A Sidekick's Blog


September 17, 2016
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Every Christian has “discernment.”  Jesus Himself said so:

“When he puts forth his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

To a Charismatic, it’s a special gift that only a select few have!  But the gift of discerning spirits listed among the charismata in 1st Corinthians 12-14 was different from the natural discernment of the Lord’s sheep.  It was the ability to see and distinguish angels and demons. Examples include the army of angel warriors that Elisha saw when Elijah asked God to open his eyes, and the Apostles’ recognition of demons in Acts, where even a truth-saying spirit was recognized and expelled (Acts 16:16ff).

Please enjoy this excellent article from Pulpit & Pen:

Within the Charismatic Movement, discernment is often viewed as this supernatural ability to see if the spirit which influenced something is a good spirit or a demon. That is not what true discernment is in the modern context. Others within the same movement say that discernment is a supernatural feeling you get that tells you…

via What Discernment Is and Isn’t — Pulpit & Pen


Missions and the Prosperity Gospel

September 19, 2014
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As if Benny Hinn and other health-and-wealth teachers haven’t exploited enough people already, lately they are “crusading” in third-world nations.

When you carry their teachings to their logical conclusion, though, it only makes sense. It is the poorest of the poor who most desperately need prosperity and healing. So naturally, the folks who support teachers of the prosperity gospel have to insist that the prosperity message be brought to “those who need it most.”

But what of missionary efforts already underway in these third world tribes? How does the message of the media stars impact the work of missionaries who cannot offer promises of riches and divine health, but only simple gospel of salvation from God’s just wrath against sinners? As you might imagine, opposition to the truth is multiplied by the itchy-eared.

Even though the prosperity teachers cannot hope to profit from the desperately poor, they must maintain the appearance of taking the prosperity message to the desperately poor who “need it most.”

Here is a recent example, described by a missionary of the true gospel. He describes his own efforts to counter this exploitation and deception. He describes the angry opposition he encountered from those who have heard what they wanted to hear and eagerly accepted it, and who now fiercely defend their new hope against the truth.

There was a long period of time when I complained loudly to the Lord for many months about the proliferation of false teachers, hirelings and charlatans taking advantage of the Lord’s sheep.

“Judge them, O Lord! Save Your people from being ruined by those who would shear Your sheep; killing them and feasting on Your little lambs!” I cried.

Until I realized a terrible truth.

These false teachers are God’s judgment! He will judge the false teachers in His own time. Just as He sent the Babylonians to judge His own people first, before sending Persia to judge the Babylonians! He will eventually bring “Persia” to judge “Babylon” for bringing false teachings to His sheep. But He judges His own before He judges the world.

Benny Hinn and his fellow heretics are God’s judgment against itchy-eared sheep,

who, wanting to have their ears tickled, gather for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and will turn away from the truth, turning aside to myths (2 Tim 4:3-4 emphasis mine).

Indeed, such was I once. And

such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Many among those being deceived are to be called out later on, and they will need help, just as I did, to overcome the fables and superstitions they were taught. It takes time and patience. But that is why this little forum is here. ExCharisma is a tool for those who have been exploited, betrayed, and damaged by these false teachings. But even if you, dear reader, are not among those who once believed these things, please consider those in your circle who have quit going to church after being betrayed by these self-serving wolves who prey upon the itchy-eared, and now are broken, confused, and have no idea who to trust anymore or what is true anymore. If they’re seeking some plain ol’ back-to-basics gospel truth from Scripture alone, tell them they’re not alone. Tell them about one little sidekick who found his way back. Tell them about ExCharisma.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday is for Theology

September 4, 2014
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Thursday is for Theology.

Amateur theology, but co-writing on my friend’s blog.  Adoptedsidekick will remain as a “friends and family” blog, the theological stuff will be published on Keachfan, and I’ll create a new separate one for the Linux stuff and move all the posts around accordingly when I get some time at the computer to do it.  Stay tuned!



Holy Spirit Baptism: Part Four

April 19, 2014
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This is Part Four, the last of a series on Holy Spirit baptism. Until now it has only touched on a couple of the doctrinal issues which are ordinarily raised in any discussion of the topic, or of the related topics of spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, and/or the offices of prophet and apostle beyond the first century AD. Be sure to read the previous parts to get a full sense of the topic and why I write as I do about it.

