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A Puritan's Mind Updates discuss The Invisible / Visible Church Distinction in the Updates & Information forums; Though the Reformers and Puritans made the invisible / visible church distinction, I'm making thier practical application as importnat as the distinction itslef. It would ...

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    C. Matthew McMahon's Avatar
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    The Invisible / Visible Church Distinction

    Though the Reformers and Puritans made the invisible / visible church distinction, I'm making thier practical application as importnat as the distinction itslef. It would say there is an invisible, visible and visible distinction.

    The Visible and Invisible Church; Its Nature and Practicality
    by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

    When Jesus came to the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples a question, and received a blessed response. It was a conversation that took place between those disciples and their blessed Lord while they were alone. Jesus asked, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am?...

    Curious?

    Check here:

    http://www.apuritansmind.com/Pastora...ibleChurch.htm
    C. Matthew McMahon, Ph.D., Th.D.
    John 5:39, "...search the Scriptures..."

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    etexas is offline. Puritanboard Doctor
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    Nice article Matthew! I REALLY liked that. Thank you for writing it and sharing it.
    etexas, , Servant Of Christ, Saint Mary Magdalene.

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    as time permits

    I have many questions on this topic that I would like to ask and interact on. Using this article as a springboard for these questions I will cut and paste portions and comment as time permits;
    quote 1] The Reformers said that the redeemed elect alone made up that universal invisible church of Christ, and all true churches on earth were known as the visible church. They put a great emphasis on the invisible nature of the church so as to make a great distinction.

    Because the reformers were trying to correct the Roman error, they felt the need to introduce terminology that is not found in scripture. Although they used the terms invisible/and visible to describe what they called" the invisible work of the Spirit" in a real christian. It seems as if the scripture does not use this terminology but instead speaks of individual christians as members in particular, or living stones.
    In 2Cor 3 Paul speaks of individual christians as known and read of all men. This does not seem to indicate a focus on any "invisible" aspect to it.

    Does the book Visible Saints deal with this particular issue?
    Was there or is there currently any debate on this topic?
    What could I find the strongest discussions on this issue?
    I am aware that the topic and term universal church is often thrown around but other than Hebrews 12:22-24 or Revelation 21-22 I do not see many clear references to this vague notion.

    quote 2] The second paragraph in this same chapter states, “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” This demonstrates the visible nature of the invisible church.

    I believe it is here that this terminology invisible/visible is held onto by padeobaptists
    in order to satisfy what they see as the covenant sign, however this is what allows for unregenerate church membership. A dead formalism can creep in because the children are taught that they are already in union with Christ? If the Holy Spirit has not quickened the young child of wrath, and they are in a natural condition in Adam, how can they understand the things of the Spirit of God?

    Almost all the sermons I have heard on sermonaudio dealing with this issue from that perspective assume that it is just a matter of instruction and intellectual accent to the confessional teaching. I do not hear any really clear message that these children indeed need to be born again. I hear much about the "promise."[ which I believe really is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit].

    In this next quote you seem to zero in more about what I am asking about;
    quote 3] In order to appreciate the local church, and the work of Christ in the church, one must first define, clearly, The Invisible Church. The Invisible Church encompasses all of the elect for all of time; all those who are truly saved. What is its nature? There are seven areas I want to open up to you in seeing the nature of this invisible church first for clarity.

    Without going into a Landmarkism type of error, this next section of the article becomes a key area of examination to see whether or not these things are so, biblically.

    quote 4] At one level, this invisible church is based on election, regeneration and the rock of Christ through enlightened profession.
    quote 5] Wherever Christ is in a Christian, you have the True Invisible Universal Church; for any indwelling believer is a representative of that church.

    My question here is do you not agree that this representative ,with enlightened profession,and indwelt by the Spirit will be quite visible in a local assembly? It would be the True Visible Church.

    quote 6]Secondly, the Invisible Church is without corruption

    Yes agreed.But they visibly assemble. If goats,tares and hypocrites also assemble with or among us the scripture speaks of and warns about this. Spots in our love feasts,clouds without water Jude 12, 13.
    I want to work through the rest of this article and am trying to keep my comments and questions as brief as possible. So I will pause here for now. Let me know if You want me to clarify any of these comments. All responses are welcome.
    Anthony D'Arienzo
    Hope Reformed Baptist Church:
    Medford, N.Y.
    All that die have not the plague, and all that perish eternally are not guilty of the same profligate sins.The covetous are excluded from the kingdom of God no less severely than fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and thieves, 1 Corinthians 6:9,10.

