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.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Ambassadors of Reconciliation


[The following is a modified portion of the outline for a lesson I taught at Kosmosdale Baptist Church on Sunday March 18, 2007.]

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Now everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God." He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Working together with Him, we also appeal to you: "Don't receive God's grace in vain." For He says: In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2 HCSB)

Three words to focus on from the above passage:
  • Therefore,” connected to the section of 2 Corinthians before this passage, in which the Apostle writes of Christ’s death and resurrection so that we may live for God rather than ourselves.
  • Ambassadors,” which are emissaries of a foreign authority higher in power than themselves, sent with a specific mission and message. This passage says calls us “ambassadors for Christ,” so that whoever may write our paycheck at the end of the week, we know that our true job, wherever we are at, is to represent Christ.
  • Reconciliation,” which is the mission and message of our ambassadorship.
This passage sums up the gospel message in four words: “Be reconciled to God.”

Concerning this phrase we should note:
  • The subject of this phrase must be an understood “you.” The message we are sent with is a command from the LORD: “(You) be reconciled to God.” This means that our message is to be personal and to be presented with authority.
  • The word “reconciled” cannot be simply reduced to felt needs. In other words, we cannot truly present the message of reconciliation as if it were the call for a better life. Love, joy, and peacefulness are certainly the effects of reconciliation, but reconciliation is a different concept.
  • The word “reconciled” presupposes hostility. The Bible presents those outside of Christ as in rebellion against God and under His judgment for their rebellion. Colossians 1:21 teaches that before salvation, we are “alienated and hostile” toward God. And the hostility is not just one-sided, as Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (NKJV) and Ephesians 2:3 says that by our sinful nature we are children under God’s wrath. This is something that we must communicate to people: because most people live their lives deceiving themselves into thinking that God approves of them and will simply overlook their sins. They do NOT see their “mistakes” or “shortcomings” as a rebellion against the holy character of God, and they do not see their need for reconciliation.
  • We are to command people to be reconciled “to God.” Our message is not just that people should pray a certain prayer or engage in certain religious activities. Rather, our message is about God Himself and a restored relationship to Him.
  • The message, “Be reconciled to God,” is a message about Jesus, because this command can only be fulfilled through Christ’s perfect life, fulfilling the Law we could not keep due to our hearts constantly desiring that which is against God’s standards, through Christ’s death as a substitute, bearing God’s wrath that we deserved due to our rebellion, and through Christ’s resurrection, conquering death and Hell.
So, presenting the message of reconciliation to God through Jesus is what we mean by evangelism: the work we are to do as Christ’s ambassadors.

In order to give a more detailed definition of evangelism so that we may accurately evaluate whether or not we are fulfilling our duty as Christ’s ambassadors, I turn to theologian J.I. Packer, who, after studying what the New Testament has to say concerning evangelism, concluded:

To evangelize is to present Jesus Christ to sinful men in order that through the power of the Holy Spirit they may come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His Church. (From J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.)

I direct your attention to the first part of the definition: “To present Jesus Christ.” Presenting Jesus Christ is something that should be on our heart at all times. This idea- that evangelism is fundamentally telling people about who Jesus is and what He has done- should be a great comfort to us as His ambassadors. A newly married bride will not be nervous to introduce someone to her husband and describe him to others. This would be especially true if she practiced introducing and describing him every day. In a similar way, Christians who are passionate about Jesus should not have trouble presenting him to others, especially if we are meditating on how to present gospel truth each day.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Response to a Common Objection


[The following blogpost was originally published on 7/10/06, but is as relevant now as ever.]

In this post-modern age, a confident declaration of the Truth is not widely admired. Often, when sharing the gospel with unbelievers or when defending the doctrines of Scripture, well-meaning Christians are charged with mean-spiritedness and arrogance. It seems that everyone is very eager to share their own opinions, but if someone actually tries to deny the validity of another's position, they can only be doing so out of ill-intent. So we who believe that there is absolute Truth and that this Truth can be certainly known must all be content with having our views constantly contradicted and we must pretend that we think we too are offering mere personal opinions.

I address this issue here due to a comment I received concerning a recent blogpost, which comment stated:

"That must be a comfort - knowing you're right while also knowing that so many others are wrong. An ego-boost!"

