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Apr 26 2008

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Five Concerns about the Merging of Charismatic and Calvinistic Doctrine

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on Friday, August 13, 2010 at 7:06 am

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.

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901

http://www.jeffriddle.net

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▶ 69 Responses
  1. Thanks for the excellent post. I could quote Jonathan Edwards in his work “Thoughts on the Present Revival” where he warns about some who think that it is God’s manner in our day to lead persons by impulses on the imagination, or guidance with or without texts of Scripture (Adoption of Wrong Principles); but if you read John Owen, you discover that Spiritual Gifts are so far from determining spirituality, they are experienced by the reprobate as well. But what is interesting, and what those who make much of Charismatic gifts appear ignorant is the matter in which the Spirit applies the gifts. Owen wrote,
    “…spiritual gifts are placed and seated in the mind or understanding only; whether they are ordinary or extraordinary, they have no other hold or residence in the soul. And they
    are in the mind as it is notional and theoretical, rather than as it is practical. They are intellectual abilities, and no more. I speak of them which have any residence in us; for some gifts, as miracles and tongues, consisted only in a transient operation of an extraordinary power. Of all others, illumination is the foundation, and spiritual light their matter. So the apostle declares in his order of expression, Hebrews 6:4. The will,
    and the affections, and the conscience are unconcerned in them, Wherefore, they change not the heart with power, although they may reform the life by the efficacy of light. And although God doth not ordinarily bestow them on flagitious persons, nor continue them with such as after the reception of them become flagitious, yet they may be in those who are unrenewed, and have nothing in them to preserve men absolutely from the worst of sins. But saving grace possesseth the whole soul; men are thereby sanctified throughout, in the whole “spirit and soul and body,”1
    Thessalonians 5:23, as hath been at large declared. Not only is the mind savingly enlightened, but there is a principle of spiritual life infused into the whole soul, enabling it in all its powers and faculties to act obedientially unto God, whose nature hath been fully explained elsewhere.
    Hence, — (2.) They differ in their operations: for grace changeth and transformeth the whole soul into its own nature, Isaiah 11:6-8; Romans 6:17, 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18. It is a new, a divine nature unto the soul, and is in it a habit disposing, inclining, and enabling of it unto obedience. It acts itself in faith, love, and holiness in all things. But gifts of themselves have not this power nor these operations. They may and do, in those who are possessed of them in and under their exercise, make great impression on their own affections, but they change not the heart, they renew not the mind, they transform not the soul into the image of God. Hence, where grace is predominant, every notion of light and truth which is communicated unto the mind is immediately turned into practice, by having the whole soul cast into the mould of it; where only gifts bear away, the use of it in duties unto edification is best, whereunto it is designed. (Collected works volume 4)

    Thomas Sullivan 13 August 2010 at 8am
  2. That was an excellent article! Thank you for such a biblical and well thought out approach.

    Steve Marquedant 13 August 2010 at 10am
  3. Jeff,

    Thanks for this great and timely article.

    Steve Clevenger 13 August 2010 at 2pm
  4. Thanks for the article Pastor Riddle. If, as confessionally reformed Christian bodies hold, the charismatic gifts were necessarily tied to the authentication of those who received and delivered direct revelation from God, then positing that these gifts continue today strikes at the heart of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

    It is fundamentally a question of epistemology and a matter of the utmost importance to the Church.

    Bob 14 August 2010 at 9am
  5. The Bible is the ONLY way God speaks to us. Don’t leave any open doors.

    gloria dyet 14 August 2010 at 10am
  6. I was driving this AM and listening to an obviously “charismatic” preacher and I was reminded again what it is all about. He criticized those who are “overly” doctrinal had “teaching” but “no power” to back up what they believed. He said that lost people would believe when they see “miracles” just like they did in the days of the Apostles.

    Hmmm — evidently he has never read the gospels and considered the relative LACK of lasting fruit from the miracle-filled ministry of Jesus. In fact, the “believing” in the aftermath of raising Lazarus from the dead, was the belief that Jesus AND Lazarus needed to be put to death!

    Pastor Riddle nailed it in his quotations concerning ordinary events being labeled as extraordinary. In charismatic circles, this happens continuously.

    Steve Marquedant 14 August 2010 at 4pm
  7. “believers are not actively encouraged to practice or seek miraculous experiences or gifts.”?. 1 Cor. 14:1 “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” For a balanced discussion with a different perspective see “Showing the Spirit” by D.A. Carson.

    Jim Gemmell 15 August 2010 at 11pm
  8. “The ‘miracles’ that are claimed today are hardly comparable to the authenticating signs that accompanied the apostles.”

    I recommend a serious of sermons by Hal Brunson (I do not know this man, and thus do not endorse all that he may teach). With the exception of a few “harsher” statements, I believe he is right on.

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=628091333239

    Mike Waters
    Heritage Reformed Baptist Church

    Mike Waters 16 August 2010 at 8am
  9. Steve – Well said.

    Max Doner 17 August 2010 at 4pm
  10. Fromm the ARBCA policy statement:

    “It is reported that Hanserd Knollys once healed Benjamin Keach and predicted that he would live longer than Knollys, which he did. Spurgeon reported in his autobiography (vol. 2, p. 59-61) of two incidents wherein he preached that someone was present in disguise, only to be informed by a woman on each occasion that they were present in disguise so that no one would know their presence. On another occasion, he pointed a finger at a portion of the assembly where a young man sat and said: “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for: you have stolen them from your employer.” Following the service, a young man visited him, laid the gloves on his desk, and confessed to the crime. Other reports of extraordinary predictions in church history have been reported by George Gillespie, even by some of the reformers (Works, vol. 2, chap. 5, sec. 7, p. 30).

    As difficult as it is to explain such events, these occurrences still were not performed by “prophets” as described in the New Testament, nor did these experiences fit the regular practice of prophecy in congregational worship (1 Cor. 14), which some are claiming today. Neither did these men foster the use of such gifts nor attempt to restore them to the church as is done today in “restorationism.” Such extraordinary occurrences, or opinions, or errors of good men must not be used to modify the plain words of the LBC. For one to believe that there may have been extraordinary experiences by good men in the past which seem to mimic, at times, revelatory gifts in the New Testament, does not necessarily mean that one believes that the revelatory gifts still exist as formerly practiced.”

    Also, see this fine book:

    The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is ... (Studies in Christian History and Thought): Garnet Howard Milne: 9781556358050: Amazon.com: Books

    The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation: The Majority Puritan Viewpoint on Whether Extra-Biblical Prophecy is … (Studies in Christian History and Thought): Garnet Howard Milne: 9781556358050: Amazon.com: Books

    Buy from Amazon

    There seems to be variety even among cessationists as to the issue of “spectacular providences” and other phenomena.

    Trevor Johnson 18 August 2010 at 6am
  11. This is admittedly a difficult area. One assumption that seems to be often made is that all gifts must continue to the same degree as they did in the first century in order for them to be valid. There is no doubt that the more spectacular manifestations of the gifts tend to parallel the more extraordinary seasons in redemptive history (The time of Moses, Elijah, Jesus and the Apostles). But to observe that the gifts rarely manifest themselves to this degree presently is by no means a proof that they have ceased.

    I also find it interesting that when Paul had a golden opportunity to discourage the future “continuation” of these gifts in 1st Corinthians (circa 55 A.D., roughly 10 years before he died), he didn’t. To a church who was abusing the use of of these things at the expense of love (much like some today), who wrongly judged themselves “spiritual” based on their extraordinary giftedness, his answer to their error was not “disuse” but rather “proper use”; not “discouragement” but rather “encouragement” so long as they where used in the “pursuit of love” (1 Cor. 14:1).

    Jim Gemmell 18 August 2010 at 8am
  12. It is utterly inconsistent for one to hold fast to the revelatory gifts and claim the label of “reformed”. Calvinistic, yes, but reformed, no! To embrace the possibility for the extraordinary gifts, revelatory by nature, to be normative for the church today, it is necessary to check “Sola Scriptura” at the door. The reformers were emphatic about sola scriptura because of the popish romans use of “T”radition for doctrine and authority. The charismatics are essentially no different when they claim for the gifts to be active. The RCs have Scripture plus tradition, the charismatics have Scripture plus the gifts. This is NOT consistent with the doctrine of scripture alone. If you must have revelatory gifts, then don’t pretend to be theologically “reformed”. Labels are what they are, and they are useful, but for lack of confusion, may we refrain from changing the definitions of them to suit smorgasbord theologies.

    AJ 18 August 2010 at 8am
  13. We should be careful not to exalt the Reformed tradition (for that is what it is) to the level of Scripture. Would we not agree that it too must continually be evaluated in the light of God’s Word with a Berean spirit (Acts 17:11) and where it fails, we must be willing to part with the Reformers.

    Jim Gemmell 18 August 2010 at 9am
  14. Most would not claim that current “prophecies” are Scripture-quality revelation.

    Even the Scottish Covenanters, fully endorsing WCF 1:1 spoke of prophecies.

    To say that one must check Sola Scrpture at the door is to misunderstand how the Scottish Covenanters and many today think of “special providences” that are hard to explain.

    Read the Milne book that I posted a link to.

    Trevor Johnson 18 August 2010 at 10am
  15. From Sovereign Grace’s Statement of Faith:
    “The Scriptures are the authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice, and doctrine. They are totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded, or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation, or worldly wisdom. Every doctrinal formulation, whether of creed, confession, or theology must be put to the test of the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture.”
    http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/About/StatementOfFaith/Overview.aspx

    Jim Gemmell 18 August 2010 at 10am
  16. If Presbyterian brothers read the first point concerning whether or not cessationists can call themselves reformed then wouldn’t they be laughing?

    Presbyterians sometimes argue that Baptists can’t call themselves reformed because we do not hold to traditional covenant theology. Now we are turning around and saying that Piper and Chandler can’t call themselves reformed because they disagree on gifts of the spirit. Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black?

    We are assuming the label despite our disagreeing with a portion of what originally defined the term. Now we are saying that “Reformed charismatics” can’t use the label because they disagree on a much more minor aspect.

    We feel it is fine to substitute the 1689 for the Westminster and maintain the “reformed” label, but we are not willing to allow Piper and Chandler to add any asterisks to their copies of the confessions with regard to special gifts?

    Brad 18 August 2010 at 11am
  17. Jim,

    I think Trevor makes a good point above (by the way, Trevor thanks for the ARBCA statement, it was excellent]. The position that prophets continue in the church but with lesser ability and authority seems very weak. I know this is the view of Grudem for example. See O. P. Robertson’s The Final Word, where he addresses Grudem’s arguments directly.

    Did the prophet speak for God or not? If so then he must speak with authority and infallibility.

    As I see it, we can not have it both ways. If there are prophets they speak from God and must be given equal authority to Scripture.

    I think this is what AJ meant above.

    Mike W

    Mike Waters 18 August 2010 at 12pm
  18. Here is another interesting link to consider by folks who affirm WCF 1:1 about the sufficiency of Scripture and yet see marvelous providences worked out in the lives of God’s saints:

    http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/prophecy/prophecy.htm

    While affirming that the office of prophet has ceased, we read this in the Second Book of Discipline, ratified by the Church of Scotland in 1578 about extraordinary offices in the Church:

    “In the New Testament and time of the evangel, he [Christ] has used the ministry of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and doctors in the administration of the word; the eldership for good order and administration of discipline; the deaconship to have the care of the ecclesiastical goods.

    Some of these ecclesiastical functions are ordinary, and some extraordinary or temporary. There are three extraordinary functions: the office of the apostle, of the evangelist, and of the prophet, which are not perpetual, and now have ceased in the kirk of God, except when he pleased extraordinarily for a time to stir some of them up again. There are four ordinary functions or offices in the kirk of God: the office of the pastor, minister or bishop; the doctor; the presbyter or elder; and the deacon.

    These offices are ordinary, and ought to continue perpetually in the kirk, as necessary for the government and policy of the same, and no more offices ought to be received or suffered in the true kirk of God established according to his word (The First and Second Books of Discipline, Dallas: Presbyterian Publications, 1993; Second Book of Discipline, Chapter 2,Of the Parts of the Policy of the Kirk, and Persons or Office-Bearers to Whom the Administration Thereof is Committed, pp. 127-28).”

    Note the above phrase about prophets being ceased, “…except when he pleased extraordinarily for a time to stir some of them up again..”

    Thus, these Scottish theologians did not see a total incompatibility with prophecy (which to them would not have been considered Scripture-quality revelation) and the rare and extraordinary raising up of an occasional prophet.

    Trevor Johnson 18 August 2010 at 1pm
  19. If Presbyterian brothers read the first point concerning whether or not non-cessationists can call themselves reformed then wouldn’t they be laughing?

    Presbyterians sometimes argue that Baptists can’t call themselves reformed because we do not hold to traditional covenant theology. Now we are turning around and saying that Piper and Chandler can’t call themselves reformed because they disagree on gifts of the spirit. Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black?

    We are assuming the label despite our disagreeing with a portion of what originally defined the term. Now we are saying that “Reformed charismatics” can’t use the label because they disagree on a much more minor aspect.

    We feel it is fine to substitute the 1689 for the Westminster and maintain the “reformed” label, but we are not willing to allow Piper and Chandler to add any asterisks to their copies of the confessions with regard to special gifts?

    Brad 18 August 2010 at 1pm
  20. Brother Trevor,

    I would beg of you to allow me a further explanation of my comment about “checking Sola Scriptura at the door”. From my original comment, the use of the word “normative” is critical. If you consider the “prophecies” witnessed by the Scotish Covenanters and other similar reports, as mentioned in the ARBCA position paper, these instances must not be considered normative for the church. They are isolated incidences that are difficult to explain and therefore require much caution, certainly not to be accepted as “normative”, nor, by any means, expected in the day to day operation of the Holy Spirit in these post-apostolic last days. Surely, one can accept or question the veracity of events such as these, recognize them as non-normative incidences, and still hold to a strict cessationist position. However, not to hold to a cessationist position (accept these events as the norm in the operation of the church today) is to hold a view that is in opposition to the very heart of the reformed doctrine of sola scriptura. This is at the core of the ARBCA paper you quoted. ARBCA produced the paper to give clear guidelines, gleaned from the 1689 LBC, regarding the examination of all pastors and churches received into ARBCA. They must agree to, and maintain, a strict cessationist position.

    Furthermore, in fairness to ARBCA regarding the positional paper on the gifts, acceptance of these extraordinary and subjective events are reason to exercise patience and caution. I felt it necessary to post the rest of that particular section from which you quoted, to rightly disclose the strict cessationist position of ARBCA:

    “Those who accept these extraordinary experiences of good men require patience by ARBCA when examining their view to see if they believe in continued gifts of the above mentioned “open view,” which may not be the case. However, there must be a rejection of continued revelatory gifts to conform to the LBC for membership and service in ARBCA.”

    The full paper can be found here:
    http://arbca.com/images/pdf/Revelatory_Gifts.PDF

    AJ 18 August 2010 at 1pm
  21. Thanks Mike. Your points are well taken, brother and I admit that the idea of “fallible prophesy” is particularly difficult. While I don’t find all of Grudem’s arguments compelling on the subject, still there does appear to be something essentially different in what is referred to as “prophesy” in the O.T. compared to the new. 1 Cor. 14:3 “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” No warning? No woe and judgment? It’s primary use is stated to be for instruction and encouragement (14:31). Interesting.

    It’s also curious how Paul appears to disobey a clear word from the Holy Spirit in Acts 21:4, “And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.” Hard to imagine Paul responding to Isaiah this way.

    Another curious comparison is 1 Cor. 14:5 “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.” and James 3:1 “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” Paul seems to give a blanket encouragement for all to “prophesy” but James warns against too many becoming teachers. Strange. And was Paul encouraging the entire congregation at Corinth to seek to bring Scripture-level revelation? Perhaps. But then there is 1 Thes. 5:18-21 ‘Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” “Hold fast what is good”? Isn’t it ALL GOOD if it’s real prophesy from God?

    It’s thorny for sure but whatever the case (and I don’t claim to have it all figured out), there does appear to be some interesting differences in what the NT is referring to as prophesy.

    Jim Gemmell 18 August 2010 at 2pm
  22. Of 5 areas of concerns, the second one is given in charismatic not-Calvinist circles, but probably not in more moderate continuationism Calvinistic-circles. The fourth concerns, I think, is maybe a more pragmatic matter. The one that I consider to be more important is the third one.

    As for the fifth one I wonder: not was it the Scripture sufficient for the believers of the epoch of Christ and the apostles? The indication of the passage of the Rich and Lazarus was spoken by the same Christ, and nevertheless the manifestation of the extraordinary gifts happened time after this parable.

