already in the ministry, I would feel relieved. But since being in the ministry carries its own weight, there is no real relief. I know that my learning has only begun. That’s right. I have so much yet to learn. I do believe in many ways Southern prepared me well. What Southern could not prepare me for is learning to balance ministry and family, being disciplined with my time, the sacrifices necessary to plant a church, harsh criticism, expectations of having all the answers and working miracles, and, like the apostle Paul said in the above verses, dealing with my own sin. We will never stop learning to deal with our sin until either we die or Jesus comes back.

Yes, I might have obtained an MDiv, but that really does not mean much. I still have not obtained the greatest prize: the consummation of my redemption. We live in the tension of the “already and not yet”.[1] I have been saved in the past. I am being saved (sanctification) in the present. I will be saved in the future. I have not obtained perfection. I will battle with my sin until Jesus returns. This could lead to real discouragement, but like the apostle Paul, I do not want to quit the fight against my own sin. So I press on to make Christ’s resurrection life my own, not because I’m mentally tough, but because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Jesus’ ownership of me is the only cause of my pressing forward! The thing that keeps me going through all my failures, inadequacies and all the struggles of life is that Jesus will not let go and I belong to Him.

The same idea is found in Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” For believers, the cause of our pressing forward and straining toward the prize, or the cause of working out our own salvation is that our God works in us. He gives the desire. He is sovereignly behind it all!

Because I have not obtained the prize yet in its fullness, I press on toward the goal. The word for goal here can refer to a “finish line” in a race or to an archery target.[2] At the end, reaching this finish line, or hitting the target we are after, means being in the presence of Jesus Christ forever. Our earthly achievements cannot even compare to receiving the inheritance that is imperishable, unfading, undefiled, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4).

So, like I said, receiving another degree does not mean much. I still have much to learn. My learning is not over and neither is yours. My reading of the Scriptures and of other books is paramount to an effective Christian life and ministry. I should never cease in my pursuit of God. Some have asked, what are you going to read (outside the Bible, of course) when you are out of school? If God so wills, I plan to dig deeper into the writings of Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin. I will continue reading missionary biographies and Baptist history.

My battle with sin is not over yet and neither is yours. So let us be patient with one another. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Let us take responsibility for our own sin, seek reconciliation and forgiveness when necessary, and move forward. Quit hanging on to the past. Jesus paid for all the sins of his people. Trust in His sacrifice and his call of justification. Remember the words of Charity Bancroft who wrote, “When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”

It’s not over: your learning, your battle with sin, your trials, your physical pains, etc. But let us keep pressing on. Let us not give up the fight. Let us press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. “Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

* – *

[1] I refer you here to George E. Ladd’s book, The Gospel and the Kingdom.

[2] See the ESV Study Bible note on this verse.

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Apr 182012
 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV)

Tonight, the men of our church will begin a new study based on Richard Phillips’ book, The Masculine Mandate. Our men’s and women’s small groups meet the 1st, 3rd and 5th Wednesday nights of the month, while our prayer meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Wednesday nights. Our women will be studying Jerry Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace. I’m excited about what both groups will be learning. I desire for myself and for the men of RBC to grow in Biblical manhood. But what is Biblical manhood? What does it mean, as Paul addressed to the men in 1 Corinthians 16:13, to “Act like men”? The word is ἀνδρίζεσθε, which is an imperative form of ἀνδρίζομαι. It is rooted in the word for “male” or “husband.” This is a word that describes manly characteristics. Men are to be brave, valiant, and courageous. Men need to step up in their God-given role and exhibit Biblical, manly characteristics. There are other qualities and principles, however that the Scriptures teach regarding Biblical manhood.