So, supposing that the conclusions reached at the end of the first paragraph of this post are unacceptable, how are we to respond to comments/accusations such as the one presented in the quote above? Having meditated on this and having emailed some friends concerning this subject, I would like to submit the following considerations:

We must respond in humility. A comment like the one above is really an accusation of pride and hard-heartedness. If we dismiss such accusations out-of-hand, then we may be turning our backs on a providential occasion for sanctification. None of us is so beyond selfishness that we can say, 'there is absolutely no chance that such an accusation could ever be true.' We must examine our own hearts in light of the Scripture and must seek accountability with other brothers and sisters in Christ who know us well to make sure that we are not, indeed, guilty of hard-hearted pride in some measure. Humility is to be the controlling characteristic of all our responses toward others as "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6b). Based upon this principle, I would like to suggest the following 5 responses when confronted with a comment like the one quoted above:
  1. We must respond with investigation. If we receive a comment such as the one above, and if there is any evidence appended to such a comment, then we must humbly look into the evidence. Whether the evidence is concerning our personal character or concerning our doctrinal positions, we must prayerfully consider the possibility that we do have some error in our thinking. The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17 ESV)
  2. We must respond with compassion. It is NOT a comfort to the child of God AT ALL to know "that so many others are wrong." Rather, we realize that it is only by God's grace through the power of the Holy Spirit that we have any measure of spiritual understanding, and it is our burden that others should come to a similar knowledge of the Truth. In this response, we follow the example of our Lord, of whom it was written, When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34 ESV)
  3. We must respond with grace. Specifically, we should use comments or accusations such as the one quoted above as an opportunity to speak of God’s grace. When we are trying to convince someone that they are in error based on the clear teaching of God’s Word, the Bible– and not merely depending on our own intelligence– we are NOT acting in arrogance, for we realize that outside of God’s grace all of our thinking has become futile (see Romans 1:21). Outside of God’s      grace, no one seeks God (see Romans 3:11b). And so we are all in desperate need of a specific work of God in our hearts and minds if we are ever to understand any truth He has revealed and if we are ever to apply God’s truth by loving Him and loving others according to His plan. What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7b)
  4. We must respond with boldness. When we receive negative comments such as the one quoted above, one common reaction is to become less bold in our proclamation of the Truth. But if we are sure that we are speaking in accordance with the Bible, then we CANNOT afford to speak half-heartedly. God’s Truth must be proclaimed with steadfast conviction. In this, we follow the example set by the apostles in the book of Acts. It was when the religious leaders perceived the boldness of Peter and John that they recognized these men “had been with Jesus” (see Acts 4:13). The early Church in Jerusalem, therefore, prayed for boldness in their proclamation of God’s Word (see Acts 4:29), and God answered their prayer (see Acts 4:31). The book of Acts records this bold beginning of the apostolic ministry, and closes with a note about the Apostle Paul, that he continued proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31)
  5. We must respond with Truth. As stated at the beginning of the post, a confident declaration of Truth is not widely admired. Most people today either believe that there is no absolute Truth, or if there is, that it cannot be certainly known. But we who have become God’s children by His grace must hold to the Truth and must proclaim the Truth to this world full of error, recognizing that when we do, we are likely to receive comments such as the one that prompted this blogpost. And what is the Truth? The psalmist tells us in his song to God, The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160 ESV), and Jesus likewise reveals in His prayer to God, Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV). God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is Truth and it is this Truth that we are bound to proclaim humbly with investigation, with compassion, with grace, and with boldness.

[On a similar topic, see Dan Phillips' blogpost, "How to deal with posts you don't like (and the flip side)", which applies equally well to the comments following blogposts.]

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Specific Responses contra Landmark Statements


After I wrote my initial post last Saturday in response to David Miller’s Landmark teachings at the G3 Conference, one dearly beloved brother questioned whether I had understood Miller correctly. The question is certainly appropriate: I am FAR from infallible, and Miller’s evangelistic preaching is normally beyond reproach, being a winsome and accurate reflection and exposition of God’s Word. After I gave a couple of reasons that I am sure that Miller was indeed teaching Landmarkism, my friend said that he would have to listen to the sermon again when G3 makes the recordings available in a couple of weeks.

