Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

God the Son: Eternally Begotten AND Eternally Submissive?

[Here's something I originally posted on 2/18/14. With some current controversies within evangelicalism, it suddenly seems timely.]

The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), 2.3:
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.
(Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Exo 3:14; John 14:11; 1 Cor 8:6; John 1:14, 18; John 15:26; Gal 4:6)

Examination:

In an article focused on BCF 1689 2.3 [found HERE], Stefan Lindblad makes several helpful observations. For example, Lindblad notes that unlike in human begetting, in which the generic human essence is divided- and, by virtue of being begotten, a human being moves from a state of potentiality (non-existence) to actuality (existence)- God the Son is begotten of God the Father eternally (both Father and Son always exist), with no division of the divine essence. The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is both "expressly set down" and "necessarily contained" in Scripture (BCF 1689 1.10).

Controversy:

In his article, Lindblad defends the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son against current evangelical skeptics. In the final section of his article, Lindblad specifically focuses on Bruce Ware's teaching the Son's eternal distinction from and relation to the Father is best understood in terms of eternal functional submission RATHER THAN the Son being eternally begotten. Ware writes:
The conceptions of both the "eternal begetting of the Son" and "eternal procession of the Spirit" seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost, respectively. [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance 162, n 3]
By contrast, Lindblad objects to Ware's exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:3 in which Ware asserts that Paul teaches that male headship is "a reflection of the authority and submission that exists in the eternal Godhead."

Notice, however, that the positions are not mutually exclusive, as both Lindblad and Ware seem to believe. There is no reason why, accepting Lindblad's defense of eternal generation, the reader must then necessarily reject Ware's exegesis of 1 Cor 11:3 (or vice versa). Eternal generation and eternal functional submission may be complementary rather than contradictory.

It is interesting that Lindblad makes the exact same objections to eternal functional submission that Ware and other evangelical critics make to eternal generation. Ware believes that the biblical language regarding the Son's being begotten or the Spirit's proceeding only refers to these Persons activity in time whereas language regarding the Son's submission to the Father reflects an eternal reality. Lindblad believes that the biblical language concerning the Son's submission to the Father only refers to the Son's work in redemption whereas language regarding the Son being begotten reflects an eternal reality. Both Ware and Lindblad believe that the other man's position logically necessitates Arianism or subordinationism whereas their own position in no way lends support to the Arian or subordinationist position.

What if both are right (AND both are wrong)? That is: what if the biblical language regarding the Son's being begotten AND the biblical language regarding the Son's submission to the Father all reflect eternal realities concerning the Persons within the Godhead? What if NEITHER position lends support to Arianism, as both positions involve eternal realities (none in this conversation teach that "there was a time when He was not:" the definitional statement of Arianism) and both positions teach eternal co-equality of Being shared by the Persons of the Trinity?

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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Confessional Baptist Covenant Theology

During the 2005-2006 school-year, my wife (Abby) and I were members of Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, AL. Though we were part of that congregation for a relatively short time, GHC has made an indelible imprint on our lives due to the biblical doctrine and godly lifestyle of the members there. Since I have been studying Covenant Theology for quite some time now, I was excited to see that Stan Reeves, who is an elder at GHC, has put out a series on Confessional Baptist Covenant Theology, which is in line with 1689 Federalism. After having listened to this series, I would highly recommend it to anyone. It lays out foundational truths for both understanding the story-line of Scripture, and for considering how New Covenant realities impact the way in which local churches should be organized.



Introduction
Video

The Covenant of Works
Video


The Abrahamic Covenant
Video

The Mosaic Covenant
Video

The New Covenant
Video

The Nature of the Church*
Video

Responding to Dispensationalism
Video

Responding to New Covenant Theology
Video

*Special session on subjects of baptism
Audio
talk was cut off at 1:18:40 -- actual talk was much longer

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stages for Understanding God's Will

[This is a continuation of yesterday's post. The following is paraphrased from Tim Challies' The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Again, I would recommend reading his entire book.]

