Monday, May 28, 2018

The Danger of Antinomianism

I set before you in my previous post some characters from the book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity. Derek Thomas describes this book as "one of the most important theological texts of all time." The book, first printed in 1645, contains a dialogue between fictional characters discussing matters of eternal importance; matters that deal with a man’s eternal soul and his hopes of eternal life. Evangelista is the Gospel minister carefully applying Gospel truths to a legalist by the name of Nomista and an antinomian by the name of Antinomista. Previously, we looked at Nomista and the dangers and subtleties of legalism. We are always in danger of fixing our hope upon our own actions rather than upon Christ alone.
Equally insidious, however, is the one who vainly believes he has eternal life, while insisting he is exempt from the Law of God. He shouts loudly, “We are not under the Law but under grace!” Evangelista addresses Antinomista: “If either you, or any man else, shall under a pretense of being in Christ, exempt yourselves from being under the law of the ten commands, as they are the law of Christ, I tell you truly, it is a shrewd sign you are not yet in Christ; for if you were, then Christ were in you; and if Christ were in you, then would he govern you, and you would be subject to him.”  
As with legalism, antinomianism can be subtle. Satan has many tricks and tools to lead a man to perdition. A man can believe in justification by faith alone and yet deny the Christ upon whom we must believe. Antinomista argues, “Me thinks, when a man is perfectly justified by faith, it is a very needless thing for him to endeavor to keep the law, and do good works.” At this a fourth character speaks. It is Neophytus, a yet unconverted but sincere seeker of Christ. “I do much marvel that this my friend Antinomista should be so confident of his faith in Christ, and yet so little regard holiness of life, and keeping of Christ’s commandments, as it seems he does.” 
To this Evangelista replies: “If our friend Antinomista do content himself with a mere gospel knowledge, and yet is not fetched in by the power of Christ, let us pity him, and pray for him.” 
And so, we have the Law/Gospel balance. We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. But as Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Salvation is wrought through the work of Christ apart from the works of the Law. At the same time, with saving faith comes deliverance from the power of sin. The Christian loves the Law of God as His standard of righteousness. He obeys, not as a means of gaining any form of merit from Christ, but because Christ has so captivated his heart that he delights in reflecting the beauty of holiness. His grief over sin is not because he fears the consequence of sin but because he has dishonored the One he loves.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018 ARBCA General Assembly

The 2018 ARBCA General Assembly has come to a close. It was a wonderful time of encouragement and edification. The members of Community Baptist Church of Fargo, North Dakota were great hosts, making all feel comfortable and treating us to wonderful meals. The worship was Christ-centered and the singing was robust. Pastor Doug VanderMeulen shared that this was the largest gathering of Reformed Baptists in the history of North Dakota.

We were edified by the preaching of Dr. Liam Goligher, Pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, who preached on the Superiority of Christ from Hebrews. The schedule included morning devotions followed by corporate prayer. Sam Waldron presented our annual Circular Letter on the subject of "The Biblical Doctrine of Death and Resurrection," zeroing in on Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4, "Looking at things which cannot be seen." Jerry Slate gave a biographical sketch on the life of 18th Century pastor, Samuel Pearce. Pearce was one of the original signatories forming the Bible Missionary Society in 1792. Our Theological Discussion this year was on the topic of "Middle Knowledge" as formulated by the sixteenth century theologian, Luis de Molina. The open discussion was preceded by an excellent introduction by Chuck Rennie who described the doctrine as failing to take into account the perfection of God as the first cause of all things. As our Confession states: "Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence . . ." (LBC 5:2).

We heard of the ongoing progress of IRBS Theological Seminary. What a blessing to be a part of establishing the first confessional Reformed Baptist Seminary in the world.

We enjoyed reports from the pastors of our six church plants. It was encouraging to hear of God's work in these new churches. They demonstrate the continuing commitment of ARBCA to plant new Confessional, Reformed Baptist churches across our country.

ARBCA received four new churches this year. Each of the pastors gave reports introducing their churches to our assembly. It is exciting to see God continuing to bless our association by adding churches committed to confessional integrity.

God is continuing to richly bless our association of churches. This year's GA was filled with an air of sincere fellowship and love among brethren committed to the work of advancing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ across our nation and throughout the whole world. Our association is permeated by men committed to the work of maintaining  doctrinal integrity in an atmosphere committed to the propagation of the Gospel.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Subtlety of Legalism

Acts 16:31 NASB - "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” 
There are two great enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Both are dangerous and potentially damning to the soul. One is antinomianism, which denies the proper place and use of the Law in the life of the believer. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The other is legalism which places confidence in the works of the Law and human effort as the means of salvation. Both can be very subtle, which is what makes them so dangerous. 
In the book, “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” there is an interesting dialogue between an able minister of the Gospel by the name of Evangelista, and a legalist by the name of Nomista. Nomista is certain of his salvation and takes exception to Evangelista’s suggestion that he may be among the thousands who believe themselves to be Christians, but have actually denied the Gospel. Nomista’s defense of his conversion is revealing and describes just how subtle legalism can be. In fact, Evangelista warns that there is a touch of this legalism in us all. “Many poor ignorant souls amongst us, when we bid them to obey and do duties, they can think of nothing but working themselves to life; when they are troubled, they must lick themselves whole, when wounded, they must run to the salve of duties, and stream of performances and neglect Christ.” 
As Nomista describes his experience, he speaks of having been convinced of the futility of his religious condition, and was told by a minister that he must listen to godly preaching, keep the Sabbath, leave off swearing, beware of lying, and read good books.  He began spending the Lord’s Day in public and private exercises of worship and keeping God’s Commandments. Many Christians observed this change and offered the right hand of fellowship. He still felt empty, however, and realized that it was all external; that he wasn’t changed inwardly. So, he gave himself to performing duties not only outwardly, but also inwardly from the heart. He was careful to govern his thoughts and passions and suppress the risings of lust and gave himself to hearing and praying from the heart. But then he realized that God required not only active obedience, but also passive—that he had to be willing to suffer. He began to be troubled at his impatience under God’s correcting hand and his inward murmurings. He gave himself to quietly submitting to the will of God. He soon became troubled over his sleepiness, drowsiness, and heaviness in prayer and in other duties. Another minister told him not to worry, that even the best of Christians have their failings. God will accept the will for the deed; and wherein you come short, Christ will help you out. So now he felt confident that what he could not do Christ would do for him.
Do you see what was lacking in Nomista? He was trusting in his actions as the basis of his salvation. Is his experience like yours? Salvation is not doing our best and trusting Christ to do the rest. Salvation is faith in Christ’s righteousness ALONE and trusting in His atoning sacrifice ALONE. The Gospel demands faith in Christ ALONE. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump Protests

God has blessed us with one of the greatest nations in the history of the world. We have freedoms that many in the past could only dream of. We have the right to the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of the press, and the right to keep and bear arms. These are liberties many take for granted. We also enjoy a form of government in which we are able to elect those who represent us in government. In human history filled with totalitarian regimes and dictatorships this is a wonderful blessing.

This past Tuesday we went through the process of electing our next president. Regardless of what one might think of Donald Trump, he has been lawfully elected. He went through the primary process and prevailed over a field of sixteen candidates, winning the nomination of the Republican Party. On Tuesday, in a lawful electoral process, he was elected to be the next president of the United States.

Since the election there have been numerous protests across the nation, many which have turned into violent riots. While we have the right to lawful (peaceful) assembly, these protests are wrong. Because your candidate doesn't win an election doesn't justify mass protests (temper tantrums). God gives us two duties regarding our leaders: (1) Once our leaders are duly elected we must submit to their authority. Romans 13:1 - "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." (2) We must pray for those placed in leadership over us.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 - "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

I find the hypocrisy in all of this fascinating. In our generation we often hear the word "tolerance." But it is a one-sided tolerance. For those protesting, tolerance means all must accept their positions. Any other point of view must be rejected, even violently. What they are protesting is any infringement upon their autonomy. They want absolute liberty; the right to absolute self-determination. Such liberty does not exist with men. Only God has absolute autonomy. God has absolute authority; His dominion is absolute. What we are seeing in these protests is the continuing rebellion of human beings against God's rule. God declares the definition of marriage. God declares the proper expression of human sexuality. God declares the right to life, etc. What they are protesting is God's right to rule, but they will not prevail.

Psalm 2:1-4 - "Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing?  The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,  "Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!"  He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them."

God's charge to this lawlessness is clear:
Psalm 2:11-12 - "Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling.  Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ashamed of the Gospel

Romans 1:16 (NASB) - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

In this verse Paul describes the Gospel as “the power of God for salvation.” Oh that this would burn into our hearts. Paul had great confidence in the Gospel of Christ. It is God’s only way of saving men from their sins. How does a Christian demonstrate that he is ashamed of the Gospel? One way is obvious. We do not declare it to others. By our actions we declare we don’t really believe its power. But there is another much more subtle way we demonstrate we don’t believe the power of the Gospel--when direct all of our focus towards the Law without the Gospel. We bewail all of the evil in our nation. We talk about Roe v. Wade and the great wickedness of abortion. We cry against homosexuality and same-sex marriage and transgender restrooms. Every generation has had particular sins to focus upon. In the 19th century it was slavery. In the 1920’s it was alcohol and the prohibition. In the 1960s it was the drug culture, sexual promiscuity and the removal of prayer from schools.

On one hand, we must always speak clearly on moral issues. All sin is an assault against the holiness of God. But we must never preach morality apart from the Gospel. The Bible never tells us to go into the world and cry against sin apart from the Gospel. If it were possible to get every man to begin living a moral life he would still die and go to hell. The truth is, this world will never be made righteous. It will remain an evil age until Christ returns and creation is renewed. The Gospel, however, declares that Jesus "gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4).

As you speak against the evils of our age never forget that evil actions are merely the fruit of a sinful heart. Only the Gospel of Christ can deliver us from sin. May we be careful not to speak loudly against sin but then become silent regarding the Gospel. We must always speak about sin in the context of Christ Jesus our Savior. He alone can deliver men from their sin. The Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. May we never lose our confidence in the Gospel.