What Does Semper Reformanda Mean?

godfreyThis article by Dr. Robert Godfrey, was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

The phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming) has been used so often as to make it a motto or slogan. People have used it to support a surprising array of theological and ecclesiastical programs and purposes. Scholars have traced its origins to a devotional book written by Jodocus van Lodenstein in 1674. Van Lodenstein, no doubt, had no intention of being a phrase-maker or sloganeer. What was his intention, and what did he mean by this phrase?

Van Lodenstein was a minister in the Reformed Church of the United Provinces in what we know today as the Netherlands. This church was born of decades of faithful preaching by ministers—many educated in Geneva—who risked their lives to carry the gospel, first into the French-speaking regions of the Low Countries, and later into the Dutch-speaking regions farther north. Some ministers were martyred for their faith, but they gathered a rich harvest of committed believers. Their message of the need for the reform of the church according to the Bible resonated with many who saw the corruptions of the old church.

Under the rulers Charles V and Philip II, the government of the Low Countries made every effort to suppress the Reformed religion, which was a large part of the reason for the Dutch revolt against their Spanish overlords. This revolt (1568-1648) became known as the Eighty Years’ War, giving birth to a new state in the northern part of the Low Countries. In this new state—the Dutch Republic, also known as the United Provinces—the Reformed Church was dominant, receiving government support and becoming the church of the majority of the population by the middle of the seventeenth century.

This church subscribed to the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and had an essentially presbyterian form of government. Interference from the Protestant civil authorities of the new state limited the freedom of the Reformed Church, particularly in matters of discipline. That interference, in part, led to a crisis in the church in the early seventeenth century with the rise of Arminianism. That crisis was addressed and settled at the great international synod held in the city of Dordrecht in 1618-19. The Canons of Dort prepared at this synod became another doctrinal authority in the life of the church. Continue reading

The Baptist Larger Catechism

The Baptist Larger Catechism is a modern day adaptation of the Westminster Larger Catechism, a central catechism of Reformed Churches in the English speaking world.

pdf found at this link

The Bible as Literature

bible-books1Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly 50 years. He has authored or edited over fifty books, including The Word of God in English, the Christian Guides to the Classics series, J. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life, A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible, and Literary Introductions to the Books of the Bible. He is a frequent speaker at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meetings and served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible.


Part 1: The Old Testament –
(Original source here)

The Importance of Form

It is natural to ask whether the literary forms of the Bible deserve a lot of attention. The answer is yes. The primary principle of literature is that meaning is embodied and communicated through form.

There is no content without the forms in which that content is packaged. We have misled the Christian public by acting as if a summary of the ideas in a book of the Bible is an adequate account of the book. A summary of ideas leaves readers without a picture of what they actually encounter when they read a book of the Bible.

It is no wonder that many Bible readers do not know how to interact with the texts of the Bible. They have not been given the tools that will allow them to see what is actually in the text. We can deduce ideas from any text in the Bible, but no book of the Bible consists of a list of ideas. It consists of a myriad of literary techniques and forms. Readers need to be coached to see the forms that comprise each book of the Bible, accompanied by the rules that govern our assimilation of those forms.

The individual entries listed below highlight the most important literary forms in the individual books of the Bible. They are a gateway only, but a gateway is a necessary and helpful point of entry.

Genesis

A preponderance of narrative, so the book becomes an anthology of stories. The narrative subtype that dominates is hero story. As the title “book of beginnings” hints, Genesis embodies foundational principles that range all the way from the nature of the world and humanity to the history of God’s covenant dealings with the human race. The gallery of characters is large, but eight characters stand out: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Exodus

The unifying motif is announced in the title: the departure of the Israelites from oppression in Egypt, followed by a journey through the desert to the Promised Land. Three distinctly different genres appear—narrative (1-18 and 32-34), lawgiving (19-24), and architectural information about the building of the tabernacle (24-31 and 35-40). Each of these genres has its own focus—deliverance, covenant, and holiness, respectively. Moses is the unifying human hero.