In writing about discerning God's will, Tim Challies recommends viewing discernment of God's will according to the following "stages". It is important to note, when considering these "stages":
1. This process presupposes that the person who seeks to know God's will is a believer, who has been given a new heart (Eze 36:26); it is only through being born again that a faithful person can honestly pray to God, "Your will be done" (Matt 6:10);
2. This process presupposes that the person who seeks to know God's will is regularly studying Scripture, therefore becoming well-acquainted with God's revealed will;
3. This process is not a a strict step-by-step sequence, as these "stages" often take place simultaneously.

Stages for understanding and obeying God's will:

1. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom 12:2);
2. Apply truths from Scripture to situations and decisions you encounter in life, by:
a. Obeying God's commands;
b. Seeking to act according to biblical principles;
3. Renew your emotions so that you love what God loves and hate what God hates.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Knowing God's Will for Our Lives: Two Aspects of God's Will


[In 2011 at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, I led my Sunday school class in studying through Tim Challies' The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. In studying to teach that class, I made an outline of each chapter. The following blogpost is expanded from the outline I made for Chapter 6. Some of the thoughts below are paraphrased quotes from Challies. I certainly recommend reading his entire book.] 

When asking the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” the Christian must consider two ways in which we—as time-bound, dependent creatures—experience God’s will. We experience God’s will according to both His will of decree and His will of command. Distinguishing between these two aspects of God’s will is crucial.

God’s will of decree is, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, His determination by which He has “foreordained whatsoever comes to pass” for His own glory. As God has said, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isa 46:11b). God’s will of decree is sometimes called God’s secret will, as stated in Deuteronomy 29:29a, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God.” Except for prophecies found in Scripture, God has not—and will not—reveal specific details of what He will bring about in the future. Except for prophecies found in Scripture, God has not—and will not—give an infallible interpretation of why He allows specific events to take place in the past. We look to Scripture and see enough about God’s will of decree that we know He is in control and will bring His creation to a perfect end. Otherwise, God’s will of decree is—in a real sense—none of our business.

On the other hand, every person should have a keen interest in the specifics concerning God’s will of command. God’s will of command is defined by what God has told us to do in the Bible, and what He has written on our conscience, in order to direct us in how we should live for His glory. God gives us specific, over-arching commands concerning how to live in accordance with His will. These commands include: be filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:17-18); be sanctified (1 Thess 4:3a); be thankful (1 Thess 5:18). God’s will of command is sometimes called God’s revealed will, as—unlike His secret will of decree—God has made the details concerning His will of command abundantly clear.

As we seek to follow God’s revealed will, several principles come to light. Where God’s commands are explicit, we must obey immediately, joyfully, and without question. Where the Bible contains no explicit command, God gives us freedom and responsibility to choose what we will do, with prayer and reliance upon scriptural principles. In acting upon scriptural principles, we recognize that God gives us wisdom and discernment to choose what we will do. Finally, When we have chosen what is moral and wise, as defined by commands and principles of Scripture, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.

As we seek to understand and obey God’s will, we must realize that understanding and obedience will require dedicated effort: we must be diligent in seeking to know and apply God’s revealed will. On the other hand, understanding and obedience do NOT require discovering God’s secret will of decree in advance of making decisions. When we must make a choice, and there is no direct scriptural command that clearly dictates which option we should choose, then understanding and obedience require acting in a way that is consistent with general principles God’s revealed will. In this, we must NOT pray for a glimpse into God’s secret will; instead, we must pray for wisdom (Jas 1:5).

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What is God's Will for My Life?


[The following was originally posted on 5/9/12.]

What is God's will for my life? I believe that God's will can be summed up in one statement: God wants me to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I believe that this is the teaching of Ephesians 5:17-18. The filling of the Holy Spirit is indicative of God's active, indwelling presence in my life: granting me spiritual gifts, growing spiritual fruit within me, and bringing me into blessed fellowship with Him.

