Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Five – Christ the Mediator (Q.24)

Earlier Studies –

Listen to the audio for this lesson here and here.



Q.24: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?

A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ;1 who, being the eternal Son of God, became man,2 and so was and continueth to be God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever.3

11 Timothy 2:5-6

2John 1:14; Galatians 4:4

3Romans 9:5; Luke 1:35; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 7:24-25

To this point, we have sought to lay a foundation for the necessity of Christ’s work of redemption, the great climax of all of redemptive history. We began with a survey of God’s authority, His revelation of Himself to mankind, and His saving revelation of Himself in Scripture alone. Second, we considered Theology Proper: who and what God is. Third, we considered God’s decrees of creation and providence and, specifically, how he created man and provided for him through covenantal relationship. Fourth, we observed how man broke covenant with God, fell into an estate of sin and misery, and are now subject to God’s righteous judgment apart from the forging of a new covenant.

In the last post, we looked at this new covenant. We noted first that this covenant was struck on behalf of those who God chose from eternity in accordance with His own good pleasure and His love toward us, and not on anything in us. Second, we considered the nature of the Covenant of Grace, how it unfolded throughout Holy Scripture, and how it finds its fulfillment in Christ alone. Before, we identified as slaves of sin in Adam. Now, we identify as sons of God in Christ. However, we must not think of this transition as merely being as simple as God flipping a light switch. A great ordeal was undertaken to accomplish our redemption, and it is that accomplishment of our redemption that now demands our attention.

Redemption in Christ Alone

On the outset, let us allow our eyes to be drawn to one word in the Catechism’s answer to Question 24: only. We must start by recognizing the exclusive nature of the claims we are about to make. When Christians confess that Christ is the “only Redeemer of God’s elect,” we mean to say not only that God has chosen a particular people from eternity to be His elect, but that those elect only come to Him by way of Christ. Christianity does not claim to be a way; it is the way. Christ made this claim of Himself: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,’” (John 14:6; NASB). As such, Christians have not arrogantly devised an exclusive religion of their own imaginations. We have humbly accepted God’s own testimony about how He will be approached.

To the minds of those who have not submitted to Christ, Christian exclusivism is calloused, cold, and uncaring. They think that we have formed these ideas within our own minds, in which case their criticisms would be correct. However, given all that we have already seen of God’s goodness, love, and patience—given also His holiness, justice, majesty, and immutability—that God would be merciful to any among the sea of sinful rebels we call mankind makes God infinitely kind and gracious! The proud atheist, the Buddhist, the Hindu, and the agnostic ask why God would provide only one way. The humble Christian stands in awe of God and wonders that He provided even the one way.

The word way is a proper and biblical term. As we have already seen, Christ used the word of Himself. Christians, long before there was such a term as Christianity, also called themselves the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14; 22). However, it is not as though God simply opens up a way to Himself to all mankind and simply stands there waiting for them to respond. Rather, we are told that Christ, like a great conquerer, infiltrated the kingdom of darkness and extracted from it citizens of a new kingdom (Eph. 4:7-10). In order to do so, He had to take on a new nature and become the truly man. In order to save us, He had to first identify with us both in life and in death (Heb. 2:9-13).

The Divine Nature of the Son

We must remember the infinite chasm came to exist between God and man as a result of Adam’s fall. Prior to the fall, the gulf was already great in that man was a mere finite creation of God and God the infinite, unsearchable, intangible Creator. With man’s fall, humankind parted with God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (see The Baptist Catechism, Q.13). No mere man, then, would be able to bridge this chasm. It would require One with both the infinite, eternal, and immutable nature of God and the knowledge, righteousness, and holiness man forfeited at the fall. The only suitable Mediator had to be divine.

Hence, the Catechism uses the divine name Son of God to refer to Christ at the introduction to His work of redemption. “As such it points to a pre-existent sonship, which absolutely transcends the human life of Christ and His official calling as Messiah,” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 314). It is with this Son that we find the Father speaking in Psalm 2 and entering into what theologians have termed the Covenant of Redemption from eternity.

7I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware,’” (Ps. 2:7-9; NASB).

Much ink has been spilled by the cults to try to explain away the deity of Christ. The result in each instance is the mangling of the doctrine of the atonement such that Christ’s obedience in life and death are not sufficient for the reconciliation of God and man. Additional works are necessary on the part of man, because only One who is truly divine and truly man can fully atone for the sins of men. He had to be greater than all creatures (Heb. 1:3-14) in order to ascend to the Father “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10; NASB). Surely, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man,” (John 3:13; NASB; cf. Eph. 4:9-10). So, to deny the deity of Christ (or any other aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity) is to deny the very foundation of the gospel itself.

The Baptist Confession refers to the Him as the “Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made,” (The Baptist Confession, 8.2). Indeed, this has been the confession of the church from the very ascension of Christ. There is no denying the clear meaning of Scripture in its testimony to His deity.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together,” (Col. 1:15-17; NASB; see also, John 1:1-3, 14, 18; 8:58; Galatians 4:4).

He is the image of the invisible God—that is to say that He is the clear representation of His nature. When we read of Christ in Scripture, we catch a glimpse of God Himself in His purest form. No picture can faithfully depict Him, but the inspired, infallible, inerrant words of God in describing Him do. By Him, and through Him, and for Him all things were created. Paul uses this type of language in another place in his writings. Of God, he writes, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36; NASB). Had he thought Christ any less than God in the flesh, He truly would have been blaspheming to transcribe these same attributes to Him in his letter to the Colossians.

The testimony of Scripture on the matter of Christ’s deity is clear. He is truly God and, as our Mediator, could not have been anything less. No less than the divine Son of God would suffice in making atonement for sinful human beings. He also had to become truly man, or it would have likewise been impossible for Him to bring many sons to glory.

The Hypostatic Union

It’s clear then that Christ identifies as God. However, where do we see that He came to identify with man in order that we, identifying with Him, might be brought to glory? It is in the humiliation of the Son that He identifies with us. The apostle Paul exhorts the Philippian saints to have the same attitude that was in Jesus Christ, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:6-8; NKJV). Here, Paul outlines several key aspects of Christ’s humiliation.

