Thursday, September 24, 2009

Audio Links from 2009 Evangelical Forum

Photo: Pastor Conrad Mbewe preaches at the 2009 Evangelical Forum.
We have uploaded the audio files from the 2009 Evangelical Forum:
Session 1:
Session 2:
Session 3:
You can also listen to the messages that Pastor Mbewe preached at JPBC on Sunday, September 27th:

Scenes from 2009 Evangelical Forum (Saturday Session)

Church Planter Steve Hills leads the opening prayer.

Byron Glaspy reads Romans 9.


Dr. Thomas speaks on the mysteries of "double trouble" or "double predestination."

Orientation to the Evangelical Forum

The last few years I have offered an "Orientation to the Evangelical Forum" in our first session. Here is the text from this year's orientation:
On behalf of the Steering Committee of the Evangelical Forum and as Pastor of our host church let me warmly welcome you to this year’s annual gathering.

It appears more than evident that God is doing a work of reformation and renewal in our days. In this year of the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, God has been pleased to allow the great Genevan Reformer’s doctrine to be rediscovered and freshly applied for the living of our days.

Our little gathering is just one small indication of something that is happening all over the world, as God is continuing to call out men and women to worship him in Spirit and in Truth in churches that are more nearly conformed and faithful to his Word.

The Evangelical Forum is "a fellowship of concerned evangelical Pastors and laymen who desire to see renewal and reformation within Baptist churches in Virginia. We affirm the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) and the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)."

This is the 8th year consecutive year that we have met for an annual conference to hear preaching and teaching. We have been particularly blessed over the past eight years to have excellent ministers come and speak to us, despite the fact that this is a rather small and obscure gathering. This year is no exception. We especially welcome Pastor Conrad Mbewe and Dr. Derek Thomas to our 2009 meeting.

The theme of this year’s gathering is "The Decrees of God," as we continue a process begun three years ago of having our Forum theme focus sequentially on the articles of the 2LBC (1689).

When we gave this gathering the name "Evangelical" Forum we had the sense of it being a meeting centered around the Evangel, the euangellion or the Gospel. The word "Evangelical" has admittedly been stretched to such limits today that it has almost become meaningless. Church historian George Marsden has suggested the dumbed-down definition of "evangelical" as, "anyone who likes Billy Graham." In his classic book The Christian Ministry, however, Charles Bridges quotes an old divine who said, "Our doctrine must be as a garment, fitted for the body it is made for; a garment that is fit for every body, is fit for nobody" (p. 270, n. 2).

Clearly, we have sought a more narrow definition of the word "Evangelical" than the one Marsden suggested. For us the title "Evangelical Forum" has come to mean a place and time when we can consider together the claims of the Biblical Gospel on our lives. We are particularly interested in how this Gospel was reclaimed by our Reformation fathers and how it remains relevant today not only for understanding the doctrine of salvation but also for vital things like personal piety, church government, and worship.

Again, we are glad that you are here, and we look forward to a season of mutual edification and encouragement this weekend centered around the Evangel.

Scenes from 2009 Evangelical Forum (Friday Session)

The 8th annual Evangelical Forum began on Friday evening, September 25, 2009.

Above: Attendees line up to enter the meeting.

JPBC young adults help with registration.

Congregational singing of praises.

Pastor Conrad Mbewe speaks on "The Sovereignty of God and the Love of God."

Dr. Derek Thomas speaks on "Is God the Author of Evil?"

Closeup of Dr. Thomas who was appreciative of the "Amens" he got from the largely Baptist audience, claiming that he does not usually get that in Presbyterian crowds.

Refreshments and fellowship after the Friday session.

Mbewe has landed!

Byron G. and I picked up Conrad Mbewe at the Charlottesville Airport this afternoon. He safely made the 24 hour plus journey from Zambia. We had an interesting chat on Reformed theology, the history of the Kabwata Baptist Church, how he came to Reformed theology, the state of evangelicalism in Zambia, etc. on the drive from the airport to his hotel.

Dr. Derek Thomas will fly in tomorrow afternoon.

I am looking forward to this year's Evangelical Forum which will meet tomorrow, Friday, September 25, from 7-9 pm and Saturday, September 26, from 9:30-11:30 am.


John Colquhoun on "Law and Gospel"

In Charles Bridges’ The Christian Ministry, he shares this quote from John Colquhoun on the relationship between law and gospel (pp. 230-231):

The law condemns, and cannot justify a sinner; The Gospel justifies, and cannot condemn, the sinner that believes in Jesus.

In the law God appears in terrible threatenings of eternal death; in the Gospel, he manifests himself in gracious promises of life eternal.

In the former he curses from Mount Ebal; in the latter, he blesses, as on Mount Gerazim.

In the one, he speaks in thunder, and with terrible majesty; in the other, with soft whispers, or "a still small voice."

By the trumpet of the law he proclaims war with sinners; by the jubilee-trumpet of the gospel he publishes peace—"peace on earth, and good-will toward men."

The law is a sound of terror to unconvinced sinners; the Gospel is a joyful sound, "good tidings of great joy."

The former represents God as a God of wrath and vengeance; the latter as a God of love, grace, and mercy.

The one presents him to sinners as "a consuming fire": the other exhibits the precious blood of the Lamb, which quenches the fire of his righteous indignation.

