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Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by biblelighthouse, Jul 3, 2005.
Thanks, Joseph. Great answer.
To Rick's good question...as I recall, in Scripture (OT and NT) true believers adhered to creeds and confessions. Yes, there are creeds in the Bible...."Hear, O Israel... our Lord is One" is an example of an ancient Biblical creed. Another is "Jesus Christ is Lord" - which back then, was dangerous to say (and never glibly expressed like today) because you'd be put to death by the Romans. This is why church membership via confessional standards is not only historic but really essential and Biblical to identify a TRUE "visible Church." Jeremy may not realize, but for the last hundred years or so in America, traits of hyper-individualism has tainted the church...so much so...that I'm sure he might be surprised to learn that throughout the entire history of the church, there have always been formal memberships assigning to confessions and creeds. (These days they call it "organized" religion. ???) (Church government is in the Bible.)
Also notable is:
The admonition in Scripture to "repent and believe" does not mean that in order to become a Christian, one must first refrain from sin (works) then believe. Obviously, (due to contexts) it actually means that the language there is a "summons" as in a judicial "call" --- repenting, being the command to change one's thinking from unbelief to belief. This summons is only as effective as the purity of the Gospel proclaimed before it. For the Gospel, alone, has the power to impart faith and life to a dead soul.
As in the case of the 3,000 (Acts 2:37) note that their reaction to what Peter previously proclaimed (the Gospel) was "what shall we do?" Here, evidence of faith is already at work in their hearts (as they were cut to the quick.) After this question, Peter continues with "repent and believe."
The Gospel (by design) is a judicial summons to effectually call sinners to life and repentence. Sadly, most Christians doubt its power and/or are ashamed of a dead Rabbi coming back to life and/or are distracted by their own self-interests.
There's more to this, also....
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Some signs of a True Church....the truly converted....notice, the Lord added to their numbers via the apostle's teaching and their adherence to the content of what Peter proclaimed. (Not 10-tips to do XYZ.)
Thank you for making this excellent point. I know that it's true about salvation in general, but I appreciate being reminded of its truth directly from this passage in Acts.
Could you clarify some things for me? You say that being a witness and preaching the gospel are two completely different things. How so exactly? I agree that only the ordained are called to the office of preaching. But where in scripture do we get the principle that only the ordained can evangelize? If we are witnessing as layman, this seems to be at least a form of evangelism. Ephesians 4:11 seems to contradict any idea of evangelism as being restricted to preachers. I would say say that only the ordained could be called to an office of evangelist (i.e. Billy Graham), but this does not mean that a believer cannot share the gosepl at all if he is only a layman. Being a witness in word and deed and not sharing the gospel means what? What does it mean for us to respond with the reason for our hope? Is this something other than the gospel that we must share?
In the context of your principled convictions, how do you deal with Acts 8:1 and 8:4? Is there not a difference between preaching the gospel, and the office of preacher? What about Matt. 28:18-20? How does this fit into your objection of lay evangelism?
If a person who is a christian is at the deathbed of their parent who is not a christian, is that person not allowed to share the gospel with the parent because they are not ordained? Are they only allowed to express the character of Christ in action and speech? Would that person have to wait until an ordained minister showed up and have him share the gospel? What if that ordained minister got stuck in traffic and the parent died before he could preach to him? What should the minister then say to the child?
I am just trying to understand what exactly you are saying.
Preaching the gospel is an authoritative proclamation of the gospel and is limited to those who are called (by God and by the church) and ordained as the Westminster Larger Catechism says (#158) (for example, men can preach but women cannot -- why? because it is a function of church authority to preach the gospel). Witnessing to the gospel is simply the duty of every Christian which means doing good works that others might see them and glorify our Father in Heaven, speaking the truth in love at all times, and being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.
Ephesians 4.11 speaks to the office of an evangelist, which was a temporary office which has ceased. See Brian Schwertley.
I would never suggest that a believer could not tell an unbeliever about the gospel. The common vernacular today, however, in regards to "sharing" the gospel implies anybody can proclaim the gospel to anyone. Evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel with authority. "Thus saith the Lord." Ministers are called, qualified and equipped to do this. Laymen are not. Laymen are called to point others to the church where they can hear the gospel preached with authority.
See Matthew Henry: They were all scattered abroad (v. 1), not all the believers, but all the preachers, who were principally struck at, and against whom warrants were issued out to take them up.
