Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The ARP was not a "Wave of Reformation" of the PCUSA

The Aquila Report has republished an article by Carmen Fowler LaBerge of The Layman Online discussing denominational reformation. In as far as the article emphasizes a return to confessionalism, it's a good article. However, one thing ought to be clarified: When LaBerge lists waves of reformation that have sprouted out of the PCUSA, the following denominations are listed: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. But, the ARP was never a part of the PCUSA. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church split from the Church of Scotland in the 1700s and the Associate Presbyterians in the United States were never a part of the Presbyterian Church USA.

You can read more about the history of the ARP here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

WCF Sunday School Class, Week 20: Assurance

Below are links to the materials for last Sunday's Adult Sunday School class on the Westminster Confession of Faith at Communion Presbyterian Church. It should be noted that the "Questions" in the lecture notes refer to David Dickson's Truth's Victory Over Error.

Chapter 18: Assurance Handout
Chapter 18: Assurance Handout with full Scripture Proofs
Lecture Notes (keyed to Truth's Victory Over Error, Chapter 18)

Materials related to past classes can be accessed by clicking here: Westminster Confession of Faith Sunday School Class.

Churchmanship is not Penmanship by Dean Turbeville

The Aquila Report has posted an excellent little article on the important, but much neglected, discipline of churchmanship. Rev. Dean Turbeville (ARP) makes a strong argument for this forgotten practice:

Churchmanship is also a crucible of the soul and battlefield for the kingdom. Paul’s language to the Galatians is almost war-like. And nobody’s light burned brighter for the maintenance of the visible church in faithfulness like Jesus Christ, of whom it was said, “zeal for the Lord’s House consumes him (John 2:17).”
 Rev. Turbeville goes on to list seven practical steps "toward obedient churchmanship," including:
Both large church officers and small church officers are presbyters and should contribute in this way. No false modesty or unbiblical inferiority complex should thwart the vows we all made at our ordination. And the same can be said for ordained seminary professors: it is your church too!
Love your fellow presbyters as brothers, but be willing at any point to do the right thing for Christ and the church, even if your best friend thinks differently.
 The entire article is worth reading, and can be found here:  Churchmanship is not penmanship!

Friday, October 21, 2011

He Descended into Hell

At this week's Bible study, a question was raised concerning the belief that Christ descended into Hell. Our Catechism teaches us the following (I've bolded the relevant wording and Scripture proofs):

Q. 50. Wherein consisted Christ's humiliation after his death?
A. Christ's humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried,1 and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day;2 which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.
1 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
2 Psalm 16:10. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2:24-27, 31.
Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.... He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Romans 6:9.
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Matthew 12:40.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

In their commentary on the Larger Catechism, G. I. Williamson and J. G. Vos, write this, concerning Question 50:

What is meant by the expression in the Apostles' Creed which Says, "He descended into hell"?
This expression has been understood in various ways. Some hold that Christ literally descended into hell, not the hell of the devil and the wicked angels, but a place where the Old Testament saints were thought to be waiting. There, they say, he preached to those spirits and opened the way for them to enter heaven. THis interpretation, which is held by the Roman Catholic Church and by some Protestants, is unsound and is based on a misunderstanding (wrong interpretation) of 1 Peter 3:18-20. Some Protestants hold that the words "He descended into hell" refer to Christ's suffering on the cross, that is, that he descended into hell, not as a place, but as an experience of suffering. While this idea is doctrinally sound, it is historically unwarranted because the word translated "hell" in the Apostles' Creed in not Gehenna (the place of punishment) but Hades (the realm of death). Our catechism teaches that the words "He descended into hell" refer to Christ's being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time, the word hell being understood as "the realm of the power of death." (pages 112-3).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bible Study Notes for Acts 20:17-38 (Paul's Farewell Speech to the Elders of Ephesus)

I had a great time at last night's Wednesday Night Bible Study. We had some good questions and discussion. I'm posting my notes from last night, in case anyone would like to have them. As usual, they are based on commentaries by Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole.

