Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do Believers Have a Free Will? Why it matters...

She sat in front of me frustrated and afraid. “I can't make my heart good enough,” she said. “I know Jesus says to trust Him and love Him, but I sin all the time.” I asked, “Do you trust Jesus to pay for all your sins on the cross?” “I don't know,” the little girl answered. “I think I do. But I still sin. And sometimes I love my sin more than Jesus.” I said, “I know. I do too sometimes. But the Bible says that all believers keep on sinning. When God saves us, He doesn't make us able to stop sinning completely. He doesn't save us because we're good, or because we're able, but only because Jesus is good, and He is able. And the more we see and believe how great and good Jesus is, the more we will love Him. And the more we love Him, the more we will obey His commandments.”

The Bible's teaching about the human will is immensely practical. It has been my experience that when people debate about the nature of free will, or discuss the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, the practical implications of the discussion are sometimes lost or minimized. But all of the Bible's doctrines are food for our faith, given to strengthen us in the knowledge of Christ and in obedience to His good commandments.

Take the doctrine of the human will for example. Some people believe that we have the ability to choose to obey any of God's commands at any time in our lives. That's their definition of free will. They think that if God's Word tells us to do something, then God must have given us the ability to do it. The command implies an ability to obey it. When God says to love Him with all of our hearts, they believe that means we are able to love Him with all of our hearts. When God says to keep all of His commandments, they believe that our wills have the ability to keep all of His commandments, if we would just choose to do so. If they're right, then theoretically, we could all choose to be just like Jesus right now. We could, if we chose, simply become like Christ. It might be very hard, since we've built up so many bad habits over time, but we could do it. People who live their lives under this view of the human will often start to feel very much like the little girl I was speaking with in the example above. They wonder if they really love Jesus at all, since they sin so often. They think think that if they really love Jesus, then they should be able to do all that He commands, if they only exert enough effort to obey Him.

The problem with that way of understanding the human will is that the Bible teaches something very different.  People who believe that they have free wills that are able to obey all of God's commands are setting themselves up for tremendous failure, discouragement and doubt. The Apostle Paul, a mature believer, said, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom 7:18).  He went on to say, “For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom 7:22-23). Even mature believers have two laws at war within them. They have the impulses of remaining and indwelling sin, and they have the godly desires of a new nature. The believer wants to obey all of God's commandments, and he always grows in faithful obedience over time. But, sadly, the believer also wants to sin. Galatians 5:17 explains, “For the desires of the flesh are set against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Notice that the believer's sinful desires “keep” him from “doing” God's commands.

In no way, however, does a believer's inability to obey all of God's commands eliminate his responsibility to obey them. Believers are fully responsible to do everything God says. Our problem is that on this side of heaven, we are not yet able to do so. This means that believers will continue to sin. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And that means that we continually have reason to look away from ourselves to Jesus Christ. Our sin is evil. It is not good, but it is always a good opportunity to thank God for Christ.  That was how the Apostle Paul dealt with his own remaining sin. Paul said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 7:24-8:1).  When we look upon Christ and see His goodness, love, mercy, and glory, our wills are strengthened, "in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but the Spirit" (Rom 8:4).

This biblical doctrine of the human will changes everything. It means that we live in tension. The little girl I spoke with needed to learn the Bible's doctrine of the will, that it is not yet free to be perfect.  And she needed to learn that her sins are an occasion for her to remember the great gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone will give her strength to walk in Christ's merciful commandments more and more. We cannot be perfect, but we can learn to live by faith in Christ every day, one day at a time. J.C. Ryle wisely said, “Let us not expect too much from our own hearts here below. At our best we shall find in ourselves daily cause for humiliation, and discover that we are needy debtors to mercy and grace every hour. The more light we have, the more we shall see our own imperfection. Sinners we were when we began, sinners we shall find ourselves as we go on: renewed, pardoned, justified – yet sinners to the very last.”

Tom Hicks

Friday, April 26, 2013

Uses of the Law in Psalm 119

As New Covenant believers, we are no longer under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Christ’s atoning work on the cross saves us from the burden of keeping the law perfectly (Philippians 3:12-16). However, does that mean we no longer need it? What good is the law for us today?

Below are a few answers to that question from Psalm 119. This by no means is an exhaustive list; the depths of Psalm 119 could not be plumbed in an entire lifetime. Rather, think of this as a starting point for considering the uses and purposes of God’s law.

God’s Law exposes our sin.

