Jun 082015
 

Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.

Song of Solomon 1:15

I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Song of Solomon 2:1

Our Sunday school adventure in the Song of Solomon is a new experience for me. This is the first time in 20 years that I have taught this important book. Shame on me! Our study has drawn me to two books that have been on my shelves for several years which I have never read. Now I have a great excuse to read them, and I have certainly been blessed. The first was published in 2009 and was written by my good friend and mentor, Michael A.G. Haykin. He perhaps, more than any other, had the greatest impact on my spiritual life while in seminary. He wrote a book called The Christian Lover. It a collection of love letters from believers in the past like Luther and his Katie, John Calvin and Idelette, Adoniram and Ann Judson, and many more.

The second book was originally published in 1971 and was reprinted in 2004. It was written by Elisabeth Dodds and the book is called Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards, probably the most brilliant theologian born on American soil, met his match when he met Sarah. He was 20, she was 13. Sarah was such a beautiful girl in every way that he was enamored by her. Being around her made him a different person. He was captivated by her beauty, and he became awkward around her and would stutter in speech. He took to walking past her house at night for a glimpse of a candle flickering behind an upstairs shutter. He would go to the wharf where shipments were delivered hoping to see her as she picked up packages to take home to her family. Here is what he wrote on the front page of his Greek grammar book – his mind most certainly was not on Greek. You get a glimpse of what true beauty is and what captured Jonathan’s heart.

“They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that Almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him – that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up to heaven; being assured that he loves her to well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love, favor and delight, forever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and sweetness of temper, uncommon purity in her affections; is most just and praiseworthy in all her actions; and you could not persuade her to do anything thought wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those times in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about, singing sweetly, from place to place; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone and wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”

In our marriages (and everything), Jesus must be first. He is to be our supreme delight. He is to be our first love. Everything flows from our personal relationship with him. Let us draw close to Christ today. Others will see that we are living in His presence moment by moment. Now that is attractive!

Pastor Bill

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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

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[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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Jan 022012
 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Happy New Year! By grace God has once again brought us through another year. I try often to think of what I am doing with my life for the glory of Christ, but the end of the year seems always to heighten my introspection. And that is a good thing, for me and for you. Our time on earth really is short. Life is a vapor that soon vanishes. Paul directs us to be careful how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of our time, because the days are evil. The wise will seek to make the most of the time. The unwise will let precious seconds waste as they live for themselves. Life is a gift of grace. God owes me nothing, yet he has graciously given us another day.

What are you doing with your time? Every year I am driven to the 70 resolutions Jonathan Edwards developed when he was 19 years old. This was one year after he became a Christian. He went through Divinity School at Yale, entering when he was 13 and graduating as Valedictorian at 17 and giving the Valedictory address in Latin. Going to Yale and knowing Latin did not make him a Christian. As a matter of fact, he despised the Doctrines of Grace. It was not until a Divine and Supernatural Light was immediately imparted to his soul (regeneration of the Spirit) that his whole perspective on life changed. If you are a Christian, your whole perspective of life should be radically altered. My chief aim should be to know Him and to make Him known. “For me to live is Christ,” Paul said. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:8)

Is Jesus Christ your everything? Does your daily schedule prove that?

In this blog, I am not asking you to make promises that you cannot keep. But I am asking myself and you, “What have you resolved to do with your time?” Jonathan Edwards began his resolutions by acknowledging, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”

“For Edwards, resolutions were neither pious hopes, romantic dreams, nor legalistic rules. They were instructions for life, maxims to be followed in all respects.”[1] The Resolutions were Edwards’ guidelines for self-examination. Individuals and congregations were exhorted to practice introspection as a duty of great consequence.

As you enter 2012, I do not want you to make pious hopes, romantic dreams or legalistic rules. I want you to examine your life and lay down instructions for your life so that you will live carefully and wisely in this world and so that you will live for the glory of God.

Of Edwards’ 70 resolutions, 13 are given to instruct him in the use of his time. I want to list a few:

Resolution 5 – “Resolved never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”

Resolution 17 – “Resolved that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”

Resolution 37 – “Resolved to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.”

Resolution 41 – “Resolved to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.”

Life is serious. Your time is a precious gift. By God’s grace, let us not waste it. Let us not fritter it away as if it really doesn’t matter.

By God’s grace, how have you resolved to live? What are you praying for God to accomplish in you and in our church?

Let us also, as Edwards resolved to do, resolve “to live with all my might while I do live.” (Resolution 6)

I pray that in 2012, as we resolve to live wholeheartedly for Him, that we will be more like Christ and more aware of His power and presence.

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[1] Introduction to the Resolutions excerpted from George Claghorn’s Introduction to Edwards’ Personal Writings, vol. 16 of the Yale Edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards.

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