Leviticus

The primary genre is the rulebook, which is at the same time a guidebook for living the religious and moral life that God intended for his people. The main literary principle at work is that literature uses particulars to embody universals; we look not only at the details of the text but through them to principles that apply today. The book is also a utopia that paints a picture of the good society and the institutions and practices that produce it. Realism abounds, including references to bodily functions. Continue reading

The Historic Roots of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Movement

Tom_NettlesArticle entitled “Churches, Get a Calvinist Pastor!” by Tom Nettles (original source here)

Southern Baptists inherited the most compelling aspects of all the Baptist Calvinists that preceded them. James P. Boyce summarized this well. He encouraged every preacher to get theological education in some way, even if it could not be at the Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. If no other means were available, he advised, “work at it yourself.” The fathers of the convention did this, Boyce claimed; “They familiarized themselves with the Bible, and Gill and Andrew Fuller, and they made good and effective preachers. God is able to raise up others like them.”1 The irony of Boyce’s appeal to the grassroots for support of theological education was this: the seminary would not interrupt, but would perpetuate, the work of pastoral ministry, preaching and theology consistent with the Gill/Fuller tradition.

But this is the very difficulty that we face at this moment in Southern Baptist history. God indeed is raising up others like them, that is, like the fathers. Whether self-educated or seminary-educated, Boyce and all his contemporaries viewed a Bible theology that reflected a blend of Gill and Fuller as normal and expected. Churches should have no other kind of pastor.

These are the ones that would maintain the spiritual and doctrinal health and fervor of the churches. Today, however, some Southern Baptists are warning the churches against them. This is a mammoth historical irony that many find difficult to appreciate.

The Charleston Association in its adoption of the 1689 Confession and in the preaching of such men as Oliver Hart, Richard Furman, Basil Manly, Sr., bequeathed the theology of the fathers to James P. Boyce. In his analysis of the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, Boyce wrote, “This doctrine is inseparably associated with the other doctrines of grace which we have found taught in God’s word. So true is this, that they are universally accepted, or rejected together. The perseverance of the saints is a part of every Calvinistic confession. . . . All the evidence, therefore, of the truth of the doctrines already examined, may be presented in favour of this which is a necessary inference from them. In like manner, all the independent proof of this doctrine confirms the separate doctrines, and the system of doctrine, with which it is associated.”2 Boyce’s conviction at this point challenges the contemporary position of many Baptists who still maintain a doctrine of perseverance but separate it from the rest of the biblical pattern, the doctrinal system, of which it is intrinsically a part. Those that have departed from the historic view, and the theologically consistent view, now warn churches against those that that are true-blue, dyed in the wool, 100 proof Southern Baptist.

They are faulted when they contend that, though of Reformed viewpoint, they don’t want to wear that label. That is not because they are less than sincere in that conviction or because they don’t believe it to undergird healthy church life both in evangelism and the sanctifying influences of truth. It’s because of the caricatures presented in the instructive documents given to pulpit committees. Even the ridiculous charge of bringing in infant baptism to a Baptist church has been made. It’s also because a marvelous array of biblical truths, to which there should be no objection, is vitally connected to the distinctives of Calvinism. Their power, in fact, flourishes in that doctrinal context.

If pulpit committees and churches would look below the façade of scare-tactic accusations and warnings being rolled out like taffy at the Mississippi State Fair, they would discover something healthy and very desirable in the men and the message preached by those against whom they are warned. No one wants a nasty confrontation between church and pastor that leads to a confused and often divided congregation and a battered pastor and his family. These are charitable warnings. Some congregations, however, might desire to consider why Baptists for so long guarded their confessional Calvinism with great care and endured many storms undergirded by that foundation. They might consider that opening themselves to embrace that which is truly “traditional” could elevate the sense of the divine presence of grace in their lives.

