God Gave Only One Reformation

GOD GAVE ONLY ONE REFORMATION

Hebrews 9:10

 

When we hear the word “Reformation,” our minds naturally turn to the great events of 16th Century Europe and such great men as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and their partners.  And there can be little doubt that the Sovereign God, for His own good purposes, allowed these historic events to reshape the face of a continent, and to form much of the framework for the opening of another.  We owe much to the religious thinkers of that dramatic turn in history.

But it may surprise some to find that the word “reformation” is  also used in Scripture, for a much more important event.  In Hebrews 9:10 (KJV),  we read:

Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

This reformation God gave brought about not only a change in a framework, but a change of God’s holy law (Heb. 7:12).  From the gate of Eden, man worshipped at a specific time and place with specified sacrifices.  For those in the line of promise and purpose, like Abraham, both place and form were divinely revealed.  For multitudes outside the covenant line, both place and form were dim recognitions of such requirements.   From the day of Moses and the formation of national Israel, God’s earthly chosen people, the exact form and place of divine worship was specified in great detail.  We may call these requirements “the old-nature covenant.”  Such law was “added because of transgressions,” Galatians 3:19.  It was never intended to save, Hebrews 10:4, but to show the need of a Savior.  God’s purpose of grace was prior to law.  For all the major Old Testament saints, both the words “grace” and “faith” are used somewhere in Scripture.  (For example, Genesis 6:8 and Hebrews 11:9 for Noah.)  So “Salvation is one – Old Testament and New, Gentile and Jew”  – Acts 15:11, Gal. 3:8, Heb. 4:2.

But the system of worships, with animal sacrifices and demanded ritual, was typical, all pointing forward to one great moment in history which God calls “the time of reformation,” when He Himself re-formed His system of dealing with us.  And He did this “hapaxonce, for all and forever, never to be repeated.”  (Heb. 9:12, 26, and other uses).  His new plan involves churches–local, visible congregations of scripturally immersed believers in His one gospel, each such body a “continuing incarnation” with Christ as Head and the Holy Spirit as the heart and blood stream pumping life through the body.  And He promised that such bodies would continue, Matthew 16:28, 28:18-20; Ephesians 3:20-21.

Suppose some “charismatic” son of Aaron had tried to “reform” God’s law?  In fact, such did happen.  Read Leviticus 10 to see how God dealt with such.  So, when, in the 4th Century A. D., a bishop in Rome and a Roman emperor moved to consolidate power in one central place, condemning those they called “Donatists” who wished to keep the simple New Testament pattern of local congregations, held together by “an amazingly strong rope of sand,” as some have noted, a major division took place in professing Christianity.  From that point, we find the simple New Testament pattern under fire and often underground.  The organized, powerful, “establishment” form  of Christian faith, often quite sincerely, felt that allowing such schism would destroy the unity of Christendom.

And the “Protestant Reformation” was an attempt to move back to the standard of “sola Scriptura,”  only Scripture, a commendable goal,  Surely God allowed that breeze of fresh air to blow through the musty halls of religion to open a new world, along with the Renaissance in the intellectual and cultural world.  And all were better off for it.

But, as has often been noted, Luther’s famed “Here I stand” was a stand “squarely on the fence.”  For Protestant doctrine, claiming “only Scripture,” actually attempted to keep the framework of a state religion, and persecuted those who sought to keep the simple New Testament pattern in local self-governing congregations.  A common “nickname” given such people at that time was “Anabaptist,” a title they largely rejected.  One of the more familiar names in that group was Menno Simons, who often in his collected writing says: “I am NOT  an Anabaptist!  WE are not!  We do not ‘rebaptize.’ only properly baptize those who have received a false act.”

In short, the famed Protestant Reformation came only half-way back to the sources, retaining infant
“baptism” and a state religion.  God allowed it, in part to open the way to the “new world” as explorers newly freed from the medieval yoke broke forth into new horizons.  And in the new atmosphere allowing for more individual liberty, true New Testament churches came out of hiding to boldly proclaim the one unchanging gospel, “how that Christ died, and that He was buried, and that He was raised.” Such churches are always in need of renewal and revival, but God gave only one Reformation, and that in the First Century A.D.

