Ecclesiology

Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 1)

If you’re a Baptist in America, you’ve probably heard of a peculiar brand of Baptist polity called “Landmarkism.” D.A. Carson recently quipped that hyper-Calvinism is a term usually reserved for somebody you don’t like!1 In Baptist circles, this is usually the intent when one uses the term “Landmarker.” That is not the way the term is used here! It is a genuine historical term, and its American founder was proud to call himself a “Landmarker.”

This series is a survey of what the father of American Landmarksim believed about the local church, and why he believed it. It is not a refutation of that position, although I will make some brief remarks along that line. This is an important topic, because I suspect many Baptists who hold to Landmark distinctives don’t actually understand what original Landmarkism actually taught.

A fiery, intelligent and formidable preacher from the mid to late 19th century named J. R. Graves is largely responsible for the development of Landmarkism. He admitted as much in 1880: Read more about Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 1)

Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 3

From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010). Used by permission. Read Part 1 & Part 2.

When Is It Wrong to Judge?

1. It is wrong to judge someone before you know all the facts in the case.

The Apostle John wrote, “Our law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing” (John 7:51). In other words, the believer should never judge on a whim, an impression, a rumor. The facts are necessary, and the believer should be quick to hear and slow to speak.

2. It is wrong to judge when judging is based on a person’s convictions and/or preferences.

Romans 14 makes it clear that personal decisions can direct activities in areas where the Scriptures are silent. For instance, the Bible doesn’t specifically address credit cards, dating practices, plastic surgery, watching television, using electric guitars in church, ad infinitum. Read more about Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 3

Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 2

From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010). Used by permission.

In the matter of church discipline, the Bible is clear that believers must judge themselves (See Part 1). When else is it right to judge?

2. It is right to judge someone who is openly living in sin.

The Apostle Paul instructed the church in Corinth:

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you. You have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this. (1 Corinthians 5:1-3)

Paul clearly announced, “I have already judged him.” It is important to note that Paul called attention to this man’s sin (sexual immorality) in the presence of the congregation. Read more about Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 2

Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 1

From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Adapted from Stephen Davey’s book In Pursuit of Prodigals. Kress Biblical Resources (The Woodlands, TX, 2010).Used by permission.

Paul instructed Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) which means we must engage in an active defense of the faith. That battle for truth begins in the local church where truth and holiness must be defended. And of necessity that involves church discipline. But what exactly is church discipline?

Church discipline can be broadly defined as the “confrontive” and corrective measures taken by an individual, church leaders, or the congregation regarding a matter of sin in the life of a believer (Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek Testament. Regency, 1976, p. 237).

Discipline and discipling are actually interconnected actions with similar goals in mind. Read more about Church Discipline & Defending the Faith, Part 1

The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 11)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the entire series.

Chapter Seven: Conclusion

It is no “stretch” to find in the churches of the NT what may be characterized as “Christianized” synagogues. The membership in the synagogue was rather restricted, being based first on physical requirements (male and Jewish by birth), but slightly expanded to admit those men who spiritually came over to the Jewish religion and submitted to its rituals and requirements. In the churches, the membership requirements were spiritual rather than physical in nature, being based on a new spiritual birth for both Jews and Gentiles, followed by a public declaration through immersion of faith in the Messiah Jesus. Gentiles were not required to “become Jews” in order to qualify for admission. Women as well as men were admitted into the congregation.

The chief constituent elements of a synagogue service—prayer, Bible reading and a sermon—are found as well in the churches. There are some differences, of course. While the synagogue naturally enough limited its Bible reading to the OT, the NT churches also included the reading of the NT books as they became available. The prayers in the synagogue tended toward the written and liturgical while the NT churches betray no evidence of such a practice in the first century. Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 11)

The Church and the College

From Voice, Nov/Dec 2014.

Leading a Christian college, university, graduate school, or seminary is a challenge in the varied uncertainties of our day. It is especially disheartening when academic publications use terms like “tsunami” and “danger” and “at risk” to describe the perilous nature of the traditional education landscape. One wonders how the smaller private Christian colleges will surf the coming tsunami and overcome the challenge.

This brief presentation is not meant to be a “how to” survival guide for the small college. Rather, it is a perspective on why ecclesiology matters in the overall mission and purpose of a Christian liberal arts college. In what follows I address the nature of the church, the mission and core values of the college, and then consider how ecclesiology informs college life and operations.

What I mean by the church

So what do I have in mind when I reference the Church? I am not writing about a particular denomination nor am I writing about a specific style of ministry. Rather, I am considering what the Bible reveals to us about the nature of the Church in both its universal and local significance. Read more about The Church and the College

Were the Novatians Early Baptists? Cyprian on Church Discipline

(Read the series so far.)

Most Baptists would not disagree with Cyprian on church discipline if they would only read what he wrote. But Ernest Pickering’s characterization is representative of what most Baptists believe about this issue: “Basically, [Novatian] and his followers were contending for a stricter view of the requirements for church membership than was generally accepted in his day.”1 Thus, Novatian is a crusading separatist; Cyprian is a lax compromiser. The truth, however, is that Novatian was a schismatic exclusivist.

Cyprian on church discipline

Cyprian was not lax. He believed that the truly repentant ought to be re-admitted into fellowship, and that the un-repentant should be excluded. When some of the lapsed presumptuously demanded to be re-admitted to the church, Cyprian condemned this “seditious practice” and charged that the clergy who permitted it were “frightened and subdued” men who “were of little avail to resist them, either by vigour of mind or by strength of faith.”2 Instead, Cyprian advocated a moderate, sensible policy: Read more about Were the Novatians Early Baptists? Cyprian on Church Discipline

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