The twentieth-century slide into liberalism rode on the back of a growing indifference to the doctrines of grace, because the doctrines of grace are tied vitally to more biblical doctrines than just perseverance of the saints. The recovery of a fully salubrious evangelical preaching ministry depends largely on the degree to which the doctrines of grace are recovered and become the consciously propagated foundation of all gospel truth.

If a church, therefore, gets a Calvinist preacher, she will get a good thing. Several issues will be securely settled and the church will not have to wonder about the soundness of her preacher on these items of biblical truth and their soul-nurturing power. Calvinists have stood for more than just their distinguishing doctrines; they have held steadfastly to other doctrines that are essential for the health of Baptist churches in our day. Let’s look at a few of these.

1. A Calvinist firmly believes in the divine inspiration of Scriptures. A large number of cogent defenses of the inerrancy of Scripture have been written by Calvinists. Some would say that these are among the most profound ever produced in Christian literature. Calvinism provides a more consistent rationale for inerrancy than other theological systems. One of the most often repeated objections to the divine inspiration of Scripture is that its assumption of perfect divine control of the process runs roughshod over human freedom and does not give sufficient room to human finiteness or human sin. These were objections, concurrent with the decline of commitment to Calvinism, that landed many leading voices of twentieth-century denominational life in a position opposed to inerrancy and verbal inspiration. Virtually every defender of inerrancy has to discuss the relation between inspiration and each of these supposed difficulties. The Calvinist system poses no contradiction between the freeness of human personality, the limitations of human finiteness, and the mental darkness of human sin in their relation to verbal inspiration. God’s particular providence over all events includes every choice of every moral creature without diminishing the free moral agency of the creature. God in his sovereignty can gives words to a donkey as well as an unwilling prophet (Numbers 22:28-30, 38). Through the use of a variety of means, God works all things, including inspiration, “according to the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).In the same way that God’s sovereignty brings about the fulfillment of his prophecies according to his decree with no violation of human freedom, and no limitation from human weakness or badness (Acts 2:23), so he inspired Scripture without suspending the individual personality traits of every biblical writer. If a church gets a Calvinist pastor, she can be sure that her pastor never will deny the full truthfulness of the Bible but will be tethered to the text as the word of God. He will have this conviction, not as an act of will unrelated to his theological system but as an intrinsic and coherent outflow of his view of God and man. Continue reading

Ten Things You Should Know About The Post-Millennial View Of The Kingdom Of God

In terms of eschatology, Dr. Sam Storms and I are ammillennialists and so disagree with the post millennial view. In any discussion of these issues, it is so important to accurately portray an opposing position before engaging with it. So often, this is not the case and the result is a complete failure of any kind of productive dialog. As far as I understand the issues involved, I think Dr. Storms does a fine job of accurately representing the post-millennial view in this article below: (original source here)

stormsBefore I delineate the 10 things all of us should know, let’s look at a definition of postmillennialism by one of its advocates, Lorainne Boettner. He describes postmillennialism as,

“that view of the last things which holds that the Kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the ‘Millennium.’ . . . The Millennium to which the Postmillennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, during the Church age, and is to be brought about through forces now active in the world. It is an indefinitely long period of time, perhaps much longer than a literal one thousand years. The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political and cultural life of mankind. . . . This does not mean that there ever will be a time on this earth when every person will be a Christian, or that all sin will be abolished. But it does mean that evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world” (The Millennium, 14; emphasis mine).

(1) According to postmillennialism, the Kingdom of God is primarily the rule or reign of God spiritually in and over the hearts of men. Thus the kingdom is truly present in this age and is visibly represented by the Church of Jesus Christ. In other words, the kingdom “arrives” and is “present” wherever and whenever people believe the gospel and commit themselves to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as Lord.

