Friday, December 19, 2014

Spurgeon: Grace has a discipline

From his sermon on Titus 2:11-14:
Secondly, I have to call your attention to THE INSTRUCTION which is given to us by the Grace of God which has appeared unto all men. Our translation runs thus—“The Grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” A better translation would be, “The Grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, disciplining us in order that we may deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” Those of you who know a little Greek will note that the word which, in our version, is rendered, “teaching,” is a scholastic term and has to do with the education of children—not merely the teach- ing, but the training and bringing of them up. The Grace of God has come to be a schoolmaster to us, to teach us, to train us, to prepare us for a more developed state. Christ has manifested in His own Person that wonderful Grace of God which is to deal with us as with sons, to educate us unto holiness and so to the full possession of our heavenly heritage. We are the many sons who are to be brought to Glory by the discipline of Grace. 

So then, first of all, Grace has a discipline. We generally think of law when we talk about schoolmasters and disci- pline, but Grace, itself, has a discipline and a wonderful training power, too. The manifestation of Grace is preparing us for the manifestation of Glory. What the Law could not do, Grace is doing. The free favor of God instills new principles, suggests new thoughts and, by inspiring us with gratitude, creates in us love to God and hatred of that which is opposed to God. Happy are they who go to the school of the Grace of God! This Grace of God entering into us shows us what was evil even more clearly than the Commandments do. We receive a vital, testing principle within whereby we discern be- tween good and evil. The Grace of God provides us with instruction, but also with chastisement, as it is written, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.” As soon as we come under the conscious enjoyment of the Free Grace of God, we find it to be a holy rule, a fatherly government, a heavenly training. We find not self-indulgence, much less licentiousness, but, on the contrary, the Grace of God both restrains and constrains us—it makes us free to holiness and delivers us from the law of sin and death by “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” 

All Around the Web - December 19, 2014


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Women

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Women


In his book Baptists Through the Centuries, Dr. David Bebbington begins his chapter on baptists women with this pronouncement: "The role of women among Baptists has generally been neglected by historians" (157). Part of the reason for this is simple. Most notable baptists, from theologians to pastors to leaders, have been predominantly male. "Yet," the author notes,"a majority of church members have normally been female."

Therefore, Bebbington offers a historic survey of the role of women in baptists life and it is a fascinating tale. Although I will not rehash the full story here, it is important to note that women have always played a central role among the Baptists. The author notes that in 1607, John Smyth "asserted that the prophets in the church, the expositors of God's word, must be male only," yet "Smyth accorded women and young people a share in the decision-making of the church" (159)

He then goes on to highlight a number of influential women including Catherine Scott, Dorothy Hazzard, Martha Stearns Marshall, Sarah Jonhston Stearns, Ann Judson, Lotti Moon, and others.

What primary roles did women play in Baptists life? Bebbington notes several. "One was the cultivation of Christian experience" (164). Another was writing. Several influential books over the centuries were penned by women. Furthermore, the roles of childcare and philanthropy were prominent roles. Perhaps most significant was the role they played in missions. Most notable here are Ann Judson, who died on the mission field, and Lotti Moon.

Then there is the following:
In society at large Christian women played an increasing role as reformers as the nineteenth century wore on. In its earlier years, female Baptists were to be found in the Northern pressure groups designed to abolish slavery, and they were active in the burgeoning temperance movement on both sides of the Atlantic. The Women's Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1873 in order to achieve the prohibition of alcohol, mobilized more American women than any other organization of the century. The campaign for social purity also gathered large-scale support, aiming to rescue prostitutes from their way of life, to oppose the double standard in sexual morality that tolerated male patronage of brothels, and to protect children from sexual exploitation by raising the age of consent. By the First World War it was expected that baptist women would endorse a range of good causes. The Women's Missionary Union of the Southern baptists announced in 1917 its support for "those forces in our country which make for righteousness: patriotism, Sabbath observance, the sacredness of the home, the effort toward a more general re-establishment of the family altar, and the crusade against poverty, disease, illiteracy, vice, and crime." These causes brought women into the political fray even though they did not have the vote. Some saw exclusion from the franchise as an injustice to be fought, and Baptists were to be found in the ranks of those demanding votes for women. . . . Baptist women, though usually dutiful toward their fathers and husbands, were by no means always silent and passive. (169)
Much of the rest of the chapter focuses on the question of women in ministry. This discussion is inevitable and I will not rehash it here. He notes that two major events include the women's suffrage movement in the early half of the twentieth century and the modern radical feminists from the 1960s. Though the issue remains debated today, it has largely become a background issue. Churches largely identify as either egalitarian or complimentarian.

Ultimately, however, what we ought to get from this chapter regards the important role of women in baptists life. Too often we give notice to theologians and pastors without realizing that much of their work is done in the background by lesser known persons. No church would survive without its female members. God uses us all regardless of gender.

All Around the Web - December 18, 2014


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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spurgeon: The Gem of Gospel Gems

From his sermon on Titus 2:11-14
We learn, also, at first sight, that Paul believed in a great redemption. “Who gave Himself for us that He might re- deem us from all iniquity.” That word, “redemption,” sounds in my ears like a silver bell! We are ransomed, purchased back from slavery and this at an immeasurable price—not merely by the obedience of Christ, nor the suffering of Christ, nor even the death of Christ, but by Christ’s giving Himself for us. All that there is in the great God and Savior was paid down that He might “redeem us from all iniquity.” The splendor of the Gospel lies in the redeeming Sacrifice of the Son of God and we shall never fail to put this to the front in our preaching! It is the gem of all the Gospel gems! As the moon is among the stars, so is this great doctrine among all the lesser lights which God has kindled to make glad the night of fallen man! Paul never hesitates—he has a Divine Savior and a Divine redemption—and he preaches these with unwavering confidence. Oh that all preachers were like Paul! 

All Around the Web - December 17, 2014

The Spectator - Gay marriage and the death of freedom

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The Week - Obama quotes nonexistent Bible verse in immigration speech

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Introduction
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Roots in the Reformation
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The Anabaptists 
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - The General vs. the Particular Baptists
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - 18th Century Revival
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Theological Polarization
"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and the Social Gospel

"Baptists Through the Centuries": Blogging Through Bebbington - Baptists and Race


Thus far, there has only been one chapter I have not enjoyed in David Bebbington's book Baptists Through the Centuries. My distaste for it does not regard the author or his writing, but the tragic history he tells in it. Baptists do not have a history on race relations worth bragging about it. As a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, our history is particularly distasteful. The challenge of racism is yet another reminder of why theology should trump cultural assumptions.

The author begins by stating that early on, Baptists "drew in people of color from an early stage" (139). Later, however,
race was a profoundly divisive issue. For much of the history of the Baptists, many of the white members of their churches saw themselves as inherently superior, while members of other racial groups were victims of neglect, disdain, or far worse. In particular, slavery was enforced by white Baptists on black people who were often their coreligionists. Human beings were bought, sold, and treated as pieces of property like sheep or cattle. Even after the abolition of slavery, Baptists in the United States deliberately denied full civil rights to their fellow citizens on the basis of race. (140)
We already know that tragic story. But Bebbington also reminds us that that story is not the full story. He adds:
There is, however, another side to the story. Baptists participated in the struggles against the salve trade and the institution of slavery. Subsequently they played a foremost part i the campaign against he denial of civil rights. So, at times, some members of the denomination were perpetrator so racial discrimination, but equally others became champions of its demise. The Baptists' engagement with racial questions forms a remarkably checkered history. (140)
What follows in this chapter is the story between of how some Baptists held on tightly to racial discrimination while others fought hard to abolish racism. Heroic names like William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, and Billy Graham feature prominently in this chapter. I was surprised and unaware of W. A. Criswell's stance on this issue. Fortunately the SBC publicly repented and apologized for its part in racial discrimination in 1992.

In the end, two observations are worth being made here. First, though racism is largely abolished in America it still remains that the most segregated hour each week is Sunday worship. It should bother the Christian conscience that there remain black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches, etc. The work of reconciliation will not end until people of every tongue, tribe, nation, and race worship together here as we will there.

Secondly, theology should drive the acts of the church, not culture. Racism, especially in the South, became part of their identity. Instead of seeing the evil of slavery, many held on tightly to "the way things have always been."

Fortunately the gospel is more powerful than racism. Let us pray it continues to open eyes.