He emptied Himself; that is, He set aside divine privilege. He did not cease to be divine. Rather, not clinging to His divinity, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant.” Here we see the voluntary nature of Christ descension from heaven to earth. He came on a divine rescue mission. The Father chose the elect, the bride of Christ, and the Son of His own volition—though essentially of one mind with the Father—entered into a sinful, fallen world in order to purchase His bride out of her bondage in this fallen world. He descended in humiliation to become a slave and identified as a captive in order that, ascending in His exaltation, He might lead captive a host of captives (Eph. 4:8-10).

He further identified with us in our humanity, “coming in the likeness of men.” Here, we have what the Catechism states when it confesses that the Son of God “became man.” Did Christ merely seem to be a man, though? No. What we have in the confession of Paul is precisely what we see also in John 1:1-14. From eternity, the Son exists (Gk. ἦν). There is no sense in which the language of John 1:1-3 allows that Christ could have been created. The term used for created things in John 1 (made or came to be; Gk. ἐγένετο) is diametrically different from ἦν in John 1. The starkest distinction between the two types of being is found in verses 2&3:

2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being,” (NASB; emphasis added).

Interestingly, though, we find that the Son of God, emptying Himself as Paul writes, did take to Himself a body like ours. In taking to Himself a body, John now applies the Greek term ἐγένετο to the Son: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14; NASB; emphasis added). Here, we catch a glimpse of the transcendent, unapproachable God of all glory condescending to identify with us in our humanity.

Yet, in His flesh, we do not see a ceasing in the divinity of Christ. The divine name Son of God persists as a proper title for Christ well into His humiliation. “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God,’” (Luke 1:35; NASB). Here, we see that Christ, though yet a baby, still retains His deity in full (cf. Col. 2:9). This is more than a mere title, though. This is a functionally divine character.

“The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well. When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His Mind and might,” (Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 17).

There is a mind-blowing concept present in this affirmation. Even as a baby in the womb of the virgin Mary, the divine Son of God was still everywhere present, holding all things together, and directing all things to His own glorious ends. In fact, the same God who knits the babe together in his mother’s womb, it is reasonable to conclude, also knit for Himself a body in the womb of His earthly mother. For this reason, the historic Christian creeds—affirmed by both Protestants and Roman Catholics—have unapologetically granted Mary the title Mother of God. The distinction being that Roman Catholics use this title to exalt Mary above where the Bible does, while Protestants use the title to emphasize the true divinity of Christ and the singularity of His Person, though consisting of two distinct natures, even while in the womb of Mary.

It was necessary, given God’s decree to save a bride, that the Son of God become a man. It was necessary not merely so that He might enter into flesh like our flesh, but also so that He might enter under the same curse under which we are born. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,” (Gal. 4:4; NASB). In Adam, we are all born under a curse, a curse whereby we have forfeited dominion over this earth to angelic majesties. In other words, as a result of Adam’s sin, we have been made for a little while lower than the angels (Heb. 2:5-8), and now Satan himself is the ruler of this world system (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Hence, God the Father perfected the Son of God—the Author of our salvation—through His being made for a little while lower than the angels, His suffering, and His death (Heb. 2:9-10). His humiliation, then, was undertaken for the purpose of identifying with us, the means by which—as we shall see—He would come to redeem us.

Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Five – Christ the Mediator (Q.23)

Earlier Studies –

Listen to the audio for this lesson here and here.



Q.23: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life,1 did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.2

1Ephesians 1:4-5

2Romans 3:20-22; Galatians 3:21-22

The Baptist Confession teaches us that “the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.” In so doing, we are told that the result will be a certain “matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel,” (The Baptist Confession of 1677/1689, 3.7). God’s remedy to all that we observed in the previous section of our study is found in His sending of a Redeemer.

This Redeemer was not merely sent on a search and rescue mission for any who would, of their own good nature, choose Him. Rather, He was sent specifically to rescue His bride, those whom the Father had chosen in Him and given to Him for His own glory. As we study these great and glorious truths, let us pray that God would bring about in us the results listed in The Baptist Confession: praise, reverence, and admiration of God, along with humility, diligence, and abundant comfort.

Unconditional Election

Today, we arrive at simultaneously one of the most difficult doctrines of the Bible to teach to the modern mind and, yet, one of the most encouraging doctrines of the Bible. We do not say that this doctrine is merely doctrinal; it is biblical. Doubtless, the honest reader of the Bible must admit that the doctrine of election is a major reoccurring theme throughout its pages. The question is not whether or not the Bible teaches on election. The question is what the Bible means by election.

For starters, we ought to ask if the Bible’s teachings on the matter are clear or less clear. Scripture itself is clear in all matters to do with essential doctrines and essential practices. However, not all Scriptures are as clear to all or alike plain in themselves. Many doctrines require much digging and interpretation by other Scriptures.

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them,” (Ibid., 1.7).

The question is whether the Bible’s teaching on election is clear or not so clear. The Reformed confessions make plain that the Bible’s teaching on election is laid forth in very clear and plain terms. There is no ambiguity as to the meaning it intends in its usage of the term. Some may attempt to distort its meaning and impose cryptic interpretations upon it, but they do so out of theological and philosophical impulses, not exegetical ones.

We find the doctrine of election in the apostles’ usage of several terms. For our study, let us focus on just three: chosen / elect, predestined, and foreknown. Let us take each of these terms in turn. First, the apostles tell us that we are chosen by God. Clearly, we have already established the necessity of our being chosen. As a result of the original guilt that is ours in Adam, the original sin we inherit from him, and the actual sin that we commit every day, none of us is deserving of God’s mercy and grace. We each have inherited an estate of sin and misery. We each deserve hell. Furthermore, none of us choose God, but we each follow slavishly after gods of our own making. Left to our own devices, we are the condemned ones who choose to remain as we are. If we are to be reconciled to God, He must intervene. He must choose either all or some upon whom to place His great mercy and grace.

What does the Bible mean when it uses the terms chosen and elect, though? First, it means that we are individually chosen of God. When a king or a people choose the high-ranking individuals who will lead their armies, they do not choose the whole nation for the task and then offer that any and all volunteers who step forward will have been chosen. When an officer is said to be chosen, that is an individual honor that is being bestowed (Exod. 15:4; Judg. 20:16). When God called out Israel (Deut. 7:6-7; Ps. 105:43), He did not claim to choose both Jacob and Esau and then leave it to them to choose whether they wanted to be His chosen people. The choice was His, and He set His love upon Jacob (Rom. 9:10-13).