God uses the law as a benchmark for holiness. When people wander from His commands, God’s punishment will eventually follow (vs. 21). Those who do live according to the law are contrasted with the insolent (vs. 85), wicked (vs. 95, 110), evildoers (vs. 115), foes (vs. 138-139), and persecutors with an evil purpose (150). God’s law is the standard by which man is currently, and will be ultimately, judged.

God’s Law points us to Christ.

God’s word points us to Christ by making us long for coming salvation (vs. 81). Because the weight of our own inability to keep God’s law is ever before us, we are driven to our knees. We plead for our holy God to bring the promised redeemer who will show us salvation (vs. 81-82, 123, 174). Unlike the wicked ones who know not His statues, we desire to have salvation brought near (vs. 155).

God’s Law guides us in holiness.

As strangers and sojourners in this barren land, we are not left without instructions. Just as the Old Testament Jews had Moses as their guide to the promise land, we too have been given instructions for life as we wait to enter our eternal promise land (vs. 54). God’s law shows us the path we should follow, and illumines our way through the darkness (vs. 101, 105). The law shows us how to become blessed in the Lord (vs. 1). The testimonies of the Lord serve as a guard to keep us from unnecessary afflictions (vs. 67), and they keep us from being put to shame (vs. 6, 46).

God’s Law fuels worship.

When we begin to see what Christ has done for us, how he has perfectly kept all the law of God on our behalf, then we will be driven to praise Him for His righteousness (vs. 62). God’s steadfast love (vs. 64, 159), His great mercy (vs. 156), His perfect righteousness (vs. 142), and His justice (vs. 149), are all reasons listed for praising Him. God’s holy Law helps our souls live and praise Him (vs. 175). Once we have learned His righteous rules, we will begin to praise Him with an upright heart (vs. 7).

God’s Law is a delight to His children.

When believers mature and learn that God has given His law as a blessing to us and not a burden, then His testimonies become a delight to us (vs. 24, 35, 111, 143, 174). We can praise our gracious Father because He loves us enough to keep us from harm. Eventually, just as the psalmist proclaims, we come to love the law of God (vs. 47, 48, 129, 159, 167). We cherish the law more than gold or silver (vs. 72, 127). One who observes the law will know a peace that can only come from above (vs. 165), and will taste a sweetness that can only be known through obedience (vs. 103).

As we have seen, the law of the Lord remains vitally important in the life of believers. As you reflect upon God’s law and it’s role in your life, may you be ever pressed toward Christ, molded into His image, and driven toward increasingly sweet worship of our Triune God.

Jon English Lee
PhD Student, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Voddie Baucham at the 2013 Founders Breakfast

Every year at the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Founders Ministries hosts a breakfast featuring a speaker, free books, fellowship and encouragement for those attending the convention and those who live in the area. This year's breakfast features Dr. Voddie Baucham, who will speak on "The Reformation We Need."

Voddie and family at one of their six adoption finalizations
Voddie is no stranger to most Southern Baptists. His is a widely-read author, a world-renown speaker, church planting pastor, a fiercely devoted, adoptive parent and a husband who out-married himself by a long shot. What you may not know about Voddie is that he is also a championship fighter who is training in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With an gold medal at the Houston International Open, he now has his sights set on a Pan Am and possibly world championship.

I wouldn't bet against him.

Gives a whole new meaning to "Bad Voddie"
Voddie has been an unapologetic fighter for the cause of God and truth for more than twenty years. He has championed biblical teaching on manhood, marriage and fatherhood while standing firmly in the same historic, confessional and baptistic stream of the faith that also includes such notable Christian leaders as Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, James Boyce, Basil Manly, Sr. (and Jr.) and John Broadus.

If you are anywhere in the Houston area on June 11, 2013, you should plan to come hear him speak at the Founders Breakfast. The breakfast will be held at the

George R. Brown Convention Center
Room 352 D/E/F, Level 3

Tickets are $25. Register before May 15 for a $5 discount. Registration deadline is May 30. It is not unusual for the breakfast to sell out, so register early.

Register online here.

Tom Ascol

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baptists and Covenant Theology? Two new books show a strong connection

One of the theological questions I have been asked often during my first 24 months as pastor has gone something like this “Why do you talk about Covenant Theology as if Baptists believe it? Isn’t that a Presbyterian thing?" My answer (which is consistently “Yes, Baptists have historically believed Covenant Theology that obviously differs at key points from our Presbyterian brethren.”) has puzzled some and made others curious enough to launch their own study of my conclusion. But my dear friend Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground Books (www.solidgroundbooks.com) in Birmingham, Alabama, the city where I am blessed to serve as pastor, has recently published two books that provide substantive historical and biblical answers to the question of Baptists and their relationship to Covenant Theology.

