Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sermon of the Week: James White on Islam

This past week I listened to apologist James White's 5 part series from The 2011 Bunyan Conference at Grace Reformed Baptist Church, near Houston, TX on the subject of Islam.  Though I do not agree with White on his views of the text of Scripture, I was helped by his presentation.

White makes the point that text criticism is a major issue in apologetics with Islam, since they hold that Christian Scriptures are corrupted.  It irks White that Muslims draw on secular NT critics--like Ehrman--to make their points.  The problem is that they might draw just as well from evangelical text critics--like Dan Wallace--who have embraced "reasoned eclecticism."  How might holding to a providentially preserved traditional text change the dynamics in dialogue with Muslims?  White makes the point that the stabilization and standardization of the Koranic text (though there are still variants which orthodox Muslims ignore) came through civil enforcement.  This makes the persistence of a consistent traditional text of Christian Scripture all the more amazing since it did not come from civil enforcement and appeared across geographical borders.  In other words it simply came from churches which acknowledged it by their practice to be the authentic, preserved Word of God.

White takes on plenty of other issues.  I think the best is his argument that the Koran does not understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity but confuses it with tri-theism.  Worth listening.

JTR
  

Friday, December 30, 2011

CRBC Worship January 2012

Note: We will return to our series from Romans in Sunday morning worship, beginning an exposition of Romans chapters 12-16. In afternoon worship, we will continue our Spurgeon Catechism Series.

January 1

AM

Opening Psalm Psalm 77


Message: A living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)

No. 526 Psalm 30 (ELLACOMBE)

No. 28 (CCH) Be Thou My Vision

No. 25 (CCH) Take my life and let it be

PM

Opening Psalm Psalm 78


Message: What is the work of creation? (Genesis 1:1)

Psalm 89:1-16 (ODE TO JOY)

No. 364 Shepherd of souls

P. xvi Doxology (first tune)

January 8

AM

Opening Psalm Psalm 79


Message: Many members in one body (Romans 12:3-8)

Psalm 91 (HYFRYDOL)

No. 587 Like a river glorious

Psalm 133 (AZMON)

PM

Opening Psalm Psalm 80


Message: Jesus Prays in the Garden (Speaker: Brian Overstreet)


(Service at 2 pm at Our Lady of Peace; music TBA)

January 15

AM

Opening Psalm Psalm 81


Message: Instructions for the loving life (Romans 12:9-18)


Psalm 122 (CWM RHONDA)

No. 491 Jesus calls us o’er the tumult

Psalm 101 (AURELIA)

PM

Opening Psalm Psalm 82


Message: How did God create man? (Genesis 1:27)


Psalm 89:17-37 (ODE TO JOY)

No. 437 Christ of all my hopes the ground

No. 3 Psalm 117 (DUKE STREET)

January 22

AM

Opening Psalm Psalm 83


Message: How to treat enemies (Romans 12:19-21)

No. 50 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Psalm 12 (Note tune: ST. ANNE)

No. 402 Amazing Grace

PM

Opening Psalm Psalm 84


Message: What are God’s works of providence?

(Hebrews 1:3)

Psalm 89:38-52 (ODE TO JOY)

No. 679 The Light of the World is Jesus

Psalm 9:1-10 (JOANNA)

January 29

AM

Opening Psalm Psalm 85


Message: The powers that be (Romans 13:1-7)

Psalm 147 (LANCASHIRE)

No. 79 The Lord will provide

No. 53 Psalm 146

PM

Opening Psalm Psalm 86


Message: The covenant of works (Gen 2:17; Gal 3:12)


No. 400 Come, Thou Fount of every blessing

No. 403 Not what my hands have done

Psalm 9:11-20 (JOANNA)











Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Vision (12/29/11): CRBC Ministry 2011 Reflections and 2012 Visions


Image:  CRBC youth fellowship after a recent mid-week meeting.

As we look back over the past year, we see the many ways that the Lord blessed us in 2012. These include (in no particular order):

• The completion of two radio outreach campaigns in the Spring and Fall, including one minute “Grace Point” devotionals (Spring and Fall) and Sunday morning service broadcasts (Fall).

• The completion of a second annual “Puritan” Vacation Bible School.

• Ordination of Daniel Houseworth as our first Ruling Elder.

• Support for the 2011 Keach Conference at Covenant RBC in Warrenton.

• Growth in worship attendance and in membership.

• Joining other churches to support the translation and distribution of Sam Waldron’s To be Continued book in Romania.

• Meeting of financial needs, including exceeding our $10,000.00 Seed Fund goal by $5,000.00.

• Hosting notable guest ministers in the CRBC pulpit, including Gordon Taylor and Malcolm Watts.

We truly must look back on the past year with grateful hearts for the Lord’s kindness to us as a church.

Now, here are a few ministry visions for 2012 (some of which will be discussed more fully in our January 11th Annual Membership Meeting):
• Regular outreach to Our Lady of Peace Retirement Center. In place of our regular afternoon service, we will lead an outreach worship service at the OLP chapel at 2 pm on the following dates: January 8, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 24, July 8, September 9, September 30, November 11.

• Monthly mid-week home fellowships. At least one mid-week meeting each month will be a home fellowship. I know we are spread out geographically, but let me encourage everyone to make an effort to attend these monthly gatherings and be willing to host them. This will be a great way to get to know our body and to share in hospitality.