​​​​​​–R. Charles Blair, Sept. 2018

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1872 Logan County Baptist Association Bible Conference Program

MINISTERS AND DEACONS MEETING
Clear Fork Baptist Association (Renamed Logan County Baptist Association in 1903)
Held at the Friendship Baptist Church, Auburn, Kentucky
September 19, 1872

1.  Sermon for Criticism – Elder George H. Baker
2.  The Essential Qualifications of an Administrator of Baptism – Elder W.C. Taylor
3.  The Reciprocal Relations of Deacons and Church Members – Elder B. Roberts
4.  Is Foot-washing an Ordinance of the Church and Should it be Continued as such? – Elder George Minton
5.  Adoption – Elder J.H. Felts
6.  Will All Truly Regenerated Persons be Saved? – Elder J.W.C. Mansfield
7.  The Best Method of Getting Up and Sustaining a Sunday-School – Elder G.B. Dunn
8.  The Duties of the Churches to their Pastors – Elder J.C. Thompson
9.  The Duties of the Pastors to the Churches – Deacon C.D. Dawson
10. Skeleton of a Sermon, with choice of text – John Kennerly, Licentiate; John Preston, the same.

Time of next meeting, Thursday before the third Sunday in September; place Bethlehem Baptist Church, Logan Co., Ky.

(This program was printed in the minutes of the Clear Fork Baptist Association in 1872. It shows how our Baptist forefathers emphasized sound doctrine. Kentucky Baptists in the 19th century did not have ruling elders, but often referred to their pastors as “Elder” so and so. The Friendship Baptist Church became the New Friendship Baptist Church in 1875 and still exists today. W.C. Taylor is the most famous of the names listed. At this time he was considered the greatest pulpit orator in Kentucky. He pastored the Friendship, Auburn, Clear Fork, Smith’s Grove, Nelson Creek, FBC Greenville, FBC, Mayfield, and many other churches. His son was the noted Baptist pastor H. Boyce Taylor.)

Have Landmark Baptists made any helpful contributions to the Christian tradition?  

Have Landmark Baptists made any helpful contributions to the Christian tradition?  

By Ben Stratton

Recently Dr. Jason Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the statement, “Whereas Baptists, at times, have made unhelpful contributions to the Christian tradition throughout their history (see the Landmark movement as one example).”  This quote was found in the first paragraph of his article “A High View of a Low and Free Church” published on Baptist Press.  Is this statement true?  Have Landmark Baptists only made “unhelpful contributions” to the Christian tradition?  Let’s examine this question:

1.  Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of keeping older Baptist histories and theologies in print.  One major modern Baptist History publisher even declared that if it wasn’t for the Landmark Baptists, there wouldn’t be much interest in old Baptist books.  Who else has reprinted Thomas Armitage or Thomas Crosby’s “History of Baptists”?  Indeed it was a Landmark Baptist who first reprinted James P. Boyce’s “Abstract of Systematic Theology” and from which Ernest Reisinger got the idea to distribute the book to seminary graduates.

2. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of founding dozens of theological schools where pastors and missionaries have been trained.  This includes B.H. Carroll’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, John T. Christian at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the Hall-Moody Bible Institute in Tennessee (named after two landmarkers – J.N. Hall and J.B. Moody), and Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College in west Kentucky.  Many others could be named.

3. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of sending out hundreds of missionaries to the far corners of the earth.  J.F. Love, former Corresponding Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that the First Baptist Church of Murray, Kentucky (pastored by H. Boyce Taylor, a noted Landmark Baptist) was the greatest missionary church since the New Testament.  Taylor sent out dozens of home and foreign missionaries, including the first Southern Baptist missionaries to Peru and Chile.

4. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of making Christians aware of the Anabaptists.  Even today when most think of the Reformation, Calvin, Luther, Knox, and Zwingli get the majority of the attention.  Yet historically it has been the Landmark Baptists pointing people to the life and work of men such as Balthasar Hubmaier, Conrad Grebel, Menno Simons, Pilgrim Marpeck, and others.  If it were not for the Landmark Baptists, these men would be largely ignored for the magisterial reformers.

