The Perfect Church

1689 LBC 26. 3 The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error…

Have you ever fallen into the “perfect church” trap? Many have. They delay joining a local body of believers under the guise that the perfect church is just one more Lord’s Day away. But no matter how many churches they visit there is something not quite right about that wannabe perfect church. Maybe they sing/don’t sing psalms, perhaps the pastor preaches too long/too short, they serves grape juice instead of wine, the pastor does/doesn’t wear a robe…I can go on, but for the sake of brevity I’ll end it here.

The point is that there is no perfect church. There are those who believe in believers baptism only, and others who baptize infants, who refuse to join the only good Reformed church in town because it doesn’t share their baptismal conviction. The alternative is no church or a long, long drive to a church that they have to settle for. In the meantime there are churches, made of up of dear saints, that will never know the joy of our fellowship, and vice versa.

If you ever find yourself  looking for a new church home, perform your due diligence, but remember that there is no such thing as a perfect church.

Confession or Scripture? Part I

In a previous post I announced that Grace Baptist Church of Odenton recently adopted the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession as our statement of faith.  As a Reformed Baptist congregation does this mean that the Confession supersedes scripture?  This is a fair question, especially for those who are new to the Reformed faith, or Confessionalism.   In this post I will attempt to clarify a few terms and dispel the concern that Confessional churches may be adding to scripture.

What makes Reformed Baptists “Reformed”?

Historically, the Reformation unofficially began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg.  In his book “A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century”  the famous 19th century historian Jean Henri Merle d’Aubigné wrote:

Luther decided to post a Theses with ninety-five propositions upon it demonstrating the need to reform the indulgence. It was October 31, 1517 at high noon that he posted the document in order to have the people read it the next day on All Saint’s Day. His desire was to set forth the light of truth and make it as plain the noon-day sun. Though the document was not as bold as the current form of Reformed Theology today, it did house the basic essentials of truth and what the Reformation would turn into in the days to come.

Martin Luther reacted to what he perceived were the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church.  His 95 Theses was the pivot on which the Reformation swung.  Originally Luther only sought to reform the Catholic church; but it became apparent that there was to be no negotiating with Rome.  The Reformation, the event to which every Christian church owes it’s existence, had begun in earnest.

As was just said, in it’s infant stages Martin Luther and the early Reformers sought reconciliation with Rome.  As this likelihood quickly evaporated, it became necessary for the Reformation to be defined and unified.  In 1618, Christian leaders gathered in the Dutch city of Dordrecht to refute the erroneous teachings of a group called the Remonstrants.  This meeting is commonly called the Synod of Dordt.  While it was not the intent of the Synod to provide a statement on the Reformed faith, history has judged otherwise.  The Synod published, what is commonly called, the Five Solas of the Reformation.  The five solas are:

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone
  2. Solus Christus – Christ alone
  3. Sola Gratia – Grace alone
  4. Sola Fide – Faith alone
  5. Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God alone

Most Christian churches today believe strictly, or give assent, to the Five Solas.  But the Five Solas alone are not what constitutes a Reformed church.  In my next post I will introduce another product of the Synod of Dordt that has come to specifically define what a Reformed church is.

Officially adopted the 1689 London Baptist Confession

This blog is usually not about church announcements, but I thought it appropriate to share an important development in the history of Grace Baptist Church.  This afternoon the church voted, unanimously, to adopt the 1689 London Baptist Confession as our statement of faith.  The 1689 LBC is a historical Baptist document, in the Reformed tradition, that summarizes many of the major points of doctrine and practice that was common to Baptists in the 17th century.  This confession has withstood the test of time (320 years to be exact), and it still accurately reflects scripture.  If you’re not acquainted with the 1689 LBC you can read it at Reformed Reader.

God’s anger is not spent

Isaiah 5:24-25  24 Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble, And dry grass collapses into the flame, So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  25 On this account the anger of the LORD has burned against His people, And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down, And the mountains quaked; and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets. For all this His anger is not spent, But His hand is still stretched out.

Judah was judged for the sin of forsaking the LORD.  When Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem, the horrors that Isaiah spoke about came on the people.  Their land was laid waste, and many people were killed.  In eyes of the Jew of that day it would have seemed that God’s judgment had been dispensed in full.  But that was not the case.  As Isaiah wrote, “His hand is still stretched out.”  The LORD would use Nebuchadnezzar to take Judah into captivity for seventy years.  During that time temple worship would end and Judah would cease to exist.  Finally, Nehemiah would lead a second exodus out of a heathen country and back to the promised land.  It was out of this return that eventually the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born, and hope given to all who would believe for the forgiveness of sins.

Our world continues on as though God’s anger and wrath are just stories contained in the bible.  The psalmist wrote:

Psalm 36:1  Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes.

Our society has no fear of God.  Many people believe that hell is here on earth.  They couldn’t be more wrong.  No matter what hardship we may face in this life, it pales in comparison to what awaits those who perish in their sins.  God’s hand is still stretched out.  Paul wrote in the book of Romans:

Romans 1:18   18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness

The person who has not placed their faith in Jesus Chris has the wrath of God abiding over them.  They are under a death sentence that has only to be carried out.  God’s hand is stretched out.  But facing God’s wrath is not inevitable.  God has provided a way to avoid His wrath and to enjoy His blessings for eternity.  In request to a simple question, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul answered:

Acts 16:31  “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”

The bible says that Jesus Christ became sin on the cross.  God’s wrath was poured out on His Son on that cross.  The wrath that we justly deserve because of our sin was placed on Jesus.  In His mercy, the Father sent the Son to make a way possible for sinners, like you and me, to have peace with God.  That way was through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.  Jesus said:

John 14:6  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

There is only one way to have peace with God, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life.  That one way is through Christ alone.  What is required to know that peace?  Understand that you have sinned against a holy God, and that you justly deserve God’s punishment because of your sin.  Repent and believe.  Repentance means turning from something and towards something else; a change of direction.  For the sinner it means turning from your sin and towards Christ.  Belief is something that is done by faith.  It is trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.  In the book of Romans we read these words:

Romans 10:9-11  9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;  10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

If you have placed your faith in Christ; if you believe the gospel message, then it is important to say so.  Christians need to grow in their faith, and that is best done worshiping and having fellowship with other believers.

God’s hand of sure judgment is still outstretched; but thankfully the hands of his Son were stretched out on a cross, nearly 2000 years ago, and satisfied God’s wrath in the lives of those who believe.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you too, will be saved.

Passing over a wrong

1 Corinthians 13:5 “(love) does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered…”

How many relationships have been ruined because of anger? Sometimes anger can fester for years and becomes more toxic than the actual offense.

The Apostle Paul is not telling his readers to overlook wrongs. Sometimes we have to confront a person about a matter. If the issue is because of sin, we do the brother or sister a disservice by allowing the sin to continue unchecked. But even if the sin is addressed, our attitude is more important than that of our brother or sister. We must be willing to forsake revenge or getting even. We should seek to conceal the matter once it is concluded, providing the sin is not ongoing. Too many people fail to forgive and are guilty of a worse sin than the one that was done to them.

Don’t allow sin to linger. Confess your own sin and seek repentance and forgiveness in the lives of those who have wronged you.

Theology on Interstate 70

As I sit here waiting to go into a meeting I am thinking about the hour drive from my home to Frederick, MD. The ride on interstate 70 went without a hitch. I enjoy coming into Frederick and viewing the Catoctin Mountains behind the city. As I think about the mountains my mind turns to what the prophet Ezekiel said:

“For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,” declares the Lord God , “there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things.” Ezekiel 20:40

There is coming a day when the saints of God will dwell with him and serve him. That is what came to mind when I considered the mountains I saw this morning.

Salvation belongs to the Lord

Psalm 3:8  Salvation belongs to the LORD; Thy blessing be upon Thy people! Selah.

Charles Spurgeon writes:

This verse contains the sum and substance of Calvinistic doctrine.  Search Scripture through, if you must, if you read it with a candid mind, be persuaded that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is the greatest doctrine of the Word of God: Salvation belongeth unto the Lord.  This is a point concerning which we are daily fighting.  Our opponents say, “Salvation belongs to the free will of man; if not to man’s merit, yet at least to man’s will.”  But we hold and teach that salvation from first to last, in every iota of it, belongs to the Most High God.  It is God that chooses His people.  He calls them by his grace; brings them life by his Spirit, and keeps them by his power.  It is not of man, neither by man (Romans 9:16).  May we all learn this truth in our experience, for our profound flesh and blood will never permit us to learn it any other way.  In the last sentence the peculiarity and speciality of salvation are plainly stated: thy blessing is upon they people.  Neither upon Egypt, nor upon Tyre, nor upon Nineveh; thy blessing is upon thy chosen, thy blood-bought, thine everlastingly-beloved people.  Selah: lift up your hearts, and pause, and meditate upon this doctrine.  “Thy blessing is upon they people.”  Divine, discriminating, distinguishing, eternal, infinite, immutable love is a subject for constant adoration.  Pause, my soul, at this Selah, and consider your own interest in the salvation of God; and if by humble faith you are enabled to see Jesus as yours by his own free gift of himself to you, if this greatest of all blessings is upon you, rise and sing “Hallelujah!”

We all need a little Selah

O LORD, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” [Selah.

What does Selah mean? It appears throughout the psalter. Charles Spurgeon writes:

The precise meaning is not known. Some think it simply a rest, a pause in the music; others say it means “Lift up the strain – sing more loudly,” “Pitch the tune in a higher key – there is nobler matter to come, therefore retune your harps.” Harp-strings soon get out of order and need to be screwed up again to their proper tightness, and certainly our heart-strings are evermore getting out of tune. At least, we may learn that wherever we see “Selah,” we should look upon it as a note of observation. Let us read the passage which precedes and succeeds it with greater earnestness, for surely there is always something excellent where we are required to rest and pause and meditate, or when we are required to lift up our hearts in grateful song.

We all need a little Selah in our lives.