Phillips’ book takes us back to Genesis to demonstrate from Scripture what it means to be a man. He then applies Biblical masculinity as it relates to the covenantal relationships that God has placed in a man’s life. Those include marriage, children, church family, work relationships and friends. Last year, my accountability partner (Christopher Sgambati) and I read through this book together and we found ourselves challenged with every page. The book helped me immensely and I really wanted all of the men at RBC to read it and discuss it so that we will grow as godly men. I do not want to give away at this point the main message of the book. But I do want to challenge the men of RBC to be open and honest, to be humble and teachable, to be loving and kind, to be strong and to stand firm, to lead with courage and faith, to be gracious and meek, and to pursue Christ with all our hearts. God is giving us this opportunity to grow together and I pray we will seize it and pursue true, Biblical masculinity. Men of RBC, do not neglect this!

I find it very helpful for my spiritual well-being, and the well-being of my home and church, to share my life with many men. I want my life to be an open-book, not to only a few, to all the godly men that God brings into my life. I want them all to know my struggles and fears. I want them to know what is going on in my life. I do not want to broadcast an image that appears healthy and strong when it is not.

What I want to do now is mention the names of the men that God has placed in my life right now. My dad, Willi Schakat, who just turned 75 years old on Monday! My two brothers in the flesh and Spirit, Tim Schakat and Tom Schakat. My father-in-law Robert Busbee, and my brothers-in law, Chris and Jason Busbee. I’m thankful I can be close to all my blood-kin. All are filled with wisdom and I know I can call them at any time.

Jeff Robinson, my friend for many years, is a constant encouragement and support. Baseball brought us together (through the Cincinnati Reds), but God’s Spirit has given us a true brotherhood. My accountability partner and friend, Christopher Sgambati, who meets with me virtually every Friday morning at 6:45! He prays for me faithfully and gives me the hard words when necessary. All of the men at RBC. I so appreciate your friendship (Doug, Michael, Wally, Scott, Jimbo, Mike F., Jim, Jim Jr., Bill, Joey, Kevin). I also need to mention two brothers, Byron and Howard McCombs for their listening ear and godly insight. Both of you are treasured friends.

I feel very blessed to have these men in my life. As you can see, many that I mentioned do not attend RBC. That’s a great thing. But for those who do, I want us to get to know each other better during this study. I desire a true brotherhood to flourish that will produce much fruit for Christ’s Kingdom. Ladies of RBC, we will pray for you, that Biblical femininity will flourish too. We pray your study in sanctification will be a blessing in your life. Again, do not neglect God’s means of grace to you. Make every effort to participate. These studies will take us deeper in the Word and, I pray, will cause us to do much needed self-examination. I pray that we will all learn to cherish the Gospel more each day for we know that it is only by His Grace that we stand.

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Mar 222012
 

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

Acts 10:44-48 (ESV), emphasis mine

In Parts 1, 2 and 3, I have already stated my position: the biblical mode of baptism is immersion, the subjects of baptism are not infants, but disciples alone, and the practice of infant baptism is a violation of the regulative principle of worship. In Part 3 we looked at the issue from the perspective of a biblical ecclesiology. We are never commanded to baptize the unregenerate. The church is not made up of believers and their baptized infants. The church is a family of believers only.[1] “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:8). In the New Covenant, there is no such thing as a mixed community (See Jeremiah 31). The New Covenant is not a renewed Abrahamic covenant. It is not like the Old Covenant. Baptism is not the new circumcision.

Paedo-baptists commonly concur that infant baptism is not explicitly stated in the New Testament, but they will argue that the household baptisms in the book of Acts at least make it possible that infants were baptized along with believing parents. But again, like paedo-baptist Scott Simmons states, “Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that the households of these believers contained no infants and were converted before being baptized.  Therefore, there is no ironclad proof of the practice of infant baptism in these passages.”[2]

I would say that the Scriptural evidence from the household-salvation-baptism passages actually teach credo-Baptism. Let’s look at them quickly. There are five accounts, and they are found in these texts: Acts 10-11 (Cornelius); Acts 16 (Lydia and the Philippian jailer); Acts 18 (Crispus); and 1 Corinthians 1:16 (Stephanas).