5. Landmark Baptists have made the helpful contribution of strengthening the doctrinal convictions of multitudes of Christians.  Joseph E. Brown, then Governor of Georgia, said of J.R. Graves, “There is one man who has done more than any fifty men now living to enable the Baptists of America to know their own history and their own principles, and to make the world know them, and that man is the brother on my right.”  As one seminary professor says, “Landmarkers put iron into the Baptist blood.”  Whatever can be said of Landmark Baptists they believed in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and held their biblical convictions strongly.  Even today in the areas where Landmarkism was once dominant, there are fewer CBF churches than in areas where Landmarkism was less prevalent.

However if I had to guess, I would say that Dr. Duesing is primarily referring to the Landmark movement’s insistence on Baptist perpetuity or succession as being their main “unhelpful contribution” to the Christian tradition.  Yet even here, his statement has problems. For example:

1. It wasn’t the Landmark movement who invented the idea of Baptist perpetuity.   This idea can be found in the writings of men such as Jessie Mercer and Israel Roberds who declared these things when J.R. Graves was just a boy in Vermont.  Even the liberal anti-Landmark historian Morgan Patterson admitted that J.R. Graves and the Landmark Baptists did not invent the idea of Baptist succession.

2. Also it wasn’t solely the Landmark Baptists who defended the idea of Baptist perpetuity.  This view of Baptist origins can be found in the writings of Charles Spurgeon (“we are the old apostolic Church that have never bowed to the yoke of princes yet; we, known among men, in all ages, by various names, such as Donatists, Novatians, Paulicians, Petrobrussians, Cathari, Arnoldists, Hussites, Waldenses, Lollards, and Anabaptists, have always contended for the purity of the Church, and her distinctness and separation from human government”), the Primitive Baptists (Hassell’s, “History of the Church of God”), the General Baptists (Ollie Latch, Woods, etc.) and even Northern Baptists such as R.J.W. Buckland.  While Landmark Baptists may have been the most vocal in championing Baptist perpetuity, this view was held by the majority of all Baptists from the 17th to the 19th century.

3. While most modern church historians will cast aside the idea of Baptist perpetuity, the idea will not go away.  Nor should it without a more thorough investigation.  Sadly few are willing to study it. For example while the writings of such English Baptists as Benjamin Keach are being reprinted and rediscovered today, how many Baptists know of Henry D’Anvers?  The noted 17th Century English Particular Baptist believed in Baptist perpetuity through the older Anabaptists and authored works teaching this.  Yet his writings are largely ignored today.

Outside of his first paragraph, I enjoyed and agreed with Dr. Duesing’s article.  However he doesn’t need to carelessly attack Landmark Baptists.  One need not be a Landmark Baptist or hold to all of their doctrinal and historical conclusions to agree that they have made many helpful contributions to the Christian tradition.

So Who Did Fall From Grace?

SO WHO DID FALL FROM GRACE?

Galatians 5:1-8

By Charles Blair 

Yes, there is a Bible way to fall from grace, and some have evidently taken it.  What is it, and who fell?

Satan didn’t fall from grace.  Yes, he fell, from his glorious status as “the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:14).  One of three named angels (Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer), he was perfect in beauty and in conduct until iniquity was found in him (Ezk. 28:12, 15).  Yes, he fell, but not from grace, for Jesus did not take on Himself the nature of angels (Hebrews 2:16), no grace or salvation for Satan and his (fallen) angels, now the demons.  Satan did not fall from grace; he fell from glory!

Adam and Eve did not fall from grace, though they fell.  Their status before sin was innocence, not knowing good and evil, that is, not accountable, for “sin is not imputed where there is no law,” Romans 5:13b.  As the unaccountable infant is safe because of the universal scope of Christ’s death and the lack of any personal responsibility, so our first parents were safe until the entrance of sin, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  (Romans 3:20)  “But they were cast out of the garden!  Didn’t they fall?”  They certainly did—not “from grace” but “into grace!”  For God promptly took the lives, and hides, of innocent animals to provide a picture of redemption, pointing forward to the shed blood of Christ and the covering of imputed grace righteousness rather than the “fig leaf” self-righteousness they had done for themselves.

