Archive for June, 2007

Invitation from Banner of Truth

Steve Burlew from Banner of Truth has written us here with the following gracious invitation. Sounds like a great idea if you’re in the area this summer.

I just wanted to give each of you a a personal invitation to come see our Banner of Truth North American operation for youself here in Carlisle, PA … 50% off all slightly damaged books on those shelves in our front office (hopefully not fostering any idolatry or addictions here). Seriously, if you are in the area, it is great when we get visitors, even if just to say hi. And if there’s anything that we at Banner can do to help or encourage y’all (other than make everything free!), let me know that, too.

Steve B.

http://www.trophiesofhisgrace.blogspot.com

9 Marks Ministry Blog

9 Marks Ministries has added a blog. Check it out here.

Croatia

I apologize for my long absence here at ET. For the past five weeks, I have spent four away from my family, so I have had little time to write. However, I would like to give a brief update on what I have been doing. The seminary at which I teach, Shepherds Theological Seminary, sent me this past May to teach at our sister seminary, Theological Biblical Academy (TBA), in Krapina, Croatia. This was my first opportunity to teach abroad, and Lord willing, it will not be my last.

TBA is the fruit of many years of labor by some dear men of God. It has existed since before former Yugoslavia fell but moved to its present place primarily as the result of the ministry of Miško Horvatek, as well as Kris Brackett and Todd Dick, missionaries from Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. The school equips men throughout the six republics that previously composed Yugoslavia, and its presence is being felt throughout the region.

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The above picture shows both current and present students at the Academy. These men minister in difficult situations, and I greatly respect their dedication to proclaim the Word faithfully despite the incredible opposition they face from the Roman Catholic influence and control. More than anything, recognizing their commitment humbled me as I realized how easy I have it in my school and church ministry.

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In addition to preaching at several churches, I spent the majority of my time teaching two classes, Old Testament Theology and Introduction to the Prophets. However, I also had the privilege to participate in TBA’s second annual Expositor’s Conference, where Rick Holland was the featured speaker. This was an incredible conference at which around 65 men (see the picture above) from the six republics came for encouragement and teaching. Please pray for fruit from this important conference, specifically that men will be even more committed to biblical preaching and ministry. Also, please pray for the ministry of TBA, specifically that more students would be feel the need for proper training and that the men that have been trained will find opportunities to minister.

Challenge to Theistic Evolution

In a debate against Alister E. McGrath, atheist Richard Dawkins made the following statement. He meant it as an argument against the existence of God, but I thought it served better as an argument against theistic evolution:  

Most respectable theologians nowadays agree that life, at least, did evolve by slow gradual incremental degrees. But they prefer to smuggle the Creator in as well, somewhat superfluously…. If natural selection and evolution is God’s way of designing life, why would He choose the one way which makes it look as if He doesn’t exist, which makes His own role completely superfluous?  

I’m certainly no fan of Richard Dawkins, but good question, don’t you think?

Lessons from the Early Church (pt 2)

I was hoping my last post would get more feedback from everyone.  The nice thing about having a blog is the immediate feedback you can recieve.  From time to time you readers have helped me to clarify (and sometimes even change something) in my own mind.  Blessings to you all this Friday.

3.  The essential hallmark ministries of the Church have not changed (v. 42ff) 

The early church devoted themselves to the following things:            

A. Teaching from the Word of God (v. 42).           

B.  Genuine Christian Fellowship (v. 42, vv. 44-47).           

C.  Various prayer sessions (v. 42).  The prayers.           

D.  Participating in the ordinances of Baptism and Communion (vv. 41-42).

E.  Outreach ministries (Acts 3:1ff; 5:42ff).

F.  Missions work (Acts 13:1-3; 14:27).  

4.  The true church consists only of genuinely redeemed sinners (v. 41, v. 47). 

Luke makes it clear that only those who responded to Peter’s message (in faith and repentance) were baptized and added to the church (v. 41).  In verse 47 only “those were being saved” were “added” to there number.  This portion of Scripture illustrates a very important truth:  Only genuine Christians truly belong to Christ’s Church. 

The Ethiopian eunuch confessed his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:30-38).  The jailor at Philippi he and all his household (were baptized)… and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household(Acts 16:33-34). 

While Peter was preaching to Cornelius, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.  Peter then inquired, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?”  He then commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:44-48).

Pablo in Mexico

 

I am having a hard time posting pictures of the conference and our internet connection is spotty so as Nacho Libre would say, “so anyways.” The conference is going extremely well and the kind people here are ever gracious and hospitable. Luis is a translating machine. It is one thing to have a translator but to have one who is a native pastor with a passion for the people makes all the difference. Luis has translated for the likes of MacArthur, Piper, and Mohler so this job is obviously a demotion for him. For those who pastor in the States it is difficult to communicate the hunger these dear people have for the Word. We are rejoicing in the Lord’s work here and as always we are thankful for your prayers.