Cornelius

Upon closer examination, this text does not teach infant baptism. Peter does preach the Gospel to the whole household, plus many guests, and “all who were listening to the message” and who repented were saved. The text says so explicitly (Acts 10:44 and 11:15). Upon hearing the Word the Holy Spirit fell upon them and led them to repentance and faith. In Acts 10:47, Peter says that he only baptized “those who received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” This corresponds with the day of Pentecost where the Scripture explicitly says that only those who “received his word” were baptized (Acts 2:41).

There is no mention of infants in the household, but only those who were listening to the message. This is obviously something infants cannot do with comprehension. Also, we have no record in the New Testament of paedo-glossalalia. Acts 10:46 says that these new believers spoke in tongues. J.A. Alexander, a paedo-Baptist, concludes that there is no evidence of paedo-Baptism here.

Lydia

The case of Lydia is inconclusive at best. It is clear from the text that God opened her heart “to pay attention to what was being said by Paul.” Here again is clear evidence that saving faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). After this understanding is granted by sovereign grace, she is then baptized along with her household. We know very little about Lydia, except that Paul shared with her and other women at the riverside. We do not know that Lydia was even married or that she had any children. From the text, clearly she was with other adult women, and perhaps they were part of her household. There is no evidence of infant baptism here, but rather believer’s baptism.

The Philippian Jailer

Again, it is clear from Acts 16 that Paul spoke the Word of God to them. The whole house heard the Gospel, were baptized and also rejoiced. The Philippian jailer and his household were baptized upon repentance and belief in Gospel message. Infants cannot do this. Also, when was the last time you saw an infant rejoice? They might cry or smile or giggle a little, but I have never seen an infant rejoicing. Only those that have some comprehension of saving grace can genuinely rejoice. This example cannot be used by paedo-Baptists.

Crispus’ Household

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing Paul, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Here again, baptism is granted to those who have believed, or disciples only. Belief in the Gospel is only reason given in the text for their baptism. There is no evidence given that “covenant children” were also baptized.

Stephanas

1 Corinthians 1:16: “(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)” Paul writes this parenthesis referring to a controversy over factionalism. Paul’s statement does not support infant baptism. Fred Malone comments here: “First, it seems they were capable of knowing who baptized them, thus excluding infants. Further, 1 Corinthians 16:15 describes the ‘household of Stephanas’ as persons who devoted themselves for ministry to the saints. Infants, of course, cannot self consciously devote themselves in such a way.”[3] It seems clear that this text is also speaking of disciples only.

In these five examples, there are no explicit hints that infants were baptized along with their parents. In fact, the text argues just the opposite. It was only those who heard the Word and believed (disciples only) who were baptized.

I want to recommend a book that I have found particularly helpful in my understanding of both sides of this issue. It is entitled Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, edited by Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright. Every essay is tremendous, but if you only read one of them, I would direct you to Chapter 4, where Dr. Steve Wellum has written an essay entitled “Baptism and the Relationship Between the Covenants.” In my humble opinion, that chapter alone is worth the price of the book. I am not endorsing this book because Dr. Schreiner and Dr. Wright are my dear friends, which they are, or because Dr. Wellum taught me Christology in Seminary, but this book is honest and loving and very helpful.

I will conclude here in my discussion of Why I Am A Baptist. I am a Baptist by conviction. It really does mean something to me. I am so thankful for my fellow worshippers at Redeemer Baptist Church. I love you all and I appreciate your kindness to me and my family. I am absolutely committed to the doctrines we hold dear and will defend them and preach them with every fiber of my being. I confess that I am a sinner, in need of daily grace. I confess my ignorance and frailty of mind. But with tears in my eyes, I reaffirm my commitment and my love for you, and that I will earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Bill

– * –

[1] I certainly do believe that God saves children. There is a difference between “infants” and “children”. Infants do not have the capability of understanding the Gospel, but there are cases where children, even at a very young age, do understand the Gospel and God saves them. A great example of this is found in Jonathan Edwards’ A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, where he tells of a four year old girl, Phebe Bartlet, that was granted the gift of salvation in 1735. Of course, Edwards held to infant baptism, in which case I disagree with my hero since I do not find it consistent with New Testament teaching. It is testified that Phebe was still living by 1789 and maintained the character of a true convert. To read more, I refer you to Jonathan Edwards On Revival, published by Banner of Truth.