That presents to the view of the sinner a throne of judgment; this a "throne of grace."

Every sentence of condemnation in the Scripture belongs to the law; every sentence of justification forms a part of the Gospel.

The law condemns a sinner for his first offense; but the Gospel offers him the forgiveness of all his offenses.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dagg on Church Officers: Bishops

This is part seven in our series from Dagg’s A Treatise on Church Order. We move on to section IV of chapter VII on "The Ministry." Dagg puts forward a classic Baptistic view of the two-fold office: bishops and deacons:


The churches should choose, from among the ministers of the word, bishops or pastors to teach and rule them.

Numerous passages of Scripture speak of persons who bore rule in the churches. "Obey them that have the rule over you (Heb 13:17)." "The elders that rule well" (1 Tim 5:17)." The term bishop signifies overseer, and implies authority to rule. Among the qualifications necessary for a bishop, one was, that he ruleth well his own house; and the reason assigned is, "If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? (1 Tim 3:4, 5). It is clear, from this passage, that the bishops were invested with an authority bearing some analogy to the authority which the head of a family exercises over his household.

The question has been much discussed, whether the authority of a bishop is restricted to a single local church. Episcopalians maintain that it extends to the churches of a large district called a diocese; and that the Scriptural title for the ruler of a single church, is presbyter or elder. Against this opinion, the following arguments appear conclusive. The single church at Philippi contained more bishops than one (Phil 1:1). The elders of the church at Ephesus are styled overseers or bishops (Acts 20:28). Peter addresses elders as persons having the oversight(1 Pet 5:2) of the flock, that is, the authority of overseers or bishops. In Paul's epistle to Titus, after the ordination of elders is mentioned, the qualifications of a bishop(Titus 1:5, 7) are enumerated; and the connection plainly indicates that elder and bishop were titles of the same office.

The bishops were the pastors or shepherds of the flock committed to their charge. The bishops or elders of the church at Ephesus were required to "feed the flock." The elders whom Peter addressed were commanded to "feed the flock;" and their office as shepherds is presented to view as subordinate to that of Christ, "the chief shepherd." Since the churches are to be fed, not with literal food, but with knowledge and understanding, the office of teaching is included in that of pastor. Hence a bishop was required to be "apt to teach." In enumerating church officers, Paul mentions both pastors and teachers. It appears from this that there were teachers in the primitive churches, who were not invested with pastoral authority. These were ministers of the word, authorized by the commission to teach the observance of all Christ's commands, but not authorized to rule. The ministers of the word are officers of the universal church, but, as such, they have no authority to rule in the local churches. This authority belongs to the pastors or bishops.

The ruling authority of a pastor is peculiar in its kind. Though bearing some analogy to that of a father in his family, or of a governor in civil society, it differs from these. Christ distinguished His rule from that of earthly kings by the absence of coercion: "If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight" (John 18:36). So the spiritual rulers under Christ have no coercive power over the persons or property of those under their authority. A well marked distinction between their authority and that which is exercised by civil rulers, is drawn in these words of Christ: "Ye know that the princes of the gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matt 20:25-27). Another peculiarity of their rule is that they cannot govern at their own will. This would be to act as lords over God's heritage. Such power, if exercised by them, is a usurpation, and does not legitimately belong to their office. The only rule which they have a right to apply is that of God's word; and the only obedience which they have a right to exact, is voluntary. The civil ruler is armed with the sword, and coerces obedience. Zion's King has put no carnal weapons into the hands of church rulers, and all coercion is inconsistent with the nature of the authority intrusted to them. No submission to the Lord is acceptable but that which is voluntary; and the same kind of submission which the ancient Christians rendered to the Lord, they rendered to their spiritual rulers:--"They first gave their own selves unto the Lord and unto us by the will of God" (2 Cor 8:5).

The surrender of their property was voluntary. Peter's address to Ananias and Sapphira proves, that this was true, even in the general surrender which was made by the first church; and it is clear that the contributions afterwards made by the churches, were made not of constraint but willingly. They who claim or indirectly exercise a coercive power over the property of church-members, are taking the oversight for filthy lucre's sake, and have no sanction from the authority of Christ, or the example of his apostles.

Since the obedience of churches cannot be coerced, no one can begin or continue the exercise of spiritual rule over them, but at their will. Hence their bishops must be persons of their own choice. The apostles, though all collected at Jerusalem, and invested with full power from on high to do all that appertained to their office, did not appoint even the inferior officers of the church until after they had been chosen by the whole multitude of the disciples. In this procedure they recognised and established the right of the churches to elect their own officers. Even the appointment of an apostle to take the place of Judas appears to have been made by popular vote: and much more ought that of bishops over the several churches. The Greek word rendered ordain in Acts xiii. 48, signifies to stretch out the hand, and is supposed to refer to the mode of popular election by the lifting up of the hand; but, whether this criticism be just or not, the proof that church officers were so elected is sufficient without the aid of this passage.

Because the bishops must labor in word and doctrine, as well as rule, the churches should elect them from the ministers of the word. As they have no right to coerce the churches, so the churches have no right to coerce their acceptance of office. The relation must be voluntarily entered into by both parties. This voluntariness on the part of ministers is necessary to the proper exercise of their office: "Not of constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (1 Pet 5:2). The minister cannot coerce a support from the church, but God has ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1 Cor 9:14). The duty of a church to support its pastor is clearly taught in the word of God; and without the performance of this duty on their part, they have no right to expect his services; and they, in a manner, put it out of his power to render them.
Analysis: Dagg has already laid down his view that Ministers of the Word are "a distinct class." Churches are to choose from among these ministers "bishops or pastors to teach or rule them." Some ministers, however, serve "the universal church" with "no authority to rule in the local churches."

