Reformation

A True Confession (1596)

The True Confession (1596) was the work of an English-Separatist congregation of Baptists in exile in Amsterdam. This excerpt is from William L. Lumpkins, Baptist Confessions of Faith, revised ed. (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1969). The spelling was updated where necessary.

A TRUE CONFESSION OF THE FAITH, AND HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THE ALLEGIANCE, which we her Majesty’s Subjects, falsely called Brownists, do hold towards God, and yield to her Majesty and all other that are over us in the Lord. Set down in Articles or Positions, for the better and more easy understanding of those that shall read it. And published for the clearing of ourselves from those unchristian slanders of heresy, schism, pride, obstinate, disloyalty, sedition, etc. which by our adversaries are in all places given out against us.

Article 2

That God is a Spirit, whose being is of himself, and giveth being, moving, and preservation to all other things being himself eternal, most holy, every way infinite, in greatness, wisdom, power, goodness, justice, truth, etc.

And that in this Godhead there be three distinct persons, co-eternal, co-equal, and co-essential, being every one of the one and same God, and therefore not divided but distinguished one from another by their several and peculiar properties: The Father of none, the Son begotten of the Father from everlasting, the holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son before all beginnings.

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Purity vs. Unity

From Faith Pulpit, Fall 2014. Used by permission, all rights reserved. (Continued from Lessons from the Reformation.)

The same conflict we saw in the Reformation can be seen in contemporary Christianity in North America and the rest of the world. Pastors in Baptist circles today (or heads of institutions or agencies) have choices to make when trying to expand and extend the influence of their church in the community or the constituency of their organizations. Aiming for unity (lowest common denominator of beliefs and/or holy living) will most often result in larger numbers of people, but it does not produce the fruit one might desire.

Martin Bucer typifies this struggle from the Reformation. He not only tried to achieve unity (reaching as many people as possible), but he also retained a passion for the purity of his church members. As he discovered, he could not have both. In trying to reach greater numbers, he had to dilute his message. Under Bucer’s leadership (and the other Reformers), churches were little different from the world. Church membership was granted at birth, and requirements to keep it were not enforced. Holy living was not essential.

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Lessons from the Reformation for Biblical Fundamentalists

Engraving. Martin Bucer at 53.

From Faith Pulpit, Fall 2014. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

One of the ironies of the Reformation is that though the Reformers had separated from the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformers attacked other groups of the time for separating from them. The Reformers had solid reasons to justify breaking the unity of Christendom in sixteenth-century Europe, mainly their proclamation of salvation by grace through faith and not of works as opposed to the works-righteousness system of the Roman Church. However, the Reformers were not willing to allow that right of separation to a third group in the Reformation, a group I call the Sectarians.

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Books of Note - Preaching? and Theology of the Reformers

Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching by Alec Motyer

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“The Word of God is the constitutive reality at the heart of the Church” (p. 18).

There are as many ideas about how to grow a church as there are books on the subject. There are books that focus on meeting felt needs, worship strategies, small groups and a myriad of other ministries that can be maximized to grow your church. However, what many of these books fail to recognize or address is that the bedrock of growing a church is the ministry of the Word through preaching.

With a biblical focus on the Word of God at the heart of a church Alec Motyer has written Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching. As the Old Testament editor for The Bible Speaks Today series, Motyer has turned his pen to writing on preaching and has written a book that addresses both the biblical-theological aspects as well as some practical issues.

The first five chapters address the nature of preaching. These chapters are exegetically grounded in various passages of Scripture. Motyer defines good preaching as that which has a “sense of being plain and unmistakable” (p. 11). Preaching that is good is to be expositional, that is, “the restatement of a Scripture” (p. 30). Motyer wants to impress upon his readers that preaching is the ground upon which the whole church grows and functions. All ministry grows out of the Word and the preaching of the Word. His exegetical work deals with many NT passages that provide us with the nature and task of faithful biblical preachers. His observation, especially of the book of Acts, is that it is the ministry of the preaching of the Word that drove the growth of the early church. Surely there were other attending contributions, like the work of the Spirit through the Word, but it was always the Word that led the way and was responded to.

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