[2] Scott Simmons, “A Case for Infant Baptism.” The article can be found at this link: http://www.aplacefortruth.org/infant.baptism.

[3] Fred Malone. Baptism of Disciples Alone, p. 125.

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Mar 072012
 

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (emphasis mine)

Acts 11:25-26 (ESV)

From the first two parts, we have learned the importance of a biblical understanding of baptism. What is the mode of baptism? Immersion. “Baptism” always means to dip or immerse. In the New Testament, persons are baptized, or dipped. Baptism never means to sprinkle or pour. Who are the subjects of baptism? Disciples alone. Adhering to the Regulative principle of worship, we find that the Scriptural subjects of baptism are always disciples. Disciples are called Christians. Those that are Christians, or disciples, are only those who have made a profession of faith in Christ alone repented of their sin.

How does this affect our doctrine of the Church? Is a right understanding of Baptism really that important? Once again, with the help of Fred Malone (from one book and an article in another: The Baptism of Disciples Alone and Ministry By His Grace and For His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles), I want to discuss the importance of believer’s baptism for our doctrine of the church. Scripture regulates how the church is to function in the world. Here are some condensed arguments for the importance of believer’s baptism.

1. The New Testament church is repeatedly called “the disciples.” The Church is never called “the disciples and their children.” This is because biblical churches are composed of disciples alone, who are baptized upon their profession of faith. Acts 2:41 – “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

2. The baptism of disciples alone affects evangelism. We must make sure the candidate for baptism knows what it means to be a disciple of Christ beforehand. (Matthew 28:19-20)

3. The church, as an assembly of baptized disciples, demands that the worship and teaching ministry of the church on the Lord’s Day be geared toward disciples rather than “seekers.” The Great Commission requires disciples to be taught all that Christ commanded as the basis of all true spiritual worship (John 4:24). Ministers are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Of course, we still give Gospel appeals, and we long for the new birth to be granted to the lost, but we cannot neglect to teach those who are already disciples.

4. The church as an assembly of baptized believers demands that the priority and autonomy of the local church be emphasized over denominationalism. The local church is the only authorized instrument of Jesus Christ on earth, each with him as Head. Associational connections are voluntary. Associational leaders are servants of the churches and not masters over them.

5. The church as an assembly of baptized believers recognizes the priesthood of all believers as each disciple can come before God through Christ alone. Yet each church must recognize some body of beliefs by which covenant membership and unity can be established.

6. The church as an assembly of baptized believers requires church discipline. The church has the final say in these matters (Matthew 18:15-17). Each disciple needs fellowship, correction and accountability.

7. The church as an assembly of baptized believers requires that worship be regulated by Scripture. We are to worship “in spirit and in truth,” not “in spirit and creativity.” We should practice only those things taught us in Scripture. As was mentioned last time, the baptism of infants is clearly not taught in the New Testament and is a violation of the Regulative Principle of worship.

I confess that my understanding of a biblical ecclesiology was shaped largely by my mentor in Baptist History, Dr. Tom Nettles. His three-volume work called The Baptists, along with his lectures on historic theology and Baptist history, forever changed my life. God raised up Dr. Nettles “for such a time as this” in the Southern Baptist Convention. We needed to get back to our historical roots. Dr. Nettles is most certainly one of the most gracious men I have ever met and yet he is bold as a lion! He taught me the biblical doctrine of a regenerate church membership. Historically, “Baptists rejected infant baptism in the pursuit of a principle of regenerate Church membership.”[1] In the New Testament, never will we find examples of the unregenerate receiving baptism. (In Part 4, I will give my understanding of household baptisms. There is still no evidence in those passages supporting infant baptism.)