We see this concept interspersed throughout our experience on this earth. No child likes to be chosen last for sports. When playing soccer or kickball, team captains are usually selected by the group. Then, the team captains go through and pick from the group each kid that they would like to have on their respective teams. The choice falls to the captains, not to the group. They do not each say, “I choose the group. Now, choose for yourselves.” The same is true in our understanding of adoption. In a family with six kids—three biological children and three adopted—the unique mark that falls upon the ones who were adopted is the fact that they were chosen by their parents. Out of all the other kids that might have been chosen from among the orphans that needed homes, their parents chose them. Children raised by their biological parents do not have this unique privilege.

As children of God, we each have the privilege of knowing that we were chosen in this way. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father,’” (Rom. 8:15; NKJV). Each person who is truly saved has been adopted by God, engrafted into His family, divinely chosen. Yet, it is important to note that the choosing occurs far prior to the receiving of the Spirit of adoption. As the Catechism states, we were elected “from eternity past.”

4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Ephesians 1:4-5; NASB).

Here, we come to our second word touching election: predestined. We are told in Ephesians 1:5 that we were predestined to this adoption. That is what is meant when we are told that we were chosen before the foundation of the world. It means that God’s unique, choosing love was placed upon specific spiritual orphans, and He determined from eternity past the ones upon whom He would set His adopting love and the ones upon whom He would not.

Paul tells us that it was “In love” that we were predestined to this adoption. We must ask ourselves, then, what we know about the God who is said to have placed His love upon us. Does He learn anything? Does He adapt His eternal decrees to meet with new knowledge He has obtained from His observance of us? No. What God knows, He has known from all eternity. What He has decreed will come to pass. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’” (Isa. 46:10; NKJV). What we see, then, is that God’s love for us did not have a beginning. God determined before the foundation of the world, in eternity past, in His infinite, eternal knowledge, that He would set His love upon His elect. For this end, we have been predestined.

Here we come to our third term. What God has loved from eternity past He has loved because of His eternal, infinite knowledge. Thus, the apostles make clear that we are predestined of God precisely because we are foreknown of Him. Some have claimed that the foreknowledge of God means that He foreknows our choice of Him, and thus that He retroactively chooses us. Stop and think what this claim does to our doctrine of salvation, though. If we are chosen because of our choosing, we are ultimately chosen because of something in us. We have reason, then, for boasting. This is the first flaw in this interpretation of the term.

Secondly, this interpretation is flawed because our actions (such as choosing God) are nowhere to be seen in any of the texts that speak of God’s foreknowledge of His elect. Rather, we are told in Ephesians 1:4-5 that we are predestined to adoption in love. It is out of God’s adopting love, then, that we are each made children of God. In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter writes that we are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God,” (NKJV). Nowhere is our choosing of God mentioned. Nowhere is our ability to muster up our own faith mentioned. Nowhere do we find any room for boasting in this verse. Rather, we are chosen precisely because of God’s foreknowledge.

The term for knowledge here is an intimate term denoting a special love that is placed upon the object. In verse 20, when Jesus is said to be foreknown (the verb form of the term used in vs. 2), we know that Peter means an intimate knowledge that the Father had of the Son in eternity. To know someone in the Bible is to have a close, personal, intimate connection. We are told that, when Adam knew Eve, she conceived and bore a son (Gen. 4:1). To be known of God, then, is to be set apart in His particular love.

We are set apart in His particular love for a particular purpose, though. According to the Catechism, we are elected for everlasting life. This means that our election is ultimately eschatological. It points us forward to the last things. It has its roots in eternity, and it secures our place in eternity. Thus, while election is not sufficient in and of itself to save us, it certainly is of utmost necessity in our salvation from the beginning all the way to end.

The Covenant of Grace

Here we come to a great contrast within the Catechism. The estate of man under Adam is a truly wretched estate. In Adam, due to his failure to keep the Covenant of Works, we inherit an estate original guilt and original sin and, as sinners, we actually sin and incur the wrath and judgment of God. We further inherit an estate of misery marked by all the pain and suffering of this world, death, and hell. In Christ the last Adam, due to His perfect obedience, we inherit an estate of salvation. All who are in Christ have Him, not Adam, as their covenant Head. This is what has come to be known as the Covenant of Grace.

A moment’s hesitation before moving forward is wise. Just what is a covenant? we might ask. According to Walter J. Chantry, a covenant is “a sovereignly given arrangement by which man may be blessed,” (Chantry, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, pg. 91). Had Adam and his posterity remained faithful to that first covenant, man would have remained in an estate of holiness, innocence, and joy with all of the blessings of communion with God and abundant provision from His hand. That was the sovereignly given arrangement, but man chose the curse instead of the blessing.

In the Covenant of Grace, God initiates a far greater arrangement. Rather than relying on a finite, fallen man to provide our covenant obedience, all who are in Christ have a Mediator who has perfectly obeyed the Father on their behalf. Thus, they have been transferred from enslavement to the Law, which they could never fulfill, to freedom as sons of the Most High. They do not rely on their own power, nor even could they, but merely on the power of Christ to save. This reliance upon Christ is what the Bible simply and regularly calls faith or belief. Hence, the Covenant of Grace is a covenant of faith, and believers’ covenant, a credo-covenant.

20because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction,” (Romans 3:20-22; NASB; emphasis added).

This Covenant, in its ultimate fulfillment through the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, is what the Bible calls the New Covenant. All of the benefits of the Covenant of Grace were there from the Fall itself. Even in the issuing of the respective curses to the serpent, the woman, and Adam, God provided a promised Seed in which man might find salvation if he looked to Him and not to Adam (Gen. 3:15). Doubtless, as the firstborn, Cain was expected to be that promised seed, but he turned out to be a murderer (Gen. 4:1-8). Not only had Cain become a murderer, but his descendants proved to be unfaithful as well (Gen. 4:19-24).