The first work is titled The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism by Pascal Denault. The pivot point separating the Baptist and non-Baptist versions of Covenant Theology is, of course, the subjects (The “who?”) of baptism. In the concise span of 140 pages, Denault’s work provides a brilliant historical, biblical and theological defense of believer’s baptism and offers an excellent overview of the consistent, biblical Covenant Theology which the Calvinistic (Particular) Baptists of 17th century England held dear. Denault surveys British Particular Baptists who held to Covenant Theology such as Nehemiah Coxe and Benjamin Keach and also shows biblically how paedobaptists misinterpret the continuity between the promises given to Abraham in the OT and baptism in the NT to arrive at the conclusion that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of membership in the covenant people of God. The author traces the points at which historic Baptists and their fellow Puritans parted ways on issues of the continuity and discontinuity between the old and new testaments and argues forcibly that Baptists more consistently held to a biblical version of Covenant Theology. I would love to see more Reform-minded Baptist pastors engage this compelling little volume. 

The second work, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, is a multi-author book and includes
chapters from contributors such as Justin Taylor, Fred Malone and Walter Chantry. Like the Denault book, this work is brief in compass (161 pages, including three appendices) and each of the five well-written chapters examines a separate issue related to the covenants of Scripture, ranging from baptism to the question of the existence of a covenant of works. Earl M. Blackburn, editor of the work, opens with an excellent overview of Covenant Theology and Malone follows with a discussion of biblical hermeneutics and Covenant Theology. This work, like Denault’s book, offers an accessible survey of the Baptist version of Covenant Theology and I heartily recommend them both for your spring or summer reading.

Jeff Robinson

Monday, April 22, 2013

Confessing the Faith

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith has long been a treasured resource and teaching tool for Baptist churches. C.H. Spurgeon said of this confession in 1855:
"This ancient document is the most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us. It is not issued as an authoritative rule or code of faith, whereby you may be fettered, but as a means of edification in righteousness. It is an excellent, though not inspired, expression of the teaching of those Holy Scriptures by which all confessions are to be measured. We hold to the humbling truths of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of lost sinners. Salvation is through Christ alone and by faith alone."
Founders Press has made available a modern-language edition of the 1689 Confession entitled: Confessing the Faith: The 1689 Baptist Confession for the 21st Century.

The 1689 Confession has served churches well to promote doctrinal clarity and unity, and to keep us anchored in Scripture as our “only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience.” So why the need for a new edition with updated language? Michael Haykin explains in the Foreword to Confessing the Faith:
"The truths that this confession promoted fell out of favor for much of the twentieth century, but in the last fifty years there has been a great recovery of gospel truth among Evangelicals and once again there are those deeply committed to the doctrines of this confession. The English language, however, has changed over time, and just as there are phrases in the Authorized Version (1611), also known as the King James Version, that are no longer as clear as they once were due to linguistic change, so it is the case with the 1689 Confession. For this reason, this new rendition of the confession by Dr. Reeves is indeed welcome. He has sought to render it readable by the typical twenty-first-century Christian reader, but with minimal change and without sacrificing any of the riches of the original text. I believe he has succeeded admirably in both of these aims."
You can compare for yourself the original 1689 Confession and Confessing the Faith in a side-by-side excerpt of Chapter 11: On Justification.

From now through the end of the month (April 30, 2013) you can purchase a copy of Confessing the Faith from our online store at a special price: $1.00 for the digital edition for Apple iBooks and the Nook and for Kindle and Kindle Fire; and $3.00 for the print edition.

Ken Puls

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Andrew Fuller's Wise Counsel to Pastors

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), a "strict" Calvinistic Baptist theologian, had the heart of a faithful and loving pastor. As a practical and pastoral theologian, he wanted the Bible's theology to inform and shape the whole of pastoral ministry. 