The pre-flood world did not fall from grace when God sent the universal flood in Noah’s day. He (and his family) “found grace in the eyes of the LORD,” Genesis 6:8.  But those who rejected God’s word spoken through His prophet were surely never in grace, but condemned by immorality to judgment.  The infants and unaccountable among them were safe in eternal terms, but none were “saved by water;” those who were in the ark before they went into the water were saved, brought through the judgment storm and delivered to the other side by the gracious provision of God.  But those who got in the water but not in the ark—well, that’s another story!  They fell from works into judgment.

Lot did not fall from grace.  When the angels brought him out of Sodom, he acknowledged (Gen. 19:19): “thy servant hath found grace in  thy sight.”  He fell from prosperity, and was reduced to being a “cave man,” whose daughters had adopted the moral standards of Sodom, but Peter explains how this physical deliverance explains the spiritual truth. In II Peter 2:4-9, the Holy Spirit calls Lot—Lot!—“just,” and “righteous,” and “godly.”  These are hardly the terms we would choose, but Peter explains; he “vexed his righteous soul” –that part of him committed to faith in uncle Abraham’s Messiah—with the ungodly deeds of the wicked.  He fell from wealth, but not from grace.

Well, then, just who did “fall from grace?”  Sometimes (usually!) it helps to look at the context. “Even a diamond is more beautiful in its proper setting.”   To tear a few words from a passage of Scripture and wave them as proof of an expanded theory may result in “theory-ology.”

What is the context of Gal. 5:6?  A group of heretics had infested the Galatian Association, at least four churches named in Acts Chapters 13 and 14, teaching that Paul’s word of grace was fine so far as it went, but not enough!  They wanted to add circumcision and law-keeping, evidently including animal sacrifice, making salvation a matter of “grace + law” rather than “the gospel of grace.”  Reading the immediate setting, 5:1-10, will tell us who “fell [away] from [the] grace principle:” those Judiazers who sought to add works to grace as the basis of right standing before God.  Who today is “fallen from grace”?  Those who seek to add baptism, communion, living a good life, indeed anything human, to the eternal, absolute principle of grace as the only basis for salvation.   Good works are a natural expression of grace, but salvation is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

R. Charles Blair, August, 2017

Pastor, Poplar Grove Baptist Church, Hickman, KY

Director of Missions, West Kentucky Baptist Association

Former Dean, Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College, Mayfield, KY

Spurgeon on Baptists in the South

“I have not one word of unfriendly criticism to utter against my Baptist brethren beyond the Atlantic. On the contrary, I believe that the Baptists of America are the best Baptists in the world, and that the best Baptists in America are the Baptists of the South. Moreover, if I were to come to America to live, I would join a close communion church and conform myself to its practices on the Communion question.” – Charles H. Spurgeon, quoted in the “Religious Herald” newspaper, March 3, 1892

From John T. Christian’s 1892 book “Close Communion”, pages 243-244

Book of 20th Century Kentucky Baptist Biograpies

image1-6Twentieth Century Kentucky Baptist Biographies, Volume 2

 

This 222 page hardback book contains over 200 biographies of Kentucky Baptists leaders from the twentieth century written by 60 different authors.  Included are such noted Baptists as:

 

Dennis Merrill Aldridge – President of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College.
J.H. Anderson – Professor of Bible at Clinton College, Hall-Moody Bible Institute and Union University.  Kentucky Baptist pastor Boyce Taylor said Anderson and B.H. Carroll were the two greatest Baptist professors in the south in the early twentieth century.
Roy Beaman – Professor of Greek and Theology at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee who started out teaching in the West Kentucky Bible School in Murray, Kentucky.
Ben Bogard – Founder of the American Baptist Association.
I.K. Cross – Noted Baptist Historian in the American Baptist Association.
M.E. Dodd – Famous Southern Baptist pastor and author. Led the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt the Cooperative Program in 1925.
M.W. Hall – Author of “The Courtship of Jesus”, a famous commentary on the Song of Solomon.
Berlin Hisel – Author of “The Baptist History Notebook.”
Bill Mackey – Executive-Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention
Roy Mason – Author of “The Church That Jesus Built.”  Called the greatest book on the New Testament church besides the Bible.
Frank Masters – First president of Mid-Continent Baptist Bible College.
Barclay Moore – President of Oneida Baptist Institute.
William M. Nevins – Author of “Alien Immersion and the Baptists.”  R.G. Lee wrote a forward to this influential book.
A.W. Pink – Famous theologian with many Kentucky connections.
Ross Range – Succeeded Clarence Walker as pastor of the influential Ashland Ave. Baptist Church in Lexington.
Carl Sadler – Teacher at Lexington Baptist College.
T.P. Simmons – Author of “A Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine.”
Glen Stewart – Moderator of the West Kentucky Baptist Association.
Ronnie Stinson Sr. – Pastor of the Trace Creek Baptist Church for 42 consecutive years.
W.C. Taylor – Younger brother of H. Boyce Taylor and long time missionary to Brazil.
S.E. Tull – Pastor and author of the book “Denominationalism Put to the Test.”
And many more….

 

This large book was published by the J.H. Spencer Historical Society in 2016.  It sells for $25 plus $4 for postage.  To order a copy send your check or money order to:

 

J.H. Spencer Historical Society
P.O. Box 26
Farmington, KY 42040

(The contributing writers to this book include Charles Blair, Donnie Burford, Jim Duvall, Don Houston, David Pitman, David Skinner, Ben Stratton, Bill Whittaker, Stephen Wilson, Mickey Winter, Adam Winters, and many others)

Why Denominations?

WHY DENOMINATIONS?

We often hear, at our public religious community activities, expressions like these.  “We are of different denominations, but that makes no difference.”  “Denominations aren’t important.”  And in one sense these statements are true.  Surely no one believes that a specific denominational tag is an automatic ticket to Paradise – “Do not pass Go, go directly to Heaven.”  And few would say that a different tag would automatically condemn an individual; though the doctrines taught under that name may be false, some individuals in that group may have a personal relationship with the Creator.

Ever since the founding of the Federal (now National) Council of Churches in 1908, there has been a push away from denominational  identity, known as the “ecumenical movement.”  Some scholars even say we are living in a “post-denominational age.” Given that, a question must be asked: why then do we still have denominations?  Why are those expressing these views part of various denominations?  Indeed, there may be more, not fewer, organized groups of professing Christians now than there were in 1908!  And that leads naturally to a second question: why different denominations in the first place? Surely the only Bible does not give today’s pattern.  How did it come to be, and how should we view it?

Denominations began when people who thought for themselves disagreed with the form of religion they saw around them.  Some of these disagreements were probably very minor, though those who held them did not think they were.  Some were issues of eternity, important enough to justify division.  Denominating tags are a bit like the labels on groceries. They have no nutrition in themselves, but should identify the contents.  It would be chaotic to try to shop in a store where the canned goods had no labels!   And of course the labels should accurately show what’s inside.  If we have a case of the “mulli-grubs” (not in the dictionary, but all of us have had it once or twice), a bowl of chicken soup may be just the ticket.  What if, when we open the can, it contains maraschino cherries?  No matter how much we may like those in the right recipe, a bowl won’t do much for the mulli-grubs!  We would use the “truth in packaging” law quickly and likely demand a refund and a can of soup!

So denominating tags exist to identify points of view.  Since some say that I’m “leaning toward the Baptists,” I’ll use our folks for an illustration.  When someone visits a Baptist church, they have a right to expect to hear,  along with the general Christian basics, reasons why Baptists have a separate existence.  The idea of personal salvation by grace, through faith, once for all and forever; the view of believer’s immersion by a church, so that the individual may be added to the local church, the view that each local, visible congregation is autonomous under Christ and is the custodian of the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper): all these are among the key reasons Baptists exist as a separate group of Christians.

Others have their story, and their reason for existing as separate groups;  we can recognize one another as members  together in the world-wide family of God, and live side by side in Christian friendship; so long as we have freedom, denominations have their value in expressing differing  views of God’s written word.  But the Day to end all days is coming, when denominations will be no more because they will not be needed; for all the saved, there will be no differences—and  that will be glory for me. 

Charles Blair

Pastor, Poplar Grove Baptist Church. Hickman, KY 

Director of Missions, West Kentucky Baptist Association

*** This article was submitted for publication in a local newspaper