    Rafael Alcantara 18 August 2010 at 3pm
  23. When Paul wrote his letters to the churches at Corinth and Thessalonica and James wrote his epistle, the church did not have the canonized New Testament. The Holy Spirit was inspiring and penning the sufficient scriptures in the midst of the transitional period of the church recorded in the book of the Acts. This was an extraordinary period in church history. When was the last time you asked a baptized disciple of Christ, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (Acts 19:2). Christ was building His house, He being the chief cornerstone, the apostles being the foundation stones, and we being the living stones fitly joined together (Eph 2:19-21), through His teaching and subsequently the doctrines of the apostles whom He bore witness with signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Heb 2:4). I think it is a viable possibility that we shouldn’t expect some of these extraordinary things written of, to occur today like they did in the scriptural accounts. It is possible that the gift of prophecy (the authoritative proclamation of Holy Spirit given revelation) of Paul’s day has transitioned into the gift of preaching (the authoritative proclaiming of the Holy Spirit inspired scriptures) we witness today? I think it’s at least a valid consideration.

    AJ 18 August 2010 at 3pm
  24. Hello,

    Continuing our discussion……

    A quote by Samual Rutherford, one of the framers of the WCF:

    “There is a revelation of some particular men, who have foretold things to come, even since the ceasing of the Canon of the Word, as John Husse [John Hus], Wickeliefe [Wycliffe], Luther, have foretold things to come and they certainly fell out, and in our nation of Scotland, M. George Wishart foretold that Cardinal Beaton should not come out alive at the Gates of the Castle of St. Andrews, but that he should die a shameful death, and he was hanged over the window that he did look out at, when he saw the man of God burnt, Knox prophesied of the hanging of the Lord of Grange, M. Ioh. Davidson uttered prophecies, known to many of the kingdome, diverse Holy and mortified preachers in England have done the like… [Samuel Rutherford. A Survey Of The Spiritual Antichrist. Opening the Secrets Of Familisme and Antinomianisme in the Antichrist Doctrine of John Saltmarsh… (London: no pub., 1648), 42.”

    Also, on pages 168-170 in Douglas A. Oss’ chapter in the book, “Are Miraculous Gifts For Today: 4 Views” we read this about Samuel Rutherford, the framer of the WCF who believed in WCF 1:1 and prophets both:

    “[Samuel Rutherford] argued for a distinction betweeen the objective external revelation inscripturated in the canon and the internal subjective revelation, which we would call “illumination.” In addition, Rutherford also recognized two other subjective types of revelation: false prophecies-which are not prophecies at all-and predictive prophecy. He said he knew of men “who have foretold things to come even since the ceasing of the Canon of the word,” mentioning Hus, Wycliff, and Luther as examples.

    Rutherford offered guidelines for differentiating between true and false prophecy: First, these postcanonical prophets “did tye no man to beleeve their prophecies as scriptures. Yea they never denounced Iudgement against those that beleeve not their predictions”; second, “the events reveled to Godly and sound witnesses of Christ are not contrary to the word”‘ and third, “they were men sound in the faith opposite to Popery, Prelacy, Socinianism, Papism, Lawlesse Enthusiasme, Antinomianisme, Arminianisme, and what else is contrary to sound doctrine. (from Rutherford’s “A Survey of the Spirituall Antichrist”)

    In the light of Rutherford’s belief about revelation, the line “new revelations of the Spirit” [in WCF 1.6] may be understood to refer to non-canonical but actual utterances that are subordinate to and judged by Scripture, and which may not be added to the canon. Canon, not prophecy, is the issue.

    The mention of “private spirits” [in WCF 1.10] does not reject them out of hand, it merely subjects them to the authority of Scripture along with “all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men.” Thus, when the WCF speaks of “those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people now being ceased,” it should not necessarily be interpreted to indicate that God no longer reveals himself in any extraordinary way but to indicate that the canon is closed and that it alone is the rule of faith and practice. At least this is how Rutherford understood it. When the Confession refers to “the direct communication which once was” and “the indirect communication which now is,” is this a distinction between “revelation” and “illumination” or between canon and all other revelation? The former was committed “wholly unto writing” (Confession 1.1), but such prophecies as those given in Corinth were not all deposited in the canon-though of the Spirit, they were not of the deposit of faith. Rutherford’s understanding as a framer certainly leaves open alternative interpretations of the Confession than the prevailing cessationist interpretation today. ”

    Alexander Peden and George Gillespie and several others of the Covenanters also spoke of prophets, prophecies, providential guiding dreams, and special remarkable providences, even while affirming WCF 1:1 and defending Sola Scriptura.

    Also, approximately 15-20% of new believers from Muslim backgrounds in several regions that I know of report having dreams of Jesus prior to seeking more information about the Gospel or being confronted by a Gospel Messenger. These dreams have functioned as special remarkable providences, “Cornelius-type events”, whereby the person is made open and willing to hear the Gospel.

    Also, most of us acknowledge that, in addition to the general principles of Scripture, there is a direct illumination and enlightenment that the Spirit gives (“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” – Romans 8:16).

    In addition to this, some Christians are called with special callings and strong impressions that are not contrary to the Word of God and become the basis for great works in missions and evangelism (i.e., a strong call to a particular people, etc). I do not want to condemn people if they mention a “strong impression from the Lord,” even while recognizing that such strong impressions must not be contrary to the Word even if it appears to go beyond it.

    Example: George Mueller had a strong particular impression (that went beyond Scriptural demands) about his own personal financial dealings and how he would deal with needs, and he is praised for this among baptists instead of faulted. Yet, this decision for which he was praised was due to a personal leading and not due merely to the general principle or practices found in Scripture.

    Also, the Spirit provides comfort during trials. The Spirit can give special times of extreme comfort and calmness during heavy trials. Though, again, highly subjective, I do not doubt that this special comfort is Spirit-sent and not manufactured from my own mental processes alone. It is exogenous and divine. Jesus himself promised that his disciples did not need to worry about what they would say when dragged before magistrates, for the Holy Spirit would put the words into their mouths (Matthew 10:19). Though Jesus was speaking directly to those whom he sent out in Matthew 10, I believe in the continuing applicability of this passage today beyond the limited immediate audience of Matthew 10, for the Holy Spirit has now descended and inhabits all believers. And, during times of trial, the Spirit is exceptionally close to believers, many believers reporting “special leadings” by God during times of crisis and trial.

    “It seemed good”: Time and time again, we hear the verdict of the New Testament that various ministry decisions “seemed good.” Scriptural principles and examples guide believers, but often we encounter situations in which there is no direct Scripture to apply. The Holy Spirit gives divine guidance. We cannot, in simple reductionist mechanical fashion, decide on a course of action always by simple proof-texting or a dry academic survey of a concordance. The Spirit leads the Church in such a way that some things seem good.

    Finally, The filling of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Bible sometimes as a particular anointing for special or exceptional service, and other times as a normal anointing for daily holy living. In times of extreme trial or at times of trying to fulfill exceptionally difficult tasks, I believe it right to pray for special filling and empowerment by the Spirit, for it indicates that we are led by the Spirit (and not merely the cognitive understanding of Scripture alone), indicates Christ’s power and rule oever the believer’s life, and it results in fruitfulness(Jn 7:37-39; 14–16; Ac 1:8; Ro 5:1-5; 8:1-14; 1Co 3:16; 6:11, 19-20; Eph 1:15-23; 3:14-21). Thus, we do not merely study the Scripture more in these cases, but we beg God for power and leading.

    And all of these phenomena have appeared among Christians avowing WCF 1:1 and who affirm Sola Scriptura.

    My reasons for stating these things and interacting with this article:

    PRELIM NOTE: This article is not directed towards John Wimber and the Toronto Blessing folks. If it were, I would have no quarrel with it.

    This article, instead, appears to be an effort to ferret out those from among us who may have “charismatic leanings.” This is yet another reaction to the popularity of the “New Calvinism” teachers, who (some of them) allow for broader allowances regarding the work of the Spirit. The aim of the article, in part, is to prove that “those people are not truly “reformed baptist,” and to guard “our people” from them, i.e., it is an effort at fence-building and creating boundaries/distinctions between “us” and “them.”

    In response,

    (1) We need to recognize even the diversity of opinions among those who hold to the WCF and 1689. Many “Reformed” men of the past held to many of the things that Piper advocates today. They should not, therefore, be seen as pretenders to the reformed tradition (unless of course we consider all baptists as pretenders to being “reformed”).

    (2) We need to be careful in saying things that would needlessly disfellowship us from true reformed believers who adhere to Sola Scripture while trying to acknowledge the present movements of the Spirit.

    Would some of you have tried to disfellowship Rutherford, Peden, Gillespie and the Scottish Covenanters for their beliefs?

    (3) We need to recognize that Piper and Grudem and those that advocate continued workings of the Spirit in ways that make some of us uncomfortable…that these men still fully advocate Sola Scipture and we should seek to not misrepresent their firm reliance on Scripture. For them prophecy is not “Scripture-quality revelation,” nor does it undermine Sola Scripture.

    To continue the baseless charge that somehow they do not truly honor Scripture is to slander these men. They, too, see Scripture as the rule of faith in their lives and the only normative guide for their practice.

    (4) When dealing with former Muslims or folks who report remarkable providences as part of their conversion stories (such as these dreams of Jesus for believers from oppressive Muslim backgrounds) we need to recognize that our first goal is not to prove to them that their dream was simply due to too much rice before bedtime, but that God is sovereign over all.

    Also, a diversity of musical styles is perfectly permissible in church and those groups that do not use the piano and the Blue Trinity Hymnal also have composed some solid hymns and praise songs, too, to the glory of God and for the edification of the saints. The author of the article bears the burden of proof in proving that all of these songs are “Third Wave” or “Charismatic.”

    One man’s “decently and in order” is another man’s “rigid and overly formal” and much of the debate over music is merely a contest of competing preferences.

    Finally, it is not inappropriate to commend and invite men like Piper and Grudem into pulpit fellowship with us and to recommend their resources to our young people.

    Final note:

    If our young people in Reformed Baptist churches are preferring the “young, restless and reformed” over traditional Reformed Baptist Churches (and they seem to be) we should not automatically assume that this is due to doctrinal downgrade, but that perhaps they are getting something there that they are not getting from us.

    Why are multitudes flocking to them, even while many of our churches shrink?

    A rising tide of respect for Calvinism ought to float all boats, right?

    However, young people, by and large, prefer “their type” of church over “our type” of church. Why is that? Is it due to “doctrinal downgrade” on their part, or a legitimate hunger for something not being seen in our churches? What can we learn?

    Trevor Johnson 19 August 2010 at 2am
  25. Trevor –
    Extremely well said and “Amen!” Thank you for your helpful comment. Your “reasons” at the end are also right on. Indeed, “What can we learn?”

    Jim Gemmell 19 August 2010 at 6am
  26. Here is an addition:

    Below is an invective against “charismatic calvinists” by Hal Brunson that paints a very good picture of why I think many younger folks would rather go to “them” rather than stay with “us” and illustrates why, even while calvinism is becoming “cool” we remain unattractive to many younger folks.

    (NOTE: Whether we are theologically “more right” than they are gets lost in the heat and venom of our presenation sometimes and I believe this drives people away from our cause):

    Hal Brunson writes:

    “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.”

    By and large I never hear this same sort of exchange coming from “them” towards “us.”

    In like manner is Peter Master’s over-the-top screed found here:

    http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Sword-And-Trowel/Sword-and-Trowel-Articles/The-Merger-of-Calvinism-with-Worldliness

    Jesus only spoke in this manner of harshness towards false teachers. Unless one is willing to write off the “charismatic calvinists” as false teachers and apostates, I think our dialogue with them ought to show the love with befits our interactions with other Christian brethren.




    And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil… (2 Tim 2:24)

    …not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome… (I Tim 3:3)

    I, for one, thank God for Piper, Mahaney and Grudem.

    Trevor Johnson 19 August 2010 at 7am
  27. Trevor thank you so much for your last two posts. I couldn’t agree with you more, especially concerning the “heat and venom” of Hal Brunson’s response and some of the responses represented here. When I first read Hal Brunsons opening to his messages on sermon audio I thought it was a joke. Then he went on to actually say that and it just made me sad. Where is the love that Paul said in I Corinthains 13 should be central to our response?

    Brad 19 August 2010 at 9am
  28. Trevor,

    I can be thankful for much of what you said. But dear brother, simply pause and look at what you wrote.

    You cannot honestly imply a connection between the charismatic Calvinism of our day and that of these few select puritans you quote [out of thousands].

    Have we really come this far? Do I really need to prove that the authors of our confession were not charismatic?

    I can hardly believe such statements as the following,

    “Why are multitudes flocking to them, even while many of our churches shrink?”

    My friend, let me suggest there is something more important than numbers! Or does appeasing the youth constitute the one thing needful?

    Furthermore, our church [yes it is small], is comprised of about 20 families, most of which are all young. Can you image? And yes, we use a piano and the blue Trinity.

    Perhaps if I were “open but cautious” concerning the gifts of prophecy and tongue speaking we would get more. Perhaps if I preached in sandals and blue jeans we would get more. Perhaps if I lowered the standard for office bearers we would get more. Perhaps if I added drums to the public worship we would get more. Perhaps if I dropped the PM Service or substituted small groups we would get more. Perhaps if I added a super bowl Sunday we would get more. Perhaps if I refused to mention the Ten Commandments we would get more? Perhaps if I….

    But these will never happen…regardless the outcome. Why? Because there are things more important!

    MW

    Mike Waters 19 August 2010 at 4pm
  29. Amen, Mike. Amen…

    Mike D 19 August 2010 at 7pm
  30. Mike W – Thank you.

    Max Doner 19 August 2010 at 8pm
  31. I keep hearing that RB churches are losing their young people. Well, we are not. Our young people are solid deep thinking Christians. They love the hymns (and we sing a cappella out of the blue TH!) and they love the white hairs among us.

    I agree with my dear brother Mike, if “getting big” means being small in those things that matter most, then we will stay small

    David Charles 19 August 2010 at 8pm
  32. Mike Waters,

    I never said that the authors of the confessions were charismatic. I said that some of them spoke of prophets or prophecies, even while affirming WCF 1:1 and sola scripture. They did not see these things as necessarily mutually incompatible. There was some variation among these men, even in the midst of tight confessional boundaries. Therefore, we should not treat these “charismatic calvinists” in the harsh manner of Brunson’s quote since even one of the framers of the WCF affirmed prophecy and prophets.

    Mike, I said nothing about preaching in sandals, etc. I, too, believe that we must keep our standards high (as long as these are biblical standards and not mere RB tradition).

    I do assert strongly that our tone and manner of attack is often all wrong.

    I also assert that, given the rise in respect for general calvinistic enthusiasm, that we should expect to benefit more from the revival of these doctrines. But that is not happening by and large. I think unnecessary polemic is one of the factors that hinder us.

    Trevor Johnson 19 August 2010 at 11pm
  33. Trevor – It is not unnecessary polemic. It is extremly necessary polemic, because either reformed theology will destroy charismatic theology, or charismatic theology will destroy reformed theology. They cannot coexist together. The fact that a few of our forefathers may have attempted to combine them does not justify the combination of them. This is not some minor error. It is s serious attack upon the sufficiency and the finality of the scriptures. We have been down this road before in the 1800′s. Read Arnold Dallimore’s book on The Life of Edward Irving. Charismatism destroyed reformed theology.

    Max Doner 20 August 2010 at 12am
  34. As an ex-charismatic, I’d like to make a couple of points:
    1) The Charismatic movement, as well as the so-called Third Wave, are outgrowths of the Pentecostal movement. The Pentecostals trace their origins to the Azusa Street revival of 1906. There has always been an emphasis among Pentecostals on the great “outpouring of the Holy Spirit” that supposedly occurred there, and these churches (directly or indirectly, to a greater or lesser degree) all trace their genesis to this event. In recent years it has become more common to hear some try to find support for charismatic practice in the Puritans, the Reformers and others, but it seems to me that this is an attempt to retro-fit church history with a Pentecostal theology that didn’t exist then. Are today’s Reformed Charismatics really wanting to claim a special place in redemptive history for Azusa Street? It seems that they would have to, or else they owe us an explanation.
    2) As a charismatic, I heard literally hundreds of times over a period of many years about how “God is getting ready to do a great thing in the Earth!” Something BIG was always just around the corner, but it was something that was apparently bigger than the Cross. The Charismatic movement has always been appallingly lacking in preaching the great doctrines of the atonement, justification, adoption, election, sanctification, and the rest of Reformed theology. We do not need to hear these preached just for the sake of hearing doctrine, but because they are necessary for LIFE.
    I would rather be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, than to chase the carrot on the end of the stick.

    Tony 20 August 2010 at 4pm
  35. Tony, thank you for this excellent perspective from one who has “been there”. I was part of the fundamentalist movement when the charismatic challenge happened with a vengence in the early 70′s. I don’t think the fundamentalists ever really won their battle, and myriads of them had their churches torn apart by charismatics. It appears to me that as RB’s we are about 40 years behind — and I hope we face the charismatic challenge better than the fundamentalists did 40 years ago. It has the potential to tear churches apart that hold to the 1689 Confession and the sufficency of the Word. Those who leave these churches will morph into “something else” — or should I say “something less”.

    Steve Marquedant 21 August 2010 at 12am
  36. Trevor

    The elephant in the corner of the room regarding some (and only some) of what you write regarding our acceptance or not of Peden and so forth is this – everyone of them was firmly, constitutionally committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith, as you yourself note frequently. The modern “reformed charismatics”, as far as I can tell are more or less uniformly NOT committed to any historic confession. This is not without some significance surely? How can I be sure that Mahaney, Piper etc. are in the “reformed tradition” as I am continually told if they reject connection to that tradition? And why do they reject that connection by confession if they are in the reformed tradition? I should add I have read much and appreciated much of these two men have written, so this is not a whole-sale rejection of them.