I can fail (and often do fail) to be filled by the Holy Spirit as I "quench" the Holy Spirit in my life (1 Thess 5:19). This 'quenching' occurs through engaging in sins: either sins of commission or sins of omission. Sins of commission can occur through the instrumentality of a foreign substance (Eph 5:17-18 mentions "wine") or through my own flesh (1 Thess 4:3 mentions "sexual immorality;" cf. 1 Cor 6:18). In either case, in committing sins of commission, I am giving myself over to the control of something other than the Holy Spirit. The chief sin of omission is the failure to prayerfully study God's Word.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is directly tied to being filled with God's Word. This is seen in the close parallel between Ephesians 5:17-33 and Colossians 3:15-25. (Notice that whereas Eph 5:18 says, "be filled with the Spirit," Col 3:16 says, in the same basic position of the argument being presented, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.") Holy Scripture-- the Word of God, presenting the message of Christ-- is the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. Faith comes (initially) by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Faith grows through being nourished on the Word of God (Matt 4:4; 1 Pet 2:2). Faith is the instrument by which disciples take hold of Christ and receive all spiritual blessings found in Him.

My study of God's Word must be prayerful, because I am commanded to "let the Word of Christ dwell within you richly in all wisdom" (Col 3:16), and because the way I am to obtain wisdom is through asking God (Jas 1:5). Wisdom is needed so that I may put God's Word into action in how I deal with others, as outlined in Ephesians 5:17-33 and Colossians 3:15-25.

If I am filled with the Holy Spirit—if I am thus pursuing God's will for my life—it will be evident in my attitude and actions. I will have an attitude of thankfulness toward God in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18-19). My actions—in addition to being characterized by the love, submission, and justice described in Ephesians 5:17-33 and Colossians 3:15-25—will also be characterized by active evangelism. In performing God's will for my life, I must be active in evangelism because it is God's will that all be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4) and the Lord is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet 2:9).

In summary: God's will for my life is that I be filled with the Holy Spirit. The chief ways to be filled with the Holy Spirit are by simultaneously: abstaining from sin, prayerfully studying God's Word (seeking to put what I find in His Word into practice in my life), having an attitude of thankfulness to God in all circumstances, and engaging in evangelism.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

God's Will for Your Life

[The following was originally posted on 3/11/14.]


What is God's will for my life?

If you believe in God as personal, omniscient, and sovereign, then I am certain that you have asked this question in your heart, at least occasionally, if not daily.

I have good news for you, dear reader. God Himself has spoken to me. He has given me an inerrant, infallible word concerning His will for your life (and mine).

This is what God told me:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

and

in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

You may be tempted to be disappointed with these words, found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 5:18. You may think: 'what I want to know is the specifics of my circumstances, where I will go and what I will do/should do in the future.' But God is not in the business of fortune telling. The Apostle Paul, through whom this letter came to the Thessalonians, himself did not know his own future. He desired to see the Thessalonians, but he was not sure he would get the opportunity to do so. On other occasions he wanted to travel east, to minister the gospel in Asia, and he intended to do so, but he was prevented from going there. God does not reveal our personal future paths to us in this life. He withholds this information in order to increase our faith and dependence on Him.

Background for 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 5:18

Paul's basic reason for writing 1 Thessalonians was simply to encourage the church, letting them know that he greatly desires to see them and that he constantly prays for them. The Thessalonians were doing many things right: they were active in evangelism (1 Thess 1:8), and they were active in giving to the poor (1 Thess 4:10).

Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians, while engaged in noble activities, may neglect basic matters of sanctification. For this reason, Paul ended 1 Thessalonians with an unusually long (relative to the shortness of the book) section of exhortation, beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, in which the actual word "exhort" occurs.