• Intentional outreach efforts. I would love to see our church attempt to engage in at least one intentional outreach effort each month in 2012. This might include open air preaching, Bible or literature distribution, visitation, radio ministry, etc. We have also been prayerfully considering launching a Sunday evening preaching point in a nearby town or city that does not have a Reformed Baptist church presence. More info TBA.

• Hosting 2012 Keach Conference on September 28-29 in Charlottesville. This is another opportunity to support this annual theology conference featuring world class speakers.

• Mission partnerships. We would love to be able to find one of more like-minded Reformed Baptist missionaries or church planters to support in 2012.

We look forward with anticipation to see how the Lord will work through this body in the year ahead.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What does the Reformed pastor preach when December 25 falls on Sunday?

What do you preach when December 25 falls on Sunday?  This is a particularly important question if you are a Reformed church and try to hold to the Regulative Principle. Do you preach on the Incarnation, taking obvious advantage of the season to preach the gospel, or do you ignore it altogether so as not to give credence to man-made holy days?

Last Sunday at CRBC, I chose simply to continue the two series we have been completing. In the morning I preached on The Death of Saul from 1 Samuel 31 and in the afternoon on How does God execute his decrees? from the Spurgeon Baptist Catechism series.

I glanced at sermonaudio.com today to see what other preachers/churches chose to do with their December 25, 2011 messages.  One thing I noticed is that with the holiday season, lots of churches (our included) have not yet updated their messages from last Sunday.  Here is a brief sample:

Heritage Netherlands Reformed:



Robert McCurley, Greenville Presbyterian Church (Free Church of Scotland, Continuing)



John Thackway, Holywell Evangelical Church



Greg Barkman, Beacon Baptist Church


On this topic, you might especially find Robert McCurely's am message of interest.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Don't give me God without his humanity."

I recently read the reprint of Carl R. Trueman’s Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 2000, 2011). At one point, Trueman describes Luther’s “theology of the cross,” including these comments on the Incarnation:

[Luther] had a saying: Don’t give me God without giving me his humanity. The point was simple: it is in the incarnation, in the flesh of Christ, that God both is, and shows himself to be, gracious towards us. Luther rejoiced in the fact that he did not worship a God who was far away, a despot, an abstract and anonymous philosophical principle. No—he worshipped a God who had come close, so close that he even clothed himself in human flesh; a God who was so merciful that he was prepared to welcome sinners into his presence as if they had never sinned; a God who was so loving that he happily freed men and women from all manner of physical and spiritual bondage so that they might know true life; and a God who was so strong that he was prepared to make himself nothing and die that terrible death on the cross in order that human beings should never have to die (p. 47).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Vision (12/22/11): Calvin on Luke 2:7b


Image:  In lieu of our regular mid-week meeting this week, a group of CRBCers went caroling and visited Miss Z. at Branchlands and then the residents at Our Lady of Peace Retirement Center.

Here is John Calvin’s commentary on Luke 2:7b: “Because there was no room for them in the inn”:

We see here not only the great poverty of Joseph, but the cruel tyranny which admitted no excuse, but compelled Joseph to bring his wife along with him, at an inconvenient season, when she was near the time of her delivery. Indeed, it is probable that those who were the descendents of the royal family were treated more harshly and disdainfully than the rest. Joseph was not so devoid of feeling as to have no concern for his wife’s delivery. He would gladly have avoided this necessity: but, as that is impossible, he is forced to yield, and commends himself to God. We see, at the same time, what sort of beginning the life of the Son of God had, in what cradle he was placed. Such was his condition at his birth, because he had taken upon him our flesh for this purpose, that he might “empty himself” (Phil 2:7) on our account. When he was thrown into a stable, and placed in a manger, and a lodging refused him among men, it was that heaven might be opened to us, not as a temporary lodging, but as our eternal country and inheritance, and that angels might receive us into their abode.

Christ took the manger so that we might have heaven. Are you seeking that “eternal country and inheritance” which Christ came to open for the redeemed?

May the Lord richly bless you and your family during this holiday season!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ordinances: Boyce on the Lord's Supper

James P. Boyce (1827-1888) was a Calvinistic Southern Baptist who studied at Brown under Wayland and at Princeton with Hodge and was one of the founding fathers of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Boyce's A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine is included in James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (original 1887, den Dulk reprint): pp. xxiii-xxiv.    Below is the section on the Lord's Supper.  Of interest is question 3 on the proper participants in the Supper which Boyce defines as "The members of His churches."  Baptism is the prerequisite for participation in the Lord's Supper (see question 5), but Boyce also seems to insist that the participants at the Table be not merely members of the invisible church but also of the visible.  


The Lord’s Supper


1. What other ordinance has Christ established?

The Lord’s Supper.


2. In what does this ordinance consist?


In eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of Christ.


3. Who alone are authorized to receive it?


The members of His churches.


4. In what way is it to be observed?


As a church ordinance, and in token of church fellowship.


5. Is there any established order in which these ordinances are to be observed?


Yes; the believer must be baptized before he partakes of the Lord’s Supper.


6. What does the Lord’s Supper represent?


The death and sufferings of Christ.


7. Does the mere partaking, either of Baptism or the Lord’s Supper confer spiritual blessings?


No; they are worthless, if not injurious, to those who do not exercise faith.


8. But how is it when they are partaken of by those who do exercise faith?


The Spirit of God makes them, to such persons, precious means of grace.


9. Whom has Christ appointed to administer Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?


The authorized ministers of His churches.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is Michael Horton "Lutheran"?