(2) The kingdom is not to be thought of as arriving instantaneously or wholly by means of some cataclysmic event at the end of the age (an event such as the Second Coming of Christ). Indeed, the very name POST-millennialism indicates that Christ will return only after the kingdom has come in its fullness. The “arrival” of the kingdom, therefore, is gradual or by degrees. There may well be extended seasons in the life of the church where little visible and tangible progress is detected, indeed, even times when the church appears to regress in terms of its global influence. But postmillennialists are quick to remind us that we must take the long view and not succumb to the pessimism that easily grows in the soil of short-term setbacks. Whereas Satan’s kingdom may appear at times to experience a growth parallel to, if not greater than, that of Christ, the latter will most assuredly overcome all opposition in every sphere of life until the nations are brought into submission to him.

(3) The means by which the kingdom extends itself is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The continuing spread and influence of the gospel will increasingly, and in direct proportion thereto, introduce the kingdom. This gradual (but constantly growing) success of the gospel will be brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Church. Eventually the greater part, but not necessarily all, of the world’s population will be converted to Christ. As Greg Bahnsen explains, “the essential distinctive of postmillennialism is its scripturally derived, sure expectation of gospel prosperity for the church during the present age” (“The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism,” in The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, III, Winter 1976-77, 66).

As Doug Wilson explains: “the gospel will continue to grow and flourish throughout the world, more and more individuals will be converted, the nations will stream to Christ, and the Great Commission will finally be successfully completed. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. When that happens, generation after generation will love and serve the Lord faithfully. And then the end will come” (Heaven Misplaced, 10). Continue reading

The Gospel & The True Christian

Recording from the conference “Back to the Word of God” at Holmavatn Mission Center in Rogaland, Norway in January, 2014.

Paul Washer:

Introduction:
Paul Washer preaches from 1 Timothy 3:14 – 4:16 about the importance of preaching the gospel. The gospel is the only message that both saves and sanctifies us, and he warns us not to change our focus to something else in the message we proclaim.

Translation into Norwegian by Bjorn Storm Johansen. Recording from meeting at Vigrestad Misjonshus on January 20, 2014.

The gospel should be the main focus of our preaching:

1. The power of the gospel – Romans 1:16

2. Preach the gospel – 1 Tim 3:14 – 4:5

3. God’s holiness and man’s depravity – Romans 3

4. The Gospel of justification and redemption – Rom 3:23,25

5. The power of regeneration – 2 Cor 5:17-18

6. Assurance of Salvation – 1 John 5:13

The Eternal Word: God the Son in Eternity Past

Shepherd’s Conference 2017 – General Session 3

Text: John 1:1-3

Dr. Michael Reeves:

General Session 3 – Michael Reeves – Shepherds’ Conference 2017 from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

The Christian & The Church

Dr. John MacArthur

Your Responsibility to the Church, Part 1:

Your Responsibility to the Church, Part 2:

Your Responsibility to the Church, Part 3:

Your Responsibility to the Church, Part 4:

Your Responsibility to the Church, Part 5:

Christ, the Head of the Church

God’s Strategy for Church Growth

About Your Pastor When He Preaches

Article by Kenneth Kuykendall (original source here)

What happens when your preacher preaches? I know… that’s a loaded question. I guess I should state it this way: Are you aware of what takes places when the pastor gets up to expound Scripture? More than likely, you are cognizant of certain elements surrounding the preaching hour. The pastor takes the congregation to a particular passage. He probably gives some sort of title or subject matter. He typically delivers his message in a familiar outline or framework. He usually preaches a certain length of time. He does this and he does that. You know the nuance of his voice, the cadence of his call, the articulation of his message, but what else is happening? Most of us, if we have been around preaching for any length of time, have certain ideas of what takes place when the preacher begins and when he ends. But do we really know all that is going on during the preaching hour? Probably not…including the preacher himself.

Preaching is one of the strangest events known to man; so much so, that it is considered foolishness to those who do not believe; while at the same time, it is the power of God to us who are saved. It is a paradox of the grandest kind. It is the straining of worlds together. It is the calling of lowly men to the highest of errands. The pressure is great, the stakes are high, the tension is real, but the joy is overwhelming, the grace is sufficient and the reward is heavenly. I love preaching, both in hearing it and in doing it.