Part Three left off at West Lauderdale Baptist Church, where very few kids were left in the youth group after the mass departure of our former youth pastor and the majority of the kids and young adults who followed him to “the church in Fort Lauderdale.” A few of them returned within a year or so, broken and confused; and many more appeared to leave the Christian community entirely. The fruit of the Shepherding / Discipleship movement was horrific and damaging to those who got caught up in it, and many strayed far from the Lord after a period of exuberance followed by massive, cultish exploitation.

But we were not entirely safe from exploitation even in a somewhat accountable Southern Baptist church that strayed far from the word of God to embrace ear-tickling charismatic fables. Following the exodus of many members to the new “church in Fort Lauderdale,” West Lauderdale was left at less than half its former size and still dealing with spillover from the excessive of charismania in the larger movement. There was, for example, a “prophecy” given by “a reliable, proven prophetess” that a great tsunami would wipe out South Florida in the following year, as God’s judgment against the cities for the explosive growth of homosexuality there. Her prophecy was published in a couple of charismatic magazines and caused quite a stir. The only defense our new youth minister could come up with was God’s promise following Noah’s flood never to destroy the earth with water again. Really? There have been countless tsunamis and floods since that was written, so that verse was little comfort to us. What did provide some comfort, though, was a “vision from God” that our pastor shared with the congregation:

“God has shown me what the future holds for West Lauderdale Baptist Church,” the pastor said. “Five buildings will occupy these grounds and the surrounding property. At the center will be a huge sanctuary and administrative offices to oversee ministries in the other four buildings: A Christian school, a home for unwed mothers, a theological school like Samuel’s ‘school of prophets,’ and a music ministry school for psalmists” that would produce a great wealth of new songs, hymns, and spiritual songs for the Church. So at the very same time that some were fleeing the city to escape a prophesied tsunami, our church was fund-raising like crazy and buying up homes and real estate for about a square mile around the church. The year was 1973. Forty years later, this is what West Lauderdale Baptist Church looks like:

The property surrounding the church was purchased and either demolished or used for meetings or whatever, and then abandoned. The entire neighborhood was ruined. And the original sanctuary on Davie Boulevard still stands. The grand vision never became a reality. But like most groundless “visions from God,” this one wasted thousands of dollars and destroyed the credibility of the church.

I graduated from high school at 17 and got the heck out of there as fast as I could. Too small and delicately built (at the time) to qualify for the military, I determined to take the first job that offered room and board, preferably in another city. That job was on a sailing ship – a three-masted schooner – as a member of the crew, and the only kid aboard with a bunch of 30-something guys who couldn’t make it in “real” jobs. Another perfect setup for another tragedy. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Following that whole mess I attempted college, and when the money ran out I found a job with an ambulance company back in Fort Lauderdale again, which was still there. No tsunami had destroyed it and nothing was ever said about the “prophetess” whose “vision” must have been at least as damaging to others in South Florida as my pastor’s “vision” had been to his church and the surrounding neighborhood. It’s curious in the extreme that when prophecies fail to come true, especially with all the damage that they often cause, that nothing is said; and if you say anything then you’re “being judgmental and condemning.” What?! In bible times, these false prophets would have been put to the sword (see Deuteronomy 18:20)! And I’m judgmental and harsh if I simply ask about false prophecies? Yet for all that, I still didn’t open my bible much, except in church, or when I wanted to impress someone with how spiritual and knowledgeable I was.

I had prided myself on instructing others in seeking Holy Spirit baptism, and even in my backslidden condition I continued to do so, and when someone told me had “the gift of discernment” because I hadn’t followed Andy and dared to ask questions about failed prophecies, I fed off of that little bit of affirmation and taught whoever would listen. I had passed my state tests and got certified as a firefighter and began what would become a 30-year career. I met a Pentecostal girl and “converted” her to my charismatic beliefs, and we got married at West Lauderdale Baptist Church, attending there until the fruit of the pastor’s failed “vision” gave us cause to move to a new Charismatic (Presbyterian) church in Pompano, just North of Fort Lauderdale.