Here's another plug for some stimulating recent episodes of the Reformed Forum:

On the 200th episode, the Forum featured an interview with Westminary Seminary (Philadelphia) theology professor Lane Tipton on the doctine of Union with Christ.  In the course of the discussion, Tipton took issue with those who stress the doctrine of justification in the ordo salutis over the doctrine of union with Christ.  He referred to this as a "Lutheran" position and even suggested it could tend to Pelagianism.  Tipton took issue, in particular, with Michael Horton.  He also included criticism for J. V. Fesko for questioning the docrine of "definitive sanctification."  The conversation demonstrated something of a divide in Reformed circles between Westminster East (Gaffin, Tipton) and Westminster West (Horton, Fesko) on these finer points of soteriology.

Last Friday's 207th episode featured an appearance by Michael Horton who offered a gracious rejoinder to Tipton's criticisms.  It ended with host Camden Bucy reading a written response from Tipton.  Worth hearing.

JTR  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thomas Boston on Death

I’ve been reading through Thomas Boston’s spiritual classic, Human Nature in its Fourfold State (first published in 1720; Banner reprint, 1964). The four states are the state of innocence (pre-fallen man), the state of nature (fallen man), the state of grace (regenerate man), and the eternal state. George M. Morrison describes the hold this book had on the people of Scotland when it first appeared:

It was discussed in Edingburgh drawing-rooms. The shepherd read it on the hills. It made its way into the Highland crofts, where stained and tattered copies of the earlier edition may still be found. For more than a hundred years its influence upon the religious life of Scotland was incalculable (pp. 19-20).

He then laments that in his day (1899), however, it was “very little read” (p. 20).

I just started Boston’s discussion of the fourth and final state, the eternal state, which opens with a discussion of death. There is no modern attempt to cover over the realities of mortality. Here are a few (of many, many) vivid quotes that give some idea as to how this book has gripped many through the years:

Why so much care for the body, to the neglect of the concerns of the immortal soul? O be not so anxious for what can only serve your bodies, since, ere long, the clods of cold earth will serve for back and belly too (p. 334).

The finest clothes are but badges of our sin and shame, and in a little time will be exchanged for a winding-sheet, when the body will become a feast for worms (p. 335).

The world is a great inn in the road to eternity to which you are traveling (p. 337).

The worst men can do is to take away that life which we cannot long keep, though all the world should conspire to help us to retain the spirit (p. 337).

Our life in the world is but a short preface to long eternity, and much of the tale is told (p. 338).

We have nothing we can call ours, but the present moment; and that is flying away (p. 339).

Now the flying shadow of our life allows no time for loitering…. Therefore prepare for death (p. 339).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ordinances: Hiscox's "Eucharistic Propositions"

In Edward T. Hiscox's influential 19th century church manual, Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches (1893), he lays out guidelines for the observance of the Lord's Supper.

Eucharistic Propositions


The following propositions may be stated:

Prop. 1.—The Gospel calls on all men, everywhere to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation. This is the first act of submission to divine authority required of men.

Prop. 2.—Such as have exercised saving faith in Christ, and are thus born of the Spirit, are commanded to be baptized, as a declaration of that change, and a profession of inward washing of regeneration, which has transpired in them. And no one is required to be, or properly can be, baptized till he has believed.

Prop. 3.—All persons, having savingly believed on Christ, and having been baptized into His name on a profession of faith, are expected, and required, to unite themselves thereby with the company of the disciples as members, in fellowship with a Church which is Christ’s visible body. And no one can properly become a member of a Church till he has believed and been baptized.

Prop. 4.—It becomes the privilege of the duty of all who have been regenerated by the Spirit, baptized on profession of faith, and are walking in fellowship with the Church, to celebrate the death of Christ in the Supper. Moreover, it is the duty of all who believe they love the Lord to be baptized, and unite with His Church, in order that they may obey His command, “This do in remembrance of me.” No true disciple should neglect it.

Prop. 5.—It becomes the imperative duty of the churches, to whom the ordinances are committed, to see to it, as faithful guardians of so sacred a trust, that these regulations be faithfully observed, according the will of the Master, by all who are members, and by all who desire to become members with them.

Prop. 6.—The pastor, as “the chief executive officer “ of the Church, acts as its representative under instructions in his sphere of service. But it is not his prerogative to determine who shall be baptized into its fellowship, or who shall enjoy its privileges, including a right to the Supper. The right and responsibility of deciding those questions belong to the Church itself, and not to its officers.

Prop. 7.—The pastor, in the exercise of his Christian liberty, is not under obligation to baptize any, the though the Church may approve, unless he believes they are fit and suitable subjects. Nor can he baptize any into the fellowship of the Church without its consent.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reformed Forum on the 400th Anniversary of the KJV

I am a fan of the Reformed Forum broadcast.  In late November, they did an episode with Carl Trueman on the 400th anniversary of the KJV.  It covers a lot of the same ground as Trueman's Westminster Library talk on this topic, but it is still worth hearing.

I do question the repeated charge that James was a "homosexual."  This seems to be anachronistic.  I am not claiming that James was a saint, but I am guessing there has probably been a "modern" misreading of signs of friendship and affection between James and his courtiers.  My guess is that this has been gleefully promoted by those who have wanted to take the shine off the KJV.  I would like to see a historian trace the roots of this charge, including when it first surfaced.  My guess is that it is relatively recent.  As Trueman acknowledges, James was, after all, quite happily married.