Those who accept infant baptism (baptizing the unregenerate), therefore, must say one of two things: either infant baptism is the same as believer’s baptism, or it is different from believer’s baptism. If the two are different, then there are two theologies of baptism, one plain in Scripture and one hidden. If they are the same, then paedo-Baptists must consider infants as believers capable of giving evidence of their belief, or agree that the belief of a substitute is in no way inferior to their own. Either alternative is difficult to prove.[2]

That is a great thought! And I will leave it at that for now. Jesus loves His Church, His disciples! He gave His life for them! It such a privilege to obey Him in baptism, a picture of redemption. Remember: only disciples of Jesus were called Christians!

– * –

[1] Thomas J. Nettles. Baptism and the Ordinances: An essay to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 1997. Pg. 3

[2] Ibid. pg. 3.

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Feb 172012
 

Of His own will He [God] brought us forth by the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

James 1:18 (ESV)

The latest editorial in the Christian Index, the newspaper of the Georgia Baptist Convention, is entitled “The Calvinists are Here.” To the editor, the current influx of Calvinists is an “encroachment” on SBC life. The editorial notes a LifeWay Research study showing that 10 percent of all SBC pastors now identify themselves as Calvinists and a third of recent graduates from SBC seminaries espouse Reformed doctrines, with Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, being a notable source.

Former SBC president Jerry Vines said in SBC Life, “I have stated before, so it’s not new news, that should the SBC move towards five-point Calvinism it will be a move away from, not toward, the Gospel.”

The Reformation of the 16th century brought a recovery of the Gospel. The Gospel had been diminished by the Roman Church. Men like John Wycliffe (living in the 14th century) gave their lives so that the plough boy would know more of the Scripture than priest. There were many corruptions in the Roman Church of Luther’s day. From simony to relics to Papal bulls and indulgences, the Gospel was not proclaimed.

Then, in God’s providence, He raised up men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Puritans, and the English Separatists, from which the Baptists arose. One must realize that Calvin never set out to have a system of theology named after him. As a matter of fact, the article mentioned above does not inform the reader that the “five points” were a response to the Remonstrance, the five points of Arminiamism (A system of doctrine developed by Jacob Arminius). That’s right. It was the Arminians that shifted away from the Gospel after the Reformers brought it back to the church.

When Dr. Vines says that Calvinism is a move “away from the Gospel,” it is actually the other way around. The Arminian Remonstrance was a move away from the Gospel. Arminianism was exposed for what it was at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19: a set of doctrines that exalts the glory of man and not the glory of God. Arminius taught that man was not totally depraved. Election was conditional on man’s choice. All people were included in the atonement, even if some would not choose eternal life. Grace could be resisted. And finally, a professed believer could lose his or her salvation. Eternal life was held in the power of man rather than God. It was at the Synod that the five points of Calvinism were developed to counteract the false teaching of Arminians.

Unfortunately, Calvinism has been grossly misrepresented in our day. God is seen as mean or “unfair” if He elects certain ones to eternal life. It is claimed that Calvinists do not evangelize because “God will bring them in anyway.” But Biblical Calvinists know that God is a God of means. The means by which His elect come is through the proclamation of Gospel. The Father chose his children before the foundation of the world, the Son purchased them with his own blood, and the Spirit applies the truth of the Gospel to the hearts of men, causing them to be born again (Ephesians 1). Divine election is what makes evangelism successful. Biblical Calvinism simply exalts the God of Scripture. It lets God have the first and last word on all things. The author of the editorial states that John Calvin is “best known for his doctrine of predestination, which became the foundation of his theology – suggesting that God predestined certain individuals to be saved.” The truth is that Calvin spends very little time, comparatively, teaching about predestination in the Institutes. Calvin’s Institutes is a theology book that exalts the glory of God and puts man in his place. Calvin lived and loved to preach the greatness of God. Let us be clear that when Calvin does teach on predestination, he simply goes to the Bible. He does not produce this doctrine on his own initiative, out of thin air. He reads Ephesians 1 and Romans 8-9, and He sees election everywhere in the Bible.