God preserved His promise, though, through the line of Adam and Eve’s third son: Seth. At the birth of Seth’s first child, Enosh, it is recorded that men began to call upon the name of the Yahweh (Gen. 4:26). For several generations, the line of Seth continued to call upon the name of Yahweh. One of his descendants, Enoch, even walked so closely with God that he did not die, but was simply taken straight to be with God (Gen. 5:24), but not before he had a son. Eventually, however, this god-fearing line of Seth was enticed by the daughters of men, married them, and turned away from God (Gen. 6:1-3). By this generation, only one of Seth’s line was found to still be faithful to Yahweh: Noah. Remembering His promise to Adam and Eve, God destroyed all the world with a flood, but preserved the line of His promised Seed by granting Noah and his family safe passage on the ark (Gen. 6:13-9:1).

The promise of the Seed was further channeled through the line of Abraham and God’s promise to bless him and his Seed. As Sam Waldron explains in A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession, the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant build upon one another such that the temporal, earthly blessings promised to Abraham are conditioned upon the covenant faithfulness of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant (Waldron, A Modern Exposition, pg. 108). The requirement of covenant faithfulness through obedience was only binding toward the end those temporal blessings, though (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18-21; 17:1-8). Those who continued to look forward to the Seed (Gen. 15:1-7), as did Abraham, received a greater, eternal inheritance (Gal. 3:6-9; 15-29). Likewise, all who like Moses consider the reproach of Christ to be greater than the treasures of this world (Heb. 11:24-25) are heirs of a greater promise than those earthly, temporal land promises granted under the Mosaic Covenant.

The law, then, was given to the people of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, but the law was not merely granted as a condemning principle. It operated instead as a condemning principle with a purpose: to render us hopeless and drive us to the Seed in whom we are saved only by mercy. Thus, the promises were granted to those of faith alone from the fall of Adam and Eve until this very day.

21Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe,” (Galatians 3:21-22; NASB).

So we see that, from Adam until now, salvation has always been all of grace. From Adam to Christ, that faith was in the promised Seed. From Abraham to Christ, the promise was bound up within a specific bloodline and, from Moses to Christ, it was largely to be found within specific borders and governed by specific laws. The temporal, earthly blessings of the covenant were furthermore granted to all who were within those borders and governed by those laws without respect to their own personal faith. At the first advent of Christ, though, all of those temporal scaffolds were discarded as unnecessary, and the Covenant of Grace broke through the borders and bloodlines.

Christ mobilized His people and gave them a new command, which is not really a new command: to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 12:1-3; 17:3-8). This multiplication is a multiplication not of physical offspring, but of those who believe as Abraham believed (Gal. 3:7). Now, men of all stripes regardless of household, nation, or ethnicity, are being brought into the estate of salvation by the great and gracious covenant struck by God and conditioned upon the obedience of His Son alone. All praise and glory be to God alone!

Corporate Evangelism (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.



PART VI – Tying It All Together

Lesson Thirteen: Corporate Evangelism

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25; NASB)


Pragmatic Gnosticism. Most books you will read on the art and importance of evangelism will center on what is commonly called personal evangelism. They are in essence how-to manuals that are often filled with bits of special knowledge (gnosis) accumulated through trial and error. One approach to evangelism is only more valid than any other if it is demonstrably valid (pragmatism). In weighing the truthfulness of ideas about evangelism, many Christians have come to agree with the father of modern Pragmatism when he wrote: “Truth happens to an idea,” (William James, Pragmatism, pg. 92).

As a result, those who sell books and get speaking engagements on the matter of evangelism are those who have developed methods and seen them “work.” They are seen both as having a special knowledge about the subject that only they can offer, and as having seen their means justified by their results. This brand of Pragmatic Gnosticism is detrimental to our understanding of evangelism. Just as detrimental, if not more, is any notion that evangelism is primarily meant to be a personal endeavor.

It’s in the realm of personal evangelism that the results of this gnostic, pragmatic Christianity is said to prove its worth. If you follow Joe Schmoe’s approach to evangelism, you will surely see an upsurge in people who “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “invite Jesus into their hearts.” You might even see a greater number of annual baptisms and an increase in church membership.

Individuals or kingdom citizens? We must remember, though, that our goal in evangelism is not to get people through the door or even into the baptismal waters. Our goal in evangelism is to fulfill the whole of the Great Commission: to make disciples, baptize them into covenant membership with a local church, and teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. Our goal in evangelism is to make kingdom citizens, not individuals. Sadly, many of us have come to think like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote: “I am waiting to be shown this prodigy in order to know whether he is man or citizen, or how he manages to be both at the same time” (Rousseau, Emile, pg. 6).

In the kingdom of God, we find our identities chiefly in our kingdom citizenship. Our worship is primarily corporate, and evangelism is calling others into our corporate worship of our sovereign King. We must, then, recognize that our evangelism is also primarily corporate. In our personal interactions with the lost, we must be always ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within us (1Pt. 3:15). We must also be overflowing with love for God and zeal for His kingdom to the point that we cannot but speak of it to the lost in our lives (Tit. 2:14).

Corporate commitment to teaching and preaching. However, we cannot of our own accord expect to give our lost loved ones everything they need for the conversion of their souls. The gospel is deeper and wider than anything we can hope to present in short snippets on our own. Furthermore, no individual Christian is anywhere commanded to teach any one disciple to observe all that Christ commanded outside the context of the regular, corporate assembly of the saints. The primary context for teaching the observance of Christ’s statutes and preaching God’s word is among His people on His Day.

23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:23-25; NASB; cf. John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).

It is as the church comes together as the church that evangelism becomes possible. When we think about evangelism, today, we think of it primarily in terms of making individual converts. In ages past, though, evangelism encompassed the whole of the corporate life of the church. For the Reformers and the Puritans, evangelism meant church planting—evangelism meant missions. These are areas where we really need to broaden our thinking about evangelism.

Corporate recognition of the gifted. It is the church corporate who recognizes godly men who are gifted for the task of preaching and teaching. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me,” (John 10:27; NASB). In this age in which direct, divine revelation has ceased, God directs His church through the indwelling of His Spirit and the leading of humble, yet vigilant, church leaders (Eph. 4:11-13; Acts 20:28-31). It is through the common suffrage of this Spirit-indwelt, elder-led body that God raises up godly men for the ministry.

“The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein,” (The Baptist Confession, 26.9).

Corporate education of the gifted. Consider for a moment the churches that supported Paul on his missionary journeys. They not only enabled him to journey to Ephesus and plant a church. They also enabled him to start up a school of ministry from which church planters like Epaphras were sent out to neighboring cities like Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea to plant even more churches. We can conclude from this noble effort of the first Christians that it is proper for local churches to associate with other likeminded churches to support seminaries and schools of ministry. The result of such schools is the inevitable planting of churches and the furtherance of the kingdom into farther parts of the earth.

One such seminary is being established over the next few years in Fort Worth, Texas, one of just a few Reformed Baptist hubs in the United States. The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies (IRBS) is a joint effort of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) to ensure the education of the next generation of Reformed Baptist pastors. As our church seeks membership in our state and national association, and as the Lord grants success to our evangelistic efforts, we can expect that such noble institutions will eventually benefit from our contributions.

Corporate commitment to church planting and foreign missions. Evangelism means the recognition and education of the gifted, but it also means the sending of the gifted. Evangelism means sending, because evangelism and missions are so intrinsically intertwined. This sending begins locally and works its way outward. Minimally, it means that a church will support fully its local ministry. After that level of local support is achieved, then other local churches can be planted. From there, and through the joint efforts of church associations, support for foreign missions should be a desire.

Support for foreign missions means two things. First, it means the planting of churches. We must recall that every aspect of the Great Commission assumes the local church. If the lost in foreign contexts are to be reached, the corporate church must recognize, educate, and send gifted men. If they are to be baptized into covenant membership with a local church, a local church must be established in that foreign context. Finally, if they are to be taught to observe all that Christ commanded, they must have a local congregation with which to assemble under the ordinary means of grace.

The second thing support for foreign missions means is translation. If new disciples in foreign lands are to be taught to observe all that Christ commanded, they must be able first to hear all that Christ commanded in their own native tongue. This teaching is where charismatics get 1 Corinthians 14 so wrong. Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 14 was primarily on the lost. In the mission field, it was necessary for Paul to be able to speak in multiple tongues, so that people of many different languages might understand the word of God. In a local church context, though, the use of many languages would only confuse the preached word. This was the understanding of the Particular Baptists when, heavily citing 1 Corinthians 14, they confessed:

“The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have a right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded in the fear of God to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope,” (The Baptist Confession, 1.8).

They understood the gift of tongues not as some erratic, unlearned gifting that bore a close relation to direct revelation and, thus, must have ceased with the apostolic era. They understood the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 to be the local expression of the gift of translation from one tongue to another for the edification of the saints and the furtherance of the gospel. Such non-revelatory gifts are still in practice today through translation committees, schools of textual criticism, live translation at multi-lingual local churches, and the mission field. It is not in the least charismatic, therefore, to say that the gift of tongues (translation) never ceased. In fact, this gift must likewise be recognized and honed for the furtherance of the kingdom through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Personal implications. What does this mean for you as the ordinary person in the pew? It has a few different implications. It means that evangelism suddenly means a lot more than trying to figure out how to “break the ice” on a religious discussion while sitting next to a stranger at a ball game. It means a lot more, but it also simplifies matters. Rather than feeling all the weight of trying to figure out the perfect way to break out of your shell and start up conversations with total strangers, you are free to focus on how you can personally help the corporate church to fulfill the Great Commission.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • In submission to God’s word, how might I prayerfully help to recognize the gifted among our body?
  • How does my giving, outreach, and hospitality toward visitors help our local church to be fully sustained, plant churches, support seminaries, and support foreign missions?
  • How can I better support my elders in teaching new disciples to observe all that Christ commanded?
  • How can I be praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission through the efforts of our local church?
  • How might you support your local church’s efforts to fulfill the Great Commission through prayer, regular attendance, hospitality, the discipleship of new believers, and fidelity to the teaching you have received?

Saving Faith (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.



PART V – The Gospel Commands

Lesson Twelve: Saving Faith

8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9; NKJV).


We saw in our last lesson that repentance and faith are commanded of all who hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached. These are not mere requests or invitations any more than a criminal might be requested or invited to stand before a judge or an officer of the law might request or invite a lawbreaker to put his hands in the air. Faith and repentance are required of all who hear the gospel under penalty of eternal judgment.

Last week we considered the command to repent. We also considered the grace given to God’s children to repent. This week, we will examine the same aspects of saving faith. As we mention last week, faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Thus, whereas we are commanded to repent, we are commanded to do so in faith, and whereas we are given grace for repentance, that grace also works in us the necessary faith that works repentance.

The command to believe. In our study, we have considered the purpose of evangelism (the Great Commission), the messengers and the recipients of evangelism, God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness, and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. These are the central messages of God’s redemptive revelation. There are many other very important doctrines of the faith but, taken as a whole, these are the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely a message to be heard, though. It is also a message to be believed. It is a message in which we are to place our full trust, hope, and allegiance. In order to understand what we mean by saving faith, let us take it in three parts. John Murray explains, “There are three things that need to be said about the nature of faith. Faith is knowledge, conviction, and trust,” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 110)..

When we confess that faith is knowledge, we do not mean to deny that faith requires belief. What we mean to say is that faith is belief that is not divorced from knowledge. Faith in Scripture is never presented as being blind faith. Rather, biblical faith is always married to biblical knowledge. Afterall, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Rom. 10:17; NKJV). And what is the word of God if not knowledge of Him received from Him. When we talk about faith, then, we are talking about a substance, an object in which we believe. When we speak of faith, we are speaking about a body of knowledge. We mean to draw our attention to something that ought to be preached, something to be defended. Faith, in this sense, is knowledge.

When we confess that faith is conviction, we mean not merely that we know something, but that we affirm it. It is one thing to assert a truth. It is quite another to agree with it, to assent to it. When we share the gospel with a person at the workplace or catechize our children in our homes or Sunday Schools, we equip them with knowledge through the hearing, but God requires their assent. He requires that they agree with the message that has been preached. He requires that they affirm its truthfulness.

9that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” (Rom. 10:9-11; NKJV).

God not only requires that we know the truth. A man can know a tremendous amount about Buddha or the golden tablets of Moroni without ever being convicted of it. Knowledge and conviction, then, are two very different but necessary elements of saving faith. It was not only necessary for Abraham to know what God had said. He also had to believe Him: “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness,’” (Gal. 3:6; NKJV). He had to be convicted of the truthfulness of the word that had been spoken.

