American Evangelicalism isn’t patriarchal or feminized. It’s matrilineal.

Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture

American Evangelicalism isn’t patriarchal or feminized. It’s matrilineal

 Anthony Bradley on August 26, 2020

For many years, researchers have pondered the growing absence of men in conservative Protestant churches, especially evangelical churches. In fact, losing men has been a problem for Christian denominations since the late 19th century, which ushered in the era of “muscular Christianity” as a way to win men back to the church. During the early 20th-century, church leaders had deep concerns about the ways in which church life was skewing primarily towards the interests and concerns of women and the ways in which urban life began to redefine men’s roles in society.

Men were falling away from church life. As sedentary life was becoming an industrial revolution norm, due to advances in technology and improving economic mobility, religious leaders introduced sports, fitness, adventure, and social justice as way to reconnect boys and men to the church. This explains the partnering of church life with the YMCA, the Boy Scouts, outdoor camps, and enlisting men in the Social Gospel Movement. As Clifford Putney explains in his book, Muscular Christianity, by 1899 women comprised three-quarters of Protestant church membership and nine-tenths of its attendance. Recent studies on gender disparities in American churches report that women regularly attend church more than men at 61 to 55 percent, respectively…

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What is a Reformed Baptist?

Over the years Reformed anything has been, among most “main stream” evangelical circles, nearly a four letter word. Mostly due to ignorance and misinformation folks think Reformed or Covenant Baptists are smug in their salvation and do not believe in evangelism of the Great Commission, but nothing could be further from the truth. This excellent article deals with the history and distinctions of Reformed Baptists, tomorrow I will post some of my favorite resources on Reformed Evangelism. – Mike

 

What is a Reformed Baptist?

What is a Reformed Baptist?

What is it that makes a “Reformed Baptist” distinct from other kinds of Baptists and Reformed folks? Reformed Baptists grew out of the English Reformation, emerging from Independent paedobaptist churches in the 1640’s for some very specific theological reasons, and they held to a particular kind of theology. Here are some of the theological identity markers of Reformed Baptist churches.

1. The Regulative Principle of Worship. This distinctive is put first because it is one of the main reasons Calvinistic Baptists separated from the Independent paedobaptists. The Particular (or Reformed) Baptists come from Puritanism, which sought to reform the English church according to God’s Word, especially its worship. When that became impossible due to Laud’s authoritative opposition, the Puritans separated (or were removed) from the English church. Within the Independent wing of Puritan separation, some of them saw a need to apply the regulative principle of worship to infant baptism as well, considering this to be the consistent outworking of the common Puritan mindset. The earliest Baptists believed that the elements of public worship are limited to what Scripture commands. John 4:23 says, “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (see also Matt 15:9). The revealed “truth” of Scripture limits the worship of God to what is prescribed in Scripture. The Second London Baptist Confession 22.1 says:

The acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.

Because the Bible does not command infant baptism, early Baptists believed that infant baptism is forbidden in public worship, and the baptism of believers alone is to be practiced in worship. This regulative principle of worship limits the elements of public worship to the Word preached and read, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, the singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and whatever else the Scripture commands.

Many Baptists today have completely abandoned the regulative principle of worship in favor of entertainment-oriented worship, consumerism, individual preferences, emotionalism, and pragmatism. Such Baptists have abandoned the very principle that led to their initial emergence from paedobaptism. One wonders whether a church can depart from a doctrine necessary to the emergence of Baptists in their English context and still rightly identify as a “Baptist” church.

2. Covenant Theology. While Reformed paedobaptist churches sometimes insist that they alone are the heirs of true covenant theology, historic Reformed Baptists claimed to abandon the practice of infant baptism precisely because of the Bible’s covenant theology.

Reformed Baptists agree with Reformed paedobaptists that God made a covenant of works with Adam, which he broke and so brought condemnation on the whole human race (Rom 5:18). They also say that God mercifully made a covenant of grace with His elect people in Christ (Rom 5:18), which is progressively revealed in the Old Testament and formally established in the new covenant at the death of Christ (Heb 9:15-16). The only way anyone was saved under the old covenant was by virtue of this covenant of grace in Christ, such that there is only one gospel, or one saving promise, running through the Scriptures.

Baptist covenant theologians, however, believe they are more consistent than their paedobaptist brothers with respect to covenant theology’s own hermeneutic of New Testament priority. According to the New Testament, the Old Testament promise to “you and your seed” was ultimately made to Christ, the true seed (Gal 3:16). Abraham’s physical children were a type of Christ, but Christ Himself is the reality. The physical descendants were included in the old covenant, not because they are all children of the promise, but because God was preserving the line of promise, until Christ, the true seed, came. Now that Christ has come, there is no longer any reason to preserve a physical line. Rather, only those who believe in Jesus are sons of Abraham, true Israelites, members of the new covenant, and the church of the Lord Jesus (Gal 3:7). In both the Old and New Testaments, the “new covenant” is revealed to be a covenant of believers only, who are forgiven of their sins, and have God’s law written on their hearts (Heb 8:10-12).

Baptists today who adhere to dispensationalism believe that the physical offspring of Abraham are the rightful recipients of the promises of God to Abraham’s seed. But they have departed from their historic Baptist roots and from the hermeneutical vision of the organic unity of the Bible cast by their forefathers. Baptist theologian James Leo Garrett correctly notes that dispensationalism is an “incursion” into Baptist theology, which only emerged in the last one hundred fifty years or so. See James Leo Garrett, Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (Macon, GA: Mercer, 2009), 560-570.

3. Calvinism. Because Reformed Baptists held to the covenant theology (federalism) of the 17th century, they were all Calvinists. The theological covenants of the old federal theology undergirded the early Baptist expressions of their Calvinistic soteriology. When Adam broke the covenant of works, God cursed all human beings with totally depraved natures (Isa 24:5-6), making them unable and unwilling to come to Christ for salvation.

But God didn’t leave the human race to die in sin; rather, in eternity past, God unconditionally chose a definite number of people for salvation and formed a covenant of redemption with Christ about their salvation (Isa 53; 54:10; Lk 22:29). At the appointed time, Christ came into the world and obeyed the covenant of redemption, fulfilling the terms of the covenant of works that Adam broke. In the covenant of redemption, Jesus kept God’s law perfectly, died on the cross, atoned for the sins of His chosen people, and rose from the dead, having effectually secured salvation for them (Heb 9:12).