The Biblical Calvinists of the SBC have not set out to fight with those opposed to them. Most are not aggressive and hostile. As Gerald Harris says, “Most of the Reformed pastors and churchmen I know are gracious and godly people with a profound devotion to the Word of God.” Those saved by grace should be the most gracious people. They do love the Word of God and doctrines that the founders of the SBC cherished so greatly. Reformed theology is nothing new in the SBC. It is the doctrine we were founded on. Let us read the primary sources and this will be clear.

No one chooses to be born. You are simply born. In the same manner, no one chooses to be born again on his own. James 1:18 says it so clearly: that God brought us forth (same word as a mother giving birth) by the Word of truth. God brought us forth. God gave us life. Regeneration comes first, then repentance and faith, and not vice versa.

When someone asks me, “Are you a Calvinist?”, I ask, “What do you mean by ‘Calvinist’?” If it is a misrepresentation of Calvinism, then no, I am not one. But if it is Biblical and not ultimately bound to Calvin, then yes, I am one. Baptists are people of the Book. We are not bound to Calvin. We just want to be Biblical. Lord willing, in May, I will be graduating from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, KY. SBTS did not make me a Calvinist. God brought me to an understanding of the Doctrines of Grace (the five points of Calvinism) 6 or 7 years before I studied there. Attending SBTS was simply God’s means of preparing me for ministry. SBTS exists For the Truth, For the World, For the Church, For the Glory of God. That’s all I was looking for and that’s exactly what I found. I pray with all my heart that it wasn’t simply head knowledge, but a life living what the Bible teaches. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy go hand in hand.

Yes, the Calvinists are here and I am one of them, as long as it is a Biblical Calvinism. So please, don’t misrepresent it. I unashamedly say with Jonathan Edwards, “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.”

Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Soli Fide, Soli Deo Gloria

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Jan 102012
 

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (emphasis mine)

Westminster Confession of Faith, Article 1 Section 6.

The sum total of God’s revelation concerning all things essential to his own glory, and to the salvation and faith and life of men, is either explicitly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture. Nothing, whether a supposed revelation of the Spirit or man’s traditions, is ever to be added to Scripture. (emphasis mine)

Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, Article 1 Section 6.

Both Reformed credo-Baptists and paedo-Baptists claim to adhere to the regulative principle of worship. The WCF and the LBC (1689) describe the Regulative Principle as follows:

…the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by Himself; and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to imaginations, and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way, not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

(WCF 21:1; LBC 22:1)

This means that the Scriptures not only tell us to worship God, but they regulate how to worship God. If you could ask Nadab and Abihu (see Leviticus 10) if it matters how we worship God, I think you would hear them say that God takes worship seriously. It is not a game. Human beings are not at liberty to create worship patterns and practices in their own wisdom.