In the lessons I taught on Holy Spirit baptism, I liked to use examples from the Old Testament as well as the New. Saul, for example, became “a Charismatic” when Samuel anointed him as king of Israel, and received the gift of prophecy (1st Samuel 10:1-12). Verse 6 is pivotal:

Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophecy with them and be changed into another man.

I simply failed to mention that Saul’s appointment as king was an act of judgment against Israel for rejecting God and desiring a king like the other nations (see verse 19 of the chapter), and that the prophesying was a sign of that coming judgment. When Samuel anointed David as king in Saul’s place, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13),” and “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him (verse 14).” It looks like Holy Spirit baptism was revocable in those days, doesn’t it? But in neither of these examples is the term “baptized in or with the Spirit” employed to describe the Lord’s anointing on them. I simply misapplied the term to those Old Testament examples. I did the same with Elijah and Elisha in 2nd Kings chapter 2. The other prophets witnessing the sign said, “the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha (verse 15).” This was God’s anointing for a specific office for a specific time. The ministries of Elijah and Elisha also represented God’s judgment upon those in rebellion against Him.

“Jesus had the anointing in His day,” I taught. “Just as Elijah threw the mantle on Elisha, so Jesus, ascending to heaven, ‘threw His mantle on the Church!’ See it fall upon them in the second chapter of Acts!”

Now doesn’t that sound all scholarly and feel all “anointed?” In truth, though, only the examples in Acts 2 and Acts 11:16 are described as “baptism in/with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5).” Subsequently there were many “fillings” with the Spirit (4: 8 and 31, 7:55, etc)) and people described as “full of the Spirit,” like Stephen (Acts 6:3). But for Charismatics, Acts 8:14-17 is among the proofs that “receiving the Holy Spirit” is a separate and distinct experience from conversion to Christ.

For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they [Peter and John] began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:16-17).

The text doesn’t say for sure that these people were genuine converts to Christ, but it is a safe assumption because “they were receiving the Holy Spirit.” The text also specifically states that “He had not yet fallen upon any of them,” so one might rightfully assume that these baptized converts to Christ did not, in fact, have Holy Spirit baptism as in Acts 2. But since regeneration precedes faith (John 3:3-8, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12:3, Eph 2:4-5), it is safe to say that they were born of the Spirit and thus “had” the Holy Spirit living within. What was “missing” was the peculiar powers conveyed by the Holy Spirit which were available only through the laying on of hands by an Apostle. Otherwise Philip the evangelist would have done so himself, having brought the gospel to Samaria and harvested many souls there. None of the Samaritan converts had given evidence of the gift of tongues, which most frequently (but not always) accompanied the laying on of the Apostles’ hands (see 10:45-46). This “impartation,” or anointing, was only at the hands of the Apostles; and only they had authority from God to do so. Acts 19 demonstrated Paul’s Apostolic authority when the Ephesian converts received the sign-gifts of tongues and prophecy by the laying on of Paul’s hands. It was distinctly a sign of apostleship (2 Cor 12:12) and did not continue after the Apostles died.

As in the Old Testament examples I used above, these special powers were conveyed to a limited number of people for a limited amount of time and for a specific purpose. In Acts we see Spirit baptism among non-Jewish converts as a sign to the Church that God was making no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10:47, 11:15-18, and 15:9), and the gift of tongues as a sign to the single generation of unbelieving Jews (1st Corinthians 14:21-22) that had betrayed and murdered their Messiah.

All believers have the Holy Spirit, dwelling in their hearts by faith (2 Corinthians 1:22, Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 3:17). Indeed it is not even possible to become a Christian unless one is born of the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit, with accompanying signs and gifts, was a strictly first-century phenomenon with a strictly first century purpose. It was a sign of the end of the Old Covenant, superseded by the New. It was a sign of apostolic authority; and the oft-accompanying covenant sign of tongues portended the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Jewish sacrificial covenant. These were prophetic signs, warning of events that occurred in 70 AD. There was no reason for the warnings to persist after the judgment they warned about had come to pass!

When I see “signs and wonders” performed by such hucksters as Benny Hinn, Jesus’ tragic words, recorded in Matthew 7 come instantly to my mind:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness (Matt 7:21-23).”

Justification By Faith Alone

March 22, 2014
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A Reformed Christian web site with a huge, vast library of excellent resources, also has a forum that I participate in. One of the recurring debates that has arisen there over the past few years has been on the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide). Due in part to all the foot-dragging in the courts of the PCA on the rise of the Federal Vision teaching (hereafter abbreviated as “FV”), the debate has been renewed in recent months and years with greater fervor among the leaders of that denomination. Thankfully, other conservative Presbyterian denominations have addressed the matter with the speed and urgency it demands. FV represents a hyper-covenantalism that elevates the Church nearly to the level of co-redemtrix, where salvation is determined by one’s standing in the church, receipt of the sacraments, and the judgment of the Esteemed Clergy and Elders. It is supreme irony that FV originated in denominations spawned by the Reformation, since it is essentially a call back to Rome. It turns the Reformation on its head. It is an attack upon its very soul.

A beloved tactic of false teachers is to change the definitions of theological terms without actually telling us that they’re defining the words differently. In the Word of Faith movement, for example, faith is redefined to make it something more akin to “the Force” of Star Wars fame; a neutral power for both good and evil depending on how it is applied using the spoken word in a mind-over-matter sort of way. So when the Word of Faith teachers speak, they can use “Christian-sounding” words to totally pervert the Christian religion. They conveniently neglect to inform their listeners and readers that the word faith has a completely different meaning for them. In the same way, FV teachers have deceptively merged two different meanings of the word justification:

In my college classes I am frequently asked to write essay answers to tests and quizzes with the instruction, “justify your answer.”

That is the use of the word “justify” that James uses most often in his epistle. Works justify faith. That is, works authenticate faith; they testify that faith is genuine; they prove that faith has done its work in the heart of the believer. It is their works that “justify” (or authenticate) the faith of those listed in the “Honor Roll of Faith” of Hebrews 11, a “great cloud” of witnesses whose works certify that their faith was genuine; who all testify to the same thing: That the guilt of their sin was borne by Christ and appropriated to them by faith alone. So then we are justified by faith, and our faith is justified (proven to be genuine) by works.

When the word justified is applied to people, it means “declared Not Guilty.” Applied to actions, deeds, and works, the word means “authenticated, proved to be genuine.”

In Paul’s epistles the word is most often applied to persons rather than works, so it describes the forensic decree of “Not Guilty” in the Court of God. But like James, Paul insists upon faith that can be proven to be authentic by good works. I’m sure the two Apostles had many long talks on the subject with one another and fully agreed with each other.

When one considers the authorship and intended audience of Paul’s epistles and James’, one can account for the different uses of the words “justify” and “justification” thusly: Paul writes in a “legal opinion” sort of fashion as a Roman citizen, and as a “Pharisee of Pharisees” to an audience of mostly Gentile believers. He writes to reassure them that their standing before the Court of God is not dependent upon their ability and faithfulness to do all works of the Law, but upon simple faith in the One who did the works perfectly in our stead and died bearing our sins away in His own body on the tree. His resurrection “justifies” (proves) His atoning work, showing that the Father had accepted His sacrifice, and it is applied to us in the court of God (persons are justified) by faith alone. James’ epistle is written to the entire Church, Jew and Gentile alike, to describe what disciples of Jesus ought to look like, demonstrating works that justify (as in authenticate, prove as genuine) the faith that justifies (declares Not Guilty) the believer.

That’s the only difference between Paul and James. But if we merge those two senses of the word, and conveniently forget to inform our readers and listeners of such subterfuge, we can use these “Christian-sounding” terms and quote whole sections of scripture to “prove” that justification is by our works as much as it is by our faith. In only one sense are believers justified by works, and that is that the works of Christ are imputed to believers by faith, and so we are justified – declared “Not Guilty” – by faith alone, apart from our works of the Law, since Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law is credited to us. By faith. By faith alone.

The Tyranny of the Experts: A Call for a Second Reformation

February 19, 2014

I have lamented in this blog about the new “tolerance” in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) for errors which defy the Westminster Standards. I have re-posted other such laments from otherbloggers in multiple “conservative” Presbyterian / Reformed denominations. In this blog I want to reach “behind” this creeping tolerance for sin and error and point to one of the easily preventable causes of this supposedly inevitable decline of Presbyterian / Reformed churches and denominations. The writer of some of the best commentary on the Westminster Confession, G.I. Williamson, describes it in this post as “the tyranny of the experts.” It is a culture of elitism that demands that the ordinary churchgoer and “lay leader” should simply defer to the Esteemed Clergy in matters of theology and church practice, owing to their greater education and expertise in these things. After all, they’re the professionals, the experts in such things, and we ordinary church folk need not concern ourselves with things that are “way beyond us.”

I suppose it’s natural in our society at this stage of its moral decay to just “defer to the experts.” Home schooling, for example, is looked upon as arrogant and dangerous because we’re “just parents.” We don’t know anything about educating children. My wife and I were told that we should “leave it to the experts” and “stop being so arrogant.” But look at where these “experts” have taken our public schools! Not only do they completely fail to equip their students with the skills to learn and reason and function, but they mock our values, rewrite history, and try to erase all differences of gender and religion. They seem to be aiming towards creating a generation of easily controllable, unthinking, obedient drones to serve the ruling class. High school graduates can’t even fill out a job application or balance a checkbook. No thanks, I don’t think the “experts” are doing a very good job. Scientific “experts” argue for more government power to manage the “climate crisis” caused by mankind’s activities even as their dire predictions of melting ice caps and rising oceans prove patently false decade after decade. Recently it was described as “global warming.” But when I was a kid in school, the “experts” were sounding the alarm of global cooling! No thanks, “experts,” I’ll take my chances with common sense and err on the side of liberty. Yet this culture of deference to highly educated fools has become tyrannical as their “expert opinions” are used to justify more and more intrusions upon the rights and liberties of citizens. And it seems that in the churches, the same culture of deference threatens similar tyranny, and even damnable heresy.

In order to be taken seriously in the Reformed / Presbyterian community one must have credentials that demonstrate “expertise.” This culture of expertise has become so valuable that some even highly “respectable” seekers of credibility have resorted to outright dishonesty and fraud in their quest for ever greater credibility. Witness the “credentials” of one “Dr.” Kenneth Gary Talbot, founder and Protestant Pope of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA), who claims multiple doctorate degrees that would take a lifetime to earn, from schools that either don’t exist, or that don’t offer the degrees he claims to have earned there, or that never had him as a student. Founder and president of a seminary “accredited” by an agency of it’s own making, yet with a list of “notable alumni” that includes some really good and well-respected theologians. It’s all about credibility, all about status, all about being an expert. It’s about making a name and reputation for oneself, writing books and teaching others and gathering a following. Expertise = power, even in the “ultra conservative” RPCGA.


In the PCA, the heretical Federal Vision teaching and other dangerous doctrines have gained increasingly wider acceptance solely because “ruling elders” in that denomination, despite their supposed equality with “teaching elders” (pastors, clergy), have deferred to the “learned and esteemed clergy,” who historically are the ones who package and promulgate heretical doctrines. As G. I. Williamson illustrates in his article, Martin Luther was up against the very same “tyranny of the experts.” How dare this mere monk from an obscure province challenge the Esteemed Experts of his day? Bishops and Cardinals and Professors and even the Pope himself! Luther was nothing but a common little monk without the education and credentials to challenge the Highly Educated and Exalted Experts of his time. Yet the people rallied around him. Why? Not because he had Impressive Credentials, but because

the sheep know their shepherd and follow the voice of their shepherd. They will not follow a stranger because they don’t recognize the voice of a stranger (John 10:4-5).

It’s time we sheep stop paying attention to pretenders, and follow the familiar, comforting, trustworthy voice of the Shepherd who laid His life down for the sheep. Do not quickly defer to “experts,” the wolves clothed in woolen Doctorate Degrees, but whose demonic doctrines and seductive speech lead to exploitation, exposure to the enemy of our souls, and ultimately to destruction.

Semper Reformanda

February 9, 2014

Always Reforming. Constantly challenging my faith and practice against the revealed word of God, as found in the bible.