    Furthermore while you are correct to assert that the Covenanters accepted the reality of what they referred to as prophecy, whereas some modern confessional Calvinists do not, the reality is that if one holds to either WCF or BCF you are confessionally committed to what was sometimes manifested among the Covenanters;

    “3. God in his ordinary Providence maketh use of means; yet is free to work, without, above, and against them at his pleasure.”

    That is exactly what He was doing I believe in such days as the “Killing Times” in Ayrshire (and I believe Peden etc. would view it that way too). Also we must remember, and this is important, that Peden’s (and his compatriots’) prophecies were remarkable in his own day. All this points to the fact that their whole framework of understanding “prophecy” “prediction” etc. was markedly different from that in vogue among the current moderate charismatics. These were days of peculiar wickedness in Scotland, when the Church was under intense persecution and perhaps at such times God works outside normal means for the sake of the perseverance of his people. But even there and then these phenomena were rare and outstanding – for something to be extraordinary it must not be a weekly everyday occurrence.

    With regard to Muslims etc. a useful resource is a little book by a late modern Covenanter Prof. Frederick Leahy ‘Satan Cast Out” where he deals a little with demon possession at the “cutting face” for Gospel endeavours which is somewhat relevant and helpful in understanding these phenomena.

    In conclusion I think, though do not necessarily accuse any correspondents here of it, that there is a great danger of anachronism etc. in this argument. A close reading of historical reaction and interaction with Peden etc. contrasted with the practice of current moderate charismatics will show that the two things are very radically different.

    Paul Wallace 21 August 2010 at 3am
  37. Paul,

    Thank you for your insightul comments.

    Yes, it appears that God does and can work extraordinarily, as in the days of the Covenanters, such that the Covenanters could claim prophets and prophecies and still fully hold to WCF 1:1 and the confession.

    My purpose for bringing this out is two-fold:

    (1) To show that there was acceptable variation on these issues even among the framers of the Confessions.

    (2) To protest the labeling of Piper and Grudem as necessarily fully in the Charismatic camp, for to label all believers who possess any openness at all to extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit would necessitate labeling the Covenanters, too, in the same manner. And I don’t think anyone here is willing to label Peden or Rutherford as “Charismatics” (yet we seem to be doing just that with Piper and Grudem here).

    We go too far in labeling these men as “charismatic calvinists” for they differ much with present Charismatic practices. I do not see Piper as going much further than ML Jones; and I’ve never heard anyone label Dr. ML Jones as a charismatic, even though we may differ with him in his interpretation of Ephesians. Dr. ML Jones had his own criticisms of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, here:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1462_A_Passion_for_ChristExalting_Power/

    Wait…let’s add a third…

    (3) I also wanted to combat the normal mode of argument that many RBs use against anyone who has an more open view regarding spiritual gifts. Usually, the sufficiency of Scripture and sola sciptura are presented, and anyone who believes that prophecy is still possible is accused of not believing in sola scripture and the sufficincy of Scripture. This is simply not true, for Peden, Rutherford, etc, all believe in sola scriptura and still acknowledged prophecies. I would like to see this line of argumentation to cease because it misrepresents the beliefs of Grudem and Piper and others who still are open to ongoing occasional prophecy, for these things are rare and special providences and are not “scripture-quality revelations” nor are they placed on the same level as Scripture. Throughout Christian hisotry, believers have claimed illumination, special leadings and some have claimed prophecy, even while claiming the sufficiency of Scripture.

    This labeling of people as either “charismatic” or “reformed” is entirely too simplistic. It appears that there is a continuum of open-ness to the presence and way that spiritual gifts are manifested and that we are trying to align everyone on either pole, when, in fact, there are many who are at different points along this continuum and are not not rightly called either “charismatic” or totally “cessationist.” …And some who have framed the Confession were more open to prophecy than what we presently claim the Confession to teach.

    Yes, I love the Leahy book and have bought extra copies to give to new workers here in SE Asia. It recognizes what we have seen here as well, namely that in pioneering works and in times of extreme spiritual trial, that dark powers can manifest more explicitly.

    I would like to recommend again the Milne book that I have linked above.

    Finally, I think it is a fair strategem of argument for me to present the words of the Covenanters regarding prophecy. Whether Confessional or non-Confessional, there are similarities that we need to see between the beliefs of the highly confessional covenanters, who affirmed continuing (but rare) prophecy (though not as Scripture-quality revelation) and the present crop of astute theologians like Piper and Grudem, and Dr. Jones as well, who are more open than many here would prefer in regards to the working of the Spirit. Benefitting from these fine men is not evidence of a “RB down-grade” at all, and we can count them as brothers and profit much from their works.

    Please tell me your thoughts, and thanks for your fine post,

    Trevor

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 4am
  38. Trevor,

    If you no longer want to see that the claim that modern day prophets and prophecy is a challenge to the Reformed doctrine of Scripture, then you should stop reading this Blog site. We reject as a grievous error any claim that God is still sending “fresh” messages to His people. We reject as an act of rebellion any claim that God has something more to say to His church that was not already spoken in His Son. We hold, without compromise that the Son of God, as He comes to us in the Scripture, is God’s final, complete and sufficient revelation: “What more can He say than to you He hath said, You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?”

    Wayne Grudem was a part of the Vineyard church when the “Toronto blessing” was in full swing. He never denounced it, and the leaders of the Vineyard in order to defend their false prophets and prophecy used him and his work.

    God’s Word is sufficient to both save and sanctify His elect. Any claims of new revelation are false and may very well be the activity of the enemy of our souls!

    “I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds. Am I a God who is near, declares the LORD, And not a God far off?

    I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal?

    The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain? declares the LORD. “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?

    David Charles 21 August 2010 at 7am
  39. Trevor,

    I still believe you are drawing, as it were, to big an equals sign, or equivalency between the Covenanters and current charismatics, that’s where I would differ from you. These things may appear similar, in terminology especially but I believe whatever the terminology that Peden and Rutherford would reject Grudem’s construct of prophecy and certainly the current expectancy and frequency of such manifestations.

    Paul

    Paul Wallace 21 August 2010 at 8am
  40. Paul,

    When you say “current charismatic” who do you mean?

    Grudem and Piper?

    I am advocating that we use a more nuanced approach than trying to fit everyone into two camps, “us” and the “charismatics.” Many of the Reformed advocated prophecy and prophets and we do not call them charismatics.

    I’ve never heard anyone call Calvin a charismatic, and yet he said:

    “Those who preside over the government of the church in accordance with Christ’s institution are called by Paul as follows: first apostles, then prophets, thirdly evangelists, fourthly pastors, and finally teachers [Eph. 4:11]. Of these only the last two have an ordinary office in the church; the Lord raised up the first three at the beginning of his Kingdom, and now and again revives them as the need of the times demands.”

    (Calvin, Institutes, IV,3,4.)

    Though I am not a great fan of Richard Baxter, I am not sure anyone here would charge him with being a charismatic, and yet he states:

    “It is possible that God may make new Revelations to particular persons about their particular duties, events or matters of fact, in subordination to the Scripture, either by inspiration, vision, or apparition or voice?”

    Baxter, A Christian Directory: (London: Nevil Simmons, 1678), 185.

    Westminster divine William Bridge asks:

    “..but, you will say, may not God speak by extraordinay visions and revelations, in these days of ours?” and then answers, “Yes, without all doubt he may” God is not to be limited, he may speak in what way he pleases.”

    (Nonetheless, Bridge stresses the more sure of prophecy in Scripture as our rule and guide, Bridge, Works of the Rev. William Bridge, Volume 1, 417).

    Westminster divines Philip Nye, Thomas Godwin and Willian Carter assert that sometimes “prophecy” in the NT points to ordinary preaching, but sometimes it refers to prophets and prophetesses receiving immediate revelations in the early church. Milne’s book concludes, “Thus Carter allows for extraordinary prophetesses lawfully to exercise their gifts in the church in those days.”

    (Milnes, 205, 206, quoting Carter, The Covenant of God with Abraham Opened…, 145-46.)

    Wishart, Knox, Usher, John Selden (Erastian on the Westminser assembly), Edwards Reynolds (another Westminster divine), Bishops Sanderson, Gauden and Hooker, were all said to have uttered prophetic speech despite being clearly “reformed” and being associated closely with the Westminster Assembly.(Milne, 209).

    All of this is not including the tradition of dreams, and miraculous rescue of the Scots during the Killing Times.

    Robert Baillie, Scottish commissioner to the Assembly, urged his peers, based on I Thess. 5:20, “do not treat prophecies with contempt.”

    Archibald Johnson, another Scottish commissioner to the Assembly, deeply admired Margeret Michelson, who was thought to be a prophetess and also writes, “Heir my friend cam in and told me sundry prophecyies of the overturning of the papistical religion and party in 1666, which I told him was coincident with something I had written yesterday which I read to him” (Archibald JOhnston, The Diary of Archibald Johnston (1655-1661), MS 6247-6259. Edinburgh: National Library, 1940. MS 6259,32).

    The history of the martyrs of the early church and those found in Fox’s book of Martyrs contains many accounts of special providences, to include visions/dreams.

    George Gillespie, too, spoke of prophets and prophecies, and who would call him un-reformed or charismatic?

    In his A Treatise of Miscellany Questions, he discusses this topic and states that Peter Martyr and John Calvin also shared his own view of the present existence of prophecies and prophets. He also appeals to I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11 to explain the present existence of Scottish prophets in the church in his own day and speaks of Knox, John Welsh and others as, “holy prophets receiving extraordinary revelations from God, and foretelling diverse strange and remarkable things, which did accordingly come to pass punctually, to the great admiration of all who knew the particulars.” (Milne, 239, quoting, Gillespie, “Miscellany Questions”, The Works of George Gillespie, vol. 2, 30.)

    The list goes on and on…

    These men all agreed with WCF 1:1 and sola scriptura, and yet held to a belief in fore-telling prophecy, despite adhering to, and even framing the Westminster COnfession of Faith and speaking of the Scripture as our rule of faith and practice.

    These men were clearly reformed and no one would dare call them charismatic.

    Yet, today, Reformed Baptists (who claim to also be able to rightfully use the name Reformed despite objections by their Presbyterian brethren)see Piper and Grudem and other calvinists and deny them the moniker “reformed” and instead try to label them as “Charismatic” even when their views do not differ greatly from the views of some during the framing of the WCF itself.

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1996Modern.htm

    I have included a Vern Poythress article for your consideration and would love to hear feedback on it.

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 9am
  41. Trevor,

    “Many of the Reformed advocated prophecy and prophets and we do not call them charismatics.”

    Not one person who referenced above would agree with Piper or Grudem that prophets are to be expected or sought as a normal part of church life.

    I think Paul W has a good point. Furthermore, along with Piper and Grudem’s system is the denial of the Ten Commandments as a rule of life, the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath, and the RPW, while every man referenced above held tightly to each.

    That some of our puritan forefathers believed God could work outside His ordinary means when He wills, fits our confession.

    Thus the thinking of Piper/Grudem is not the same as these men. I fear for our churches if we continue under their influence.

    In 20 years we will differ little from them.

    Be cautious dear brother.

    MW

    Mike Waters 21 August 2010 at 10am
  42. Trevor,

    With respect I have never disputed the possibility or existence of what may be called prophecy, so hitting me a host of quotes like the above doesn’t really achieve much. I am very familiar with the Covenanters etc. and have already quoted from the confessions how this possibility fits into the reformed theology – God working freely above means.

    What I am suggesting is that there is a very great distance between the existence and practice of these men you quoted, from that which is actively pursed by charismatics even of a more moderate tact. That’s all I am saying, nothing more, nothing less.

    The picture you are painting is that George Gillespie and John Piper for example are pretty much in agreement of prophecy etc. I suggest that Gillespie and Piper would be very divided on this issue with regard to practice, the former accepts the possibility as per the WCF under the extraordinary movement of God, Piper et. al pursue as an frequent occurrence. That is a massive difference and it is down to differences in theology.

    A Cessationist is not someone who says these things can never happen, he is someone who says they are extraordinary – that IS the Reformed confessional position. The Continuist is someone who says these things happen regularly and frequently throughout church history.

    With that I bow out.

    Paul

    Paul Wallace 21 August 2010 at 10am
  43. Paul,

    So you agree with me that it is a baseless charge to accuse those that advocate continued prophets and prophecies of denying sola scripture and the closed canon?

    Yes?

    So you acknowledge that prophecy and prophets are still possible today?

    “God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.”

    Yes?





    My main points, again, are that there was an affirmation of extraordinary phenomena even within cessationist circles and that there are nuances and shades of continuationism, i.e., we should not label or dump all these mean into the pool called “charismatic” and them call them all “not reformed”.

    The label “charismatic” cannot become a blanket statement to encompass all non-cessationists of the RB variety.

    Let’s not stick Piper in the same tent as Benny Hinn, and let’s not wrongfully put forward the slippery slope argument that if we confess to benefitting from John Piper this year, within the decade we will all be barking like dogs and uttering ecstatic ramblings. The slope is just not that slippery. This is not a sign of RB Down-grade.

    Quoting Dr. Bob Gonzales from his blog commens here: http://blog.rbseminary.org/2009/03/david-wilkerson-prophesies-impending-judgment-for-major-us-cities-john-piper-replies-stick-with-the-bible-david/

    “Nevertheless, one of the purposes of this post was to demonstrate that we must not lump all non-cessationists together.

    …But there’s more I should say. A few of you have noted Piper’s use of subjective language. Piper is uncomfortable with Wilkinson’s prophecy because it does not “resonate with [his] spirit” and “does not have the feel of authority to [him].” Two things should be noted: first, sound epistemology recognizes that there’s no such thing as a purely objective human knowledge. That is to say, knowledge, discernment, evaluation, etc., necessarily involve the engagement of one’s subjective psychological faculties. Some may not like terms like “resonate” or “feels.” But is “think” any less subjective? According to Paul, man’s been created as the imago Dei with a sense of the Deity and conscience that “resonates” with God’s self-authenticating general and special revelation. Moreover, lest we’re too quick to fault Piper for failing to use stronger and more objective language, we need to acknowledge the the NT writers themselves sometimes used terminology like “it seemed to us.” Indeed, they even applied this to the Holy Spirit!

    “For it has seemed [Greek dokeo] good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements [emphasis added]” (Acts 15:28, ESV).

    Second, and this complements the first point, the title of Piper’s response to Wilkerson suggests that he’s trying to follow the biblical protocol “testing the spirits” against Scripture to see whether they’re of God (1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1-6). The fact that Piper quotes Scripture in his assessment of Wilkerson’s prophecy leads me to believe that he’s using canonical Scripture as the basis for his assessment, not a prophetic hunch or a mere personal opinion. Here I’m inclined to place the best construction on Piper’s words as Jonathan has done.

    Thanks for your input, men. If you follow the rest of my posts on cessationism, I think you’ll find that I’m not justifying Piper’s own view of prophecy. Just want to be fair to the man and encourage Christians to resist the temptation of lumping men like him together with less principled and biblical oriented non-cessationists.”




    I am in agreement with Dr. Gonzales’ assessment here.

    There has always been variety even among the cessationists, the framers of the Assembly themselves aknowledging many extraordinary movings of the Spirit.

    And further, among non-cessationists, a simplistic labeling is inappropriate and we must follow a more nuanced approach, than simply labeling someone as “Reformed” or a “Charismatic Calvinist”.

    P.s. can you cite your sources proving that Piper states that the gifts of the Spirit are “normal occurrences.” If they were, in fact, already so normal, why would Piper speak often of how he prays that the Spirit would grant these gifts in abundance. He recognizes that, while he desires their more frequent occurrence, that these gifts are still occasional and infrequent, just as the quotes that I provided above acknowledged the same in the opinions of the Scottish Covenanters and the framers of the Confession.

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 11am
  44. David,

    I am fully in agreement with the Confessions and their framers on this issue.

    “I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. 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 afterwards 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 makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.

    X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 11am
  45. “A Cessationist is not someone who says these things can never happen, he is someone who says they are extraordinary – that IS the Reformed confessional position. The Continuist is someone who says these things happen regularly and frequently throughout church history.”

    I think that a best definition is that cessation is a person that believes that extraordinary spiritual gifts had ceased with the close of the canon and the continuist believe that all spiritual gifts continue. There are differences in the cessationism camp about believe of extraordinary events and there are differences in the continuism camp about frequency of the use of these spiritual gifts.

    I think, like Dr.Gonzalez, we can not put everybody in the same level.

    Rafael

    Rafael Alcantara 21 August 2010 at 12pm
  46. A better place to read Dr. Gonzales’ thoughts on this issue would be here:
    http://blog.rbseminary.org/2009/03/the-cessation-of-special-revelation-a-humble-argument-for-the-cessation-of-nt-prophecy-and-tongues-part-1/

    David Charles 21 August 2010 at 12pm
  47. Just to be clear: I am not at all convinced that the Puritans & Covenanters meant by prophecy what Grudem et. al mean.

