Author Archives: Ben

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Christ Is Risen”

Wednesday-Is-for-Worship

It’s the third Wednesday after Easter, which means we are still in the church season of Eastertide (the fifty-day season of Christian celebration from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday).  My friend Trevin Wax recently wrote about this very important church tradition that I honestly had never really thought about.  He wrote:

By Thanksgiving, radio stations will be playing Christmas music non-stop. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, our culture is immersed in the “Christmas season.”

Easter has a season, too. It doesn’t precede Easter but follows it. Traditionally, it’s the time between Easter and Pentecost (50 days).

Though every Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, this time of year provides ample opportunity to give laser-like attention to the resurrection that empowers our Christian life.

Why do we spend a month to listening to Christmas music, but only a Sunday singing Easter music?

You might be wondering, What is Easter music? Is there such a thing? Sure! And the good news is, unlike Christmas, you don’t have to wade through all the “secular” tunes about the season. (Unless you just happen to be a fan of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.”)

In this Eastertide season, today’s song is “Christ Is Risen” by Matt Maher.  Written in 2009 by Maher and Mia Fieldes and published through Thankyou Music, this song celebrates the victory found in Christ rising from the dead.  Verse 1 reminds us that the cross removes the shame of sin for all who will believe on Jesus.  Verse 2 rejoices in the fact that the grave had no power to hold Jesus down.  The Almighty raised Him!  The chorus sings the wonderful irony of Jesus defeating death with death.  The bridge echoes 1 Corinthians 15.  A simple but great song that draws us to worship the Risen Savior!

A great treat is found in the middle of the performance of this song as David Bowden performs a poem he wrote called “Death:  His Sting and Defeat.”  Yeah, you’ll be standing and cheering before this is over!!

What a Wednesday to worship!

VERSE 1
Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You bled, for us

CHORUS
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

VERSE 2
Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bow to none but heavens will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
Forever let your church proclaim

BRIDGE
Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
The glory of God has defeated the night!
Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
Oh Church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, He’s alive! He’s alive!

____________________

You can download the text to Bowden’s poem here.

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Our High Priest Was Rejected by the High Priest

On this day, we remember that sometime between sundown on Thursday and and sunrise on Friday, Jesus was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities.  The sad irony is that the eternal High Priest who is Jesus Christ was rejected by the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas.

57 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. 58 But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. 60 They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'” 62 The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” 67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matthew 26:57-68, NASB)

He was the leader of the leaders of Israel’s religion, the priest of the chief priests.  He was the High Priest, the representative head of the people of Israel before God.  In fact, it was him and him alone who was permitted by God to enter the holy of holies, which he did only once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Each year on that day, wearing his gorgeous priestly vestments, he would enter the temple before all the people, representing all the people, and then go into the holy of holies alone.  There he would make expiation for the people of Israel by sprinkling the blood of the sin offering on the mercy seat and offering up incense.

This man most likely knew the Old Testament like the back of his hand.  Added to that, he knew the traditions of the rabbis, the scribes, and the Sadducees, which was the sect he was from.  But even with all that said, he was blind.  Caiaphas was blind—miserably, terribly, inexplicably, inextricably blind.

Jesus before Caiaphas

Before him in Jesus Christ stood the one he’d been waiting for.  Surely, it was a regular prayer from the mouth of the High Priest, “Lord God, send Your Messiah quickly please.”  God had finally answered his prayer, yet he spit in the face of God and slapped God in the face as he spit in the face of Jesus and slapped the precious face of Jesus.

After Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested in the garden, his captors brought Jesus before Caiaphas, the chief priests, and the whole Jewish court called the Sanhedrin.  They tempted many there to lie against Jesus so that they could do what their hearts so wanted to do, which was to put Jesus to death.  Many liars and perjurers came forward, but the allegations were insufficient.  Finally, two stepped forward, saying that Jesus had said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.”  Indeed that was a lie for Jesus had said, “If you destroy this temple (referring to His own body), in three days I’ll raise it up,” (John 2:19).  Nevertheless, Caiaphas accepted the accusation and turned to Jesus, “What do You say to this?”

Jesus kept silent.