I appreciate Trueman's appreciation of the KJV, but he also exhibits some of the annoying schizophrenic tendencies of contemporary evangelicals when discussing this classic Reformation translation (cf. Leland Ryken's The Legacy of the KJB).  On one hand, he praises its unequalled majesty, but on the other he claims it is outdated and archaic.  Why is the KJV so appropriate to read at weddings, funerals, and formal occasions, but not as a regular part of Lord's Day worship or in private devotion?  Is there an occasion where reverence is more vital than in ordinary Lord's Day worship?  For those who celebrate Christmas liturgically, for example, I feel sorry for churches that will abandon the KJV rendering of Luke 2 which describes the shepherds as being "sore afraid" (KJV v. 9) for the pedestrian renderings of modern versions which describe those same shepherds as being "filled with fear" (ESV v. 9).  The examples, of course, could be multiplied.

The discussion also failed to touch on the central issue of text.  The KJV (like all the vernacular translations of the Reformation era) is based on the traditional text (MT of OT and TR of NT), while the modern translations (except for the NKJV) follow the modern critical text.  I'd love to see this overlooked topic addressed on the Reformed Forum.

JTR 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Vision (12/15/11): For what end is all this?

Henry Scougal (1650-1678) was one of those men whose star did not burn long, but it did burn brightly. Scougal was a Scottish minister and theology professor at Aberdeen when he died before reaching his 28th birthday. He left behind a book on practical holiness in the form of a letter to a friend with the title The Life of God in the Soul of Man which became a spiritual classic.

Here is an excerpt in which Scougal encourages consideration of the aim and purpose of our lives:

Amidst all our pursuits and designs, let us stop and ask ourselves, For what end is all this? At what do I aim? Can the gross and muddy pleasures of sense, or a heap of white and yellow earth, or the esteem and affection of silly creatures, like myself, satisfy a rational and immortal soul? Have I not tried these things already? Will they have a higher relish and yield me more contentment to-morrow than yesterday, or the next year than they did the last? There may be some little difference betwixt that which I am now pursuing, and that which I enjoyed before; but sure, my former enjoyments did show as pleasant, and promised as fair, before I attained them; like the rainbow, they looked very glorious at a distance, but when I approached, I found nothing but emptiness and vapor. Oh! What a poor thing would the life of man be, if it were capable of no higher enjoyments!

Scougal’s point, of course, is that man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find rest in God. In our midweek meeting this week, we pondered Christ’s words to those who came to arrest him: “Whom seek ye?” (John 18:4). He still asks that of men today. In the midst of all the fullness of this season, let us find our chief end in seeking and savoring the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

National Geographic on the King James Bible

As 2011 comes to a close, so does the year long celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible.  The December 2011 issue of National Geographic features a cover article by Adam Nicolson, author of God's Secretaries:  The Making of the King James Bible.  It is interesting again to note that the 400th anniversary milestone of the KJV has been acknowledged more in secular circles than in evangelical ones.  In the article, Nicholson observes:

You don't have to be a Christian to hear the power of those words—simple in vocabulary, cosmic in scale, stately in their rhythms, deeply emotional in their impact. Most of us might think we have forgotten its words, but the King James Bible has sewn itself into the fabric of the language. If a child is ever the apple of her parents' eye or an idea seems as old as the hills, if we are at death's door or at our wits' end, if we have gone through a baptism of fire or are about to bite the dust, if it seems at times that the blind are leading the blind or we are casting pearls before swine, if you are either buttering someone up or casting the first stone, the King James Bible, whether we know it or not, is speaking through us. The haves and have-nots, heads on plates, thieves in the night, scum of the earth, best until last, sackcloth and ashes, streets paved in gold, and the skin of one's teeth: All of them have been transmitted to us by the translators who did their magnificent work 400 years ago.

Ordinances: Observations on Participation in the Lord's Supper

Here are some continuing thoughts on the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Question:  Who should participate in the Lord's Supper? 

Eleven Observations:

1. The Scriptural witness is that when someone become a Christian he should be baptized (for the clearest model, see the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch after confessing his faith in Christ in Acts 8:36-38).

2. The Scriptural witness to the early church is that when people were converted under the apostles’ preaching they were baptized and then “added” or joined to a local, visible church.

Compare:

Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Acts 5:14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

3. Scripture assumes that believers will be part of local churches.

To be a Christian is to be a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12). To be a Christian means being part of a church that assembles for worship and fellowship (1 Cor 16:1-2; Heb 10:24-25) under the leadership of church officers (1 Thess 5:12; Heb 13:17).

4. The Lord’s Supper is a perpetual ordinance commanded by the Lord to be observed by the church until Christ comes (1 Cor 11:23-26).

5. The Lord’s Supper is to be hosted by the local church.

It was hosted by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 2:42) and by the church at Troas (Acts 20:7). When Paul wrote to “the church of God” at Corinth (1 Cor 1:2) concerning the Lord’s Supper, he begins, “when ye come together into one place” (1 Cor 11:20). He tells them, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you…” (v. 23). Paul assumes the Lord’s Supper is being celebrated in a local church by the members of the local church under the leadership of local church officers.

6. Given the Scriptural context in which the Lord’s Supper was observed, we can assume those who participated were (1) believers; (2) baptized; and (3) members of local churches.

7. This does not mean, however, that only the members of the particular local church which is hosting the Lord’s Supper were permitted to partake of the ordinance.