    I would favour a position that these things may appear to be miraculous, and may be providentially extraordinary, they have been called “extraordinary providences”. Indeed they may be somewhat similar to what we mean by the internal call to the ministry &c. God is God of the mind, and heart as well as the external world. That’s what I believe is still a possibility.

    In addition history can play tricks, and we would need to be careful of constructing doctrines based on interpretations of history.

    Paul Wallace 21 August 2010 at 1pm
  48. Very helpful sermon found here:
    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=425101955462

    David Charles 21 August 2010 at 1pm
  49. David,

    Yes, in the very first paragraph of Dr. Gonzales’ fine article he admits: “…in his commentary on Ephesians 4:11, Calvin argues that the offices of apostle, prophet, and evangelist have ceased, and only the offices pastor and teacher are perpetual. However, in his Institutes he concedes that the Lord “now and again revives them as the need of the times demand.”

    Also, “there certainly have been Reformed Christians who have been open to the possibility that God could revive some of the extraordinary gifts in unique situations…”

    How does Dr. Gonzales account for this quote from Calvin, and also for the Scottish Prophets?

    Does he assert that even the framers of the Confesssion were inconsistent in the application of their own documents and that Calvin, Gillespie, Baille, Bridge, et al, were unconfessional?

    If Dr. Gonzales does not say that Calvin and these others were mistaken or unconfessional, then I am not saying anything contrary to what Dr. Bob already knows and acknowledges.

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 2pm
  50. Calvin most likely had men like M Luther in mind.

    David Charles 21 August 2010 at 2pm
  51. Trevor said: “Most would not claim that current “prophecies” are Scripture-quality revelation.”

    I do not get this. If “prophecies” are not “scripture-quality” then they are not prophecies by definition. All biblical prophecies are inspired by God and are infallible. If one says an utterance falls below this standard, then do not call it prophecy. Call it illumination, insight, or something else.
    Of course, if you do that, then it destroys the argument for continuationism, or else, if it is scripture quality, it destroys the claim to believe in sola scriptura.

    Quoting 1Cor 14:3,31 does not disprove my assertion, it only discribes the result that prophecy has on those who hear it.
    If it is not scripture quality, then do not call it prophecy.

    Max Doner 21 August 2010 at 2pm
  52. Max,

    Calvin and others of the Reformed called these phenomena “prophecies” and called some people from among them “prophets”. I don’t quite get it either, but they said these things, even while affirming the first chapter of the Westminster, which testifies to a closed canon.

    So, I am far from a charismatic, but I also have read Calvin and these “Scottish prophets” and have been perplexed as well. I, too, was shocked even to hear this open-ness to prophecy from among some of the framers of the Westminster (“Can’t they see their inconsistancy” I used to think).

    My conclusion is that God grants special and extraordinary providences at times.

    If you have a better term for it, I am willing to adopt it, but Calvin and the others called it prophecy, so I have followed suit. Not one of these reformed men ever tried to say that these phenomena were “Scripture-Quality revelation” nor did any of them argue for anything other than a closed canon.

    This explains why I am hesitant to label some men today as “charismatic” when they speak of ongoing fore-telling prophecy. Because there is a historic precedent among some of the reformed for believing this very thing, or at least being “open but cautious”.

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 4pm
  53. Trevor – Thanks. But I must say – our forefathers were wrong to use the term “prophecy” in the way they did. And just because they did so, does not mean we should continue to do so.

    Using a biblical term wrongly leads to confusion and error. Let’s use biblical terms biblically, and invent new terms, if necessary, to discribe extraordinary phenomena that are not ongoing gifts. Or else, work harder at discribing them accuratly with terms we already have. I suggest “occasional extraordinary illumination” as a possible term. Historical precedent does not justify the mis-use of biblical terms, when we know better than to do so.

    Max Doner 21 August 2010 at 8pm
  54. Dear brethren,

    My fear that present day charismatic Calvinists would influence us more than we them is realized. Ten or fifteen years ago this discussion would have ended a long time ago.

    Change has occurred. I suggest it is not good. I fear it is only the beginning. Next they will influence us concerning the moral law, Sabbath, and RPW. I am not a prophet. But simply open your eyes and read the previous posts! It’s happening!

    MW

    Mike Waters 21 August 2010 at 9pm
  55. Max,

    The Puritans seemed to use the term illumination for inward guidings of the Spirit I believe (the Spirit giving understanding of a spiritual truth). So that term seems to already be taken.

    But, I do agree with you and wish that there was a better term to use, since the Reformed prophets and prophecies never claimed to be scripture-quality revelation and all the people I quoted above in my citations to a man believed in WCF chapter 1 and a closed canon. “Extraordinary providences” ?

    Thanks for your interactions.

    Trevor Johnson 21 August 2010 at 10pm
  56. Trevor, it seems to me that much argument has been given for accepting teaching of the new calvinists/charismatics based on a handful of arguments from Puritan forefathers. We do not hold these men, Puritan thought they be, to be our standard. I would suggest that all argumentation come from the Scriptures – that is our standard. They are sufficient.

    I leave you with the words of John L. Girardeau:

    “Let us endeavor, by grace, to make this church as perfect a specimen of Scriptural truth, order and worship as the imperfections of the present state will permit. Let us take her by the hand and lead her to the Word alone. Let us pass the Reformers, let us pass the Fathers, uncovering our heads to them in token of our profound appreciation of their labors for truth, and heartily receiving from them all they speak in accordance with the Word; but let us pass on and pause not, until with our sacred charge we read the Oracles of God, and with her bow at the Master’s voice. Let obedience to the Word of Christ in all things be the law of her life, so that when the day of review shall come, and section after section of the universal church shall halt for judgment before the great Inspector Himself, although, no doubt, there will be much of unfaithfulness of life that will draw on His forgiveness, His eyes may detect no departure from His Word in her principles, her order and her worship.”

    Mike D 22 August 2010 at 6am
  57. Mike,

    We claim to be “reformed” and we cite the Reformers when it suits us…but now you reject them on this issue?

    Also, please grasp the nuances of my argument.

    I am not arguing that we become charismatic.

    I am arguing that we not lump all people who assert the continued existence of ongoing fore-telling prophecy to be “charismatic” – this is entirely too simplistic.

    As well, do not charge all advocates of “possible continued fore-telling prophecy” with denying Sola Scriptura or not fully trusting in the Word of God, for I have documented clearly that many of the reformed, including the framers/commmissioners of the Westminster Confession itself left open the possibility for the continuation of prophecy and prophets. Accuse those men, if you dare, of denying sola scriptura.

    Again, your quote insinuates that the reformers, including Calvin himself did not fully rest on the Word of God alone; for Calvin, too, left the possibility open that God might again raise up prophets.

    Trevor Johnson 22 August 2010 at 7am
  58. Trevor,

    While most men have gone on to other things (perhaps rightly), I feel constrained to add a final post in summary of what I have learned and think.

    1. We must speak in love. You are to be commended on the polite yet forthright manner you write. You are an example to us all. We are brethren, as are Piper, Grudem, etc. We must stand for truth yet speak in love.

    2. We must acknowledge our confessions (WCF/LBC) are rather clear on this matter. Special modes of revelation have ceased (those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased), yet, God is free to act as He pleases (God in his ordinary Providence maketh use of means; yet is free to work, without, above, and against them at his pleasure). This as I understand it is the confessional and Reformed view.

    3. We must teach our people of their (newer Calvinists) faults and urge them back to our forefathers who (as you have shown) had a healthy view of experience, the Spirit, the law, delight, duty, and Christ. These men had big heads, big hearts, and busy hands and feet. Not to take away from men such as Piper, I usually point people back to his mentor (Edwards).

    4. We must remember that we (old or new school), are on the same team. It is rather obvious that we differ on some things. Yet we must be willing to work through issues. This is not easy when we have strong convictions. Yet our purpose is doing so is to defend truth and not merely our own preference or opinion.

    5. We must be careful not to overly generalize things. You mentioned music. I would have you know, that this past Lord’s Day morning for example, we sang three hymns. The first was What can wash away my sins, which we sang to an acoustic guitar (it was beautiful–I wanted to raise my hands, shhh, don’t tell anybody this:). The second hymn The Power of the Cross we sang to the piano, and then we closed with singing Psalm 95 to the piano. My point? We can no longer make broad general assumptions about each other. While we will never budge on certain issues (dv), neither am I desirous to make us as odd or different as possible. I agree we can do many things better and even more successfully.

    6. We must be men of the Book. We must be willing to conform to its teaching regardless of results.

    7. We must all repent of our sins. We must confess we “know but in part.” We are great sinners. Bless God for a great Savior and salvation!

    Mike Waters

    Mike Waters 23 August 2010 at 8am
  59. Mike,

    That is about as awesome a summary as I can think of to end on.

    Thanks for your comments.

    I’d love to worship with you someday on this side of glory. My email is: oct31st1517@hotmail.com.

    Thanks for sharpening my iron.

    Trevor Johnson 23 August 2010 at 9am
  60. Trevor you post was well written and informed regarding some historical aspects of developments that occurred within Calvinism both on the continent and in the US.

    Unfortunately focusing on selective contexts of the development of Reformed theology has given most of the readers the assumption that there is amongst calvinists a monolithic character in all cases and at all times.

    The debates between Edwards and other reformed pastors at the time of the Great Awakening concerning the earliest altar calls by Calvinist congregations became the beginnings of early revivalism and resultant differing views on free will and conversion. Surprisingly many have no idea that revivalism grew out of Calvinist congregations who began to engage in practices that took different views on the exercise and ability of the will, all in some vein in the colonial years to ensure citizenship and promote a state church.

    Thanks for your thought.

    Rob 9 September 2010 at 12pm
  61. I read the article concerning Charismatic and REformed theology yoking together and the problems etc., relating to this.
    As I would like to think of myself, a normal Christian, that is, a person who wishes to just be a follower of Jesus and the entire scriptures as they are given to us, my thoughts expressed here are not going to be proposed in a manner reflective of some scholastic approach. But rather in just plain simple and hopefully bibical in content.
    Today, denoniminationalism is more to me like what Paul was condeming in Corinthians about how divided they were when some said they followed Apollos, others Peter and then the pious who followed Christ. To me it is no different. But the depraved nature and mind of fallen people even after salvation seem to thrive on this approach. Would it not be best to just always approach our biblical teachings and our church (physical aspects) under some umbrella that doesn’t emphasize a denomination? Then, having said that, we can’t put God in a box. No where in the scritpures does it state categorically that “miracles and gifts” realting to out of the ordinary matters “are no longer functional or operational” by God in this day and age. Certainly “special gifts” were given to the Apostles for their ministry at that time, but we find multitudes of gifts in individuals which brought healings, other astounding matters taking place in the life of “others” who were not Apostles, such as Stephen and Philipp. To say God “doesn’t perform miracles and give a person some type of miracle gift” is not spoken of anywhere. He is in charge of the gifts and He decides when and where those are dispersed. They may not be prevelant today in our circles but that doesn’t mean God is hampered or not going to do such things again. In fact, He will as we see in Revelation. Also, there are places around the world now that special miracle workings are taking place to promote the glory of God and His message of salvation. Testimonies are out there about this for all to read.
    I certainly do not agree with heresies that exist in the Pentecostal and Charistmatic movement on many Biblical Doctrinal issues. But just because those groups abused the teachings on gifts and miracles doesn’t mean we Reformed folks should “toss out the teachings of Christ” on this matter. If God wishes to He can give the gift of languages to a person. If He wants to He can give the gift of healing to a person whereby through their prayers a person is healed of an infirmity. To say God CAN’T do this today is not true and no verse states such! Implications and “reading into” the scriptures produces such ideas! I would like to have someone who is true to context and true to Greek and English state me “one” verse where it says God cannot and will not do any more special miracles today and will not give a person a gift in these areas. You can’t find it because it doesn’t exist! Following denominational traditions and writers opinions is what usually takes place. To break free from that is very hard and will of course cause a person to lose their positions and their fellowship usually. Should not happen but it does!
    These are my observations and understandings of these issues briefly. I know it will not change anything but I do have great difficulty reading and listening to men and women who say things that are JUST NOT in the scriptures and even go to such an extent to say they are “implied” when they are not! Twisting the word is easy when you wish to keep things “in a comfortable” position to fit one’s theology and statement of faith! We just need to be more honest and more open about God and His word. Just because we don’t see something taking place doesn’t imply at all God is never going to allow this again or will not do it again. He can do what He wants to do when He wants to do it without asking the denominational headquarters of a group permission or any other preacher permission. It is time we quit misrepresenting God for He will bring us all into His presence and we will give an account for any misrpresentations.

    Lamar 30 March 2011 at 9am
  62. Lamar,

    Let me offer some responses to your comments:

    1. Are we not all just “normal Christians” who desire to follow the Lord and be obedient to his Scriptures?

    2. Being a “normal Christian” who just wants to follow the Scriptures does not mean that we abandon the distinctions of denominations on this side of the kingdom. My “simple” interpretation of the Scriptures does not lead me to believe that Paul’s denunciation of the party spirit in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1) is related to conscientious differences in faith and practice among believers in particular churches who clearly name (denominate) their confessional commitments. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, Paul offers this counsel to believers regarding differences over the Lord’s Supper: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (NKJV).

    3. The kind of non-denominationalism (really “anti-denominationalism”) your promote was espoused by Alexander Campbell and the “Christian” churches (which are a denomination sine nomine) and led to various errant practices (i.e., denial of confessions that clearly state how one interprets Scripture, belief in baptismal regeneration, easy-believism). Let’s learn from the past.

    4. You imply that the Bible teaches that various individuals exercised miraculous gifts, outside the apostles, and list Philip and Stephen as examples. Both Philip and Stephen, however, were church officers (among the seven set aside to serve the widows’ table in Acts 6). Can you find an example in the NT of someone who is not an apostle or apostolic associate with miraculous gifts?

    5. You claim that no one can produce specific passages that refute the continuation of extraordinary gifts. Most sound Biblical arguments, however, are not based on isolated prooftexts but on what Paul calls “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Has not the Lord given pastors and teachers to the church to teach and interpret the Bible? With regard to cessationism, is there not a precedent in the Scriptures for the Lord removing direct revelation to his people and creating “blackout periods” (see 1 Samuel 3:1: “And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation”; Micah 3:7: “For there is no answer from the LORD.”). Was there not such a period from the end of the time when the OT was written and before John the Baptist began his public ministry? Are we not now in a similar time? What specific passages would I cite? Here are some: Mark 16:20 (the ministry of the apostles confirmed and accompanied by “signs”); Acts 5:12 (signs and wonders done “through the hands of the apostles”); 2 Corinthians 12:12 (Paul notes the specific “signs of an apostle”); Ephesians 4:11 (there are offices like apostle and prophet that cease [cf. Acts 1:21-26 for the apostolic qualifications], so we might assume that there are also gifts [associated with these apostles] that cease). Do these not constitute a credible witness against continuationism?

    6. We do not base our doctrine or practice on “testimonies” of contemporary extraordinary experience but on the warrant of the Word of God. Those reports can be false, corrupted, or deceptive.

    7. To uphold the Bible’s teaching regarding the cessation of extraordinary offices and gifts among men in no way implies that God is limited or that he does not choose miraculously and providentially to intervene in the natural order as he pleases.

    8. To uphold the cessation of the apostolic office and the extraordinary gifts associated with it is in no way “to toss out the teachings of Christ” but to uphold them. It is not to “twist the word” but rightly to divide the Word of God. It is not “misrepresentation” but faithful interpretation.

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A Brief Statement on Divine Impassibility

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on January 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm

1689 Chapter 2

 

A standard definition of the doctrine of divine impassibility (DDI) asserts that God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by his relationship to creation. He is not changed from within or without; he remains unchanged and unchanging both prior to and subsequent to creation. The doctrine of divine impassibility is generally treated under the doctrine of immutability in the standard books on systematic theology. Immutability means that God is without change. The Scripture is clear on the doctrine of immutability (see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17) and the logic regarding impassibility should be clear: if God is unchangeable, then He is impassible. If God did in fact experience inner emotional changes, He would be mutable. To suggest otherwise would be to affirm that God was less than perfect to begin with: if He changes it is either for the better or for the worse, neither of which is consistent with the biblical data concerning God.

What the Doctrine Does Not Mean

The doctrine of divine impassibility does not mean that God is without affections. The Bible is clear: God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). The Bible consistently teaches that God does relate to His creatures in terms of love, goodness, mercy, kindness, justice and wrath. An affirmation of divine impassibility does not mean a denial of true affections in God. However, these descriptions of God’s character are not to be understood as changing or fluctuating things. For example, the 2 London Confession of Faith of 1677/1689 affirms impassibility (God is “without passions”) and then goes on to describe God as “most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute…most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth…” The affirmation of impassibility does not result in removing affections from God; rather, the affirmation of impassibility upholds the fact that God is most loving because He cannot decrease nor increase; He is love! The doctrine of divine impassibility actually stresses the absolute-ness of affections in God.