Blessings to all,
PSL

Should Baptism be a Prerequisite for Church Membership (and other issues in Acts 2)

Much of what is recorded in Acts is historical narrative, describing many (literal) events that happened during the beginning of the Church Age.  It is essential that one understands the difference between prescriptive and descriptive passages of Scripture.  Failure to heed this warning can lead to many misapplications of the Biblical text.  The book of Acts is primarily filled with Descriptive/Narrative passages.  We must keep this in mind before me make NORMATIVE certain events in Acts that where not meant to be duplicated. In short then, Acts shows us what authentic Christianity looked like in all of her blessed simplicity.  This book provides us with many vivid illustrations of discipleship, evangelism, and Biblical church growth. 

Acts 2:41-47 illustrates 4 noteworthy truths:

 

1. Genuine Salvation precedes biblical baptism (v. 41).

Approximately 3000 people “received the word” and were converted before being “baptized” in Acts 2:41.  During the church age, genuine salvation always preceded baptism.  Peter commands his listeners to first “repent” and then to be “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).  This seems to be the clear cut teaching that is illustrated for us in verse 41 (among many New Testament passages).  The practice of the early church and of the apostles is what many refer to today as “believer’s baptism.”

 

Many other New Testament texts could be cited to support this point including a number of historical accounts that are recorded in Acts (Acts 8:30-38; Acts 10:44-48; 16:29-34; 18:7-8).  Again, these passages demonstrate the consistent practice of the apostles and the early church:  people were saved and subsequently they were also baptized.  The early church did not have a category for an un-baptized believer.  In modern day vernacular, “you got saved and then you got dunked.” 

As the second member of the Triune Godhead, Jesus’ word in Matthew 28:19 is sufficient warrant for the baptism of believers.  Jesus commanded his followers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  The imperative in Matthew 28 is to go and make disciples.  Jesus’ clearly teaches us that baptism is only for genuine disciples (literally, baptizing “them”).  Jesus and the apostles taught their followers that baptism was a matter of obedience.  It is the first step of obedience after a person submits him or herself to the Lordship of Christ at salvation. 

Baptism is also about identification; both identification with Christ Himself and identification with the Church (which of course is Christ’s body).  Baptism pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ on behalf of the believer, while demonstrating the repentance of faith, and new life the believer has in Christ.  Paul asked, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”  (Romans 6:3-4; Col 2:12). 

As we observe our next point (below) we’ll uncover a connection between baptism and one’s personal identification with the local church.

 

2.  Formal identification with a local church appears to have been the normative pattern with the early church. (v. 41)

 

It appears that the early church clearly knew who belonged to their local assembly.  Acts 1:15 says the church of Jerusalem began with “about a hundred and twenty people.”  Specific names from this list are provided in verses 13-14.

After Peter’s powerful sermon on the Day of Pentecost many sinners respond to his exhortation. Those people repented and were baptized in the name of the Lord (vv. 41-42).  Luke, the author of Acts, records that about “three-thousand” were added to the church.  The Greek word for “added” is prostithemi.  This word means to add something to an existing quantity.  In the words of one teacher it “speaks of a deliberate, calculated act of adding a select number to a greater, existing whole.”  Those who were genuinely saved proceeded to be baptized.  Those that were baptized were then consequentially added to the early church.

 

This same verb (prostithemi) is used again (in a different tense) in Acts 2:47.  Luke says that “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  The Greek word used to describe this revival (sozo) is a present passive participle.  Luke wants his readers to understand that this was a continuous revival.  As the gospel was clearly proclaimed the Lord himself was saving sinners on a consistent basis.  This, if you will, was the first revival in the history of the church!

 

In his historical account Luke records that the following sequential events transpired:  In Acts 2:41 the Jews first received the words of Peter (conversion); they were then baptized (identification with Jesus); and as a result they were added to the existing number of those whom were already saved in Jerusalem (further identification with the local church). Following conversion formal identification with Christ and the local church in and through the waters of baptism appears to have been the practice of the local church.  The three verbs Luke uses in v. 41 are in the aorist tense.  These actions are simple facts. This all took place during the beginning days of the church.

 

Acts 4:4 records the continued spiritual growth that took place during the churches infancy.  Acts 4:4 puts it this way, “the number of men grew to about five thousand.”  One author commenting on the word ‘number’ writes, “the word here is the word arithmos from which we get ‘arithmetic’-the science of the computation of numbers.”

 

It seems fair to deduce from passages like these ones that when people repented of their sins they immediately were baptized and thus connected themselves to a local assembly (a church).  They were “added” to some type of official church roster.  The New Testament epistles do not have a special category for ‘Lone-Ranger’ Christians.  As a New Testament saint, you were either part of a local church or you were not.  God saved people, and those same people got baptized.  Water baptism identified them with both Christ and His church.  This was of course a major step of faith for many Jewish Christians, especially during the days of heavy Roman persecution. 