Finally, when we confess that faith is trust, we recognize not only that it is a body of knowledge and that it we must be convicted of its truthfulness. We also confess that we must entrust ourselves unto it. The recipient of the gospel message is not merely being asked to join a club or buy a product. He is being presented with a Savior into Whose hands he is now commanded to entrust not only his eternal soul but, perhaps even more difficult, the remainder of this earthly existence.

The demand that is made upon the life of the disciple of Christ is quite weighty. Christ doesn’t demand bits of the believer here and there. He demands the believer’s whole being. As a skydiver entrusts himself to the parachute the moment he throws himself from the plane, so too the new disciple entrusts himself to Christ from the moment he first bows the knee until he draws his final breath.

The grace to believe. Like repentance, faith is impossible apart from the sovereign grace of God. Let it be known that the whole of the Christian life is all of grace. All that is required of the Christian, including faith, is only accomplished by the sheer grace of God bestowed freely and lovingly upon His children.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9; NKJV).

Grace comes to us as a gracious gift from the God to whom belongs all things and from whom all things are freely given. From heaven the plan of redemption was laid. From heaven Christ came to live the perfect life we could never live. From heaven Christ came to receive the punishment that we deserved. From heaven Christ was sprung from the grace that, for three days, held His body captive. After Christ’s ascension, we received the Holy Spirit from heaven. From heaven also, we receive the minds to perceive and the hearts to believe in the glorious gospel that is afforded us in Christ, from heaven.

Thus, we see that our faith is not merely all of grace. It is more accurately to be stated that our faith is all of Christ. He is both the Author and the Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He is both the Source and the Object of our faith. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen,” (Rom. 11:36; NKJV). As John Murray explains:

“It is to be remembered that the efficacy of faith does not reside in itself. Faith is not something that merits the favour of God. All the efficacy unto salvation resides in the Saviour,” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 112).

Surely, “without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Heb. 11:6; NKJV), but we mustn’t be so foolish as to believe that we can somehow muster this faith on our own. The canal through which our faith is given birth is not the mind, the heart, or the will of man, but the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. No hope, then, is to be placed in the faculties of man.

This knowledge should give us great boldness in our evangelism. When we know that our evangelism does not hinge on man who is prone to fail and err, but on our infallible and inerrant God who has promised to work through the power of the gospel to save souls, we can go in confidence to preach the gospel to a lost and dying world with great confidence. Far from being hindered by sovereign grace in our proclamation of the gospel, we are instead given wings!

Christ’s Obedience in Death (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.



PART IV – Redemption Accomplished

Lesson Nine: Christ’s Obedience in Death

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” (1Pt. 3:18; NASB).


Christians are a peculiar people. We sing songs about death, and we sing them with joy and hope in our hearts. With a sense of great liberation, we sing of one specific death in history. When Christ died, He did not primarily come to die as our example. Certainly, there is a certain character we see on display in Him as He went to His death that is worthy of emulation (1 Peter 2:21-25). Yet we know from observing the whole counsel of Scripture that Christ’s primary purpose in death was not that of setting a good example.

Christ’s purpose in death. If His main purpose were to set a good example, how would that be anything close to good news? If His sole purpose were to set for us an example, the gospel would be reduced down to a message of works righteousness. Christ could be said to have died merely to show us how we might save ourselves. Indeed, there is much we can learn from the cross about how to more accurately and faithfully follow Christ. The primary purpose of the cross, however, was the accomplishment of our redemption.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed,” (Isa. 53:5; NASB).

In Christ, we see that our transgressions (our violation of God’s law) and our iniquities (our evil deeds) were blotted out. As a result of the cross work of Jesus Christ our sin, which we committed in plain sight of the God who sees all things, is remembered no more. As Christ hung on the cross to receive the punishment we deserve for our sins, we now stand before God in His righteousness to receive the privilege only He deserve: the privilege of sonship.

Christ’s volition in death. This death was no mere accident. Nor was it an assassination or a death by natural causes. Such a death would not do. Instead, Christ was tried by men, received the sentencing we deserve, nailed to an accursed tree, and left to die. In this process, another far greater trial was being decided. An infinitely more important penalty was being paid. Almighty God, out of sheer sovereign love for His people and righteous judgment over sin, poured out His wrath on the Son.

“But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand,” (Isa. 53:10; NASB).

Salvation from sin and death comes to the elect by way of Christ’s willing acceptance of the punishment we deserve. The glorious news of the gospel is that Christ receives the punishment we deserve so that we can enter into the privilege only He deserves, and all of this comes to us as a result of the love of God. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8; NKJV). To reduce Christ’s death down to mere example, then, is a criminal offense against the gospel and the God who secured it for us.

We see then that Christ’s mission was not merely one of perfectly obeying God in life, but it was likewise a mission of obedience in death. Christ came to this earth, took on flesh, and lived the perfect life so that He might die the perfect death. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:8; NKJV). Not only did it please God to crush Him, but He willingly came to this earth for that very purpose.

Christ’s sacrifice in death. Christ’s obedience in death not only satisfied the justice of God in punishing our sin. It also met the righteous requirement of the law of God. As such, we cannot conclude our discussion of the cross without mentioning its accomplishment of our atonement through sacrifice. When Christ died on the cross, His death was not merely a penal death. It was also an atoning death. That is, it cleansed us of the sin that separates us from God.

John Murray insists that the death of Christ ought to be viewed in reference to Old Testament sacrifices. In the Old Testament, animals were regularly slaughtered to make atonement for the sins of the people. These sacrifices were expiatory, meaning that they were meant to remove the sin from the sinner in the eyes of God. Murray explains:

“This means that they had reference to sin and guilt. Sin involves a certain liability, a liability arising from the holiness of God, on the one hand, and the gravity of sin as the contradiction of that holiness, on the other. The sacrifice was the divinely instituted provision whereby the sin might be covered and the liability to divine wrath and curse removed,” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg. 25).

What we have then, in the death of Christ, is a complete removal of our identity as sinners and the substitution of a much more glorious identity: the identity of sons. Christ’s sacrifice was the final sacrifice. Nor is there any other. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,” (1Pt. 3:18; NASB).