Paul, a member of the church at Antioch, broke bread with the church at Troas when he visited them (Acts 20:7), and Paul’s letters indicate that there was mobility among his apostolic associates who visited various churches (e.g., 2 Cor 7:13; Gal 2:1; Phil 2:25; 2 Tim 4:11; etc.). Undoubtedly, this would have included participation in Lord’s Day worship and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg (1794-1884) refers to this as “transient communion” in his Manual of Church Order:

In primitive times, the members of different local churches associated with each other, as members of the great fraternity. Paul was doubtless welcomed at the Lord’s table, by the disciples at Troas. This transient communion is now practiced. The Lord’s supper is properly a church ordinance; but an individual, duly qualified to be admitted to membership in a church, may be admitted for the time as a member, and received to transient communion, without any departure from the design of the institution (pp. 213-214).

Note that Dagg assumes that these “transient” guests in other churches are local church members.

8. The Lord’s Supper not only involves fellowship or communion with Christ, but also communion or fellowship among believers.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16, Paul sums up this twofold dimension of the Lord’s Supper when he writes, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” He continues in v. 17 to stress what we could call the “social” aspect of the Lord’s Supper: “For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

9. The church is charged with overseeing the Lord’s Supper and warning partakers of the spiritual dangers of improper participation (see 1 Cor 11:27-32).

It is reasonable to assume that the way this oversight was best exercised was if the church officers were familiar with those who attended the table, because they were members of the local church. When members of other local churches were present, they came with the recommendation of their home churches. In fact, it was apparently common practice to send “epistles of commendation” from one church (or apostle during the apostolic age) to another to vouch for the standing of a person (cf. Acts 28:21; 1 Cor 16:3; 2 Cor 3:1; 8:23; etc.). This also meant that those under proper discipline could be excluded from the table (see 1 Cor 5:4-8).

10. Historic Baptist theologians made a distinction between baptism, as an ordinance of Christ, and the Lord’s Supper, as an ordinance of the church.

Here is how John Gill (1697-1771) describes baptism and admission to church “communion” (or fellowship, which would include participation in the Lord’s Supper) in his A Body of Practical Divinity (emphasis added):

As the first covenant, or testament, had ordinances of divine service, which are shaken, removed, and abolished; so the New Testament, or gospel dispensation, has ordinances of divine worship, which cannot be shaken, but will remain until the second coming of Christ: these, as Austin [Augusine] says, are few; and easy to be observed, and of a very expressive signification. Among which, baptism must be reckoned one, and is proper to be treated of in the first place; for though it is not a church ordinance, it is an ordinance of God, and a part and branch of public worship. When I say it is not a church ordinance, I mean it is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it. Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualifications for it, and has the sole power of receiving to it, and of rejecting from it; if nor satisfied, he may reject a person thought fit by a church, and admit a person to baptism not thought fit by a church; but a disagreement is not desirable nor advisable: the orderly, regular, scriptural rule of proceeding seems to be this: a person inclined to submit to baptism, and to join in communion with a church, should first apply to an administrator; and upon giving him satisfaction, be baptized by him; and then should propose to the church for communion; when he would be able to answer all proper questions: if asked, to give a reason of the hope that is in him, he is ready to do it; if a testimony of his life and conversation is required, if none present can give it, he can direct where it is to be had; and if the question is put to him, whether he is a baptized person or not, he can answer in the affirmative, and give proof of it, and so the way is clear for his admission into church fellowship. So Saul, when converted, was immediately baptized by Ananias, without any previous knowledge and consent of the church; and, it was many days after this that he proposed to join himself to the disciples, and was received (Acts 9:18, 19, 23, 26-28)….

Dagg, likewise, notes that when the church admits a person into membership it “authorizes his participation of the communion. The church, as an organized body, with power to receive and exclude members according to rules which Christ has laid down, is responsible for the exercise of this power” (Manual of Church Order, p. 221).

The proper Biblical order, then, would then be: (1) belief; (2) baptism; (3) admission to church membership; (4) admission to church privileges, including the Lord’s Table.

11. The assumption of church membership as a prerequisite for participation in the Lord’s Supper is reflected in the Baptist Catechism and Spurgeon’s Catechism.

In Spurgeon’s Catechism, for example, note the intentional order in which the questions are composed:

Baptism (Questions 75-78)

Church Membership (Question 79)

The Lord’s Supper (Questions 80-82)

Question 79 asks, “What is the duty of such as are rightly baptized?” and answers, “It is the duty of such as are rightly baptized, to give up themselves, to some particular and orderly Church of Jesus Christ, that they may walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (proofs: Acts 2:47; 9:26; 1 Pet 2:5; Luke 1:6).

JTR

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Necromancy in 1 Samuel 28: Of God or the Evil One?

I preached Sunday on Saul:  A Picture of Failure (1 Samuel 28).  The most notorous aspect of this chapter is Saul's interview with the medium of En-Dor.  Here's an excerpt from my notes:

Now, here is the strange thing about this passage, and there is nothing else like it in all of Scripture. What is described is essentially a s√©ance. But notice there is no detailed description of how she did her conjuring. The writer of Scripture wants to excite no prurient interest in pagan activities. Nevertheless, when the woman calls for Samuel, v. 12 reports that she does, in fact, see him. In fact, it say she screamed when she saw him. Some have suggested that she was a charlatan or faker and had hoped merely to take money from these rubes, but she cried out with surprise and fear when she actually saw someone standing there. Under this scenario, no one is more surprised than this woman! Others suggest the cry is because it was revealed to her (either by her familiar spirit or by the Samuel figure) that the man who has hired her to practice this necromancy is, in fact, King Saul: “Why hast thou deceived me? For thou art Saul” (v. 12).

Now, let me introduce perhaps the biggest debate about this passage. This is the question of what exactly is happening here. Is this really Samuel brought back from the dead? Can the spirits or ghosts of men return to earth? Was this an extraordinary event permitted by the Lord? This seems to be the understanding of many modern interpreters (cf. Dale Ralph Davis:  "How then does one explain this piece of necromancy?  I suppose by the power and permission of God....  Yahweh's word was spoken even if it came via an illegitimate method." [1 Samuel:  Looking on the Heart, p. 291]).  When you look at the old interpreters among the Protestant and Reformed fathers, however, it is a different story. I looked at Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, and John Gill and all three agreed that this was a deceptive work of Satan. This was not really Samuel but a false experience manufactured by the deceiver who, as Paul says, can transform himself into “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

Matthew Poole's very first argument that this “was not Samuel, but the devil representing Samuel” is the fact that it had just been stated that the Lord would not respond to Saul’s enquiries (v. 6). Why now would the Lord allow himself to be manipulated by such pagan means?

We might add, referring to the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, that Abraham tells the rich man of a “great gulf fixed” so that no one can pass from the afterlife to the land of the living (Luke 16:26).

Some, like the Church Father Gregory of Nazianzus, simply take an agnostic position saying we cannot and will never know for sure whether this was actually Samuel or not (see R. Youngblood in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 3, pp. 779-780).

When Saul asks what the woman sees, she says, “I saw gods ascending out of the earth” (v. 13; NKJV: “a spirit”; but the original Hebrew word here is elohim which in addition to God or gods can mean “exalted personages” or an “exalted person”).

When Saul asks about his form, she says he is an “old man” and “he is covered with a mantle” (v. 14). This mantle would have been the prophetic dress that Samuel would have worn (cf. 15:27). “And Saul perceived that is was Samuel….” (v. 14).

When this Samuel figure asks, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?” Saul bears his soul (v. 15). The upshot is that he is desperate to know the will and direction of the Lord.

The strongest argument in favor of this truly being Samuel permitted by the Lord  to appear to Saul is the fact that this is what the text directly states (e. g., "the woman saw Samuel" [v. 12], "And Samuel said to Saul" [v. 15]).  Another is the fact that this figure's prophecy appears to be accurate (see vv. 16-17). But Poole points out there are notes of ambiguity as well. Notice particularly in v. 19 as Samuel says, “and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.” Did that mean in the bosom of Abraham? In the land of death? It has the feel of one of the ambiguous Delphic oracles.  Poole says “the devil’s design might be to flatter Saul into an opinion of his own future happiness, and to take him off from all serious cares and thoughts about it.”

Whether the true Samuel or a Satanic apparition, God had permitted this to happen. Luther said that even the devil is God’s devil.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ordinances: Baptism in Acts

I have recently been thinking again about the doctrine of the ordinances (sacraments), baptism and the Lord's Supper, as we tighten and clarify our church's belief and practice.  Here is the first of several posts on this topic, regarding baptism in Acts:

On baptism: Should new believers be baptized immediately after they profess faith in Christ as seems to be the pattern in Acts or should there be a time of discipleship and discernment before baptism is administered?

Eight observations:

1. In the book of Acts the normal pattern is for baptism to follow very closely upon conversion. Examples in Acts: Jerusalem converts at Pentecost (2:37-41); Ethiopian Eunuch (8:36-38); Saul/Paul (9:18); Cornelius and his household (10:44-48); Lydia and her household (16:14-15); the Philippian jailer and his household (16:30-33).

2. The question is whether this pattern in Acts is prescriptive (given as the norm for the church to follow in all ages) or descriptive of the unique power manifested through the apostolic era to launch the church. Is the Acts pattern ordinary or extraordinary? Those in the charismatic tradition have tended to take Acts as wholly prescriptive (ordinary) while those in the Reformed tradition have tended to be more circumspect, recognizing both some elements that are prescriptive (ordinary) and others that are merely descriptive of the apostolic age (extraordinary).

3. Though there are descriptions of baptism taking place “straightway” after conversion (see the Philippian Jailer and his household in 16:33), other mentions of baptism are less precise in giving a definite time signature (e.g., the Samaritan converts in 8:12 where the focus is not on immediacy but on the fact that “both men and women” were baptized after believing). In the case of Sergius Paulus, Luke tells us he heard the word (13:7) and believed (13:12), but there is no description given us of his baptism (whether immediate or delayed).

4. There are also some examples of what we might call “irregular” baptisms in Acts. Simon the Samaritan Sorcerer is baptized by Philip, but Peter later rebukes him for his simony (8:9, 13, 18-24). Apollos “was instructed in the way of the Lord” but knew “only the baptism of John” (see 18:24-28). I think we can assume that among the things Aquila and Priscilla explained to him “more perfectly” was his need for Christian baptism. The Ephesian twelve, likewise, seem to be disciples who knew only the baptism of John till Paul instructed them in the faith and administered Christian baptism to them (19:1-7). These might be examples of those who at the first touch of Jesus “see men as trees, walking” but at a second touch see “every man clearly” (see Mark 8:22-26).

