1833 Church Covenant by J. Newton Brown

This church covenant was probably the most popular one used by Baptist churches in North America. There are some reservations we should have with it when examining it in light of the Bible. It was used as early as 1833 though it was published in The Baptist Church Manual in 1853. You can read the “Declaration of Faith” and Covenant here.

Church Covenant

Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour; and, on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.

We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.

We also engage to maintain family and secret devotion; to religiously educate our children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger; to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage, and to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Saviour.

We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and mindful of the rules of our Saviour, to secure it without delay.

We moreover engage, that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant, and the principles of God’s Word.


Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will; working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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New Testament Benedictions (Blessings) at the End of the Letters

I’ve been looking for the historic origins of church covenants and found that the New Hampshire Baptist Convention book called The Baptist Manual published in 1853 has a covenant that was going around as early as 1833 in that convention. At the end of the covenant it has a “prayer” and cites Hebrews 13.20-21 as the prayer. At my current church our “prayer” is 2 Corinthians 13.13 modified slightly in the form of a prayer at the end of our covenant. I like it because it’s trinitarian. I like the Hebrews 13.20-21 one because it addresses the spirit of the covenant with Jesus the Great Pastor (Shepherd). If we get to use a church covenant in my new pastorate I’d either suggest 2 Corinthians 13:13 or Hebrews 13:20-21. Here are all of the New Testament benedictions.

Romans 16:25–27 (CSB) –25 Now to Him who has power to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all nations— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to Him be the glory forever! Amen.

1 Corinthians 16:23 (CSB) –23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:13 (CSB) –13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Galatians 6:18 (CSB) –18 Brothers, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Ephesians 6:23–24 (CSB) –23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:23 (CSB) –23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Colossians 4:18 (CSB) –18 This greeting is in my own hand—Paul. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

1 Thessalonians 5:28 (CSB) –28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

2 Thessalonians 3:18 (CSB) –18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

1 Timothy 6:21 (CSB) –21 By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith. Grace be with all of you.

2 Timothy 4:22 (CSB) –22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Titus 3:15 (CSB) –15 All those who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with all of you.

Philemon 25 (CSB) –25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Hebrews 13:20–21 (CSB) –20 Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep —with the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:14 (CSB) –14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

2 Peter 3:18 (CSB) –18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

3 John 14 (CSB) –14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be with you. The friends send you greetings. Greet the friends by name.

Jude 24–25 (CSB) –24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 22:21 (CSB) –21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

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Great Commission Baptists: Reaching the World for Christ

Meet Great Commission Baptists

[Taken from sbc.net with the use of the alternate descriptor]

For almost 170 years, Great Commission Baptists have sought to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere. The Great Commission Baptists formed with a Gospel vision. Its founding charter identifies its singular focus: …for the purpose of eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians, for the propagation of the Gospel…


The Great Commission Baptists (Southern Baptist Convention) have grown to be a network of more than 50,000 cooperating churches and church-type missions banded together to make an impact of God’s Kingdom. While no two Great Commission Baptist churches are alike, there are certain commonalities that bind Great Commission Baptists together, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, language, or locale. What we offer here is an overview to help tell the story of what God is doing in and through the people called Great Commission Baptists.


Who Great Commission Baptists Are

Great Commission Baptists are as varied and diverse as the cities, towns, neighborhoods, and rural communities where you may find them. Each autonomous Great Commission Baptist church is unique; only when viewed together can one grasp the diversity that is the Southern Baptist Convention. Great Commission Baptist churches represent a broad range in…


  • size– very small to very large
  • culture– Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, and every subculture within each region
  • age– very young to very old
  • ministry setting– inner-city, storefront, suburban, small town, open countryside, cowboy, motorcyle
  • ethnicity– Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and numerous other ethnic groups
  • worship style– traditional, contemporary, and everything in between
  • theological perspective– all within the framework of historic biblical orthodoxy


But to know Great Commission Baptists means to understand that the center of who and what we are is the Person and Work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Great Commission Baptists are people who have been redeemed through Christ from sin — the spiritual brokenness that causes us to resist God’s ways and fall short of His glory.


Great Commission Baptists hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the unifying center around which everything else is built and from which all ministry flows. We use the phrase regenerate church membership to emphasize that the starting point for everything related to a Great Commission Baptist church is each individual’s personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.


Great Commission Baptists believe that each human being is a sinner by birth and by choice, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We believe that Jesus, “in His substitutionary death on the cross,” made “provision for the redemption of men from sin” and “effected the reconciliation between God and man” (The Baptist Faith and Message, Article II B., God the Son). And we believe that “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord” (BF&M, Article IV, Salvation).


While the Bible does not teach that the waters of baptism have any saving power (salvation is by gracealone through faith alone, Ephesians 2:8), in keeping with the biblical emphasis reflected in our heritage and name, and as “people of the Book” (the Bible), Great Commission Baptists believe that all true believers will long to be identified fully with their Lord and Savior through the act of believer’s baptism.


We believe that Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19). It is an act of obedience symbolizing (1) the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, (2) the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus, and (3) the believer’s trust that his or her mortal flesh shall be clothed with immortality in the final resurrection of the dead.


It is by the Gospel, because of the Gospel, and for the Gospel that the Southern Baptist Convention exists; so it only makes sense that everything about Great Commission Baptists is tied directly to the Gospel.


What Great Commission Baptists Believe


Great Commission Baptists believe that the Bible reveals the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. For that reason, Great Commission Baptists have summarized their biblical convictions in the confession of faith already cited, The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). While Great Commission Baptists are not a creedal people, requiring churches or individuals to embrace a standardized set of beliefs, they are a confessional people. The BF&M represents the confessional consensus of “certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified” (BF&M, preamble).


The first five articles of The Baptist Faith & Message affirm the historical, orthodox, evangelical beliefs concerning The Scriptures, the Person and Works of God, the nature and fall of Man, God’s gracious provision of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and God’s Purpose of Grace — that God is the One who initiates and completes the work of salvation.


The next six articles affirm historical, biblical Baptist positions on the Church, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Day, the Kingdom,the doctrine of Last Things, and Evangelism and Missions.