Union with Christ. When the biblical authors speak of Christ’s obedience in life and death as it applies to us in our redemption, they speak of it primarily in terms of our union with Christ. It’s only by virtue of our union with Christ that we come to be partakers of the great privileges afforded us in the cross. As such, what Christ has accomplished for us the Spirit applies to us as He engrafts us into the body of Christ.

1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:1-3; NKJV).

When Paul writes in Romans six and seven of the Christian’s relationship to sin, he speaks of it in terms of a deceased man. We are those who have died to sin. This is an accomplished action in the past. We no longer live under the threat of the penalty or the reign of sin. When we came to faith in Christ, we were immersed (baptized) into Him and now are seen as perfectly obedient in life and death. What is true of Christ is now true of all who are immersed into Him. We weren’t merely immersed into His obedient life. We were also immersed into His death, and so we have died to sin.

Our great assurance in Christ. This is one reason that Roman Catholics and other cults of Christianity cannot rise above their guilt. If you believe that Christ must be recrucified every mass the atonement cannot possibly be accomplished, and your eternity cannot possibly be secure. The saints of the Old Testament trusted in the God who would eventually make full and final atonement for sins, and we look back to the Messiah who did fully and finally atone for them.

With this great Savior comes great assurance, an assurance that had all but disappeared until the dawn of the Reformation. The only assurance Rome could offer hinged upon the obedience of the individual in her observance of the sacraments. The Bible clearly stands in opposition to such a doctrine. Our assurance is bound up solely in the obedience of Christ in His death, His obedience in burial, and in His resurrection.

Application to evangelism. When speaking with the unbeliever about these matters, it may be necessary to convey just the general idea of what we are here describing. This can be a lot to take in at once. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important that we not merely reduce evangelism down to little five-minute encounters on a street corner, and the gospel down to a five-minute, cookie-cutter presentation. The gospel (the good news) is a multi-faceted diamond that must be observed from several different angles. Reception of the full gospel, then, requires a regular, weekly attendance to the ordinary means of grace, and especially to the preached word of God.

Again, we are not called to be about the work of making converts and leaving them as spiritual orphans. We’re called to make disciples, to baptize them, and to teach them to observe all that Christ commanded. As such, while it is important that disciples search the depths of the obedience of Christ and what is secured for us in it by virtue of our union with Him, we are not necessarily called to try to convey it all in our initial discussions with the unbelievers in our lives. For this reason also, the death of Christ should ever be a central focus of the church and her services.

“With the apostles the church affirms that it was the eternal Son of God, the Word who became flesh, the Lord of glory, who died on Calvary (Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; John 1:1, 14; 20:28; 1 Cor. 2:8). Accordingly, in its best moments, the church has ‘gloried in nothing but the cross’ (Gal. 6:14) and has ‘resolved to know nothing among [the nations] except Christ Jesus and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2),” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, pp. 624-625).

What is meant in Galatians 6:14 and First Corinthians 2:2, that Paul gloried in nothing but the cross and resolved to know nothing among the Corinthian saints except Christ Jesus and Him crucified? Only that the central focus of the gospel ministry ought to be that of the cross work of Jesus Christ. The highest work of the gospel minister is to ever put the crucified Savior on display for the people of God, so that they might come to saving faith in Him and, having been saved, that they might be ushered time and again back to the fountainhead and object of their faith: their crucified Savior.

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 290

Day 290

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.

Chapter 22, Paragraph 8.

“…but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.”

Scripture Lookup

Matthew 12:1-13


Hearing about all the activities to be abstained from on the Sabbath, we might be left asking, “So what do we do on that day?” Images come to mind of sitting around, afraid to twiddle our fingers lest it be constituted as work. Yet there is plenty to be done on Sundays! There are three categories of “works” that we are to engage in on the Lord’s Day: works of piety, works of necessity, and works of mercy.

Since the Sabbath is a day set apart for the worship of God, it is a given that we are to engage in worship on that day. Gathering with our local church body to praise our Savior, to partake in the means of grace, and to encourage one another with edifying speech is proper activity for Sundays. Not only do we attend services, but it is also a time for private devotions as well. Have trouble fitting in private worship during the week? The Lord’s Day is a perfect opportunity to have that quiet time to focus on Him.

Works of necessity are also lawful on the Sabbath. While observing the Lord’s Day does involve a measure of self-denial, it is not meant to be done so ascetically: “…God created the Sabbath to be a blessed day for all men, i.e., a day of refreshment and blessing” (Robert Martin, The Christian Sabbath.) Rather than commanding observance of a day that is austere and harsh, our Lord allows works that are indispensable to our daily living. We do not have to starve ourselves that day, or walk uphill in the snow (both ways!) to service. Doing what is needful is allowed.

Mercy is also a work that is assuredly allowed on the Sabbath. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).  To offer prayers and praise unto God, but to disobey His command to love our neighbor is to not honor the Lord of the Sabbath. As those who have been shown mercy by Christ, it is fitting that we perform acts of mercy. Sunday is not an exception in this case. Caring for the sick and poor, healing when we have the ability to do so, sharing the Gospel with those who are perishing – all are acts that are acceptable on that day.

If we strive to keep the Sabbath as a way to honor God, we will find there is much to be done. Rather than being a day of deprivation, it will be a restful realignment with His will. May we pray that through the Spirit we will be enabled to keep the Sabbath holy.

Questions to Consider

  • Is there anything you don’t do on Sundays that you could start doing?



A Little Time With The 1689: Day 289

Day 289

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.

Chapter 22, Paragraph 8.

“The Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe a holy rest all day, from their own works, words, and thoughts, about their worldly employment, and recreations,…”

Scripture Lookup

Isaiah 58:13

Nehemiah 13:15-22


Vacations take planning. Before we can relax, we have to make sure that things are taken care of: what are we going to eat? Where will we stay? Who will watch the pets while we’re away? Much like planning for a trip away, we also have to plan beforehand in order to observe the Sabbath. To do so, we prepare our hearts and get our affairs in order. Anticipating being away from the everyday cares we possess, we pray that we will not be distracted from keeping the day holy. Any errand that can be done beforehand is taken care of, leaving us free on Sundays to refrain from the things of this world and focus on worshiping our God.

