Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sermon of the Week: Ordination Sermons by Andrew Fuller

Image:  Andrew Fuller (1754-1815)

Today I posted a couple of audio readings of the sermon notes of Andrew Fuller from The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Volume I (1845) to sermonaudio (sorry, but no British accent!).  Fuller was a particularly useful English Particular Baptist Minister.  Due to his wide influence in Baptist circles, he was often asked to preach ordination sermons.  His Works contain a number of these.

The two messages I posted are:

Nature and Importance of Christian Love (John 13:34-35); date and occassion unknown

Importance of Christian Ministers Considered as Gifts of Christ (Psalm 68:10), from August 1, 1787.  This was the message Fuller preached at the ordination service of missions pioneer Williams Carey.

Hope to post more Fuller sermons in upcoming days.


Monday, August 30, 2010

The Directory for the Publick Worship of God: Part 8 of 16


THE communion, or supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated; but how often, may be considered and determined by the ministers, and other church-governors of each congregation, as they shall find most convenient for the comfort and edification of the people committed to their charge. And, when it shall be administered, we judge it convenient to be done after the morning sermon.

The ignorant and the scandalous are not fit to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Where this sacrament cannot with convenience be frequently administered, it is requisite that publick warning be given the sabbath-day before the administration thereof: and that either then, or on some day of that week, something concerning that ordinance, and the due preparation thereunto, and participation thereof, be taught; that, by the diligent use of all means sanctified of God to that end, both in publick and private, all may come better prepared to that heavenly feast.

When the day is come for administration, the minister, having ended his sermon and prayer, shall make a short exhortation:

"Expressing the inestimable benefit we have by this sacrament, together with the ends and use thereof: setting forth the great necessity of having our comforts and strength renewed thereby in this our pilgrimage and warfare: how necessary it is that we come unto it with knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and with hungering and thirsting souls after Christ and his benefits: how great the danger to eat and drink unworthily.

Next, he is, in the name of Christ, on the one part, to warn all such as are ignorant, scandalous, profane, or that live in any sin or offence against their knowledge or conscience, that they presume not to come to that holy table; shewing them, that he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself: and, on the other part, he is in an especial manner to invite and encourage all that labour under the sense of the burden of their sins, and fear of wrath, and desire to reach out unto a greater progress in grace than yet they can attain unto, to come to the Lord's table; assuring them, in the same name, of ease, refreshing, and strength to their weak and wearied souls."

After this exhortation, warning, and invitation, the table being before decently covered, and so conveniently placed, that the communicants may orderly sit about it, or at it, the minister is to begin the action with sanctifying and blessing the elements of bread and wine set before him, (the bread in comely and convenient vessels, so prepared, that, being broken by him, and given, it may be distributed amongst the communicants; the wine also in large cups,) having first, in a few words, shewed that those elements, otherwise common, are now set apart and sanctified to this holy use, by the word of institution and prayer.

Let the words of institution be read out of the Evangelists, or out of the first Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, Chap. 11:23. I have received of the Lord, &c. to the 27th Verse, which the minister may, when he seeth requisite, explain and apply.

Let the prayer, thanksgiving, or blessing of the bread and wine, be to this effect:

"With humble and hearty acknowledgment of the greatness of our misery, from which neither man nor angel was able to deliver us, and of our great unworthiness of the least of all God's mercies; to give thanks to God for all his benefits, and especially for that great benefit of our redemption, the love of God the Father, the sufferings and merits of the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, by which we are delivered; and for all means of grace, the word and sacraments; and for this sacrament in particular, by which Christ, and all his benefits, are applied and sealed up unto us, which, notwithstanding the denial of them unto others, are in great mercy continued unto us, after so much and long abuse of them all.

To profess that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ, by whom alone we receive liberty and life, have access to the throne of grace, are admitted to eat and drink at his own table, and are sealed up by his Spirit to an assurance of happiness and everlasting life.

Earnestly to pray to God, the Father of all mercies, and God of all consolation, to vouchsafe his gracious presence, and the effectual working of his Spirit in us; and so to sanctify these elements both of bread and wine, and to bless his own ordinance, that we may receive by faith the body and blood of Jesus Christ, crucified for us, and so to feed upon him, that he may be one with us, and we one with him; that he may live in us, and we in him, and to him who hath loved us, and given himself for us."

All which he is to endeavour to perform with suitable affections, answerable to such an holy action, and to stir up the like in the people.

The elements being now sanctified by the word and prayer, the minister, being at the table, is to take the bread in his hand, and say, in these expressions, (or other the like, used by Christ or his apostle upon this occasion:)

"According to the holy institution, command, and example of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, I take this bread, and, having given thanks, break it, and give it unto you; (there the minister, who is also himself to communicate, is to break the bread, and give it to the communicants;) "Take ye, eat ye; this is the body of Christ which is broken for you: do this in remembrance of him."

In like manner the minister is to take the cup, and say, in these expressions, (or other the like, used by Christ or the apostle upon the same occasion:)

"According to the institution, command, and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, I take this cup, and give it unto you; (here he giveth it to the communicants;) This cup is the new testament in the blood of Christ, which is shed for the remission of the sins of many: drink ye all of it."

After all have communicated, the minister may, in a few words, put them in mind,

"Of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, held forth in this sacrament; and exhort them to walk worthy of it."