Connection Between the Thessalonians and Us

The pagan culture in which the Thessalonians dwelt was not so different from the culture in which we live today, especially in the following way: the culture is/was rife with sexual immorality. The Apostle Paul (himself a single man), under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was keenly aware of the powerful pull of sexual sin. The Thessalonians lived in a culture in which orgiastic feasts and temple prostitutes were the norm. We live in a culture in which certain kinds of sexual immorality are even more all-pervasive. Television and computers make all forms of sexual images instantly available. Even movies that are not considered pornographic may sometimes contain nudity. Modesty is virtually an unknown term in current American culture. For these reasons and others, you and I must be vigilant so that we do not leave ourselves open to temptation. We must flee sexual immorality in all forms. We must pray for wisdom that we would guard the sexual aspect of our lives in order that all areas of our lives will manifest the holiness and glory of God. Love for God and love for others must compel us to properly confine and channel all of our sexual energies to the marriage bed, that our union with our spouses (or future spouses, for those yet unmarried) would be sweet, joyous, and undefiled.

Sanctification is expressed negatively in mortification. Specifically, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 highlights the fact that God's will for our lives is that we put to death lustful passions by abstaining from sexual immorality. Sanctification is also expressed positively in vivification. Specifically, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 highlights strengthening our spiritual life by gratitude, as we engage in constant thankfulness.

The command concerning thankfulness comes in a section of 1 Thessalonians in which the Apostle had been giving an exhortation concerning life within the church. While patiently ministering to people with problems (and problematic people), the Thessalonian Christians might have been tempted to become disappointed, bitter, and complaining.

We live in a culture in which complaining is all-pervasive. Obviously, there are situations in which criticism is legitimate or even necessary. Yet even in those situations, there is often occasion for thanksgiving due to God's common grace. A bitter attitude is always inappropriate. You and I must be vigilant concerning our thoughts and speech in order to make sure that we are not fostering a complaining spirit, but that we are instead looking for opportunities to express thankfulness to God and others.

God's Will: An Example from Jesus' Ministry

In Mark 8, Jesus desires to feed a large crowd. Jesus' disciples tell Him that they only have seven loaves of bread. Jesus takes these loaves, gives thanks, and then miraculously feeds about 4,000 people. One principle that we may learn from this historical account is that when we are confronted with a seemingly dire situation, we should not complain, but we must give thanks for whatever God has provided, and we must faithfully expect that God will provide for our needs.

God's Will and The Spiritual Disciplines

What is God's will for my life?

God's will for your life and mine certainly includes spiritual disciplines such as the "acts of righteousness" that Jesus mentions in Matthew 6: giving to the poor, fasting, and praying. God's will for your life and mine certainly includes evangelism, as Paul mentions the Thessalonians evangelistic activities in 1 Thess 1:8. But at its most basic, God's will for your life and mine is that we be sanctified: that we "do not quench the Spirit," but that we yield to Him; that we may see His influence progressively take full effect in our lives, that we may bear the fruit of the Spirit for the glory of God in Christ.

God's Will and the Trinity

The Apostle expresses God's will for the Thessalonian Christians- and, by direct implication, God's will for our lives as well- in Trinitarian terms. God is Father: in abstaining from sexual immorality and engaging in constant thanksgiving, we are seeking to honor and please Him. Jesus Christ is Lord and He is coming again: in abstaining from sexual immorality and engaging in constant thanksgiving, we submit to His lordship; we do not want to be caught in a state of shame or ingratitude when He comes again. The Holy Spirit is God, present in our lives as a gift; He empowers us and grants us joy: in abstaining from sexual immorality and engaging in constant thanksgiving, we avoid quenching the Holy Spirit, and we are enabled to see His fruit in our lives.

God's Will for Unbelievers

1 Thessalonians was written to Christians in Thessalonica. The words from 1 Thess 4:3 and 5:18 to the Thessalonian Christians are directly applicable to Christians today. But for those who are outside of Christ, there is a more basic answer to the question: what is God's will for my life?