Admittedly driven this time by a sense of expediency because I am “between churches” and the only real Reformed alternative nearby is a Reformed Baptist church, it is nevertheless always a good thing to take measure of one’s beliefs using the scriptures as a guide. What scares me a little is that there’s a part of me, in a rush to bring my heart-achy search to a conclusion, that wants to “prove” from the scriptures that I’m justified in moving over to the Baptist church. To counter that tendency I’ve determined to do nothing until I have read, absorbed, and debated these things with both Baptist and Presbyterian brothers. The trouble I’m having is in finding people from either camp who are actually willing to be challenged in that way. I have been a Presbyterian for over two decades. Both of my adult children were raised in that tradition, both baptized as infants by sprinkling. If I am to make any big changes in my theology at this point in my life, I’m darn well going to have good solid reasons for doing it.

So on my own I have been reading articles, listening to audio recordings of debate between Baptist and Presbyterian theologians, looking at questions through the eyes of both sides, and re-examining my own hermeneutics.

So far, in the admittedly short time I have been examining these things, it appears to boil down to these three things:

Different hermeneutics:

Reformed believers are guided by one of two hermeneutics. Both usually lead to similar conclusions I think, but an important distinction exists between the two. And the deeper I go in my study, the more the distinction seems to matter.

The Presbyterian hermeneutic is described in the Westminster Confession of Faith this way:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture… (WCF 1:6, emphasis mine).

The Reformed Baptist hermeneutic sounds similar but it is different because it does not include deduction or “good consequence:”

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture (London Baptist Confession 1:6, emphasis mine).

So what’s the difference? Both often lead to the same conclusion, as they do in the doctrine of the Trinity, for example. I have a silly, simplistic way of illustrating it: If one passage explicitly states that “all normal dogs have four legs,” and another explicitly states that “Spot is a normal dog,” then it is necessarily true that Spot has four legs even though that fact is not explicitly stated. The fact is contained in the book even though not explicitly. A Presbyterian might deduce that since there are other properties of normal dogs, such as two ears, a wet nose, and a wagging tail, then Spot must also have those qualities as well, even if the book doesn’t contain those things in its description of normal dogs. A Reformed Baptist could not reach that far, since two ears, a wet nose, and a wagging tail are not contained in the book’s description. While I realize that my silly simplistic illustration likely falls short of adequately describing the difference, I’m a simple Boy Wonder and receptive to correction if I really have misstated the difference. That’s just how I understand it for now.

It is that difference, I think, that accounts at least in part for the differences in Covenant Theology between Baptists and Presbyterians, and in the way that the two apply the Regulative Principle of Worship to the two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Different Covenantal Views:

Presbyterians view the Old and New Testaments as containing different administrations of the same covenant which most refer to as the Covenant of Grace. They do this to preserve the continuity of Scripture to include both Testaments. But, to a Reformed Baptist, it isn’t necessary to preserve the continuity of the Testaments by describing the two as being “different administrations of one covenant.” The writer of Hebrews describes the Old Covenant as “type and shadow” of the New. The New fulfills the Old. But to a Baptist, the two are separate covenants altogether and while one prefigures the other, they apply to different groups of people and different points along the continuum of unfolding eschatology and progressive revelation. The Old covenant was limited, under it’s different administrations, to one family, one race, one nation; whereas the New removes all such distinctions. The Old was temporal rather than eternal as the New covenant is. The Old was physical, geographical, and political. The New is spiritual, universal, and “not of this world.” Yet under the Old, prefiguring the New, all who were eternally saved were saved just as they are in the New: By faith in One who was to come, the Seed promised to Abraham in the Old covenant, the Second Adam, the Mediator of – as the writer of Hebrews describes it – “a better covenant based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).” I’m told by a Reformed Baptist theologian that my summary of the Baptist covenantal view in my previous blog post is accurate, so please refer to it for a more complete picture of why Baptists separate the two differently than Presbyterians do.

Different Applications of the Regulative Principle of Worship:

Both Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians subscribe to this principle, based on Sola Scriptura and described in the Westminster Confession of Faith in these terms:

…the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself, and is so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped according to … any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture (WCF 21:1).

This principle has been reduced by many people to simply, “When it comes to the worship of God, whatever is not commanded is forbidden.” This is quite unlike the Lutheran and Anglican principle which is, to reduce it to it’s simplest form, “whatever is not forbidden is permitted in the worship of God.” This leads them to all sorts of human inventions that “help the people worship,” from drama and dance to more superstitious stuff like making the sign of the cross and assigning mystical properties to the elements in the Lord’s Supper and observing a liturgical calender. Superstition, by the way, I take to mean trying to please, appease, delight, or “reach” God by any means other than revealed in His written word.

Because the Old Testament is to be interpreted through the lens of the New Testament, and because of the difference in the two views of covenant theology, the Reformed Baptist does not see baptism as a New covenant “replacement” of Old covenant circumcision. And as there is no explicit command in the New Testament to baptize any but confessed believers, Baptists reject what Presbyterians call “covenant baptism” (or “infant baptism”). To a Presbyterian, the command to baptize the infant children of believers is necessarily deduced by the examples of Old covenant circumcision and “household baptisms” in the New Testament.

These three differences combine to form the theological basis for both credobaptism (believer’s baptism) and paedobaptism (infant baptism). They also represent what my search has “boiled down to.” To most people I know, none of this matters. One just goes to “whatever church makes them happy” as long as it adheres to “the essentials.” That can’t be enough for me. In fact it hasn’t been enough for me ever. Not because I’m “too nitpicky,” but because love demands the pursuit of the truest possible knowledge of God.

Despite my desire to avoid it, I suspect that this blog post likely betrays a little bias towards the Baptist position. In fact it is the Baptist position which seems more consistent (Presbyterians baptize babies yet keep them from the Supper until they can articulate their faith in an adult manner), closer to the Reformation cry of Sola Scriptura (because it insists upon not exceeding what is written no matter how flawlessly logical and reasonable it may seem to do so), and by painting a picture of the covenants in a way that preserves the continuity of Scripture without the confusing of merger of Old and New sacraments, signs, shadows, and types. Perhaps I haven’t been a very good Presbyterian all these years, but it isn’t because I haven’t made every effort to understand, apprehend, and articulate my faith without becoming bewildered and confused by that hermeneutic and getting lost in the details. As I said, I’m a simple sidekick, and tend to ruin in favor of those things which “are so clearly propounded and opened in Scripture that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain unto an sufficient understanding of them (WCF 1:7).”

God help me.

The Government of God

October 6, 2013

Originally written 11 years ago (wow) for the ExCharisma ministry and to refute the notion that “belonging to a church” is completely optional for believers, The following article follows up my previous blog post about the proliferation of these so-called “Alternate Churches” that aim at “reaching” those who “can’t relate to traditional churches.” What has struck me about every one of these “alternates” I have visited is how they are very similar to the evangelical churches they aim to attract people from. Except in three respects: The sacraments (ordinances) are either absent or not administered according to Scripture; too many are autocratic, governed by a pastor or a small group hand-picked by the pastor (especially churches that have husband and wife “co-pastors”), and proper church discipline is absent or arbitrary. Published online and in print internationally, I’m proud (in a good way, I hope) to make it available to readers of this blog.

The Government of God

©2001 by Robin Arnaud

“I love the Lord just fine, it’s just that I can’t stand His people! Besides, I can worship God anytime and anywhere. I don’t have to be in church to worship Him, I can worship Him on my own. I truly do love the Lord, but I don’t want to go to church.”

A very common sentiment is expressed in that paragraph, one that I hear often and from many people, some of whom haven’t been to church in many years but still say they love the Lord and worship Him “in their own way.” But is this legitimate? Can we truly love the Lord as we ought while rejecting church? Is participation in church really “mandatory” for those who love the Lord in their hearts?

We know from the scriptures that Jesus Christ is our King, and because we love Him we gladly submit to His rulership over our souls. We recognize the bible as His word and His will, and we read our favorite passages once in awhile when we need comfort or reassurance, or when we wish to point out someone else’s faults. But many don’t want to learn about the church. They love the King, but reject the church as something completely separate and apart from the King’s rule over them.

The King

Way back in Deuteronomy, the Lord promised Israel a king of His own choosing. This king would be one of their own, not a foreigner, and would rule righteously and without using his office to multiply his wealth and power.

When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, `I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, `You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or to the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel (Deut. 17:14-20, NASB).

Looking at the history of Israel we can see that they had several kings, some good and some bad. But even the great king David couldn’t have been the king promised in the Deuteronomy passage, since he multiplied wives through deception and murder and did not keep the law carefully. Even the great Solomon, wisest among men, multiplied horses, and wives (over 700 concubines!), as well as gold and silver. And by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter to form an alliance between Israel and Egypt, he broke the command of God “never again to return that way (Deut. 17:16).” Only one king completely and fully fulfills this prophecy of Deuteronomy 17, who abandoned wealth and power and privilege, kept the whole law and rules righteously. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), but of His countrymen (his brethren, the elect – Colossians 1). Yes, Christ is this king.

The King’s Rule

As King, Jesus Christ must surely have a government:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the GOVERNMENT will rest on His shoulders … There will be no end to the increase of His GOVERNMENT or of peace, on the throne of His father David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isa. 9:6-7).”

“Let THE ELDERS THAT RULE well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).”

“We beseech you, brethren, to know those who labor among you and ARE OVER YOU IN THE LORD, and admonish you (1 Thess. 5:12).”

“Remember those who have AUTHORITY OVER YOU, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith you follow… Obey those that have AUTHORITY OVER YOU, and SUBMIT YOURSELVES; for they watch OVER YOUR SOULS as they who must give an account… (Heb 13:7, 17)”

“And GOD HAS SET some IN THE CHURCH, first apostles, then prophets, then teachers, after that miracles, healers, helps, GOVERNMENTS, diversities of tongues (1 Cor 12:28).”

According to these scriptures, our King governs through human agents who are held accountable for their rule over us. If we reject His government, have we not rejected the King’s rule? Look again at the Deuteronomy passage and compare it with the King’s ministers in the New Covenant, described in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

“Not a foreigner (Deut 17:15)” becomes “not a new convert (1 Tim 3:6),” in other words, a brother.

“He shall not multiply horses for himself (Deut 17:16)” becomes “not fond of sordid gain (1 Tim 3:8).”

“He shall not multiply wives (Deut 17:17)” becomes “the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2).”

“He shall read it all the days of his life (Deut 17:19)” becomes “able to teach (1 Tim 3:2)” and “those who labor in the word and in doctrine (1 Tim 5:17).”

The King’s government IS the church.

He has empowered His ministers with awesome responsibility for the flock of God, and authority to carry out that responsibility: To “retain and remit sins*” (Matt 16:19, 18:17-18, John 20:21-23), to “shut the kingdom against unrepentant rebels”* (1 Cor 5:1-5, 1 Tim 1:20) and “open it to penitent sinners”* (2 Cor 2:6-8), in the discipline of errant believers (1 Tim 5:20, 2 Thess 3:6, 14-15, Titus 3:10). If we reject church, we reject the government of God.

There is even a Scripturally established government BETWEEN churches, according to the examples given to us in scripture:

Questions which arise among churches and between churches are biblically settled by councils of their rulers (Acts 15:2,4,6) and that such councils have some authority over the churches they oversee (Acts 15:22-25, 16:4). But because these councils may err, they are never to be made the final rule of faith or practice, but only to be a help in those things, the scriptures being the supreme arbiter in questions of doctrine and practice (Eph 2:20, Acts 17:11, 1 Cor 2:5, 2 Cor 1:24). Under no circumstances are church councils to decide CIVIL or DOMESTIC affairs except by way of petition, advice, or conscience (Luke 12:13-14 and John 18:36). The authority of a church council is ecclesiastical, not civil, and is limited by the reign of scripture.

Clearly, a government over God’s people, separate from the civil government, IS scriptural! When we stop going to church, we lose all the benefits of that government: Its protection from error, from predators, from pretenders, abusers, and even from ourselves. God’s government, biblically, provides material and spiritual benefits that we really can’t do without.

We need one another. And without participation in God’s government, we are in great danger from within and from without.