In that hour, however, more is going on than exposition, application, illustrations, and invitations. There are some things happening behind that pulpit (or away from it, depending on the style of your preacher) that you don’t realize. Here are five things you probably don’t know about your pastor when he preaches:

He is Battled
Whether you mount a pulpit weekly or preach on the street corner daily, there is great opposition in the proclamation of the gospel. On every side, the man of God is enamored, hit hard, with a variety of oppressive forces. The dark dominion of the devil sets its course against those on the frontlines of battle. There is nothing the enemy hates more than a truth-toting soldier equipped to tell others what the Word of God declares. And thus, oftentimes, the preacher is the biggest target.

The congregation may see a suit and tie. They may hear the alliterated points. They may write down a title on the back of a bulletin. But beyond the natural framework of the worship service is a supernatural foe doing all he can to discourage, distract, and divert the preacher. If preaching is war, it is certain your pastor is feeling the heat during the preaching hour.

He is Burdened and Bothered
I do not mean he is annoyed. Now, he may very well be annoyed at times; but what I mean by the word “bothered” is that he has a weight upon him. This weight is part of his calling. You cannot take the weight off him. Aaron and Hur did all they could to secure the hands of Moses during the battle at Rephidim. They helped Moses bear his load, but not once did they take the rod of God out of his hands. They couldn’t…it was God’s call upon his life to bear it.

The preacher, by nature of his calling, has a weight, a burden, a bothering. He is bothered by the sinfulness of the times. He is bothered by the apathy of modern Christendom. He is bothered by his own shortcomings. He is bothered by the tragedy of split homes, broken lives, hurting people. All that he preaches is preached from the context of information that you do not necessarily have. What I mean is this: he knows the secrets, the pain, the darkness, the sadness, and the sorrow of those he leads. And many times he preaches in that context.

He is Beckoned
The preacher must stand before God before he stands in front of his congregation. He is between two worlds. And he must give an account in both! Albert Mohler said it like this, “Let’s be honest: the act of preaching would smack of unmitigated arrogance and overreaching were not for the fact that it is God himself who has given us the task. In that light, preaching is not an act of arrogance at all but rather of humility. True preaching is never an exhibition of the brilliance or intellect of the preacher but exposition of the wisdom and power of God.”

The true, God-called preacher preaches every time with the judgment seat of Christ in mind. Every word, every statement, every point, every illustration…every time is divinely examined. This reality is always in the background and in the forefront. Deep is calling unto deep in the preaching hour. God is beckoning in the heart of His messenger. He is moving, He is working, He is speaking, and the preacher must fulfill His calling, he must proclaim God’s Word in light of this weighty truth.

He is Blessed
Don’t feel too sorry for the preacher of the Word. He may be battled, burdened, and a little bothered; but he is equally blessed. He is like the disciples who distributed the bread to the masses in the desert. Those men were responsible to feed the thousands, but they were privileged to see the miracle first hand.

The preacher has already tasted the glorious meal that he prepares for his congregation. He has been in the closet praying. He has searched out the treasures of Scripture. Like an excavator, he has found the heavenly gem and longs to show his audience the glorious riches of truth. He is blessed with spiritual blessings. It is certain, if the congregation is blessed by the preaching of God’s man, the man of God who is preaching is getting blessed as well!

He is Bound
The preacher is bound by his message. He cannot preach what he has not already chewed on. E.M. Bounds said, “The preacher’s sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself. His most difficult and laborious work must be with himself.” I cannot tell you how many times, during the preaching hour, God has illuminated truth, convicted me of sin, and prompted me by my very preaching.

The preacher who is bound to His message, His God, His calling, and His Bible is a preacher who will inevitably be free in the spirit during the hour of his preaching. No, you may never see these realities during the preaching hour, but I assure you, they are present. And if they are not, there is not much preaching going on.

