Thursday, April 7, 2011

ARBCA Conference Day 3

Day three of the ARBCA General Assembly opened with a devotional by Pastor Steven Woodman on the question of John the Baptist, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for another" (Matthew 11:3). The focus was how to deal with doubts. This was followed by another theological discussion which was profitable. This was followed by several missionary reports: Jim Adams and Don Donell brought reports about the work in Chili and Argentina. Don Lindblad gave a report on the work in Cuba. I was particularly blessed to sit with a group at lunch and hear from Steven Murphy as he shared his testimony and the work of his church in Ireland.

At 4:45 Dr. Mike Renihan preached a sermon on "Prayer as a Means of Grace." Prayer is the blanket that wraps and glue that binds the other means of grace. Prayer is a part of natural religion that precedes the fall; it is the oldest means of grace. Like the other means of grace it is of Divine origin and contains Divine promises. Prayer is both a private and public means of grace. It was a foundational practice that defined the early church. Prayer is an essential part of the pastoral ministry. We speak to men on behalf of God in preaching. We speak to God on behalf of men in prayer.

The final evening session began at 7:00 with Pastor Steve Garrick preaching on "The Minister's Expectation of Success." This was a stirring close to the 2011 General Assembly. Using 1 Timothy 4:16 Pastor Garrick proved that the pastor has every right to expect Biblical success--God's blessings upon his ministry. Pastors are proof that Christ loves the church because He has gifted them to minister to His church. Using the text Pastor Garrick gave four elements to his argument:
1. There is Biblical warrant to expect success - "For as you do this you will ensure salvation both to yourself and to those who hear you." Success in the pastoral ministry is the salvation of God's elect and the sanctification of the same.
2. The blessing is contingent upon the pastor taking heed to himself - "pay close attention to yourself." The pastor must give himself to physical discipline, to spiritual discipline, and to ministerial discipline.
3. The blessing is contingent upon the pastor taking heed to his teaching - "and to your teaching." "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13).
4. The blessing is contingent upon consistency; i.e. perseverance in both Godliness and teaching.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ARBCA Conference Day 2

Day two of the ARBCA General Assembly began at 8:30 a.m. with a devotion by Pastor Jim Dundas from Luke 10 on the "Good Samaritan." This was followed by a Sermon by Dr. Fred Malone on "Baptism as a Means of Grace." Baptism is the outward sign that one has been converted. It strengthens the faith of the one being baptized as well as those observing. Baptism proclaims the Gospel to unbelievers. Dr. Malone gave several functions of Baptism as a means of grace. (1) Baptism is a sign to the one baptized of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection and of his being engrafted into Christ. (2) Baptism is a sign of remission of sins. (3) Baptism is a sign of the believer giving himself up to God to walk in newness of life. (4) Baptism is a sign of the believer's future resurrection.

After a brief break ARBCA held its annual business session followed by lunch at 12:30. At 4:45 we had a theological discussion on the various aspects of the means of grace. Of particular focus was the nature of preaching as a means of grace.

The evening session began at 7:00 with Dr. Richard Barcellos preaching a sermon on "The Lord's Supper as a Means of Grace." He developed his argument using several texts. In 1 Cor. 10:16 Paul speaks of our communion with Christ (koinonia) on a vertical level, i.e. Christ coming to us. Bread and wine are symbols of the benefits of Christ's death. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul speaks of "Spiritual blessings" as blessings from the Holy Spirit. "Heavenly places" refer to blessings from the heavenly state which are already present in the life of the believer. Heaven is brought down through the ordinary means of grace. In Ephesians 3:16-17 Paul prays that the church might be strengthend with power by the Holy Spirit and that Christ might dwell in their hearts. In other words, the indwelling presence of Christ is experienced by degrees. The Lord's Supper is a means through which the believer experiences fellowship with Christ--heaven experienced as the "already" and the "not yet." In addition, it provides spiritual nourishment and growth. Barcellos said through partaking of the Lord's Supper the soul is altered for the better.

ARBCA Conference Day 1

The 2011 ARBCA General Assembly began at 8:30 a.m. with a devotion by Pastor David Johnson on the life of Jeremiah. This year's theme is "The Means of Grace." Dr. Jim Renihan opened the series with a sermon, "Defining the Means of Grace." He defined the means of grace as instruments or methods by which the grace of God is imparted. They are channels of grace. He stated that there are two criteria necessary for an activity to be a means of grace:
1. Is it of Divine Institution. In other words, there must be a Divine origination or command. Has God plainly declared the activity in His Word?
2. There must be a Divine Promise attached to it. Has God plainly declared in His Word that He would bless the activity with His grace.

The means of grace declared in the Word of God and consistent with our Confession are prayer, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the ministry of the Word. Our Confession lists other means such as occasional fasting with thanksgiving.

During the evening session Pastor Tom Lyon brought a wonderful sermon on "Preaching as a Means of Grace." The sermon had three points. Preaching is the ordinary means of grace because:
1. No other means enjoys the authority of preaching. Preaching is the voice of God.
2. No other means enjoys the atmosphere of preaching. Preaching involves preaching AND hearing. He quoted Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "You cannot put preaching on paper." Nor is a recorded sermon the same as preaching.
3. No other means enjoys the accuracy of preaching. The preacher must be well prepared.
4. No other means enjoys the agenda of preaching. Only preaching can fulfill the Great Commission of teaching "all things."