God made the covenant of grace with His elect people (Gen 3:15; Heb 9:15-16) in which He applies all the blessings of life merited by Christ in the covenant of redemption. The Holy Spirit mercifully unites God’s chosen people to Christ in the covenant of grace, giving them blessings of life purchased by Christ’s life and death. God irresistibly draws them to Himself in their effectual calling (Jn 6:37), gives them a living heart (Ezek 36:26), a living faith and repentance (Eph 2:8-9; Acts 11:18), a living verdict of justification (Rom 3:28), and a living and abiding holiness (1 Cor 1:30), causing them to persevere to the end (1 Cor 1:8). All of these life-blessings are the merits of Jesus Christ, purchased in the covenant of redemption, applied in the covenant of grace.

The doctrine of the covenants is the theological soil in which Calvinism grew among early Baptists. Calvinistic Baptists today need to recover the rich federal theology of their forefathers so that the doctrines of grace they’ve rediscovered will be preserved for future generations.

4. The Law of God. Reformed Baptists believe the 10 commandments are the summary of God’s moral law (Exod 20; Matt 5; Rom 2:14-22). They believe that unless we rightly understand the law, we cannot understand the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ kept the law for our justification by living in perfect obedience to earn the law’s blessing of life and by dying a substitutionary death to pay the law’s penalty. But the gospel isn’t only a promise of justification. It’s also the good news that Christ promises graciously to give the Holy Spirit to His people to kill their lawlessness and to make them more and more lawful. Titus 2:14 says that Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession, who are zealous for good works.”

The Second London Baptist Confession, 19.5 says:

The moral law does for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof,(10) and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it;(11) neither does Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.(12)

10. Rom 13:8-10; Jas 2:8,10-12
11. Jas 2:10,11
12. Matt 5:17-19; Rom 3:31

Therefore, while justified believers are free from the law as a covenant of works to earn justification and eternal life (Rom 7:1-6), God gives them His law as a standard of conduct or rule of life in their sanctification (Rom 8:4, 7). God’s moral law, summarized in the 10 commandments (Rom 2:14-24; 13:8-10; Jas 2:8-11), including the Sabbath commandment (Mk 2:27; Heb 4:9-10), is an instrument of sanctification in the life of the believer. Believers rest in Christ for their total salvation. Christ takes their burdens of guilt and shame, and His people take upon themselves the yoke of His law, and they learn obedience from a humble and gentle Teacher. 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

Baptists who hold to new covenant theology, or progressive covenantalism, do not have the same view of the law as the dominant stream of their Baptist forebears.

5. Confessional. Most of the early Baptists, both in England and in America, held to the Second London Baptist Confession of 1677/1689. While certainly not all Calvinistic Baptists subscribed to this confession, it was the main influence among Baptists in England and America after its publication. This confession, based on the Westminster Confession (Presbyterian) and the Savoy Declaration (Independent), was originally edited and published in 1677, but formally adopted by Baptist churches in 1689 after English persecution lifted.

Historic Reformed Baptists were thoroughgoing confessionalists. They were not bare “biblicists.” Biblicists deny words and doctrines not explicitly stated in Scripture, and they deny that the church’s historic teaching about the Bible has any secondary authority in biblical interpretation. The early Baptists, however, did not believe that individual church members or individual pastors should interpret the Bible divorced from the historic teaching of the church (Heb 13:7). They believed that the Bible alone is sufficient for doctrine and practice, but they also believed the Bible must be explained and read in light of the church’s interpretive tradition (1 Tim 3:15), which uses words other than the Bible (Acts 2:31 is one refutation of biblicism, since it explains Psalm 16 in words not used in that Psalm). Reformed Baptists believed that their theology was anchored in the church’s rich theological heritage and that it was a natural development of the doctrine of the church in light of the central insights of the Reformation (sola Scriptura: no baptizing infants; sola fide: only converts are God’s people).

Under the guise of upholding Sola Scriptura, many Christians today seek to read the Bible independently and come to their own private conclusions about what it means without consulting the church’s authorized teachers or the orthodox confessions of faith. But that’s not what Sola Scriptura historically meant. Scripture teaches that the church is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The church as a whole is charged with interpreting the Bible, and God has authorized teachers in the church throughout history. Therefore, while every individual Christian is responsible to understand Scripture for himself, no Christian should study the Bible without any consideration of what the great teachers of the past have taught about the Bible.

The majority of historic Reformed Baptists held to the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 because they believed it is a compendium of theology that best summarizes the teaching of Scripture in small compass.

The Oldest Easter Sermon

Reformed Forum

Glen Clary – 26 March 2016

The oldest extant Easter sermon from the ancient church is a sermon preached by Melito, the bishop of Sardis in Asia Minor at the end of the second century.

This sermon gives us a taste of how Christians celebrated the feast of Pascha (the Christian Passover) in the earliest centuries of the church.

Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old says,

The sermon was apparently preached during the Quartodeciman celebration of Easter. It follows a reading of the Passover account from the book of Exodus and possibly the Song of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 52 and 53, adhering to the synagogue tradition of using a text from the prophets to interpret a passage from the Law.[1]

Melito uses Isaiah 53:7 to interpret the Passover story to demonstrate that the “suffering of the innocent lamb that redeemed Israel from Egypt” is the “prophetic type of our redemption in Christ” (ibid., 286).

Melito’s sermon is a beautiful example of patristic typology. As post-resurrection readers of the Old Testament, the fathers of the church interpreted the scriptures through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In this regard, the fathers were following the example of the apostles, who taught that the Old Testament gives us the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 3:15).

Hughes Oliphant Old observes that Melito’s sermon was likely preached “at the paschal vigil where numerous Old Testament lessons were read. The opening lines of the sermon tell us that the story of the Passover has just been read from the book of Exodus and that now the preacher intends to explain the reading” (ibid., 290).

We know that during this period there was considerable disagreement as to the nature of the Easter celebration. In Asia Minor it was the custom to celebrate Easter on the day after the Jewish Passover, no matter what day of the week it happened to fall on, while in other places it was celebrated on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover. Debate over this question continued for some time. Melito of Sardis, being a bishop of a city in Asia Minor, would have preached his sermon according to the Quartodeciman system for reckoning Easter (ibid., 291).

For Melito, the Christian celebration of Pascha was an occasion for proclaiming the story of redemptive history and its climactic fulfillment in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Melito’s sermon, the oldest extant Easter sermon from the ancient church, is an excellent model for festive preaching today.

MELITO OF SARDIS
On the Passover

First of all, the Scripture about the Hebrew Exodus has been read and the words of the mystery have been explained as to how the sheep was sacrificed and the people were saved. Therefore, understand this, O beloved: The mystery of the passover is new and old, eternal and temporal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal in this fashion:

It is old insofar as it concerns the law, but new insofar as it concerns the gospel; temporal insofar as it concerns the type, eternal because of grace; corruptible because of the sacrifice of the sheep, incorruptible because of the life of the Lord; mortal because of his burial in the earth, immortal because of his resurrection from the dead.