Objections to the Doctrine

Some modern authors have challenged the classical doctrine of impassibility. While there are several reasons for this, two of the most persuasive ones seem to be (1) the biblical descriptions of change occurring in God and (2) the fact that Jesus Christ suffered.

In the first place, when Scripture speaks of change occurring in God, these passages do not describe actual inner emotional changes in God, but rather these passages are a means whereby God communicates “in the manner of men” so that He can effectively reveal His unchanging character to man. For instance, when Scripture speaks of God “repenting” (Genesis 6:6; Judges 2:18; 10:16; etc.), these are called anthropopathic statements. An anthropopathism is when the biblical author ascribes human emotion to God. While this may be a new word to many, most Christians are familiar with the word anthropomorphism. An anthropomorphism is used by the biblical authors when they ascribe human characteristics to God; i.e. when the Scripture says God has eyes, or a mighty right arm, or that He comes down to dwell on Mount Sinai (2 Chronicles 16:9; Isaiah 62:8; Exodus 19:20). Such descriptions are accommodations to man that are designed to communicate certain truths to man. In the same way, anthropopathisms are not descriptions of actual change in God, but are a means to communicate something concerning the character of the infinite God to man in language designed to be comprehended by man who is limited by his finite capacities.

Secondly, the sufferings that Jesus Christ went through were real. He was despised and rejected by men, He was betrayed by Judas, delivered into the hands of the Romans, and at the request of the unbelieving Jews, He was crucified. It is important to remember that Jesus Christ was unique: He is one glorious Person with two natures, human and divine. Christianity from the New Testament period on always predicated the suffering of Christ to His human nature. In other words, Christ as God did not suffer and die, but Christ as Man. There are not two Christs, but one Christ who has two natures. To confine the suffering and death of Christ to His humanity protects divine impassibility. Conversely, impassibility protects from the notion of a God who suffers and dies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is much more that can be said. The goal with this post is simply to provide a basic definition, explanation, and to highlight why the doctrine is essential. It is crucial to understand that it is the doctrine of impassibility that secures God’s relational character to His creatures; it alone provides the foundation for the confession’s declaration that God is “most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute…most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth…”

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To Lent or reLent? Some thoughts on a recent post at The Gospel Coalition

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm

 Ash-Wednesday

Recently, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) site posted a blog entry entitled – “Lent Is About Jesus: A Free Devotional Guide.” No, I did not make that up. You can read the whole thing here. As I read the post and thought about it a bit, I concluded I would like to respond to it. So, as many of you do on various blogs, I sent a comment to that post. Before sending the comment, however, I sent copies of my response to a few friends, just to make sure I was responding correctly and clearly. They encouraged me to post my thoughts. Here is (below) what I sent to TGC’s site, which is still awaiting moderation, even though there has been at least one comment posted after I sent mine, I received notice of that post via email, and there were, at one point this afternoon, 25 comments and now there are only 24, as of 2:41pm Pacific time. I hope that changes, but in case it does not (which will not be the first time my comments at TGC have been deleted, if, in fact, that is the case), here it is.

>>>>>>>>>>

This is not helpful to me as an individual or, especially, as a pastor. It creates more work for me.

Though there are many, many problems I have with this post, I will share but two.

First, moralizing John’s preparatory ministry is terrible–hermeneutically, theologically, and practically. Your post says:

“At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, John announced his coming in fulfillment of Isaiah 40: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This is the cry of Lent: Prepare the way of the Lord! Make room for him in your thoughts and activities and affections.”

This goes against, for example, what Dr. Carson’s Commentary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament advocates (and I think rightly). The Gospels narrate these kinds of things for us because they are telling us what happened in fulfillment of the OT and in relation to John the Baptist and the incarnation and ministry (i.e., His sufferings and glory) of Christ. Drawing these kinds of “practical” applications from these types of texts is simply wrong. The Epistles are God’s theological commentary upon and ecclesiastical applications of some of the events depicted for us in the Gospels. Nowhere do we see John’s preparatory ministry interpreted and applied as your post does in the Epistles (or anywhere else in the Bible). The fact of the matter is this: The way has already been prepared for the Lord by John and in fulfillment of God’s Word via Isaiah. We don’t “Prepare the way of the Lord!” John already did that. We can certainly gain confidence in the veracity of the Word of God due to this and connect the dots between the OT, John, and Jesus; but to tell people “Make room for him in your thoughts and activities and affections” based on John’s preparatory ministry is, at best, naive and at worst, a moralizing/allegorizing of a text that ends up creating new laws for God’s people–laws invented by man. “God alone is Lord of the conscience.”

Second, the following words are very troubling to me:

“The practice of giving something up for Lent is a way of entering into the wilderness with Jesus. Don’t worry about whether your sacrifice is a good one. It’s not a contest. Just make your aim to know Christ more fully, and trust him to lead you.”

“…entering into the wilderness with Jesus”? What does that mean and where has God revealed that it is His will for us to enter such? The fact is that Christ already entered the wilderness for us and won! This statement betrays a hermeneutic that is too horizontal, allegorizing, and misses the point of Christ’s wilderness experience. He was driven there to be tempted as our representative and win; unlike Adam in the garden and Israel in the wilderness, Jesus does not give-in to the devil.

TGC brothers, this post makes more work for local church pastors. It is destructive. It erodes confidence in those involved with TGC. Recently a Mark Driscoll interview was posted on TGC blog where he gave somewhat of a “pass” to Joel Osteen. Check this out by Mark Dever. This is what we need from TGC; a clear sound for truth and against error.

I hope you will consider these things in the spirit they are intended. I think this post should be deleted and a humble apology posted in its place.

>>>>>>>>>>

Richard Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Paldmale, CA
www.grbcav.org
.

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▶ 39 Responses
  1. I wish TGC had more Gospel and less Coalition.

    Jesse Light 14 February 2013 at 6pm
  2. Well said, Pastor Barcellos. You hit the nail on the head as did Dr. Trueman on the Reformation 21 blog. Since there was a reformation, why the move back to Catholicism among many? I think it is because their is not enough gospel in their message, and God made it such that a vacuum must be filled.

    Steve Marquedant 14 February 2013 at 7pm
  3. […] of your convictions.   And I believe Richard Barcellos has some good things to say over at the website of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship concerning how the issue has recently arisen under the auspices […]

    What I Read Online – 02/15/2013 (a.m.) | Emeth Aletheia 14 February 2013 at 7pm
  4. Excellent, Rich. Exegetical points that go straight to the heart of why Lent is not just optional, but dangerous and misleading.

    Tom Chantry 14 February 2013 at 7pm
  5. Reblogged this on The Lighthearted Calvinist and commented:
    Rich Barcellos gives food for thought here – good food.

    Jeff Peterson 14 February 2013 at 7pm
  6. […] blog, some of my concerns were posted by the moderators of that site. You can read the post here. Also, Carl R. Trueman provides brief comment on the same issue […]

    The Gospel Coalition and Lent? : 14 February 2013 at 8pm
  7. Solid Rich, how true it is that it gives local church pastors more work ! TGC need to respond too.

    Robert Briggs 14 February 2013 at 8pm
  8. Robert, I hope they do respond with a simple “We apologize for posting confusing information about Lent. It will not happen again. My God give us wisdom.” I hope we do not get a post explaining things that qualifies and nuances things to death.

    richbarcellos 14 February 2013 at 9pm
  9. Really good stuff. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    Joe 14 February 2013 at 10pm
  10. my comment was approved for a while but not up now :-(

    richbarcellos 14 February 2013 at 11pm
  11. A link to your response (i.e. here) is now in the comments section of the article on TGC

    Keith Giles 15 February 2013 at 4am
  12. Wise words, brother Barcellos! Isn’t it interesting that a group who’s name puts forth the gospel as central is willing to replace it with tradition and misguided pietistic practices based upon faulty hermenutics. Thanks.

    Douglas VanderMeulen 15 February 2013 at 8am
  13. […] Earlier this week Pastor Richard Barcellos entered Matt Smethurst’s comment thread and thoughtfully engaged the issue.  Now in case you didn’t realize it you ought to know: TGC doesn’t do thoughtful engagement.  They’re fine with critics who rant and rave and can be easily dismissed, but they hesitate to approve comments which involve serious critique.  Rich’s comments predictably disappeared, but he helpfully reposted at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship.  […]

    chantrynotes 15 February 2013 at 8am
  14. […] some go further: one pastor called the post “destructive” and suggested that TGC should offer an apology for it. His complaints, at least the ones that he […]

    On Evangelicals Practicing Lent — Evangelical Outpost 15 February 2013 at 9am
  15. My comment, copied below, did not wait for moderation. Perhaps they are only moderated if they exceed a certain length?

    Comment:

    I believe the allegorical and ahistorical treatment of scripture here undermines the gospel and shows, once again, why the Puritans, and evangelicals who share their gospel-driven aspirations, generally don’t embrace Lent.

    The author writes that Lent “prepares the way for the Lord” just as John the Baptist did. But that implies that the Lord hasn’t come already and finished His work; or, at least, that He has to keep on coming, every year, through the liturgical calendar, to keep working on the salvation he hasn’t finished yet.

    Further, it implies that some seasons and days are more holy than others and sanctification is attained during those few sacred times. This is contrary to the gospel-created reality that all of our lives are to be holy to the Lord.

    Why not this Lenten season, seminary students, pastors, devout Christians of all kinds, think deeply about what Christ has earned once and for all in the cross and, so, give up Lent for Lent?

    John Carpenter 15 February 2013 at 10am
  16. Bravo Rich!

    Jeffery Smith 15 February 2013 at 10am
  17. John, here is what Tom Chantry thinks: “Perhaps, but I suspect it is more sinister. The objecting comments which they tend to approve are often either terse or passionate. It is easy to set such comments aside: “Look at the absurdity of our critics!” What they consistently hide are comments like yours, which are calm, reasoned, biblical, and which demand a refutation which it would be very difficult to make.

    To put it simply, I don’t think they like the idea of having to actually defend themselves. Perhaps it’s beneath them.” http://chantrynotes.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/191/comment-page-1/#comment-150

    richbarcellos 15 February 2013 at 10am
  18. I said:
    I hope they don’t post a lecture on why it is careful , balanced, loving, and accepting to post stuff on Lent.

    to which a friend replied:
    Or how it is careful, balanced, loving, and accepting to not allow dissenting views.

    richbarcellos 15 February 2013 at 10am
  19. I am not too surprised anymore by what gets posted over at TGC. Many of my comments have remained in suspended animation for an eternity. Hummmm! BTW, I agree with Tom Chantry on most things, and now you. :)

    Mary Elizabeth Palshan 15 February 2013 at 11am
  20. For a more positive take on Lent, see this article by Mike Horton: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/02/22/thoughts-about-lent/

    Luke 15 February 2013 at 11am
  21. Thanks, Luke. I do not, however, think Dr. Horton would disagree with anything I said in the post.

    richbarcellos 15 February 2013 at 12pm
  22. I fully sympathize and agree with your response. But it does seem you are bewildered by what is common place with TGC. Not only should this alarm you but as well its repeated toleration and practice of hermeneutical, theological and practical failure on a regular basis without apology and in fact done so unabashedly and quite robustly.

    This is a failure a beginner with the Scriptures would make. You will get no acknowledgement of this. Again, it is a repeated practice by TGC. It reminds me of Russell Moore’s piece equating Mary, Joseph and our infant Lord as illegal immigrants. That poison is still happily in TGC’s drinking water.

    I dare say up to 50% but no less than 25%of their material fails at the level you identified but of course if it was pointed out regularly you would not be thanked but cursed for raining on their parade

    Thank you for demanding hermeneutical, theological and practical integrity from Teachers for the sake of what God’s sheep may eat to their injury.

    alexguggenheim 16 February 2013 at 7am
  23. I found this helpful. http://heidelblog.net/2013/02/on-good-intentions-spiritual-disciplines-and-christian-freedom/

    richbarcellos 16 February 2013 at 11am
  24. I am glad to find this. I am a Reformed Baptist in a region where we are ridiculed for being such. My Sunday school teacher was openly ridiculed in a Baptist Newspaper by a local pastor who is an “Open Theist” and most around here come from the Honky Tonk Gospel/Dispensational, Premillennial camp. I have agreed with just about everything here, and I appreciate your stand on truth. Even if it is a stand to correct and reprove a brother. Keep it up!

    Phil Brown 16 February 2013 at 1pm
  25. Richard,

    Thanks for addressing this. Whatever the “good intentions” the author of the TGC article may have had, the thesis and thrust of his article is misguided, unhelpful, and potentially harmful to the gospel.

    robertgonzalesjr 16 February 2013 at 1pm
  26. Bob, I agree. Nor is it helpful for such an influential site to allow it to stay up. I have shared my concerns with some on their council. I hope they take it down with a *brief* apology.

    richbarcellos 16 February 2013 at 2pm
  27. TGC should have an article from the historically Puritan (for lack of a better name) perspective, in opposition (or at least cautioning) of Lent, as they usually do with issues over which there is a variation of opinion among evangelicals. I was surprised and disappointed that they have put up at least two articles in support of observing Lent and none questioning it.

    However, Reformed Baptists should be can’t complain about lack of dissent at TGC. I was banned from a Reformed Baptist discussion page for daring question the “family integrated church” movement, which I believe is a subversion of the church. ARBCA requires churches to believe in cessationism, despite lack of Biblical evidence for it.

    John Carpenter 16 February 2013 at 7pm
  28. please omit “should be” from the first sentence of the second paragraph above.

    John Carpenter 17 February 2013 at 8am
  29. […] the link to the Reformed Baptist Fellowship site that features the post by Richard Barcellos.  Here is that […]

    Clear as mud? « Roblog 18 February 2013 at 1am
  30. This Reformed Presbyterian pastor thanks you so much for this very helpful post!

    Rob 18 February 2013 at 1am
  31. Lent seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year in the evangelical world. As for me, I decided to eat more bacon!
    http://danielawrencesmith.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/eating-more-bacon-for-lent/

    danielawrencesmith 18 February 2013 at 5am
  32. I was about to note that comments with links generally get tossed to the moderation bin automatically, rather than automatically appearing on the site. But it’s been 5 days now, so that is disappointing. Thanks for these concise thoughts

    brandonadams 19 February 2013 at 1pm
  33. Years ago, after Anglicanism, I gave up Lent for Lent, and see Jesus as my righteousness, rest, and law-keeper.

    Also post-Presbyterian, I am sad to see TGC embrace a popish relic (pun intended).

    Traditions such as Lent are brought in to fill up a gospel-vacuum that’s developed. If one’s faith is shakey, then traditions appeal.

    If one is looking to Christ alone, then we do good works NOT to get us closer to God, but FROM our relationsip established by him through faith alone, per Eph. 2:8-10. The Lenten tradition is to get one to God, not flowing from God.

    So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not[d] seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

    Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations —“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using— according to the commandments and doctrines of men? hese things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. {Col. 2:16-end; NKJV}

    hughmc5 19 February 2013 at 5pm
  34. Below is my reply to the GC article supporting Lent by Chuck Colson, an Anglican minister, in response to his comments to me which suggested he didn’t understand Puritanism. I tried posting it at the GC blog but it may not have been accepted:

    Hi Chuck,

    Thank you for the courtesy of a thoughtful and gracious reply. However, your answer is not well-informed and suggests, with all due respect, that you have little understanding of the evangelical movement or it’s historical roots.

    First, Puritans were Anglicans. They were the movement seeking to reform the Church of England according to the Word of God, with the gospel in the center. Gospel-centrality (although a new term) wasn’t their slogan but it was their passion.

    Second, the term “left-wing of Puritanism” refers to movements like the Quakers, who also, of course, opposed the church calendar. It does not refer simply to those who opposed the liturgical year, which would have been all (or nearly all) of Puritans.

    Third, As far as I know, all Puritans opposed the liturgical year, including Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. They had seen how it necessarily obscures or even undermines the gospel. The New England Puritans had only three “holy days”: the weekly Lord’s Day (“Sabbath”), Fsting days and Thanksgiving days, the later two were called spontaneously as Providence seemed to direct. That is, fasting days and Thanksgiving days were not scheduled into the calender but were marked as a response to circumstances. I believe it is safe to say that opposition to the liturgical year was part-and-parcel of Puritanism because they understood that to be Catholic tradition which taught, as your article suggests, that godliness is something obtained through a cyclical events we do, rather than remembering what God has already finished.

    Finally, lacking that historical understanding of Puritanism means that likely you lack an appreciation for the gospel-centeredness of historical evangelicalism; that would account for you not understanding the core issues at stake in an attempt to re-introduce a tradition that was purposefully and thoughtfully rejected by faithful Christians in the past. That is, you simply don’t understand why observing Lent fell out of evangelicalism, likely assuming that it was by careless neglect when the truth was that there were theologically substantial reasons for doing so.

    I ask that the Gospel Coalition find someone to write an article from the historic evangelical (i.e. “Puritan”) position explaining why it was opposed by our faithful Christian forefathers and the dangers inherent in trying to re-introduce it.

    John Carpenter 20 February 2013 at 11am
  35. Dear John,

    Appreciate your comments. @ the other TGC Lenten devotion, particularly.

    Sad that you & Richard are there [even somewhat] censored.

