Prayer for the Church Family in AmericaMay 2, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Holy Spirit, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Mosaic Law, Politics, Sacraments, Ten Commandments, Wisdom, Word of God
Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our local Pastors’ Association coordinates an event in our city at which various pastors briefly pray for our families, our churches, and our communities and leaders (local, state, federal). I was tasked to pray for the Church Family in America and given the following Scripture as my theme:
Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
Almighty and Everlasting Father,
You are good, You do good, and You are worthy of praise. You have not abandoned us Your people but have revealed Yourself in Your most holy word. Your law is holy, righteous, and pure, beloved of all those who put their hope in You. Our Lord Jesus knew that Your law is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path; so He Himself delighted in Your law, rejoiced in Your precepts, and meditated upon Your commandments day and night. He was filled with the Spirit of wisdom and of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Likewise, He summoned us, as His people, to walk in the light of Your Word. “If you keep My commandments,” He said to our fathers on the night He was betrayed, “you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (Jn 15:10).
But, Father, we Your people have not feared You as we ought; we have despised Your commandments; we have substituted our own opinions of what is good and right for Your most holy Word; we have preached cheap grace, “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ;” we have preached “forgiveness without repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession of sins.” Holy Father, have mercy upon Your Church and grant us repentance; unite us together in a most holy love for You, for Your Son Jesus, for Your Word, and for one another, that together as one body we might praise Your Name forever and ever,
*The words in quotations are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Household BaptismsMarch 31, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Election, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility
Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)
31 So [Paul and Silas] said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Later in the service I have the privilege of welcoming several new members into our flock and of baptizing several of their children. While these parents have been baptized, their children have not. And so, having come to the conviction that God welcomes not only them but their children into His church, they are bringing their children forward for baptism today. So why have they come to this conviction?
As we consider this question, it is helpful to remember that throughout redemptive history God has dealt with His people both as individuals and as families. His covenants, His relationships with His people, are almost always generational. So, in the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with Adam and all those in him (Rom 5:18). At the flood, God covenanted with Noah and his descendants, rescuing his entire household from destruction (Gen 6:18). Similarly, God called Abram and his household out of Ur of the Chaldees and covenanted to bless all the families of the earth through his Seed (Gen 12:3). God made a covenant with David and his descendants, promising that one of David’s sons would always sit upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12). Characteristically, God works not just with individuals but with families, with households. And this is why the final promise of the Old Testament is that God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal 4:6).
It is no surprise, therefore, that this same feature characterizes the new covenant. Consider the anticipations of the prophets. Jeremiah prophesied of the day when God would give His people “one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jer 32:39). Likewise, Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that come to life closes with the glorious promise, “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them…. and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children forever…” (Ezek 37:24-25a). Similarly, Isaiah promises those who turn in faith to the Messiah: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).
When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, therefore, we find our Lord Jesus at work not only among adults but among children and infants. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; He cures a father’s son who suffered from epileptic seizures; He listens to the woman of Tyre who pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter; He raises the only son of the widow of Nain; He blesses the little children and even nursing infants who are brought to Him; He welcomes the praise of children in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus ministers to families not just individuals.
Consequently, the Apostles did the same. Notice our text today: Paul and Silas proclaim to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” The message they preached to him was the same message that they had preached the day before to Lydia. So, having believed, “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) just as in our text the jailer “and all his family were baptized.” God deals with families and welcomes us and our children into His church through baptism.
So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. Your children belong to the Lord of heaven and earth and have been entrusted to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4), a vow that these parents will be affirming this morning. Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).
And so reminded that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to honor our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
Baptism MeditationMarch 18, 2019 in Adoption, Baptism, Bible - NT - Luke, Children, Ecclesiology, King Jesus, Sacraments
Luke 18:15–17 (NKJV)
15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Today I have privilege of baptizing —–. Before I invite the family forward, I wanted to remind you why we baptize children. Jesus provides for us the foundational reason in this text. The reason that we baptize children, including infants, is that Jesus claims our children as His own. He reckons them to be members of His kingdom, the kingdom of God.
Consequently, children (including nursing infants) teach us something important about the nature of God’s work in our lives. After all, Jesus reminds us in Matthew 21:16 that the Scriptures proclaim, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You [O, Lord] have perfected praise.” So what do children proclaim? What do they declare? Children proclaim that we are all dependent upon God for His grace and mercy in both creation and salvation. We none of us created ourselves and we none of us enter into the kingdom of God by our own merit or worth or choice. It is God who created us, not we ourselves, and it is God who saves us, not we ourselves.
The 19th century Presbyterian theologian B.B. Warfield wrote, “Every time we baptize an infant we bear witness that salvation is from God, that we cannot do any good thing to secure it, that we receive it from his hands as a sheer gift of his grace, and that we enter the Kingdom of heaven therefore as little children, we do not do, but are done for.” Did you catch that last clause? “We do not do, but are done for.” Salvation, like creation, is the work of God, who graciously grafts us into His people. Today God welcomes —– into His Church. So as I baptize him this morning, let me urge you to remember that your baptism preaches to you, proclaims to you the grace and mercy of God. So believe Him, trust Him, rely upon Him, and know that “as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him” (Ps 103:13).
Epiphany as RevelationJanuary 7, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Christmas, Church Calendar, Church History, King Jesus, Meditations, Missions
Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)
6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the baptism of Jesus, the coming of the Magi, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.
Consider, first, the baptism of Jesus. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry; He was washed in water to identify with His people and prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world. Epiphany celebrates that Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s Anointed One.
Anointed as what? It is this question that Jesus’ revelation to the Magi answers. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. So while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought Jesus out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that Jesus has been anointed by God as King of all nations.
So what kind of King is Jesus? It is this question that is answered at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Recall that this was the first sign that Jesus performed after His baptism and temptation in the wilderness. As He entered upon His earthly ministry, Jesus turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory. He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men. Epiphany celebrates that Jesus is the festal King.
Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”
So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.
Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.
Babies, Baptism, and the Kingdom of GodJanuary 28, 2018 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Luke, Children, Parents
Luke 18:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Then they also brought infants to [Jesus] that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Today I have the privilege of baptizing Mary Anna Joy Bryan. Since the baptism of infants is a relatively uncommon practice in the evangelical church, I usually like to offer a brief explanation. Why baptize babies?
The answer to that question is implied in our text today. When various followers of Jesus brought their infants to Jesus that He might bless them, the disciples rebuked them. They were convinced that these infants were a distraction, an inconvenience, a burden and that Jesus’ work was far too important to be disturbed by them. But Jesus insists that this mindset is deeply mistaken.
Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them…” This “Let” is not one of allowance but of command. In other words, Jesus orders His disciples, “You must permit the children to come… it is your duty to permit them to come…” And who are these children? They are not children capable of bringing themselves, capable of running to Jesus or vocally confessing His Name. These are infants, brephos, nursing babes.
So why should infants be brought to Jesus? Jesus answers: for of such is the kingdom of God. In other words, God lays claim to the babies of believers and calls them His own, calls them by His Name. Therefore, they should be brought to Him. So how does God mark us out as His own? How does He place His Name upon us? In baptism. We are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is God’s testimony: you are mine! Therefore, since God claims our children, it is fitting that we bring them to Him for baptism into His Name.
And as we bring these children to the waters of baptism, they teach us an important lesson. Jesus declares, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will by no means enter it.” And how do these infants receive the kingdom? Helplessly, passively, dependently. So even as Mary Anna must be brought to Jesus by her parents in order for her to be blessed by Him, so you must be brought to Jesus by the Spirit in order for you to be blessed by Him. Her very dependency reminds us that we are in need of God’s grace to bring us spiritual life and blessing.
Why shouldn’t you get rebaptized?July 31, 2017 in Baptism, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations, Sacraments, Word of God
There are actually many answers to this question – but consider the following from John Calvin:
“Our opponents ask us what faith we had for many years after our baptism, in order to show that our baptism was in vain, since baptism is not sanctified to us except by the word of promise received in faith. We answer that although we were blind and unbelieving for a long time and did not embrace the promise which had been given us in baptism, yet the promise itself, since it was from God, always remained steady, firm, and true. If all men were false and liars, still God continues to be true; if all men were lost, still Christ remains a Savior. We confess, therefore, that when we totally neglected the promise offered to us in baptism, without which baptism is nothing, we received no benefit at all from baptism… Yet we believe that the promise itself never expired…. By baptism God promises the forgiveness of sins and will certainly fulfill the promise to all believers; that promise was offered to us in baptism; let us, therefore, embrace it by faith.”
In short, Calvin reminds us, baptism is not primarily my word to God, my promise to God, but God’s promise to me. Baptism is a visible word. It invites me, summons me to believe the One who has promised to cleanse my sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. The “solution”, therefore, to someone who has not believed his baptism thus far is not to get baptized but to repent and to believe and receive the promise symbolized in that baptism.
The Church’s Task of Discipling the NationsMay 8, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Matthew, Discipline, Evangelism, King Jesus, Politics, Sanctification
Paedobaptism and Credobaptism: Chief DifferencesMarch 7, 2017 in Baptism, Children, Ecclesiology, Liturgy
We’ve had a couple baptisms of infants lately and so I’ve been answering a number of questions. Here are my thoughts on some of the key differences between paedobaptists and credobaptists….
Good questions! I think that there are a number of issues at play in this discussion. I’ll give you some thoughts that you can chew on and ask some more. I would heartily recommend Doug Wilson’s book “To a Thousand Generations.” I found it particularly helpful as I wrestled with these issues. The difference between credobaptism and paedobaptism is like two different sets of prescription glasses. Hence, it is challenging to isolate the real differences between the two in short space. There are lots of intertwined issues and it has taken me years to work through them – indeed, I’m still working! But let me try to hit a couple major points – I may not hit all your questions so ask again if I miss something that is important.
Two central, related issues in this debate are the nature of the new covenant and the meaning of baptism. On the one hand, credobaptists insist that the new covenant includes only believers (“all shall know me, from the least to the greatest” – Jer 31:34). Because credobaptists insist that the new covenant includes only believers, they thereby endeavor to limit baptism to those who have made a personal profession of faith and thus given personal evidence of regeneration. While this evidence is not absolute (witness the case of Simon the magician in Acts 8), this evidence at least gives us more confidence that the individual is personally converted than we would have otherwise. Baptism, in this view, is an evidence of the individual’s faith, an external evidence of an internal change.
So these are two of the “watershed” issues that separate credobaptists and paedobaptists.
I certainly grant that there are distinctions between the old covenant and the new covenant. But these distinctions are chiefly of the “new covenant has more” variety. Old Covenant = Gospel primarily in Israel; New Covenant = Gospel to all nations. Old Covenant = Sign applied only to men; New Covenant = Sign for all members. Old Covenant = Ethnic Israel; New Covenant = Spiritual Israel. But even in the OC there were hints and anticipations of some of these things – Rahab, Ruth, Nineveh, Psalms, etc. So to address whether children are viewed differently in the new covenant, we’d have to ask what the NT teaches about kids (and also what the OT prophets taught about kids in their prophecies). And what we find is glorious continuity – Jesus blesses the children, even infants, of his disciples (Lk 18:15ff); Paul issues his commands to “households” which includes kids and he exhorts the kids to obey their parents “in the Lord” (Eph 6). So there is continuity in the way we are to view our children – they are members with us of the kingdom of God and are to be brought up in the faith to love and cherish the ways of the Lord. By nature they, like we, are “outsiders” and “children of wrath”; but, by grace, they are incorporated into the people of God and marked out as God’s own children, summoned to walk with Him all their days.