The law is old, but the gospel is new; the type was for a time, but grace is forever. The sheep was corruptible, but the Lord is incorruptible, who was crushed as a lamb, but who was resurrected as God. For although he was led to sacrifice as a sheep, yet he was not a sheep; and although he was as a lamb without voice, yet indeed he was not a lamb. The one was the model; the other was found to be the finished product. For God replaced the lamb, and a man the sheep; but in the man was Christ, who contains all things.

Hence, the sacrifice of the sheep, and the sending of the lamb to slaughter, and the writing of the law–each led to and issued in Christ, for whose sake everything happened in the ancient law, and even more so in the new gospel. For indeed the law issued in the gospel–the old in the new, both coming forth together from Zion and Jerusalem; and the commandment issued in grace, and the type in the finished product, and the lamb in the Son, and the sheep in a man, and the man in God.

For the one who was born as Son, and led to slaughter as a lamb, and sacrificed as a sheep, and buried as a man, rose up from the dead as God, since he is by nature both God and man. He is everything: in that he judges he is law, in that he teaches he is gospel, in that he saves he is grace, in that he begets he is Father, in that he is begotten he is Son, in that he suffers he is sheep, in that he is buried he is man, in that he comes to life again he is God. Such is Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.

Now comes the mystery of the passover, even as it stands written in the law, just as it has been read aloud only moments ago. But I will clearly set forth the significance of the words of this Scripture, showing how God commanded Moses in Egypt, when he had made his decision, to bind Pharaoh under the lash, but to release Israel from the lash through the hand of Moses.

For see to it, he says, that you take a flawless and perfect lamb, and that you sacrifice it in the evening with the sons of Israel, and that you eat it at night, and in haste. You are not to break any of its bones. You will do it like this, he says: In a single night you will eat it by families and by tribes, your loins girded, and your staves in your hands. For this is the Lord’s passover, an eternal reminder for the sons of Israel.

Then take the blood of the sheep, and anoint the front door of your houses by placing upon the posts of your entrance-way the sign of the blood, in order to ward off the angel. For behold I will strike Egypt, and in a single night she will be made childless from beast to man. Then, when Moses sacrificed the sheep and completed the mystery at night together with the sons of Israel, he sealed the doors of their houses in order to protect the people and to ward off the angel.

But when the sheep was sacrificed, and the passover consumed, and the mystery completed, and the people made glad, and Israel sealed, then the angel arrived to strike Egypt, who was neither initiated into the mystery, participant of the passover, sealed by the blood, nor protected by the Spirit, but who was the enemy and the unbeliever. In a single night the angel struck and made Egypt childless. For when the angel had encompassed Israel, and had seen her sealed with the blood of the sheep, he advanced against Egypt, and by means of grief subdued the stubborn Pharaoh, clothing him, not with a cloak of mourning, nor with a torn mantle, but with all of Egypt, torn, and mourning for her firstborn.

For all Egypt, plunged in troubles and calamities, in tears and lamentations, came to Pharaoh in utter sadness, not in appearance only, but also in soul, having torn not only her garments but her tender breasts as well. Indeed it was possible to observe an extraordinary sight: in one place people beating their breasts, in another those wailing, and in the middle of them Pharaoh, mourning, sitting in sackcloth and cinders, shrouded in thick darkness as in a funeral garment, girded with all Egypt as with a tunic of grief. For Egypt clothed Pharaoh as a cloak of wailing. Such was the mantle that had been woven for his royal body. With just such a cloak did the angel of righteousness clothe the self-willed Pharaoh: with bitter mournfulness, and with thick darkness, and with childlessness. For that angel warred against the firstborn of Egypt. Indeed, swift and insatiate was the death of the firstborn.

And an unusual monument of defeat, set up over those who had fallen dead in a moment, could be seen. For the defeat of those who lay dead became the provisions of death. If you listen to the narration of this extraordinary event you will be astonished. For these things befell the Egyptians: a long night, and darkness which was touchable, and death which touched, and an angel who oppressed, and Hades which devoured their firstborn. But you must listen to something still more extraordinary and terrifying: in the darkness which could be touched was hidden death which could not be touched. And the ill-starred Egyptians touched the darkness, while death, on the watch, touched the firstborn of the Egyptians as the angel had commanded.

Therefore, if anyone touched the darkness he was led out by death. Indeed one firstborn, touching a dark body with his hand, and utterly frightened in his soul, cried aloud in misery and in terror: What has my right hand laid hold of? At what does my soul tremble? Who cloaks my whole body with darkness? If you are my father, help me; if my mother, feel sympathy for me; if my brother, speak to me; if my friend, sit with me; if my enemy, go away from me since I am a firstborn son!

And before the firstborn was silent, the long silence held him in its power, saying: You are mine, O firstborn! I, the silence of death, am your destiny. And another firstborn, taking note of the capture of the firstborn, denied his identity, so that he might not die a bitter death: I am not a firstborn son; I was born like a third child. But he who could not be deceived touched that firstborn, and he fell forward in silence. In a single moment the firstborn fruit of the Egyptians was destroyed. The one first conceived, the one first born, the one sought after, the one chosen was dashed to the ground; not only that of men but that of irrational animals as well.

A lowing was heard in the fields of the earth, of cattle bellowing for their nurslings, a cow standing over her calf, and a mare over her colt. And the rest of the cattle, having just given birth to their offspring and swollen with milk, were lamenting bitterly and piteously for their firstborn. And there was a wailing and lamentation because of the destruction of the men, because of the destruction of the firstborn who were dead. And all Egypt stank, because of the unburied bodies.

Indeed one could see a frightful spectacle: of the Egyptians there were mothers with dishevelled hair, and fathers who had lost their minds, wailing aloud in terrifying fashion in the Egyptian tongue: O wretched persons that we are! We have lost our firstborn in a single moment! And they were striking their breasts with their hands, beating time in hammerlike fashion to the dance for their dead.

Such was the misfortune which encompassed Egypt. In an instant it made her childless. But Israel, all the while, was being protected by the sacrifice of the sheep and truly was being illumined by its blood which was shed; for the death of the sheep was found to be a rampart for the people.

O inexpressible mystery! the sacrifice of the sheep was found to be the salvation of the people, and the death of the sheep became the life of the people. For its blood warded off the angel. Tell me, O angel, At what were you turned away? At the sacrifice of the sheep, or the life of the Lord? At the death of the sheep, or the type of the Lord? At the blood of the sheep, or the Spirit of the Lord? Clearly, you were turned away because you saw the mystery of the Lord taking place in the sheep, the life of the Lord in the sacrifice of the sheep, the type of the Lord in the death of the sheep. For this reason you did not strike Israel, but it was Egypt alone that you made childless.

