Wednesday 23 December 2009

Preaching Clear Sermons (Part Four)

5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with Your Audience

Well prepared sermons are greatly needed, especially ones that have been bathed in prayer. However a sermon only truly becomes a sermon when it is preached and Martyn Lloyd-Jones often said that there are three people involved in its delivery.
A. The preacher
B. The attentively listening congregation
C. The Holy Spirit.
We must always pray for the help and power of the Holy Spirit, without which our sermons will be lifeless and will not bear long-term fruit. Once I asked a man who had been training up preachers for decades to give me feedback on a sermon he had heard me preach. He gave me a lesson to remember for a lifetime. He said that ‘sometimes I was more concerned in getting the sermon out that I had prepared, than in getting the sermon across to the congregation’. He further stressed to me that ‘sometimes you connected with the congregation very well and other times you did not’. He explained that our aim must not be to simply give out what we have prepared but to ask ourselves: ‘Am I connecting with my audience all the way through the sermon?’ This is a valuable lesson for all of us.
Here are three questions to ask yourself, before, during and after each sermon. Also do not be afraid to ask some trusted congregation members for feedback.
1. Was your speech and delivery clear?
2. Were your explanations simple? Could a ten-year-old child understand your sermon?
3. Did you connect with your audience all the way through the sermon?

These three questions answered and applied honestly could transform most preachers and their preaching!
How do we close a meeting after preaching?
There are perhaps three things to consider here. Firstly, always close in prayer by asking the Living God to help everyone to be ‘doers of the word and not hearers only’ (James 1:22–5). Secondly, choose a song that is full of relevant biblical content, one that relates to the message. Thirdly, close the meeting with a benediction taken from the New Testament (some examples are: Romans 16: 25–7; Ephesians 6:23–4; Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:23–4, 28; 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18; Hebrews 13:20–21; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 24–5). The benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14 is suitable for most occasions. It has an important Trinitarian structure and this probably deserves a sermon on its own to bring out the richness of this benediction to the hearers.
What about altar calls and forced responses?
We must always avoid a forced response, even though we always want to persuade men and women to turn to God through Jesus Christ. With respect to what are commonly known as altar calls, we must ask ourselves: ‘Are they found in the New Testament?’ There is no problem in making yourself and other mature Christians available for enquirers but do not demand a public show of hands or, even worse, lead people to believe that if they simply respond in a meeting then they are genuinely converted. Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ (Matthew 7:20). It takes time for fruit to grow and for others to know if a profession is genuine. However, we must not encourage doubt concerning other people’s profession of faith because we want to help people to look to Christ for salvation and for the assurance of that salvation.

In summary, there are been five main stages identified for preaching sermons that will hopefully be clear and not easily forgotten. This goal may seem unattainable for many of us, but at least it is the right thing to prayerfully aim for. These stages are:
1. The Importance of a Single Idea
2. The Intended Meaning of the Text
3. A Clear Sermon Structure
4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Application
5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with Your Audience

Here are some closing exhortations from preachers that have gone on to their eternal reward. The English Puritan from the seventeenth century, Richard Baxter, said that ‘I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men’. All preachers stand in need of the gracious help of the Holy Spirit to see lives changed. Remember that we want to impact not just people’s heads but also their hearts as Jonathan Edwards once said: ‘Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this.’

Preaching Feedback: Did I Preach a Clear Sermon?

1. The Importance of a Single Idea

• Was a clear title used?
• Did the title communicate a single idea and did this shine through the whole sermon?
• Did the chosen text/passage fit with the intention of the single idea that was preached?
• Was the text relevant to the subject?

2. The Intended Meaning of the Text

• Was the wider context of the passage and its setting in relation to redemptive history made clear?
• Was the context of the passage given in relation to the rest of the book that it came from? Did the preacher understand the literary style of the book? Was the historical context and purpose of the book explained?
• Were other parts of Scripture understood in relation to the passage used (analogy of faith which means comparing Scripture with Scripture)?

3. A Clear Sermon Structure

• Was a natural and unforced structure used? Did it flow from the chosen text?
• How many points were used?
• Were clear headings used for each point? Did they harmonise with the title? Were the hearers able to remember the points that were used?

4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Application

• Were doctrines correctly labelled and explained?
• Were the illustrations for each point easily understood, relevant, biblical and contemporary?
• Did the application communicate a clear and practical way for putting the truths into action in real life?

5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with your Audience

• Was the speech and delivery clear?
• Were the explanations simple? Could a ten-year-old child understand the sermon?
• Did the preacher connect with the audience all the way through the sermon?

Thursday 17 December 2009

Preaching Clear Sermons (Part Three)

3. A Clear Sermon Structure

Hopefully you have now reached the stage where you have a clear title that summarises the single idea that you want to preach, with a Bible passage that explains this truth, and also you will have worked hard to grasp the intended meaning of the passage. What is needed next is the third stage, the development of a clear sermon structure.
Imagine a wooden stool in your mind. How many legs are there? This is a good illustration for a sermon structure because the minimum number of legs that normally support a table or stool is three and a maximum of four. Aim for three or four headings because we all have memories that forget easily. It is much easier to remember a sermon with three simple points and this method has proved to be extremely effective for many preachers over the centuries. Here are some guidelines to help you.
A. Use a natural and an unforced structure that flows from the chosen text. An illustration that explains this idea is the peeling of an orange, because each orange segment separates naturally in preparation for eating.
B. Develop three or four points.
C. Have clear headings for each point and these should link to the main point of the sermon, as explained in our first stage.

Exercise 3
Determine a clear sermon structure from these three passages with a clear sermon title and three headings.
1. Ephesians 1:3–14.
2. Ephesians 2:1–10.
3. Ephesians 5:21–6:4.

4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Applications

The human body is an example of how we can explain this fourth stage. A human skeleton has a vital place in supporting and strengthening the frame of a human being but it is lifeless without the flesh on the bone. So far, we have hopefully applied these principles to form a good skeleton structure but we now need to make sure that the substance of the sermon to be preached includes doctrines, illustrations and applications.
In the New Testament letters, especially in the epistles, doctrine always seems to come before application. For example in the book to the Ephesians, Paul discusses gospel doctrine for about the first three chapters and then he deals with applying these truths to the daily lives of the first-century Christians for the next three chapters. This is a good pattern for our sermons to follow. The famous British theologian and Puritan John Owen explained it this way: ‘It would be an uncouth [strange, clumsy and lacking in polish] sermon that should be without doctrine and use [application].’

Exercise 4
Illustrations abound in the New Testament, especially in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–7:29) and make a list of the illustrations and applications that Jesus uses (salt, trees etc.). Now write a list of every day contemporary items your listeners are familiar with that you could potentially use to illustrate truths in your sermons (for example: farming, animals, rice etc.).
Each heading of your structure should include the following.

A. Make sure that you explain a single doctrine for each point.
B. A doctrine needs to be correctly labelled and explained, like coat pegs or hooks on which our thoughts can be hung.
C. Use biblical or contemporary illustrations for each point.

Work on developing applications for the hearers for each point and ensure that these are clearly expressed. Try to avoid making applications into one continual challenge because our pastoral desire is to help the sheep to apply the truth of God. Also there may well be non-Christians who need to be pointed to Christ’s command to ‘repent and believe in the gospel’ (Mark 1:15).
Now go through the same Ephesian passages from Exercise 3 and identify the doctrines, illustrations and applications that you could use for each of the three headings you have chosen.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Preaching Clear Sermons (Part Two)

1. The Importance of a Single Idea

There are a number of spheres in life that have recognised the significance in using a ‘single idea’ in communication. This should be our goal in preaching. So, how do we develop a single idea? Through praying and preparation we should be asking ourselves: What do we believe God wants to speak to a certain group of people? This can come through a specific Bible passage or a specific theme whereby you search the Bible to find an appropriate passage. Once we begin to become settled on the specific theme or Bible passage, we should work on the following:
A. Develop a title that communicates that single idea.
B. Often take your title from the Bible passage you will be using.
C. Develop your structure around that single idea.
Here are some examples of sermons that I have preached in the past; ones that sought to capture the use of a single idea.
i. Romans 8:12–13: ‘The Indwelling of Sin and the Holy Spirit in the Life of Every Christian.’
ii. Luke11:22–31: ‘Ravens and Lilies.’
iii. John 10:27–30: ‘The Sheep of His Hand’; the doctrine was the perseverance of the saints, which means that true Christians cannot perish and lose their salvation.
Exercise 1
Consider these Bible passages and write down what is the main theme of each passage and what title you would give a sermon from that passage.
1. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
2. Revelation 1:12-20
3. Genesis 12:1-9
Write down, in a few sentences, an explanation as to ‘why you think a good title is important?’ and ‘how can a focus on a single idea influence your sermon preparation?’

2. The Intended Meaning of the Text

A sermon must always be taken out of the Bible and the reading of a passage should be followed by an explanation of what the particular chosen passage means. This is called expository preaching. We must preach out of the Bible and not about the Bible in a loose way. Two words, eisegesis and exegesis, need defining in order to help us understand our aim when preparing a sermon to be preached. Eisegesis is something we should want to avoid because this means the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s own ideas into the reading of a biblical text. This act of reading into a Bible text what is not there can include mystical ideas for interpretation, the use of allegory that is pushed beyond the scriptural limits or even our own opinions that may deviate from the biblical authors’ intended meaning. Exegesis is our aim because this seeks to determine the intended meaning of a text. Here are three principles that can help us to develop the skill called exegetical preaching, whereby we attempt to accurately understand a passage.
A. Find out the wider context of the passage and its life-setting in relation to the unfolding history of salvation from the rest of the Bible.
B. Consider the context of the passage in relation to the whole of the biblical book that it comes from. What is the literary style of the book? What was the historical context and purpose of the book?
C. What understanding do other parts of Scripture shed on this passage (also called the analogy of faith, which means comparing Scripture with Scripture)?
Our aim is always to discover what a passage is actually saying and how that passage was understood by its original hearers.
Exercise 2
Consider these three passages and try to remember how, in your experience, they are commonly interpreted. Write down what you think is the intended meaning of each passage.

1. The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).
2. Hebrews 6:4–6 (Try to reconcile this passage with the teaching of Jesus in John 10:27–30).
3. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31–46).

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Preaching Clear Sermons (Part One)

Perhaps one of the highest compliments that you can be paid as a preacher is when someone who has heard you preach, comes to you and says: ‘I will never forget that sermon that you preached on …’ At all times, all the glory must go to God, because this can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, however it must be our high aim to preach clear sermons that people do not forget.

We need to ask ourselves as preachers some very searching questions. For example: Why does some preaching appear boring and irrelevant, and some dynamic and exciting? Why do some preachers connect with their audience while others do not? How can we avoid preaching sermons that are quickly forgotten? No matter how we deal with the subject of preaching we know that we will all fall short of the supreme standard of the greatest preacher ever, our Lord Jesus Christ—He is our example and we must aim at improving all areas of our sermon preparation and delivery.

We ourselves will always struggle with our own insecurities, our inadequate gifts to express the glorious truths of the gospel and many other failings, but we know that Christ has not left us alone in our ministry. He has promised the precious gift of the Holy Spirit; He is the One who is sent to the church to continue the mission of our Heavenly Father. We are not alone in the pulpit. In the Upper Room on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples a Trinitarian view regarding the plan of salvation. This includes the promise that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will be our Comforter and Helper (John 14:16–17, 26; 15:26; 16:7), the One who would come alongside the disciples in their mission. Should we not expect the same in the twenty-first century?

It would be a great encouragement to all preachers to read John 13:1–17:26 with a pencil and paper to make a note of all the specific promises concerning the help and ministry of the Holy Spirit. This would most likely strengthen our faith and give us fresh joy in the high calling of the Christian ministry. Our aim here is to simply look at five stages that are involved in the act of preaching clear sermons and at the end of this teaching, there is a preaching feedback sheet. This helpful tool can be given to your fellow elders or friends in your church, so that they can lovingly evaluate your preaching, in order that you may develop further in your service to Christ.

The Five Stages Involved in Preaching Clear Sermons

1. The Importance of a Single Idea
2. The Intended Meaning of the Text
3. A Clear Sermon Structure
4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Applications
5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with your Audience

It must be noted that this is not an exhaustive study of the office of pastor and that of a preacher. For example we do not mention the essential need for godly character for the Christian minister (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:5–9; 1 Peter 5:1–5), the importance of learning how to handle the Bible correctly or many other aspects that are connected with caring for the flock of God. It should also be noted that the range of topics covered here could also be applied to other areas of life, for example as a guideline for effective communication skills.

What is a definition of preaching? Preaching could be defined as: A public proclamation of the intended meaning of a specific Bible passage (or text), in a way that the hearers understand. The goal of Christian preaching is the worship of the Triune God, who is accessed only through God’s mediator, Jesus Christ (1Timothy 2:5). Many Christians have probably over-looked that the central part of our Lord’s earthly ministry, beyond the redemption of sinners, was actually that of a preacher. Here are a few Bible passages from Mark’s Gospel that drive this point across. Let us walk in grace and humility as we follow in our Lord’s footsteps, learning of Him (Matthew 11:28–30).

Mark 1:14–15 And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
1:35–9 And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there. And Simon and his companions hunted for Him; and they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” And He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.
3:14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.
16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Monday 16 November 2009

Beware! A New Version of Covenant by Michael Horton

At the Affinity conference in the UK in February of this year (2009) Michael Horton presented an extremely troubling view of covenant theology that I find hard to reconcile with the Westminster Standards. It appears to me that the Kline-Horton paradigm is to interpret biblical covenants through the lens of recently discovered, Near Eastern, and especially Hittite treaties. Perhaps the two most helpful books to analyse the source of their theological constructs are:

Meredith G. Kline, The Treaty of the Great King, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963.
Michael Horton, God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Horton is an extremely lucid communicator and ‘The White Horse Inn’ appears to have been a blessing to multitudes in spreading the reformed faith. However Horton’s ministry is not primarily in view initially but rather the injunction of Paul in Romans 4:3: ‘For what does the Scripture say?’

I have only engaged in a cursory reading of God of Promise by Horton but here goes the argument.

Chapter 2: ‘God and the Foreign Relations’. Horton puts forward that ‘there are remarkable parallels between ancient (especially Hittite) treaties and the covenantal structure of the OT (24)’. In sum he identifies that there two Hittite treaties, The Suzerainty Treaty and The Royal Grant (or patron covenant); the former is conditional, while the latter is unconditional (33).

Then in Chapter 3 ‘A Tale of Two Mothers’ he makes a huge quantum leap in applying this covenantal framework to biblical covenants. Red flags should be raised immediately because the Hittite gentile practices were the very opposite of God’s intention for establishing a holy nation (Exodus 19). However here we see the connection with T. David Gordon et al., and Horton states:

A covenant of law is established at Mount Sinai, engendering an earthly Jerusalem, which is identified with Hagar the slave; and a covenant of promise is given to Abraham and his seed, engendering a heavenly Jerusalem, which is identified with Sarah the free woman. Confusion of these two covenants, Paul believed, lay at the heart of the Galatian heresy, a charge repeated by the Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century. (35)’.

Need I say more! He pitches the Abrahamic covenant against the Mosaic and this chapter contends that the Mosaic covenant is a Suzerainty/conditional/law covenant and the Abrahamic covenant is a royal Grant/unconditional/promise covenant (39ff). This Hittite framework is then applied to the New Covenant in Chapter Four and here comes another staggering assertion. Horton concludes:

Concerning the covenantal unity of the two testaments: “Law and promise” do not represent the Old and New Testaments or berit and diatheke, respectively, but characterise two different kinds of covenants that obtain the same history (74-5).

Horton then insists on covenantal discontinuity between the New and the Mosaic covenant and he asserts that the Mosaic covenant is conditional, obsolete (Heb. 8:13) and not a covenant of grace (75). In the last chapter in the book ‘New Covenant Obedience (Chapter 9)’ I find it interesting that Horton somehow seems to lose his ability to teach clearly as he unfolds that he agrees in principle to the threefold division of the law (178) but that we go to the content of the NT for the meaning of the moral law (179-80). I have to admit that I cannot pinpoint him as to whether he is abrogating the moral law for the church but I guess in reality that is what will happen when such a radical discontinuity is taught between the Mosaic moral law and the new covenant.

Historical and contemporary theology teaches us to be extremely cautious when theologians introduce material into their theology that is alien to the community of faith. N. T. Wright, James Dunn et al do this with the use of the Pseudepigrapha, the Apochrypha and the writings from Second Temple Judaism; the result is a new theology of justification that takes hours to unravel and untold confusion. Rudolf Bultmann established hypotheses based on importing Gnostic gospels to explain John’s Gospel; a worldview that has now thankfully collapsed. Here we have Horton and Kline importing Hittite Treaty’s to explain God’s covenants, thus leading to a revision of our whole framework of theology. This is exactly why Horton has gone on to write his four volumes on covenant (published by Westminster John Knox Press). A revisionist view always requires a wholesale change in all of our theology.

This blog comment is far longer than I intended. Perhaps someone could take up the challenge to write a brief essay entitled: Does the Idea of Covenant in the Theology of Meredith Kline and Michael Horton fit within the Framework of the Westminster Standards? I think I have my answer already but it would be good to see something on paper.

Monday 2 November 2009

Another Forgotten Truth!

Only a few decades ago almost all Christian denominations in the UK would have held to the doctrine of the Christian Sabbath. Sadly only few would claim to teach this vital truth and in some ways our forefathers may not have done us justice. After World War II there was still some remnant of Victorian Christianity in the UK but Sunday was seen as list of what you could not do rather than a joyful day. Maybe this has caused many people to mock and pour scorn on this biblical doctrine, but this is hardly a righteous approach to go around undoing the work of the gospel because one does not rightly understand something or because a truth has been wrongly applied.
So, what is the Christian Sabbath? The fourth of the Ten Commandments states:

Exodus 20:8-11. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

The command is clear but, how does this apply to the Christian Church? The Westminster Shorter Catechism supplies the answer:

Q. 59. Which day of the week has God designated as the Sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world until the resurrection of Christ God established the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. From that time until the end of the world the first day of the week is the Christian Sabbath.

Sunday is the Christian Sabbath and it is a gift from God so that we can cease from our normal work with all good conscience and seek first God’s kingdom by worshipping God the whole day and by mediating on God’s covenant mercies. The Bible does not teach a half Lord’s Day and therefore we want to encourage Christian’s to attend church twice on Sundays. It is a day to turn away from normal worldly pleasures like the internet, TV, X factor, Sky sports etc and to nourish our souls spiritually. This is not legalism, this is God’s command and it is for our benefit. We need to be creative as families so that we include the whole family and find exciting things to do for the children so that they are not bored and so that they understand what the day is about. Check out an excellent sermon by Ted Donnelly on the subject

Here are a few reasons that explain the purpose of the Christian Sabbath.

1. Worship; this enables the whole family to worship the Triune God in public and in private.
2. Rest; physical and mental.
3. Obedience; the fourth commandment is partly ceremonial and partly civil that was fulfilled by Christ but there is an aspect of this commandment which is still binding on the consciences of Christians and the Book of Isaiah speaks of ‘calling the Sabbath a delight (Isaiah 58:13-14).
4. Remembrance; we remember weekly on this day that God is our creator and redeemer because this is the day that Christ was raised from the dead.
5. Sanctification; we set our lives apart from normal activity to be sanctified unto the Lord.
6. Spiritual refreshment; a time to let God work on us before we begin the week’s work.
7. An anticipation of heaven; hopefully this day gives us a taste of heaven on earth (Deut. 11:21)

Let us finish this short exhortation by listening to what the ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ has to say on this matter:

Isa 58:13 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

One is Your Teacher, the Christ

Matthew 23:8-12: "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Here Jesus reminds us that ultimately we have only one ultimate, infallible teacher that is Christ himself. This does not mean that we do not need earthly instructors because Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 4 and explains that the main gift for the church’s edification today, are the gifts of pastor-teachers. However we must always keep things in perspective.

Recently I have encountered some teachings by men whom I respect who appear to have missed the plot theologically on some important points. Do I abandon everything they teach? Not necessarily but we need to continually exercise discernment of teaching and also to critically evaluate our own teachings. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica and asked them to do just this:

1Th 5:19-21: Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.

The prophetic utterances I take to mean biblical exposition that Timothy was engaged in especially as Paul had left him behind (See Acts chapter 17 and note Paul’s method when he was at the church in Thessalonica). We are to ‘examine everything’!

This does not mean that we are to develop a critical spirit but we are to critically examine the content of all teaching and compare it with the ‘whole counsel of God as revealed in the 66 books of the Bible. The Westminster Confession states in Chapter 1:9, ‘Of the Holy Scripture’:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

Where do we hear the voice of Christ? It is in the reading of or the hearing of the preaching of the Scriptures.

Monday 12 October 2009

When was the Last Time you Sang a Psalm in Public Worship?

This is not a trick question. It is a very real biblical concern that relates to the public and private worship of God. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and instructs them:

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (5:18b-20).
Clearly the important thing to bear in mind is that our worship comes to God through the name of the only mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). But what about the content of the songs we sing?
There has been much discussion as to the difference between ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ in this passage but there has not been discussion as to whether this includes the singing of literal psalms. So what has happened to the singing of psalms? Maybe some think it is old fashioned, or maybe people consider that psalms are not available in modern English or perhaps some believe that modern song writers are better able to explain the cross, the Trinity or our contemporary situation. While it is true that the Wesley brothers wrote some great hymns like ‘And Can it Be’, this does not appear to be the main concern of the apostle Paul.
The Westminster Assembly and Westminster Confession clarified the matter regarding ‘Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day’; they conclude:

The reading of Scriptures with godly fear; the sound conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart: as also the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ: are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God.
The literal singing of psalms was the conclusion of the Westminster divines and this practice needs to be recovered in our day. Some may ask ‘does this subject really matter to the church?’ Here are a number of reasons why the singing of Psalms (meaning the 150 Psalms as recorded in the Bible) is crucial:

• Paul commands this in Ephesians 5:19 and Col. 3:16, therefore it is a test of our obedience to the authority of Scripture.
• By singing psalms in modern English to modern tunes (For example I sang a version of Psalm 51 recently to the tune from ‘Rock of Ages’ and also I sang Psalm 136 to the tune from ‘When peace like a river’.) we are singing with pure words, without any human tainting of false doctrine.
• The psalms express the whole range of human emotions. Most hymns or contemporary songs tend to focus on the jubilation or celebratory aspect of praise. This may not be most pastorally helpful.
• Singing Psalms like Psalm 10, 13, 16, 142 etc help the church to see that it is possible to bring praise to God in the deepest trials that we face.

This is enough for now, but I suggest that you think through for yourself why it is important to recover the singing of psalms as part of our worship in our congregational singing. We must not forget that the high point of worship in reformed circles is the sermon and not just singing. How do we respond to this short challenge that I have written? For now, let us turn our face to God in prayer and ask Him to lead the way in this crucial matter, to show us how we can work towards recovering what has in most circles been sadly lost.

Friday 11 September 2009

Where is the Seat of Church Authority (Matthew 18:15-20)?

One of the consequences of the Separatist movement that somewhat polarised positions was the evolutionary development of idea as to the exact seat of church authority. During this pursuit of a pure church two ideals or admonitions emerged: some Anglicans and Presbyterians understood that for practical purposes, that authority rested with the ministers and elders; whereas many of the Independents and Separatists favoured the view that this was to reside within the congregation.[1] It must be recognised though, that during this time of flux that there was much variance in the Puritan ideals, and hard and fast boundaries do not always work well in assessing this time period. However, many of its leaders did struggle with the question of church authority and it is perhaps helpful to understand in some measure how these two positions developed.

From the outset, any church that looked to Calvin and Geneva as its theological fountainhead invariably included church discipline as a non-negotiable ingredient for a truly Reformed church. In 1539, during a time of temporary exile in Strasbourg, the pastor from the church, Calvin, clearly defended the Reformed doctrine of the church in a letter to Cardinal Sadolet. He writes that ‘there are three things on which the safety of the church is founded, namely, doctrine, discipline and the sacraments’[2] and also that ‘the body of the church, to cohere well, must be bound together by discipline as with sinews’.[3] This concern for a well-ordered church highlights discipline as an important strand of Calvinistic ecclesiology.

The majority of the Puritan movement, and especially the Separatists up until 1608 at least, were ‘convinced Calvinists’[4] according to White, and besides which, the application of outward discipline would most likely have been more pressing with the use of church covenants to bind believers together. How else could the ideal of a pure church be realised and maintained other than through rigorous discipline? Presbyterians who advocated a different pattern for Anglican government while remaining within the church, White clarifies that in the ‘1570–80s they looked to Calvinistic Geneva as the ideal church’ and they were seeking ‘the one apostolic pattern revealed in Scripture, the Presbyterian pattern’.[5] This discloses a recurring issue that has remained to our day concerning the reformation of church polity and practice. Whether or not there is a single NT pattern and blueprint to be copied has remained a topic for much debate and this matter cannot be side-stepped concerning any vision that may pursue a connection between the Trinity and the church.

The classicus locus for the subject was Matthew 18:15–20 and the precise meaning of the phrase ‘tell it to the church’ (18:17) was hotly contested. Did this mean ‘tell the elders’ or ‘tell the congregation’? White has probably irreversibly established that there was a developed Separatist tradition and he devotes almost one whole chapter to these matters concerning Matthew 18:17. In an analysis of the apparent changing views of the English Separatist pastor in Amsterdam, Francis Johnson (1562–1618), White discerns: ‘In the interpretation of the key text, Matthew 18:17, “tell the church” he [Johnson] now understood “the church” to be “the elders”, and not, as the English Separatists had all held until then, “the whole congregation”.’[6]

The way this passage was expounded, often impacted what was a delicate balancing act between the spiritual authority of the elders and the congregation. This was frequently a reaction to the clerical control of parishes where members had little input in church governance. Church discipline may have been the starting point for discussion but this led to other matters relating to the locus of authority for the calling of ministers and congregational decision making. White maintains that a vital principle throughout Separatism (at least up until the end of Smyth’s ministry) was the conviction that Anglican ministry in its entirety was to be rejected as impure and apostate. Certainly any persistent participation in private fellowship with individual members of parish congregations and the listening to the preaching of even godly parish ministers would have led to excommunication.[7]

The shifting of church authority from the hands of the ordained ministers, into the midst of the gathered believers, led to an irreversible distancing from the Church of England. This left no room for the Episcopal authority of Bishops while simultaneously rejecting Calvin’s Presbyterianism. Perhaps this issue of authority also opened the door for many other unexpected wholesale changes that emerged, such as the validity of Anglican Baptism and Calvinistic soteriology.[8] Hopefully this sketch of the background to the times in which Smyth ministered is helpful, prior to our more detailed investigation of his theology. Crucial ecclesial issues have already arisen so far and these can be summarised with three questions: Is it valid to pursue a single all controlling blueprint for the reformation of the churches? Did a Separatist tendency towards ‘always progressing’, pave the way for unbridled fluidity in all aspects of ecclesiology? Where is the final seat of church authority?

[1] The historical context of English church reform during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century is a much discussed topic. Here are some references that are helpful to give some preliminary insights: Meic Pearse, The Great Restoration, Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998; Nick Lunn, ‘Laurence Chadderton―Puritan, Scholar, and Bible Translator’, Banner Magazine, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008, 537; J. I. Packer, Among God’s Giants, Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1991, repr 2000; Basil Hall, ‘Puritanism: The Problem of Definition’ in Studies in Church History, Vol. 2, ed. G. J. Cunning. Nashville: Nelson, 1965; Francis J. Bremer, The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from Bradford to Edwards, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1976; Patrick Collinson, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, Wotton-Under-Edge: Clarendon Press, 1967, repr. 1990, 86.

[2] John Calvin, ‘Reply by John Calvin to the Letter by Cardinal Sadolet to the Senate and the People of Geneva’ in Calvin’s Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Vol. 1, Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1844, 38. Hereafter called Calvin’s Tracts.

[3] Calvin, Calvin’s Tracts, 55.

[4] B. R. White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century, Didcot: Baptist Historical Society, 1996, 18.

[5] White, The Development of the Doctrine of the Church Among the English Separatists, i–iii.

[6] White, The English Separatist Tradition, 142.

[7] Ibid., 158.

[8] Lee, ‘Chapter 1: Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Background’ in The Theology of John Smyth. This offers some helpful background of the historical context of John Smyth. This book also maps Smyth’s theological changes concerning baptism and soteriology that ran parallel to Smyth’s changing views on authority.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

The Lost Art of Catechising

Whatever happened to the use of catechisms in the land of England and among English Christians? Before we go a little further I had better explain what a Catechism is.

Pr 22:6 ¶ Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Some Bibles have a cross reference to the word 'train' which suggests a meaning of 'to catechise'; this verse refers to the training up of children. So, what does catechise mean?

1.To instruct by asking questions, receiving answers, and offering explanations and corrections, - esp. in regard to points of religious faith.

2.To question or interrogate; to examine or try by questions; - sometimes with a view to reproof, by eliciting from a person answers which condemn his own conduct.

The philosophy of this method is crucial to dynamic discipleship in the church. In many areas Maria and I feel that we have been robbed of truth as many things have been simply withheld or not told us by Christian leaders over the years. Catechising is one such area. How does this work practically?

We as a family aim to have our evening meal together around the table at 6.00pm or there abouts and I give thanks for the meal (1 Timothy 4:4-6) and then after the meal we each get out our Bibles (including the children) and and we read out loud one question from the Westminster Larger Catechism and some of the Bible verses that are referenced to it. The children are involved in the discussion around the particular question and it greatly sharpens up Maria and I as well. At the end of the conversation we ask for prayer requests and we close by all praying. This means that family worship is established, the children are instructed and this forms an excellent corporate 'quiet time'.

It would greatly benefit churches also if they based their instruction of children and the youth on the Larger and Shorter (Shorter is generally for children) Westminster Catechisms. Especially if they had Sunday School before the main morning service service for instruction for the adults and children in seperate classes; this should then be followed by the whole family worshipping together for the whole service. This includes the children staying in for the preaching...preaching is the high point of worship and children should not be deprived from hearing preaching. Why? Romans 10:17, 'Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God'. How can the faith of children grow if they never hear preaching.

May the lost art of catechising be recovered in the church of God!

Thursday 3 September 2009

Wisdom From Martin Luther

One of the watchword phrases of the early Reformation was the statement of Martin Luther when he disputed with the Roman Catholics as to the source of his authority. Luther declared:

"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen".

The question is; could we say the same thing today? It seems like there is a very subtle attempt to usurp the authority of the Bible where people place alongside biblical revelation, their own impressions, opinions, dreams, visions etc. All subjective 'words' have no place in the church.

God promises that it is in His Word that we will hear Him speaking, indeed God has spoken. Listen to the book of Hebrews chapter 1 verse 1-2:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.

God is no longer speaking the way he did in days of old, because he has revealed his gospel and it is found in Holy Scripture, and Scripture alone. This is not bondgage or the dead letter but it is God's will and we must submit to this or else be found rebelling against the very person we profess to love (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The public worship of God should be saturated with the Word of God (found in the Bible) and nothing else. We should be devoted to the pure preaching of Scripture, the reading of Scripture, singing based on Scripture alone, including literal psalm singing. God's Word should be our delight (Psalm 119). We should shun the use of unscripural content in our public worship and freely reject the wild enthusiasms of some, who claim to speak for God, but use their own words in man made prophesies. Let us return, let us return to the Word of God and may there be a fresh exodus from what Luther called the Babylonian captivity of the church.

Listen to Isaiah 8: 20

To the teaching and to the testimony. If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Have We Forgotten Something About John Calvin?

As many people will be aware this year is the 500th anniversary since the birth of John Calvin and many conferences are devotong sessions to the impact of Calvin's life and teaching. In all the excellent seminars and conference talks I wonder if we have forgotten something about Calvin. What is it? Calvin's doctrine of the church.

Calvin's Institutes ranks among one of the most influential works in the history of the church and it is made up of four books. The fourth book is all about the doctrine of the Church and yet I have not seen a single article or paper commenting on this aspect of Calvin. I would say that if we do not understaand Calvin's doctrine of the church then we do not understand this Reformer at all. Reformation was all about re-forming the church back to its apostolic pattern. So, whata are some of the aspects of Calvin's doctrine of the church.

1. A fourfold government of pastor's, elders. deacons and doctors (this means teacher, and especially those given to the training of pastors). The deacons were responsible for practical mercy and did not form the spiritual government. The spiritual oversight was given to ruling elders and the minister. The minister was trained, examined and equipped to preach pure doctrine and administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

2. The Sacraments were very important. This involved a covenantal view which included the baptism of infants...not so popular among Reformed Baptists today. Could it be that the neglect or silence concerning Calvin's doctrine of the church, actually relates to the suppressing Calvin's view of the Sacraments? Could it be that we tend to 'pick n mix' from Calvin's theology? In reality Calvin's theology and doctrine of the church were an interconnected and integrated whole. If we do not understand Calvin's ecclesiology we probably do not understand Calvin because the whole purpose of the Reformation was to re-form the church back to the apostolic pattern.

Maybe we need to re-think ecclesiology in England because the best summary of the Christian faith in the English language are the Westminster Standards and these were made in England, yet almost unknown at this time in this country. The need for contemporary reformation is immense and at times overwhelming. Yet if we learn from Calvin he did not shrink from the task and copied the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ who said that 'new wine ' has to be put into 'new winsekins (Matthew 9:17)'. Calvin recovered the wineskin and gave the church a framework to build, nothing new, but a recovered apostolic pattern and doctrine (Acts 2:42).

Tuesday 18 August 2009

What Do I Think About the Book Called 'The Shack'?

I was preaching in Germany recently and a lady at the church where I preached, who ran the bookstall asked me what I thought about the book. In German it is called 'Die Hutte' (I Think) and I gave my opinions which were not too favourable but I thought I need to read it to give an informed judgmnent.

The front of the book claims that over seven million copies are in print and the back cover has some dramatic and glowing recommendations. The evangelist J. John declares that 'this is the most heart-warming inspirational story I have ever read in decades'. Eugene Peterson the author of the controversial Bible paraphrase 'The Message' states that 'this book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress did for his'. Wow!! Stunning recommendations.

I have to admit that so far I have not finished the book and I do not need to; at one stage I broke down in tears that so many 'professing' Christians are deceived and mislead by this blasphemous book. The book is fiction and it portrays the Triune God as three human beings where God the Father is an African-American woman, God the Son is a Middle-Eastern handy man and the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. Need I say more! This book is not Christian and it represents a god made in the mind of the author Wm. Paul Young; merely a god made in the image of what the author would like God to be like. So, what is the problem?

1. It Breaks the First Two, of the Ten Commandments.

A. "You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3)
B. Ex 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

This leads people to an unbiblical image of a false god; this is idolatry.

2. There is no mention of Sin

It seems that all that matters with this false god is that all that counts is a relationship founded on love. Jesus displayed his love by dying for sin and taking the wrath of God in the place of sinners (Romans 5:1-9). There is no mention of sin, righteousness or judgment which Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would convince the world of (John 16:7-10).

3. This Book is a Test of our Discernment

If someone read this book and they have no problems with it I would have to say a number of possibilities exist. Either they are:

a. A new Christian
b. Not a Christian
c. A Christian that has lost all sight of biblical discernment (1 John 4:1)

Maybe this book is a good self-test of where we stand before the God of the Bible. I can confidently say that this book is blasphemy, a portrayal of a false god and in no way is the book remotely comparable to Pilgrim's Progress.

Monday 10 August 2009

Have We Forgotten Some Things?

There seems to be so many things that the English church has forgotten that it is hard to know where to begin in explaining this. Most likely my experience among English Christians will be repeated in many countries around the world. Imagine that you and I go to your local city centre or a Christian conference to survey Christians and ask them some questions. Here are some possible questions.

Question: What is the Lord’s Day?

Answer: Commonly many people would have no concept that the day we call Sunday is what the Bible calls the Lord’s Day. The Jew’s observed Saturday but Christ rose from the dead on Sunday and ever since this day has been a day when Christians have gathered for worship, in remembrance of the resurrection of the Son of the Living God.

1Corinthians 16:1 ¶ Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.
2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.

Acts 20:7 ¶ And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul [began] talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.

Question: What is worship? Or, how do you worship God?

Answer: This question will receive a whole range of answers but most of them will include the idea of music, anointed songs and a sense of the presence of God. In other words it often involves a sense of us engaging with God with our feelings, often with a gifted musician to get us there. However this is a departure from a historic understanding of worship. In Reformed Churches the high point of our worship should be listening to faithful preaching out of the Bible and the whole service is worship. Worship is not restricted to singing, though congregational singing is part of our worship.
The whole idea that when we sing is the only time when are worshipping would be rather strange to most Christians over 2000 years. Worship includes the reading of the Bible (not poems and Christian books), prayer, congregational singing, preaching and the right administration of the sacraments which are: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Question: How important is preaching on the Lord’s Day to the church’s edification?

Answer: I will answer this from one of the Reformer’s called Heinrich Bullinger who wrote:
‘The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God. Wherefore when this word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; that neither any other Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven’.

Bullinger rules out what would commonly be understood to be prophetic words, sharing of ‘pictures’ and people claiming to speak on behalf of the Lord. This alone would cause quite a vacuum in many congregations if they were restricted to the Bible alone!!
The word recover means ‘to get back something that is lost’ The Church has forgotten and lost many things and we need to pray for a recovery of biblical truth in the land where we live.

Saturday 11 July 2009

Charismatic Influences: Is the Bible Sufficient for the Church Today?

Charismatic movements and influences have impacted many sections of the church, producing a ‘new tradition’ often founded on experience, dynamic worship, the expectation that God will speak through prophetic utterances in gatherings and manifestations of signs and wonders. Commonly, a polarisation of views occurs during conflict and thus an opposing ‘cessationist’ group has emerged, particularly among those who hold reformed and dispensationalist positions. Charismatic claims are judged unbiblical and are seen to undermine a New Testament understanding of authority. Wayne Grudem identifies a third group of ‘Christians who are neither ‘charismatic’ nor ‘cessationist’ and are simply unsure about what to think of the gift of prophecy.’[1] Even if we are undecided, looking briefly at the two groups and their relation to our subject will provide a tool for the examination of their consequences for our faith.
The cessationist argument is cogently defended by Robert L. Reymond[2] and O. Palmer Robertson, with the proposition that prophecy and supernatural signs are erroneous because these gifts ceased with the end of the apostolic era and canonical closure. Spirit-empowered revelations are seen as unnecessary; as Robertson summarises, ‘Christ is the final word’ and our goal ‘is living out of the sufficiency of the final word as it is found in the Christ of the Scriptures.’[3] A dual or competing source of revelation is rejected as a distraction from the uniquely inspired Bible as our sole foundation for authority.
Wayne Grudem and Jack Deere[4] persuasively expound a charismatic position and defend from Scripture a well-thought-through argument to encourage the exercise of spiritual gifts. Grudem hopes to present a middle ground[5] position and while he addresses certain charismatic excesses it would be fair to conclude that his proposition sits comfortably with those endorsing continuing prophetic revelation. The focus of discussion centres on chapters twelve to fourteen of 1 Corinthians and revelations are seen as a supernatural mixture of God revealing and someone speaking fallibly ‘something God brings to the mind.’[6] Potential objections regarding the sufficiency of Scripture are anticipated and explanations offered that prophecy is not equal in authority to the Bible and must be tested by the written word of God.[7] In a sense, providing revelations do not contradict Scripture, they can be sifted and accepted; but this opens the door for subjective impressions that can be neither verified nor falsified.

A. Sufficiency: Is Scripture Our Only, Supreme Authority?

What sense do we make of these polarised views where the issues at stake clearly relate to knowing God, authority and our submission? In many ways the charismatic emphasis on the inerrant authority of Scripture and endorsement of the Bible as being an all-sufficient revelation of God is misleading. The expectation of and emphasis on revelations through prophecy moves the locus of authority and interest from Scripture to additional extra-biblical words, in what could fairly be described as a competing source of revelation, the general revealed will in the written Scriptures being supplemented by more specific guidance and understanding through personal revelations. Therefore the logical conclusion of the charismatic position is that the Bible is not the only all-sufficient source of authority. A reassessment of the finality of the authority of Scripture is urgently needed and it must be stressed that the Bible is the only revelation of God today and should occupy an unchallenged and exclusive place in the church. The inevitable result, when the centre of authority is changed and biblical sufficiency is undermined, is that subjectivism is subconsciously welcomed and human reason ascends the throne of final authority.
The theme of redemptive history needs revisiting because this is perhaps the most persuasive argument by which to demonstrate that prophetic revelation and the offices of apostle and prophet have ended.[8] The definition of prophecy must be freshly reviewed and the suggestion by the puritan William Perkins moves dialogue in a different direction altogether. He defined prophecy as a duty of the Christian minister whereby ‘there are two parts: preaching the Word and public prayer.’[9] Furthermore, confusion concerning the sufficiency of the written word may be either eliminated or increased by the place we assign, within the life of the church, to the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination. The puritan John Owen is helpful in clarifying contemporary debate because he wrestled with the enthusiasm of the Quakers and their supposed revelations, and stated that ‘if their private revelations agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree, they are false.’[10] Why expend time and effort on fallible subjective impressions when we can have a sure foundation of the unchanging infallible Scriptures?


Solomon foresaw about three thousand years ago that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’[11] and this is a timely reminder to forewarn us when we face the new challenges that will emerge in the coming decades. The disputes between Augustine and Pelagius, or Athanasius and Arius, caused the truth to shine even more clearly and provide encouragement to press on through doctrinal conflict. It is hard to see a way through the maze of confusion which exists today, unless there is a fresh Exodus event which, by breaking the philosophical enslavement of the Bible, will lead toward the crucial doctrine of Scripture alone, founded on the rock of God’s unchanging revelation. Paul wrote from his prison cell at the end of his life to exhort Timothy:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.[12]

The church father John Chrysostom paraphrased these same words written to Timothy: ‘You have Scripture for a master instead of me; from there you can learn whatever you need to know.’[13]

[1] Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1988, repr. 2000), p 17.
[2] Robert L. Reymond, What about Continuing Revelations and Miracles in the Presbyterian Church Today? (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1977).
[3] O. Palmer Robertson, The Final Word: A Biblical Response to the Case for Tongues and Prophecy Today (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1993, repr. 2004), p 135.
[4] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993).
[5] Wayne Grudem, op cit, pp 17-19.
[6] Wayne Grudem, ‘The Source of Prophecies: Something God Brings to Mind’ (in) Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1988, repr. 2000).
[7] Wayne Grudem, ‘Appendix C: The Sufficiency of Scripture’ (in) Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1988, repr. 2000).
[8] An alternative Pentecostal position disagreeing with this assertion is presented by Jon Ruthven, ‘The Foundational Gifts of Ephesians 2:20’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology (London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), vol. 10, no. 2.
[9] William Perkins, The Art of Prophesying (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1592, repr. 1996), p 7.
[10] John Owen, ‘John Owen on Communication from God’ (in) J. I. Packer, Among God’s Giants: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1991, repr. 2000), p 113.
[11] Ecclesiastes 1:9 quoted from English Standard Version of the Holy Bible (London: Collins, 2002).
[12] 2 Timothy 3:16-17 from English Standard Version (ESV), (London: Harper Collins, 2002).
[13] William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture (Cambridge: The University Press, 1849), p 637.

Friday 26 June 2009

Does it Really Matter What We Believe About the End Times (A Fresh Look at the Book of Revelation)?

A Fresh Look at the Book of Revelation

This study was motivated by a number of reasons. Firstly someone from Norway called Haldis was on one of the Intensive Discipleship groups that we ran, and she asked me to give an introduction to the book of revelation. In some ways this is a delayed answer to that question. Secondly a book called ‘Are we living in the End Times?’ By Tim Lahaye caught my attention because he gives 20 reasons why Jesus could come back in our generation. (That is the rapture before the second coming). Thirdly for a number of years I have come to doubt the supposed two stage second coming that many Christians hold as a precious doctrine. I absolutely believe in the second coming, but that Christ will come once and all the descriptions of his coming (Including 1 Thessalonians chapter 4) all describe the one event. Fourthly was because I was recommended a commentary by a man called Hendrickson on Revelation called, ‘More Than Conquerors’. I had wanted to read this for a long time.

Let us look at the book as a whole.

Before we get lost in the details of this book I think we need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions that will help us to have a right understanding. Let us give some insight to these questions before we look at parts of the book.

1. What was the purpose of this book?
· To encourage and correct the 7 churches in Asia Minor.
· To give them strength during difficult times.
2. What were the conditions of the early church that received this letter/revelation?
· Persecution including being fed to lions among, a dark pagan idolatrous world with generally small congregations scattered around in a world controlled by the Roman Empire.
3. Is there a main theme that we must not lose sight of as we work through this book?
· The main theme is Jesus Christ (See Rev 1v1), not end times the anti-Christ etc. This affects the way you interpret the book. If I was to give a one line summary of the theme it would be, ‘The victory of Christ and His church over Satan and all the enemies of the gospel’. Two key words are overcome and wrath!
4. Who wrote the book and where?
· John the apostle while banished to the Isle of Patmos and he received these visions towards the end of his life.
5. What is the Old Testament foundation for these visions? (Note, it is not just the book of Daniel)
· Note the OT quotations through the book. Here are some examples. Compare Rev 4v8 with Isaiah 6, Rev 6v16 with Hosea 10v8, Rev 18v2 with Isaiah 21v9 etc.

There are seven parts to the book of Revelation

As I understand this book there are seven sections to this book that basically explain what will happen between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. With this in mind we do not need to keep changing or updating our interpretation in the light of world events. This would be an orthodox view from the Reformation and church history. However you need to know that Tim Lahaye, many denominations and bible teachers do not see the book of Revelation this way.

They believe Chapter 4-19 is the time of a seven year great tribulation and that the church is raptured (Caught up to heaven) before this because of the wrath of God being poured out. Multitudes are saved during this period and then the church comes back with Christ in Revelation 19. They say that God will not subject his wrath on Christians? I have a number of questions on this line of interpretation.

I do not believe the visions of revelation can just be interpreted as single literal events. For example in chapter 16v13, it speaks of three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon. This is symbolic language.
The seven-year period of tribulation and God’s wrath has very little evidence except a verse in Daniel 9 and there is no evidence to say most of Revelation must take place during this 7 year period.
If this interpretation was true then almost all of the book of Revelation was irrelevant and of no comfort to Christians through the ages if it is almost all to be fulfilled at least 2000 years later. Jesus spoke nothing of a 7 year Great Tribulation. Note Tribulation means pressure and Christ said there would be a time of great Tribulation (Matthew 24) but he did not call it The Great Tribulation.
These people claim that it would not be righteous for God to pour out his wrath on the church but then Tim Lahaye says there could be billions of people saved in what he calls the Great Trib???? Then this contradicts the interpretation because God’s wrath (As they see it) is still poured out on the righteous anyway.
Finally whatever we believe will affect the way we live our life. Apart from the fact that I do not believe the scriptures teach a two stage second coming, this rapture/ escape teaching reminds me of prosperity teaching. Suffering free Christianity with an attitude of who cares about the world anyway because we are leaving before it gets difficult, rather than a sober longer term view where we are prepared to be salt and light in every area of society in every generation and be prepared for a single sudden coming!!!!

The Seven sections revealed in the book of Revelation.

These seven sections give different summaries of the time between the first and second coming, but remember to keep in mind the big picture and do not get lost in the details.

Section 1: The Revelation of Christ to the church. (1v1-3v22)

The seven churches represent 7 literal but different churches and these are examples of 7 different types of congregations through the ages to the second coming. The letter was written primarily to these congregations in modern day Turkey. Some people say that each church represents what happened to the church up to the rapture. I would say the bible does not teach this for a number of reasons.
Firstly this is what is called Eisegesis (Reading into the text what is not there) and secondly the Chinese would greatly disagree that we are living in the lukewarm church age before the second coming. Here we see the common danger of interpreting world events from a western perspective. I think sometimes these bible teachers could do with 2 years on the Doulos to show them that the world exists outside of Europe and America.

Section 2: The throne of God and the Seven Seals (4v1- 8v5)

The key to understanding the seven seals is to examine who the rider is on the first white horse in 6v2-4. After closely looking at this over many years I have come to the conclusion that I believe this is Jesus (Compare Revelation 19) going forth with his gospel into the nations. Many teach this is the anti Christ but I do not agree with this interpretation. If we remind ourselves about the introduction and purpose of the book, it is all about Christ and his sovereignty not about the Antichrist taking center stage.

First seal =Christ
Second seal = Persecution of God’s people
Third seal = Injustice and economic hardship suffered by believers because of their testimony of Jesus and the Word of God.
Fourth seal = Universal death for all humanity (Christians and the world)
Fifth Seal = A fixed number of saints to be martyred in the history of the church
Sixth seal = the second coming of Christ as a day of vengeance and wrath. The language is found in Matthew 24v29-30 and this is categorically the second coming after a time of tribulation (pressure) in those days.
· A great earthquake
· The sun becomes as black as sackcloth of hair
· The moon becomes as blood
· The stars of the heaven fall to the earth
· The heaven departs as a scroll (See Psalm 102v26)
· People hide themselves from the wrath of the lamb. (Second coming)

Seventh Seal = Fire cast to the earth (8v5) and this is the destruction of earth by fire as prophesied by Peter in 2 Peter 3v10-12.

Section 3: The Seven angels blowing the seven Trumpets (8v5-11v19)

Trumpet 1 = A judgment upon trees and grass of the earth
Trumpet 2 = Judgment upon the sea that becomes blood with sea creatures and ships destroyed ( A modern example would be the 2004 Tsunami)
Trumpet 3 = Judgment upon the rivers and fountains of waters (A modern example would be the floods in New Orleans). Waters also become bitter and many men die because of this.
Trumpet 4 = Sun moon and stars are effected.
Trumpet 5 =Torment and death on all those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (These are true Christians. It is interesting that in the Tsunami in Sri Lanka they told me that Christians were not so affected). Men will seek and desire death. Linked to Apollyon (Literally a destroyer)

Trumpet 6 = war, armies and the judgment of seven thunders in chapter 10 (Compare Psalm 29). The two witnesses and a great earthquake in Jerusalem (Compare Zechariah 14)
Trumpet 7 = the second coming where in 11v15, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms or our Lord and of His Christ. This is followed by worship before the throne where they declare the ruler ship of God and the time of wrath through final judgment.

Section 4: Christ versus the dragon and his allies (12v1-14v20)

Chapter12: Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and coronation with Satan hurled down from heaven. This whole chapter gives an excellent exposition of Genesis 3v15 (And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.) of the war between Christ and His seed with Satan and his seed.

Chapter 13: This reveals the two main enemies of the gospel.
A. The Beast out of the sea, possibly symbolizes anti-Christian government through the ages and will culminate in the Anti-Christ, the man of sin. 13v1-10, note especially the horns and crowns in 13v1=government
B. The beast out of the earth probably symbolizes Anti Christian religions, wisdom and philosophies between the first and second coming. Examples are Islam, Buddhism, Communism, Evolutionism etc.

Chapter 14
· The 3 angels declaring in verse 6 the world wide preaching of the gospel (Compare Matthew 24v14) in verse 8 the fall of Babylon and in verse 10-11 the second coming as wrath and judgment on the unrighteous.
· Verse 14-20 records the second coming of Christ as a day of wrath when the door of salvation closes. Christ returns as judge!

Section 5: The Seven bowls of the Wrath of God 15-16

Bowl 1: Grievous sores on those who did not have the mark of the beast

Bowl 2: Judgment on the sea where it becomes as blood and every living thing in the sea died.

Bowl 3: Judgment on the rivers and fountains of waters. Judgment on those who have killed Christians with the voice of the martyrs rejoicing

Bowl 4: The sun scorches men with fire and heat. God has power over the plagues

Bowl 5: Judgment on the seat of the beast and his kingdom. The people blaspheme God and will not repent (16v11)

Bowl 6: The Euphrates dries and armies come with a gathering of the battle of Armageddon in Israel before the second coming.

Bowl 7: The second coming with the fierceness of wrath and the end of the world

It is very interesting to note the similarities with the seven seals and the seven trumpets and how they all end with second coming of Christ in wrath and the end of the world. Again with one and only one second coming!!

Section 6: The fall of the Dragon’s allies 17-19

The judgment of Babylon (the woman and the beast)
The marriage is prepared before the second coming 19v1-10
The one and only second coming of Christ who defeats the antichristian forces (See Zechariah 14v1-9)
The beast and false prophet were finally judged and cast into the lake of fire (19v20)

Section 7: Victory through Christ.

· I still want to think through more concerning the millennium however when we consider the main part of this book deals with the time and events between the first and second coming this probably represents in 20v1-6 a time when Satan’s authority is limited to enable the spread of the gospel through the world (See Malachi 1v11)
· For the third time this book teaches there will be a final war before the second coming, this time it reveals Satan is involved in 20v7-10 but he is defeated and cast into the lake of fire.
· The end of the age again is recorded as final judgment and here is a detailed view of the great white throne.
· The book of revelation finishes with the last two chapters describing our eternal dwelling place, The New Jerusalem on the New Earth in the New Heaven. Our dwelling is with God and the lamb!!! Meditate on these 2 chapters often.


In the light of what I have outlined please search the scriptures because we none of us have the whole picture and we are all on a pilgrimage towards what Bunyan called in The Pilgrim’s progress, ‘The Celestial City’. However what we believe, affects the way we live and we must be watching, working and waiting eagerly for the second coming, knowing that Christ may not come back for another 500 years or he could come today!
A lot of what I have outlined would be what most of the church have believed regarding the second coming through the ages with the detailed rapture ideas really only promoted from around the 1850’s. These ideas are mainstream evangelical thinking today but let not the traditions of man hide the truth of God from any us on any biblical subject.

Yours in pursuit of the whole counsel of God and in need of your prayer for this,

Kevin Bidwell

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Family Life in the 21st Century

Single people are not second class citizens but it is a reality that families constitute the glue of any society, not least the church.
There is a great need for teaching on family in churches.

Genesis 1:26 ¶ Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
· Representatives of all humanity

Genesis 2:15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
16 ¶ And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die."
18 ¶ Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought [them] to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
20 And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.
21 ¶ So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 And the man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."
24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Overview of Genesis
Chapter 1: Creation...In the beginning God. The whole Bible is God-centred.
Chapter 2: Man, Woman and family life in the Garden of Eden
Chapter 3: The Fall and the consequences of the fall.

Jesus appeals to life before the fall as our model: Matthew 19:3-9 ¶ And [some] Pharisees came to Him, testing Him, and saying, "Is it lawful [for a man] to divorce his wife for any cause at all?"
4 And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created [them] from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE,
6 "Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."
7 They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND [her] AWAY?"
8 He *said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
9 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

1. Exposition

V 15 Man is set in the garden to work= work is a blessing despite the curse. ‘Tend’ and ‘keep it’ speaks of order (remember the feeding of the 5000). Guards against laziness.

V16-17 He commanded the man with the Word of God = not speak of free will but that man cannot save himself by keeping the law. If innocent man without sin could not keep himself righteous by obeying one command, then how can we? Salvation and the doctrine of perseverance.
There is to be order in the family and the man is particularly responsible to ensure that the family, knows, reads, memorises and obeys God’s revelation in the Bible.
V18 It is not good that man should be alone= a rich verse relating also to marriage, friendship, social life, fellowship with Christians etc.
Illustration: Give illustration of preaching on a family/marriage conference on the Doulos: Ephesians chapter five and the 8 responsibilities for husbands and 4 for wives.

Helper= Man does not excel the woman, they have different roles, equality and order. There has been much discussion over the meaning of this word but it implies friendship, teamwork, love,
Ship: You cannot have two captains on a ship.
V19-20 Adam names the animals but no helper is found= God’s humour.
V20 seeking marriage = a suitable helper. How do you know who is the right man or woman? The 6 million dollar question.
Ask yourself “Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” Are they a Christian? Are they suitable? If so what is holding you back?

V22 He fashioned a woman that he had taken from man= distinctions between men and women.
Illustration: Babies in church, crèche, children’s work etc. Practical work for a church’s new building =men.
V22 He brought her to man =the first wedding in the Bible. Marriage is a gift from God and must not be taken for granted.
V23 Adam said “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh”, his greatest gift from all creation
V24 leave and cleave (men and women, but especially men), Mother-in law’s. They shall become one flesh = a process.
V25 Naked and not ashamed = a no secret relationship.

2. Practical Application
· Men working: two problems are laziness and working too much. We need work-life balance.
· Daily Family time: Dutch tradition, 6pm Bible reading and prayer.
· Giving thanks for meals is a good time for prayer and to disciple children in hearing how to pray and being asked to pray themselves.
Paul writing to Timothy: 1Ti 4:3 [men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude;
5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
· Developing family traditions
· Holidays without other people.
· Playing games together, chilling out, taking the children individually to do things...they open up.
· As a couple, always offer a united front to the children and discuss things away from them.
· Church is a must all the days of your lives, in season and out of season. We cannot have Christianity without church.
· Be thankful and encouraging in the home and try to avoid taking things for granted.

Calvin: ‘Every family of the pious ought to be a church’, commenting on Genesis.

Closing Song: Breathe on me breath of God
Benediction: 2Peter 3:18

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Can we Learn Anything from a Presbyterian Understanding of the Local Church?

There are perhaps four aspects of a Presbyterian pattern for a local church that comprise a compelling argument for this form of a church order. The headings chosen all begin with the letter ‘C’ and this is in some measure coincidental but it does however aid our remembrance. The headings that describe this suggested NT church model are confessional, connectional, church polity and covenantal theology. Let us begin by explaining these terms and their correspondence with the NT.

1. Confessional
The Presbyterian confession of faith for the English speaking world is the Westminster Confession along with the Larger and Shorter Catechism’s. These form a subordinate standard to the Bible but they give a summary of what is believed to be the Apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). Obviously these documents were not known to the first century apostles and they are not infallible, however the doctrines they contain were known and written about by the early church elders and in a sense these doctrines are infallible. The nineteenth Century theologian Benjamin B. Warfield wrote about these three forms of unity and stated: ‘They are the richest and most precise and best guarded statement ever penned of all that enters into evangelical religion and of all that must be safeguarded if evangelical religion is to persist in the world’.[1]
To be reformed means holding to a reformed confession as a basis for church membership, preaching and as a means of interpreting Scripture. It is not uncommon to hear some Christians boldly assert that ‘all I need is the Bible’. It sounds right and yet it is profoundly mistaken because the real question centres on how we interpret the Bible. There are three options when it comes to church tradition. Tradition is something that is seen in a negative light, as if all tradition is ugly and something to be rejected as utterly false. According to Heiko Oberman there are two ways to understand the relation between Scripture and tradition, called Tradition I and Tradition II. [2]
Tradition I is the Reformed principle of Sola Scriptura which accepts the Scripture as the single and unique authority in the church while maintaining a high regard for tradition to learn from the past, so that we can more accurately interpret Scripture. Tradition II would represent the Roman Catholic Church that places church tradition on an equal footing with the Bible. Alistair McGrath observes a third category called Tradition 0 which is a ‘fundamentally individualistic approach to Scripture and tradition’.[3] McGrath explains that this places the ‘private judgement of the individual above the corporate judgment of the Christian church concerning the interpretation of Scripture’ and furthermore he believes it is ‘a recipe for anarchy’.[4]
This poses a searching question for anyone who would claim the name Christian. Which approach to tradition best represents your faith and your church? Presbyterian churches should hold to Tradition I but always need to be aware of the danger of allowing their confession to be exalted above Scripture. However, to live without any confession of faith at all, opens the door to rampant individualism that exalts human opinion above every form of authority.

2. Connectional
A second dynamic attribute of Presbyterianism is labelled as connectionalism. This means that local churches are in some measure inter-connected while maintaining their own identity and local church government. Thomas Witherow explains that there are three forms of church government and writes:
Prelacy is that form of church government which is administered by archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical office-bearers depending on that hierarchy; and is such as we see exemplified in the Greek Church, the Church of Rome, and the Church of England.
Independency is that form of church government whose distinctive principle is, that each separate congregation is under Christ subject to no external jurisdiction whatever, but has within itself—in its office-bearers and members—all the materials of government; and is such as it is present in practical operation among Congregationalists and Baptists.
Presbytery is that form of church government which is dispensed by presbyters or elders met in session, presbytery, synod or general assembly; and are such as presented in Presbyterian Churches.[5]

Undoubtedly God blesses different forms of church government but if we look at the NT it seems there was inter-church connection for ministry, accountability and support. For example the conference in Acts chapter fifteen that discussed doctrinal matters on behalf of local congregations and then Paul’s example in collecting diaconal aid for the saints in Jerusalem and Judea from many Gentile churches (1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2Cor. 8-9; Rom. 15: 22-9).
One pastor-theologian has commented that what led him from independency to Presbyterianism was the witnessing of gross injustices without any recourse alongside recognition of the interconnection of the one and many, the particular and universal. It is our contention that a Presbyterian form of church government principles, best represents the NT apostolic pattern.

3. Church Polity
In recent years there has been a lot of debate as to what are ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ doctrines for evangelical unity. While much of this discussion has been valuable it has sadly relegated the doctrine of the church to a position of secondary importance. This may have led some to altogether dismiss this crucial doctrine of which the NT has much to say.
The Presbyterian example that was modelled by the church in Geneva led by John Calvin and others has been replicated all over the world because men believed that a triform church office best represents the NT. This blueprint anticipates the offices of pastor (or minister), ruling elders and deacons. The pastor is primarily responsible as a man called, trained and equipped to lead the spiritual ministry of the church and most especially the preaching of pure doctrine. The elders are men who are to rule alongside the pastor and to oversee the church’s organisation, care and discipline (moral and doctrinal). The deacons do not constitute church rule but they are responsible for practical care and compassion. One of our aims must be faithfulness to Scripture, with an attitude that believes that we cannot improve on God’s plan. Obviously God’s plan will lead to the best care of the church and the best administration of the gospel. This three-fold pattern of church offices held by many Presbyterian Churches seems to faithfully describe the NT model for ministry.

4. Covenantal Theology
One of the exciting marks of Presbyterianism is its relentless pursuit for the accurate exegesis of Scripture and pure biblical theology—both are often sadly neglected in much of the modern church. Presbyterians emphasise a covenantal approach to theology which produces an important lens for biblical interpretation. This approach upholds continuity from Genesis to Revelation and the general view is that there was a covenant of works given to Adam before the fall and then the covenant of grace begins to unfold throughout the Bible, beginning from the first gospel statement in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). J. V. Vesko explains that this covenant of grace is unfolded in four main covenants: Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic.[6] These covenants point the way to their climax which is the grace and redemption of the New Covenant purchased by Jesus’ own blood (Jer. 31:31-4; 1 Cor. 11:23-5; Heb. 8:1-13).
Four ways in which this covenantal continuity is manifested is in preaching, the law, baptism and the Lord’s Day. In preaching, sermons usually draw on the whole Bible and do not exclusively focus on passages from the NT and exposition should connect the Bible as a whole without apparent contradictions. This also means that the Law and especially the Ten Commandments have an important role for the church’s sanctification, even though we are saved by grace and never by the law. Baptism is administered to infants of believing parents as a connection to the OT covenant sign of circumcision but also to adult believers from non-Christian backgrounds. The Lord’s Day is seen to be a gift from God and this day (Sunday) is set aside for rest and the public worship of God. This is not a legalistic obligation but a joyful gift of the New Covenant that goes back to an ordinance given by God in Creation.

If this outline does not convince you fully, hopefully it will lead many to freshly investigate the importance of the local church to be organised in a way that is ‘decently and in order’ (1 Cor.14:40). Many significant theologians have unreservedly held to a Presbyterian pattern and these have included John Calvin, John Knox, Herman Bavinck, B. B. Warfield and William Hendriksen, to name a few. Presbyterianism is boldly proposed by Witherow who states: ‘Of all the churches now existing in the world, the Presbyterian Church comes nearest to the model of apostolic times’.[7]

However, it must also be stressed that though these principles are gleaned from Presbyterian theology, not all Presbyterian Churches put this into practice. Liberalism and other winds of doctrine have influenced many parts of Presbyterianism as it has many segments of the Christian Church. Additionally it must be pointed out that the Presbyterian Church does not hold the copyright to these ideas because they are believed to be drawn from the Scriptures. For example the concept of connectionalism is something that all churches should seek out to avoid the pitfalls of Independency. We need to be realistic in putting these lessons into practice as we minister in a world of diversity. May this brief paper, at the least, spur us on to place the doctrine of the church to the same place of priority that the NT writers gave it. It was not a secondary non-essential to them and it should not be to us.

[1] Benjamin B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, Vol. II, ed. John E. Meeter, Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973, 660.
[2] R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety and Practice, Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2008, 8-11.
[3] Ibid., 27.
[4] Alistair E, McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 2nd ed., Oxford: Blackwell, 1993, 144-5.
[5] Thomas Witherow, The Apostolic Church: Which is it?, Edinburgh: Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, 1967, 14.
[6] J. V. Fesko, Last Things First: Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2007, 79-81.
[7] Witherow, The Apostolic Church: Which is it?, 76.