Dagg rejects the Episcopal notion of bishops ruling over a diocese of churches, maintaining that a bishop "is restricted to a single local church." Dagg assumes that each church would have one pastor or bishop to feed the block and that the minister’s material needs will be met by the congregation. He leaves open the possibility of a plurality of such men in one body, but all would be gospel ministers supported by the church. The authority of these bishops is analogous "to the authority which the head of a family exercises over his household."

The pastor’s authority is indeed "peculiar in its kind." Dagg draws a further analogy to the two other human social institutions: the family and civil government. The pastor’s role is like "that of a father in his family, or of a governor in civil society" yet "it differs from these." How? Families do not choose their fathers, and governors can use the sword to enforce their will. Churches, meanwhile, have the right "to elect their own officers" and bishops rule by persuasion without relying of the coercion of civil authority.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

You are what you listen to

A terrible story unfolded over the weekend in the sleepy college town of Farmville, Virginia (see this article which was also printed in today's Daily Progress). Samuel McCroskey, a 20 year self-styled "horrorcore music" rapper from California, apparently murdered four people, including a Presbyterian Pastor, his estranged wife (a professor at Longwood), their daughter (an apparent fan of the "horrorcore" genre who befriended the man, communicated with him online, and invited him to visit), and one of her friends.

Before reading this story, I had never heard of the "horrorcore" genre, but it apparently "sets violent lyrics to hip-hop beats." Andres Shrim, a producer of this genre on the label Seriel Killin Records and friend of McCroskey is quoted as expressing surprise at what happened: "This is not something from the Sam I know…. This is not something that I would ever, ever in a million years envision him doing." This comment comes after quotes from the lyrics of one of McCroskey’s songs that speak of his glee in stabbing people to death.

Aside from the obvious illustration of depravity and self-deception (see Shrim’s comments), this story illustrates the importance of what we allow to enter our own and our children’s minds. Music is not value neutral. You are what you listen to.

Dagg on the Minister of the Word's Call (part four)

This is the sixth in this continuing series of excerpts drawn from John Dagg’s chapter on "The Ministry" in A Treatise on Church Order and the fourth from his discussion of the minister’s calling. Here, Dagg addresses the theology of ordination:
The institution of local churches has divine authority, and ought to be respected by every disciple of Christ. It is the duty of every one to become a member of some local church, and walk with the other members in love and Christian obedience. Brethren so connected are bound to exhort one another to diligence in the duties for which they are severally qualified. The obligation of a member to labor in the ministry may be recognised by his church, and the church does not go out of its proper sphere when it exhorts to this duty. Paul directed the church at Colosse, "Say to Archippus, take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it" (Col 4:17). He did not send the message to Archippus as from himself, but instructed the church to perform this duty. Such exhortation to a minister is therefore proper to be given by a church; and it follows, that a church is not without responsibility as to the question whether its gifted members are using their gifts as they ought. This responsibility makes the church a party in ministerial ordination. We have no express declaration that the church at Antioch concurred in the setting apart of Saul and Barnabas; but it may be inferred, not only from the tenor of the narrative, but especially from the fact that these missionaries, on their return, reported their doings to the whole church.

All the parties concerned in ordination ought to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and act under his influence. The highest responsibility rests on him who is entering the sacred office. He should act under a deep sense of his responsibility, and with a persuasion, the result of prayerful, heart-searching examination, that he is moved by the Holy Ghost. The presbytery have the next degree of responsibility. They should be persuaded that the Holy Spirit has called the candidate to the ministry; and be prepared, under this conviction, the result of due examination, to receive him as a fellow-laborer with them in the Lord's service. The lowest degree of responsibility rests on the church; but even this is solemn and important. The same Spirit dwells in the ministry and in the churches; and every member is concerned in whatever concerns the spiritual body of Christ. A hearty concurrence of the church is necessary in the ordination; and, without it, a presbytery should never act. When a candidate has the threefold testimony, of his own conscience, of the presbytery, and of the church, he may proceed to labor in the ministry, with an assurance that he is "sent forth by the Holy Ghost."

Every step in the process of ordination recognises the principle that a divine call is necessary to a proper entrance on the ministerial office. The candidate, the presbytery, the church, all admit it, and act on it. This principle is of great importance to the preservation of a spiritual and efficient ministry; and it cannot be neglected, without immense evil to the cause of pure religion. When a father chooses the ministry as a profession for his son, or when the son chooses it for himself, as he would choose any other profession, the authority of God is contemned, and the holy office profaned. If a church should think that they need a minister, and should conclude to appoint one without regard to a divine call; and if a presbytery should aid them in accomplishing their purpose; the church and presbytery together may make a minister; but he will be, if not a minister of Satan, at the best only a minister of men, and not a minister of Christ.