There is of course a difference the act of preaching and the office of preacher. But the act of preaching is confined to the office, Heb. 5.4, WLC #158.
See this previous thread and in particular this article. The Great Commission is specifically given to the officers of Christ's church, not to all believers in general.
This is a pretty extreme example. Again, however, any believer can and should witness by word and by deed. They should testify of the grace of God working in them. They should pray for their parent. They can read or sing the word of God to their parent. But preaching and witnessing/testifying/praying/reading/singing are not the same thing. As the Confession, salvation is ordinarily not found outside the church, and only the church has authority to preach. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes. The thief on the cross is an example. But they are rare.
Andrew, how do you differentiate between teaching the Gospel "with authority" and sharing the Gospel "without authority"?
Joseph, If you read Brian Schwertley's article I think the distinction will become evident. I have previously referred to the example of qualifications for preachers (men may preach, women -- and children -- may not, for example). Those qualifications exist to set apart men for a special office. Preachers are ambassadors of Christ, sent under his charge (for laymen may goeth a warfare on their own charges, I Cor. 9.7, but not ministers) to proclaim the good news, baptize and make disciples. This gets at the heart of what is involved in ordination. The one who is ordained is 1) chosen by God 2) called by the church 3) qualified according to Biblical standards 4) equipped to teach 5) approved of men and 6) invested with authority to administer sacraments and exercise church discipline. The authority to preach is linked by God's Word in the Great Commission and elsewhere to the authority to administer sacraments and exercise church discipline. That connection is highly significant (see the Westminster Fomr of Presbyterian Church Government on pastors). Laymen, however, do not have authority to do any such thing and however gifted they may be they lack the commission of Christ and his Church and the authority that comes with it. Only a general duty applies to all believers to live and speak in accordance with the law of God, and the gospel, in all situations.
Westminster Form of Presbyterian Church Government:
What is this truth that we are to speak? Something other than the gospel? What is the answer for the hope that lies within us? Something other than the gospel?
So not only is B. Graham's arminianism wrong, but his role as an evangelist is wrong too?
Agreed. But whose authority? The minister's or Christ's? Since Christ's authority is through the officers of the church (not passed on to them), could not the officers equip the layman to proclaim this gospel in a non-formal preaching capacity? Don't all christians have the authority of Christ in some sense?
I respect Matthew Henry but unfortunately he is not here for me to ask him further about his statement here. Where in these verses do we get the idea that "all" means "ordained preachers"? The scripture says that all of the church was scattered, not all of the preachers. Is there something in the greek that translates church here as strictly ordained officers? I just read Calvin's commentary, and he does not seem to agree with Henry here.
If the act of preaching is confined to the office of preaching, then why is Philip, in the office of evangelist, preaching? And why are fathers responsible for sharing the gospel with their children? Or can non-ordained fathers only point their kids to the church if they want to hear the gospel?
I am not convinced. I agree with what Patrick said in that thread. And Schwertley's article is a polemic against fundamentalists and dispensationalists. I am neither of these. One does not have to be either of those groups to disagree with his position. It could be the case that his view is an overreaction to the fundy/Dispensational view.
I do not think it is an extreme example. Anything can happen in God's providence.
If a layman can read and sing the word of God to their parent, is this not in a sense preaching the gospel to them? Or can they only read and sing the parts that do not touch on the gospel?
If only the ordained can teach and preach, even in the broad sense of those terms, then what do parents do with their kids in family worship? Not all fathers are ordained to teaching or preaching offices in the church, but all fathers are called to teach the gospel to their kids. Your position seems inconsistent to me.
[Edited on 7-9-2005 by RAS]
This only proves what I am saying. Notice his distinction between discipling and evangelizing.
We are to speak the truth in love. That includes the gospel message. But with all due respect I think you are missing the difference between preaching and speaking. When the pastor preaches a sermon it is to be received "as the word of God" (WLC #160). Of course, every one of us is to speak according to the principles of the Word of God, but proclaiming the gospel is a function of the church, the repository of the truth, not ordinary laymen. Matthew Henry:
I don't recall his ordination status, but the office of evangelist has ceased. And yes, his Arminianism is wrong.
Yes, we all stand on the Word of God, even when the church becomes a synagogue of Satan and we find ourselves in opposition to the church as Martin Luther did. But the authority of Christ is vested in those whom he has called and sent in a way that it different and more compelling than those who are not called to be his ambassadors.