When we observe the Lord’s Day, the ordinary work of the week is put on hold. Paying that bill, buying the week’s groceries, writing that paper – put them all on the waiting list for the next day. Even those things that we can freely enjoy the rest of the week are paused. Time to read that bestselling novel or watch the latest movie? Not happening on the day devoted to God. Sunday is not Saturday redux.

Observing the Christian Sabbath is a hard practice in our modern culture. We seem to live in one of two extremes: either we are wedded to our work, or monogamous to our “me-time.” The Sabbath pushes them off the table altogether and directs us to focus solely on God. Resting from our work, we are demonstrating our reliance on God to provide all of our needs. Ceasing from our own pleasures, we demonstrate the supremacy of God over anything else we do on this earth. Keeping the sabbath holy is not something anyone can do perfectly, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, we may strive to keep it nonetheless. As Christians, let us learn to call the sabbath a delight.

Questions to Consider

  • Is there anything you currently do on Sundays that you should cease?



A Little Time With The 1689: Day 288

Day 288

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.

Chapter 22, Paragraph 7.

“…which from the beginning of the World to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week which is called the Lord’s day; and is to be continued to the end of the World, as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.”

Scripture Lookup

1 Corinthians 16:1,2

Acts 20:7

Revelation 1:10


Until Christ came, the weekly day of rest came at the end of the week. It was a reminder of God’s rest after the work of creation, a time when God called creation “very good.” The entrance of sin broke the peace of that first creation, and humanity experienced the effects of the curse in their toil. Work was burdensome! After working for six days, the Israelites could look forward to a day without labor, a day wholly reserved for the worship of God. The Sabbath pointed toward the future day when they would no longer have to groan under the weight of the ceremonial laws and would be redeemed from their sin.

As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus has the power and authority to determine how His command is to be obeyed. Christ’s resurrection was so momentous that it shifted the order of time itself.  With His resurrection, the benefits of Christ’s mediatorial work were more freely realized. He became the curse and sacrifice for His people, and death no longer held Him. Because His work was finished, Christians no longer looked forward to the end of the week for the day of rest. Instead, the first day of the week was the holy sabbath, commemorating Christ’s finished work of redemption.

As Christians, we have received numerous blessings through Christ. We are forgiven and accepted as righteous before God due to Christ’s obedience imputed to us. We are adopted as sons of God and enabled to call Him “Abba”. The Holy Spirit works in us to do and to will His good pleasure. There is much to be thankful for, and the preeminence of the Lord’s Day in our week demonstrates that. Yet we still have the remaining corruption of sin dwelling in us, and our inheritance of everlasting life will not be fully enjoyed until this life is over. Although our Sabbath is first and foremost in our week, we still work the other six days. Our toil is sweetened, however, by living in light of the rest Christ has procured for us, and looking to the ultimate rest that is to come.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you consider Sunday to be, as the hymn says, the “day of all the week the best”?



A Little Time With The 1689: Day 287

Day 287

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.

Chapter 22, Paragraph 7.

“As it is the Law of nature, that in general a proportion of time by God’s appointment, be set apart for the Worship of God; so by his Word, in a positive-moral, and perpetual Commandment, binding all men, in all Ages, he has particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath to be kept holy unto him,…”

Scripture Lookup

Exodus 20:8



Thanksgiving Day.

Memorial Day.

Notice a pattern?

We don’t have Thanksgiving hour or sing “Happy Birth Minute.” Naturally, we set aside a whole day when we want to pause and observe an occasion, even in the secular world. One day, out of the ordinary, to commemorate, gather, and remember.

God has instituted the acceptable way of worshiping Him. Through His word we learn who is to be worshiped, where we may worship, how we are to worship, and even why we are to worship. Naturally we are told when we are to worship God as well. One day in seven we are to stop and devote to God. Not a minute or a morning, but a whole day reserved for Him.

Setting apart a whole day for the worship of God may seem tiresome and inconvenient. But what commandment isn’t tiresome and inconvenient to the corrupted soul? Thankfully, the Holy Spirit enables the regenerate believer to “cast his soul upon the truth thus believed” and to yield “obedience to the commands…of God” (LBCF 14.2).

Questions to Consider

  • Are you setting aside one day to worship God, or simply one morning?



A Little Time With The 1689: Day 286

Day 286

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.

Chapter 22, Paragraph 6.

“…so more solemnly in the public Assemblies, which are not carelessly, nor willfully, to be neglected, or forsaken, when God by his word, or providence calls thereunto.”

Scripture Lookup

Hebrews 10:25

Acts 2:42


“All of life is worship.”

You may have heard that phrase before. It is usually spoken by someone chafing at the idea of a structured time of corporate worship. On the surface, it sounds great. After all, God is worshiped without ceasing in heaven, and all of creation is created to bring Him glory. God is always deserving of our worship. That doesn’t stop, so it makes sense that we should worship Him at all times.

However, the problem with making all of life an act of worship is that when you don’t set aside specific time for the explicit worship of God, it becomes difficult to separate actual worship from everyday occurrences. If you’re late to a meeting and have to wolf down a cheeseburger, is that an act of worship? No, it’s not. There has to be a distinction between times of worship and ordinary time. The public assembly of the saints is time specifically set aside for the worship of God.

Most Christians do not have a problem with attending church – when it is convenient for them. Yet when presented with more appealing options, church is quickly dismissed. Attend a wedding the night before so you’re groggy the next day? Sleep in instead of attending church. On vacation on a Sunday? Didn’t research churches in the area, so you don’t go anywhere. Have a chance to attend a sports game/play/whatever? Can’t miss the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when you can go back to church next week!  Such thinking is sadly the norm. Whether she realizes it or not, the Christian that chooses to miss the weekly assembly for the sake of other pleasures, no matter how rarely they occur, demonstrates the truth of Matthew 6:21:

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Worshiping with the body of Christ is to be a more formal occasion than our own private devotions or family worship. It is once again laying aside our conveniences and pleasures for the sake of worshiping God and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is submitting ourselves to God’s command to meet together to worship Him. Obey His command, meet with your church for worship, and do not be so quick to forego the assembly.

Questions to Consider

  • Do your actions show you treat church attendance as nice, but not necessary?