The final seven articles summarize a number of distinctively Great Commission Baptist commitments to Christian Higher Education, Stewardship, Cooperation, The Christian and the Social Order, Peace and War, Religious Liberty, and The Family.


The entire Baptist Faith and Message is available online at www.sbc.net/bfm.


What Great Commission Baptists Do


Great Commission Baptists Proclaim the Gospel Through Evangelism and Missions


At the heart of our mission is the compelling urgency to proclaim the Gospel to everyone. The BF&M summarizes the biblical expectation this way:

“Is is the duty and privelege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the Gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the Gospel of Christ.” (BF&M, Article XI, Evangelism and Missions).


In keeping with that commitment, Great Commission Baptist churches report their number of baptisms each year through a voluntary reporting form called the Annual Church Profile.


In the first decade of the twenty-first century, cooperating Great Commission Baptist churches reported more than four million baptisms in the United States. Great Commission Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries reported that they and the national Baptist partners with whom they work in more than one hundred countries reported another five million baptisms around the world.


This averages about one baptism every thirty-five seconds for each day of each year during the entire decade. While this is a tremendous cause for celebration, in comparison to the darkness of the world, there is much to be accomplished in our cooperative efforts to advance the cause of Christ through sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.


In addition, Great Commission Baptists are committed to starting new churches to reach the growing populations of our country and the world. The Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board (NAMB) has set a goal to see a net gain of five thousand new congregations (churches and church-type missions) in the United States and Canada during the decade ending in 2022. This would be an increase of more than 10 percent in the number of Great Commission Baptist congregations cooperating together to penetrate the lostness on the North American continent.


The Gospel truly is Good News, and Great Commission Baptists are passionate in our commitment to share that Good News until the Lord returns.


Great Commission Baptists Demonstrate the Gospel through Compassion


Great Commission Baptists take seriously the Lord’s example of compassion and His command to love and care for the needy (John 3:16Luke 10:25-37Matthew 25:31-46). The BF&M summarizes the biblical expectation this way:

“Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ… We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick” (BF&M, Article XV, The Christian and the Social Order).


Great Commission Baptist churches across the nation demonstrate God’s compassion to the needy in their communities as part of their standard, ongoing ministry:


  • a church in rural Arkansas sponsors a food pantry and clothing closet in a small town;
  • a church in metro New Orleans actively supports the local crisis pregnancy center and provides for the needs of pregnant young girls;
  • a church in Lower Manhattan sponsors a soup kitchen on Wednesday nights and offers free lunches in the park on Saturdays for the needy;
  • a church in San Francisco ministers directly to homeless street people


Whether it’s through free medical services, offering classes in English as a second language, or helping a local family with rent or utilities, Great Commission Baptist churches throughout the land actively reflect God’s love and compassion in their communities. In fact, the width and breadth of Great Commission Baptist ministries of compassion are as expansive as the United States itself, for Great Commission Baptists minister in every part of this nation, and such ministries are the norm for Great Commission Baptists.


On a national level, Great Commission Baptist efforts to extend that compassion are reflected in the following ministry expressions:


[Great Commission] Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams respond to fires, ice storms, tornadoes, damaging winds, hurricanes, and flooding across the United States. SBDR is one of the three largest relief organizations in America and includes flood cleanup efforts and long-term rebuilding in the wake of flooding. Great Commission Baptist volunteers prepare most of the meals distributed by the American Red Cross, as well as provide additional vital disaster services. Great Commission Baptists have more than 1,550 mobile disaster response units on call for local, state, and national emergencies, with more than one hundred thousand trained volunteers scattered across the nation.

The Great Commission Baptist World Hunger Relief Fund recently rebranded as Global Hunger Relief, receives and disburses designated contributions from individuals in local Baptist churches during the year. All contributions to the fund are divided 80 percent to overseas hunger relief and 20 percent to domestic hunger relief. Fifty-six million dollars was contributed and disbursed during the past decade. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, working with IMB, NAMB, the SBC Executive Committee, LifeWay Christian Resources, and Woman’s Missionary Union, an auxiliary to the SBC, collaborate to promote this fund. Since Great Commission Baptists’ unified budget (the Cooperative Program) provides administrative costs to the entities of the Convention, every dollar raised through Global Hunger Relief goes directly to meet human hunger needs. In addition to food given and poverty issues addressed through thousands of projects in hundreds of countries, many of the world’s neediest people have also been introduced to Jesus as the Bread of Life for their impoverished souls.


How and Where Great Commission Baptists Advance the Gospel

Great Commission Baptist churches across the nation begin their ministries in their own neighborhoods to reach their local communities with the Gospel; but they don’t stop there. The strength of Great Commission Baptist work is found in their voluntary cooperation to work together to advance an aggressive global vision while maintaining a strong home base of ministry fruitfulness.


Cooperating together is not a new idea. The Apostle Paul applauded churches in the New Testament that pooled their resources for Kingdom purposes (1 Corinthians 16:12 Corinthians 8:1-216-2411:8). The BF&M summarizes the biblical pattern of cooperation this way:

“Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and convention as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom” (BF&M, Article XIV. Cooperation)


The Cooperative Program — Funding the Advance of the Gospel


Cooperation helps fuel the fire of Great Commission Baptist missions and ministries. Close to home, Great Commission Baptists advance the Gospel locally by working together in a local association of churches. The Gospel is advanced beyond the local level through participation in missions endeavors, through prayer for these collaborative endeavors, and by contributions through the Cooperative Program, the unified program for funding Convention work.


When Great Commission Baptist churches support the Cooperative Program in their respective states, their state Baptist convention uses those funds to fuel the ministry and mission goals established by the churches in that state. Each state Baptist convention forwards a percentage of the funds received by the state to the Southern Baptist Convention, providing financial support for more than 10,000 missionaries in North America and around the world, theological education through six Great Commission Baptist seminaries for more than 16,000 full-time and part-time students, and moral advocacy and promotion of religious liberty through the ERLC. Cooperative Program funds forwarded from the states also provide support for the SBC operating budget and the work of the SBC Executive Committee.