Did you read Brian Schwertley on this subject? There is simply no reason to think that everyone who was scattered preached the gospel. If that's true then women and children preached the gospel too. That would contradict the qualifications for the office of preacher.
Philip as an evangelist was ordained and commissioned to preach. The office of evangelist, though it has ceased, is included in the office of minister, much like the diaconal office is included in the office of elder.
Fathers are commanded in Scripture to teach their children. But if you look at the Directory for Family Worship it says this:
I respect your opinion but firmly disagree.
We are speaking of what is normative. That is not a normative situation.
The word of God is for all. That is not inconsistent with the principle that only ordained men are called preach, teach and publically read the Scriptures, as the Westminster Standards state. You do not need to keep implying that my position means that ordinary Christians are to avoid talking about the gospel. I have said otherwise repeatedly. Please understand that.
Again, read the Directory for Family Worship. The Westminster Assembly delved into all of these issues. I have cited them repeatedly because they addressed the significance of ordination in multiple authoritative writings.
My view is consistent with the Westminster Standards and the historic Reformed understanding of ordination and gospel preaching.
[Edited on 7-9-2005 by VirginiaHuguenot]
Please explain to me what the difference is between proclaiming (preaching) and speaking?
Doesn't one have to speak in order to proclaim?
Yes, I did read it. But I am interacting with you, not him. And even if I agreed with him, it doesn't prove he is right.
What part of this do you disagree with?
Andrew, brother, I sense that you are getting irritated with me? I never implied these things about you. When I said your position seems inconsistent, I meant inconsistent with other things you've said, not with the reformed faith. Example: you say that laymen are not to preach the gospel, then you say that they can sing and read the gospel to others. My question was simply, what is the difference? The gospel is the gospel, regardless of means expressed. If I asked you to explain the gospel to me right now, and you did, then we could say that you shared, or preached, or proclaimed the gospel to me. This would not mean that you are a Preacher with a capital P. You can do this without being in the office of preacher. That is all I am saying, and I was asking you questions because it seems as if you are saying that you couldn't even preach the gospel to me in this sense since you are not ordained. Am I making sense?
Do you think that I am denying the confessions and reformed faith? I will willingly subject myself to examination by the elders on this board to see if I am. As in my last post, I am only saying what Schwertly says in his article (what I highlighted in bold).
[Edited on 7-9-2005 by RAS]
The puritans, blessed precisionists that they were, distinguished Preaching (used in the Scriptures) as a technical term from all other forms of speaking. That is the distinction that I believe VH is getting at. The terminology was borrowed from the language of civil law and government. Caesar (or kings) had "heralds." These were not mailmen. They were mouthpieces, officers of the government. When they spoke authoritatively they spoke with the voice of Caesar. That authoritative speech was Caesar speaking. It was called "heralding" or "proclaiming". In our Bibles the words are "preach" and "preaching". They had no other authority. They could not say anything they weren't authorized to say.
Preachers are Jesus' heralds. They have an official commision (ordination) and a specific message--the gospel. No one but a herald could speak with the authority of Caesar. No one but a preacher can speak with the authority of Christ. But Joe can tell you what he heard the herald say. He can tell you what he read off the placard that the city officials nailed up after the herald read it. And Joe can tell you what the preacher said on Sunday, and that he'll be back next Sunday to say it again. And he can tell you what he read in the Bible.
But there is no "woe" unto him for "not preaching the gospel" as there was for Paul, and for every gospel minister who fails to do his duty. He should speak of what great things God has done for him. He should encourage others to the same fountain of living water. He should point them to Jesus. He should speak of Jesus. But just as his authority as a law-abiding citizen is limited to advising his fellow man about the law (not arresting them, announcing the official government sentence over them), so his authority to proclaim has basic limitations.
How does one know he has to listen to the man in the uniform? That uniform and badge or robe of office are supposed to credential him--to give evidence that he is not just some busybody setting himself up as an officer. I'm sure anyone impersonating a herald of Caesar ran the risk of a death sentence. Jesus semms pretty lenient these days (but ask the seven sons of Sceva if impersonating the authority of Jesus was any fun).
All that I think is being said is: Preaching is specifically a function of lawful authority. In extreme cases sidewalk strollers can make a citizen's arrest. And we should go as far as we can as laymen to reach a man in extremity with the gospel. But the notion that we all have to have the "Roman's road" memorized is a pious fiction. It's wrong first for "formulizing" the gospel. And second it produces false guilt in many who fumble at speech presentation. But they may not be gifted nor called!
Being trained to share your faith is a GOOD THING. But your obligation, AND YOUR AUTHORITY stops right there, if you are not a minister of the gospel.
EXACTLY, Bruce!! Thank you! You have said it much better than I. Much obliged!
I defer to Bruce's response.
I disagree that Brian Schwertley is overreacting to a "fundy/Dispensational" view. He is reacting (rightfully) to the view espoused by many in Reformed churches today that anyone can preach the gospel and that the Great Commission is directed towards all believers alike rather than church officers.
Please pardon me if it seemed that I was testy in my response. I feel like I have been saying the same thing over and over. The distinctions between preaching and reading the Bible or singing a psalm to me seem quite self-evident. Those are separate activities. In most churches there is a clear dividing line during the worship service between a sermon that is preached and a psalm that is sung. Psalm singing and Bible reading may take place outside of public worship. Preaching is always done by ordained (or licensed/in-training) men under the official authority of the church. And it is fundamentally different than ordinary conversation. Again, the reference I cited from the Directory for Family Worship makes the distinction well: fathers may lead their families in worship and provide godly counsel, but they may not preach a sermon in family worship. Bruce addressed what preaching is admirably so I think I have nothing to add to that. Except to again quote the Westminster Larger Catechism:
If you or others are interested, I would commend Thomas Ridgeley's Commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism wrt these particular points.
If you are in agreement with the Westminster Standards that only ordained men can preach the gospel, then our debate is at an end.
P.S. Incidentally, as an aside, I am ordained (not as an elder, but as a deacon) though not serving in that capacity currently.
[Edited on 7-9-2005 by VirginiaHuguenot]
Right, How can we help God fulfill His plan? I know the alter call would definitely help God be more effective and efficient.
Andrew, I agree with you. It is the same thing concerning communion. It is the ordained ministers job to fence the table by not allowing just anyone to partake of that holy sacrament, not the lay people. The Pastor/Elders is to oversee all that goes on within the church and is responsible as under-shepherds, or representatives of Christ, to correct or to speak on those issues. So the Elders job includes more than just speaking on these things but, like you and the Scriptures say, this includes the Gospel to, and that they are the ones appointed for this.
Andrew,I think that we can witness to others concerning what the Lord has done for us in saving us. For example, the early Christians in Jerusalem went out to do the work of the ministry by testifing about Jesus but I think that the preaching that you have mentioned is different. What say you?
Yes, we are all called to witness to the glory of God and his work of grace in us. Being salt and light in this fallen world ought to make us stand out in a crowd. Lord willing, we all have providential situations where by word and by deed we can testify to the grace of God. Preaching, though, is a specific function given to ministers of Christ who proclaim the good news on his behalf and by his charge.
There is a reason why the minister's sermon in church is different than a mere lecture or godly conversation between friends. Anyone can speak of the things of God, but there is special authority when a duly called and sent minister speaks (as Bruce put it) as the herald of Christ.
I totally agree. Thanks brother for the confirmation!
This just goes to show that you can agree with many parts of a confession and not all of it. I subscribe to the WCF, but this part about not proclaiming the gospel "with authority" without ordination is hard for me to swallow. As is no musical instruments in church. But, you take the good with the bad, I guess.
Sorry for my delayed response, my fiance was hospitalized all last week and had to tend to her and other serious matters that have recently come my way.
Anyways, I just came back to this thread after my last post and it seems that it is assumed I was debating you and disagreed with you and what others have said. My initial questions were for clarification, because it seemed that you were saying something other than what I and others were saying, and taking an extreme position. As the thread went on I was concerned that a distinction was being lost, so I asked further questions for clarification. For the record I agree with everything Bruce said, and ironically this was the very content I was trying to see if you were denying, because some of the things you were saying seemed to stray from what Bruce subsequently said. So without seeking a debate with you nor taking a position different from the confessions (as both seem to be assumed about me in this thread), I was only wanting clarification for my benefit in case I misunderstood something. I was searching to see if you were making an extreme separation, rather than a distinction, while you may have assumed I was commiting the error of confusing two things.
1. only those ordained to the office of pastor are called to preach
2. "preach" means "to proclaim", therefore if a layman reads Phillipians 3:9 to a dying ubelieving parent, in a certain sense that layman has "preached" the gospel; they have "proclaimed" it
3. if a layman sings a psalm to an unbeliever, and that psalm has the gospel in it, in a certain sense they have "preached" the gospel.
4. points 2 and 3 I think are to be distinguished from the concrete form of preaching from the scriptures that only ordained Pastors are allowed to do. This is the distinction I was concerned I was not seeing in what you were saying. Apparently I was not alone, because Joseph also was seeking the same clarification. We picked up something that seemed inconsistent with what Bruce said and I was trying to understand that. I recently come from a hyper-calvinist community that said some of the same things you seemed to be saying, and they used this as a way to avoid evangelising at all, in any form whatsoever. Needless to say this congregation has remained at a membership total of 100 or less for 20 years now. (Not a comment on small churches, just pointing out that after 20 years one would think there would be at least some numerical growth)
5. an analogy: we refer to public speakers as those who are called to go on the lecture circuit and publicly speak. But not all of us have to be public speakers to speak publicly. This is the distinction I was concerned was being denied in evangelism. Preachers are called to proclaim the gospel, and so are layman. But how they do so is what distinguishes the office from the general command.
6. as an aside, I think that the growth of "evangelism training" isn't so much to bring in souls, but rather so that Pastors do not have to do the work of evangelism and so that churches can grow numerically in membership with little or no concern for the fact that the more a church grows in substance the more the church will grow numerically almost by default simply because Christians live more effective lives of witness.
Hope I have clarified myself, and I am glad we are in agreement.
It's good to hear from you. I am so sorry to hear about your fiance. I hope that she is better now. And I pray that all is well now otherwise.
I appreciate your clarification, brother.
I think I understand what you are saying. I grant that my definition of "preach" and "proclaim" and "evangelize" are probably stricter than yours (stricter being a value-neutral term). My preferred distinction is Preach (confined to the ordained)/Witness (given to all). By "evangelize," I refer to the proclamation of the gospel with authority in the Puritan sense that Bruce referred to. By "preach" and "proclaim" I mean that the gospel is spoken with the authority of the church behind it, in a way not possible for the unordained. By "witness" I mean that testimony that we all give by word and by deed according to 1 Peter 3.15 and other Scriptures which teach that our light should so shine before men. That includes helping the work of the ministry, inviting others to church, reading the Scriptures with others in appropriate contexts, etc.
I don't believe that laymen are "off the hook" when it comes to sharing their faith. But I am strongly against the parachurch mentality which minimizes the office of minister and assumes that the Great Commission is given to all men and women to preach the gospel, thus bypassing the qualifications for minister set forth in Scripture. The distinction between the office and function of the minister vs. the duties of all believers is an important Puritan principle to uphold as is the concept that salvation is ordinarily found only inside the church, ie., through the preaching of the word, which is in fact a means a grace, unlike ordinary conversation.
In my own experience, I have met people (laymen) who feel guilty if they don't preach a mini-sermon to the waitress who serves them at a restaurant or the bus driver who is chatting with them. But -- without minimizing our responsibility to bear a faithful witness at all times -- the onus is not on unordained to preach the gospel. I'm not at all against taking advantage of providential opportunities to speak a good word in due season. And I'm not suggesting that we be passive in all situations. God uses all sorts of means to lead people to himself. But he has ordained preaching by ordained gospel ministers to be the means of grace. That is my emphasis -- but not at all to the exclusion of actively witnessing as God gives us the opportunity, according to our place and station.
I hope this is helpful. Cheers, and God bless!
[Edited on 7-18-2005 by VirginiaHuguenot]
I'm a little late to this thread, but if you all would like some fine examples of Calvinistic evangelism, especially in light of the new neonomianism infecting our Reformed churches today (i.e. personal covenant faithfulness...) I would highly recommend sermons from the Marrow men, in particular, Boston and the Erskines, and the Marrow of Modern Divinity. Excellent specimens of Reformed evangelism and the Free Offer in action.
There seems to be two issues at hand: 1. Sound doctrine 2. Loving the brethren. Often we are zealous for upholding Sola Scriptura (as we should be), but our singular focus blinds us to meeting the needs of those who are hurting within our midst. We need to do # 2 without compromising # 1.
[Edited on 8-28-2005 by BaptistInCrisis]
Sorry...it should be, "not compromise #1"