The divine call is not only indispensable, but it is also complete in itself. The presbytery do not assemble to complete it, but to signify their concurrence in the persuasion that it exists. The earliest and the least hurtful form which the pernicious doctrine of baptismal regeneration assumed, regarded baptism as the completion of regeneration. It did not make regeneration consist wholly in the outward ceremony; but it regarded no one, whatever the Holy Spirit may have effected within him, as fully regenerated, until he had gone through the outward ceremony. A similar mistake has been made respecting the Holy Spirit's call to the ministry. The call is supposed to be incomplete, until the outward ceremony of ordination has been performed. In both cases a distinction should be made, between what the Spirit does, and what it is the duty of him to do on whom the Spirit operates. The Spirit regenerates; and it is the duty of the regenerated man to be baptized. The Spirit calls to the ministry; and it is the duty of the man so called, to enter on the work of the ministry through all the forms which are prescribed in the word of God. Why the Holy Spirit permits one whom he has regenerated to err so far as to neglect baptism; and why he permits one whom he has called to the ministry to err so far as to neglect both baptism and regular ordination; I as little understand, as I understand why God permitted sin to enter the world. The proof of all these facts is irrefragable; and I am compelled to admit their existence, and believe that God will overrule them for his glory.
Analysis: Dagg stresses the importance of the local church in recognizing those in her midst who have ministerial gifts. Once a candidate seeks ordination, however, the "highest responsibility" rests with him to pursue his calling with deep seriousness. Next in responsibility is the "presbytery." By this Dagg means a body of ministers who would be called together to examine the candidate. Finally, the local church bears a "solemn and important" responsibility. Indeed, "A hearty concurrence of the church is necessary in the ordination; and, without it, a presbytery should never act." The reference to "the church" here is, of course, to the local church of which the candidate is a member. The most important factor in determining whether or not a man should enter the ministry is a divine call.

Sermon of the Week: Gavin Beers on Encounters at the Cross

The North American branch of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) has a summer family conference each year at a camp in West Virginia, not far from Harrisonburg. One of the speakers this year was Gavin Beers, a young Pastor from Ayr, Scotland. He gave a series of simple but profound gospel messages based on encounters at the cross that are worth hearing:


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dagg on the Minister of the Word's Call (part three)

This is the fifth in our series from Dagg on "The Ministry" (and the third on the "call" of the minister). Dagg is providing some Biblical reflection and guidance here on the issue of ordination:
When any one is introduced into the ministry, the highest responsibility, next to that which he himself sustains, devolves on the ministers with whom he is to associate as a fellow-laborer. On the ministers a peculiar responsibility rests, to pray that laborers may be sent into the harvest; and also to seek out and encourage gifts for the work, and thus continue the succession of laborers. It was made the special duty of Timothy, to look out faithful men, able to teach others, that he might commit the ministry of the word to them. It was to the ministers of the church at Antioch, that the Holy Ghost said, "Separate me Saul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them (Acts 13:2);" and the public designation of them to the work, appears to have been made by these ministers, doubtless with the concurrence of the church. In this method of procedure, there is an obvious fitness. It was fit that Elisha should be anointed to the prophetical office by a prophet. Men whom the Spirit has filled with a burning desire to preach the gospel, and has qualified for the service, are the most suitable persons to look out aids in the service, and judge of their fitness. Hence the obligation was laid on Timothy, already a minister. Hence the duty imposed on Titus: "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldst ordain elders in every city." Hence the instructions respecting the qualifications necessary for office, are given in the epistles to these ministers, rather than in those to the churches.

The propriety of ministerial concurrence, in public designation to the ministerial office, appears from the nature of the case apart from apostolic example. But we have apostolic example to assist our reasoning. Saul and Barnabas were solemnly set apart by their brethren in the ministry, with fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands. In this case, he who was not a whit behind the chief of the apostles, bent before those who had no pretensions to apostolic authority, that he might receive the imposition of hands. What a sanction did his act give to the solemn ceremony, and to the established church order, of which it was a part! If such solemn services are appropriate in public designation to a particular service in the ministry, much more are they appropriate when any one enters the ministry itself. We learn from other Scriptures that such services were performed. Paul mentions the appointment of Timothy to the ministerial office in these words: "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" (1 Tim 4:14).

It has been a question whether the concurrence of a single minister is sufficient in ordination. We have no explicit instruction on this point. From the instruction to Titus, it appears that he alone was authorized to ordain elders in every city. Yet Paul, though a minister of superior authority, did not ordain Timothy alone. He was the chief agent in the work; and says, "By the putting on of my hands" (2 Tim 1:6); but yet he chose not to act alone, and therefore he says in another place, "By the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." The concurrence of a presbytery might not be possible in every city of Crete, where the churches had been recently planted; but where it was possible, even Paul with his apostolic authority chose not to act without it. We have, therefore, apostolic example confirming our reasoning on the subject, that where a presbytery can be obtained, its concurrence ought to be procured. The minister, who, from the direction given to Titus, takes it upon himself alone to ordain to the sacred office, assumes a power which Paul himself did not assume.

Analysis: Dagg argues that approval of one to ordination to ministry rests primarily with the body of men who have been so ordained to gospel ministry. He notes that the Biblical instructions for ministerial qualifications are addressed in "epistles to these ministers [e.g., 1-2 Timothy, Titus], rather than in those to churches." He sees the necessity of "ministerial concurrence" as the apostolic example. He asks if having just a single minister concur is sufficient and concludes "that where a presbytery can be obtained, its concurrence ought to be procured." A minister who "takes it upon himself alone to ordain to the sacred office, assumes a power which Paul himself did not assume."