Caiaphas continued, “I charge you under oath by the living God to tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Jesus responded, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”

At this point, Caiaphas should have leapt for joy, screaming, “He’s here!  The Messiah’s here!  The Son of God has finally come to us!!”  But he was blind.  Instead, he tore his clothes as a sign of rejection and grief, screaming, “He has blasphemed!  What’s the verdict?”

The Sanhedrin responded, “He deserves death,” and then they all spat in His face, beat Him with their fists, slapped Him across the face, and mocked Him.

Oh the blindness of Caiaphas!

He would not see.  Even more though, he could not see.  Why couldn’t He see that Jesus was the Son of God?  The answer is that Caiaphas couldn’t see because God had not healed his blindness and opened his eyes.  In order to see that Jesus is the Messiah-Christ, the Son of God, God must graciously give you sight, as Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:15-17, Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  1 Corinthians 12:3 tells us the same truth, Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

Dear one, as you scoff at Caiaphas, and rightly so, for his hard-heartedness and his blindness, I pray that you would marvel at the grace of God in your life.  If God had not graciously touched your heart and mind, you would still be saying with Caiaphas, “Jesus has blasphemed.  He deserves death.  Jesus is accursed!”

Glory to the grace of God!

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Wednesday Is for Worship: “I Will Rise”

Wednesday-Is-for-Worship

Today is Holy Wednesday, the Wednesday before Resurrection Sunday.  On this day, Jesus was in and around Jerusalem teaching, but undoubtedly He had Friday and Sunday in the back of His mind.  On Friday, He would be killed by man as they nailed Him to a crucifix and momentarily forsaken by God as the sins of the world were imputed to Him.  The cross by no means took Him by surprise, but neither did Sunday.  He went to the cross in the full knowledge that He would rise from the dead three days later!

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the greatest Bible truths and means so many things, but in terms of relation to us, one of the things it means is that all who will repent and believe on Jesus will themselves be resurrected unto life someday.  It’s with that great hope this Easter week that I offer today’s Wednesday Is for Worship song, “I Will Rise.”

Written in 2008 by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Louie Giglio, and Matt Maher and published through Thankyou Music, “I Will Rise” was released on Tomlin’s eighth studio album Hello Love.  The album went to #1 on the Christian chart, and the song went to #2.

The song draws on the soul-anchoring truth that Jesus has overcome the grave.  Though our sins are many and totally deserving of death, Christ lived the life that we cannot live and died the death we deserve, and all who believe on His work will one day walk out of the grave too.  We will rise!  His resurrection is the first fruits deposit of our future resurrection.

So, as you prepare your heart to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, may you be look forward to and long for your resurrection!

VERSE 1
There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

PRECHORUS
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

CHORUS
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

VERSE 2
There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

BRIDGE
And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb”
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
“Worthy is the Lamb

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“Baptists Don’t Believe in that Predestination Stuff!”

It is often said that Baptists don’t believe this or that Baptists don’t believe that concerning the Bible’s doctrine of election, which explains the first cause of a sinner receiving grace.  Many times in making this statement about what Baptists don’t believe, the person confuses the doctrine of election with the doctrine of predestination.  While these two doctrines are connected, they are not the same.

Election explains the first cause of a sinner receiving grace.  Some would argue that a sinner receiving grace is first based upon the person’s choice of God (aka, conditional election) while others would argue that a sinner receiving grace is first based upon God’s choice of the person (aka, unconditional election).  Predestination, on the other hand, is the effective ordering of time to carry out the choice spoken of in election so that that person will indeed be saved.  So, predestination follows after election, whether conditional or unconditional.  Therefore, in actuality, all orthodox believers should affirm the same doctrine of predestination even though they disagree on the nature of election.

So, to be more theologically precise, what the person who says “Baptists don’t believe in that predestination stuff!” really means is that Baptists don’t believe in unconditional election.  Is that true?

What if we focused in on only the Southern Baptist Convention?  Just last week I was pointed to an article by a retired Southern Baptist Texas pastor writing from Winnfield, LA who claimed that Calvinistic soteriology is antithetical to Baptist theology (here).  He actually said that claiming to be a Calvinist Baptist “is like claiming to be a Christian atheist—the two words are incompatible.”  That’s just a fancier way of saying, “Baptists don’t believe in that predestination stuff!”