Obviously, to spread the Gospel message to the neighborhood and to the nations requires organization and structure to help facilitate the goal. For more information on the structure of the Southern Baptist Convention, see the companion publication The Southern Baptist Convention: A Closer Look.


The Convention — Working Together for the Gospel

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed “to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories “for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad, and any other objects such as Christian education, benevolent enterprises, and social services which it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God” (SBC Constitution, Article II).


The SBC is directed by representatives of Great Commission Baptist churches, called messengers, who meet once a year to adopt a unified missions and ministry budget called the Cooperative Program allocation budget, elect trustees to oversee the ministry entities of the Convention, receive reports from the SBC entities, and transact the business of the Convention. These messengers come from churches that have voluntarily banded together to support the missionary, educational, moral advocacy, and benevolent causes of the Convention.


Great Commission Baptists work together to spread the Gospel throughout the land and around around the world. Working through 1,169 local associations (composed of the churches that are geographically close to each other) and forty-two state Baptist conventions (composed of the churches in single or multi-state groupings), Great Commission Baptists voluntarily unite to engage in the Acts 1:8 pattern of spreading the Gospel — in their local communities, throughout their states, across the nation, and around the world.


Great Commission Baptist Ministry Entities — Assisting Churches in the Advance of the Gospel


The Convention assigns and conducts its work through eleven ministry entities — two mission boards, six seminaries, an ethics and religious liberty commission, a publishing and retail ministry, and a financial resources services ministry — a woman’s missions auxiliary, and an Executive Committee. While some of these ministries are self-sustaining, the majority are supported by the churches with financial contributions through the Cooperative Program. Of contributions received by the SBC, almost 73.2 percent funds missions and almost 22 percent provides ministerial training through our seminaries. Each of these minitry entities exists for the express purpose of assisting churches in the ultimate goal of advancing the Gospel.


  • Missions, evangelism, and church planting are faciliated through the International Mission Boardand the North American Mission Board.
  • Ministerial preparation and continuing education are provided through Golden GateMidwesternNew OrleansSoutheasternSouthern, and SouthwesternBaptist Theological Seminaries.
  • Christian ethics and religious liberty ministries are assigned to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
  • Church enrichment ministry and literature publication are assignments of LifeWay Christian Resources, which receives no Cooperative Program funding.
  • GuideStone Financial Resourceswhich also receives no Cooperative Program funding, manages ministerial retirement insurance needs and administers Mission:Dignity, an assistance ministry for retired ministers and their families.
  • The SBC Executive Committeeis charged to conduct the work of the Convention between annual meetings in all areas not otherwise assigned to one of the ministry entities.
  • The Woman’s Missionary Unionis the sole auxiliary of the SBC. It cooperates very closely with the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board to encourage churches to give generously to support missions through contributions to the Cooperative Program and two annual missions offerings.


Why Great Commission Baptists Do What They Do


The answer to the why we do what we do is simple — Great Commission Baptists proclaim and minister the Gospel because the love of Christ compels us to do so (2 Corinthians 5:14).


God loved us enough to send His one and only Son to pay the penalty for our sins. Whoever believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:16). In response to the love He has lavished on us, we are called to love one another (John 13:34-3515:12-17).


Jesus summarized this truth in what is called the Great Commandment — Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).


We know the Way to have our sins forgiven and to have a right relationship with God; the Way to be redeemed from our sin and delivered from its consequences; the Way to have eternal life — not just forever in heaven, but the fullest life possible — the life of knowing Him (John 17:3) and knowing Him (Philippians 3:10). That Way is Jesus (John 14:6). Love compels us to share the Good News of His love and extend the offer of His forgiveness with as many as possible.


For more information, contact:

Convention Communications and Relations

SBC Executive Committee

901 Commerce St.,

Nashville, TN 37203

Tel. 1-866-722-5433

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The Old Acts 29 Doctrinal Statement

Old Acts 29 Doctrine

What does Acts 29 believe?
The short answer is that we are first Christians, second Evangelicals, third Missional, and fourth Reformed. The more lengthy answer is included below and intentionally omits some finer points of doctrine and secondary issues as we allow the elders in our local churches to operate according to their convictions on these matters.

First, we are Christians which distinguishes us from other world religions and cults. Therefore, we adhere to both the Apostles and Nicene Creeds.

Second, we are Evangelicals and in agreement with the doctrinal statement of the National Association of Evangelicals:

  1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  2. We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  3. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  4. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  5. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
    We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  6. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Third, we are Missional:

  1. We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the content of unchanging Biblical doctrine (Jude 3).
  2. We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the continually changing context of the culture(s) in which they minister (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
  3. We believe that our mission is to bring people into church so that they can be trained to go out into their culture as effective missionaries.

Fourth, we are Reformed:

  1. We believe that God created the heavens, the earth.
  2. We believe that God created man and woman in a state of sinless perfection with particular dignity as His image bearers on the earth.
  3. We believe that our first parents sinned against God and that everyone since is a sinner by nature and choice. Sin has totally affected all of creation including marring human image and likeness so that all of our being is stained by sin (e.g. reasoning, desires, and emotions).
  4. We believe that because all people have sinned and separated themselves from the Holy God that he is obligated to save no one from the just deserved punishments of hell. We also believe that God in His unparalleled love and mercy has chosen to elect some people for salvation.
  5. We believe that the salvation of the elect was predestined by God in eternity past.
  6. We believe that the salvation of the elect was accomplished by the sinless life, substitutionary atoning death, and literal physical resurrection of Jesus Christ in place of His people for their sins.
  7. We believe that the salvation of the elect, by God’s grace alone, shows forth in the ongoing repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ that leads to good works.
  8. We believe that God’s saving grace is ultimately irresistible and that God does soften even the hardest heart and save the worst of sinners according to His will.
  9. We believe that the gospel should be passionately and urgently proclaimed to all people so that all who believe may be saved through the preaching of God’s Word by the power of God’s Spirit.
    We believe that true Christians born again of God’s Spirit will be kept by God throughout their life, as evidenced by personal transformation that includes an ever-growing love of God the Father through God the Son by God the Spirit, love of brothers and sisters in the church, and love of lost neighbors in the culture.
  10. We believe that God is Lord over all of life and that there is nothing in life that is to be separated from God.
  11. We believe that the worship of God is the end for which people were created and that abiding joy is only to be found by delighting in God through all of life, including hardship and death which is gain.

What do Acts 29 churches not believe?

Because Acts 29 is often associated with other movements we frequently get questions about emerging theological controversies. To help clarify our beliefs we believe it may also be helpful to declare what we do not believe. In stating what we are not, we do not seek to attack those who disagree with us, but rather distinguish ourselves so that pastors considering joining our network are aware of who we are, as well as who we are not.

  1. We are not liberals who embrace culture without discernment and compromise the distinctives of the gospel, but rather Christians who believe the truths of the Bible are eternal and therefore fitting for every time, place, and people.
  2. We are not fundamentalists who retreat from cultural involvement and transformation, but rather missionaries faithful both to the content of Scripture and context of ministry.
  3. We are not isolationists and seek to partner with like-minded Christians from various churches, denominations and organizations in planting church-planting churches.
  4. We are not hyper-Calvinists who get mired down in secondary matters, but rather pray, evangelize, and do good works because we believe that the sovereign plan of God is accomplished through us, His people.
  5. We are not eschatological Theonomists or Classic Dispensationalists (e.g. Scofield) and believe that divisive and dogmatic certainty surrounding particular details of Jesus Second Coming are unprofitable speculation, because the timing and exact details of His return are unclear to us.
  6. We are not egalitarians and do believe that men should head their homes and male elders should lead their churches with masculine love like Jesus Christ.
  7. We are not Open Theists and believe in the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God in all things.
  8. We are not religious relativists and do believe that there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ alone.
  9. We are not nationalists seeking to simply improve one nation but instead ambassadors of the King of Kings commissioned to proclaim and demonstrate the coming of His kingdom to all nations of the earth. We are not moralists seeking to help people live good lives, but instead evangelists laboring that people would become new creations in Christ.
  10. We are not relativists and do gladly embrace Scripture as our highest authority above such things as culture, experience, philosophy, and other forms of revelation.
  11. We are not Universalists and do believe that many people will spend eternity in the torments of hell as the Bible teaches.
  12. We are not naturalists and do believe that Satan and demons are real enemies at work in this world and subject to God.
  13. We are not rationalists and do believe that not everything can be known but that God calls us to live by faith with mystery and partial knowledge regarding many things.
  14. We are not evangelical feminists and do believe that God reveals Himself as a Father and is to be honored by the names He reveals to us without apology.
  15. We are not embarrassed by the bloody death of Jesus Christ and do believe He died as a substitute for the sins of His people in selfless love.
  16. We are not ashamed and do proclaim a loving gospel of grace which sounds like foolishness and offensiveness to the unrepentant while also saving multitudes with ears to hear good news.
  17. We are not polemicists who believe that it is our task to combat every false teaching but are passionate about preserving the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

See Acts 29’s current Doctrinal Distinctives.

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Encouragement for Small Church Pastors

I was encouraged today listening on my drive home to Matt Chandler’s lecture called, Big Church, Little Church.

Matt Chandler (who has over 12,000 attending his church last I heard):

“I’ve often told guys who desire big churches that my fantasy at night when I’m laying in bed is not about women. It’s not about money. It’s about just being responsible for 80 souls in front of God according to Hebrews. And so to have to stand in front of God and give an account with all he’s entrusted to me is a bit terrifying for me. I’d much rather just have 80 souls like, ‘I gave it my best.'”

This reminds me of what Mark Dever often says quoting John Brown in a letter of paternal counsels to one of his pupils newly ordained over a small congregation:

“I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at his judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough.”

The verse they refer to is Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

I was encouraged when I heard Chandler say this. I’ve been responsible for 45 souls at CrossView Church. I’ll be responsible for a few more souls in the coming weeks (Lord-willing). I often dream of a healthy church-planting, church revitalizing church of anywhere from 200-700 members. But having a brother like Matt say that he fantasizes over a situation like mine when I can only dream of a situation like his is jarring. I don’t appreciate the simplicity and joy of knowing every member and shepherding them with greater care than I ever could 200 or 700 members. These are the days to be content in the Lord and rejoice. And if I ever had to shepherd more, it would still be a day to be content in the Lord and rejoice. Faithfulness to our Chief Pastor is the issue and privilege.

Posted in Acts29, church health, CrossView Church | Leave a comment

Sermon: Gladly Submit to Jesus’ Authority, (Matthew 8.1-17)

[sermon audio for streaming/download to come LW]

September 14, 2014  |  P. J. Tibayan  |  Scripture: Matthew 8:1-17

First Southern Baptist Church, Bellflower


A big decision is in front of you this morning. I am NOT talking about the decision to vote on whether you think the Lord Jesus is calling me to be your pastor or not. That is a big decision. But it’s a smaller decision than the one this text presents. This text exalts the authority of Jesus. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28.18). The big decision you must make today is, will you gladly submit to the authority of Jesus? As a church? As individuals? This text is not about a church vote today. It’s about denying yourself, taking up your cross, dying to yourself and your lordship, and following Jesus by submitting to his Lordship everyday because you know him and trust him and love him. We don’t like authority in our culture these days. That’s because we sinners have never liked authority any our culture in any day. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit, we’ve struggled with being oppressed by bad and abusive authority: the devil, a government, a family member, a church leader, a political leader, a county worker or officer, etc. And we’ve struggled to trust good authority because it threatened our self-centeredness and personal desire for lordship: a parent, a government, a church leader, a political leader, or a county worker or officer. Adam and Eve didn’t trust God’s good and gracious authority. So we have two problems, there is bad and oppressive authority that we should reject. That problem is on the outside. Then we reject good and rightful authority because it threatens our autonomy and self-rule. That’s a problem on the inside. 
What is authority? Authority is “the right to demand submission and obedience from others.” God’s authority is “God’s right to demand unqualified obedience from his creatures.” The only right response to good authority is submission. To submit is to “comply with the direction or commands of an authority figure.” When I say that God wants our “glad” submission, to submit gladly is to submit “enthusiastically and not grudgingly or primarily out of compulsion.”

The Problem 
We naturally do not like to submit to authority. Even as Christians. Sometimes we think we are more submissive than we are to authorities, but if we honestly look at it we might find that we submit because we do what we already want to do (which isn’t necessarily bad). The test of how submissive we are is to see how we submit when we’re told by an authority figure to do something we don’t want to do or something we disagree with. 

All of us who have driven have experienced the sudden fear that overtakes us when we realize there is a police officer behind our car and we’re driving faster than we should be. Why do we slow down? Because we’re gladly submissive to the law? More likely it is the fear of a speeding ticket.

The key to the Christian life is to gladly submit to Christ because we trust his authority as good, not as something to ultimately be scared of. When we fail to submit to God it is tied to our lack of recognition of the authority and the goodness of God in giving us a command or direction.
So what we need is to gladly submit to Christ in his authority so that you can live the way God calls you to live. To do this gladly is not motivated by forcing ourselves to be glad. Glad submission comes from understanding the glorious reasons why we should submit. Matthew gives us 5 reasons to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ.

Reason #1: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because he is the Messiah (vv. 1-3)

“The miracles that Jesus performs attest who he is and the mission he was sent to accomplish” (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount,158). In this passage we see 3 miracles that show us Jesus in his authority.
When He came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his disease was healed. (Matthew 8:1-3 HCSB)

Story: Jesus comes down from the mountain after teaching the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). Right away a man comes with a skin disease and kneels before Jesus asking him to merely will his cleansing. Jesus touched him, told him he was willing, then cleansed him. Immediately his skin disease was healed.

The skin disease is commonly called leprosy in the Bible. We can’t be precise in our understanding of the actual skin diseases they considered leprosy. The Jews abhorred it because the illness itself was reprehensible and because it rendered the leper and those who touched the leper ceremonially unclean. Lepers had to live in separate communities because they would make others ceremonially unclean. Some skin diseases are contagious and the leprosy of this day may very well have been. Lepers were obligated to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn everyone in the non-leprous community that they were a leper when near their presence.

This leper, not named by Matthew, believed Jesus could heal him if he simply willed it (v.2).

Instead of merely willing it, shockingly, Jesus touches him. It’s probably because the leper respectfully wouldn’t touch him. The leper had to be surprised, probably not being able to remember the last time he has felt the touch of another clean human being. It could’ve been years! Instead of Jesus’ becoming ceremonially unclean by touching the leper, the leper becomes clean.

So what’s the big deal? Jesus healed a man with a skin disease. Doctors do that with medicine often for many diseases. How does this point to his glorious authority? Good question. John the Baptist, when in jail, wondered if Jesus was in fact the Messiah. Jesus pointed out to us that his healing of these skin diseases are proof that he is the Messiah. 

Matthew 11:3–5 (CSB) –3 and asked Him, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.

Jesus is the Messiah. The Messiah was the anticipated Son of David who would be the King of Israel and sit on the throne forever. He would restore Israel, God’s people, and their kingdom, as the supreme human kingdom in the whole world under Yahweh God. The Messiah was the coming King God would send to rule over all humanity with grace and goodness restoring to the world the peace and harmony that was in the garden of Eden before Adam ate the fruit and was expelled. If Jesus’ healing this leper proves he’s the Messiah, then it proves that he is your king and the King of all kings and ethnicities and people groups.

So we see in this story that Jesus heals those with skin diseases. Even more deeply he ceremonially cleanses those unclean before God. He cleans the unclean. Furthermore, his will happens. He wills for the man to be healed, and he is healed. This means that Jesus is the Messiah.

Application to FSBC Bellflower

Make sure this church as a church keeps Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, central to life, practice, direction, and plans of the church and ministries. He is the King. He has authority. He’s the Messiah, God’s king. The Holy Spirit lives in you as a church and guides you through the word to glorify Jesus (John 16.14). Jesus is the Chief Pastor of this church and the universal church (1 Peter 5.4). Everything has to be about Jesus, for Jesus, and according to the Word and Spirit of Jesus.

Reason #2: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because he fulfills the OT Law (v. 4)

Then Jesus told him, “See that you don’t tell anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:4 HCSB)

Story: After Jesus heals the man he gives the man 3 commands: (1) Don’t tell anyone; (2) show yourself to the priest in the temple; and (3) offer the gift Moses prescribed.

These commands are according to the instruction of Moses given in Leviticus 13. The priests declare the person with a skin disease ceremonially unclean or clean (vv. 3, 6, 8). Why did Jesus tell this man to show himself to the priest? One reason would be to obey Leviticus 13. Jesus not only fulfilled but obeyed the Old Covenant (instruction of Moses). 

But there’s a deeper reason given at the end of verse 4. Why show yourself to the priest? “As a testimony to them.” A testimony (or “proof”) of what? A testimony that he was actually healed. Which testifies that Jesus actually healed him. Which testifies that Jesus is powerful enough to heal leprosy. This testifies that Jesus is the Messiah. Here, in this command, Jesus uses the instruction of Moses and the testimony of the priest to testify to the world and to us in Bellflower this morning, that Jesus has the power to heal those with skin diseases, clean the unclean, and at the very least you should seriously consider his claims about who he is. This law, this instruction, then, points to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. The Old Testament points to Jesus in different ways, sometimes direcect statements, sometimes in types or models, and other times as part of a larger system that pointed ahead. Here, the leprosy declaration commands are used to point to Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Application to the Christian, FSBC, and the non-Christian Visitor

Dear Christian brother or sister, look for how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ and see his glory through that. Read all of your bible to see the glory of Jesus, not just the New Testament. Put the testaments together. To be mature and fruitful Christians we must be biblical, listening to the whole Bible.

As the FSBC family, study both testaments and make sure you are continually learning to read how the Old Testament points to Jesus the Messiah. There was one church looking for a pastor where they put in the post: “We are looking for a senior pastor who preaches not only expositionally through both the OT and NT, but who also preaches in a Christ-centered manner.” That’s a good requirement you should be looking for and expecting here in this church as well.

If you are here visiting this morning, or maybe you’ve been coming regulalry for a while, and you are not a Christian, let me say, thank you for coming this morning. God has brought you here this morning for a reason. So think about this: Do you recognize that Jesus is the one promised in the writings about him, written about him from 1400 years before his birth? He is the promised one, promised by God in God’s writings, the Bible, long before he came. This means at the very least you should understand what the Bible says about him and what he and his followers claimed about him. I’ll give you the gist of it this morning as we continue.

Reason #3: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because when Jesus speaks, God speaks (vv. 5-9)

When He entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible agony! ” “I will come and heal him,” He told him. “Lord,” the centurion replied, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be cured. For I too am a man under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go! ’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come! ’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this! ’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:5-9 HCSB)

Story: Matthew takes us to another scene. Jesus is approached by a centurion (more literally through messengers according Luke 7). A centurion is “a Roman soldier who commanded about 100 soldiers” (HCSB bullet note). The Roman soldier sought Jesus in desperation. He probably developed a great relationship with his servant the way any natural long-term relationship has the potential to build serious concern and affection for each other. The centurion pleads with him to come heal his servant who’s at home paralyzed and in terrible agony. The centurion (again through messengers according to Luke) addresses Jesus as Lord. The soldier’s respect for a Jew is noteworthy. The conquered peoples were usually not as well respected as the conquering people (the Romans). Jesus tells him (in the form of telling his messengers) that he will come and heal him. For Jesus to agree to go shows his compassion. Can you imagine the demand for attention that the Lord Jesus received? The centurion then stops Jesus and says he is not worthy for the great Jesus to come under his roof. Jesus has authority over paralysis and pain to simply command the healing the way the centurion commands the 100 soldiers under him expecting immdiate obedience. 
The Centurion understood authority. He speaks with the authority of the ones above to those below. To disobey the centurion is to disobey the soldiers over the centurion. And the one over the highest ranking Roman soldiers is the emperor himself. So to oppose the centurion’s authority is to oppose the emperor’s authority and really the authority of Rome itself. When the centurion speaks, the emperor speaks. And when the emperor speaks, Rome speaks.

In a similar way, he understood the words of Jesus to carry authority. When Jesus speaks, God speaks. And when God speaks, heaven speaks. And there is no way in heaven or earth that this paralysis would defy the God of heaven speaking through this Jewish carpenter who is also God’s Messiah. Jesus speaks with the authority of God himself and all of heaven.

Application to the Christian, FSBC, and the Non-Christian

Christian brother and sister, let the words of Jesus abide in you. Memorize Scripture regularly. Weekly. Schedule it into your life. If you fail to plan you’ve already planned to fail. And memorize God’s Words with your family and friends.

FSBC, if Jesus has spoken and still speaks through the New Testament and all of Scripture, you should hear him and follow his lead because the church is his church and he promised to build it. This means the priority for the church is to hear Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, speak. You should hear him speak all together so the church grows together under the word of Christ, because that is the word of God. The church should also listen carefully to what is taught and preached and check it by the Scriptures to make sure it is the word of Christ lest you end up rejecting the gospel! If Jesus is the Chief Pastor of this church, which he is, then you must hear his voice and recognize it as the voice of God. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me” (John 10.27). And the only response to that as a church is to trust and obey.

If you’re not a Christian this morning, it is very important to understand what we mean when we Christians say Jesus is the only way. We believe, as the Bible teaches, that if you don’t know God through Jesus Christ as he has revealed himself in the Bible and in history, then you cannot know God. It is popular today to have “faith” and be “spiritual,” but you cannot make your faith or spirituality valuable. It is worth whatever it is worth before God. God sets the value, not us. So if you are spiritual or a person of deep faith, I want you to know that Jesus and the Bible say clearly that apart from honoring Christ, you cannot know and honor God as he truly is. I understand this may create questions and I invite you to ask me or any of the church members and leaders here why we believe that.

Reason #4: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because it comforts the believer and terrifies the rebellious (vv. 10-13)

Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith! I tell you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus told the centurion, “Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you.” And his servant was cured that very moment. (Matthew 8:10-13 HCSB)

Story: Jesus heard the centurion’s statement and was taken aback. He was shocked. Amazed. Why? He hadn’t found faith as great as this in all of Israel, among God’s people who have God’s Word! So he tells him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith! I tell you that many will come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 10b-12). Then Jesus healed the servant with a word that very moment (v. 13).

Some will recline at the table with Abraham in the kingdom. What will that be like? Like a great feast. A celebration. Jesus reigning supremely and perfectly. No more cyring, pain, tears, or death. Eternally increasing joy and closeness to God. We will see God’s face (Rev. 22.4). We will enjoy God and his people in the 1000 years of Revelation 20 and on the New Earth into eternity! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! The kingdom of heaven will be sweet.

But not all will be invited to this eternal celebration. Verse 12 says, “The sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Hell. Weeping and pain and death in the sense of separation from God and all his good gifts forever. Darkness. The wrath and judgment of God being continually and incessantly poured out. There will be hopeless desperation and desire for even one moment of relief. But they desire and wait in vain. The eternality of it all is that when you’ve been there 7 billion years, it’s as if you’ve just got there with the exact same amount of time to go, forever. 

So what’s the difference between those who go to the feast in the kingdom of heaven and those who suffer God’s judgment in hell? The difference between those who go and those who do not is not how “good” they are, how much of the Bible or Christianity they know, where they are from, who they are related to, or how religious they are. What amazed Jesus? The centurion’s great faith. The difference is faith. And not just faith but who or what they place their faith in. Saving faith is the faith of the leper and the centurion, a faith that recognizes that they are in desperate need and that Jesus is the only sufficient answer to our need. You must recognize the authority of Jesus and hunger above all that Jesus might use such authority to help you in ways that you cannot help yourself.

Application to the non-Christian and FSBC

Dear non-Christian friend, will you trust in Jesus Christ this morning? He’s the only way into the kingdom of heaven. I invite you to trust in Jesus. I invite you to continue hearing from and learning from Jesus as you read and receive his words to you, the Bible.

FSBC, remember your mission in this world is to evangelize the lost. All of your meeting and giving and growing and choosing a pastor must be in light of this mission that feels the weight of heaven and hell for all those who live around us in Los Angeles county. We have news that Jesus is trustworthy to meet your needs, and your greatest need!

But how exactly does Jesus meet us in our need? He meets us with himself, his words, and his work, which we’ll think about in our last reason to gladly submit to Jesus’ authority. 

Reason #5: Gladly submit to Jesus’ authority because it flows from his work on the cross (vv. 14-17)

When Jesus went into Peter’s house, He saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and began to serve Him. When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases. (Matthew 8:14-17 HCSB)

Story: Jesus heals Peter’s mom in her house. Then she gets up to serve everyone until evening. When evening came he drove out the demon-possessed and healed the sick who were brought to him.

The point of the details of Jesus touching Peter’s mom is to show how effective and instantaneous is Jesus healing power. He only needs to exercise his authority and it is done. Jesus healed sickness. Sickness was believed to be connected with sin. Though not all physical sickness is connected with sin directly, all of it is a result of sin in this world and when Jesus comes it will all be taken away (Rev 21:4; 22:3). Some diseases God heals instantly, some he does not, but he is sovereign in choosing and is always good. The healing here and all healing are arrows pointing to the consummated kingdom when Jesus shall finally and pervasively reign. Even Jesus casting out demons from people points to his kingdom power. These miracles are not only performed out of power, but out of the fruit of his work on the cross that was yet to be completed. Matthew quotes the prophecy of Isaiah where Jesus takes our weaknesses and carries our diseases. But where and when did he take our weakness and carry our diseases? Isaiah 53, where Matthew gets this quote, is a chapter talking about the Messiah suffering and dying for the sins of others bearing the judgment of God. All healing from sickness, all freedom from demonic oppression, all forgiveness of sin which causes these ills, was accomplished on the cross of Jesus Christ.

A Word to the Non-Christian
Jesus Christ came to save his people from their sins it says in Matthew 1:21. God made us and created us for himself. We as humans have rebelled and sinned against God. We are sinners by nature and by choice. And the penalty of sin, the wages of sin, is death. Eternal death in hell. But God, in his great love and grace sent Jesus to take our weaknesses, carry our diseases, and be counted as a sinner so that we can be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God! Jesus died for our sins! God is now calling all of you to be reconciled to him. Turn from your sins and from your own righteousness, repent, and trust in Jesus Christ, his righteousness, life, death, and resurrection for you! He died for your sins but has defeated death in his resurrection. Please turn to Jesus. Call on him to save you!

All the blessings of our lives are tied directly to the atoning death of Jesus. Not just forgiveness. Healing. Health. The healing problem is that some think we have a right to be healed ALL the time and if we are not it is because of our lack of faith. Others believe that there is no physical healing right now but only when the kingdom consummates. The biblical balance is that healing comes now at times as a privilege and application of the cross, but no one lacks a glorified body now on earth because of missing faith. It is not time yet. The guarantee is for all of us later with some benefits to be enjoyed now as God deems fit whether “miraculously” or through normal means.
Application to the Christian
Brother or sister in Christ, see all of Christ’s authority as function of the cross-work of Jesus Christ. All authority given to Christ by the Father in Matt. 28:19-20 is because of the cross-work of Jesus, the eternal Son of God. Why should we gladly, enthusiastically, and incessantly work to submit our lives to the authority of Jesus? Because his authority is the authority purchased and displayed by him sacrificing himself to bring us to God! It’s not the oppressive or selfish authority of a tyrant, but the loving and generous authority of the Servant-King.

So you must gladly submit to Jesus authority beccuase he is… 

  • Messiah
  • Fulfillment of the OT
  • Speaking for God
  • The way to eternal bliss
  • The one who made the atoning sacrifice

Do you gladly submit to this glorious person named Jesus? Do you bow before him with humility and seek his grace when you fall short? Do you trust in his grace enough to obey him? Do you give him the credit when you do obey and are moved to love God more?
Bow gladly to our King, and because of who he is and what he’s done, obey him gladly in everything.


Posted in My sermons, PJ's Sermons | Leave a comment

What Desiring God and the Pastoral Staff of Bethlehem Baptist Church Emphasize in Their Teaching

The Nature of God

God is glorious (Exodus 15:11Psalm 145:5). His glory consists in the overwhelming and overflowing beauty which stems from the sum total of all His attributes working together in perfect harmony. God is perfect in His holiness (Exodus 15:11Isaiah 6:3I Peter 1:16), justice (Psalm 99:4Luke 19:7-8Hebrews 6:10), wisdom (Romans 11:33I Corinthians 2:7Ephesians 3:10), power (Isaiah 44:24Job 9:12Jeremiah 32:17), grace and mercy (Ephesians 1:6-7;2:47-9Romans 3:24), and love (I John 4:7-816Romans 5:18John 3:16).

The Motive of God

God not only is glorious, He loves His glory with infinite intensity (Isaiah 48:9-11) and therein lies His righteousness (Romans 9:14,15Exodus 33:18,19). For God to be righteous, He must love what is best; therefore His ultimate loyalty must be to the maintenance and manifestation of His own glory. In other words, all that God does, He does for His own name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:20-23). God created humanity for His glory (Isaiah 43:7,21); God redeems sinners for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:5-61214Romans 3:2615:7); God empowers Christians to live for His glory, both individually (I Corinthians 10:31I Peter 4:11) and corporately (Ephesians 3:10); and God’s ultimate goal for His people is that they might see and enjoy His glory forever (John 17:24). His ultimate will or plan for history is that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge and the glory of God as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14, cf. Numbers 14:21). But God’s unswerving zeal for His own glory does not mean that God is unconcerned about man’s welfare. No, God’s mercy and grace toward undeserving sinners is the apex of His glory (Romans (9:22-23). And the greatest possible good for man is to see God face to face, just as He is (I Corinthians 13:12I John 3:2) and to behold the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4). In fact, God’s absolute faithfulness to His own glory manifests itself in God’s absolute faithfulness to His covenant promises (His glory is at stake in whether He keeps His word or not) and thus it becomes the ultimate ground of our assurance (Psalm 143:111Daniel 9:14-19).

The Sovereignty of God

The God of the Bible is the creator of the whole visible and invisible universe and He is the sovereign ruler of it. From all eternity, He freely and unchangeably, in His most holy wisdom, ordained whatsoever comes to pass. To use the words of Paul, God does “all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), having sovereign control of all events from the events of rulers and nations (Daniel 4:253234-35) to the flight of a sparrow (Matthew 10:29). In particular, God’s sovereignty is worked out in the area of salvation. To ensure that the salvation of sinners abounds to the praise of God’s glory, God saves His people by grace alone apart from works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). The sovereignty of God’s grace is seen in God’s unconditional election of His people out of the mass of sinful humanity for salvation (Romans 8:299:6-23Ephesians 1:4), the glorious atonement of Christ which actually accomplishes the salvation of God’s people (I Peter 3:18), the irresistible grace of God’s effectual call (Romans 8:30I Peter 2:9) and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34Ezekiel 36:26ffJohn 3:4Titus 3:5) which enable and move a person to respond to the gospel of Christ in saving faith, and God’s persevering in grace with his saints (I Peter 1:5Jude 1John 10:28-30Philippians 1:6) so that His people will in fact persevere to the end and be saved.

The Priority of Worship

Although the three ministry priorities of Bethlehem Baptist Church (worship, nurture and outreach) are all crucial and are all intertwined, nevertheless, worship stands at the top of the pyramid. The ultimate end for which God created man is to see God’s glory and worship Him fully. Worship is the motive and the goal of all our deeds of love done to fellow believers (nurture) or to unbelievers (outreach). Seeing and being captivated by the glory of God makes us long to align ourselves with God’s purposes of love. And the goal of our loving others is to build believers and unbelievers alike into people with greater and greater capacities and desires to praise the glory of God’s grace.

The Combination of Head and Heart

In the Christian life, emotions are crucial and thinking is crucial. God is not honored by either an unfeeling, joyless, loveless intellectualism or by an unthinking, uncritical emotionalism. Both are needed-minds that are gripped by the truth of God acquired through the serious and rigorous study of Scripture, and hearts that are on fire with intense emotions of love for God and His glory, awe of His majestic holiness, gratitude for His mercy, and fear of His wrath. In the final analysis, what God wants most is our hearts. That was the problem with the Pharisees-they honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:8). One of Jesus’ most chilling threats was to professing believers who had no emotions toward God. They were neither hot nor cold-they were lukewarm. And Jesus promised to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). But the way God longs to reach our hearts is through our minds. It is through the truth of Scripture that we become transformed people through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This truth comes through the discipline of careful reading of the text (Ephesians 3:4) seeking to find the author’s intended meaning. The role of the Holy Spirit is not to add anything to the text but to make the heart of the reader humble so that he or she will welcome and embrace the truth (I Corinthians 2:14). Thus our position could be summed up as follows: “The heart is crucial, through the head.”

The Obedience of Faith

Faith is essential in the human heart if we are to glorify God. God is shown to be glorious when we trust Him, especially in suffering. Faith is seeing and savoring the glory of God in Christ crucified, risen, and reigning for the good of His people (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). This “savoring” means receiving in Christ the superior satisfaction of His promises based on His finished work of atonement (Philippians 3:7-9). Faith is the soul’s embrace of all that God is and promises to be for us in Christ (Hebrews 11:1). It honors God by being confident that God will keep His promises to those who set their hope on Him (Romans 4:20-21). Thus faith is future-oriented while resting firmly on the past work of Christ on the Cross and in the resurrection. Faith glorifies God because it magnifies His power, wisdom, grace and faithfulness to work for us the good that we cannot do for ourselves.
Therefore, saving faith is of such a dynamic quality that it inevitably produces “the work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3;2 Thessalonians 1:11), that is, works of love. Saving faith inevitably “works through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith without works is not saving faith (James 2:14). But that obedience is never an act that merits or earns God’s favor. God’s favor is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ which is ours by virtue of faith alone, that is apart from any other basis or means (Romans 3:28Romans 4:4-5). Nevertheless, the faith that justifies is never alone in him that believes (Westminster Confession, 11.2). Justifying faith, which is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2:25Philippians 1:29Ephesians 2:8-10), is so satisfied in all that God promises to be for us in Christ on the basis of His finished work on the cross that it breaks the power of sins inferior promises. Thus, justifying faith inevitably sanctifies, that is, sets us on a life of gradual transformation into the likeness of Christ (Acts 26:182 Thessalonians 2:13).

This obedience to Christ is an “obedience of faith.” We trust him that His promises are true and superior to all that sin has to offer, and from this trust the power of sin is broken. This kind of obedience, while not perfect in this life, is necessary for final salvation. There is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Hebrews 2:14Galatians 5:21). But this necessity is not the necessity of a basis or a means of justification. The basis of justification is the finished work of Christ and His imputed righteousness. The means is faith alone. But the obedience that flows from faith is the evidence of the genuineness of the faith and therefore is “necessary” in the sense that if it is not produced in the end, the faith is shown to be “dead” or “vain,” as James says, and not saving faith. So we must be careful here to guard three things vigilantly: 1) the complete sufficiency of the work of Christ as the sole ground or basis of our right standing with God; 2) faith alone as the sole means or instrument of the righteousness of Christ being imputed to our account; and 3) the subsequent and consequent obedience that is the necessary evidence that this faith in this work of Christ and all that it purchased for us (Romans 8:32) is real.

We recommend that if you are interested in understanding this indispensable role of the “obedience of faith,” you read John Piper’s book, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in FUTURE GRACE. The aim of this book is to show how the faith that justifies also necessarily sanctifies, which is what the Westminster Confession says that it does: “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is not dead faith, but worketh by love.”

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