    My being banned is entirely apropos, but you all are learned, civil, and biblical.

    On 2nd thought, maybe that’s exactly why TGC isn’t keen on your insights. Keller’s gospel is something else (which is not another).

    hughmc5 20 February 2013 at 2pm
  36. John,
    Interestingly (though tangentially), the Anglicans were among the original Reformers.
    (Dare we call them “puritans”? Maybe with a lower case “p”.)
    Having once erred in joining a modern-day Anglican church b/c of my naive and false impression that anyone there believed in the 39 Articles or Cranmer, Ridley, et. al., I have learnt the hard way.
    My point is that the early Anglicans (read Foxe & Ryle!) were pretty biblical and trying to get back – as you indicate – to Holy Writ!

    Hughuenot 20 February 2013 at 2pm
  37. Lent: A Secondary Issue Hardly Worth Arguing About

    Paul is clear in Romans 14 that there are indeed disputable, secondary matters, ones where he refused take a strong authoritarian stand, even though he believed that one side was more right. He used two examples, food and holy days. Some things are simply less important and not worth fighting about, and he allowed differences of opinion:
    “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
    For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
    Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

    Dr. Bruce 21 February 2013 at 8am
  38. Dr Bruce,

    Paul is clear in Gal. 4 & Phil. 3 & Col. 2 that there are indeed indisputable, primary matters, ones where he was Holy-Ghost-inspired to take a strong authoritarian stand, knowing that false steps lead to death.

    He used two examples: circumcision and the observance of days. Some things are simply too important to not fight about, and he allowed no “differences of opinion” when gospel freedom was at stake. :)

    Hughuenot 21 February 2013 at 6pm
  39. […] Read the Baptist perspective on the controversy by Richard Barcellos here: To Lent or reLent? […]

The post Reformed Baptist Fellowship appeared first on Reformed Baptist Fellowship.

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From One Antichrist to Another: Thoughts on The Papal Transition

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm

pope

 

A Commentary by D. Scott Meadows, Pastor

Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed) of Exeter, New Hampshire

Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI) just announced his resignation from the Papacy by the end of this month, February 2013. The process of selecting a successor has begun, with all of this garnering much attention in the news media. As a theologian and pastoral leader, my conscience constrains me to comment.

Years ago I was asked my opinion about the new Cardinal of Boston. I replied, “That’s like asking me about the new captain of a pirate ship. The whole enterprise is illegitimate.” I do not deny that these events may have momentous implications, but I strongly and solemnly protest the show of reverence and awe for such men and for this religious institution even from those who should know better.

A great champion of the biblical faith once wrote a magnificent book entitled, Christianity and Liberalism (1923). In it, J. Gresham Machen detonated an enduring and powerful blast against theological liberalism by asserting that it is not Christianity at all, but an alternative, a competing religion, and deeply anti-Christian.

The same is true of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Plainly it is not the Christianity of the New Testament’s apostles and early Christians, as those in agreement with them, and knowledgeable about Roman Catholicism, can discern and attest. At crucial points, the RCC has steadfastly opposed that faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. Historically, she has even slaughtered a great host of Christian believers unjustly branded as heretics. At least since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the RCC has formally, meticulously, and vociferously repudiated the true, biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ, pronouncing curses upon any who dare to preach it. For example, the Council proclaimed,

CANON XII. If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified: let him be anathema.[1]

That this remains the RCC’s position today is clear from the fact that it still appeals in its modern catechism (c. 2000) to Trent as an authoritative doctrinal statement and teaches in substance along the same very lines.

Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man (Council of Trent [1547]).[2]

Though it exceeds the scope of this commentary to vindicate the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from our works, let the reader remember this Scripture passage:

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3.20-24).

The important Reformed theologian Charles Hodge aptly said of this passage,

The righteousness of God which is revealed in the Gospel is to be attained by faith, not by works, not by birth, not by any external rite, not by union with any visible Church, but simply and only by believing on Christ, receiving and resting upon Him.[3]

Without a doubt the esteemed Mr. Hodge hereby consigned himself to eternal hell, if the pronouncements of the RCC are to be believed.

Today the RCC’s reputation among many Bible-believing Christians is considerably better than it was in the days of the Protestant Reformation. This change is unwarranted and dangerous. The RCC still represents the same anti-Christian apostasy that threw curses like firebrands and punished by literally burning alive and reducing to charred ash the bodies of sincere Christians eminent for their learning and piety. Her policy may have switched from mass murder to ecumenical seduction, but she still propagates infernal lies about the way of salvation. Paul’s ancient warning has applied to the RCC for many centuries now.

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth (1 Tim 4.1-3).

The RCC has a legacy of ascetic abstention from marriage and meats, the very manifestations of damnable heresies so dangerous to the true church.

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul issued a divinely-sanctioned curse that now applies to the RCC:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal 1.8-9).

For about three hundred years, Protestants consistently recognized the profound spiritual threat the RCC poses to mankind. That there was near universal agreement about this appears from the strong consensus statements of the Reformed confessions. For example, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith proclaims, as an instance of “the things most assuredly believed among us,”

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.[4]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646, Presbyterian) and the Savoy Declaration (1658, Congregational), say the same thing. In some of my other writings, I have produced a long list of quotations from Protestant church leaders over the last four centuries who evince sympathy with this strong opposition to and utter repudiation of the RCC as a true church.[5]

Now godly men today may debate whether the Papacy is to be so certainly identified as “that antichrist” specifically foretold by the Holy Spirit through Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2. Personally, I am not grieved by dissent on this particular point. Yet people of discernment, in my judgment, cannot doubt that the Papacy is at least an antichrist.

That contemptuous term “antichrist” contains a prefix capable of being correctly understood in two ways. A modern dictionary says “anti” conveys a sense of antagonism and opposition,[6] and with this we are all familiar. Some may not realize, however, that the Greek prefix can also mean “instead of.” The towering Protestant scholar Francis Turretin (1623-1687) wrote an extensive treatise in Latin, arranged under 23 topics and 4 appendixes, to prove the thesis that the Papacy is the Antichrist foretold in Scripture. Of the word itself, he wrote,

The term Antichrist implies two meanings: (1) That he is an Enemy and Rival of Christ; (2) That he is His Vicar. The definition of the prefix anti, indeed, introduces both, which, when used in conjunction with a noun, means, on the one hand, before, and on the other hand, against. It can also mean in place of, and, indeed, a substitute. . . . In this regard, the Antichrist certainly presents himself as the great adversary of Christ, in so far as he makes himself equal to Christ as a rival, while professing to hold the place of Christ on earth, as His Vicar.[7]

The RCC insists that the Pope is Christ’s “Vicar” (“from Latin vicarius substitute”[8]). Here is evidence from their recent catechism:

For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.[9]

Few Christians seem to be aware of the blasphemously honorific titles and divine prerogatives which the RCC has boasted for their Pope, including “Supreme Pontiff”[10] (i.e., Bridge, Mediator between God and man; cf. 1 Tim 2.5), “Lord and God,”[11] and these idolatrous assertions:

Since the Pope is God, therefore he cannot either be bound or loosed by men.[12]

From this it appears that the Pope is above Scripture, councils, princes, and all powers upon earth, upon the account of his divinity.[13]

Because he presents himself as Christ’s representative, any particular Pope represents a much greater threat of seduction to professing Christians than, for example, the Dalai Lama, the chief lama of the dominant Tibetan Buddhist order, since he makes no pretense of being a Christian.

So, it seems we are on the verge of a transition from one Pope to another, and therefore, from one antichrist to another. Am I to be blamed if I show no preference for any of Satan’s minions? God helping me, I will not recant, even before the threat of martyrdom. I am praying for the complete demise of this Satanic kingdom. Let all Christ’s loyal followers rally with me! In our generation more than ever, fearless protest may distinguish those of sound understanding and deep conviction from the naïve and cowardly. May the Lord come quickly and destroy His Enemy (2 Thess 2.8). Amen.


[1] Schaff, P. (1890), The Creeds of Christendom, II.113.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (2000), #1989.

[3] Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, in loc.

[4] 1689 LBCF XXVI.4.

[5] When Protestants Protested (2005), my introductory work; The Papal Antichrist—A Call to Recognition and Opposition (2006), a more complete treatment. Online at http://ibrnb.com/articles2/?p=15 and http://ibrnb.com/articles2/?p=38.

[6] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Sixth Edition (2007), in loc.

[7] Francis Turretin’s Seventh Disputation, Whether It Can Be Proven that the Pope of Rome Is the Antichrist.

[8] SOED, in loc.

[9] CCC, #882.

[10] CCC, #837.

[11] Primary source: Decretales Gregorii IX., Tit. 7, cited by J. A. Wylie in The Papacy Is the Antichrist (1888), p. 45.

[12] Primary source: Vide Text. Decret., dist. xcvi. cap. 7, cited by Henry Wilkinson in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, VI.1.

[13] Primary source: Canon law set forth by Gregory XIII in 1591 A.D., also cited by Wilkinson.

 

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▶ 30 Responses
  1. Very well said and I am in full and complete agreement. In my opinion too many Christians, even those who at least ought to know better, give honor where honor is certainly not due. While I do not believe that the Pope is THE AntiChrist as such I do believe that all Popes and the Papacy are clear forerunners of the ultimate AntiChrist spoken of in the Word and I for one refuse to recognize either the Roman Catholic Church or the Papacy as Christian in any sense of the word. While there may be individual Catholics who are truly regenerate it would be in spite of their religion and not because of it.

    Mike 15 February 2013 at 8am
  2. Mr. Spurgeon on this subject (from MTP #717):

    It is the bounden duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is, no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not Popery in the Church of Rome, there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. If there were to be issued a hue and cry for Antichrist, we should certainly take up this Church on suspicion, and it would certainly not be let loose again, for it so exactly answers the description.

    D. Scott Meadows 15 February 2013 at 1pm
  3. thanks, DSM!

    richbarcellos 15 February 2013 at 2pm
  4. As an ex roman catholic, I could not agree more with your assessment and analysis. Well said! May God deliver multitudes more of His elect from this idolatrous and blasphemous cult!

    Pastor Max Doner 15 February 2013 at 2pm
  5. Reblogged this on Thinking allowed and commented:
    Worth a read. This is well thought out, and expresses the concerns we have about Roman Catholic doctrine, and it’s implications.

    Jedi Rev 15 February 2013 at 7pm
  6. “Far more serious still is the division between the Church of Rome and evangelical Protestantism in all its forms. Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today! We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.”

    (from Christianity and Liberalism)

    JM 17 February 2013 at 8pm
  7. Thank, JM, for bringing to our attention this relevant paragraph from Machen. I have a couple thoughts in response.

    1) My appeal to Machen’s book was intended as an illustration of my attitude about the RCC, not Machen’s, and so, it stands intact as perfectly true. I still do not regard the RCC as “a legitimate enterprise,” or a true Church of Jesus Christ, at least not since the Council of Trent. Indispensable marks of the true Church include confession of Jesus Christ as sole Head of the church and an adherence to the true Gospel. The RCC fails on both counts.

    2) Machen’s paragraph must be appreciated and interpreted in its historical and ecclesiastical context. In “Christianity and Liberalism,” he was inveighing against theological liberalism, not Rome. That very well may have been because he saw liberalism as the chief spiritual and theological threat invading the Protestant churches and their institutions, for it was making frightful progress. The Protestant stance against Roman Catholicism was centuries-old, but in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, theological liberalism was largely being embraced, even within Machen’s own denomination at the time. Today we can see that the mainline Protestant denominations have generally fallen to theological liberalism. Twentieth-century “fundamentalists” (I consider Machen in a class by himself), instead of prolonging attempts of reformation from within, separated themselves and formed separate denominations and schools (e.g., the OPC, Westminster Theological Seminary). But I digress.

    In this above-cited paragraph, Machen was stressing the badness of theological liberalism, not the goodness of the RCC. To make it seem otherwise is to stand this paragraph on its head. Surely I agree with Machen that in comparison to theological liberalism, traditional RCC has some important things to commend it. He specifies what he appreciates: “maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds.” Traditional RCC doctrine includes a high view of Scripture (verbal, plenary inspiration) and the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, for example. Of course Machen was right about this.

    However, Machen expressed concern that theological liberalism is dangerous precisely because it opens the door to Roman Catholicism. Here are Machen’s own words: “As long as the Protestant churches go on giving up that great idea [the necessity of authority in religion] they will open themselves up to Roman Catholic attack” (Stonehouse biography, published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987, p. 231). Furthermore, Machen wrote, “If the Catholics would only make use of the rich heritage of their Creed! But there is just the trouble. They don’t seem to feel that the individual must see any importance in the incarnation and in the atonement; these things must be accepted simply because the Church commands it; any other doctrines would do just as well if submission were exhibited by the acceptance of them” (ibid., pp. 231-32). And of course this is an error of spiritually-fatal consequence. Naturally, the most convincing Satanic delusion must keep up a semblance of Christianity.

    So when directing his comments specifically toward the RCC, Machen made his position perfectly clear. “I am a Protestant of the most uncompromising sort,” he wrote (ibid., p. 280). Amen, Mr. Machen! I am with you, and I wish all professing Christians would join us in defending the true Gospel against the RCC.

    The very fact that Machen chose to compare theological liberalism unfavorably to Roman Catholicism was meant to make the point that theological liberalism is exceedingly bad indeed. It is an argument from the lesser to the greater along these lines: “If we must, as Protestants, register an elaborate, historic, doctrinal protest against the erroneous teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, sealing it with the blood of our Protestant martyrs, how much more ought we Protestants to testify as one against the monstrous apostasy represented in the anti-supernatural, creed-rejecting assault on the truth represented by theological liberalism!”

    To quote that paragraph out context, as has been done, is to risk giving a very false impression of Machen’s attitude about the RCC. He was a conscientious subscriber to the Westminster Confession of Faith which, like the 1689 LBCF, is implicitly anti-RCC almost from beginning to end. I presume that he subscribed to WCF XXV.6 about the Papal Antichrist, unless and until someone can show me where he dissented from it. I believe Machen would have appreciated the main point my posted commentary was intended to make: We must be Protestants of the most uncompromising sort!

    D. Scott Meadows 18 February 2013 at 10am
  8. I just discovered the 1789 American revision of the WCF removed explicit identification of the Papacy as the Antichrist. This leaves Machen’s position on this narrow question unknown to me. It does not alter his professed uncompromising Protestantism.

    D. Scott Meadows 18 February 2013 at 2pm
  9. Hello Pastor Meadows,

    My parents have visited your church in Exeter a few times when visiting us in Manchester. I am their formerly Reformed Baptist, now Roman Catholic daughter.

    First of all, I just want to say that your representations of Catholics are often incomplete or outright lies. I don’t know if these are your mistakes/lies or if they have been fed to you by others, but thought I could help you out a little.

    Some of the most “damning” proofs you have against the Church happen not to be from the Catholic Catechism or the Council of Trent, but from anti-Catholic sources who have every interest in smearing the Church. Do these sources give more information about where they find these statements? Granted, I have only been a Catholic for 6 years, but I have certainty that we do not consider the pope a god, nor would we refer to him as “Lord & God” as you suggest. I realize that this is most probably based on some other person’s deceptions that you suggest this, but maybe you could have researched if Catholics actually believe this before asserting it?

    Beyond that, a thorough reading of the council of Trent will reveal that the condemnations are for those who teach justification by Faith Alone (yes, i realize that this is what you already said, but consider this: “sola fide,” coined by M. Luther? Battle cry of the reformation? Denied in James 2:24-26 where it is specifically said, “…by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” And, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” No wonder Luther would have preferred to remove the book of James from the Word of God since it showed “faith alone” to be clearly unbiblical.) and nowhere asserts that Salvation is based on man’s merits apart from God’s grace. You may be surprised to find how much the Catholic position of Salvation by Grace Alone aligns with yours. While I don’t know if they would put it in those terms, you will see by reading Trent or the CCC, that any “merits” we have before God are only possible through His Grace who works in us “to will & to do.”

    I do want to give you congratulations on actually going to the church documents in some cases. Most RBs I know will not even go that far, but instead quote known sensationalists like Jack Chick tracts or Lorraine Boettner’s work as their “primary sources”.

    If you have the Catechism of the Catholic Church on hand, I highly recommend you read the sections (1987-2029) on Justification & Grace before you dismiss the church as unChristian or lead those who respect your opinions to do the same. At the very least, for intellectual honesty’s sake. If you don’t possess a copy you can look here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P6Y.HTM

    I haven’t responded to most of what you say about our Pope because I think most of the poison of it comes from the perception of the Catholic Church as ascribing to some Pelagian heresy. But if you will do the charitable thing and look at what the Catholic Church actually believes, I think you may be more hesitant to call the Church a Satanic one, or her leaders an anti-Christ.

    As for the many martyrs, I agree that there is no excuse for this. They were different times, and in many cases the Catholic Church was considered a state religion. Religious disobedience may have also been seen as civil disobedience? Perhaps even enemies of state were allowed to be persecuted as if they were heretics, though their murders were largely politically motivated and carried out. And the mass murders were not one-sided. Protestants murdered their own fair share of Catholics in the name of religion (though again, I wonder if there were more political motivations). Still, Protestant hands are also not bloodless. It is no excuse. It should not have happened.