The minister is to give solemn thanks to God,

"For his rich mercy, and invaluable goodness, vouchsafed to them in that sacrament; and to entreat for pardon for the defects of the whole service, and for the gracious assistance of his good Spirit, whereby they may be enabled to walk in the strength of that grace, as becometh those who have received so great pledges of salvation."

The collection for the poor is so to be ordered, that no part of the publick worship be thereby hindered.

Comments and Reflections: No position is taken by the Directory on the frequency of the Supper, but it is left to the Minister and Elders. The time suggested is after the Lord’s Day morning message. The table is fenced with an invitation and warning. The suggested posture is around a table “that the communicants may orderly sit about it.” The bread is to be served “in comely and convenient vessels” and the wine “in large cups.”

The liturgy suggested:


Invitation and warning

Words of institution from Gospels or 1 Corinthians 11

Prayer of thanksgiving for the bread

Breaking of bread and distribution with introduction: “"According to the holy institution, command, and example of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, I take this bread, and, having given thanks, break it, and give it unto you...”

(Prayer of thanksgiving for the cup?)

Distribution of the cup with introduction: “ According to the institution, command, and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, I take this cup, and give it unto you...”



Collection for the poor

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Vision (8/26/10): Counting the Costs

If you ever walk on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, you have probably seen the unfinished Landmark Hotel site. Ground was broken to build the towering, upscale hotel in March 2008, and it was supposed to have been completed in the summer of 2009. The hotel was anticipated to offer a major boost to downtown revitalization. Somewhere along the way, however, the project ran into funding and management difficulties. A blog that was set up to chronicle the construction progress made its last post in October 2008. Today as you walk by the building site you can see the towering metal beams reaching up into the skies and the cavernous unfinished spaces. What had begun as a promising project has become an eyesore and an embarrassment.

In Luke chapter 14 we have a record of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship. Jesus turned to the multitudes and told them, “whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (v. 27). He then offers this illustration:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish” (vv. 28-30).

Jesus had at least two purposes in telling this parable:

First, he wanted to warn men against making false professions. There will always be those who claim to be Christ’s disciples but who fall by the wayside when hardship comes. In order to guard against a false profession one must first sit down and count the cost of following Christ. Will I follow him even if my family opposes me? Will I follow him even if men ridicule me? Will I follow him even if it means I will suffer for him?

Second, Jesus wanted to offer assurance to those who were authentic disciples. Those who persevere in following Christ, even when times are hard, have assurance of their salvation. “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6). “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

Are you considering the claims of Christ? Count the costs. Are you one of his disciples? Continue to persevere and enjoy the comforts of Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Daniel Wallace on the "Comma Johanneum"

There was an interesting post the other day on Justin Taylor’s blog that featured a response from evangelical New Testament critic Daniel Wallace to an earlier post from Taylor on the KJV that had featured various snippets from Wallace.

Wallace’s comments are related to the notorious Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8), one of the most disputed passages in textual criticism. His comments are interesting on a couple of levels.

First, Wallace admits that the story of Erasmus offering a challenge to include the CJ in his third edition only if a manuscript could be discovered that contained it is unproven, as is the legend that such a manuscript was fabricated for this purpose by Froy (Roy). One of the things that becomes clear when you do some reading on textual studies is that there has been a concerted effort by those attempting to dethrone the traditional text to disparage the work of Erasmus, especially since his Greek New Testament became the basis for the textus receptus. I have been working off and on this summer on an article that examines three such examples of this: (1) the idea that Erasmus' first edition of 1516 was a rushed and sloppy job; (2) the idea that the insertion of the comma in the third edition came as the result of a challenge and that a manuscript was made to order for this purpose; and (3) that Erasmus had no copy of the ending of Revelation and that he thus “back translated” the last six verses of Revelation 22 into Greek from Latin.

These views have been popularized by men like Wallace, James R. White, D. A. Carson and others (mostly through reliance on secondary sources like Metzger), but they seem to rest on unproven historical ground.

As Erasmian scholar M. A. Screech has rather sharply put it, “Anyone who reads New Testament scholarship finds that Erasmus has his detractors who repeat each other with bland assurance. Writers of established reputations pass on fantasies or legends” (see his “Introduction,” in Anne Reeve, Ed. Erasmus’ Annotations on the New Testament: The Gospels [London:  Duckworth, 1986]: p. xii).

Second, Wallace notes his own recent discovery in July 2010 of a ninth witness to the comma in a marginal reading of Codex 177 which apparently up until now had been overlooked.  Wallace is no friend to the traditional text, and he dismisses the value of this new witness.  Still it adds some weight to the argument for the authenticity of the comma.  For those who automatically wish to dismiss the comma, consider that the RSV-ESV includes half a verse in Psalm 145:13 that appears in only one Hebrew manuscript!  You might also read R. L. Dabney's classic defense of the comma on internal grounds.


Monday, August 23, 2010

One Final Summer Outing

Image:  Riddle children on a canon at Gettysburg.

The new homeschool year for our family started today, but last week the Riddles enjoyed one final outing before the end of summer.  On Wednesday we headed out to Gettysburg, PA and visited the museum and "cyclorama."  We stayed in town, just a short walk from the battlefield.

Images:  Riddle children at the Virginia Memorial; an interesting sign before the statue of General Lee at the Virginia Memorial.

On Thursday morning we took the driving tour around the battlefield making stops at various places including the "high water" mark, the bloody angle, the Virginia Memorial, Little Round Top, and ending at the Cemetery where Lincoln delivered the Gettsyburg Address.

Image:  Isaiah and I pose in front of the Banner office.

After lunch we took Rt. 34 to Carlisle and visited both the Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service storefront on North Hanover Street and the Banner of Truth office and warehouse just around the corner on East Louthar Street.  The children referred to this as "Dad's vacation."

Image:  Sam taking in the Opening Ceremonies in Volunteer Stadium at the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

We followed Rt. 15 along the picturesque Susquehannah River and by Thursday evening we had arrived at the Little Pine State Park near Williamsport, PA.  We enjoyed a great campfire that night then headed into town Friday morning to watch the opening ceremonies of the Little League World Series and four consecutive opening day games.  The best game was the night cap between Mexico and Japan.  We were sitting on the hill at Lamade Stadium when Japan hit the go ahead home run in the sixth inning to center field.  This was our first trip to the Little League World Series.  It is a great family friendly event.  Parking and admission to all games are free and even the concessions and souvenirs were reasonable.

We watched two more games on Saturday then headed back to Charlottesville to enjoy the Lord's Day with our CRBC family.  Summer is coming to an end.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Note: Thomas Boston's "The Art of Man Fishing"

The Scottish Puritan Thomas Boston (1676-1732) wrote this work when he was only twenty-two years old. It was first published in 1773. The book is a series of personal reflections on Matthew 4:19 (“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”). Note: References below are to Thomas Boston, The Art of Man Fishing (Old Paths Gospel Press, n.d.).

The work falls in two parts. In part one, Boston surveys “The Promise and the Duty” of “man fishing,” and in part two he asks, “How May I Come by This Art?” By the title and subject, one might suppose that the work is about personal evangelism. Indeed, the book is about evangelism but, more centrally, it is about the office of the minister and the exercise of his ministry. Christ makes ministers “fishers as to their office, by his call, which is twofold, outward and inward, by setting them apart to the office of the ministry” (p. 15).

In part one, Boston’s approach to evangelism diverges from many modern conversations on this topic. He does not promote “lifestyle” or “marketplace” evangelism, offer a Puritan version of the four spiritual laws, promote mass meetings or an invitation system, or commend doing good works to build a “platform” to get a hearing for the gospel. Evangelism is simply done through the called minister preaching the gospel. “Preachers of the gospel are fishers…. The design and work of fishers is to catch men” (p. 23). There are “two pools” in which the ministers are to set their nets. The first is “in the public assemblies of the Lord’s people”; the second is “in private conferences” (p. 28). Boston also encourages ministers faithfully to persevere even when the return is scanty: “Fishers may toil long, and yet catch nothing; but they do not therefore lay aside their work” (p. 28).

In part two, Boston addresses the minister directly urging that the way to be a fisher of men is to follow Christ. The minister is a converted man, for “a dead preacher cannot follow Christ” (p. 34). The minister’s ministry must not be guided by “carnal wisdom’ but by “spiritual wisdom” (see the series of convicting contrasts Boston draws between these two approaches, pp. 47-50).

The minister is not to take up “the preaching of the gospel without a call” and so run as one unsent” (p. 53). His call is both extraordinary and ordinary. He cites four aspects of the ordinary call: (1) “knowledge of the doctrine of the Christian religion above that of ordinary professors”; (2) “Aptness to teach, some dexterity of communicating unto others that knowledge”; (3) “A will some way ready to take on the work of preaching the gospel”; and (4) “the call of the church” (pp. 54-55).

Boston then exhorts his fellow ministers through various commendations. Here is but a sampling: They are to consider that their talent is given by their master “to improve till he comes again” (p. 57). They are to consider “that the applause of the world is worth nothing” (p. 58). They are to consider the worth of souls, the hazard they are in, and “what a sad case thou thyself wast in, when Christ concerned himself for thy good” (pp. 62-63). They are to consider the example of Christ and be much in prayer before preaching: “Let thy sermons be sermons of many prayers” (p. 71). They are to be affected by the spiritual state of their hearers, lest they engage in “tongue-preaching but not heart preaching” (p. 73). They are to follow Christ “in the contempt of the world” (p. 77). Though they must sometimes work with their hands “either when the iniquity of the times wherein they live does not allow them what may be for their maintenance, or when the taking of it will hinder the propagation of the gospel,” they are still to remember, “As thou art a preacher of the gospel, other things must cede and give place to that” (p. 78). They should beware “of preaching smoothly upon the account of getting a call from any parish” (p. 79). “Woe is me if a stipend should be that which should engage me to a place. I would shew myself a wretched creature” (p. 81). They are to consider the vanity of the world and know “that he who handles the world, can very hardly come away with clean fingers” (p. 85). Finally, they are to take every opportunity for public preaching: “Do not refuse any occasion of preaching when God calls you to it” (p. 89).


The Vision (8/19/10): Jehoshaphat's Challenge

In my recent devotional reading, I was struck by King Jehoshaphat’s challenge to the nation of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20:20:

Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe in his prophets and you shall prosper.

Note the two aspects of this challenge and their spiritual significance:

First, Jehoshaphat urges the Israelites to believe in the one true God. They are to place their fundamental trust in the Lord. If they do this, they will be established or grounded in the faith.

Second, they are also challenged to believe or trust in the prophets. The prophets were God’s inspired messengers who spoke to them the Word of the Lord. If they believe the prophets, not only will they be established in the faith, but they will also prosper. God will bless them with growth and strength.

This same challenge is extended to us today.

First, we are called to believe in the one true God of the Bible who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. When we do this we receive eternal life, and no one will ever be able to snatch us out of the Father’s hand (see John 10:28). We are established.

Second, we are to believe in the inspired writings of the prophets and apostles of old. These men were moved along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Just as trusting in God is essential for salvation, trusting in the Bible is essential for prospering and growing in the faith.

Will we heed Jehoshaphat’s challenge? Will we both believe in God and believe in the authority of the Scriptures? If we do, we will both be established and prosper in the Lord.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Video of the Week: The Lord's Prayer by a two-year old

Given our current Sunday afternoon sermon series on the Lord's Prayer, I found this an interesting and impressive rendering of Matthew 6:9-13:

A Few Follow Ups on Charismatics and Calvinists

Steve C. posted my recent article "Five Concerns About the Merging of Charismatic and Calvinistic Doctrine" on the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog, and I received a number of encouraging emails the past few days in response.

In light of the subject of this article, I found today's post on the "Desiring God" website on "How should miraculous gifts be used in the church in the church?" to be a timely example of this merging.

After watching this video, it might also be helpful to listen to this presentation by Hal Brunson (noted in one of the comments at the RBF blog) on "Charismatic Calvinists."  His opening comments do not mince words:

If ever there were a jewel of gold in a pig’s snout, charismatic Calvinism is it. What should be a humorous and ridiculous oxymoron, “charismatic Calvinist,” is now a nauseating and repugnant reality. Charismatic Calvinists open the door for false teaching in the Calvinist church; they blemish the reputation of orthodox Calvinists; they expect legitimacy, thinking that their claim to be Calvinists insulates them from the charge of heterodoxy; they denigrate the primary work of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, ultimately denying the scripture that affirms “of His fulness have we all received”; they inherently and unavoidably align themselves with the most despicable charletains of contemporary fundamentalism; they create a false expectation of sensational spiritual experience for young and naive believers; they are apparently unsatisfied and unsatiated with the primary work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification; they have pirated and defamed the phrase “sovereign grace”; and they are an embarrassment and an annoyance.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Reformed Baptist Trumpet: A New Thing

Yesterday, we mailed out the first edition of The Reformed Baptist Trumpet, the quarterly e-newsletter of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia.  Thanks to Judi LaGrange for her work in putting the newsletter together and building our email database.  We are still working out a few gmail kinks with the mailing.  If you did not get a copy and want to be added to the list, email your request to reformedbaptist.va@gmail.com.  Thanks also to Steve Clevenger who has put up a starter website with an announcement about the upcoming Keach Conference.

Below is the opening editorial for the first issue of the RBT.  Other articles in this issue include:  John Thackway's "Why Good Men Change," a book review of The Dark Side of Christian Counseling, and a Paradosis excerpt from Benjamin Keach titled "A Call to Self-Examination."  You can view a pdf of the complete first issue posted on googledocs here (though it's a little grainy):

A New Thing

In Isaiah 43:19 the Lord declares through the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, I will do a new thing….” The Lord continues to do new things among us. For over nine years the “Evangelical Forum” served as an organization promoting fellowship and mutual encouragement for pastors and other servants within Baptist churches in Virginia. Included in the Evangelical Forum ministry was an annual theology and ministry conference each fall that was hosted at various churches. This annual conference featured well respected speakers such as Tom Nettles, Michael Haykin, Greg Barkman, Joseph Pipa, Conrad Mbewe, and Derek Thomas and provided an occasion for fellowship and encouragement.

Early in 2010 the Evangelical Forum steering committee met to reorganize this ministry. For several years we had grown uncomfortable with confusion over the name “Evangelical.” Though appreciating the emphasis on the evangel (gospel), the consensus was that the word has been stretched thin by the wider evangelical movement. As the years have passed those involved in this ministry have become more convinced that the key to authentic and lasting reformation will mean a greater and not a lesser commitment to confessional clarity and unity. We believe, therefore, that the time has come to change the name of this ministry to the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia.

We also decided to re-christen the annual conference as the “Keach Conference,” after early Particular Baptist minister Benjamin Keach (c. 1640-1704). The conference will be held as originally scheduled on Friday-Saturday, September 24-25, 2010 in Charlottesville. The conference theme will be “Of Creation” following our chapter by chapter series through the Second London Baptist Confession (1689). Our guest speakers will be Tom Ascol and David P. Murray. For more details, see the information in this issue.

Finally, we decided to make some changes with our newsletter, including renaming it The Reformed Baptist Trumpet and moving from a print to an electronic format. We hope to send out issues quarterly.

We hope you will make plans now to join us for the Keach Conference in September as we move forward in this new chapter for the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia and with the “new thing” God is doing in our midst.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Vision (8/12/10): "Three Characters" of God's People

Image:  Scene from baptismal service on the Rivanna River (8/8/10)

Note:  The Vision is the weekly e-newsletter of Christ Reformed Baptist Church.  To be added to the mailing list, email info.crbc@gmail.com.

How about another gleaning from Thomas Watson? In his work on The Lord’s Prayer, Watson asks, “How shall we know that we are God’s elect people?” He then offers “three characters” that should mark God’s people:

1. God’s people are a humble people.

The livery [servant’s uniform] which all Christ’s people wear is humility. ‘Be clothed with humility’ (1 Peter 5:5). A sight of God’s glory humbles. Elijah wrapped his face in a mantle when God’s glory passed by. ‘Now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore, I abhor myself’ (Job 42: 5, 6). The stars vanish when the sun appears. A sight of sin humbles. In the glass of the word, the godly see their spots, and they are humbling spots. Lo, says the soul, I can call nothing my own but sins and wants. A humble sinner is in a better condition than a proud angel.

2. God’s people are a willing people.

‘A people of willingness;’ love constrains them; they serve God freely, and out of choice. Psalm 110:3. They stick at no service; they will run through a sea, and a wilderness; they will follow the Lamb wherever he goeth.

3. God’s people are a heavenly people.

‘They are not of this world’ (John 17:16)…. They use the world as their servant, but do not follow the world as their master. ‘Our conversation is in heaven’ (Phil 3:20).

Such as have these three characters of God’s people, have a good certificate to show that they are pardoned.

May the Lord be pleased to stamp our congregation with these three distinctive marks.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Five Concerns about the Merging of Charismatic and Calvinistic Doctrine

There has been an attempt in recent days by some to merge Calvinism and the charismatic movement. Several factors have influenced this trend. Here are three:

First, movements and ministries like “Together for the Gospel” and “the Gospel Coalition” have commended charismatic ministers, churches, and their practices to young Calvinistic ministers and their churches.

Second, the merging of charismatic and Calvinistic theology has been promoted among young ministers by the widespread use and influence of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in various evangelical schools and seminaries. Although there is much to commend in the devotional quality of Grudem’s work and in his generally Calvinistic Baptist perspective, reformed readers will not be able to affirm his advocacy of charismatic practices in the church.

Third, and perhaps most significantly, charismatic influenced “third wave” contemporary Christian music has largely replaced “traditional” worship liturgies in most evangelical and conservative Protestant churches, and now many of the lyrics for the newest songs are being influenced by the doctrinal resurgence of Calvinism.

Why should one be wary of this merging of charismatic and Calvinistic theology? Here are five specific concerns:

1. One cannot hold to the validity of charismatic “sign-gifts” in the church today and be consistently Biblical and reformed in his theological outlook.

At the outset we must understand that holding to Calvinistic soteriology is not enough to make a minister or church reformed. Reformation theology—including especially the Regulative Principle of worship—must also be applied to every other aspect of doctrine and practice in the church.

Based on sound Biblical exposition and demonstrated proofs, the classical Reformed creeds and confessions routinely rejected the continuation of charismatic gifts and experiences. The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), for example, deals with this issue in its statement on Scripture:

Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased (emphasis added).

One cannot claim consistently to hold to reformation doctrine while also affirming non-cessationism.

2. The emphasis on modern day occurrences of the extraordinary and the miraculous undermines the Biblical emphasis on the “ordinary means” of grace.

When Naaman was told by Elisha to dip seven times in the Jordan, the leprous commander was offended that he was given such an ordinary task (2 Kings 5). He wanted an extraordinary experience!

In the New Testament, the clear emphasis for spiritual edification and growth is on the “ordinary means.” Believers are to pray (1 Thess 5:17); sing songs of praise (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16); preach (1 Tim 4:2); assemble together (Heb 10:24-25); read aloud the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), give offerings and alms (1 Cor 16:1-2). On the other hand, believers are not actively encouraged to practice or seek miraculous experiences or gifts.

3. Those who deny the cessation of extra-ordinary charismatic gifts and experiences in the church today ignore the Biblical parallel to the cessation of some Biblical offices.

After the resurrection and ascension of Christ, some gifts existed for a limited time to validate the ministry and authority of the apostles (cf. Mark 16:17-18; Acts 2:43; 5:12, 15; 14:3; 15:12; 19:11; 2 Cor 12:12). With the completion of the canon of Scripture these miraculous gifts ceased. A clear parallel exists in the New Testament relating to offices that existed in the post-apostolic era. The offices of apostle, prophet, and evangelist were “extraordinary” ones that did not extend beyond the age of the apostles, while, the “ordinary” offices of ministers, elders, and deacons have continued throughout this gospel age (cf. 1 Cor 12:28-31; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1;5-9). For a convincing discussion of this point, see Walter J. Chantry, Signs of the Apostles: Observations on Pentecostalism Old and New (Banner of Truth, 1973) and Samuel Waldron, To Be Continued: Are The Miraculous Gifts For Today? (Calvary Press, 2005).

4. The promotion of non-cessationist doctrine fuels an overriding desire for extraordinary spiritual experiences that can lead to confusing theological beliefs and practices.

Theologian R. Scott Clark calls the evangelical desire for extraordinary experiences QIRE or “The Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience” (see his book Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice [P&R, 2008]). He also notes how the claim of many evangelicals to be “open” to charismatic gifts and other phenomena leads some falsely to understand “ordinary” events as “extraordinary.” Here is an example. A child is sick and the church prays for her recovery. The child is treated by a doctor for the ailment and gradually recovers. The church then claims authoritatively that God healed the child because of their prayers. Certainly God is sovereign over the child’s health, and he may have been pleased to use the prayers of the church to bring about the child’s recovery. Scriptures gives clear instruction on the exercise of the ordinary means of prayer for the sick (cf. James 5:13-15). God can work miracles, including healing, according to his good pleasure. By definition of his own sovereign Godhood, God may choose to do as he pleases (cf. Dan 4:34-35). There is, however, absolutely no objective way to measure or evaluate if the church’s claim that its prayers resulted in the child’s miraculous recovery is true. Of necessity this conclusion would be a matter of faith. At any rate, if the child recovered after the church’s prayer, then this would have been the result of ordinary rather than extraordinary means. Again, the instrument of prayer is simply an ordinary means. God would have been no less sovereign, however, had the child not recovered (cf. Job’s response to suffering in Job 1:21). We might also ask how we would look at the circumstances if the child had been part of a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness church. If she recovered after they prayed for her in those false churches would we say that God miraculously answered their prayers as a means of affirming their doctrine and practice? What if the child had been part of an atheistic family, and they offered no prayer for her and yet she still recovered. Would we say God did a miracle in response to their unbelief? Seeking extraordinary experiences typically leads to subjective declarations and doctrinal confusion. Again, R. Scott Clark notes that those who embrace charismatic doctrine tend merely to interpret ordinary events as extraordinary ones. Clark pointedly asks why we do not see those who promote non-cessationism doing things that are truly miraculous as the early apostles and their associates did? Why do they not claim to be able to raise the dead as Peter and Paul did (cf. Peter’s raising of Tabitha in Acts 9:36-41 and Paul’s raising of Eutychus in Acts 20:9-12)? Why do they not claim to be able to be miraculously transported by the Spirit from one place to another as happened to Philip (cf. Acts 8:39)? The “miracles” that are claimed today are hardly comparable to the authenticating signs that accompanied the apostles. In truth, they are most often ordinary events give extraordinary spin.

5. The emphasis on extraordinary experience undermines the sufficiency and authority of Scripture.

This is most clearly stated in Christ’s account of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The narrative concludes with the Rich Man begging Father Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his five brothers lest they too come to the place of torment (vv. 27-28). Abraham responds, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29). In other words, Abraham tells him that they have the Scriptures, and this should be enough to warn them of the reality of hell. The Rich Man protests, “No, Father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30). The Rich Man is essentially a non-cessationist. He believes that God should use an extra-ordinary event to change the hearts of his brothers. Surely, a spirit who comes back from the dead will make a difference! Abraham replies, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (v. 31). Indeed, from our present perspective we see how the greatest miracle in the world has already taken place. Christ has been raised from the dead! Yet, many remain unmoved, cold, and indifferent to the gospel. Jesus reminds us here that his preferred means of speaking to men is not through fantastic experiences but through the ordinary means of Scripture. Zeal for experience undermines, in truth, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Directory for the Publick Worship of God: Part 7 of 16

Image:  On the banks of the Rivanna River in Charlottesville reading texts on baptism.

Of the Administration of the Sacraments:


BAPTISM, as it is not unnecessarily to be delayed, so it is not to be administered in any case by any private person, but by a minister of Christ, called to be the steward of the mysteries of God.

Nor is it to be administered in private places, or privately, but in the place of publick worship, and in the face of the congregation, where the people may most conveniently see and hear; and not in the places where fonts, in the time of Popery, were unfitly and superstitiously placed.

The child to be baptized after notice given to the minister the day before, is to be presented by the father, or (in case of his necessary absence) by some Christian friend in his place, professing his earnest desire that the child may be baptized.

Before baptism, the minister is to use some words of instruction, touching the institution, nature, use, and ends of this sacrament, shewing,

"That it is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ: That it is a seal of the covenant of grace, of our ingrafting into Christ, and of our union with him, of remission of sins, regeneration, adoption, and life eternal: That the water, in baptism, representeth and signifieth both the blood of Christ, which taketh away all guilt of sin, original and actual; and the sanctifying virtue of the Spirit of Christ against the dominion of sin, and the corruption of our sinful nature: That baptizing, or sprinkling and washing with water, signifieth the cleansing from sin by the blood and for the merit of Christ, together with the mortification of sin, and rising from sin to newness of life, by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ: That the promise is made to believers and their seed; and that the seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church,

have, by their birth, interest in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the church, under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament; the covenant of grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before: That the Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, For of such is the kingdom of God: That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh: That they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized: That the inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reacheth to the whole course of our life; and that outward baptism is not so necessary, that, through the want thereof, the infant is in danger of damnation, or the parents guilty, if they do not contemn or neglect the ordinance of Christ, when and where it may be had."

In these or the like instructions, the minister is to use his own liberty and godly wisdom, as the ignorance or errors in the doctrine of baptism, and the edification of the people, shall require.

He is also to admonish all that are present,

"To look back to their baptism; to repent of their sins against their covenant with God; to stir up their faith; to improve and make right use of their baptism, and of the covenant sealed thereby betwixt God and their souls."

He is to exhort the parent,

"To consider the great mercy of God to him and his child; to bring up the child in the knowledge of the grounds of the Christian religion, "and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and to let him know the danger of God's wrath to himself and child, if he be negligent: requiring his solemn promise for the performance of his duty."

This being done, prayer is also to be joined with the word of institution, for sanctifying the water to this spiritual use; and the minister is to pray to this or the like effect:

"That the Lord, who hath not left us as strangers without the covenant of promise, but called us to the privileges of his ordinances, would graciously vouchsafe to sanctify and bless his own ordinance of baptism at this time: That he would join the inward baptism of his Spirit with the outward baptism of water; make this baptism to the infant a seal of adoption, remission of sin, regeneration, and eternal life, and all other promises of the covenant of grace: That the child may be planted into the likeness of the death and resurrection of Christ; and that, the body of sin being destroyed in him, he may serve God in newness of life all his days."

Then the minister is to demand the name of the child; which being told him, he is to say, (calling the child by his name,)

I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

As he pronounceth these words, he is to baptize the child with water: which, for the manner of doing of it, is not only lawful but sufficient, and most expedient to be, by pouring or sprinkling of the water on the face of the child, without adding any other ceremony.

This done, he is to give thanks and pray, to this or the like purpose:

"Acknowledging with all thankfulness, that the Lord is true and faithful in keeping covenant and mercy: That he is good and gracious, not only in that he numbereth us among his saints, but is pleased also to bestow upon our children this singular token and badge of his love in Christ: That, in his truth and special providence, he daily bringeth some into the bosom of his church, to be partakers of his inestimable benefits, purchased by the blood of his dear Son, for the continuance and increase of his church.

And praying, That the Lord would still continue, and daily confirm more and more this his unspeakable favour: That he would receive the infant now baptized, and solemnly entered into the household of faith, into his fatherly tuition and defence, and remember him with the favour that he sheweth to his people; that, if he shall be taken out of this life in his infancy, the Lord, who is rich in mercy, would be pleased to receive him up into glory; and if he live, and attain the years of discretion, that the Lord would so teach him by his word and Spirit, and make his baptism effectual to him, and so uphold him by his divine power and grace, that by faith he may prevail against the devil, the world, and the flesh, till in the end he obtain a full and final victory, and so be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Comments and Reflections: We have to start off with the obvious here. As a Baptist I am not in agreement with infant baptism. We should only baptized those who are able, like the Ethiopian Eunuch, to declare, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). There are some key things to be learned, however, from the liturgical and doctrinal instructions here. First, baptism “is not to be administered in any case by any private person, but by a minister of Christ, called to be the steward of the mysteries of God.” Baptism is also not to be administered in private but in public, corporate worship. The minister is to exhort those present at the baptism to remember their own baptismal commitment to Christ.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Shall we gather at the river: CRBC's first Baptism Service

Yes, we gathered at the Rivanna River yesterday morning to observe the first baptismal service of Christ Reformed Baptist Church Plant in which six candidates gave a testimony to their understanding and embracing of the gospel, professed "Jesus is Lord," and were obedient to believer's baptism.  Below are videos of two of the baptisms:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Vision (8/5/10): Digging Up the Old Wells

In Genesis 26 we read the account of Isaac receiving the covenant promise from God that had once been given to his father Abraham. The Lord told Isaac, “Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you” (v. 3). The Lord then announced that Isaac’s seed would be “as the stars of heaven” and through him “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (v. 4).

As Isaac dwelt in the land of Gerar, among the pagan Philistines, he found that they had attempted to destroy the old wells dug by his father: “Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth” (v. 15). Thus, Isaac set upon the task of digging again at the old wells: “And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them” (v. 18).

This digging of old wells might well be taken as a picture of the spiritual task of our generation. There have been immense efforts to sabotage the old wells dug by our spiritual fathers. Our task is to clear away the rubbish and drink again from the old fountains of truth.

The old wells were dug by the saints of the past, first by the prophets and apostles. The water that came from those wells was the purity of the gospel, the authority of the Scriptures, the sovereignty of God. Romanism attempted to pour earth into the old wells, but that rubbish was cleared away during the Protestant reformation when one of the battle cries was ad fontes, back to the sources!

In the time since the Reformation forces have been at work to fill in those wells again. British Pastor John Thackway has suggested that among more recent forces have been ecumenism (the call to forget doctrinal distinctive in the name of cooperation); the new evangelicalism (the effort to bridge the gap between what some consider “embarrassing” fundamentalism and liberalism); and the modern charismatic movement (the call to follow experience rather than Scripture).

How do we dig again at the old wells?
• We look to the authority of the infallible Bible.

• We confess a faith that is clearly articulated and soundly defended.

• We preach boldly and clearly the doctrines of grace.

• We worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth in a manner guided by the Bible and not the whims and “creative” ideas of man.

John Thackway, offers the following challenge:

To us is committed the great responsibility of reopening, guarding, and defending these wells. There will always be those keen to block them up again. Pure, divine truth is offensive and unpalatable to worldly and religious enemies alike. We must keep them open, dispense the waters, boldly declare these mighty and God-blessed verities; this is needed more than ever today if things are not to grow worse. And if it should please God to arise and breathe new life and power into the church; revival must come upon a people willing to do what is most likely to receive it, for revivals are usually characterized by the centrality of the Word (in his article “Reopening the Wells of Truth”).

May we be a church like Isaac, digging again at the old wells.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Directory for the Publick Worship of God: Part 6 of 16

Of Prayer after Sermon.

THE sermon being ended, the minister is “To give thanks for the great love of God, in sending his Son Jesus Christ unto us; for the communication of his Holy Spirit; for the light and liberty of the glorious gospel, and the rich and heavenly blessings revealed therein; as, namely, election, vocation, adoption, justification, sanctification, and hope of glory; for the admirable goodness of God in freeing the land from antichristian darkness and tyranny, and for all other national deliverances; for the reformation of religion; for the covenant; and for many temporal blessings.

To pray for the continuance of the gospel, and all ordinances thereof, in their purity, power, and liberty: to turn the chief and most useful heads of the sermon into some few petitions; and to pray that it may abide in the heart, and bring forth fruit.

To pray for preparation for death and judgment, and a watching for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: to entreat of God the forgiveness of the iniquities of our holy things, and the acceptation of our spiritual sacrifice, through the merit and mediation of our great High Priest and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And because the prayer which Christ taught his disciples is not only a pattern of prayer, but itself a most comprehensive prayer, we recommend it also to be used in the prayers of the church. And whereas, at the administration of the sacraments, the holding publick fasts and days of thanksgiving, and other special occasions, which may afford matter of special petitions and thanksgivings, it is requisite to express somewhat in our publick prayers, (as at this time it is our duty to pray for a blessing upon the Assembly of Divines, the armies by sea and land, for the defence of the King, Parliament, and Kingdom,) every minister is herein to apply himself in his prayer, before or after sermon, to those occasions: but, for the manner, he is left to his liberty, as God shall direct and enable him in piety and wisdom to discharge his duty.

The prayer ended, let a psalm be sung, if with conveniency it may be done. After which (unless some other ordinance of Christ, that concerneth the congregation at that time, be to follow) let the minister dismiss the congregation with a solemn blessing.

Comments and reflections: The sermon begins with prayer, and it concludes with prayer. It is suggested that the closing prayer reinforce the sermon so that the minister might “turn the chief and most useful heads of the sermon into some few petitions; and to pray that it may abide in the heart, and bring forth fruit.” The Lord’s Prayer is also recommended for use. The prayer after the sermon might be followed by the singing of a psalm, and the benediction (“a solemn blessing”). Prayer thus forms an inclusio for the entire service.


Book Note: "God's Harvard"

Hanna Rosin, God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America (Harcourt, 2007): 296 pp.

I picked this book up for cheap at the Green Valley Book Fair a few weeks ago while we were in between one of Sam’s baseball games over in Mt. Crawford.

Hanna Rosin is a Jewish journalist who covers politics and religion for the Washington Post. Her book was written after c. a year (2006-07) spent with open access to the students, faculty, and staff of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia. Patrick Henry is a small Christian college that primarily enrolls high-achieving students from homeschooled families. The school was founded in 2000 with the aim of creating a Christian alternative to the Ivy League. At the time the book was written—during the Bush administration—there were a disproportionate number of Patrick Henry students filling much coveted internships in the White House and throughout the corridors of power in Washington. Her book offers a glimpse into the world of the conservative Christian students at Patrick Henry and various aspects (e.g., courting, modesty issues, conservative political activism, etc.) of the “Joshua Generation” (i.e., second generation) of the evangelical homeschooling subculture. Rosin is generally sympathetic in her portrayal of Patrick Henry students and faculty. She is less sympathetic in her portrayal of Patrick Henry founder and then President Mike Farris. During the course of her year at the school, there was a major internal disruption and nine of the faculty resigned in a conflict with Farris (who since transitioned to become the school’s chancellor). It sounds as though at least part of the issue was Farris’ aversion to the Calvinism of some of the faculty.

One of the insights of the book, intended or not, is that there are always problems when one attempts to create a Utopia. Patrick Henry was founded as a Christian College with a strict student code of conduct, but faculty, students, and staff are all sinners. College students—even those raised in strict Christian homes—sometimes drink beer, watch restricted movies, and break the rules. Faculty members test the limits of academic freedom in a confessional school. Administrators act boorishly. Sinners act sinfully. Again, that is far from the main point of the book, but it is one message that speaks clearly.


Textual Notes on 1 Peter 5:8

1 Peter 5:8 is one of those brief verses with a complicated textual background:

First, there is the issue of the inclusion or omission of the causal conjunction hoti. Should it read, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about….” (AV based on TR) or “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion….” (NASB based on modern critical text)?

The Textus Receptus reading, which includes the conjunction, is supported by p72, the second corrector of Sinaiticus, L, Psi, and a number of minuscules, as well as Latin, Syriac, and Coptic versions.

It is omitted in the original hand of Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus. This is also the reading of the Majority Text, one example of a place where the TR and the Majority Text diverge.

Second, two early manuscripts (p72 and 33) add the definite article ho before diabolos ("the devil").

Third, and most significantly, there is wide divergence on the final two words (in the TR, tina katapie, “whom he may devour”). Metzger describes three main variations (Textual Commentary, pp. 696-97):

a. tina katapiein “seeking someone to devour”; supported by Sinaiticus, K, P, and Origen. This is the reading of the modern critical Greek text, though it is given a weak {D} reading and the tina is placed in brackets.

b. tina katapie “seeking whom he may devour”; supported by p72 and Alexandrinus.

c. katapien “to devour”; supported by Vaticanus, Psi, and the Latin translation of Origen.

Reflections: Again, we see here the great variety of readings that can be found in a single verse. Sometimes it is made to sound as if “the oldest and most reliable manuscripts” uniformly stand opposed to the traditional text. This verse illustrates that this is a fallacy. The ending of 1 Peter 5:8 reads differently in p72, Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus! At some point, a traditional text of Scripture emerged. As with the question of which books were to be included in the canon of Scripture, the emergence of the authoritative text of Scripture did not come about through church councils but through use by the people of God. Just as we say that the Bible chose the church rather than the church choosing the Bible, so we might say that the text chose the church rather than the church choosing the text. This was the case up until about 100 years ago when modern academics suggested that the received text should be jettisoned in favor of one deemed to be “more original” by scholars. Since that time, rather than the text choosing the church, it has been the academy choosing the text. What has been the result?