If you are not a Christian, then God's will is that you become one by turning from your sins and trusting in Christ. Jesus lived the perfect life that we have not: He never committed any sins of commission (He never broke God's law through wrong actions such as sexual immorality); He never committed any sins of omission (He never failed to do what He ought through inaction such as a lack of thankfulness). Jesus died on the Cross, paying the penalty for the sins- sins both of commission and omission- that we have committed. Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin, death, and Hell. Jesus now lives, offering forgiveness and eternal life to all who trust in Him. Trust in Him and live for Him today.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Progressive Covenantalism: A Reformed Baptist Reflection

This Saturday, May 15, I finished reading Progressive Covenantalism, a new collection of essays edited by Stephen Wellum and Brent Parker. (Thanks to my brother in Christ, Daniel Scheiderer, who let me borrow his copy.) There was much that I appreciated about this work, though I also have a few concerns. What follows in not a formal review, but some initial thoughts as I evaluate the book from the position of 1689 Federalism.

Positives:

1. Abraham as the father of Jews and Gentiles. I appreciated Jason DeRouchie's discussion of Abraham's "seed" in Chapter 1. I believe that much of what he wrote is exactly what Reformed Baptists have been saying on this subject. I think it would be profitable to compare his discussion on this Abraham's "seed" with Reformed Baptist works on the same topic (for example, in Jeff Johnson's The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism). I believe that, starting from a point of basic agreement, discussions about Abraham's "seed" between Reformed Baptists and Progressive Covenantalists could lead both groups toward an even more precise articulation of the biblical teaching on this topic.

2. Typology. The most helpful feature of this book was its discussion and application of biblical typology. Brent Parker's chapter on the Israel-Christ-Church relationship was especially insightful. I do think that Reformed Baptists could benefit from Parker's work in this regard. Some language I've heard from fellow Reformed Baptists tends to follow our paedobaptist brethren in too readily equating Israel with the Church; we have not always consistently considered the typological development of Israel as fulfilled in Christ. The Church partakes in the promises made to Israel only as we are united to Christ, who is the true Israelite. (I doubt that any of my fellow Reformed Baptists would disagree with this statement, but Parker points out the typological relationships in a particularly clear manner.)

3. Warning Passages. I believe that Ardel Caneday's chapter on the "warning passages" in Hebrews is well-thought-out and biblical. Caneday's position is that the warning passages are effective means by which God prompts His people to perseverance. This is the only chapter that gives any positive attention to Historical Theology. Caneday mentions several Reformed pastors/teachers (I believe John Owen and Charles Spurgeon are mentioned) who have held his view.

4. Land Promises. The final chapter of the book, focused on the Old Testament land promises, is another specific example of applied biblical typology. Consideration of how God fulfills the land promises is crucial to a right understanding of a major scriptural theme. This chapter, written by Oren Martin, is useful in answering a key claim of Dispensationalists. Understanding how Scripture presents the fulfillment of land promises helps us in our worship, as we see how God is faithful to His Word and how He will magnify His glory throughout creation.

Negatives:

1. False Advertising. In both on the cover of the book and several times within the book, the authors/editors claim that they are "charting a course between dispensational and covenant theologies". There is even a diagram in the book depicting Progressive Covenantalism in the center of a line, with Dispensationalism on one side and Covenant Theology on the other. It is obvious that the authors/editors want an audience both from those who identify as Dispensationalists and those who identify as Covenantal.

HOWEVER, I'm certain that, both through a careful examination of what the authors write (in this book and its precursor Kingdom Through Covenant) as well as personal conversations I've had with a couple of the authors, the contributors to the book owe much more to Covenant Theology than to Dispensationalism. Along with Covenant Theology, Progressive Covenantalism believes that there is one way of salvation in Scripture and that Scripture is structured by covenants. Dr. Wellum believes that it is proper to speak of the Covenant of Redemption and a covenant with Adam.

When it comes to Dispensationalism, Progressive Covenantalism is at odds with the foundational Dispensational claim that Israel and the Church are everlastingly distinct groups. In its typological reflections, Progressive Covenantalism runs counter to the Dispensationalists' overly literalistic hermeneutic. The single point of overlap between Progressive Covenantalism and Dispensationalism is that both hold to more discontinuity between the old and new covenants than what is recognized in [paedobaptist] Covenant Theology. It is deceptive, therefore, to suggest that Progressive Covenantalism is equally close to Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. In my view, Progressive Covenantalism is both an attempt to modify [paedobaptist] Covenant Theology and an outright rejection of Dispensationalism.