    As I’m sure you well know, we hold the Pope in high reverence (not worship) & great respect because he is the successor of St. Peter. Jesus said to Peter: “you are Rock (kepha), and upon this rock (kepha) I will build my church.”

    You also mention that the Catholic Church resembles nothing of the biblical church or the church of the early fathers. Have you read them? St. Justin the Martyr describes the mass almost exactly as it is celebrated today. And he was writing a mere 120 years (possibly only 2-3 generations) removed from Christ and the apostolic church. I can’t imagine someone reading that does not recognize the Catholic Church unless he is completely ignorant of the Catholic Church. And such a person would have no ability to speak authoritatively about what the Catholic Church is, believes, or teaches.

    Of course I would live to talk more about these things. And perhaps produce a greater understanding of our similarities and differences.

    eidolons 18 February 2013 at 4pm
  10. Hello “eidolons.” With all respect and compassion toward you, I offer this reply to your interesting comments.

    Of course my 1760-word commentary is “incomplete” as charged. Volumes upon volumes could be filled with the false doctrines, unscriptural practices, and egregious crimes of the RCC—and many such volumes are readily available. Lately I read R. C. Sproul’s new book available from Ligonier Ministries, “Are We Together?” I can recommend it warmly. This world-class Protestant scholar and man of God carefully and respectfully sets forth why true evangelicals cannot regard the Roman Catholic Church favorably.

    http://www.ligonier.org/store/are-we-together-hardcover/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=are%20we%20together%20sproul&utm_content=%21acq%21v2%21s-b-14525216184-1274463024&utm_campaign=Product+-+US+Only+-+Biz&gclid=CNOEuZ7kwrUCFYqk4Aodf3QALg

    You charge me with “outright lies,” I presume, with respect to this public commentary under discussion. Can you demonstrate these in this public forum? What particular statements are fairly so characterized, and what is the evidence against them? Your assertion is not proof. I will be in your debt if you can show me that I need to withdraw with apology any of my statements because they are wrong on the facts. If you simply have a different point of view, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree.

    Some of the damning proofs I adduce are from the Council of Trent and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (2000). Why do you brush these aside? If I were a prosecuting attorney and presented three iron-clad proofs of a murderer’s guilt, would you as a juror vote “not guilty” because only two of them were certain in your judgment?

    The secondary sources I have cited could be wrong, but it appears that you are merely presuming their unreliability from your prejudice against my position. Would you please demonstrate publicly that these sources which you malign are not credible?

    I made no claim that you or any modern Roman Catholics even know of the historic, blasphemous claims which I cited, much less that you would agree with them. But they are a matter of historical record, and they are horrid examples of the kind of pope-worship which continues to this very day. On the whole, I find that most lay Catholics know considerably less than I do about their own “church.” One of the tasks Protestant ministers must sometimes engage is teaching the RCC’s errors to Roman Catholics for the sake of exposing these errors by the light of Scripture. God has ordained that our contentions with false teachers for the true faith will sharpen our clearer understanding of biblical truth and provide a forum for the manifestation of those who are true to the Word.

    It is common knowledge, and you cannot dispute this, that the Pope is still often called “The Holy Father” by Roman Catholics, and he readily accepts this attribution. For example,

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/9868298/Pope-Benedict-XVI-has-left-us-with-a-great-legacy-on-which-to-build.html

    The phrase “Holy Father” is used only once in Holy Scripture (John 17.11), and there Jesus used it in prayer to His Father in heaven. Only God may be reverently called “The Holy Father.” The RCC is impenitent regarding this blasphemous ascription to the Pope, despite Jesus’ clear prohibition:

    “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt 23.9).

    The biblical context of this saying is a very solemn warning against slavish submission to religious leaders (Pharisees back then, surely applicable to “Popes” today), as if they had power over our consciences, or were infallible, or had some inherent superiority to any of the “brethren,” all of whom are on the level in Christ (Matt 23.1 ff.). Then Christ went on to excoriate these religious hypocrites (Matt 23.9 ff.) who were lording it over God’s heritage—a sin condemned by Peter himself (1 Pet 5.3). Peter’s true successors do not parade about in gorgeous robes, dwell in palaces, and deign to let the little people kiss the bejeweled hand! The shameful cadre of “popes” through the centuries is not credible in its claims of “apostolic succession.”

    You recommended that I read CCC #1987-2029 on “Grace and Justification,” as if I have not read it. I have read, reread, and read again this section long before I wrote this commentary. I have been studying the RCC for decades from primary source materials—not only Trent and modern catechisms but also the very informative “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Dr. Ludwig Ott, which is:

    Recognized as the greatest summary of Catholic dogma ever put between two covers. A one-volume encyclopedia of Catholic doctrines. Tells exactly what the Church teaches on any particular topic. Tells when the pronouncement was made and gives the sources from Scripture, Church Councils, Papal statements and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Essential for priests, seminarians, parents and teachers. Easily one of our most important books.

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma

    Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma

    Buy from Amazon

    From these decades of my research and accumulated theological knowledge, I know that I know what the RCC believes in the main and in not a few details, and that it often stands squarely opposed to the biblical doctrine. I can also testify to having read through the entire Bible dozens of times, cover to cover, as every pastor should be able to say. I have taught through every one of its 1189 chapters one at a time to the congregation here at Exeter, outlining every single chapter for my Bible survey course. Readers may judge for themselves if I am a novice in these things, as you suggest. I assure you it is not my custom to comment publicly about things of which I am ignorant.

    Let me recommend to readers the excellent ministry of my friend Richard Bennett, a former Roman Catholic priest for over 20 years, and now a Reformed Baptist apologist and evangelist reaching out to Roman Catholics around the world:

    The Berean Beacon
    http://www.bereanbeacon.org/

    Richard’s testimony of true conversion to Christ
    http://www.bereanbeacon.org/testimonies/Former_Priests/Richard_Bennett.pdf

    Richard is more knowledgeable and more experienced than I in exposing the errors of the RCC and leading Roman Catholics to embrace Christ alone as Savior by grace alone through faith alone. I thank God for this dear brother, whom I regard as the greatest living expert on these matters.

    Of course it is not surprising that you, a confessed Roman Catholic, would not appreciate my exposure of its manifold evils. Perhaps my speaking the truth in love, both in the original post and in this reply to you, will become a means of your recovery from serious error, and from this infernal foe

    whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thess 2.9-10).

    In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, I pray with all love and zeal for your soul and for all the precious Roman Catholic people, that they may be saved. Amen.

    D. Scott Meadows 19 February 2013 at 12pm
  11. […] Read on. […]

    Papal transitions: from one antichrist to another « Strengthened by Grace 20 February 2013 at 2pm
  12. Pastor Meadows,

    I took the time to comment on your post because you are making quite a strong and serious claim about the Catholic Church – That the Church itself recommends pope-worship which in turn makes him (if not THE Anti-Christ) an anti-Christ. You admit of this being a serious enough claim to make it somehow permissible to label the Church Satanic.

    My point is, if pope-worship is what Catholics are guilty of, then indeed that is a serious problem, but you have not actually proven this. You said:

    “The secondary sources I have cited could be wrong, but it appears that you are merely presuming their unreliability from your prejudice against my position. Would you please demonstrate publicly that these sources which you malign are not credible?”

    I am not merely presuming them wrong. That type of “evidence” only amounts to hear-say. If I were writing a research paper, a professor would throw out my claims because I did not provide primary sources. If you’re going to insist that Catholics worship the Pope, you will need to have some record or document demonstrating Catholics actually calling the Pope “Lord and God” or teaching that he is some kind of god. I can venture to say with confidence that you will not find it. Of course a puritan sermon is not a reliable primary source on Catholic doctrine! It doesn’t convince me if a whole crowd of reformers throughout history have claimed something if they can’t provide proof. And if you are trying to be honest with your research, it shouldn’t convince you either. The burden of proof always lies with the one making the claim. Here you or the Puritans before you are claiming that the Catholic Church worships the Pope without backing it up with Primary Sources.

    So you ask where you were telling something untrue (And please note that I did not assume any kind of intentional deception on your part. I fully realize that there have been multiple deceptions that reformers have propagated about the Catholic Church without proof and have been taken at their word by their followers. The only thing I would fault you for is not taking the extra step to find that Primary source before making your own accusations.) The untrue accusation: that the Pope is seen as a god or in the place of God.

    Simply calling him Holy Father does not show that we regard him as a god. In fact, in RCIA it was stressed that Pope’s are office-holders, but hardly exempt from sin or error. We treat them with great respect because they are the head of the visible church on earth, but he is still subservient to the Supreme Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.
    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/call-no-man-father
    http://www.scripturecatholic.com/the_priesthood.html

    You also mention that the word Vicar means substitute and lead the reader to believe that we substitute the Pope in place of God. However, the word Vicar connotes more of a meaning of substitute or agent – as in an ecclesiastical agent – therefore an AGENT of Christ, not a Substitute FOR Christ.

    In the end, you are probably right. We will have to agree to disagree. But if you’re putting serious claims like this out there on the internet and can’t substantiate your claims, I just may pop up from time to time to point it out.

    And thanks for the Richard Bennett information. I forgot about him, but I’ll definitely check him out.

    eidolons 20 February 2013 at 4pm
  13. Here is a summary breakdown of what I actually did assert in my original article:

    1) The RCC is illegitimate (paras. 1-2). This is a statement of my opinion.

    2) The RCC is anti-Christian (paras. 3-4a). This is my personal judgment of which I would persuade many.

    3) The RCC opposes the biblical teaching on justification (paras. 4b-12). This is the historic, Protestant position. I provided authoritative primary references of Rome’s errors (Council of Trent, The Catechism of the Catholic Church), along with Scripture (Rom 3.20-24) and Protestant commentary (Hodge) for the reader’s consideration. The contention over sola fide is real and well-documented. The Protestant Reformation was not just a big misunderstanding by Protestants whose beliefs were really the same in substance as the RCC after all.

    4) The RCC has martyred saints and taught doctrines of demons (paras. 13-15). I cite 1 Tim 4.1-3. The RCC has acknowledged its historic bloodiness, so there’s no debate about that. The RCC advocacy of celibacy and dietary restrictions for religious reasons is public knowledge, and it is humiliating in the light of this Scripture text.

    5) The biblical curse that applies to the RCC (paras. 16-17). I cite Gal 1.8-9. If the reader agrees with #3 above, then this (#5) necessarily follows. Otherwise no agreement on #5 is expected.

    6) The historic antipathy of Protestants to the RCC (paras. 18-20). I cite the 1689 LBCF XXVI.4 (and mention the WCF and the Savoy) as examples of this. Indisputably true.

    7) The Papacy is an antichrist or the Antichrist (paras. 21-29). I cite Turretin on the meaning of the term (his lexical analysis is correct), another authoritative primary source (twice, The Catechism of the Catholic Church), and three primary (RCC) sources reported by secondary sources. You object to these last three as “hearsay.” I still think they are reliable but they are not essential to my case, and so for the sake of argument, I pass by them.

    8) Conclusion and appeal (para. 30). If I have carried a reader’s judgment in paragraphs 1-29, then he or she will probably appreciate this as well.

    Perhaps this one statement summarizes the main point of your last response, namely, that I made “the untrue accusation: that the Pope is seen as a god or in the place of God.”

    First, this was not my main point at all, which I restate in summary: the RCC does not deserve the respect commonly shown it by Bible-believing Christians, especially on display during a time of papal transition.

    Second, I never claimed that a poll of modern Roman Catholics would show that most of them would admit to seeing the Pope as a god or in the place of God. I seriously doubt that would be the case.

    Third, I also never claimed that the modern RCC would admit in such a crass way that this is her doctrine. She doesn’t. But this is, de facto, one of the inescapable implications of her overall doctrine, and those who cannot see this are spiritually blind.

    Let me make one more attempt at demonstration, this time without using the disputed quotes.

    Many of my readers will discern blasphemous impiety merely from the outrageous claim made for the Papacy in CCC #882, that “the Roman Pontiff . . . has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” What is this but a bold proclamation of his absolute sovereignty over the church? Yet the Bible unequivocally teaches that there is only one Head of the Church.

    “Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6.14-15).

    This biblical language requires us to understand that this office of sovereign Lord is unique to Jesus Christ. Absolute sovereignty, by its very nature, cannot be shared.

    Other biblical passages authoritatively declare that Christ is the only Head of the Church:

    “And [God] hath put all things under his [Christ’s] feet, and gave him [Christ] to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph 1.22).

    “Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5.23).

    The church is not a body with multiple heads, but one, and that Head is Christ alone.

    “And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col 1.18).

    Here the stated point of Christ’s unique Lordship is for His glorious preeminence over all others.

    Only our Lord Jesus Christ “has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power that he can always exercise unhindered,” but CCC #882 wickedly attributes all this to the “Roman Pontiff.” The excuse is that he is allegedly “Vicar of Christ,” and by this semantic sleight-of-hand the unique ecclesiastical prerogatives of the risen Lord Jesus, secured at the price of His own blood, are claimed for a long line of religious usurpers, supported by millions and millions of dupes.

    Accepting CCC #882 requires seeing no distinction in authority between popes and the Lord of glory. Isn’t the idolatry obvious? Even when irrefutable evidence is simply and plainly held up before your very eyes, you will not acknowledge the truth. “None so blind as those that will not see.” Grace alone enlightened me, and I pray the same blessing for you.

    D. Scott Meadows 21 February 2013 at 6pm
  14. For the record, let it be noted that eidolons, who accused my article of “outright lies,” did not name any particular statement that is fairly so characterized, and show publicly where I was wrong on the facts, despite my challenge.

    Instead, she defends the propriety of referring to the Pope as “The Holy Father,” a title in Scripture used only of God Almighty, but by Roman Catholics, as a unique title for the Pope. I thank her for this public confirmation of my allegations of modern Roman Catholic sacrilege, even while I pray God will forgive her.

    Researching ancient primary source materials today, I discovered this interesting evidence for repeated appearance of the phrase, “Dominum Deum Nostrum Papam” (trans. “Our Lord God the Pope”) documented in historic Roman Catholic publications. The website is replete with facsimiles of the original texts:

    http://biblelight.net/Extravagantes.htm

    D. Scott Meadows 21 February 2013 at 9pm
  15. This is purely anecdotal, but still: I’ll never forget the letters to the editor in the Chicago Tribune the week after the death of the last Antichrist, John Paul II. One of them began, “Our Father, who is NOW in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

    Is that official Catholic doctrine or practice? Of course not, but it is entirely inevitable.

    Whomever you pray to is your god. Whomever you depend on to represent you to God is your christ. Whomever you trust implicitly to speak words of unquestionable truth, even if they are new words, is your holy spirit.

    tjchantry 22 February 2013 at 6am
  16. “The Pope and the Papacy” by John MacArthur
    http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-291

    The above message, while delivered during the last papal transition, deserves to be heard again.

    D. Scott Meadows 26 February 2013 at 11am
  17. […] http://reformedbaptistfellowship.org/2013/02/14/from-one-antichrist-to-another-thoughts-on-the-papal… […]

    Do Catholics Worship the Pope? | searching for eidolons 26 February 2013 at 2pm
  18. eidolons 26 February 2013 at 2pm
  19. “Eidolons,”

    Why the anonymity? How about telling us your name and your alleged former RB church for the sake of accountability?

    D. Scott Meadows 26 February 2013 at 2pm
  20. Well, for one thing, when I signed in to post it pulled up an old blog of mine (because it is a wordpress account) which was linked to my e-mail. That is why my name shows up on your site as my blog name. My blog remains anonymous because I’m pretty sure that is just good internet practice. Do you say “alleged former RB church” because you doubt that I was ever a member? and what do you mean by accountability? Of course I would gladly have posted with my name. But your questions make me wonder what you plan to do with the information.

    eidolons 26 February 2013 at 3pm
  21. Also, how is that even relevant to the discussion?

    eidolons 26 February 2013 at 4pm
  22. Eidelons,

    You made it relevant by giving a truncated personal history. If you want to discuss the facts of this post, it isn’t unreasonable to maintain anonymity. But it is suspicious and disingenuous to start throwing around personal details in support of your points while maintaining an anonymous profile. Believe it or not, some people lie about who they are on the internet! You may not be one of them, but if you want to include details about your former church, you would be better off to say who you are and where you were a member.

    tjchantry 27 February 2013 at 7am
  23. Sure it would be disingenuous to use personal experience as a proof. But I did not use personal experience as evidence. The only place where one could remotely see that is in my own blog post in the part about justification by grace alone, in which I very clearly state that my understanding of RBC theology on that point may not be accurate. In essence, I leave room for someone more knowledgable to correct me if I am wrong in my memory or assessment. However, this does not require you to know my name or past church. In fact, even if I had never been Reformed Baptist, it would not invalidate my points. It’s a little weird to me that you think this is relevant. Do you seek to disprove that my parents have ever attended Pastor Meadows church when they were visiting me in Manchester? What does that do for the matter at hand?

    eidolons 27 February 2013 at 1pm
  24. I am dropping the public dialogue with eidolons, as it has lost theological substance, and I am engaged in other projects. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Eph 6.24).

