Covenants: Clarity, Ambiguity, and Faith (Part 4)

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Read the series so far.

If it were up to us …

If the Lord had relied upon men to fulfill their duties before fulfilling His oaths there would be no reason at all to make covenants in the first place. He was on the safest ground possible, and could have promised the universe without having to concern Himself about fulfilling anything. We all fail. Christians know that unless God is faithful to stand behind His promise in the gospel, we are all done for. Salvation under the New Covenant blood of Christ cannot depend upon us. Inner spiritual perfection is even more impossible for us to achieve than the outward obedience of the Law (1 Jn. 1:8, 10). If God’s promise of salvation and eternal life depended for an instant on our works, heaven would have one human inhabitant—Jesus!

It is for this reason that God only made one bi-lateral covenant with men: the Mosaic covenant. Exodus 24 records the solemn oath which the children of Israel took:

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. and they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.” (Exod. 24:6-8)

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Can Fundamental Baptists Find Greater Unity?

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In September, Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN) is hosting an unusual event: a conversation among Baptist leaders with greater unity across splinter groups as a major goal. I asked pastor Greg Linscott, who has led the effort, to tell us more about this conversation.

Q. How did this event come about?

A. A few years ago I began to sense the need for First Baptist of Marshall to become connected with a network more national in scope than our longtime historic affiliation with the Minnesota Baptist Association. Our church has established a ministry with S’gaw Karen refugees from Burma/Myanmar. Because of their missionary connections dating all the way back to Adoniram Judson, the Karen tend to default to the ABC-USA when here in the US. But due to significant differences in doctrine and practice, I did not find that an acceptable option.

As we worked to disciple the believers we had influenced, we wanted to be able to familiarize them with churches whose doctrine would emphasize the authority of Scripture and who would be in general agreement with we teach at First Baptist (including specifics such as a young-earth creationist perspective, cessationist position, and pre-trib dispensationalism) but who also had a large enough network nationally that it would be practical to point Karen believers there as they eventually begin to relocate across the US. The GARBC fit those criteria. Read more about Can Fundamental Baptists Find Greater Unity?

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Cultural Fundamentalism or Cultural Evangelicalism?

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From Theologically Driven. Posted with permission.

Over the past decade it has been popular to distinguish between “cultural fundamentalism” and “historic fundamentalism.” Cultural fundamentalism is regarded by its critics as very, very bad. It consists of folksy/outdated traditionalism that has drifted from its quaint, innocuous origins and has entered a bitter, skeptical stage of life—complete with theological errors of a sort that typically attend aging, countercultural movements. Historic fundamentalism, which focuses more on basic theological issues, fares a little bit better, but only a very little bit. Critics puzzle over those who accept this label, marveling that anyone would risk associative guilt by lingering near those nasty cultural fundamentalists: “Why not get with the program,” they ask, “and become a conservative evangelical?”

Part of the reason, I would venture, is that conservative evangelicalism itself appears, to all but those blinded by its euphoria, to be yet another cultural phenomenon—a new iteration of a broader movement (evangelicalism) that, let’s face it, has a track record easily as jaded as that of fundamentalism. True, the conservative evangelicals of today are a bit more conscious of theology and mission (that’s how the life cycle of ecclesiological “movements” begins), and their culture is more up-to-date; but it’s just a matter of time until the present iteration of evangelicalism grows old, propped up only by the same nostalgia that today keeps Billy Graham crusades and Bill and Gloria Gaither homecomings on cable TV (except that these will be replaced, for a new generation of elderly evangelicals, with John Piper recordings and Keith and Kristyn Getty sing-alongs that allow folks to relive the glory days). Read more about Cultural Fundamentalism or Cultural Evangelicalism?

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The Groaning Tent and the Exodus

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A man went to a psychiatrist with a problem.

“Doc,” he explained, “I keep being plagued by two recurring dreams. One is a dream that I am a wigwam. In my other dream, I dream I am a teepee. Doc, you gotta help me. Am I going crazy? Is there something wrong with me?”