2. Lack of Historical Theology. Progressive Covenantalists view themselves as articulating a framework of how the covenants fit together that is more consistent with Baptist faith and practice than either Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology. (This is one reason that Progressive Covenantalism was published by Broadman and Holman Academic, an imprint of LifeWay, which is directly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.) In this regard, it would seem that those holding to Progressive Covenantalism would want to make a diligent study into how previous generations of Particular/Reformed Baptists have understood the relationship of God's covenants. Sadly, this book lacks any interaction with Historical Theology within Baptist life AT ALL. With the exception of the chapter on the warning passages of Hebrews, the authors of Progressive Covenantalism seem startlingly unaware that previous generations of Baptists have wrestled through the same questions and have come to some of the same conclusions. Progressive Covenantalists could benefit from the insights of their Baptist forbears and possibly avoid some errors. At worst, this neglect of Historical Theology among Progressive Covenantalists may be seen as violating the spirit of the fifth commandment.

3. The Law. Speaking of the ten commandments, the great systematic theological weakness of Progressive Covenantalism is in its view of the Law. There is an almost flippant rejection of the three-fold distinction of the Law. Important works on this subject (for example: From the Finger of God by Philip Ross and In Defense of the Decalogue by Richard Barcellos) are entirely unmentioned. Also unmentioned: the foundational distinction between moral law (law that is everlasting, flowing from the character of God) and positive law (law that God institutes at specific times for specific purposes). The authors of Progressive Covenantalism would have us believe that the original audience to the Books of Moses couldn't have possibly recognized the prohibition against murder, the institution of the Levitical priesthood, and the injunction to build a parapet around the roof of one's house as three distinct categories of laws. Furthermore, the authors of Progressive Covenantalism give inadequate systematic reflection to why the New Testament authors apply different laws in radically different ways (compare: Gal 5:3, 1 Cor 9:9-10, and Eph 6:1-3).

Conclusion:

I think that Progressive Covenantalism is a valuable book and that Progressive Covenantalists are valuable conversation partners with whom Reformed Baptists should engage. I hope that those holding to Progressive Covenantalism will begin to learn from their Particular/Reformed Baptist forbears, that they will not continue to ignore the writings of contemporary Reformed Baptists, and that they will reconsider their view of the Law. I pray that Reformed Baptists and Progressive Covenantalists can attain greater unity in the truth.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Three Resources Reflecting on Close Communion

Within Baptist life, there are three major positions on who should be invited to the Lord's Supper. Some congregations practice open communion, inviting anyone who is a believer to the table. (I've heard that some liberal churches invite all people to the table regardless of faith, but according to Dr. Greg Wills, all Baptist congregations have historically seen faith as a prerequisite to the table.) Some congregations practice close communion, inviting any baptized believer to the table. A few congregations (including the famous Metropolitan Tabernacle in London) practice closed [or strict] communion, only inviting their own members to the table.

I was raised in the close communion tradition, and I believe that this tradition is best reflective of biblical teaching. As an adult, my convictions in this regard have been reinforced by the training that I received at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here are two resources in this regard:

The Baptism Panel Discussion from April 18, 2007.

"Should the Water Divide Us? Baptism, Church Membership, and the Glory of Christ" from April 25, 2007.

As a third resource, with sustained scriptural argument, I would also commend J.L. Dagg's Manual of Church Order on this subject. (View HERE: Section IV, "Open Communion".)




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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Lord's Supper and the Lord's Day in Redemptive-Historical Context


In Revelation 1:10, the phrase “the Lord’s Day” is a hapax legomenon: a phrase only occurring only once in the Greek New Testament. The particular word for “Lord” used in Revelation 1:10 is not the general root of “Lord” that is the common way of referring to Jesus Christ in the New Testament;[1] the term for “Lord” here, while it's not the general word κύριος, is the derivative possessive κυριακ, and the word is not a hapax legomenon in the New Testament: it's the whole phrase that's a hapax. Therefore, as a phrase, “the Lord’s Day” must be examined as a hapax legomenon, but the root for the word κυριακ (i.e., kuriakos) is used in one other place in the New Testament: in reference to the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:20). Now this parallel usage of terminology regarding “the Lord's Supper” and “the Lord's Day” suggests that, like the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Day is a Christian ordinance of some kind; as Christians partake in a particular Supper that belongs to the Lord in a special way, so Christians recognize a particular day that belongs to the Lord in a special way.[2] This line of reasoning leads John Murray to conclude:

The two pivotal events in this accomplishment [of redemption] are the death and resurrection of Christ and the two memorial ordinances of the New Testament institution are the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Day, the one memorializing Jesus’ death and the other his resurrection.[3]

In addition to the grammatical connection, there are significant thematic similarities between both the background and the intentions for the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper. Both are rooted in creation realities. Both find their fulfillment in the New Creation to be manifested at Christ’s return.

Man was originally created to enjoy everlasting life in fellowship with God. In the Creation Covenant, God offered Man life on the condition of perfect obedience, as signified in the tree of life (Gen 2:9; 3:22-23). Upon breaking the Creation Covenant, Man earned death (Gen 2:16-17; 3:19). The sentence of death was delayed, however, as Man—who had become ashamed of nakedness (Gen 2:25; 3:7)—was clothed by God in the skins of an animal (Gen 3:21). Instead of Adam and Eve immediately dying, an animal died to cover their shame. Following the example of God sacrificing the animal, righteous Abel sacrificed the first-born from his flocks (Gen 4:4). Thereafter followed a host of occasional sacrifices during the time of the patriarchs. These sacrifices indicated that the way for sinners to enjoy fellowship with God was through the death of a substitute. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the sacrificial system was codified. The sacrificial system in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the perfect work of Christ (Heb 10:1-14). Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper as a remembrance of His perfect sacrifice (1 Cor 11:25). The Lord’s Supper will be celebrated by Christ’s followers until He comes again (1 Cor 11:26), at which time it will give way to the ultimate fellowship with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Luke 22:15-18; Rev 19:7-9).

Man was originally created to enjoy the fellowship of everlasting rest in God. At Creation, God gave Man the ordinances of marriage, work, and rest. The ordinance of rest was attached to a specific day—originally the seventh day—which God sanctified (Gen 2:3). At Creation, God made the Sabbath for Man (Mark 2:27). Under the Mosaic Covenant, the Sabbath was codified, and it became the sign of the Old Covenant (Exo 31:13, 17). Having offered a complete and sufficient work through His death, burial, and resurrection, Christ was ultimately able to rest from His work (Heb 10:12). Through being raised from the dead on the first day of the week (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19), appearing to His disciples on the first day (John 20:26), and sending the Holy Spirit on the first day (Acts 2:1-4; 32-33), Jesus established the first day of the week as the day that His disciples would commemorate His rest from His completed work. The earliest disciples began meeting together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1-2) and referring to it as the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10). This, in part, helps to define the “Sabbath-keeping” found in Hebrews 4:9-10 (rightly translated), which will give way to an everlasting rest when Jesus returns and establishes the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:4).

Brothers and sisters, let us glorify the Lord. Let us make the most of every opportunity to meet together on the Lord’s Day, taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. In the Lord’s Supper, let us truly remember His sacrifice, enjoying fellowship with one another, looking forward to everlasting fellowship with Him. In the Lord’s Day, let us remember His completed work, resting in Him now, and looking forward to complete and everlasting rest in Him.
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[1] It's clear in the context that “Lord” refers to Jesus Christ.
[2]Waldron, “’Saturday or Sunday (Part 4).”
[3] Murray, Romans, 258. Concerning the phrase κυριακ μέρ [in Rev 1:10] BDAG 576 s.v. κυριακός states: “pert. to belonging to the Lord, the Lord’s… κ. μέρ the Lord’s Day (Kephal. I 192, 1; 193, 31…) i.e., certainly Sunday (so in Mod. Gk…) Rv 1:10 (WStott, NTS 12, ’65, 70-75).” Cited from The NET Bible [on-line]; accessed 14 July 2010; available from http://net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Rev&chapter=1; Internet.

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Are prayers directed to Jesus biblically appropriate?

This post was originally published on 6/30/08. This issue came up again this past Lord's Day while teaching about prayer in my Sunday school class at Kosmosdale Baptist Church.

On my team-blog, Strange BaptistFire, a commenter calling himself "Christian Brother" posted the following question:

In prayer, should we pray only to God the Father? Or are we permitted to pray to Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, as well?

I am inclined, thus far, to agree with the former because nowhere in Scripture is there a commandment to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but there is plenty of commandments to pray to the Father. And, as much as my knowledge admits, there is not a single example of any Christian in the New Testament making a prayer to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are to give thanks in the Spirit or in Jesus, but we are always commanded to direct that thanks to the Father.

But I am very concerned about this because the heart of the question is this: What is an acceptable prayer? We would all hate to pray in a certain way, only to later find that we have been offering unacceptable prayers.

But on the other hand, if I have concluded that we should only pray to the Father, and the Bible permits us to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, then I have been deprived of a fuller relationship with the Trinity.

What are your thoughts on this matter?

My response follows:

I believe that as followers of Christ we are regularly to direct our prayers to the Father (Matthew 6:9) in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14) by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:18). This normal model of how prayer is to be conducted is especially important in the local congregation, as in praying this way we teach one another about God through exploring the roles taken by the distinct Persons of the Trinity.

I do believe that Christians have the freedom to pray to Jesus, however, as I will explain below:

Though there are no commands to pray to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, there are, I believe, some clear examples of prayer to Jesus; many of these are indicated by David Peterson in his book Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (148-149):

Prayer to Jesus as Lord was offered by Stephen (Acts 7:59-60), in a way that is striking when compared and contrasted with the prayers of Jesus to the Father (Lk. 23:34, 46). Ananias also prayed to Jesus as Lord (9:10-17, where v. 17 shows that the ‘Lord’ addressed was Jesus) and designated the followers of Jesus as those who call on his name (9:14; cf. 22:16). Again, it is most likely that Jesus is the Lord addressed in prayer by the disciples in 1:24. Paul is represented as calling upon him as Lord on the Damascus road (9:5; 22:10; 26:15-18) and in a subsequent vision in the temple (22:17-21). In this connection it is interesting to note that Paul habitually associated the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with that of God the Father in his prayers (e.g. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 1 Thes. 3:11-13; and 2 Thes. 2:16-17, addressed first to ‘our Lord Jesus Christ himself’). Christians could also be defined by Paul as those who ‘call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 1:2, cf. Rom. 10:9-13), adapting an Old Testament expression to indicate that Jesus Christ was the one in whom they put their trust for salvation and to whom they prayed (e.g. Gn. 12:8; Pss. 50:15; 105:1; Je. 10:25; Joel 2:32).

It is also important to note that the second-to-last verse of the Bible contains a brief prayer to Jesus: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20b). The church in the immediate sub-apostolic era apparently continued the practice of praying to Jesus, as their activities were described by Pliny the Younger (who was himself a pagan) as follows: “...it was their habit on a fixed day to assemble before daylight and recite by turns a form of words to Christ as a god…” [Pliny, Epistle 97].

So, in conclusion, I do think that Christians today are biblically justified in heartfelt prayers to our Lord Jesus, although the more normal pattern is to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.

As far as I know, there is indeed no command or example of prayer to the Holy Spirit, and I believe His role is to convey and sanctify our prayers rather than to receive prayer as directed to Him.

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