Bible Study
October 19, 2011

Acts 20:17-38

  1. How Paul Conducted Himself while in Ephesus (v. 18):
    1. Serving the Lord with all humility (v. 19)
      1. 1 Thess 2:12, But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children...You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
      2. Romans 1:1, Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
      3. Matthew 20:26-27, Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave
      4. 2 Cor. 1:12, For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.
    2. With many tears and trials (v. 19)
      1. Phil. 3:18, For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
      2. Hosea 12:4, Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us—
    3. I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you (v. 20)
      1. Isaiah 48:17, Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.”
    4. Taught you publicly and from house to house (v. 20)
    5. Testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks (v. 21)
      1. Acts 26:20, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
    6. Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 21)
      1. Acts 17:30, Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent
      2. Acts 26:20, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.
      3. Acts 5:30, Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
    7. Nor do I count my life dear to myself (v. 24)
      1. Luke 14:26, If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
    8. I have gone preaching the kingdom of God (v. 25)
    9. I am innocent of the blood of all men (v. 26)
      1. Ezekiel 33:6, But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
      2. Ezek. 3:18-21, 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”
    10. I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. (v. 27)
      1. 1 Cor. 2:7, But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
    11. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel (v. 33)
    12. These hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me (v. 34)
    13. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak (v. 35)
  2. How the Elders were to conduct themselves
    1. Take heed to yourselves (v. 28)
    2. And to all the flock (v. 28)
    3. Shepherd the church of God
      1. Phil. 4:9, The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
    4. Watch (v. 31)
      1. 2 Tim. 4:5, But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
    5. Remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears (v. 31)
    6. You must support the weak (v. 35)
    7. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus (v. 35)
  3. What they could expect
    1. Chains and tribulations await [Paul] (v. 23)
    2. [Paul] may finish [his] race with joy (v. 24)
    3. You all will see my face no more (v. 25)
    4. Savage wolves will come in among you
      1. Phil 3:2, Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
      2. Gal. 5:15, But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
    5. Not sparing the flock (v. 29)
    6. From among yourselves men will rise up
    7. Speaking perverse things
      1. 2 Peter 3:16, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
    8. To draw away the disciples after themselves
      1. 2 Tim. 1:15, This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
      2. 2 Tim 2:17-18, And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
    9. I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (v. 32)
  4. Important Doctrinal Points:
    1. Elders and Bishops are two names that refer to the same office (cf. v. 17 with v. 28)
      1. 1 Peter 5:1-2, The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;
      2. Titus 1:5, 7, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—...For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,
    2. Jesus is God and man (v. 28)

Monday, October 17, 2011

For and Against Calvinism: A Review of the Evening

Photo Credit: Lane Chaplin, http://www.youtube.com/LaneCh
Saturday night, Biola University hosted a discussion (they were careful to not use the word "debate"--and really, it was more of a discussion than a debate) on the topic "For and Against Calvinism." Presenting the Calvinist position was Dr. Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary (and, of course, the White Horse Inn). Presenting the Arminian position was Dr. Roger Olson of George W. Truett Seminary (the seminary of Baylor University) and author of many books, including his latest Against Calvinism (Dr. Horton wrote a companion book, For Calvnism, hence the title of the event).

Over all, the evening was very enjoyable, and very educational. It was enjoyable because it was obvious that the two men (who have known each other for 20+ years) had a true friendship and respected each other enough to not misrepresent the other. The format of the discussion was also enjoyable: Dr. Olson began by stating his position; Dr. Horton then stated his. The two men then sat down at a table on the stage and quite literally discussed their respective theologies. It gave the impression of listening in to a friendly conversation two men would have over dinner. After the discussion, questions which had been submitted by the audience via Twitter (the hashtag used was #calconvo if you would like to get an idea of some of the questions) were answered by the two men.

The evening was also very educational. Dr. Olson seemed like a very nice man--a man it would be easy to get along with. This was reinforced by his friendly discussion with Dr. Horton, whose own position is very much opposed to Dr. Olson's "on some very important points" (Dr. Olson made that clear near the end of the evening). Dr. Olson also repeatedly pointed out that there is a lot of common ground between Calvinists and Arminians. He even used a lot of the same language Dr. Horton used. For example, Dr. Olson made it clear he believes in the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. He made it clear he believes in election, in God's justice, in His love, etc.

Why is all that educational? Because I was reminded that false teachers who come into the church will do so by claiming to believe the very same truths we confess. The difference between the two conversationalists was not the words they used, but the meaning behind those words. Not only was my appreciation for those who have gone before me and faced these false teachings (the Council of Dordt and the Marrow Controversy came to my mind last night) greatly increased, but I also came away with a great appreciation for those in the church today who are combating heresy. The Federal Visionists came to mind as another group who claim to believe the same things we do, and yet attach very different meaning to them. We as Christians, and especially as elders, must be astute enough to see the wolves beneath the sheeps clothing. I truly believe Dr. Olson to be a kind, educated gentlemen based on his interaction with Dr. Horton last night. However, I also believe his doctrine to be so dangerous that it must be opposed and excluded from the Church.

One final note: It amazed me how little Scripture Dr. Olson used in his presentation or conversation with Dr. Horton. It was very clear last night that Arminianism comes to Scripture with a preconceived notion of who God is and how He must operate (I saw some tweets that echoed this, so I guess I wasn't the only one that noticed). Dr. Horton, on the other hand, began with Scripture, built up his argument with Scripture, and concluded with Scripture. Dr. Olson even jokingly stated, after Dr. Horton finished his opening presentation and sat down with him at the table, "Nice sermon." Indeed, it was a nice sermon, for it presented the truth of the Gospel: That there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, and we must put all our hope in Christ who has done all that was required of us, and after He had done all that was required, took on the penalty of our sins for us. Salvation is all of God and therefore all glory belongs to Him and Him alone. Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

WCF Sunday School Class: Week 19, Perseverance

Below is the class handout for this week's Westminster Confession of Faith Sunday School class at Communion Presbyterian Church. The material for the other classes can be accessed by clicking on the Westminster Confession of Faith Sunday School Class label on the right side of this page.