“Relax,” consoled the psychiatrist. “There is nothing wrong with you. You’re just two tents.”

The subject of tents was something Paul the Apostle took seriously. He was a skilled tentmaker by trade. Because tents were not far from Paul’s mind, he was in familiar territory when he compared life’s temporary nature to tent dwelling. Read more about The Groaning Tent and the Exodus

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The Future Kingdom in Zephaniah

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From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2013. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The question of the literalness of the prophecies concerning Israel’s future is a major theological issue today. That issue is a key distinction between dispensational and Reformed/Covenant views of eschatology. In this article explores the prophecies related to Israel’s future in Zephaniah 3, and this careful interpretation provides a paradigm for interpreting other prophetic passages.

Zephaniah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah. He ministered after the spiritually disastrous reigns of Manasseh and Amon and during the attempted revival of godly King Josiah (640–609 B.C.). Unfortunately, Josiah’s revival was not enough to stem the tide of wickedness in the kingdom, and God allowed Judah to be captured and enslaved by the Babylonians, beginning with King Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack on Jerusalem in 605 B.C. Zephaniah probably penned his prophecy in the mid-620s. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Habakkuk. Read more about The Future Kingdom in Zephaniah

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Book Review – China’s Reforming Churches

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Image of China's Reforming Churches
by Bruce P. Baugus
Reformation Heritage Books 2014
Paperback 320

It is no secret that Christianity in China is growing. In a country that has been historically hostile to religious diversity, Christianity has been growing and making a mark on the whole of Chinese life. One of the factors that accounts for this growth is the infusion of Protestant missionaries from various denominational affiliations. What might come as a surprise to many is the growing and well documented influence of conservative Reformed missionary influence in various ways throughout China.

Through the efforts of a number of Reformed leaders who are involved in the spread of Reformed polity and theology in China, Bruce P. Baugus, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, has edited China’s Reforming Churches: Mission, Polity, and Ministry in the Next Christendom. The contributors to this book include pastors, theologians and Chinese-Americans who believe that Reformed polity and theology possess what is necessary to sustain the future growth of the church in China. Read more about Book Review – China’s Reforming Churches

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Reformation That Brings Revival (Part 2)

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From Voice, May/June 2014. First appeared at Always Reforming. Continued from Part 1.

3. Reject everything contrary to God’s Word

2 Chronicles 17:6, 30:14, 31:1, 34:3-5

King Jehoshaphat was clear about the prohibition of idol worship. So had all the other kings before him that had allowed it. But in 2 Chronicles 17:6, it tells us that Jehoshaphat did something about it. The text says, “His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord.” This courageous heart sought to obey the Lord in all things, including the destruction of the popular high places of worship and the Asherim.

For his part, King Hezekiah did similarly brave acts recorded in 2 Chronicles 30:14 and 31:1. And Josiah at the ripe young age of 20 likewise followed in the godly footsteps of these two kings (2 Chron. 34:3-5), making sure to defile the graves of the pagan priests. Read more about Reformation That Brings Revival (Part 2)

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Reformation That Brings Revival (Part 1)

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From Voice, May/June 2014. First appeared at Always Reforming. Used by permission.

There is no doubt that the church today needs revival. But not revival as it is sometimes defined: evangelistic tent meetings in which the Holy Spirit is scheduled to arrive on our set dates. Revivals or “awakenings” as they used to be called, mark a special time when God moves upon God’s people and there is evidence of the Spirit’s powerful work among His people and those He draws to salvation through the proclamation of the gospel message.

Today there is a lot of activity in the evangelical church—lots of money being spent, books printed, and conferences held, churches planted and sermons preached. With the technology of our day, there is more access to the Bible, sermons, and the gospel worldwide than ever before. We have in our country a majority of the world’s largest churches.

But would we say that there is revival happening in our nation or our churches? Most of us would say no, and I would heartily agree. There are victories and people are being saved but the Church today, especially in North America, is a long way from revival. Do you desire revival in our churches and our nation? I do, and I think that you do as well. Read more about Reformation That Brings Revival (Part 1)

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