What was this extraordinary mystery? It was Egypt struck to destruction but Israel kept for salvation. Listen to the meaning of this mystery:

Beloved, no speech or event takes place without a pattern or design; every event and speech involves a pattern–that which is spoken, a pattern, and that which happens, a prefiguration–in order that as the event is disclosed through the prefiguration, so also the speech may be brought to expression through its outline. Without the model, no work of art arises. Is not that which is to come into existence seen through the model which typifies it? For this reason a pattern of that which is to be is made either out of wax, or out of clay, or out of wood, in order that by the smallness of the model, destined to be destroyed, might be seen that thing which is to arise from it–higher than it in size, and mightier than it in power, and more beautiful than it in appearance, and more elaborate than it in ornamentation.

So whenever the thing arises for which the model was made, then that which carried the image of that future thing is destroyed as no longer of use, since it has transmitted its resemblance to that which is by nature true. Therefore, that which once was valuable, is now without value because that which is truly valuable has appeared. For each thing has its own time: there is a distinct time for the type, there is a distinct time for the material, and there is a distinct time for the truth. You construct the model. You want this, because you see in it the image of the future work. You procure the material for the model. You want this, on account of that which is going to arise because of it. You complete the work and cherish it alone, for only in it do you see both type and the truth.

Therefore, if it was like this with models of perishable objects, so indeed will it also be with those of imperishable objects. If it was like this with earthly things, so indeed also will it be with heavenly things. For even the Lord’s salvation and his truth were prefigured in the people, and the teaching of the gospel was proclaimed in advance by the law. The people, therefore, became the model for the church, and the law a parabolic sketch. But the gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment, while the church became the storehouse of truth.

Therefore, the type had value prior to its realization, and the parable was wonderful prior to its interpretation. This is to say that the people had value before the church came on the scene, and the law was wonderful before the gospel was brought to light. But when the church came on the scene, and the gospel was set forth, the type lost its value by surrendering its significance to the truth, and the law was fulfilled by surrendering its significance to the gospel. Just as the type lost its significance by surrendering its image to that which is true by nature, and as the parable lost its significance by being illumined through the interpretation, so indeed also the law was fulfilled when the gospel was brought to light, and the people lost their significance when the church came on the scene, and the type was destroyed when the Lord appeared. Therefore, those things which once had value are today without value, because the things which have true value have appeared.

For at one time the sacrifice to the sheep was valuable, but now it is without value because of the life of the Lord. The death of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the salvation of the Lord. The blood of the sheep once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Spirit of the Lord. The silent lamb once was valuable, but now it has no value because of the blameless Son. The temple here below once was valuable, but now it is without value because of the Christ from above. The Jerusalem here below once had value, but now it is without value because of the Jerusalem from above. The meager inheritance once had value; now it is without value because of the abundant grace. For not in one place alone, nor yet in narrow confines, has the glory of God been established, but his grace has been poured out upon the uttermost parts of the inhabited world, and there the almighty God has taken up his dwelling place through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen.

Now that you have heard the explanation of the type and of that which corresponds to it, hear also what goes into making up the mystery. What is the passover? Indeed its name is derived from that event–”to celebrate the passover” (to paschein) is derived from “to suffer” (tou pathein). Therefore, learn who the sufferer is and who he is who suffers along with the sufferer. Why indeed was the Lord present upon the earth? In order that having clothed himself with the one who suffers, he might lift him up to the heights of heaven.

In the beginning, when God made heaven and earth, and everything in them through his word, he himself formed man from the earth and shared with that form his own breath, he himself placed him in paradise, which was eastward in Eden, and there they lived most luxuriously. Then by way of command God gave them this law: For your food you may eat from any tree, but you are not to eat from the tree of the one who knows good and evil. For on the day you eat from it, you most certainly will die.

But man, who is by nature capable of receiving good and evil as soil of the earth is capable of receiving seeds from both sides, welcomed the hostile and greedy counselor, and by having touched that tree transgressed the command, and disobeyed God. As a consequence, he was cast out into this world as a condemned man is cast into prison.

And when he had fathered many children, and had grown very old, and had returned to the earth through having tasted of the tree, an inheritance was left behind by him for his children. Indeed, he left his children an inheritance–not of chastity but of unchastity, not of immortality but of corruptibility, not of honor but of dishonor, not of freedom but of slavery, not of sovereignty but of tyranny, not of life but of death, not of salvation but of destruction. Extraordinary and terrifying indeed was the destruction of men upon the earth. For the following things happened to them: They were carried off as slaves by sin, the tyrant, and were led away into the regions of desire where they were totally engulfed by insatiable sensual pleasures–by adultery, by unchastity, by debauchery, by inordinate desires, by avarice, by murders, by bloodshed, by the tyranny of wickedness, by the tyranny of lawlessness.

For even a father of his own accord lifted up a dagger against his son; and a son used his hands against his father; and the impious person smote the breasts that nourished him; and brother murdered brother; and host wronged his guest; and friend assassinated friend; and one man cut the throat of another with his tyrannous right hand. Therefore all men on the earth became either murderers, or parricides, or killers of their children. And yet a thing still more dreadful and extraordinary was to be found: A mother attacked the flesh which she gave birth to, a mother attacked those whom her breasts had nourished; and she buried in her belly the fruit of her belly. Indeed, the ill-starred mother became a dreadful tomb, when she devoured the child which she bore in her womb.

But in addition to this there were to be found among men many things still more monstrous and terrifying and brutal: father cohabits with his child, and son and with his mother, and brother with sister, and male with male, and each man lusting after the wife of his neighbor. Because of these things sin exulted, which, because it was death’s collaborator, entered first into the souls of men, and prepared as food for him the bodies of the dead. In every soul sin left its mark, and those in whom it placed its mark were destined to die.

Therefore, all flesh fell under the power of sin, and every body under the dominion of death, for every soul was driven out from its house of flesh. Indeed, that which had been taken from the earth was dissolved again into earth, and that which had been given from God was locked up in Hades. And that beautiful ordered arrangement was dissolved, when the beautiful body was separated (from the soul). Yes, man was divided up into parts by death. Yes, an extraordinary misfortune and captivity enveloped him: he was dragged away captive under the shadow of death, and the image of the Father remained there desolate. For this reason, therefore, the mystery of the passover has been completed in the body of the Lord.

Indeed, the Lord prearranged his own sufferings in the patriarchs, and in the prophets, and in the whole people of God, giving his sanction to them through the law and the prophets. For that which was to exist in a new and grandiose fashion was pre-planned long in advance, in order that when it should come into existence one might attain to faith, just because it had been predicted long in advance. So indeed also the suffering of the Lord, predicted long in advance by means of types, but seen today, has brought about faith, just because it has taken place as predicted. And yet men have taken it as something completely new. Well, the truth of the matter is the mystery of the Lord is both old and new–old insofar as it involved the type, but new insofar as it concerns grace. And what is more, if you pay close attention to this type you will see the real thing through its fulfillment.

Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord’s anointed. Pay close attention also to the one who was sacrificed as a sheep in the land of Egypt, to the one who smote Egypt and who saved Israel by his blood.

For it was through the voice of prophecy that the mystery of the Lord was proclaimed. Moses, indeed, said to his people: Surely you will see your life suspended before your eyes night and day, but you surely will not believe on your Life. Deut. 28:66. And David said: Why were the nations haughty and the people concerned about nothing? The kings of the earth presented themselves and the princes assembled themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed. Ps. 2:1–2. And Jeremiah: I am as an innocent lamb being led away to be sacrificed. They plotted evil against me and said: Come! let us throw him a tree for his food, and let us exterminate him from the land of the living, so that his name will never be recalled. Jer. 11:19. And Isaiah: He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and, as a lamb is silent in the presence of the one who shears it, he did not open his mouth. Therefore who will tell his offspring? Isa. 53:7. And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.

When this one came from heaven to earth for the sake of the one who suffers, and had clothed himself with that very one through the womb of a virgin, and having come forth as man, he accepted the sufferings of the sufferer through his body which was capable of suffering. And he destroyed those human sufferings by his spirit which was incapable of dying. He killed death which had put man to death. For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood.

This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever. This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets.

This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven. This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below.

This one was murdered. And where was he murdered? In the very center of Jerusalem! Why? Because he had healed their lame, and had cleansed their lepers, and had guided their blind with light, and had raised up their dead. For this reason he suffered. Somewhere it has been written in the law and prophets, “They paid me back evil for good, and my soul with barrenness plotting evil against me saying, Let us bind this just man because he is troublesome to us.” Isa. 3:10 (LXX).

Why, O Israel did you do this strange injustice? You dishonored the one who had honored you. You held in contempt the one who held you in esteem. You denied the one who publicly acknowledged you. You renounced the one who proclaimed you his own. You killed the one who made you to live. Why did you do this, O Israel? Hast it not been written for your benefit: “Do not shed innocent blood lest you die a terrible death”? Nevertheless, Israel admits, I killed the Lord! Why? Because it was necessary for him to die. You have deceived yourself, O Israel, rationalizing thus about the death of the Lord.

It was necessary for him to suffer, yes, but not by you; it was necessary for him to be dishonored, but not by you; it was necessary for him to be judged, but not by you; it was necessary for him to be crucified, but not by you, nor by your right hand. O Israel! You ought to have cried aloud to God with this voice: “O Lord, if it was necessary for your Son to suffer, and if this was your will, let him suffer indeed, but not at my hands. Let him suffer at the hands of strangers. Let him be judged by the uncircumcised. Let him be crucified by the tyrannical right hand, but not by mine.” But you, O Israel, did not cry out to God with this voice, nor did you absolve yourself of guilt before the Lord, nor were you persuaded by his works.

The withered hand which was restored whole to its body did not persuade you; nor did the eyes of the blind which were opened by his hand; nor did the paralyzed bodies restored to health again through his voice; nor did that most extraordinary miracle persuade you, namely, the dead man raised to life from the tomb where already he had been lying for four days. Indeed, dismissing these things, you, to your detriment, prepared the following for the sacrifice of the Lord at eventide: sharp nails, and false witnesses, and fetters, and scourges, and vinegar, and gall, and a sword, and affliction, and all as though it were for a blood-stained robber. For you brought to him scourges for his body, and the thorns for his head. And you bound those beautiful hands of his, which had formed you from the earth. And that beautiful mouth of his, which had nourished you with life, you filled with gall. And you killed your Lord at the time of the great feast.

Surely you were filled with gaiety, but he was filled with hunger; you drank wine and ate bread, but he vinegar and gall; you wore a happy smile, but he had a sad countenance; you were full of joy, but he was full of trouble; you sang songs, but he was judged; you issued the command, he was crucified; you danced, he was buried; you lay down on a soft bed, but he in a tomb and coffin.

O lawless Israel, why did you commit this extraordinary crime of casting your Lord into new sufferings–your master, the one who formed you, the one who made you, the one who honored you, the one who called you Israel? But you were found not really to be Israel, for you did not see God, you did not recognize the Lord, you did not know, O Israel, that this one was the firstborn of God, the one who was begotten before the morning star, the one who caused the light to shine forth, the one who made bright the day, the one who parted the darkness, the one who established the primordial starting point, the one who suspended the earth, the one who quenched the abyss, the one who stretched out the firmament, the one who formed the universe, the one who set in motion the stars of heaven, the one who caused those luminaries to shine, the one who made the angels in heaven, the one who established their thrones in that place, the one who by himself fashioned man upon the earth. This was the one who chose you, the one who guided you from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and the Twelve Patriarchs.

This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings. This is the one who came to you, the one who healed your suffering ones and who resurrected your dead. This is the one whom you sinned against. This is the one whom you wronged. This is the one whom you killed. This is the one whom you sold for silver, although you asked him for the didrachma.

O ungrateful Israel, come here and be judged before me for your ingratitude. How high a price did you place on being created by him? How high a price did you place on the discovery of your fathers? How high a price did you place on the descent into Egypt, and the provision made for you there through the noble Joseph? How high a price did you place on the ten plagues? How high a price did you place on the nightly column of fire, and the daily cloud, and the crossing of the Red Sea? How high a price did you place on the gift of manna from heaven, and the gift of water from the rock, and the gift of law in Horeb, and the land as an inheritance, and the benefits accorded you there?

How high a price did you place on your suffering people whom he healed when he was present? Set me a price on the withered hand, which he restored whole to its body. Put me a price on the men born blind, whom he led into light by his voice. Put me a price on those who lay dead, whom he raised up alive from the tomb. Inestimable are the benefits that come to you from him. But you, shamefully, have paid him back with ingratitude, returning to him evil for good, and affliction for favor and death for life–a person for whom you should have died. Furthermore, if the king of some nation is captured by an enemy, a war is started because of him, fortifications are shattered because of him, cities are plundered because of him, ransom is sent because of him, ambassadors are commissioned because of him in order that he might be surrendered, so that either he might be returned if living, or that he might be buried if dead.

But you, quite to the contrary, voted against your Lord, whom indeed the nations worshipped, and the uncircumcised admired, and the foreigners glorified, over whom Pilate washed his hands. But as for you–you killed this one at the time of the great feast. Therefore, the feast of unleavened bread has become bitter to you just as it was written: “You will eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs.” Bitter to you are the nails which you made pointed. Bitter to you is the tongue which you sharpened. Bitter to you are the false witnesses whom you brought forward. Bitter to you are the fetters which you prepared. Bitter to you are the scourges which you wove. Bitter to you is Judas whom you furnished with pay. Bitter to you is Herod whom you followed. Bitter to you is Caiaphas whom you obeyed. Bitter to you is the gall which you made ready. Bitter to you is the vinegar which you produced. Bitter to you are the thorns which you plucked. Bitter to you are your hands which you bloodied, when you killed your Lord in the midst of Jerusalem.

Pay attention, all families of the nations, and observe! An extraordinary murder has taken place in the center of Jerusalem, in the city devoted to God’s law, in the city of the Hebrews, in the city of the prophets, in the city thought of as just. And who has been murdered? And who is the murderer? I am ashamed to give the answer, but give it I must. For if this murder had taken place at night, or if he had been slain in a desert place, it would be well to keep silent; but it was in the middle of the main street, even in the center of the city, while all were looking on, that the unjust murder of this just person took place.

And thus he was lifted up upon the tree, and an inscription was affixed identifying the one who had been murdered. Who was he? It is painful to tell, but it is more dreadful not to tell. Therefore, hear and tremble because of him for whom the earth trembled. The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.

O frightful murder! O unheard of injustice! The Lord is disfigured and he is not deemed worthy of a cloak for his naked body, so that he might not be seen exposed. For this reason the stars turned and fled, and the day grew quite dark, in order to hide the naked person hanging on the tree, darkening not the body of the Lord, but the eyes of men. Yes, even though the people did not tremble, the earth trembled instead; although the people were not afraid, the heavens grew frightened; although the people did not tear their garments, the angels tore theirs; although the people did not lament, the Lord thundered from heaven, and the most high uttered his voice.

Why was it like this, O Israel? You did not tremble for the Lord. You did not fear for the Lord. You did not lament for the Lord, yet you lamented for your firstborn. You did not tear your garments at the crucifixion of the Lord, yet you tore your garments for your own who were murdered. You forsook the Lord; you were not found by him. You dashed the Lord to the ground; you, too, were dashed to the ground, and lie quite dead.

But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried, he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed.

Who is my opponent? I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ. Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.

This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age. This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.

 

The Peri Pascha of Melito. Peace to the one who wrote, and to the one who reads, and to those who love the Lord in simplicity of heart.

 

Endnotes

[1] Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998) 285.

 

The Puritans’ Passion for Doctrinal Purity

I often hear today modern evangelicals saying things like, ‘oh doctrine is not so important as…’ It leaves me wondering if they even understand what doctrine is:

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defined it thus: 

DOCTRINE, noun [Latin , to teach.]

1. In a general sense, whatever is taught. Hence, a principle or position in any science; whatever is laid down as true by an instructor or master. The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. The doctrines of Plato are the principles which he taught. Hence a doctrine may be true or false; it may be a mere tenet or opinion.

2. The act of teaching.

He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in his doctrine Mark 4:2.

3. Learning; knowledge.

Whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Isaiah 28:9.

4. The truths of the gospel in general.

That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Titus 2:1.

5. Instruction and confirmation in the truths of the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:10.

For those who think doctrine is not so important read the definition again, The doctrines of the gospel are the principles or truths taught by Christ and his apostles. How can one possibly be a true follower and imitator of Jesus if they do not understand the teachings (doctrines) of Jesus and those He left instructions with?

The following article is about a group of people called the Puritans who were primarily English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, intent on purifying churches in their manner of worship to conform to the doctrines of Christ.

The Masters Seminary Blog

Whitney Gamble 
A Nation at War

England in the late 1500s and early 1600s was not an easy place to live. For faithful believers, persecution crouched at the door, and as the century turned, forcibly beat the door down as the King’s soldiers were given approval to root out those who disagreed with the King’s religious policies. Puritans were imprisoned, forced to recant their beliefs, suffered their ears being severed, their livelihoods confiscated, the books they wrote publicly burned, and for some, their lives taken.

Politically, the nation was on the brink of civil war. Theologically, doctrinal confusion and ignorance reigned. In the midst of moral decline, social unrest, and the rise of false teaching, the Puritans were united in one thing: a desire for the truths of God’s Word to be proclaimed clearly for the purity of the church.

Reflecting Paul’s warning in Ephesians 4:14, the Puritans knew that if men and women remained immature in their knowledge of Christ, they would be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning…” The Puritans understood what Paul taught—that sound doctrine was the antidote the world needed to fight against the malady of the age. Rich doctrine, doctrine that reflected the depth and beauty of the gospel, was essential if the church was going to survive difficult times.

Their understanding of the necessity of spiritual maturity drove the Puritans to work for theological reformation and training in godliness for everyone in the nation, from the Cambridge and Oxford elites to the simple laborer.

However, there was a problem. The King did not want reformation, and as head of the Church in England, he held the power to stop any attempt at biblical change. So, many Puritans fled to the New World, with the hope of establishing theological training centers free from the shackles of tyranny. One Cambridge University graduate named John Harvard, for example, took the perilous weeks-long journey to a fledgling colony in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He became a pastor, but only lived a year in the new town before succumbing to illness. Upon his death, he left instructions for the donation of his library to a young local college, which he envisioned as a beacon for faithful theological education for the next generation of ministers. The gift of Harvard’s library formed Harvard University, a school that still bears his name, if not necessarily his legacy.

For those unlike Harvard, those who stayed behind in England, there was only one thing to do: pursue a long and bitter fight for doctrinal purity from within.

A Fight for Reformation

A small group of theologians began to petition Parliament for change. Their voices, initially quiet, soon grew into a loud majority, as more and more men and women became convinced of the need for a “reformation according to God’s Word.” Finally, in 1643, after years of hearing petitions, Parliament agreed to call an assembly of theologians to come to London to revise the 39 Articles, the Church of England’s statement of faith.

Parliament’s call for reformation was a complicated move, however, because just a few months earlier, King Charles I had declared war on Parliament. In what historians call the last war of religion fought on England’s soil, the King and his Royalists wanted to keep the theological status quo in England. He forbade the assembly of theologians to meet, on pain of losing their jobs and churches, and the penalty of imprisonment and confiscation of their goods.

Despite the King’s command, over sixty-nine theologians came to the first meeting of the assembly, which gathered at Westminster Abbey in London. The group of theologians, now known as the Westminster Assembly, would end up meeting regularly for over ten years, ten of the most tumultuous years in England’s long history. The theologians left families, churches, friends, and hometowns to come to London, undertaking a dangerous journey along unprotected highways. Once in London, they lived without normal daily comforts, with riots in the streets and the potential terror of London’s capture by the King’s armed and very dangerous forces.

What motivated these men to come to London to work for reformation? What drove their wives and families and churches to allow their husbands and pastors to leave?

The Puritans were acutely aware that life was fleeting. They knew that the purity of God’s Word as expressed in sound doctrine was the only thing that would last. The Westminster divines weren’t interested in doctrine for doctrine’s sake. They weren’t interested in cold theological arguments. The theologians knew that producing clear statements of biblical truth would shape men and women’s minds, and ultimately, lead to a reformation of their hearts.

So, they traveled to London, they met together, and they met with Parliament, intensely discussing and debating how best to encapsulate the truths of Scripture. After three long years, they produced a Confession of Faith, and later, Catechisms and a Directory for Worship, designed for use throughout the nation for instruction and growth in biblical knowledge.

The theologians of the Westminster Assembly deeply knew the cost of faithful commitment to Christ, and their story, from a human perspective, didn’t end well. In 1660, when the monarchy was restored, Charles I’s son rejected the Westminster Assembly’s work. Their Confession of Faith was publicly burned and repudiated by England’s leaders and the Church of England returned to its pre-1640s theology. Hundreds of Puritan preachers were ejected from their pulpits and imprisoned, unable to continue preaching.

Today, the rejection of truth continues and false teaching abounds. Many do not see the value of pursuing the hard work of training their minds to understand the complexity of theological truths. Yet, in the face of false teaching and a tumultuous social context, the Puritans’ example of commitment to strong doctrine is instructive. A deep knowledge of God and his Word is not only necessary, it is vital. As we grow in our knowledge of Christ, we bring God glory, which, as question one of the Westminster Catechism states, is our “chief end,” our raison d’etre, the point of our lives here on earth.

 

Some More Thoughts on COVID-19 From the Past

lessons in the dreadful circumstances connected with the bubonic plague (Black Death), which devastated Europe in the 14th through 16th centuries.



J.C. Ryle, written during the Great Cattle Plague of England, 1865-1867


COVID-19 and the Church

Image result for ps 91 1-4

BACKGROUND:

Two days ago I posted the following on Facebook: 

Dustin Benge @DustinBenge – You’re not sinning for canceling your worship gathering tomorrow and you’re not holier if you’re having a worship gathering tomorrow. However, you will be sinning if you do not preach Christ.

Much changed in 24 hours that has led to my decision for this post.

UPDATE:

Yesterday President Trump under consultation with the CDC and other top government and medical officials took the unusual step to make the following recommendations (NEXT 15 DAYS AT LEAST)  

    • Work from home whenever possible
    • School your kids from home, if possible
    • Avoid any gatherings of 10 or more people
    • Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts; use drive-thru, pickup or delivery options instead
    • If you are sick, stay home, and if your kids are sick keep them home
    • If someone in your household is diagnosed with this virus, the entire family should quarantine inside your home
    • Avoid all discretionary travel, including optional shopping trips and social visits
    • Do not visit nursing homes or critical care facilities, unless it’s to provide critical care
    • Older people and anyone with a health condition that weakens their immune system or impairs lung or heart function should stay home and away from other people
    • Practice good hygiene: wash your hands and avoid touching your face, disinfect frequently used items and sneeze or cough into a tissue, when necessary
THE BIBLE SAYS

As you can see the BIG one is point #3 and how it impacts the church. Or maybe I should say how it should impact the church. 

There is NO DOUBT that God and God alone is in control of all things including COVID-19, and the Civil Government  Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1 

There can also be no doubt (at least in my mind) that we are to be obedient to that civil authority Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation Romans 13:2. 

As long as the government is not asking, recommending or issuing guidelines that are illegal, immoral or unethical Peter days: Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17

Also we know that as Psalm 91 above states that God protects HIS own. That however does not mean that no True Christian will not get COVID-19. God may choose to allow it to happen for His glory.

CONCLUSION: 
  1. God’s Protection does not mean equate to the right to assembly 
  2. The Recommendation to not gather in groups of 10 or more IS NOT and infringement on anyone’s 1st Amendment rights. 
  3. Churches; like individuals should follow the recommendations of the government 
  4. To not do so is to say we in the church are “better” or above the law
  5. Those outside the “Faith” are always looking at those walking in the Light
  6. It is the perfect opportunity to get back to basics with small groups or home style church meetings.
  7. It is the perfect time to get in our prayer closets with Christ

 

The bottom line I will not be gathering at my normal place of worship not because I am afraid of COVID-19 or lack confidence in God’s ability to protect me.  I will not because I want the folks in my neighborhood to know I respect the authority appointed over me. 

 

RESOURCES:

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

MS Dept of Health, Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline (8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday): 877-978-6453

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Chrysostom, Golden Tongue

John Chrysostom, Golden Tongue

John Chrysostom, Golden Tongue

Chrysostom resisted, pleaded. The Imperial messengers were deaf to his pleas. They had their secret orders. He was coming with them whether he wished it or not. Outside Antioch they transferred him into a royal chariot and rode for Constantinople.

There, in the capital of the Roman Empire he learned the truth. He was to be Bishop of the imperial city, a position he never wanted but for which many others were fiercely vying. His heart must have sunk as he realized that the other candidates would form implacable resentments against him. But what could he say? The imperial apparatus had brought about his elevation and he was helpless before it. History must play itself out. He would preach with the same authority as he always had. So on this day, February 26, 398, John Chrysostom unwillingly became bishop of Constantinople.

Who was John and why was he in such demand? Born in Antioch, Syria, he had been reared by a widowed mother who taught him Christianity. But John intended to go into law. His mother, trusting God for the outcome, sent him to study with Libanius, the great pagan rhetorician of the day. But John’s conscience troubled him. Lawyers must constantly take oaths. His mother had taught him oath-taking was wrong. Furthermore, through the influence of saintly Bishop Meletius, the young man was attracted to Christ.

Converted and baptized, John resisted becoming a bishop. Instead he spent four years in the desert, and two as a hermit in Bible study, during which he practiced austerities. Filled with scripture knowledge, he finally agreed to be made a deacon in 381 and priest in 386. (Unfortunately, some of those sermons were also antisemetic.)

Less than a year later he rose to special attention. A tax increase threw the citizens of on Antioch into a frenzy. Rioting, they tore down imperial statues. While Bishop Flavian rushed to Constantinople to plead for mercy with the emperor, who was expected to take awful revenge, Chrysostom preached a series of sermons to the terrified populace. As they awaited the imperial decision, death stared them in the face. Chrysostom’s fierce attacks on sin cut their consciences and many sought the peace of confession and repentance. Fortunately, the Emperor pardoned the city.

John’s brilliant preaching had made him famous.* His nickname “Chrysostom” means “Golden tongue.” Eloquent preaching won him the designation. When the court in Constantinople could not agree on any of the rival candidates for the empty see, the court turned to John. If the people of Antioch had known that John was being taken in 398, they might have rioted again for his straight talk made him popular with them.

In Constantinople, Chrysostom continued his attacks on sin, especially on greed and the accumulation of wealth. The Empress Eudoxia became angry when John rebuked her in person for depriving a widow of her vineyard. Eudoxia suspected that John was directing other sermons at her. The emperor also became unhappy with John whom he felt had been raised to his position by court intrigue. The imperial couple teamed up with Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria to depose John on trumped up charges through a synod of enemy bishops in 403. These enemies exiled John, but the people of Constantinople were so enraged that the terrified empress quickly ordered him brought back.

However, when John spoke out against excessive ceremonies in honor of a new statue erected to the empress, Eudoxia became so furious she ordered the bishops to exile John again. This time it was permanent. He died on a forced march that was designed to take him even further away from the court which had made him bishop in the first place against his will.

*We are sad to report his sermons, so good in most respects, were sometimes antisemitic.

 

Is the BFM 2000 View of Women in Ministry an Innovation?

I found this article interesting due to our church recently having being asked to move and assume the duties leadership at another (much larger facility) local assembly. The church in question had seen it’s membership dwindle in recent years down to a dozen or so. One of the stipulations for receiving this property was agreeing to remain in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

In a recent post, Oklahoma Baptist Pastor Wade Burleson has attacked (again) the idea the Bible prohibits women from holding the New Testament position of pastor-bishop- elder.

Dr. Tom Nettles responds.

 

Today in Church History

Yield or Suffer Said Diocletian

Yield or Suffer Said Diocletian

Who was Emperor Diocletian?

Diocletian, born Diocles, was a Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become Roman cavalry commander to Emperor Carus. After the deaths of Carus and his son Numerian on campaign in Persia, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor. The title was also claimed by Carus’ other surviving son, Carinus, but Diocletian defeated him in the Battle of the Margus. Diocletian’s reign stabilized the empire and marks the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. He appointed fellow officer Maximian as Augustus, co-emperor, in 286. Diocletian reigned in the Eastern Empire, and Maximian reigned in the Western Empire.

statue of Diocletian
Statue of Diocletian
Roman Reform

As Barbarians menaced the Roman empire, Emperor Diocletian instituted a number of reforms aimed at saving the sprawling political entity. He reorganized the provinces and made the army more mobile while increasing its size. To battle inflation, he issued a new coinage, established a uniform system of taxation and implemented wage-price controls.

Christian Persecution

Recognizing that the empire was too large for a single man to rule, he divided it into four administrative units. In doing this he raised to power a man who did Christians much harm. This man, Galerius, instigated by his mother (a die-hard pagan) prodded the Emperor to persecute the Christians. With their new customs, Christians were a threat to imperial unity, he said; and their vast, well-knit organization was the largest non-governmental body ever seen. Surely they could not be trusted: their loyalty was to King Jesus rather than to Caesar. Diocletian, who for eighteen years had never lifted a finger against the faith, followed this wicked advice. The crackdown began on this day, February 23, 303.

The persecutors dragged off church leaders and tortured them to death, employing the rack, the scourge, slow fires, crucifixion, and many other barbarities against them. They burned Christian books and scriptures. Many Christians died deaths of great courage. Theodotus, for example, after terrible tortures said as he was being led back to prison, “It is but just that Christians should suffer for Him who suffered for us all.”

Divine Resilience 

Timothy, a deacon in Mauritania, allowed his eyes to be put out with red-hot irons rather than reveal the hiding place of scriptures. His wife of just three weeks was then brought in and she attempted to persuade him to recant for love of her. He refused. Growing stouthearted, she joined him. After horrendous torture, both were crucified.

In the end, it was the church which won the showdown. All the powers of Rome could not crush its allegiance to Christ. Even Galerius eventually left off the persecution. In 311, the dying emperor issued an edict of toleration. Christians had outlasted the might of the empire. Their resistance to arbitrary power was instrumental in winning the right to follow their Christian faith.

 

Today in Church History

Reformer Philip Melanchthon

Reformer Philip Melanchthon

This is a red letter day in the history of the Reformation. On this day, February 16, 1497 was born a man of peace into an age of conflict, a reasoner into a world of passion. His birth name was Philip Schwarzerd, “Black earth,” which in Latin is “Melanchthon.”

At ten Philip was orphaned. His grandmother took him in. Melanchthon proved an apt scholar, entering the University of Heidelberg at twelve. In two years he graduated with his bachelors degree. He proceeded to tutor while adding to his store of Greek. Soon afterward he entered Tübingen where he received his masters degree. When he graduated, the twenty-one-year old was awarded a position as Professor of Greek at Wittenberg through the influence of his grand uncle, the famed humanist, Reuchlin. After a cool reception, he impressed Luther and the schoolmen with his inaugural speech in which he called for thorough-going reform of the curriculum. Martin Luther had already posted his 95 theses and was stirring the Christian world.

Melanchthon himself was ripe for reform. Having read Erasmus’ Greek Testament, he, like Luther, was convinced salvation must be by faith rather than by works. He united his talent with Luther’s and, in public dispute, bested Luther’s chief opponent, Johann von Eck. Not content to argue orally, Melanchthon defended his position in writing. With careful reasoning he clarified what the Reformation was all about. Others characterized him as the brains behind it.

Because he was a peaceable man, Melanchthon was the natural person for Luther to ask to prepare a statement to deliver to Emperor Charles V who had summoned the German Diet to settle the nation’s religious differences. Melanchthon’s statement was conciliatory. The first twenty-one points emphasized doctrines on which both sides were largely agreed. In the last seven points he addressed those issues on which he felt Catholics had varied from scriptural authority. The key point of the document was that justification of the soul is by faith alone. It became known as the Augsburg Confession and remains the basic statement of Lutheran doctrine. Rome rejected it.

Melanchthon continued to strive for a formulation which would be acceptable to all sides. He did not want the church divided. But his voice of reason was lost in the roar of the day. Because he would not accept Luther’s vehement position on the Sacrament, the great reformer turned on his quiet friend and blasted him mercilessly. On his death bed Luther felt remorse for this. “Dear Philip, I confess to have gone too far in the affair of the Sacrament.”

Melanchthon lived several years after Luther died, steadily teaching at Wittenberg, but ignored by the radicals who too often headed the Protestant movement. In the end his quiet soul longed for death as a way to escape the “frenzy of theologians.” Nonetheless his Augsburg Confession remained one of the few grounds mutually respected by the quarreling reformers. However, he himself was vilified as a compromiser and neglected for 200 years after his death.