Extra Biblical Sources

Why Does the New Testament Cite Extra-biblical Sources?

Dr. John Piper

Audio Transcript

“Sometimes we talk about textual matters. Joe from Santa Barbara, California, writes, “Jude 9, 14–15 confuse me. Where is Jude getting the information from in these verses? Paul usually quotes the Old Testament (and it tells us where he is quoting from on the bottom of our Bibles), but I have no clue where Jude gets his info. I have asked others about these texts and they usually say something like ‘Paul quoted pagan prophets,’ but it seems to me that Jude is actually quoting Scripture. What do we know? What do we not know?”

Here is what we know and what we don’t know: Jude is not quoting Scripture. That is pretty plain. He doesn’t claim to be quoting Scripture, but we will get to that in a minute. Here is what we know and what we don’t know: We know that Jude was in the middle of rebuking some arrogant opponents in the church, and we know that in verse 9 he does this by contrasting their willingness to blaspheme what they don’t understand with the archangel Michael’s unwillingness even to pronounce a blasphemous judgment against the devil. So, that is the point: to rebuke their arrogance and presumption.

So, he says this in Jude 9–10: “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand.” So, we know that Jude refers to a situation at the burial of Moses where Michael the archangel and the devil are disputing over what can be done with Moses’s body. And we know this is a story that is not in the Old Testament. Nothing is said. God took care of the burial up there in the mountain. Nobody knows where Moses was buried.

What we don’t know for sure is exactly where this story comes from according to verse 9. There is more in Jude 14–15 that we do know, but here we don’t know where it comes from. There is a Jewish book called the Assumption of Moses written between the Old and New Testaments which has a story like this, but Jude doesn’t seem to be giving an exact quote. We can’t say for sure that is where he is getting it. So, the answer so far for verse 9 is this: We just don’t know where he got that story. But he got it from somewhere, and he doesn’t make any claim to get it from Scripture.

Here is a further issue in Jude 14–15: Jude is still criticizing the ungodliness of his opponents, and this time he actually quotes a source outside the Bible. He doesn’t say what it is. At least, it looks like a quote. Most people think it is a quote, namely, from 1 Enoch. That is a Jewish book written about 300 B.C. and not regarded as inspired or Scriptural by Protestants or Catholics, and it was not in the Old Testament that Jesus used and endorsed. Jude 14–15 are a fairly close rendition of this verse. That is why most people think it is a quote.

These verses go like this: “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying” — so, he is quoting now this prophecy that Enoch gives — “‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” So, Jude quotes Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, as prophesying, and he turns his words against the opponents as a judgment on them. And that is the judgment they can expect.

Now, here is the question: What does this mean for Jude, who cites this from outside the Bible? Where did he get it? What is he doing? Here are two possibilities:

1. He believed that even though these sources — 1 Enoch and wherever he got the verse 9 idea, the story — these sources, though not inspired, contain truth that he is willing to use. That is one possibility.

2. A second possibility — and I kind of lean toward this one, but it is impossible to prove — namely, that Jude knew that his opponents in the church, the people that he is so upset with, his opponents in the church loved to make use of 1 Enoch and maybe the Assumption of Moses, these books. And they were their favorite books to use, and so he is citing their own documents in an ironic way to bring them back on their own heads.

Now, that is where this issue about Paul quoting the poets becomes relevant, because that is what Paul did when he quoted the poets in Acts 17 from the pagan authors. He said that God “is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:27–29).

So, Paul reached into sources that he didn’t believe were inspired, saw something that was written there, drew it out, used it in a Christian way, and turned it back, as it were, on his conversation partners there in Athens. So, even though we don’t know for sure, my inclination is to say that Jude chose to cite these extrabiblical sources because his adversaries put such a high premium on them, and then he turned them around and used them to indict the very pride that was using them.