I will be very clear: one of the huge reasons that I am a Baptist and not a paedo-baptist is that I see paedo-baptism as a violation of the regulative principle of worship. Baptists, certainly, and even paedo-Baptists, agree that there is no New Testament example of the practice of baptizing infants. John the Baptist did not do it. Jesus did not do it and neither do the apostles practice it nor tell us to practice it. John Murray is probably one of the foremost adherents and defenders of the paedo-Baptist position. Murray readily admits that there is no New Testament evidence. So, how do paedo-Baptists, that also claim to adhere to the Regulative Principle of worship, defend the practice? They do so using the phrase I emphasized in the WCF at the top of this page, claiming that infant baptism falls under the category of good and necessary consequence. Listen to Murray here:

What by good and necessary inference can be deduced from Scripture is of authority in the church of God as well as what is expressly set down. The evidence for infant baptism falls into the category of good and necessary inference, and it is therefore indefensible to demand that the evidence required must be in the category of express command or explicit instance. In other words, the assumption upon which this objection rests is a false assumption and one which cannot be adopted as the norm in determining what Christian doctrine or Christian institution is. (emphasis mine)

So Murray makes clear that infant baptism is not expressly set down in Scripture. This absence forces him to argue from good and necessary consequence. Then Murray claims that arguing against infant baptism is indefensible because of its foundation upon good and necessary consequence. Really? Indefensible? Why cannot we demand evidence when we are dealing with an ordinance instituted by the Lord and Master of the Church? Fred Malone calls this understanding to account when he says, “Good and necessary consequence can be valid only when deduced from written revelation and not contrary to other written revelation, i.e., the analogy of faith.”[1] The argument of “Good and necessary consequence” cannot be used if it violates standard hermeneutical principles or the regulative principle of worship, and because Scripture does not contradict itself.

In Part 1, I argued that the word baptizo always means to dip or immerse. It cannot mean anything else if we properly understand the nature and regular historical use of the word. So baptism is by immersion, and the Scriptures clearly and explicitly set down the subjects of baptism as disciples, or those who have made a profession of faith. We are never taught to baptize the unregenerate. Baptists, historically, have held to a regenerate church membership. This stems from our understanding of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. The New Covenant is NOT like the old. It is not a renewed Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant had with it physical blessings and spiritual blessings. In the Abrahamic covenant, believing and unbelieving males were circumcised, making it a mixed community. But the New Covenant community is not a mixed community. He will put his laws within the hearts of his people. His Spirit will be given to His people alone and because of this they will obey Him and love Him. He will be their God and they will be His people. They will ALL know Him and He will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. In the New Covenant, there is no such thing as a mixed community. Now, there certainly will be false professors in the church, and church discipline is designed to handle that eventuality (1 John 2:19), but the church should not knowingly baptize those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ.

Baptism is not the new circumcision. Circumcision did not ultimately point to entrance in the covenant community but rather to the circumcision (or uncircumcision) of the heart. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). Romans 9:8 reinforces the point: “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” The children of the promise are those that are unity to Christ through faith alone. Entrance into the community has always been by faith, not an external mark. It is a matter of the heart. The old covenant pointed to the new and finds its fulfillment in the new. God, by His Spirit, gives us a circumcised heart. The New Testament testimony of this inward work of God’s grace is baptism. It clearly pictures the Gospel, that we have been buried with him in baptism and raised to newness of life.

If one argues good and necessary consequence, it can only be valid if it is not contrary to Scripture. Baptism is an ordinance given to the church by Christ. It’s a serious matter. We cannot say that it’s no big deal. I love John Calvin, but I am not bound by Calvin, but by Scripture. Calvin held to infant baptism. Based on Scripture, I cannot agree with him. I love Jonathan Edwards. I think if Edwards had lived longer he would have renounced infant baptism. His changing views of the Lord’s Supper and his rejection of the Half-way Covenant give evidence of this. Our heroes of the faith are all fallible.

The early Baptists took the Reformation all the way. They broke completely with Rome and their tradition of baptizing babies. Their understanding was based on the covenants, but it was, as far as I can see, a proper understanding of those covenants.

These are the convictions that drive me. Others I know feel differently and I would never ask anyone to worship against his conscience. But these convictions are very serious to me. My conscience cannot escape them. I want to follow Jesus with all my heart. I want His Gospel to shine and I pray that you do as well.

– * –

[1] Fred Malone. Baptism of Disciples Alone. (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2007), p. 21.

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