The concept of biblical church discipline (Matthew 18 & 1 Cor. 5) as well as church government (Hebrews 13:17, Acts 20:38, Eph. 4:11ff, Titus 1) seems to imply a formal relationship with the local church. As a pastor, I’m amazed at the excuses Christians make today as to why they have not been baptized.  I’m also bewildered at the large percentage of baptized believers who aren’t formally identifying themselves with a local assembly (church).  Christians who have not been baptized as well as those who do not belong to a local church seem to be at out odds with the New Testament model.

 

One of the footnote questions that arise from this conversation is as follows: Should baptism be a prerequisite for church membership?  Personally, I think one can make a good case that it should be but I don’t know if one can be absolutely dogmatic about this.  If you agree with the basic premises I provided above then you’d probably implement this policy into your church constitution.  On the other hand, you may argue that hypothetically one could identify him/herself with a local church today, with the intention to be baptized in the immediate future, and still join the church as a “member.” 

This concept (namely that baptism is a prerequisite for formal church membership) seems to be inferred in various descriptive passages in Acts but is not directly taught in any New Testament text.  I believe the same thing could be said concerning the concept of formal church membership.  Should a church be dogmatic about matters that are only implied and/or deduced from the pages of Scripture?  What if those examples only come from the book of Acts?  I would argue that it’s something that needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis.  At the very least, a church should strive to be consistent in polity and practice.  With that said, I need to reiterate my first two points.  1. Genuine salvation precedes biblical baptism.  2. Formal identification with a local church appears to have been the normative pattern with the early church.

 

If you are a Baptist (i.e. if you believe in Believer’s baptism), I would be interested in your thoughts pertaining to the footnote question listed above.  What say you? To be continued…. 

From Mexico with Love

I just wanted to drop a quick note from Mexico City. I am preaching at a conference here with my host, Luis Contreras, who is probably familiar to many of our readers and contributors. One of my fellow elders from Huntsville, Tim Keeter, is with me and he and I are teaching two sessions each night. This is my first trip to this massive city and the good folks attending the conference are extremely gracious and hungry for the Word. The people work for ten hours a day then sit in traffic for an hour or two and then stay at the conference till 10:30 pm. We will be preaching for another two sessions this evening and your prayers for them and us are always appreciated. I will be posting some pictures late tonight so check back then or early tomorrow.

P.S. The fajitas are amazing!

Jonathan Edwards on Religious Affections (Part 2)

If we ought ever to exercise our affections at all…then they ought to be exercised about those objects which are most worthy of them. But is there anything which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ? In which not only are things declared most worthy to affect us, but they are exhibited in the most affecting manner. The glory and beauty of the blessed Jehovah, which is most worthy in itself, to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the most affecting manner that can he conceived of, as it appears, shining in all its luster, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek, compassionate, dying Redeemer.

All the virtues of the Lamb of God, his humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love and compassion, are exhibited to our view, in a manner the most tending to move our affections, of any that can be imagined; as they all had their greatest trial, and their highest exercise, and so their brightest manifestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalleled sufferings he endured, from his tender love and pity to us.

There also the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible: as we see the dreadful effects of them, in that our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestation of God’s hatred of sin, and his wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it; and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins, in one who was infinitely dear to him, and loving to us. So has God disposed things, in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though everything were purposely contrived in such a manner, as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust, that we are no more affected!

Jonathan Edwards on Religious Affections (Part 1)

If true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may learn, what great cause we have to be ashamed and confounded before God, that we are no more affected with the great things of religion. It appears from what has been said, that this arises from our having so little true religion.

God has given to mankind affections, for the same purpose which he has given all the faculties and principles of the human soul for, viz., that they might be subservient to man’s chief end, and the great business for which God has created him, that is, the business of religion. And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters, than in religion!

In things which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honor and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at worldly losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity. But how insensible and unmoved are most men, about the great things of another world! How dull are their affections! How heavy and hard their hearts in these matters! Here their love is cold, their desires languid, their zeal low, and their gratitude small. How they can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of his giving his infinitely dear Son, to be offered up a sacrifice for the sins of men, and of the unparalleled love of the innocent, and holy, and tender Lamb of God, manifested in his dying agonies, his bloody sweat, his loud and bitter cries, and bleeding heart, and all this for enemies, to redeem them from deserved, eternal burnings, and to bring to unspeakable and everlasting joy and glory; and yet be cold, and heavy, insensible, and regardless!

Where are the exercises of our affections proper, if not here? What is it that does more require them? And what can be a fit occasion of their lively and vigorous exercise, if not such a one as this? Can anything be set in our view, greater and more important? Any thing more wonderful and surprising? Or more nearly concerning our interest? Can we suppose the wise Creator implanted such principles in the human nature as the affections, to be of use to us, and to be exercised on certain proper occasions, but to lie still on such an occasion as this? Can any Christian who believes the truth of these things, entertain such thoughts?

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