5. In the Gospels Jesus teaches that disciples must first sit down and “count the costs” before committing to be his disciples (see Luke 14:25-33). Anyone who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). We are to remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32). Our “yes” must be “yes” and our “no,” “no” (Matt 5:37). Solomon warns that we are “not to give the sacrifice of fools” by being rash with our mouths and uttering things hastily before the Lord, so that if we make a promise we are sure to keep it promptly (see Ecc 5:1-5). These Scriptures would add indirect evidence to the appropriateness of some period of discernment and discipleship before baptism is administered.

6. Since salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Eph 2:8-9), including the work of baptism, we do not need to rush baptism in the way that those who affirm baptismal regeneration suggest (whether Roman Catholics or Campbellites).

7. The key focus of the witness of Acts regarding baptism is less on the immediacy of baptism after conversion, but on the fact that belief always precedes baptism. One must be a believer before he is baptized. Acts affirms credo-baptism.

8. Another key focus in baptism in Acts is that Christian baptism is administered by proper officers (e.g., in Acts 8 by Philip one of the Jerusalem seven [deacons?] or in Acts 19 by the apostle Paul). In his A Body of Practical Divinity, Baptist theologian John Gill thus observes, “Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualification for it, and has the sole power of receiving it, and of rejecting from it.” The administrator would be a gospel minister, as a church officer. In some cases he might deem that baptism be administered “straightway” as in the days of Acts, but in other cases he might deem that further instruction and discipleship be given.

JTR

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Vision (12/8/11): Assurance when tempted to despair


Image:  CRBC ladies fellowship after a recent Lord's Day worship service.

In last Sunday morning’s message on David’s Despair (1 Samuel 26-27), I shared this anecdote from the Puritan John Flavel, as shared by Dale Ralph Davis in 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart (pp. 273-274):

Sometimes the Lord’s encouragements can be quite dramatic, at other times rather mundane. John Flavel wrote of a certain Mrs. Honeywood, an earnest Christian woman who nevertheless felt God had cast her off and that she was without saving hope. One day a minister was meeting with her and marshalling reasons against “her desperate conclusions.” It was then she took a Venice-glass from the table and said, “Sir, I am as sure to be damned as this glass is to be broken,” and with that she threw it mightily to the ground. To the astonishment of both, the glass remained intact and unbroken. Obviously, the minister did not fail to apply the assuring sign.

In 1 Samuel 27, David had reached a “glass breaking moment” of despair, as he said in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul…” (v. 1). But the Lord would not abandon David. He remained with him, protecting and preserving him, till he came into his kingdom. So is the Lord with all his saints. May we remember this when we are tempted to despair.

“For the LORD will forsake his people for his great name’s sake…” (1 Samuel 12:22).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Sermon of the Week: Joel Beeke's Family Life Series

This week I've been listening to Joel Beeke's recent Family Life Series at Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church.  I would particularly commend the following:

Building Your Children's Library:  Excellent instruction and ideas from a convinced bibliophile on how to disciple your children by placing good books (not just electronic versions) in their hands.  A good message to listen to if you are thinking of profitable gifts (rather than games or clothes) to give your children for the holiday.

Honoring Authority:  A wonderful message on the broader implications of the fifth commandment.  How can we expect our children to honor us if we speak disparingly of or rebel against our bosses, ministers, or civil government leadership?

Exercising Authority:  A follow up to the previous message which stresses the responsibilties of those in positions of authority, including parents.

JTR 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Exposition of Jude: Part 25 of 25


Note: This is the last in an occasional verse by verse commentary through the book of Jude. Past commentaries may be read under the “Jude Exposition” label below.

Jude 1:25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Now in this final verse Jude makes explicit the name “God” but he quickly adds in apposition “our Saviour.” This essentially affirms the deity of Christ as God. The all-wise Father is praised alongside the Saving Son.

Four things are attributed to the Lord:

1. Glory (doxa). In OT Hebrew word is chabod, weightiness. God is heavy. He is not to be handled lightly. His name is not to be thrown about on the wind. We are not to take his person or his nature casually.

2. Majesty (megalosune). He is a king. How would you enter the presence of a king? Would you come in open collar and torn jeans? Would you sit on a stool or bow on your knees?

3. Dominion (kratos). Do you acknowledge his lordship? Is he ruling and reigning over your life? Is there evidence of his dominion over your life? Ships bear the colors of the nations whose dominion they are under. Does the banner of Christ hang over your life?

4. Power (exousia). This word might also be rendered as authority. When you’ve a decision to make who is your authority? Your nation? Culture? Your parents alone? What of God’s authority over you?

Jude ascribes all these things in this benediction to our Lord. But each has implication for his subjects. They are praise to him and lessons for us.

Finally, there is the duration signature: “both now and forever. Amen.” This praise goes on and on and on….

Reflections:
• How does Jude 25 affirm the deity of Christ?

• Meditate on each of the four qualities attributed to God: glory, majesty, dominion, and power.

• Consider that praise to God will never end. Will you praise him both now and forever?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Spurgeon on the comfort of Psalm 91:9-10

Here's another Spurgeon anecdote, which I made use of in Sunday's sermon on David's Despair (1 Samuel 26-27):

In the Treasury of David, C. H. Spurgeon tells of an incident that happened in 1854 when he had only been serving his church in London for about twelve months. There was a cholera epidemic and multiple people in the church died. He writes:

Family after family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was ready to sink under it.