Again, is that true?

Fortunately, Baptists for the most part have been a strongly confessional people and have felt it necessary to put their doctrinal beliefs to paper since the Baptists were born in 1609.  Therefore, it becomes very easy to track what Baptists have believed about the doctrine of election.  Of course, historical agreement doesn’t prove the rightness of any doctrine—only the Bible does that—but we can easily find out what Baptists have believed and what doctrines are in the range of biblical Baptist orthodoxy.

To help us answer the question, I’ve put together the following overview of Baptist confessions in chronological order that have a connection to the Southern Baptist Convention.  These, of course, are not all of the confessions but a sampling of what are inarguably the most important ones.  Given that I pastor in Tennessee, the overview will have a decidedly Tennessee flavor.

2nd London Baptist Confession (1689)/Philadelphia Confession (1742)/Charleston Confession (1751)

Info

  • All three confessions are the same confession affirmed by different Baptist groups.
  • The London Baptist Association in England originally drafted this confession.
  • The first Baptist association in American to adopt a confession was in Philadelphia, PA, and they merely made the 2nd London their own.
  • The Holston Association around Johnson City, TN was the first Baptist association in Tennessee and took as their doctrinal standard the Philadelphia Confession in 1786.
  • First Baptist Church of Knoxville and First Baptist Church of Nashville both adopted the Philadelphia Confession as their standard in the first half of the 1800s.
  • The Charleston Baptist Association in South Carolina is considered to be one of two “streams” that became the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845.  The Charleston Baptist Association merely made the Philadelphia Confession, which was again nothing more than the 2nd London, their own.

Content

  • Article 3.3, “Of God’s Decree” – By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being justify to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice.
  • Article 3.5, “Of God’s Decree” – Those of mankind that are predestined to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love; without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving Him thereunto.
  • Article 3.6, “Of God’s Decree” –  As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto, wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

Commentary

  • Clearly, these English and American Baptists, who fed into what became the Southern Baptist Convention, affirmed the Calvinistic tenet of unconditional election.

 

Sandy Creek Confession (1816)

Info

  • The Sandy Creek Baptist Association is considered the other “stream” of what became the Southern Baptist Convention, the first stream being the Charleston Baptist Association.  The Sandy Creek Association, which was in North Carolina, put forth a very straightforward and simple confession.

Content

  • Article 4 – We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

Commentary

  • While this confession doesn’t explicitly specify election as conditional or unconditional (given that both are “election from eternity”), when this article is taken as a whole, we see that election is coupled with the Calvinistic tenets of effectual calling (aka, irresistible grace) and perseverance through grace to the end (aka, perseverance of the saints).  There is little doubt that these Baptists at Sandy Creek affirmed unconditional election.

 

Salem Baptist Association Abstracts of Principles (1822)

Info

  • When the local Tennessee Baptist association that I pastor in was formed in 1822, it adopted what they called the “Abstracts of Principles” as its statement of faith.  This statement was eventually replaced in our association by the Baptist Faith and Message at some point but stood as the doctrinal standard for over a century.

Content

  • Article 3 – We believe in the doctrine of Election, and that God chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world.
  • Article 6 – We believe in God’s own appointed time, and way, by means which he has ordained, the elect shall be called, converted, regenerated, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Commentary

  • The original twenty-seven churches of my local association put together a confession that unambiguously upholds unconditional election.

 

New Hampshire Confession (1833)/Baptist Faith and Message (1925, 1963, 2000)

Info

  • John Newton Brown of New Hampshire drew up this confession in 1833.  It was adopted by the New Hampshire Convention and widely accepted by Baptists, especially in the northern and western states, as a clear and concise statement of their faith in harmony with the doctrines of older confessions but expressed in milder form.
  • The New Hampshire Confession is the basis of the Baptist Faith and Message, which became the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith in 1925 and has undergone two revisions (1963 & 2000).  It is the unifying doctrinal statement for cooperation in our convention.  The preamble to the original BF&M in 1925 says, “In pursuance of the instructions of the Convention, and in consideration of the general denominational situation, your committee have decided to recommend the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of present needs, for approval by the Convention, in the event a statement of the Baptist faith and message is deemed necessary at this time.”
  • The church that I pastor, West Main Baptist Church, has as its Articles of Faith an edited and condensed version of the New Hampshire Confession.

Content

  • NHC, Article 9, “Of God’s Purpose of Grace” – We believe that Election is the eternal purpose of God, according to which he graciously regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely free, wise, holy, and unchangeable; that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, love, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; that it may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly believe the gospel; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence.
  • BF&M, Article 9 in the 1925 BF&M, but Article 5 in the 1963 & 2000 BF&M’s, “God’s Purpose of Grace” (this article has been modified somewhat over the years; the 2000 BF&M is quoted) – Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Commentary

  • As you can see in comparing the New Hampshire Confession article on election with the BF&M article on election, there is very little difference.  So, my comments stand for both.  One has to read between the lines a bit, but this confession certainly leans toward unconditional election.  Notice that regeneration, sanctification, and salvation of sinners is based upon election (“according to which”).  Also, notice that the writers felt it necessary to state that election is perfectly consistent with the free agency of man.  That statement would be unnecessary if the writers had had conditional election in mind.  Furthermore, the writers pointed to God’s sovereign goodness in election, the fact that it removes all human boasting, and several other things that help us to understand that unconditional election is in view here.

 

Abstract of Principles (1858)

Info

  • The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, and thirteen years later in 1858, the convention’s first seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was founded.  They called their statement of belief the “Abstract of Principles.”

Content

  • Article 5, “Election” – Election is God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life – not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ – in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.

Commentary

  • This confession is by far the simplest and most straightforward, leaving no doubt these Southern Baptist’s held to unconditional election.

Conclusion

Is there any doubt that unconditional election has been a confessional part of Baptist life, even Southern Baptist life?  Certainly, not every Baptist has been Calvinistic, but Calvinistic Baptists are a strong part of our Southern Baptist confessional history.  As I said earlier, that history doesn’t in itself make it right, but it surely helps us understand that the doctrine of unconditional election is Baptist theology, even if it’s not monolithic.  Baptists have undoubtedly believed in that predestination stuff and still do.

So, why do some folks in error insist that Baptists don’t believe in that stuff?  They are simply speaking from their experience.  In their experience, they’ve never studied Baptist history, much less church history.  They are simply unaware of what has come before them.  Furthermore, in their experience, the folks they have rubbed elbows with haven’t held to unconditional election, and they’ve never really heard a Baptist articulate the position.  So, it seems foreign to them and incompatible with Baptist theology.  However, Baptists and especially Southern Baptists have held to unconditional election.  Much to the chagrin of many well-meaning brothers, Baptists do believe in that predestination stuff!

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Wednesday Is for Worship: “Your Great Name”

Wednesday-Is-for-Worship

What an awesome day it is to praise the Lord!  May we do it until our dying breath!!

Today’s worship song is one of the most moving songs I’ve heard in a while.  Not only is it beautifully orchestrated, it also is full of biblical truth.  I’m talking about “Your Great Name.”

Written in 2008 by Krissy Nordhoff & Michael Neale and published through Intergrity’s Praise! Music, the song captures the amazing power found in the name of Jesus.  The lost are saved, the condemned are forgiven, fear is erased, and the devil flees.  What’s more, the weak are made strong, the hungry are fed, the orphan finds rest, the sick are healed, and the dead are raised.  Yeah, that’s POWER!!  All of this and more is found in Jesus Christ.

In 2010, Natalie Grant released this song on her album “Love Revolution” and does the song great justice.  Sing along with her version below.

May you worship God today in the great name of Jesus!

Verse 1
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of your great name
All condemned; feel no shame, at the sound of your great name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of your great name

Chorus
Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Verse 2
All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of your great name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of your great name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of your great name
Sick are healed; and the dead are raised; at the sound of your great name

Bridge
Redeemer, My Healer, Almighty
My Savior, Defender, You are My King

___________________

For an acoustic version of the song with Natalie Grant, click here.

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