Reflecting on Titus 2:15, "Let no one disregard you," Fuller wrote a brief sketch titled “Ministers Should be Concerned Not to be Despised.” Based on his knowledge of Christ's Word and the human soul, Fuller compiled a list of things pastors should do to keep others from despising them in their work of pastoral ministry.  I've updated the language a bit and condensed the content, but here's Fuller's theologically charged and practically useful counsel: 

Let No One Despise You in the Pulpit 

1. Avoid artificial speech of every kind, especially that which is designed to impress others. Stay away from high sounding words, airs, and gestures meant to show others your learning or superiority. 

2. Avoid all self-seeking.  Never preach yourself.  Preach only the Lord Jesus.  Don't seek the approval of men but desire God to approve of your life and doctrine. 

3. Avoid all vulgarity and low wit or silly speech.  The pulpit is not the place for low speech or light anecdotes designed solely to make people laugh.   

4. Never advance sentiments without being able to support them by Scripture.  Don't think that forceful assertion can replace clear evidence from the Bible. 

5. Beware that you don't preach an unfelt gospel.  If you do, others will notice, and they will despise you.  The people will see that you scarcely believe what you teach.   

6. Don't let the fear of man keep you from declaring the whole counsel of God.  Speak the whole of God's truth in love, and you will commend yourself to every man's conscience.   

7. Never degrade the pulpit by rebuking individuals in your preaching.  You must rebuke with authority, but the sins of individuals should be addressed privately.   

Let No One Despise Your Behavior in the Church 

1. Do not lord it over God's people.  Expect others to overrule your judgments in some cases, and learn to yield to them with cheerfulness when the difference pertains to non-essentials. 

2. But always have a judicious opinion of your own.  This is good on every subject, and when it's an important subject, you ought to be firm and resolute in your declarations. 

3. Do not put on an air of superiority.  No men are more despised than those who strut about with lordly dignity, and give themselves consequential airs.  Better to feel yourself a Christian and associate with other Christians than pretend superiority.   

4. But preserve dignity of manner and demeanor.  Pastors should never sink into low ridiculous behavior or coarse speech meant to be comical or whimsical.  They should carry themselves with honor and grace.

5. Beware uselessly spending inordinate amounts of time with people lest they despise you.  Look well to your visits.  Preach from house to house.   

Let No One Despise Your Conduct in the World 

1. Let your conduct correspond to your preaching.  The world will watch you.  You may "put off" the "preacher" when you're with unbelievers.  But never "put off" the man of God.   

2. Never be ashamed of Christ or His Word in any company.  You don't have to mention Christ on every occasion, but never be cowardly or timid about Him.  Always be ready to speak plainly of the Lord Jesus.

See Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (1801; reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 1:489-491.

by Tom Hicks

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Pastors Can Keep from Losing Heart (Part 1)

Paul found a way to keep from losing heart in his ministry, even though his trials in the world and the church likely were much greater than either you or I will ever experience. 

Paul continually remembered that he was a vessel of God’s undeserved mercy. 

2 Corinthians 4:1 says, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart." 

Paul draws this conclusion from the previous chapter which explains how God had appointed him a minister “of the new covenant.” He had received his ministry by God’s undeserved mercy. There was no basis for getting a big head or for thinking that he deserved better treatment. But there is more to it than that. Paul himself had received sovereign mercy in his salvation as well as his appointment to ministry. The text literally says, “as we have been mercied (once for all), we do not lose heart.” 
1 Timothy 1:12-16 says, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."
Mercy and grace received in Christ alone kept Paul's heart loving sinners just like himself, even when they persecuted him for bringing God’s truth to them. For this reason, Paul was able to wrestle through the temptations of losing heart and growing weary in well-doing. 

In another place, Paul lists temptations to despair, to be crushed, to be destroyed, to lose heart, but he explains how the mercy he received kept his mind and heart serving the Lord and giving up his life for the good of others' souls: 
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 says, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you." 
The mercy Paul received in Christ and Him crucified protected his mind and heart from the temptations he experienced. No matter what happened to him, no matter how others responded to his ministry, he was not forsaken by the One who suffered on the Cross for his soul’s salvation. He had been bought with the price of precious blood; therefore, he was committed to glorify God in his body, whether by life or by death. The dying of Jesus for his soul moved him to die for others’ souls no matter what they did to him. 

How then can the pastor keep from growing weary in well-doing or losing heart, especially when people do not respond to the gospel, or when Christians in the church do not grow as they should? 

You have to keep on remembering what you were before mercy came to you. You have to remember the mercy which came upon the cross. You have to count God's mercy in Christ as the greatest joy of your life in the midst of persecution, opposition, rejection, and being ignored. You have to deny yourself, take up the cross daily, and follow Him. 

Only mercy received can renew your inner man each day while your outer man is being used up to give life to others.  That's why Paul concluded this chapter with these unselfish words of faith in God’s eternal mercy: 
2 Corinthians 4:15-18 says, "For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Fred A. Malone

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Joy of Confessing: Original Sin

I recently returned from giving a series of lectures on the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. The exercise was stimulating (at least to me) and gave a real sense of privilege and gratitude for blessing. In particular, I mean the blessing of joining with the saints of decades and centuries gone by in confessing truths that have been revealed by God—redemptive truths that bear within them the matter for endless praise. We get to state and meditate on what Paul called “the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9). 

Confessions of faith give witness to these truths as well as our confidence that they are clear and may be synthesized into a “form of sound words.” The family of confessions surrounding the NHC, both before and after, share a doctrinal witness historically summarized as “the doctrines of grace.” When Boyce explained why the committee appointed to produce the documents that would give foundation to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote its own confession, The Abstract of Principles, he explained that one feature upon which all were agreed was that it must have “a complete exhibition of the fundamental doctrines of grace.” 

That position had been a mainstay of Baptist confessional adherence leaping in the womb from which Southern Baptists were born for more than two centuries before Boyce wrote that explanation. When the Philadelphia Association in 1752 received a “query” asking whether “a person denying unconditional election, the doctrine of original sin, and the final perseverance of the saints, and striving to affect as many as he can, may have full communion with the church?” they answered that they could not “allow that any are true members of our churches who deny the said principles.” Their affirmation and brief explanation of all three doctrines included a statement on original sin. “We,” so they believed, “are originally sinful or partakers of the first sin of human nature, being included in Adam when he was created, [and] are justly shut out of our native happiness, and have lost our right thereunto forever, unless our title be restored by the second Adam the Lord from heaven., by being effectually called in time.” They went on to call this doctrine, and the others included in the query, “next to the belief of an eternal God,” as fundamental doctrines of Christianity on which our faith must rest. 

Well, still, our faith and our formal confessions of faith must rest on that truth. The Abstract states, “his [Adam’s] posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.” The Baptist Faith and Message (hereafter BFM) reads, “his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” 

The phrase "nature and environment inclined toward sin" [the environment is, not trees and mountains, but people, rational moral beings, already involved in the course of sinfulness before God] views men as already sinful and transgressing. The fact that, according to the Bible, there never has been and never will be an individual born from Adam’s vine who does not sin, argues for an explanation of universal depravity, that is, a propensity that necessarily produces sin. Does such a moral propensity not involve real guilt? Andrew Fuller wrote in 1778, before he published The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, “Destitute of the last, i.e. of an inclination or heart to do good, which all men by nature are, all our natural powers are of no avail to the performance of good, since internal inclinations are those by which all external actions are entirely guided and governed.” His use of the word “inclination” is consistent with the use of that word in theological discussion. A heart “inclined toward sin” means that the direction of the heart at its inception is against God, and unless arrested by some power extrinsic to it, will proceed in a continual descent of sin. The moment of conception involves that inclination, (“inherit a nature . . . inclined toward sin” BFM) and in its preferences and propensities, already a moral being at conception, is inclined away from holiness and righteousness, and is thus, per the Abstract of Principles, “corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law.” These confessions embody Jesus’ teaching when he incriminated the so-inclined heart as the evil fountain from which evil actions arose. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:23). An inclination to evil has no moment of innocence but already is weighted with guilt. 

From whence is such a heart? Under divine inspiration, David lamented, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” (Psalm 58:3) By way of personal application, David confessed, ”Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Transgression abides first of all in heart—disposition and inclination of soul to disregard God’s law. The environment-inclined-toward-sin is the sum total of all the natures-inclined-toward-sin since the fall of Adam. An inclination toward sin in the status of no condemnation is a contradiction. Jesus taught that the heart problem is fundamental to sin and Paul's description of transgressors as "by nature children of wrath" seems to focus on that same point. The "nature inclined toward sin" followed Adam's transgression and constituted the punishment of spiritual death that immediately came upon him and, as the BFM affirms [“whereby”], passed on all men by inheritance (Romans 5:12). The presence of this punishment implies the pre-existent condition of guilt. Otherwise we have the punishment for guilt, but have no guilt. Jesus suffered without guilt and was punished without personal guilt, but no other of the sons of men has ever done so. Apart from the virgin-conceived-and-born Son of Man, Adam’s vine has never produced an innocent fruit. 