Then, one day as he was walking home, on Dover Street, he saw a placard that a shoemaker had put in his window, written in bold handwriting. It wasn’t a trade announcement but the words of Psalm 91:9-10:

Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Spurgeon then writes:

The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm.

JTR

Monday, December 05, 2011

Spurgeon on "The Minister's Fainting Fits"

I opened yesterday's sermon on David's Despair (1 Samuel 26-27) by citing the opening lines of Charles Spurgeon's classic article in his Lectures to My Students on "The Minister's Fainting Fits":

As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There maybe here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust.

JTR

Saturday, December 03, 2011

CRBC Worship December 2011

Note: Lord willing, we will continue and conclude our Sunday morning sermon series on the life of David in 1 Samuel. In our Sunday afternoon worship, we will continue our series through Spurgeon’s Catechism.



December 4

AM

Opening psalm: Psalm 69


Message: David’s Despair (1 Samuel 26-27)

No. 145 Come, thou long expected Jesus

Psalm 119:1-8 (SWEET HOUR)

No. 457 O thou from whom all goodness flows

PM

Opening psalm: Psalm 70


Message: How many persons are there in the Godhead? (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14)

Psalm 104:1-12 (LYONS)

No. 715 Jesus, I Come

Psalm 44:1-8 (JOANNA)

December 11

AM

Opening psalm: Psalm 71


Message: Saul: A Picture of Failure (1 Samuel 28)

No. 60 God, the Lord, a King Remaineth

Psalm 119:9-16 (SWEET HOUR)

No. 147 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

PM

Opening psalm: Psalm 72


Message: Reformed worship, holy days, and holidays (1 Kings 12:25-33)

Psalm 104:13-23 (LYONS)

No. 644 Jesus is All the World to Me

Psalm 21 (ELLACOMBE)

December 18

AM

Opening psalm: Psalm 73


Message: David: A Picture of Leadership (1 Samuel 29-30)

No. 155 All praise to thee, eternal Lord

Psalm 23 (CRIMOND)

No. 149 Joy to the world!

PM

Opening psalm: Psalm 74


Message: What are the decrees of God? (Ephesians 1:11-12)


Psalm 104:24-35 (LYONS)

No. 154 As with gladness men of old

No. 127 Let us love, and sing, and wonder

December 25

AM

Opening psalm: Psalm 75


Message: The death of Saul (1 Samuel 31)

No. 151 O Come, All Ye Faithful

Psalm 52 (AZMON)

No. 168 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

PM

Opening psalm: Psalm 76


Message: How does God execute his decrees? (Daniel 4:35; Revelation 4:11)


Psalm 40:1-9 (I NEED THEE)

Psalm 40:10-17 (I NEED THEE)

Psalm 117 (LASST UNS ERFREUEN)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Video: All Things Are Better in Koine

My friend Mike B. (who is also taking an online NT Greek class through Puritan Seminary) sent me a link to this video:

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Vision (12/1/11): A Nabal (Foolish) Response to Christ

Image:  Two young CRBC men after worship on a recent Sunday.

Note: In last Sunday’s message from 1 Samuel 25, we contrasted the foolish response of Nabal and the wise response of Abigail to David, seeing this as an anticipation of two ways that men might respond to Christ. Here are some of the message notes:

As David sent messengers to Nabal demanding that he give over to him what was rightfully his (1 Samuel 25:5-9), so the Lord Jesus Christ today sends forth his messengers. We are his ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), and we bring orders from our Prince demanding that men humble themselves before our King and give over not just pieces or portions but all their lives to him.

Notice the folly of Nabal’s response to David. He ask, “Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse?” (v. 10). So today foolish men ask, Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this one from the stem of Jesse who claims to be the Son of God? Who is this one who died on a cursed tree and claims to have risen again from the dead? Who is this one who dared to make himself equal to God? The truth is, they ask the questions but they really don’t want to receive the answers. In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul spoke of those “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Notice also that Nabal did not want to acknowledge David, because he feared what he would have to give up (v. 11: “Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh…”). I have heard men make the excuse that they did not want to profess faith in Christ because this would mean that they would have to join a church and then folk would be asking them to give to support the church. Listen, they don’t know the half of it! Does the Lord want your money? Yes. You cannot serve God and mammon. But he also wants your time, your energy, your family, and even your body: “I beseech ye therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1).

And what did Nabal do when David’s messengers withdrew? He held a feast in his house and he tried to substitute the joy and satisfaction that only Christ can give with the drunkenness (v. 36). He thought he was living a like a king, but he was a spiritual pauper. There is, no doubt, an argument in this description against the dangers of drunkenness. Proverbs 20:1: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” He is a Nabal. Banner of Truth has recently published a series of little books that can fit in your pocket. One is titled “Binge Drinking” and it has excerpts from a book by the Puritan John Flavel warning seamen against the sin of drunkenness. Therein, Flavel writes, “Take heed, and beware of the detestable sin of drunkenness, which is a beastly sin, a voluntary madness, a sin that unmans you, and makes you like the beasts that perish; yea which sets you below the beasts, which will not drink to excess….” Of course we might say that there are Nabals who are not drunk merely with strong drink but with the world. The world is too much with them and they seek pleasure in it rather than in Christ alone.

And finally, what is the end for Nabal (see v. 38: “And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.”). He was born a fool; he lived a fool; and, finally, he died a fool. The Lord struck him down. The end of the man who rejects Christ is death. Not just physical death but spiritual death.

May we not have a “Nabal response” to Christ, but let us look to him and live.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle