The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 26: Of the Church - Commentary

...thing of election. It speaks of those who are professing the faith and obedience unto God by Christ. This is the only way in which we as people can know if one is regenerate or not. Indeed, some will be able to deceive us, but we do not have the ability to look into one’s heart to determine if they’re elect or not. Therefore, profession and the way of life is the only way in which we can (fallibly) determine if one is a Christian or not. If this is the case for someone, they are may be called visible saints, i.e., saints of the visible church. Finally, all particular congregations, i.e., Local Churches, should consist of visible saints, i.e., those professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ. The Westminster Confession of Faith in chapter 25:2 (which is the parallel for this chapter) says that the invisible church “consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children” (compare both here). In other words, their children are included as visible saints and as part of a Local Church. But the 1689 rejects this in saying that only they who profess the gospel and obedience unto God may be called visible saints.


All Christians are saints. It's not a title special which the Pope places on some people who were “holy.” Being a saint, contrary to the usual meaning of the term, does not mean being perfect, but it means being someone who is set apart by God for holy use. Everyone who professes the true faith of the Gospel may be called a saint and welcomed as a brother or sister. Obviously, some professing believers will be just that—professors of the faith, but not possessors of the faith. They are welcomed into our fellowships, receive the sacraments unbeknown to us that they're actually not true believers. We cannot look into peoples’ hearts, but we must listen to what comes out of their mouths and what their conduct is. Those who participate in church fellowship, but are not true believers, will certainly have some restraints because of the preaching of God's Word. This is the case for example in 2 Peter 2:17-22 (see here). Some of them may remain professing believers until death. Some will fall away from the church and go into other religions or atheism. Some will come to true repentance and faith in Christ. But the fact is, such professing believers, should be treated as believers unless their mouth or their lives prove otherwise.

1Cor. 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Paul writes to a local church of God which is located in Corinth, but his words apply to the universal church as well. Paul did not have special insight into who is a true believer and who is not. He took people at their word and judged from their conduct if they're true believers or not. Some were successful in deceiving him (e.g. 2Tim. 2:10, 16). He is writing to those who are sanctified in Christ. They have been set apart in Christ for God. They are made unique, not because they were unique, but God by bestowing His grace upon them has made them unique. Therefore, if they're sanctified they are to be known as those who are sanctified by the title “saints.” They are called by God to be saints. They are called to be sanctified in Christ by the Spirit. Here we see a simple congregation, who certainly was not fr...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...or prayer and the proper worship of God was the Temple in Jerusalem. But that is no longer the case. God is to be worshipped everywhere in the universe. There is no special place which God has appointed God He will receive our worship and hear our prayers under the New Covenant. He is everywhere with us. We can worship Him loudly or in silence. Thank You, Lord! See our discussion above on John 5.

We are not to neglect the gathering together of God's people on the Lord’s Day. Rather, we should look forward to the Lord’s Day on which we come with God’s people to publically worship our Lord, as a Local Church joining the worship in heaven (Heb. 12:22). We are not to be those who “neglect to meet together”, rather “encouraging one another” to meet as a corporate body to worship the Lord. We should be joyful when we see the Lord’s Day coming, preparing ourselves to the public worship of God in His congregation. We should be as joyful as David was:

Ps. 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

We do not treat the church gathering as something common, but rather consider it holy and solemn. For the Lord manifests Himself to us there in a special manner, in the midst of His local community. We should battle against the common sinful ideas of our age that church is unnecessary and it doesn’t matter if we go or not, or the way in which we conduct ourselves there. We should understand that any place where God manifests His special presence, which He has promised to do in the gathering of His people in His name (e.g. Matt. 18:15-20), is holy ground. Therefore, the church assembly is sacred and is to be treated as sacred and separate. Not as a “common” thing. This is the reason why the Regulative Principle of Worship concerns the worship of the gathered church. Because the Reformers understood from both Testaments that there is a difference between the public and private worship of God.

When we neglect our assembling together on the Lord’s Day with God’s people we miss on God’s blessings which He ministers to us in His congregation. We miss on the means of grace: the Word and the sacraments. The fellowship with brothers and sisters, the encouraging of each other, the testifying about what the Lord is doing in our lives. It is true that going to church does not make one a Christian, but it is a sin to neglect the meeting of God’s people. It is a great error and sin to not heed the voice of God and assemble ourselves as a local body for His praise. We are not meant to be autonomous and on-ourselves Christians but are to grow in a family of like-minded believers, so that we may encourage and support each other.


§7 The Case For The Christian Sabbath

  1. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God's appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord's day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished. 2
    1. Gen. 2:3; Exod. 20:8-11; Mark 2:27-28; Rev. 1:10
    2. John 20:1; Acts 2:1; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

...ongfaith itself wrought in us by the grace of the promise, and so its precedency unto pardon respects only the order that God had appointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.[60]

As to membership in the New Covenant, we have seen from Jeremiah that it is only the elect – the believers who are taken in the covenant community and thus those who are members of a Local Church are not necessarily members of the Covenant of Grace/New Covenant. Members of the Church as just that, members of the Local Church, but not necessarily members of the Universal Church of Christ, they are merely members of the Visible Church. Furthermore, as Reformed believers, we believe that Christ died to save and atone for the sins of the elect. Those are also His covenant community and by His blood He places them in the New Covenant and in relationship with God. But this is not the case for apostates or infants of believing parents.

The Spirit is the seal and guarantee of and in the New Covenant (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2Cor. 1:22; 5:5). It is not circumcision, baptism or anything else. It is the Spirit of the Lord whom He has given to us, which sets the people of God apart from the reprobate. As for those using Romans 4:11 to argue that baptism now is the seal of the covenant I direct above to my exegesis of the text. See also chapter 29 on this question.

As for the sign or signs of the covenant, I argue in chapter 29 that the signs of the New Covenant are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Circumcision is not replaced by baptism, rather, circumcision is fulfilled by circumcision of the heart. Need I mention, that therefore, only those in the New Covenant are entitled to the Covenant sacraments and promises?

Conclusion

First things first, I must ask for forgiveness because I said that I would like to keep this short, but failed miserably. I actually enjoyed this study of Covenant Theology that took me something like a month or more to finish writing [aside from later repeatedly updating it]. I had to revisit a lot of books that I've read on Baptist Covenant Theology to check how things were. I tried to use the Scriptures and explain the Scriptures as much as possible, since I believe often with the study of Covenant Theology, I do not hear much Scripture but names of men who have stood on both sides (Westminster and 1689), while that is great and encouraging, I wanted to focus on the Scripture. Not to deny that I've benefited a lot from reading Owen obviously and made me stronger 1689 Federalist than I was beginning this study.

What sets 1689 Federalism apart is our insistence that the Covenant of Grace was not established, enacted and “cut” any time before the death of Christ. The Covenant of Grace did indeed exist since Genesis 3:15, but it did exist in the form of a promise, not an established covenant. Every covenant of God did shadow and typify it and contained promises concerning it, but was not an administration of it. The Covenant of Grace was established, ratified, enacted and "cut" in the blood of Christ and in the New Covenant. We believe that the Covenant of Grace was established and cut in the New Covenant, thus, the Covenant of Grace is the retroactive New Covenant. Lastly, this is diagram is from Pascal Denault's work which represents the 1689 Federalist understanding of the Covenant of Grace as being revealed by farther steps but was concluded and establishe...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper - Commentary

... those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. 1
  1. Matt. 24:45-51; 28:19-20; Luke 12:41-44; 1 Cor. 4:1; Titus 1:5-7

The holy appointments or ordinances are to be administered by those only who are qualified and called to this task, according to the commission of Christ.


Now here there is a little difficulty. Who are the persons qualified to do these things? In a Local Church, those persons would be the elders. But, does this exclude any regular member in administering the ordinances or helping in the administration thereof? I do not see any biblical command that only the elders may do these things, nor any prohibition against regular members helping. Obviously, within the local gathering of God's people, the elders would undertake to administer the Lord's Supper and Baptism. They may, perhaps, ask the help of some brothers or sisters for the Lord's Supper, for example. To pray for the bread and wine and distribute the elements. I do not see why that would not be permissible. Obviously, having the elders administer the ordinances is much better, as they are the ones who are in the position to lead the church and are known as the church leaders. Therefore, having them baptize a person or administer the Lord's Supper, is much more authoritative than a regular member. Philip, for example, who was not an elder, baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38). I do not advise people to go and baptize others outside the church. That is not my point. But rather, my point is that I see nothing in the Bible (I am open for change) which restricts the administration of the ordinances to elders alone.

As for the Lord's Table, the disciples in the early church in Jerusalem, it seems, were regularly celebrating it (e.g. Acts 2:42). But the Lord's Supper was especially celebrated on the Lord's Day in the corporate gathering of God's people (Acts 20:7). The people of God were gathered on the first day in Troas to celebrate the Lord's Supper. The Corinthians, when they came "together as a church” (1Cor. 11:18) observed the Lord's Supper (1Cor. 11:20). This would indicate that the Lord's Supper is generally to be administered on the Lord's Day in the corporate gathering of God's people. The Lord's Supper should not be celebrated by one person, but rather in a gathering of more people. There may be occasions when a group would want to celebrate the Lord's Supper outside of the gathering of the church, or a sick brother or sister not in the corporate gathering may want to partake of the Lord's Table. I do not see any prohibition of such a thing. But we should note that the common, regular, and normal observance of the Lord's Supper is within the corporate gathering of God's people on the Lord's Day.

In conclusion, we give the words of Bob Carr:

While there is nothing in the Bible that says that only ministers may administer the ordinances, surely it is reasonable to believe that the baptism of new disciples and the serving of the elements of the Lord’s Supper ought to be under the supervision of the ministers. Ordinarily, they will administer the ordinances themselves. There may be unusual circumstances, however, under which they may delegate the tasks to other men selected by them and recognized by the congregation. The wording of the Confession at this point provides for appropriate flexibility.[4]

 

Footnotes

  1. ^ Many Scriptural references have been supplied by...

Review of Sam Waldron's To Be Continued?

...happy to affirm that God does miracles today." (p. 99) However, there is also a strict definition of miracles which he believes do not happen anymore. "A miracle is redemptive, revelatory, extraordinary, external, astonishing manifestation of the power of God." (p. 100) On the "revelatory" part he says that it is "a sign done by a prophet or apostle to attest the divine origin of his message" (p. 100) and he later gives a few reference were miracles were used for attestation. But I don't believe that miracles were restricted to attestation, though that is a major part. That I cannot deny. Rather, I believe that the stress in 1Cor 12-14 is laid upon the Local Church and the believers building each other up. The specific purpose given in 1Cor 12-14 is upbuilding of believers, not attestation.

Then there is the question "what about those who where neither apostles nor prophets and worked miracles?" I don't believe that the answer which usually goes along the lines of "they were associated with the Apostles" in a book called the Acts of the APOSTLES is satisfying. Everyone there is in someway associated with them. What about those in Corinth to what authority they were attesting WITHIN the congregation? What about the believers in Galatia (Gal 3:5)?

But this point among others in the strict definition of miracle becomes an occasion in which strict miracles are associated with revelation, but since infallible and biblical revelation ceased with the Apostles, therefore, these kinds of miracles and miracle-workers also ceased.

Conclusion

I actually really enjoyed reading this book. Dr. Waldron is a great a great teacher and writer. He challenged me and I've learned a lot from him in different areas of theology. I believe that this was a gracious and good defense of cessationism.

He doesn't go into the craziness of the charismatic movement, but rather goes simply against "continuationism" and tries to make the case that the miraculous gifts ("apostles", prophecy, tongues and miracles) have ceased.

...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 13: Of Sanctification - Commentary

...Word. We know how we ought to obey Him from His Word which He gave us by His Spirit.


We have already touched on the fact that sanctification is a life-long process of ups and downs, and therefore there will be times when our remaining corruption will get the best of us, but also when we by the grace of the Holy Spirit get the victory against our sin. The way to avoid and achieve victory against the flesh and sin is to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:17) and use the means that God has given for our sanctification such as reading the Word, prayer, corporate worship and communion with the people of God.

A Local Church is essential and necessary for the growth of every Christian. It is there where you will meet people with whom you will spend all eternity worshipping God. They can minister to you through the things that God has taught them and you can minister to them. We do not have to wage this war all alone, but we have brothers and sisters who likewise wage this irreconcilable war. It is there where the Word of God is preached and it is the church which is the center of God's love. All true Christians are waging war against their flesh. It is good to be in company. Holy Writ tells us that we already are conquerors in Christ. John writes:

1 John 5:4-5 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 

Our victory against the evil world system, which would include sin and the flesh, is guaranteed by the fact that we have been born of God. Just as our Lord Jesus conquered, so likewise we are promised that we will conquer and overcome (Rev. 3:21). Paul applies this language of overcoming and conquering even to physical persecution. It doesn't matter how badly we are persecuted in the world, it doesn't matter how much we are hated for His sake, our identity is found in Christ and in Him, we are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37). As we wage this spiritual war we should seek to more and more be obedient to God from the heart and grow in His grace that we may not wander from Him, but cling tightly to Him and shun the thought of sin. Peter encourages Christians to grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ (2Pet. 3:18). We should seek Him more earnestly and more frequently in the Word and prayer, that our love and devotion for Him may grow and at the same time our love and devotion for sin and the flesh decrease and die out.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to strive "for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). We are to pursue God and seek to be conformed to His will and to be like His beloved Son. As we behold, enjoy and worship Christ, the Spirit changes us into His likeness (2Cor. 3:18). This holiness the gracious Lord works in us by His grace through discipline. In verse 10 the writer tells us that the purpose why God disciplines (not condemns!) His children is so "that we may share his holiness." He discipline is for our own good so that we will be purified from sin and seek Christ instead of the fleeting pleasures of sin. He makes us more like Christ through His fatherly discipline.

As we seek to be more and more in love and satisfied with the Triune God, and as we seek to reverently fear Him we will realize that the "fear of the LORD is hatred of evil" (Prov. 8:13). Hated for sin and evil begins with an acknowledgment of the God ag...