But we don’t have to wait until G3 makes the sermons available. David Miller preached the exact same sermon on September 20, 2007 at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel service. (I happened to be in attendance that day.) The audio is available HERE.

In his sermon(s), Miller ridiculed the idea of the universal church as follows:
Did any of you ever know of a universal, invisible body? Did you ever know of a universal, invisible building? Did you ever know– and may the Lord have mercy upon the poor fellow who marries a universal, invisible bride. I don’t know about you, brethren, but I like something more tangible in a bride. Sophisticated academic credentials just are not required at this point, to conclude that when the Bible talks about the church, it’s not talking about some universal, invisible entity; it’s talking about a local, visible congregation. I like to ask my friends who believe in the universal church: where does your church meet? And who is its pastor? Benny Hinn? And who receives its tithes and offerings? And what are its missionary, educational, and evangelistic enterprises? Oh, no: the church is local and visible.
Concerning his statements ridiculing a “universal, invisible body” and “universal, invisible bride,” I would simple like to point out that– from our current perspective– the Head and Husband of the church is Himself invisible, and– according to His divine nature– He is omnipresent. Why would a universal and invisible Head and Husband NOT have a universal and invisible bride?

When Miller spoke of “sophisticated academic credentials”– coupled with a statement earlier in his sermon about Baptist thinking concerning the church “now days”– he sought to give the impression that the idea of a universal, invisible church is a modern invention of academics, heretofore unknown in Baptist life. But consider again our historic confessions of faith. For example, the 1689 London Baptist Confession– “the confessional statement of the church or association of every one of the 293 delegates who gathered in Augusta, Georgia, to organize the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845”– begins Chapter 26 (“Of the Church”) with the statement: "The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”

Likewise, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 declares that in addition to local congregations of baptized believers: "The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."

Miller was quite correct to ask concerning the universal, invisible church: “where does your church meet? And who is its pastor? … And who receives its tithes and offerings?” These questions help indicate why it is so important for Christians (as the 1858 Abstract of Principles states) to “associate themselves into particular societies or churches.”

But Miller betrayed the point that he was trying to establish when he sarcastically asked, “What are its [that is, the universal church’s] missionary, educational, and evangelistic enterprises?” Miller said these words (at least on one occasion) at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an institution of which he was previously a trustee. SBTS is not a local church, but it is an entity engaging in educational enterprises. The International Mission Board and North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention are not local churches, but they are entities engaged in missionary and evangelistic enterprises. These enterprises are certainly organically related to the local churches that are in association with the Southern Baptist Convention, but the SBC is not a local church. The SBC is one denomination of the universal and invisible body of Christ.

In his sermon(s), Miller went on to assert that in Matthew 16, “church” is used in the abstract as a generic term (he admitted that Jesus “was not referencing any particular congregation”), but he denied that Jesus is speaking of a universal, invisible body. Miller likened Christ’s use of “church” in Matthew 16 to the way that we use the word “family.” He said:
I believe in the family, don’t you? When I make that statement, I am not referring to some universal, invisible family made up of all of the parents and all of the children of all of the ages. Did any of you in this room suppose that’s what I had in mind? No, you understood that I was using the word ‘family’ in the abstract, as an institution, which only finds expression and manifestation of its existence in a local, visible home where there are parents or children or others related by blood or adoption.
This illustration was ill-chosen since the universal, invisible church is also a family: a family with one Father, made up of brothers and sisters who regularly associate themselves into particular societies or churches. But when these brothers and sisters are scattered, they do not cease to be a part of the one family of believers.

Miller’s second choice for an example illustrating his assertion that “church” in Matthew 16 indicates an abstract entity rather than a universal, invisible body is that of a jury. Miller said:
I believe in the jury as a form of jurisprudence. When I say ‘jury’ in that statement, I am not referring to any particular jury. I’m using the word in the abstract as an institution. Did any of you suppose that I was referring to a universal, invisible jury made up of all of the jurors of all of the ages? Of course not! 
The great Southern Baptist theologian J.L. Dagg in his Manual of Church Order dealt with arguments from a Landmark teacher who similarly used “jury” in the abstract to argue that “church” in Matthew 16 is simply used in the abstract. But Dagg pointed out that there were great differences in the way that “jury” may be used in the abstract and the concrete signification that Christ gives to His church: an institution that stands against the gates of Hell and cannot fail.

Miller finally asserted (on this subject) that the Bible speaks of a “glory church” that “does not yet exist,” but will exist in Heaven. It is this church, he says, that we should understand Ephesians 5:25-27 indicates in speaking of the church as Christ’s bride. Miller states: “Even that glory church is going to be local and is going to be visible.”

To this, I would simply assert that the “glory church” already exists, though it is not yet fully revealed (1 John 3:2). The “glory church” in Heaven is not some different body of Christ, for there is “one body” (Eph 4:4), and all believers are already counted as being seated with Christ in the heavens (Eph 2:6).

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mark Dever on Dead Icons and the Living Icon

[The following post was originally published on 8/16/07.]

In the book Preaching the Cross (35), Mark Dever writes:

One friend of mine particularly likes icons- images of the prophets, apostles, even Jesus Christ. He explains his devotion to icons by the same reasoning that Eastern Orthodox theologians have used for more than a thousand years- if we don't have images of Christ, they reason, that must be rooted in a flesh-denying Gnosticism, and we, in effect, are denying the incarnation.
I, for one, am not persuaded. Jesus didn't train his disciples in sketching or painting. The first image we have of Christ [the first attempted depiction of Christ the history records] was written by a pagan mocking a Christian 'worshiping his god'- and the crude little drawing has a simple figure with a donkey's head hanging on a cross.
If we had a photograph of Jesus and the twelve disciples, I don't think we could tell which one was Jesus merely by his appearance. No glow; no halos. On the other hand, if that picture were to become a moving picture, then I think we could tell the identity of Christ very quickly by noticing which one gave himself in love to those around him. The sacrifice of love- that was the purpose of his incarnation, and that is the purpose of the church. God has left a witness for himself in you and in our congregations. Our physical natures are an aspect of our social natures, enabling our ability to interact with others in love and service.

Jesus said in John 13, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (vv.34-35). God has forbidden statues to be made of him; Jesus had no icons of himself drawn or painted, but by his Spirit he fashions a representation of himself- and that is the church. In its holiness we see something of God's holiness; in its unity we see something of God's unity; in its love, we see something of God's love.
Brothers and sisters, let us heed the biblical teaching above. Let us encourage one another to forsake any unbiblical practice in worship and to instead to seek purity and gospel fellowship in God's church, which is the true, living representation of Christ in the world.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

The G3 Conference: Its Location in Southern Baptist History, and Hope for Its Future


Introduction

The G3 Conference held at the end of last week was not just a conference by and for Southern Baptists. The speakers and attenders of the conference were not all Southern Baptist, and the conference organizers certainly hope that its impact extends beyond a single denomination.

On the other hand, the conference was held at a Southern Baptist church [Pray's Mill Baptist Church], about half of the speakers were Southern Baptist, and the majority of attenders [from what I could tell] were Southern Baptists. I do think that much of the impact from the conference will be among Southern Baptists. Even non-Southern Baptist evangelicals who are interested in the G3 Conference should care about its impact among Southern Baptists, since the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America.

“The Controversy” Among Southern Baptists

Throughout most of the 20th century, motivated by a genuine concern for reaching educated non-Christians– coupled with the sense of progressive pragmatism that characterized their age– Southern Baptists in general drifted into an Arminian mode of thinking (emphasizing the supposed ‘free-will’ of Man), with Southern Baptist institutions of learning eventually embracing liberal theology.

At the end of the 20th century, there was a Conservative Resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention by which the Convention as a whole reaffirmed their commitment to inerrant, infallible Scripture. Liberal theology was purged from the seminaries, and the Word of God was re-affirmed in Southern Baptist preaching. During the Conservative Resurgence, Southern Baptists often referred to the struggle between conservative and liberal elements in their midst simply as “the controversy.”

The Controversy Among Conservatives

During “the controversy” in the Southern Baptist Convention, a small but growing group contended for a more far-reaching Reformation in the SBC. They believed that although the doctrine of inerrant, infallible Scripture is important and foundational, a reaffirmation of this doctrine is not enough to accomplish the lasting change that the Convention needed. Instead, Southern Baptists should look back to their robust theological heritage– firmly rooted in the Reformed Baptist tradition– and they should proclaim the sovereign grace of God, set against the backdrop of a biblical understanding that Man’s will is not essentially “free,” but enslaved to sin. From out of these convictions, Founders Ministries was eventually formed.

Again, the G3 Conference is not directly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but in as much as this conference will have an impact on the SBC, it will be through building on the commitment to inerrant, infallible Scripture. The G3 Conference should prompt Baptists to not only affirm certain doctrines found in Scripture (though these doctrines are important, as Voddie Baucham made clear in the last sermon at the conference), but to dwell upon the glory of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. As John Snyder made clear in his sermon at G3, our understanding of what the church is and how the church operates must be driven by a deepening knowledge of God Himself.

Controversies Before “the Controversy”

The controversy between conservatives and liberals was not the first major controversy faced by Southern Baptists. At the 1995 meeting of the Southern Baptist Founders Conference, Timothy George delivered an address titled “Lessons from Controversy in the SBC.” In this address, George cited RBC Howell (the second president of the Southern Baptist Convention), who indicated three 19th century controversies encountered by the SBC and its immediate predecessor, the Triennial Convention. (The Triennial Convention was the first nation-wide association of Baptists in America). These 19th century controversies involved Campbellism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Landmarkism. Each of these early controversies helped Southern Baptists to define themselves in distinction from various errors.

Southern Baptists (and likeminded baptistic groups) who affirm conservative theology in its Reformed expression must learn from the past and be on guard against Campbellite, Hyper-Calvinist, or Landmarkist elements attempting to re-assert an influence upon our belief and practice. Those who attended G3 were properly warned concerning the first two errors just mentioned. Josh Buice, in the first sermon at G3, directly preached against the idea that water baptism provides a ground for justification or accomplishes the remission of sins (this is the most notable error of Campbellism; see his related article HERE). Other speakers and songs that were sung at G3 re-enforced a commitment to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Steven Lawson, in both Thursday night’s final sermon and the Q&A following that sermon, spoke powerfully against Hyper-Calvinism (the idea that God’s sovereignty over salvation somehow lessens our responsibility to call all people everywhere to faith and repentance). Lawson and other speakers called upon preachers to plead with sinners concerning the urgent and immediate need for faith in Christ (see 2 Cor 5:20).

Rather than similarly guarding against Landmark teaching, the central defining doctrine of this error (that the term “church” only refers to local congregations of baptized believers and never to the one universal body and bride of Christ) was actually proclaimed at the G3 Conference in David Miller’s Friday morning sermon [see my blogpost on this HERE]. None of the other speakers made any direct statement against Landmarkism (though Voddie Baucham’s words in favor of confessionalism implies a rejection of Landmarkism, as the Baptist confessions affirm the one universal church). Practically speaking, Landmarkism is a problem in that it seriously hinders efforts at gospel proclamation that extend beyond denominational lines. (For example: Together for the Gospel would be impossible if the Baptists in the group believed that other members were not part of the body and bride of Christ.) [See more on the error of Landmarkism HERE.]

Conclusion

Concerning G3, it is my hope and pray that:

  1. This conference will continue,
  2. Even as the theme for the conference changes from year to year the emphasis on the Gospel-proclaiming church as a reflection of God’s grace with an emphasis on God's glory will continue,
  3. Landmarkism will be firmly rejected (even as Campbellism and Hyper-Calvinism continue to be rejected),
  4. This conference will be an engine for true reformation in the Southern Baptist Convention,
  5. This conference will be a means by which God brings about true revival in churches (SBC and otherwise) across America. 

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Defense of Christ's Bride

Introduction

I have been tremendously blessed by the G3 Conference this year. I have enjoyed fellowship with my brothers in Christ from New Georgia Baptist Church, and I have been challenged by the speakers concerning my love for Christ and for my fellow church members.

The speakers include David Miller, a long-time evangelist who was also one of the trustees for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the midst of the Conservative Resurgence when Dr. Albert Mohler came into office. I do not want the rest of this post to take away from this point: David Miller is an awesome man of God. Each time that I have heard him speak (during his plenary session, during question and answer sessions, and during an interview with Todd Friel) David Miller has displayed godly wisdom and a passion for Christ and His gospel. David Miller deserves respect.