Bridges on Preaching Christ

I’ve been continuing to read through Charles Bridges’ classic The Christian Ministry (Banner, 1959 [1830]). Here is his conclusion to the section on "The Doctrinal Preaching of the Gospel" (p. 258):

"Preach Christ Jesus the Lord." "Determine to know nothing among your people, but Christ crucified." Let his name and grace, his spirit and love, triumph in the midst of all your sermons. Let your great end be, to glorify him in the heart, to render him amiable and precious in the eyes of his people, to lead them to him, as a sanctuary to protect them, a propitiation to reconcile them, a treasure to enrich them, a physician to heal them, an advocate to present them and their services to God, as wisdom to counsel them, as righteousness to justify, as sanctification to renew, as redemption to save. Let Christ be the diamond to shine in the bosom of all your sermons.

Dagg on the Minister of the Word's Call (part two)

This is the fourth post in this series from John Dagg's A Treatise on Church Order and the second on "calling." Dagg is laying out a theology of the role of the Gospel Minister in the local church.
A knowledge of gospel truth, an aptness to teach, and a heart moved by the desire to glorify God in the salvation of souls, are the evidences of a divine call to the work of the ministry. All these qualifications may exist, in a measure, in ordinary Christians; and a proportionate obligation accompanies them, to use them in the Redeemer's service. No church, no minister of the gospel, can, under a proper influence, forbid the exercise of these gifts, where they exist. Moses repelled the suggestion to forbid some who prophesied; and said, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets" (Num 11:29). An active, prudent employment of the gifts possessed by ordinary Christians, would promote incalculably the interests of religion; and the restriction of all labor for the spread of the gospel, and the promotion of piety, to a select few, is greatly detrimental to the cause of Christ.

But it is still true, that there are some whose gifts for public usefulness rise high above the rest; and, in bestowing superior qualifications, the Holy Spirit, who divides to every man severally as he will, has indicated his will that the possessor of the qualifications should use them for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit works harmoniously in all the parts of his operation. He diffuses one sympathy through all the body of Christ, so that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee. When qualifications for service are imparted by the Spirit to one member, other members, under the influence of the same Spirit, welcome its service. Hence, every man who believes alone, that he is called of God to the ministry, has reason to apprehend that he is under delusion. If he finds that those who give proof that they honor God and love the souls of men, do not discover his ministerial qualifications, he has reason to suspect that they do not exist. The Head of the church has graciously provided, that in the ordinary course of things, men are able to obtain counsel in this matter, and are not compelled to act on their individual responsibility. If, in some extraordinary case, he calls some men to stand alone, as Elijah did, in defence of the truth, this gives no just plea to others to isolate themselves, and act on their own responsibility, when circumstances do not demand it. Elijah's proof of a divine call to the prophetical office consisted wholly in his possession of the prophetical spirit; but Elisha had the additional proof, that he had been anointed to the office by Elijah. Such proof, in -ordinary cases, the Holy Spirit has provided for the ministers of the word; and the use of it is necessary to the success of the ministry and the order of the churches.
Analysis: Though not discounting the general exercise of gifts in ministry among all believers, Dagg holds that there are some "whose gifts for public usefulness rise high above the rest." Anyone whose call to ministry is based upon his own apprehensions alone might well be "under delusion." Thus, men are "to obtain counsel on the matter" and not "act on their individual responsibility." Except for "extraordinary cases," like that of Elijah, men should not "isolate themselves, and act on their own responsibility, when circumstances do not demand it." Dagg, thus, advocates great care and reflection in the calling of men to the Ministry of the Word.

Sam Waldron on "The Relation of Church and Family"

My friend Steve Clevenger sent me a link to this article by Sam Waldron on "The Relation of Church and Family" on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship Blog. It's worth pondering.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dagg on the Minister of the Word's Call (part one)

This is the third in our series from John Dagg's A Treatise on Church Order. After discussing the Minister of the Word's distinct office and his work, Dagg proceeds to discuss his call:
The ministers of the word receive a special call from God, directing them to the service. The Jewish priests were a separate class of people, distinguished from the rest of the nation by natural descent from Aaron. The Congregation of the Lord was perpetuated by natural descent; and if the Christian church had been a continuation of it, we might expect its ministry to be perpetuated in the same way. But the members of the church are separated from the rest of the world by a divine call; and it is suitable that the ministers of the church should be distinguished in the same manner; accordingly, their designation to office is ascribed to God. "God hath set some in the church, first apostles," &c., and the qualifications for the work are the special gift of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:11).

The Holy Spirit calls to the ministry of the word none but true Christians, members of Christ's spiritual body. The apostles were chosen to be the personal attendants of the Saviour, and special witnesses of his daily life and ministry. Though he knew, from the beginning, the hypocrisy and treachery of Judas Iscariot, he chose to have a traitor among his witnesses. The blameless character of the Redeemer extorted, even from this man, the testimony, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." This testimony is of great value to Christianity. Had Christ been an impostor, had there been a scheme to deceive the people, Judas must have known it. His testimony, confirmed by his return of the money with which he had been bribed, and by his suicide, banishes every suspicion dishonorable to the Saviour. It was therefore wisely ordered that Judas should be among the apostles. But he was not among them when the last commission was given, under which we now act. When the Holy Spirit calls men to the ministry, he bestows on them qualifications for the work, qualifications both of head and heart. The qualifications of the heart include a sincere desire to glorify God, and save souls; a desire never felt by the unregenerate. Hence, the Holy Spirit never makes unregenerate ministers. When such men enter the sacred office, they, in the language of Paul, are "ministers of Satan."

As true ministers are members of Christ's spiritual body, so their ministry is intended for its benefit:--"for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Their office pertains to the spiritual, universal church, of which they are all members. The ministry of some of them may have a relation also to local churches, placed under their special charge; but they serve in these for the good of the whole body of Christ.

In Ephesians iv. 11, Paul enumerates the officers whom God set in the church: "Some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists," &c. Of these the first three are not confined to local churches, but are ministers of the church universal. This is apparent, from the words of Paul: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in my flesh, for his body's sake, which is the church, whereof I am made a minister" (Col 1:24, 25).

The apostles were, according to the import of the name, persons sent forth. The term is applied specially to those whom Christ sent forth in person, and who are called the apostles of Christ. Paul claimed to be an apostle in this sense: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?"(1 Cor 9:1). And again: "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ" (Gal 1:1). Paul numbered himself among the witnesses of Christ's resurrection, and the apostles were chosen to be witnesses of this fact. Peter, when he proposed the election of one to take the place of Judas, stated the qualifications necessary for an apostle in this manner: "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21, 22). These qualifications cannot now be found in any man living, and therefore the apostolic office has necessarily ceased.

The name apostle is applied, in another sense, to Barnabas,(Acts 14:14) the companion of Paul. These two ministers had been sent forth by the Holy Ghost, from Antioch, to a special work. Barnabas is probably called an apostle, with reference to this fact; and, in this sense, the term corresponds in signification to our modern name, missionary. Paul and Barnabas had been sent forth as missionaries, on a tour of missionary service.

Prophets were persons divinely inspired to make revelation from God, consisting sometimes in the foretelling of future events. This office was needed, before the volume of divine revelation was completed. The absence of the prophetic gift in modern times, demonstrates that the Holy Spirit, who imparts every needful gift, accounts further revelation unnecessary. The absence of the gift proves the sufficiency of the Scriptures, and the cessation of the prophetic office.

Evangelists were persons employed in the spread of the gospel. They appear to have labored in connection with the apostles, to extend the religion of Christ and plant new churches. They did not need miraculous endowments for their work; and therefore their office continues to the present time. Every minister of the word, when he labors, not for the special benefit of a local church, but for the spread of the gospel, is doing the work of an evangelist (2 tim 4:5). Timothy was required to do this, though remaining at Ephesus, and laboring for the interest of that particular church.
Analysis: Ministers are separated to their work by a divine call. When called, the Holy Spirit bestows upon them the qualifications for their work. Drawing on Ephesians 4:11, Dagg discusses the offices of apostle, prophet, and evangelist. In good cessationist fashion, he says that the office of apostle has ceased, though the term might also apply to those who are called "missionaries" as ones "sent forth." The office of prophet has also ceased proving the sufficiency of Scripture. Evangelists, however, are "those employed in the spread of the gospel" and, according to Dagg, this office "continues to the present time." "Every minister of the word, when he labors, not for the special benefit of the local church, but for the spread of the gospel, is doing the work of an evangelist."

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Dying Prayer of Martin Luther

The dying prayer of Martin Luther:

Domine Deus, gratias tibi ago, quod volueris me esse pauperam super terram, et mendicum. Non habeo domum, agrum, possessiones, pecuniam, quae relinquam. Tu dedisti mihi uxorem et filios. Tibi reddo. Nutri, doce, serva--ut hactenus me--O Pater pupilorum et judex viduarum.

Lord God, I thank you, that you have willed me to be a poor man upon the earth and a beggar. I do not have home, field, possessions, or money that I relinquish. You have given to me a wife and children. I give them back to you. Nourish, teach, and keep them--as you have me thus far--O Father of orphans and protector of widows.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dagg on the Work of Ministers of the Word

This is the second in our series from Dagg's A Treatise on Church Order. Here, Dagg describes the special work of those who are Ministers of the Word:

The special service for which the ministry is designed is the preaching of the word. The obligation to spread the knowledge of Christ is shared, to some extent, by all Christians. The effectual call of the Holy Spirit, by which any man is brought to repentance and faith, imposes on him an obligation to show forth the praises of him who hath called him out of darkness into his marvelous light; to let his light shine before men, that they, seeing his good works, may glorify his Father in heaven; and to hold forth the word of life. Every Christian is bound to do what he can for he conversion of others, and for spreading the knowledge of the truth. But special gifts are conferred on some, accompanied with special obligations. These constitute a special call to the ministry of the word.

During the Saviour's personal ministry he made many disciples: but he did not intrust to them equally and indiscriminately the work of spreading the knowledge of his religion. He sent forth seventy with a special commission to preach the kingdom of God. He chose the apostles to be his immediate attendants and special witnesses, and gave them a commission--"Go preach the gospel to every creature....Go make disciples, teaching them," &c. Preaching and teaching were prominent and important parts of the service required of them. When Paul was made an apostle, the commission to him, as explained by himself, was to preach the gospel: "Christ sent me, not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." The obligation which he felt to perform this service was beyond that imposed on ordinary Christians, and was exceedingly pressing: "Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). With him, to preach the gospel was not to utter a proclamation in a brief sentence; but at Troas he preached to a late hour of the night. In his ministry teaching was conjoined with preaching, and included in it: "Whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity" (1 Tim 2:7).

The obligation of particular men to give themselves to the ministry of the word was intended to be a perpetual arrangement, and not confined to the ministers appointed by Christ in person. Timothy was specially appointed to this service, and was commanded, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine" (2 Tim 4:2). "Make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim 4:5). "Neglect not the gift that is in thee" (1 Tim 4:14). A special gift and a special obligation are here clearly recognised, and the duty to be performed is clearly preaching, in the comprehensive sense in which teaching is included. Paul had committed the gospel to Timothy; nor was the succession to cease in him. "The things which thou hast heard of me, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2). Special ability and special obligation to preach and teach were to be perpetuated in men, separated to the service from the body of Christ's disciples.
Analysis: According to Dagg, the main work and special service of gospel ministers is preaching. Special gifts and obligations are only given to some for this work. Jesus himself did not intrust the disciples "equally and indiscriminately for the work of spreading the knowledge of his religion." The setting apart of some men to be preachers or ministers of the Word was "a perpetual arrangement."

Are we less grateful than brute beasts?

I am reading Philip Doddridge’s little spiritual classic The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul (c. 1745). At one point he laments the ingratitude of men toward the Lord, making unfavorable comparison between ungrateful human beings and dogs:

Surely every domestic animal around you must shame such ingratitude. If you do but for a few days take a little kind notice of a dog, and feed him with the refuse of your table, he will wait upon you, and love to be near you; he will be eager to follow you from place to place, and when, after a little absence, you return home, will try, by a thousand fond, transported motions to tell you how much he rejoices to see you again. Nay, brutes far less sagacious and apprehensive, have some sense of our kindness, and express it after their way…. What lamentable degeneracy therefore it is, that you do not know: that you, who have been numbered among God’s professed people, do not, and will not consider your numberless obligations to him.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dagg on Ministers of the Word as "A Distinct Class"

Photo: This picture of J. L. Dagg is more than a little intimidating. His eyes look like they could pierce your soul! The image no doubt reflects the sobriety that was expected of ministers in Dagg's day.

Here begins a new series from John Dagg's Manual of Theology (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858). Dagg was born in Loudon County, Virginia in 1794 and died in 1884 at over ninety years of age. He was one of the few early Baptists in America to write systematically on doctrine. His influential Manual of Theology had two parts: A Treatise on Christian Doctrine and A Treatise on Church Order.

I will offer selections from "Chapter VIII: The Ministry" from A Treatise on Church Order, along with some analysis at the end.



The ministers of Christ are a separate class of persons, distinguished by a special divine call to preach the word.


The ministers of Christ are, like ordinary Christians, separate from the world. They are partakers of the heavenly calling, by which men are brought out of the world, and made the servants of Christ. In all his epistles to the churches, Paul claims to be a fellow-saint with them, a member of the same spiritual family, and an heir of the same heavenly inheritance. Throughout the Scriptures, the ministers of Christ are spoken of as persons who love Christ, and are from the heart devoting themselves to his service. They must therefore be of the number who are "called to be saints."

The ministers of Christ are also separate from ordinary Christians. They are one with ordinary Christians, as being called in one hope of their calling; but, besides the call to repentance and faith, which they have received in common with their brethren, they have been called to special service in the Lord's cause. It is clear, from the Holy Scriptures, that there were, among the first Christians, persons to whom the work of the ministry was specially intrusted. Paul says, concerning these, God "hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation"(2 Cor 5:8). "Giving no offence, that the ministry be not blamed"(2 Cor 6:3). "Who hath made us able ministers of the new testament"(2 Cor 3:6). He speaks of himself, as counted faithful; and put "into the ministry"(1 Tim 1:12); and of the special grace given to him, that he should preach among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8). The bestowment by the Holy Spirit of special qualifications for special service in the Lord's cause, is plainly taught in 1 Cor. xii., and Eph. iv. The inquiry, "Are all apostles? are all prophets?"(1 Cor 12:29) &c., shows that the offices designated did not belong to the whole body of the saints.

The separation of the ministry from the mass of ordinary Christians, is not like the separation of Christians from the world. In the latter case, they cease to be of the world, and become strangers and pilgrims in the earth. But men who enter the ministry, do not cease to be saints. Saul and Barnabas were separated unto the work to which the Holy Ghost had called them; but this separation did not take from them a place among the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. John speaks, concerning the whole company of the saints: "We are of God; and the whole world lieth in wickedness"(1 John 5:19). Here is a strong line of division, like that which separates land and water. But the ministry appears, among the people of God, like the mountains on a continent, forming a part of it, and closely united with surrounding lands. Eminent spiritual gifts distinguish the ministers; but the same spirit that actuates them, pervades the whole body of Christ. All the disciples of Christ are bound, according to their ability, to advance the cause of- their Master, and labor for the illumination and salvation of men: and the diversity of talent among the ordinary disciples, may be compared to the diversity of hill and valley in the ordinary face of the country. But ministers are distinguished, by their superior qualifications for service, from the ordinary mass of Christians, like mountains rising above the common undulations of the surrounding landscape.

The special qualifications which the Holy Spirit bestows, bind him on whom they are bestowed to use them in the service of Christ. They are given to fit him for this service, and they constitute a divine call for him to engage in it. They are not given to confer a privilege merely, but they are a solemn call to duty--a call demanding the service of the whole life.

The apostles, when called by Christ, immediately left their secular employments, and gave themselves ever afterwards to the service of their Lord. Paul, when called, conferred not with flesh and blood. The work of the ministry did not cease, when these holy men left the earth; but other persons have been fitted to carry it on, by the same Spirit that qualified them for the peculiar service. He bestows his gifts "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:12, 13).

The ministers of Christ are not a separate class of men in such a sense as to constitute them an organized society. They are fellow-laborers in the Lord's service, but have no power over one another; and have no authority from Christ to combine themselves into an ecclesiastical judicatory to exercise power in any manner. They are all on a level as brethren; are the servants of Christ, and the servants of the churches.

Analysis: Dagg will offer a typical Baptistic two-fold view of office ([1] pastors who are gospel ministers and [2] deacons). He begins with the gospel minister as "a distinct class of persons, distinguished by a special divine call to preach the word." Their call and service are parallel to that of the apostles who "immediately left their secular employments and gave themselves everafter to the service of the Lord." In the final paragraph, Dagg rejects the Presbyterian view of gospel ministers forming "an organized society" or "ecclesiastical judicatory" (presbytery) outside the local church to which they are subject.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Peter Masters on "The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness"

A friend sent me a link to this article by Peter Masters, pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon's church) in London, with a frank critique of "the New Calvinism."
The article concludes:
The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.

Why have the leading preachers servicing this movement compromised so readily? They have not been threatened by a Soviet regime. No one has held a gun to their heads. This is a shameful capitulation, and we must earnestly pray that what they have encouraged will not take over Calvinism and ruin a generation of reachable Christian young people.

A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.

True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace. We find it in the challenging, convicting call of Joshua:

‘Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Adopted for Life

Photo: Timothy and Benjamin Moore hold their Dad's new book.

Russell Moore is dean at Southern Seminary and a former speaker at our Evangelical Forum. Moore and his wife have adopted two boys from Russia, and he has recently written a book on adoption, titled, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches (Crossway, 2009). There was a good article about Moore and the book on Baptist Press this week. I have not yet read the book, but I feel as though I have since my wife read long portion of it to me aloud while she was reading it. Several other JPBC families have also read the book (John B. has written a nice review that I hope to put in an upcoming issue of the EFN). Two JPBC related families have done international adoption and two more are in process (one is in Russia even now).


Sermon of the Week: Michael Phillips on "Talebearing"

Photo: Outside the Grace Baptist Church meetinghouse in Fremont, California.
Michael Phillips has been pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Fremont, California since 1983. I recently added him to my "favorite speakers" list on sermonaudio. His messages are a reminder that sometimes the best preaching and teaching is not to be found in large mega-churches but in small, faithful ones.

This message on Proverbs 26:20 "Where there is no wood the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer strife ceases" is worth consideration.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New NIV in 2011

This article in USA Today reports that Zondervan is apparently planning to offer another another revision of the NIV in 2011 to correspond with the 400th anniversary of the KJV.
One wonder whether it will reflect the gender neutral changes made to the TNIV in 2002. One also wonders if seven to nine years now is the basic life of a modern translation or revision of a modern translation.

Ten Guidelines for Close Friendships

In last Sunday evening’s worship service I offered ten guidelines on the Biblical view of friendship. Here is a condensed outline:

Text: 1 Samuel 18:1-3

1. True friendship must be based on a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a limit as to how close I can be with those who are not believers. See 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.

2. The purpose of Christian friendship is to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

The first man’s need for companionship was part of his pre-fall condition. Cf: "It is not good for man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). The practical value of friendship is outlined in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
For believers, however, beyond any natural or practical value, there is also a distinctly spiritual purpose to friendship (see Proverbs 27:6, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

3. You can only have truly close friendships with a limited number of people.

Part of our human finitude is the fact that we cannot have true, warm, close friendships with a large number of people.

Even Jesus himself limited the number friends who were close to him (cf. Mark 9:2; John 11:3, 35; 15:23-25; 21:20).

4. It is good to seek a variety of friends within your local church.

See Titus 2:1-10.

5. If you want to make friends you must show yourself friendly.

See Proverbs 18:24.

6. If you are married, then your husband or wife must be your best friend.

The husband and wife share an inner sanctum of intimacy and closeness that cannot be shared with anyone else (Genesis 2:14).

7. It is good for your family to have encouraging friendships with other likeminded families.

8. Friendships should be personal.

This comment is needed for the internet age. I am skeptical of internet friends. As someone said, we need more "face time" than "face book."

9. We should not make an idol of friends.

Does a friend’s opinion of you, your actions, or you behavior have such hold on you that you desire more his approval than God’s? See Psalm 118:8.

10. We should seek above all the friendship of Christ.

We need to be Jesus-centered (John 15:13-17).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article for 9/1/09.
Another note: I found two talks helpful in preparation: First, David Murray's Puritan Podcast on "Choosing Friends: Ten Fast Facts." Second, Michael Philip's talk on "The Puritan View on Friendship."