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    Just a few comments on the paedobaptism issue brought up:

    Paedobaptists (at least the confessional kind, who hold to Reformed theology) do not teach their baptized children: "You are united to Christ." This is a ridiculous fiction, a slander, and it would be better for credobaptists to figure out what Reformed paedobaptists actually believe before bandying this kind of thing about.

    We tell our children: "BELIEVERS are united to Christ." Baptism symbolizes a great many things, all which are only "true" when combined with faith.

    Do baptists allow for unregenerate church membership? If I pick a random "baptizing-upon-profession" church in my city, and walk in, what percentage of that church do you suppose will be unregenerate? Anywhere from 5%-95% sounds about right. It is the most silly, preposterous notion in the history of the church to say that a baptist church has a better chance of having a regenerate membership than a non-baptist church, based on nothing but their style and practice of baptism. Look around you! Where is the evidence for the claim that baptism-by-profession protects the church from an unregenerate membership?

    Since I don't know what kind of sermons you have listened to on baptism, how many, who preached them, what the purpose of the sermon or lecture was, etc., I have no idea (simply because you have listed to presentations) how much you have been taught of a Confessionally Reformed paedobaptist position at all.

    Beside which, you should listen to gospel preaching from these preachers, evangelistic preaching, preaching of regular sermons on a wide variety of subjects--before you make a judgment on whether or not their habit is calling people--from the YOUNGEST to the oldest--to repentance and faith.

    That "promise" you keep hearing about in the messages you have listened to? Unless I miss my guess, that "promise" is first and foremost God's promise to save "all who put their faith in Christ." That is what a grown convert does, every time. He believes God's promise to save him, and in His provision of means for that salvation. It includes the promise from the Old Testament (to Abraham), "I will be God to you (who believe) and to your children after you (who believe)". And repeated in the New Testament (through Peter): "This promise is to you, and to your children...."

    As far as touching on the issue of "intellectual assent", it is not the same as saving faith, but there is no saving faith in the absence of a receptive intellect. It may be rudimentary, but it is certainly there. A person needs SOMETHING to believe in.

    We say to our children:
    "God saves HIS people from their sins.
    God's people believe his Word.
    You belong to God's people,
    because I am one of God's people,
    and you belong to me.
    God expresses his promise to you through me,
    through your connection to me.
    But, do you believe his Word?

    "As your parent, I started out doing everything for you.
    There was even a sense in which I believed God, for you.
    As an infant, your intellect was present,
    but unformed, and uninformed.
    You only had the barest capacity to trust me.
    But as you grow older, I do less and less for you.
    I have taught you God's promises from the day you were born.
    I have acted on God's promises to ME--
    that he works by his Spirit and Word to regenerate a heart,
    and make you able to receive these truths,
    and believe them with all your heart.

    "When you are old enough to go to the bathroom,
    I shall no longer change your diaper.
    When you are old enough to feed yourself,
    I may no longer prepare your meals.
    When you are old enough to work,
    I can no longer work for you.
    'He who will not work, shall not eat.'

    "When you are old enough to understand this faith,
    when you know enough to 'eschew the evil, and choose the good,'
    I will believe those things for you no more.
    You must either confess them yourself,
    or you will 'fall away' (Mt. 24:10; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12; 6:6),
    you will be 'cut off from this people.'

    "Your responsibility has been growing,
    developing from your first day of life.
    You cannot escape the effect of this bestowal,
    this being born into a believer's house:
    God promises it will be either the greatest blessing
    anyone can know, or it will be the most frightful curse.
    Do you believe his Word?"


    Finally, as to touching on the True Visible Church: one thing for sure, you need to make an allowance for hypocrisy; and deeply hidden, secret, and even self-delusive hypocrisy at that. The point is that there is NO SUCH THING as the True Visible church, if by "True" you imply an infallible certainty in what you see. Because no one of us "looking on the outward appearance" can ever perfectly judge a heart. ALL our judgments are tentative and provisional, and must include a large dose of charity.
    Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan
    ChainOLakes Presbyterian Church, CentralLake, MI

    Made both Lord and Christ--Jesus, the Destroyer
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    clarification

    Bruce,
    Thank you for your response. I will try to respond and clarify what is being said.

    you said;Paedobaptists (at least the confessional kind, who hold to Reformed theology) do not teach their baptized children: "You are united to Christ." This is a ridiculous fiction, a slander, and it would be better for credobaptists to figure out what Reformed paedobaptists actually believe before bandying this kind of thing about.

    I agree Bruce. Any reformed believer would be in error if that is what they taught their children. If pressed I do not think they would agree to a teaching that would declare this.
    As you state later in the post,when messages are preached concerning salvation,and calling people to repentance and faith their is generally a clearer note of gospel truth sounded.
    Bruce, it is not my intention to come across as hostile to any brother in Christ. I am seeking clarification on things that I have heard and read. [ I will seek to do a better job of listing either the sermons in question, or what I am reading. I listen to many sermons when I am driving, so what I will do is catalog the questions when I get home.]
    I am trying to "figure out" the padeo position,and this is where I am hearing contradictory statements. Sometimes I am hearing a blending of the teaching of the visible and invisible church when the sign of the covenant is being discussed. As if they are one and the same.
    Whether or not the given speaker is not making the necessary distinction,or just assuming that the hearer will automatically infer the proper distinction, I am not certain.
    It is possible that I have mis-understood as I have listened. I hope so.

    You say:It is the most silly, preposterous notion in the history of the church to say that a baptist church has a better chance of having a regenerate membership than a non-baptist church, based on nothing but their style and practice of baptism. Look around you! Where is the evidence for the claim that baptism-by-profession protects the church from an unregenerate membership?

    Bruce, I do not think it is silly or preposterous to believe that by believer's baptism we have less chance of having regenrate church membership. You yourself will baptize someone upon profession. I do not think I made any claim of "protecting " the church from unregenerate professors, as I cited the warning given in Jude 11-13 as an example of the fact that the unregenerate come among us.
    I found it very helpful when you took the time to explain in your post how a believing parent would instruct His child on His need to trust the Lord and His word. I think that this is perhaps where the most agreement would come in this area of the faith.
    I have always viewed my children as sinners in need of the Saviour. My wife and I have sought to do all we could in obeying what we see in the scriptures. We rest in the fact that the promise extends to our children, if they also believe. And yet, because we desire the salvation of all of our children we have resisted pushing or forcing an "external obedience" and an "external profession " at an early age.
    Because our children can sit quietly during a service,and will not deny major areas of doctrinal truth, does not necessarily translate to a living, vital, fruit of the Spirit expressed in the life faith. Several of my children have expressed a time where they mentally ageed with scriptural truths, but later on they came to know the work of the Spirit in their lives.
    Bruce, in your ministry in Ohio hae you also seen this? Are we agreed that it is at this time that they are born again?
    I have to go to work now so I will get back to it later on. I am trying to get a more accurate understanding of this position,and understanding more of God's truth. That is why I am asking the questions. Thank you for taking the time to help me.
    Anthony D'Arienzo
    Hope Reformed Baptist Church:
    Medford, N.Y.
    All that die have not the plague, and all that perish eternally are not guilty of the same profligate sins.The covetous are excluded from the kingdom of God no less severely than fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and thieves, 1 Corinthians 6:9,10.

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    an example to clarify

    Bruce,
    I just returned from work and I have an example or two of what I was speaking about;

    In your post you said the following:

    Paedobaptists (at least the confessional kind, who hold to Reformed theology) do not teach their baptized children: "You are united to Christ." This is a ridiculous fiction, a slander, and it would be better for credobaptists to figure out what Reformed paedobaptists actually believe before bandying this kind of thing about.


    Since I don't know what kind of sermons you have listened to on baptism, how many, who preached them, what the purpose of the sermon or lecture was, etc., I have no idea (simply because you have listed to presentations) how much you have been taught of a Confessionally Reformed paedobaptist position at all.

    Okay. Help me understand this booklet I am reading written by Herman Hanko,and David J. Engelsma. here is a quote from page 23; let me know if the reference here is as you say "ridiculous fiction,a slander"

    Such care begins with baptism. Baptism feeds the lambs. Baptism is the sign of the covenant. Baptism is a sign of the fact, therefore, that God is pleased to establish His covenant with believers and their seed. It is a marvellous sign that has taken the place of circumcision. It is a sign that demonstrates to us in a vivid way that our children are washed in the blood of Christ even as we are. They are incorporated by the blood of Christ into God’s everlasting covenant of grace.

    I am not prepared to say with any kind of certainty whether a child at the moment it is being baptized is already receptive in some small measure to the means of grace that God has provided for the church in the sacraments. But I do know this, that in the heart of that child is the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ unites that child to Christ. That Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ has powers that are beyond any earthly imagining. Any pastor who is faithful in his visitation of the sick and of the dying knows with certainty that the evidence of spiritual life can be present in a sick person when all evidences of natural life are gone except for a shallow breathing. The Spirit can do what we cannot. So it can be with a baby. A child is influenced by being in church, by the singing of the Psalms, by the word of the minister, by the fellowship of the people of God. Keeping covenant means to feed Christ’s lambs.

    Bruce,see the phrase :But I do know this, that in the heart of that child is the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ unites that child to Christ. That Spirit of our Lord Jesus

    Is the child in saving union with Christ,or not? Is the child washed by the blood or not?
    It cannot be both ways at the same time unless Zacharias tells you you are going to be baptizing John the Baptist.

    There was much I agreed with in this booklet,but several ideas seem like contradictions to me. Earlier on page seven I agreed with this section:
    But there is another sense in which God has established the covenant in Christ. God has made the covenant with Jesus Christ personally. The covenant is not made with the elect directly. It is made directly with Jesus Christ. The covenant is made with us only because and inasmuch as we belong to Jesus Christ. According to Genesis 17:7 , God made His covenant with Abraham’s “seed.” Commonly, we think of Isaac, or perhaps of all Abraham’s physical children. This is a mistake.

    That “seed” was Christ.
    Two paragraphs down he explains this;

    This implies that God makes His covenant with those whom He has elected in Christ unto salvation. God does not establish His covenant with all men without exception. He does not establish it with all the natural children of Abraham. He does not establish it with all the physical children of believers. Galatians 3:29 makes this application of the truth of Christ’s headship in the covenant. Galatians 3:16 has stated that God established the covenant with Christ, as the “seed” of Abraham. Verse 29 teaches, “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” The promise, the covenant, and the inheritance are for those who are Christ’s.

    again this section;
    He does not establish it with all the natural children of Abraham. He does not establish it with all the physical children of believers.
    This is no different from how I would explain this,yet if I question the validity of all the physical children of believers being said to be either in union with Christ, or in His body
    it brings the charge that I am slandering the reformed position? It seems to me that everyone wants to have it both ways.

    If you do not have the physical book in your hand, there is a copy online at
    www.britishreformedfellowship.org. These passages come from chapter 2, and then chapter one online. The booklet seems helpful in many ways and I agree with many sections in it. Yet when I read it,[ admittedly without as much reformed training as you might have] it raises questions and suggests to me an inconsistent logic.

    here is one more example from chapter1 page 8;

    God decreed the covenant in His eternal counsel, out of grace alone. God confirmed the covenant in the cross of Christ, out of grace alone. God establishes the covenant in the hearts of elect believers and the genuine children of believers—the “children of the promise” ( Rom. 9:8 ) —by the regenerating Spirit, out of grace alone. God maintains the covenant and perfects it with all those who are Christ’s, preserving His covenant friends, out of grace alone.
    When I have time I intend to write to these brothers and ask them directly about these sections of the book. Are all physical children of believers -genuine children?
    Are there covenant children who are not genuine children? Romans 9:8 seems to indicate a no answer.
    I listened tonight to a message by David Silversides on the Secret and Revealed things. Between the 8-10 minute mark he gives a good caution that we are not to trust in any sacrament,or earthly privledges. At 22 minutes he says that baptism is a sign of the cleansing of sin. At 23 ;-24 minutes he says it is a sign of our union with Christ.
    it 24:30 he says it is the symbolism of the Spirit bringing us in union with Christ.
    He is quoting rom 6. You listen and tell me what you think. Union with Christ is a spiritual reality. Even using his understanding of romans 6 it is completely inconsistent.

    I can find many more examples , it will just take me some time to chart them.
    Can you see where my questions are coming from? Are these men representatives of the position?
    Anthony D'Arienzo
    Hope Reformed Baptist Church:
    Medford, N.Y.
    All that die have not the plague, and all that perish eternally are not guilty of the same profligate sins.The covetous are excluded from the kingdom of God no less severely than fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and thieves, 1 Corinthians 6:9,10.

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