However, I was disappointed and greatly troubled by some remarks that Miller made in the first half of his plenary address at the G3 Conference yesterday morning. Miller devoted a significant portion of his sermon to attacking the doctrine of the universal Church (he argued that the church is only present in  local expression). Now, the reason that I am up until 3AM tonight writing about this is that as Miller ridiculed the idea of the universal Church, the sanctuary was filled with "amens," and afterward I heard no-one offer any objection to Millers position.

Some Implications of Denying the Universal Church

And denying the universal Church leads to some serious implications, among which are:

1. EITHER no-one other than Baptists are saved [Miller and others who deny the universal church- a position known as Landmarkism- define the local church in a baptistic manner] OR people who remain in other denominations while believing in Christ ARE saved, but they are NOT a part of the Church. Neither of these positions are tenable.

2. If universal persecution breaks out and all Christians are scattered, then Christ would have no body or bride upon the earth. NOTE: this is not merely a hypothetical situation. In the apostolic age and during the systematic persecutions of the Church in the Roman Empire, the Church was scattered. But Christ says that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. His body and bride remains even if all church doors are closed.

3. A denial of the universal Church makes Christ a polygamist. If there is not one single Bride composed of the elect of all ages- if the church only exists as local expressions of various churches- then Christ has brides scattered throughout the globe. Again, this position is untenable.

The Universal Church in Baptist Confessions of Faith

Baptists have historically affirmed the universal Church, avoiding the implications above and remaining faithful to New Testament passages that teach of a universal Church (mentioned in the section below). Note the following statements from Baptist confessions of faith:

1. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, still used by many Reformed Baptist congregations, begins Chapter 26 ("Of the Church") as follows: "The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

2. The Abstract of Principles, still used at Southern Seminary and quoted approvingly by Miller in another venue, declares that the Church is composed of all Christ's true disciples, distinguishing between "the Church" [capital "C"] and "particular societies or churches."

3. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the confession of faith for the Southern Baptist Convention, declares that in addition to local congregations of baptized believers: "The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation."

Scripture Proofs for the Universal Church

The Baptist confessions of faith do not invent the doctrine of the universal Church out of thin air. Instead, they base this doctrine on many Scripture texts. To give three examples:

1. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of "the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in Heaven."

2. Colossians 1:18 speaks of Christ being "the Head of the Body, the Church."

3. Ephesians 5:23 (coming after the Holy Spirit in the previous chapter- 4:4- had declared that there is "one body") again speaks of Christ as the head of the Church calling the Church "His body, of which He is the Savior."

As noted by the great baptist theologian J.L. Dagg in Chapter 3 of his Manual on Church Order, none of these verses can carry the meaning of a single, local, visible congregation. Christ is the Savior of His Church alone; He is the Savior of all who are in His Church. Baptists, Presbyterians, or the man on the island who gets saved from a Bible washing up on the beach: anyone who trusts in Christ is a part of His body and His bride.

Conclusion

David Miller was right to point out that we do not teach enough about the nature of the Church. But the appropriate correction for this problem is to turn to 9Marks or some very similar resource. It is NOT appropriate to hyper-correct a lack of ecclesiology by turning to a Landmarkist denial of the universal Church. Landmarkism leads to terrible implications, it is denied by the Baptist confessions of faith, and it is not in line with Scripture.

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Why I haven't been blogging much lately

Recently, I published my first book, The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther, which is available at the following link:

http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000695140/The-Life-Teaching-and-Legacy-of-Martin-Luther.aspx

Since then, I've barely been blogging because I'm trying to complete my second book: What the Spirit Says to the Churches: A Commentary on Revelation 1-3. This week, I'm getting Abby to proofread each chapter of the commentary to make sure that what I've written can be understood by actual people (and not just me).

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Friday, January 03, 2014

A Review of *The Life, Teaching, and Legacy of Martin Luther*

I am grateful to Tim Scott for reviewing my book, The Life, Teaching and Legacy of Martin Luther.

Tim's review may be found at the Kosmosdale Baptist Church website HERE as well as on the Amazon page for the book.

The Amazon page has been updated, and now includes their "Look Inside!" feature:  http://www.amazon.com/Life-Teaching-Legacy-Martin-Luther/dp/1490819967/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1387977588&sr=8-16&keywords=westbow+press

The book is available at the following link:
http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000695140/The-Life-Teaching-and-Legacy-of-Martin-Luther.aspx


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