    D. Scott Meadows 27 February 2013 at 1pm
  25. Sounds like a wise decision brother. In my opinion this is a 2 Timothy 2:24-26 situation and it needs to be left up to the Holy Spirit now Who can certainly handle it better than we can.

    Mike 27 February 2013 at 8pm
  26. I can’t say that I am surprised. Sure, you are happy to preach to the choir of those happy to engage in this ancient hatred of the Catholic church, but as soon as a Catholic shows up and defends the Church, rather than actually respond to any of the arguments you appeal to your own “decades and decades” of knowledge of the subject (without demonstrating it by actually engaging the issue). So when a Catholic is able to defend the Catholic position with Scripture and history, you bow out?

    I posted my most recent response to P. Meadows on my own blog so that others could have the benefit of the conversation. I did not shield my readers from any of the “proofs” or arguments of Pastor Meadows, but engaged them.

    Let the record show that Pastor Meadows has not responded to any of the following:

    1. Inconsistency of sola fide with the book of James.
    2. How he can say that celibacy of the priests or fasting from meat are “demonic doctrines” when Jesus and St. Paul recommend them. Do you then say that Jesus and St. Paul are guilty of teaching demonic doctrines?
    3. If sola fide is actually inconsistent with Scripture, how is it that the curse of Gal. 1:8-9 does not apply to those who teach sola fide?
    4. If Jesus Christ instituted the hierarchy of the Church in setting up Peter as first of the Apostles and foundation of the Church (Matthew 16), can we then say that Jesus has set up an anti-Christ in his own Church? or can you demonstrate that the promises of Matthew 16 apply to your church rather than the Catholic Church? or at the very least, your interpretation of this passage?

    If he chooses not to respond, although I’ll be disappointed at the end of the discussion, I’m happy to accept that he is the one choosing to walk away without defending his position on these points.

    eidolons 28 February 2013 at 10am
  27. ” Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (II John 1:9-11, NKJV). I will stick with the doctrines of Christ, not those made up by the pope or any other mere man!

    tomlassiter44 28 February 2013 at 2pm
  28. Today the Pope officially resigned. Are we now left in a state of “popelessness”?

    Steve Marquedant 28 February 2013 at 3pm
  29. Steve Marquedant: I’m sure glad I have God’s Word and don’t rely on a man to explain it to me! I guess you could say I am in a state of “popelessness,” but I’m not in a state of hopelessness!

    tomlassiter44 28 February 2013 at 4pm
  30. Popeless yes. Christless no!

    Mike 28 February 2013 at 4pm

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Mar 26 2003

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Typical Objections to the Ten Commandments and Christians

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on Friday, September 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Jeremiah prophesies that Christians have the law that God wrote on stone tablets, the Ten Commandments, written on their hearts by the Spirit of God sent by the Son of God (Jer. 31:33; 2 Cor. 3:3). The Spirit of God also causes us to delight in God’s law and obey it (Ezek. 36:27, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”). The New Testament gives us the way in which the Ten Commandments are to be applied by Christians. Though this seems clear and is, by far, the majority view of the Christian church throughout her history, some disagree. To be fair to those who may disagree, we must admit that some statements of the New Testament make this issue difficult to understand (Rom. 6:14, for example). In light of this, let us consider four typical objections and interact with them.

1.      The Mosaic law in the Old and New Testaments always refers to the entirety of that law, the whole thing, the whole law of the Old Covenant, the law for ancient Israel.

“Since Christians are not under the Mosaic law as a whole, then they cannot be under it in any of its parts,” so goes this objection. “So the law in Jeremiah’s prophecy cannot have anything to do with the Old Covenant and its law.” At first glance, this appears to be a very strong objection, but let us interact with it.

We are not arguing that the law in Jeremiah’s prophecy has anything to do with Christians in their present relationship to the Old Covenant or being under any law in order to obtain either the temporal blessings promised to God’s ancient people in the Land of Promise or worse salvation and eternal life. This is a prophecy of the New Covenant, of a new day for God’s people. What I am arguing is that Jeremiah’s prophecy refers to the basic fundamental law of the New Covenant, which is the same for the Old or Mosaic Covenant. We are not under Moses’ law like the ancient Jews were, but we are creatures created in the image of God, just as they were, with the law re-written on our hearts. We do have duties as Christians that are very much the same as Israel did under the Old Covenant. We are to love God and neighbor, which Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 in Matthew 22:37 and 39. One thing we learn from this is that some laws of the Mosaic Covenant transcend that covenant and can function outside of it. For example, we are to worship the one and only true God of the Bible. This has always been the case. We are to worship the one and only true God of the Bible the way He says to. This has always been the case. We are not to take God’s name in vain. This has always been the case. We must rest for the purpose of public worship and we must work or labor. This has always been the case. We owe respect and obedience to parents and all authority figures in our lives. This has always been the case. We must respect life and not murder others either by taking their lives unlawfully or even by hating them. This has always been the case. We must keep ourselves sexually pure, neither committing adultery in our acts, words, or thoughts. This has always been the case. We must respect the property of others and not steal. This has always been the case. We must tell the truth and not lie. This has always been the case. And we must be content with what we have and not commit idolatry by coveting things and people. This has always been the case. These are the Ten Commandments. As a matter of fact, the Ten Commandments did not become holy and good at Sinai. These things are always right or wrong in light of who we are as creatures made in God’s image. These simply reflect the ethical absolutes woven into the fabric of our being.

Maybe looking at it this way will help. Just as God incorporated the law written on man’s heart at creation (Rom. 2:14-15) into the Old Covenant (Exod. 20:1ff.), He does the same in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:33; 2 Cor. 3:3). This natural law became what it was not at Sinai; it was formally published by God Himself on stone tablets. That same law is incorporated into the New Covenant. This law, then, is not only trans-cultural but trans-covenantal. Since it is coextensive with our status as image bearers, this should not surprise us at all.

2.      If the law in Jeremiah refers to the Ten Commandments, why didn’t God repeat them word-for-word in the New Testament exactly as they come to us in the Old Testament?

“If repeated then binding; if not repeated, not binding,” so goes the argument. Again, this appears to be a sound objection, but is it really? God already revealed the Ten Commandments twice in the Old Testament (Exod. 20 and Deut. 5). He prophesied their presence in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:33. He confirmed their presence under the New Covenant in 2 Corinthians 3:3 (and elsewhere). The Ten Commandments are either quoted or assumed to be good and right by the New Testament writers in many places. Remember, it is the essence of the Ten Commandments that are binding, not any particular form in which they have been revealed in Scripture.

For example, Paul references the fifth commandment as that which is right for children to obey (Eph. 6:1-3). Do you really need God to repeat, for example, the sixth commandment–“You shall not murder”–in order to believe that murder is sinful? By the way, it is interesting to note that murder was wrong and sinful prior to Sinai–Cain killed his brother Abel, which is recorded in Genesis 4, and John tells us in 1 John 3:11-12 that Cain was of the evil one and an example of someone who did not love. There is no command to love or any prohibition of murder recorded in Scripture prior to Genesis 4. Do you want to argue that love was not expected and murder was not prohibited until we read of an explicit command to love or an explicit prohibition concerning murder? I hope not.

How about the tenth commandment–“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor”? That command, as given here, is not repeated in the New Testament (i.e., word-for-word). It is, however, reduced to its essence–“You shall not covet” (Rom. 7:7; 13:9). God does not have to repeat the Ten Commandments word-for-word for them to be relevant for Christians.

Did you know that the first four commandments are not repeated in the New Testament word-for-word and neither are the ninth and tenth? In light of this, no one in their right mind argues that only the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments carry over into the New Testament and, therefore, are the only ones applicable to Christians. The essence of all ten of the Ten Commandments carries over into the New Testament. This is what we expect from Jeremiah’s prophecy (and elsewhere).

3.      The New Testament says that we are not under law but under grace. We do not have to obey the law of God; we just need to bathe our souls in the grace of God.

This objection is often based on Romans 6:14, which says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” At first glance, this verse may appear to undo much of what has been said above. How should we respond? It is one thing to be under law as a sinner as a means to life (which is impossible to attain since the fall), as a means whereby one obeys to get salvation and eternal life, as a means to get right with God or earn an inheritance; but it is quite another thing to obey because we have received eternal life, because someone else made us right with God, because someone else has earned an inheritance for us. We are bound to obey God’s law, not that we may live, not that we may gain salvation and inherit eternal life, not that we may be right with God, but because we live, because we have received eternal life, because we are heirs of life. We do not obey to life; we obey from life. Being a Christian does not mean we do the right things to get to heaven. It means that we believe the gospel. Christians believe that Christ has done everything necessary to earn heaven and the eternal state of glory for them. Our obedience does not get us to glory; Christ’s does. The basis of our justification and entitlement to glory is what Christ did for us. What we do for Christ is a result of His work. The efficient cause of what we do for Him is that which He does to or in us by His Spirit, a promised blessing for all in the New Covenant. What we do is a reflection of our love for Christ in light of what He has done for us and it is impelled by His Spirit in us forming us into Christ’s image in conjunction with the written word of God. Obeying God as a believer is a result of grace in our lives; it is an effect of God’s grace in us (Eph. 2:8-10). But, it is also a response to the grace of God in us (1 Cor. 15:10). We obey God’s law by grace. Because our souls are soaked by God’s grace, we want to obey God’s law.

4.      This would mean that the fourth commandment carries over into the New Covenant.

Well, my short answer is, “Yes, that is certainly true.” The essential principles of all ten of the Ten Commandments carry over. Time to work and time to stop work for the purpose of special worship are both necessary if we are to please God. But, someone says, “The fourth commandment is not repeated in the New Testament.” Neither is the first commandment (at least not word-for-word) but that does not make having other gods before the true God virtuous or only for Old Covenant Israel. And the second commandment is not repeated (at least not word-for-word) but that does not mean you can make idols and expect that (or any other humanly devised forms of worship) to be acceptable worship to God. And neither is the third commandment (at least not word-for-word) but that does not mean you can take the name of the Lord in vain.

But, someone says again, “In order for the fourth commandment to carry over we would expect the New Testament Christians to meet for worship on the seventh day of the week. In fact, they did not; they met on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day.” Yes, they did. But they met on the first day of the week because of the resurrection of Christ in celebration of redemption won and the inauguration of a new creation. Let’s think through this a bit.

This objection assumes that the application of the Ten Commandments must look the same as it did in the Old Testament era if they are to be obeyed under the New Testament era. Is this, in fact, the case? Must the application of one of the Ten Commandments look the same as it did under the Old Covenant if it is to be applicable under the New Covenant? I think not. For example, the second commandment is still in force but the laws for what constitutes acceptable worship have changed (Heb. 9:1-10). This change is due to the coming of Christ and His work which is the fulfillment to which the ancient elements of worship pointed. We worship the way we do in light of the coming and resurrection of Christ and the revelation explaining the implications of those events recorded in the New Testament. However, idolatry is still a sin (1 Cor. 10:14; Col.3:5; 1 John 5:21). We do not offer animal sacrifices at a physical temple through a Levitical priest, though all believers are priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ (1 Pet. 2:5) in the new house of God, the new temple, the church (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Tim. 3:15). Things have changed due to fulfillment in Christ, but fulfillment does not cancel the moral principle of the law, though it may change its application. In other words, the application of the second commandment looks different than it used to in light of the coming of the Son of Man and His entrance into glory. We worship how we do in light of the coming and resurrection of Christ. It is the same for the application of the fourth commandment. We worship when we do in light of the coming and resurrection of Christ (Heb. 4:9-10; Rev. 1:10[1]) but Sabbath-keeping is still our privilege (Heb. 4:9) and we do not meet on the seventh day of the week, looking back to the original creation and redemption from Egypt or forward to the first coming of Christ. Just as the historical basis for the application of the fourth commandment under the Old Covenant is two-fold–creation (Exod. 20:8-11) and redemption (Deut. 5:12-15), so the historical basis for the application of the fourth commandment under the New Covenant is also two-fold–the resurrection is both the formal inauguration of a new creation and the guarantee of our redemption.

A similar case can be made with the fifth commandment on two levels. The fifth commandment is ours to obey irrespective of our age. However, honoring parents when you are two years old looks different than when you are 50. Also, in Eph. 6:2-3, Paul references the fifth commandment, applying it to children in first-century Asia Minor. However, in its first revelation to us in the Bible, obeying the fifth commandment promised longer life in the Promised Land (cf. Exod. 20:12, “that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you”). The application may change due to various factors, like the inauguration of the New Covenant due to the sufferings and glory of Christ, without cancelling the essence of the commandment.

Just as the application of the second commandment looks different under the New Covenant due to the sufferings and glory of Christ (i.e., the elements of public worship have changed), so the application of the fourth commandment (i.e., the day for public worship has changed). The application of the fourth commandment takes its shape based on redemptive-historical realities connected to Christ’s death and resurrection. The Christian’s Sabbath does not look backward to the original creation or to redemption from Egyptian bondage, and neither does it look forward to the first coming of Christ. It looks back to the inauguration of the New Covenant (i.e., the new creation and much better redemption) and is a foretaste of His second coming and the eternal rest that will be brought to eschatological fulfillment at that time and forever afterward. The Lord’s Day or Christian Sabbath is a present symbol of a better creation and a better redemption which we enjoy in part now, but in full in the state of consummation.

Richard C. Barcellos
Pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA

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[1] The word translated “Lord’s” is found two times in the New Testament, here in Rev. 1:10 and in 1 Cor. 11:20. Both times it refers to something (i.e., a day [Rev. 1:10] and a covenantal meal [1 Cor.11:20]) that peculiarly belongs to the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. Just as the Old Covenant had a sacred day (i.e., the seventh-day Sabbath) and a sacred meal (i.e., Passover), so the New Covenant has its own sacred day and sacred meal. Both the sacred day (Rev. 1:10; “the Lord’s Day”) and the sacred meal (1 Cor. 11:20; “the Lord’s Supper) get their official titles after the resurrection. Though it is true that all days and all meals come from the Lord, all days and all meals are not identified as “the Lord’s,” in the sense that this word is used in Rev. 1:10 and 1 Cor. 11:20.

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A Christian Wife’s Marriage Catechism

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on July 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

marriage

Providentially, many Christian wives are married to unbelieving husbands. This is a great trial for them, especially if the man is very ungodly. Pastoral counseling discovers that many of these sisters in the Lord are perplexed about how God wants them to relate to their husbands in such a case. I have prepared this brief catechism for some guidance, suggesting that she should memorize it and find supporting Scripture references for its counsel, with careful study of those passages.

I am convinced that even though these are basic biblical truths, many Christian wives would know more peace and confidence in their God-ordained role if they called them to mind every day for practical application in their marriages. Also, these truths should prove helpful even when the husband is a godly man.

May the Lord use this simple catechism to bless His precious daughters in difficult marriages.

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com

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Q1.      What is the main point of my marriage to my husband?

A1.      To glorify God and enjoy Him forever, the same point of my existence and all my circumstances.

Q2.      Can my marriage ever be the source of true happiness to me?

A2.      No, at best it can become an occasion of happiness, but all my joy is bound up and will remain forever in knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore my blessedness does not depend on the state of my marriage.

Q3.      How can I glorify God and enjoy Him forever in my marriage?

A3.      By trusting God implicitly and doing His will in all things because I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Q4.      What is the most important thing about how I relate to my husband?

A4.      That I love him with gracious gospel love, respect him for his position over me, and submit to him as unto the Lord.

Q5.      What is gracious, gospel love for my husband?

A5.      A supernatural love from Christ that is large, constant, and free, and that does my husband good and not evil all the days of his life.

Q6.      What is respect for my husband?

A6.      It is a conscious recognition of his special authority over me as my husband on the basis of God’s Word and the covenant I freely entered when I married him.

Q7.      What does it mean to submit to my husband as unto the Lord?

A7.      That I will cheerfully acquiesce to my husband in all things consistent with the revealed will of Christ, but no further, from a sincere desire to please my husband and Christ for my husband’s good and Christ’s glory.

Q8.      Will there be cases when I must obey Christ rather than my husband?

A8.      Yes, if ever my husband expects me to disobey any of Christ’s commands, but even then I must keep loving and respecting my husband as my husband while Christ always has my greatest love and loyalty.

Q9.      What is the primary means by which I can influence my husband toward greater faith and obedience to God?

A9.      Setting a good example before my husband, without a word of nagging or disrespectful rebuke.

Q10.    Does this absolutely forbid addressing my husband about his responsibility for faith and duty as a man, a husband, and a father?

A10.    No, but when it is right to address him about these things, I must speak the truth in love, with evident love and respect for him as my husband.

Q11.    How good a husband is my husband to me?

A11.    Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.

Q12.    How good a wife am I to my husband?

A12.    Much worse than I ought to be, and therefore I will confess my sins to God every day, asking forgiveness, and to my husband as needed, and continue in prayer for grace to grow into the excellent wife that God wants me to be, and that would be such a blessing to my husband.

Q13.    How can I possibly love my husband so well, since he falls so short of the ideal husband, and I am such a sinful person?

A13.    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even this, for I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Also, I know that God has given me His Spirit and all-sufficient grace to help me to do all He requires of me.

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