This teaching of the Scripture, and the confessions, does not flatter man, but certainly prepares him to count everything as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. 

Tom J. Nettles 
Professor of Historical Theology 
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Drop That Grew Into a Torrent

Charles H. Spurgeon is well known as a great preacher and pastor. He championed the truth of God's Word and labored to make known the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon, however, was also a hymn-writer and compiler of hymns. He prepared a collection of hymns for use at the Metropolitan Tabernacle during his ministry. And he composed hymns.

The last hymn written by Spurgeon is included in the second volume of his autobiography, The Full Harvest, reprinted by Banner of Truth in 1973. On pages 426-427 he provides the words to the hymn and the following account:
The hymn was written in the early part of the year 1890, and was inserted in the programme used at the next College Conference. Those who were present, on that occasion, are not likely to forget the thrilling effect produced when five hundred ministers and students joined in singing it to the tune 'Nottingham'. At the commencement, all sat and sang; but as they came to the later verses, they spontaneously rose, the time was quickened, and Mr. Manton Smith's cornet helped to swell the volume of praise expressed by the writer.
The hymn is a glorious expression of praise for God's grace coming upon a dry and dead sinner, raising him up, and plunging him into the glories of knowing and serving Jesus. The verses form a grand crescendo that reaches its peak in Christ alone.

"I will make the dry lands a spring of living water"

The Drop that Grew into a Torrent
A Personal Experience

     1. All my soul was dry and dead
         Till I learned that Jesus bled;
         Bled and suffered in my place,
         Bearing sin in matchless grace.

     2. Then a drop of Heavenly love
         Fell upon me from above,
         And by secret, mystic art
         Reached the center of my heart.

     3. Glad the story I recount,
         How that drop became a fount,
         Bubbled up a living well,
         Made my heart begin to swell.

     4. All within my soul was praise,
         Praise increasing all my days;
         Praise which could not silent be:
         Floods were struggling to be free.

     5. More and more the waters grew,
         Open wide the flood-gates flew,
         Leaping forth in streams of song
         Flowed my happy life along.

     6. Lo! A river clear and sweet
         Laved my glad, obedient feet!
         Soon it rose up to my knees,
         And I praised and prayed with ease.

     7. Now my soul in praises swims,
         Bathes in songs, and psalms and hymns;
         Plunges down into the deeps,
         All her powers in worship steeps.

     8. Hallelujah! O my Lord!
         Torrents from my soul are poured!
         I am carried clean away,
         Praising, praising all the day.

     9. In an ocean of delight,
         Praising God with all my might,
         Self is drowned; so let it be:
         Only Christ remains to me.

            —C.H. Spurgeon, 1890

Download here a PDF file of the hymn set to the tune sung at the Pastor’s College, NOTTINGHAM, based on music by W. A. Mozart, 1756-1791.

Ken Puls

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

H.H. Tucker was a Theological Giant in the SBC in His Day

In his tribute to Henry Holcombe (“H.H.”) Tucker in a 1902 volume of editorials which the Georgia Baptist Convention published, Henry McDonald, Tucker’s pastor for many years in Atlanta, called his late parishioner the “Jonathan Edwards of the South.” 

Indeed, Tucker was Edwardsean in his ability to synthesize theology with crucial worldview-related disciplines such as philosophy, contemporary culture and religious movements of his day. Who was H.H. Tucker? Largely lost to posterity, Tucker was nonetheless a distinguished Baptist and Reformed theologian in the deep South during the Civil War era. 

Born in Warren County Georgia in 1819, Tucker bore the namesake of his grandfather, Henry Holcombe, one of the eminent Baptist pastors in Georgia in the early nineteenth century. Holcombe was one of the founders of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Tucker spent his teen years in Philadelphia and received a classical education, graduating from Columbian College in Washington, D. C. in 1838 and for two years he practiced law in Forsyth, Ga. 

In 1848 two landmark events occurred in Tucker’s life: he married Mary Catherine West (she died a few months later and he later remarried, having two children) and he abandoned his work as an attorney and surrendered to the high calling of Christian ministry. Soon, Tucker moved to Penfield, Ga., and received private theological instruction from J.L. Dagg, Southern Baptists’ first writing theologian, at Mercer University. Tucker pastored for only one year and served as a Christian educator. He served as president of both Mercer University and the University of Georgia, teaching theology, history, philosophy and the Bible at both schools. 

While Tucker was noted as an educator, it is his work as editor of the Christian Index through which he achieved perhaps his greatest notoriety in Georgia and across the Baptist South, a kingdom Tucker tenderly referenced in his editorials as “my Southern Zion.” Tucker spent four separate tenures as editor of the Index from 1866—just a few months after the close of the Civil War—up through 1889. In 1888 Tucker bought the Index and operated it until his death in September of 1889. 

Tucker only served as a pastor for a short time, but viewed himself as a shepherd-editor at the helm of the Index, writing often on doctrine and biblical exposition. He sought to teach, rebuke and warn from the editor’s chair. Upon his death on Sept. 9, 1889 by a tragic fall from the second story of his home in Macon, Ga., one longtime friend said of Tucker, “the ink that touched his pen turned to light.” 

A staunch Calvinist in the mold of close friends Dagg, J. P. Boyce, Basil Manly, Jr., P. H. Mell and John Albert Broadus, Tucker wrote prolifically on the doctrines of grace and related topics such as divine providence and the covenant of grace. He also fed readers on a steady diet of practical divinity—prayer, family worship, sanctification—demonstrating how doctrines worked out in real life. 

Perhaps more than any other topic, three subjects captured the attention of his pen most often, subjects which Tucker saw as intimately interrelated, subjects demanded by Baptists’ commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture: regenerate church membership, the doctrine of regeneration and the pernicious threat to church purity of Finneyite revivalism.

by Jeff Robinson

Monday, April 08, 2013

Re-launching the Founders Blog

On July 15, 2005 the Founders Blog was launched with a brief “Welcome” post outlining our aims and purposes. In that post, I wrote the following, 
Our goal is to provide a forum for analyzing and discussing issues that relate to the work of biblical reformation in the churches throughout the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond. By "biblical reformation" we do not mean the promotion of a man, a system or a movement. We mean the ongoing re-formation of churches along biblical lines. A motto that arose out of the 16th century reformation recognizes this need. The reformers declared the need for "the church reformed, always reforming." So it should be. Any church leader who does not see this need is simply naive. Another way to state it is that a church needs to be growing--always growing according to the Word of God. 
In the nearly 8 years since that original post, the Founders Blog has tried to continue serving that purpose. On more than a few occasions it took a more personal turn since I was the exclusive author of the blog. But, for the most part, the content has focused on church-related issues. 

If you were around back in 2005-10, you no doubt have noticed that the frequency of postings began to decrease around 5 years ago. Over the last 2 years they have dropped dramatically. My blogging became limited almost exclusively to the eruption of particular issues that called for response. In many ways the trajectory of this blog’s activity has tracked pretty consistently with blogging in general. While the Founders blog is still ranked in the top 250 Christian blogs, the reason is mainly for content that was contributed in the first five years. 

I am happy to announce that, beginning today, the Founders Blog is becoming a group project. Men who share the core convictions of Founders Ministries have signed on, under the leadership of Dr. Tom Hicks, to revitalize the blog. Our hope is to make it more active and interactive by posting more regularly and addressing issues more quickly than has happened in recent years. 

For now, the contributors are: 

• Dr. Tom Hicks, Pastor of Discipleship, Morningview Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL (Tom is the team leader of the blog). 

• Dr. Fred Malone, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Clinton, LA 

• Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY 

• Dr. Phil Newton, Pastor, South Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, TN 

 • Dr. Kenneth Puls, Director of Publications and the Study Center for Founders Ministries, Cape Coral, FL 

• Dr. Jeff Robinson, Pastor, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL 

• Jon English Lee, Ph.D. Student, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

I will also continue to contribute. 

Founders Ministries exists to work for the recovery of the gospel and the biblical re-formation of local churches. We have a myriad of ministries that are given to that two-pronged effort, including a church planting network, an online study center, a publishing house, a quarterly journal, regional conferences and events, minister search list, friends list, and church list. In addition to this our website is populated with loads of resources for pastors, students, church leaders and serious Christians. 

The relaunching of the Founders Blog will supplement these ongoing ministries and, hopefully, strengthen the work of encouraging churches to become healthier and more energetic in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to our needy world. The relaunching of the Founders Blog will supplement these ongoing ministries and, hopefully, strengthen the work of encouraging churches to become healthier and more energetic in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to our needy world. 

Tom Ascol