Perseverance Class Handout

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Aquila Report Runs a Story about the Reformation OC Conference

See the article here: Reformation Conference Planned for The OC.

A preview of the article:
Orange County, the second most populace county in the state of California, (now renown as the ‘OC’), home to several world -renown mega-ministries, location of major Christian universities, birthplace of the Whitehorse Inn and Modern Reformation Magazine, does not have a regular or annual conference to proclaim the the impact or significance of Reformation Christianity.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Notes From Last Night's Bible Study (Acts 20:1-16)

Bible Study
October 12, 2011

Acts 20:1-16
(Notes taken from Matthew Henry's Commentary and Matthew Poole's Commentary)

Verse 1
And after the uproar. Paul’s leaving Ephesus is an important turning point in his ministry: after this, he will never again preach where Christ had not already been named, as he had so many times up until now (Romans 15:20, “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation,”).

Macedonia. Where Philippi and Thessolonica were located.

Verse 3
the Jews plotted against him. That is, plotted to kill him. What they could not accomplish through appeals to the magistrate, nor through the stirring up of mobs, they would do themselves, in an attempt to stop the spread of the Gospel. John 16:2, “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

Verse 4
Sopater of Berea. Who some think is the same as Sosipater mentioned in Romans 16:21, “Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you.

Timothy. To whom Paul wrote two epistles, and who he had left in Ephesus as pastor of the church there. Now Paul brings Timothy with him, which indicates that 1 Timothy was written before this time, since it includes instructions to Timothy about how to establish that church (which it seems would have to be done prior to Timothy leaving it to travel with Paul again). See 1 Tim. 1:3, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine,” and 1 Tim 3:14-15, “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Trophimus. Who we read of in Acts 21:28-29, “crying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ 29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

POSSIBLE ANSWERS: Paul was going to need more help where he was going. He needed the assistance of these able men to build up, strengthen, and teach the Christians and converts he would encounter.

POSSIBLE ANSWER: That they might be further trained up by Paul, to “
fully know his doctrine and life” (2 Tim 3:10)

Verse 5
waited for us at Troas. “Us” Luke rejoins Paul’s group. Remember, we first see Luke joining Paul at Troas, in Acts 16:11, “Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis,

Verse 6
the Days of Unleavened Bread. Not because Paul observed these shadows, now that the substance was come (see 1 Cor. 5:7-8, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”), but to mark the time of year. Why would Luke tell this to Theopholis?

in five days joined them at Troas...stayed seven days. So important was it to Paul to go to Troas, to encourage the Christians there (and perhaps even, to have Luke rejoin him?), that he was willing to sail for 5 days, for only a weeks stay in the city!

Verse 7
the first day of the week. Sunday. Also called “The Lord’s Day” since it was the day on which our Lord rose from the dead. It was also the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church. Because of these things, it is the day that Christians are to set aside as a day of worship and rest. It is the Christian Sabbath.Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,Acts 2:1, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” [See ISBE, PentecostI: “As the name indicates (pentekoste), this second of the great Jewish national festivals was observed on the 50th day, or 7 weeks, from the Paschal Feast”]1 Cor. 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.John 20:19, 26, “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’...And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’

to break bread. That is, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The practice of the early church was to observe this sacrament weekly. See 1 Cor. 10:16, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

Paul...spoke to them. Preaching is always to accompany the observance of the sacraments. OT example: Exodus 24:7-8, “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.’
NOTE: “What does a seal signify without a writing?” (MH)

continued his message until midnight. Because he had much to tell them, and did not know when, if ever, he should see them again. This is a farewell sermon.

Verse 8
upper room. Though the disciples had met in upper rooms before (Acts 1:13, “And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.”), this is not a stately place to meet. Neither is it convenient, nor, possibly, very comfortable, or even very safe! However, none of those are valid excuse to not be present for the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the Sacraments! When a worship service is set, Christians are obligated to be present.

many lamps. Why? (One possibility: so that the hearers of the sermon maybe able to turn to the Scriptures Paul quoted and see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11, “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so”)

Verse 9
young man. A boy. Children are to be present in worship services, and especially, as we read here, during the preaching of the Word. No children’s church in Acts!Nehemiah 8:2, “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.Deut 29:10-12, “All of you stand today before the LORD your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, 11 your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water— 12 that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today,

sinking into a deep sleep. Sinking indicates he was fighting to stay awake but was overpowered by it. Though he was wrong to fall asleep during Paul’s sermon, some compassion must be shown for the boy who was up past his bed time and struggling to stay awake to hear more.

taken up dead. See Jeremiah 9:20-21, “Yet hear the word of the LORD, O women, and let your ear receive the word of His mouth; teach your daughters wailing, and everyone her neighbor a lamentation.2 1 For death has come through our windows, has entered our palaces, to kill off the children—no longer to be outside! and the young men—no longer on the streets!
BUT: Lest we think this boy was more deserving of this death than others there gathered, see
Luke 13:4, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?

Verse 10
fell on him. See Elijah in 1 Kings 17:21, “And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’” and Elisha in 2 Kings 4:34, “And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm.