My drive back home from school today became much better than it usually was. I was pleased to find a new podcast in my feed concerning “Pitfalls for the Reformed” by Theocast, a podcast I have a great appreciation for. Things get particularly interesting for me at the 24:50 mark, where the hosts discuss how churches in Reformed circles are not immune to becoming hyper introspective in their teaching and preaching ministries. In fact, I have personally experienced this throughout the years. This does not mean that the pursuit of holiness, the attempt for holy living, or the desire to be more like Christ is a bad thing. These things are good. But when we consistently preach to the people of God like they’re unbelievers; when we consistently preach to the people of God to look inside themselves and not to Christ alone, we are in great danger. When we fail to consistently remind the people of God of their standing in Christ, of their forgiveness of sins, and that Christ fulfilled the law perfectly for them, we run the risk of destroying Reformed piety and worship, blurring the Law/Gospel distinction, and consistently pointing the people of God to their own behavior, and not to the behavior of their Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to listen to the entirety of this podcast. It is helpful, graceful, and to the point. The podcast can be found below…
The following article was first written by myself in 2020 for CovenantConfessions.com and can be found here…
There are many things I have grown to appreciate concerning the Reformed tradition. It is a tradition that contains unity, much diversity, and a wonderful heritage that has been left to the Christian of today contained in the writings of the ones who came before us. But some things within this rich tradition encourage me more than others. While I receive much freedom in my worship adhering to the regulative principle of worship or rest easy at night as I lay my head on the pillow due to the doctrines of predestination and election, it is the ordinary means of grace, and more specifically, the ministry of the wordthat provides a needed peace for my soul and is what I am choosing to write about today. While there has been much scholarly work done on this topic, my intent here is to focus on how the ministry of the word works itself out in the local church.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith describes the ministry of the word in chapter 14, paragraph 1:
The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word; by which also, and by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper, prayer, and other means appointed of God, it is increased and strengthened.
So it is through the ministry of the word that people are given a faith to believe, they receive the saving of their souls, are gifted with the Holy Spirit, and their faith is strengthened. These are very important things that should not be taken lightly when we organize our worship on the Lord’s Day. In my experience, as churches distance themselves from the Reformed tradition, they can often neglect to make the ministry of the word a priority in the church. The preaching of the word of God can often begin to become a mere backdrop to our worship. I do not mean that churches who don’t make the ministry of the word a priority in their worship do not care about preaching. What I mean is that as we distance ourselves from making the preaching of the word of God the main focus of our worship, pulpits can suddenly turn into a music stand, sermon notes and a Bible can be replaced by a MacBook Pro, and the preaching of the word of God becomes something that we “get to” after announcements, ministry updates, etc., and not the centerpiece of our worship which is where it belongs. I use these illustrations to make an important point. The ministry of the word of God must not become a mere backdrop to our worship. It must be made the very foundation of our worship. Not doing so leads to an emphasis placed on what we can do for Christ instead of the declaration of the finished works Christ has already accomplished for those that are His (the church).
For the remainder of my time, I will attempt to point out four ways in which making the ministry of the word the centerpiece of our worship can benefit the local church.
The ministry of the word is to be performed by the gifts to the church.
The ministry of the word is a means of grace.
Christ is present in the ministry of the word.
The ministry of the word encourages families to worship together.
This is in no way an exhaustive study on the benefits of the ministry of the word for the people of God. But my hope here is to provide encouragement for the brethren by pointing them to Christ and to move towards making the ministry of the word the foundation of our worship service.
The ministry of the word is performed by the gifts to the church.
In Acts 6, we are provided with some issues that arose in the early church. Such issues include some Greek-speaking Jewish widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. – Acts 6:1-4 (ESV)
These verses are not a proof text that those set apart for the ministry of the word should not have to lift a finger in other areas of the life of the church. Rather, these verses reveal that from some of the earliest times in the church, 1) it was common knowledge that men should be set apart for the ministry of the word, 2) it required much labor, and 3) those called to serve in this role should be freed from other services in the life of the church, as the Lord so leads. This is further supported by Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul explains how pastors (those who are to perform the ministry of the word) are gifts to the church and have been given a work to perform in the church…
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ… Ephesians 4:11-13 (KJV)
These men are a gift from Christ to the church, and they are to be set apart for the work of the ministry. This includes the ministry of the word and all other ordinary means of grace God has ordained for His people.
The ministry of the word is a means of grace.
While there are many passages of scripture that we can study to see that the ministry of the word is a means of grace, I will focus on just a couple today to provide clarity concerning this important work in the life of the church. The first reference to the ministry of the word being a means of grace is found in Romans 10:14-17…
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:14-17 (KJV)
In this passage, we can clearly see that people come to a belief in Christ by hearing the word of God. The ordinary way in which Christ saves His people is by the preaching of the word of God. We also see that those who are proclaiming the word of God are those that are sent, which implies that they are sent by the local church. The one being sent is the preacher, the preacher is a gift to the church (Ephesians 4:11), and the means by which he is sent is through the local church. This does not mean that God cannot save His people outside of the local church. However, it does reveal that God does a special work through the word being proclaimed through the ministry of the word. Through the ministry of the word, regeneration occurs in the life of a former enemy of God. A new heart is given, and the sinner is found to be not guilty and is declared righteous because Christ is now standing in his/her place. All of these things and more are given freely (grace) to an individual as they sit under the ministry of the word. But the ministry of the word is not only a means by which Christ saves His people. The scriptures tell us that something else takes place in the life of someone who has already been saved. In Romans 1:15, we see that Paul, while writing to the church (believers) in Rome, wants nothing more than to share the Gospel with those who have already professed faith in Christ…
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. Romans 1:15 (KJV)
In 1 Peter 2:2, the apostle mentions an important desire that believers should have concerning the word of God…
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (KJV)
The believer in Christ should “desire the sincere milk of the word” so that they will then grow and taste that the Lord is gracious. For the believer, we are well aware that our Christian walk does not end at our conversion, but rather, our conversion is only the beginning of God performing a work in us. As a believer sits under the ministry of the word, they are encouraged, built up, and attain knowledge of Christ while growing to a mature believer who will not be tossed to and fro (Ephesians 4:13-16). The ministry of the word is a means of grace because it is not only used during conversion but also used in building up the believer as they continue to be fed God’s word in the local church. But it must not be overlooked that while the church gathers on the Lord’s Day, and as they sit under the ministry of the word, it is not only the members and officers of the church present…
Christ is present in the ministry of the word.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Ephesians 2:14-18 (KJV)
This passage is important for us because we know that as the apostle writes to the churches in Ephesus, Christ was not physically present then, or even previously during His earthly ministry. So knowing this, how then does Paul tell the Ephesians that Christ preached to them? The answer is very simple. When the apostles faithfully preached the word of God, Christ was there with His people. This aligns perfectly with what Paul says later in Ephesians 4:11-13, in that Christ gave gifts to the church (which include pastors and teachers) who would perform the work of the ministry, which includes the ministry of the word. What does all of this mean? It means that when the people of God gather to hear the word of God faithfully preached by the one that was sent, Christ is spiritually present with his people. This does not place any supernatural anointing on the pastor or teacher himself, but rather, it rightfully places a supernatural anointing on the faithfully preached word of God. Under the ministry of the word, God’s people will hear His voice (John 10:16), He will call those that are His own, encouraging them, building them up, and strengthening them through this ordinary means of grace. Knowing that all of this is taking place under the ministry of the word, a logical conclusion for a believer should be to have an all-hands present approach to the proclamation of His word…
The ministry of the word encourages families to worship together.
It is very common to see evangelical churches splitting families apart on the Lord’s Day. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not stating that those who take a big church – little church approach to adults and their children on the Lord’s Day are attempting to be hurtful in any way to their children. Nor do I believe that sending your child to a classroom for their age group can never produce good things in their lives, including hearing about the truths of scripture in a more palatable way. But what I will say is that sending your child away to a classroom can actually prevent them from sitting under such an important means of grace by which God speaks to His people. Taking into consideration what I have already mentioned above, if the scriptures do teach us that through the ministry of the word, Christ speaks to His people, calls His people to Himself, they hear His voice, and that He is spiritually present with them during this time, why would anyone want to send their child away so as to completely miss a golden opportunity to participate in this special occasion? Understanding that it could be a challenge to many families to teach their children to remain still during the proclamation of His word, wouldn’t it be worth putting in the necessary work of patiently and gracefully teaching your children to attend worship with the rest of their family? Would it also be worth it for the local church to provide an atmosphere of grace for those families new to this approach to worship? Again, after understanding what we have already worked through above, the answer to both of these questions would be an astounding yes. One must always remember that our hope under the ministry of the word is not placed on the behavior of our children. We are not expecting that our little ones will digest every word being proclaimed from the pulpit that day. Our hope is placed on the promises of Christ, which tell us that He will use this means of grace (the ministry of the word) to call His own to Himself and that we can be “…confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 1:6)
The ministry of the word is an ordinary means that God uses in the local church to provide grace to His people. May we be a people who see the ministry of the word not as a mere backdrop to our worship service. May we see this means of grace for the supernatural thing. That is, may we see Christ is present with us, Christ is speaking to us, and Christ promises that those who are His will hear His voice and that He will never let them go…
If I had dollar for every time a young man asked me about the tradition known as theonomy, or general equity theonomy, I think I could be living on a beach in Hawaii by now. 😉
By the grace of God, several years ago men spoke truth in my life via social media and challenged my proclamation that I was a Confessional (Second London Baptist Confession) Christian and concurrently held to theonomy. Again, I was challenged in my position and not just pushed to the side as someone who was ignorant and didn’t know what I was talking about. But the truth is that I was ignorant, I was foolish, and my claims were not consistent with the Scriptures or the confession of faith I claimed to subscribe to.
I want to attach a few helpful resources that speak truth into the theonomy and general equity theonomy traditions. In my experience, many times theonomy is held by younger Christian men who have a passion to see the world change for Christ. This isn’t a bad thing in itself. In fact, this movement attracts many other young Christians to “get to work” to build Christ’s kingdom in the here and now. This tradition is often tied to the historic post millennial eschatological position. While one could be post millennial and not hold to theonomy, one likely couldn’t hold to theonomy without being a post millennial. These Christian’s often feel that the church is not doing enough, speaking enough, and giving up too much to the secular that doesn’t belong to them. This tradition attempts to use the Old Testament civil laws given only to the nation of Israel, to force on pagan nations today to somehow grow His Kingdom. In other words, they flatten out the Law of God and use it as a weapon that would one day produce a victorious church to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Again, it sounds very attractive from the onset, but the results of the tradition often lead the people of God astray, and treat Gods law in an unbiblical manner that will have its consequences.
If you have any questions about this tradition, or perhaps, know of a church, pastor, friend, etc., who is leading others into this tradition, please take a look at these well written articles and podcast put together by a respected pastor who has taken the time to work through these potentially dangerous traditions.
My journey to the Reformed tradition has been a roller coaster at times. I remember a time that by the grace of God I came to understand the truths contained in the Scriptures known as the doctrines of grace. These truths were not something that I learned and then brought back into the text as some would claim, rather, they were there all along but I was simply blinded by the tradition I had been a part of for much of my life. The truths of the sovereignty of God, even over salvation itself, was such a transformation for me. In fact, many believers today feel like when they saw these truths in the text for the first time it *felt like a second conversion of sorts. There was also a time when I got on Reformed Twitter thinking that I was part of the club, only to be told by a popular church history professor in a Southern California seminary that “You’re not Reformed!”
I enjoy writing and have decided to begin a series discussing my journey to the Reformed tradition. While my journey has produced many highs, it has definitely had its share of lows. I titled this series “You’re Not Abraham” not only because it describes where I was before my journey begin, but it also describes where I’m currently at in my journey and where I see myself in this rich tradition.
There are many reasons to like John Owen. The English Puritan minister’s written works fill my bookshelves and have been an encouragement to myself and many others throughout history. John Owen played a major role in at least two historic confessions of faith (Savoy Declaration & The Second London), participating directly with the former, and indirectly with the latter. Confessional Baptists today, as well as the ones of old, have referenced John Owen for several reasons. Whether it is his Congregationalism, his Hebrew’s commentary, or his departure from Westminster Covenant Theology, confessional Baptists have almost claimed Dr. Owen as one of their own, even though he was a paedobaptist.
My friend, Brandon Adams, has written an article concerning the reasons why Confessional Baptists appeal to John Owen. If interested, please check out this fantastic resource. You can find it here…
The following article was first written by myself in 2021 for CovenantConfessions.com and can be found here…
“What is the difference between paedobaptist and baptist covenant theology?”
I get this question more often than any other. Whether it’s during a conversation in the courtyard at church or via a direct message on social media, many often wonder what separates two brothers within the same tradition? In the Reformed tradition, covenant theology is how we see God dealing with His people throughout redemptive history. We see God condescending towards His people and doing so by way of making covenants with them. Covenants such as the covenant of redemption made between the Triune Godhead before creation, the covenant of works made with Adam in the garden, the covenant of grace which was first presented to Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:15), the covenant of circumcision made with Abraham, the Noahic covenant made with Noah and all of creation, the Mosaic covenant made with the nation of Israel, the Davidic covenant, and last and most important the New Covenant. How one defines these Biblical covenants produces results such as believers-only Baptism, infant baptism, and the like. One of the most important distinctions between these two brothers (paedobaptist and the confessional baptist) is how one views the covenant of grace. In his book From Shadow to Substance, Samuel Renihan describes how many early confessional baptists described the covenant of grace…
“In their Confession, the Particular Baptists directly tied the covenant of grace to the Gospel. Where the gospel is found, there is the covenant of grace.”
For many of these early Baptists, all of the Old Covenant was subservient to this covenant of grace. They saw that when you examine each covenant on its own, what you would find is both a continuity and diversity that needed to be accounted for. In other words, when you let each covenant in the Old Testament speak for itself, the result is one much different from their paedobaptist brethren. Instead of flattening out all of the covenants of the Old Testament by turning them into one covenant of grace that was administered differently and at different times, many of the confessional baptists chose to distinguish each covenant from the covenant of grace, providing a much more consistent covenant theology that was found in the Scriptures. For example, it allowed the covenant of works made with Adam to remain in the garden, the Noahic Covenant to be a covenant given to all of creation (including animals) and not specifically for the church. It allowed the Abrahamic covenant to be the “covenant of circumcision” that Stephen describes in Acts 7:8. It allowed the Mosaic covenant to be a covenant of works that governed the Israelites in the land of milk and honey. It allowed the Davidic covenant to introduce a line of royalty that would one day produce the true Son of David in King Jesus. It also allowed the new covenant described by both the prophets, Jesus Christ, and His apostles to actually be new, and not just sort of new. What does all of this mean? All of these O.T. covenants were not the covenant of grace. Although they contained grace within them, the early Baptists did not make the same mistake as their paedobaptist brethren by flattening them all into one covenant of grace. These covenants that made up what the Scriptures refer to as the Old Covenant would often contain grace and promises of rewards while concurrently making threats to those who did not hold up their end of the covenant. For many of the early Baptists, these O.T. Covenants could not be thecovenant of grace on their own because, for them, only the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace.
The New Covenant
In chapter 7 and paragraph 3 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, the new covenant is described as such…
“This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon these terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency” (emphasis added).
This confessional statement provides us with the very distinctions I have already mentioned above concerning the New Covenant. I placed an emphasis above on the points I will discuss below.
First revealed to Adam
Since many of the early Baptists connected the Gospel with the covenant of grace, this covenant was introduced to God’s people not at the cross but rather in the garden with Adam…
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” – Genesis 3:15 (KJV)
For the early Baptists, not only was this the first promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but this confessional statement declares that the outworking of this promise would be the remaining storyline of the entire Scriptures. This promise of salvation was given to Adam and Eve just after the punishment of the serpent and just before their own punishment was given to them by God. Even before their punishment for eating of the tree, God was gracious to them in sharing the promise of the Gospel to them in Genesis 3:15!
By Farther Steps
The Gospel would grow. In From Shadow to Substance, Samuel Renihan describes this growth…
“As the Gospel was progressively made known throughout history, the covenant of grace was progressively known throughout history.”
This means that today we have a much clearer Gospel than Adam had in the garden, Moses had on Mt. Sinai, or even Abraham had on Mt. Moriah. I did not say that these saints did not have access to the same Gospel as we do today; I stated that we have a clearer Gospel than the saints of old. The Bible tells us that the saints of old looked forward to better things…
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” – Hebrews 11:10 (KJV)
God’s people of the Old Testament were saved by looking past the types and shadows of the Old Covenant to the fulfillment of those things, which was the Christ! As the Gospel was progressively made known throughout redemptive history, the covenant of grace was progressively revealed throughout redemptive history (by farther steps). Therefore, the New Covenant was made known throughout redemptive history because all saints of all time were only saved by the new covenant. All of this was grounded in a covenant made between the triune Godhead before creation.
Founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect
Not only did the early Baptists equate the gospel with the covenant of grace, but they also found the foundation of the covenant to be the covenant of redemption made between the triune Godhead before creation. The Gospel of John provides clarity for us concerning this covenant made in eternity past…
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day…No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day..”John 6:37-40, 44 (ESV)
From eternity past, the Father would send the Son. As a reward for the Son, The Father would also give the Son a people for Himself. The Son would be born of a virgin, under the law, and live a sinless life for these people, raising from the dead while receiving all of these people by the power of the Holy Spirit and promising to raise them on the last day. This passage and many like it describe this eternal transaction between the triune God of which the early Baptists made the foundation of the covenant of grace. Although Christ is the second and better Adam, Christ did not fulfill Adam’s covenant of works made in the garden. Rather, Christ fulfilled His own covenant of works, which was the covenant of redemption made in eternity past.
Alone by the grace of this covenant that all posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life
Not only did many of the early confessional Baptists equate the promise of the Gospel with the covenant of grace, but they also connected the covenant of grace with the New Covenant. All saints of all time have only been saved in one way, and that is by the blood of Jesus Christ. All who claim to be a part of the Reformed tradition should be able to proclaim this boldly. But describing how this is actually accomplished is something different altogether. Because many of the early Baptists connected the promise of the Gospel with the covenant of grace and the covenant of grace with the new covenant, we can proudly and consistently say today that all of Gods saints of old have been saved in the same exact way that saints of today are saved. They were saved by faith in the promise of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15. This promise was progressively revealed through redemptive history by farther steps, and those who looked past the types and shadows of the Old Covenant were saved. Saints of today are saved by looking back to the finished works a Jesus Christ. For example, by connecting these things, the Baptists believed Abraham was saved by something outside of the Abrahamic covenant; he was saved by faith in the promises of God and would receive that alien righteousness that came to him by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. Again, this alien righteousness came from something outside of the Abrahamic covenant and not the Abrahamic covenant itself. It came from the New Covenant, by way of the Covenant of Grace, that the Abrahamic Covenant was subservient to. Abraham may not have had the clarity of the Gospel that we have today, but regardless he looked beyond Canaan to better days (John 8:56). The new covenant is different in substance than the old covenant. Unlike the required obedience and potential curses of the covenants of old, the new covenant provides freely what it demands. This would include a new heart, the forgiveness of sins, and no threats of curses if one side did not keep up their end of the deal.
I hope that this was a helpful reminder of God fulfilling His promises for the many. May we be encouraged that God does indeed keep His promises. The New Covenant reaches back through history by way of the covenant of grace. John the Baptist prepared the way for the New Covenant (Mark 1:6-8). We know that Christ brought the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), that Paul was a minister of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6), and that all saints of all time have been saved only by way of the New Covenant. That’s why the confessional baptists of old, as well as the ones of today, can boldly proclaim that it is by this new covenant alone that life is given, sins are forgiven, and former enemies are made children of the living God!
We so often love to study, debate, and converse with others on social media (Christian Twitter/Facebook/Instagram) concerning the deep things of God. These things in my opinion, can be good and beneficial for the Christian walk. But may we never be a people who forget the widow who sits in the back row of church, or the mother of five children who barely made it to church on the Lord’s Day. What about the neighborhood man who was on his way to feed his daily drug addiction, only to walk in church doors because he heard the singing of the congregation. May we always remember the sin that has been rampant in our own lives, the same sin that we, by Gods grace attempt to kill daily. Yet, may we never forget the sin that has rocked the lives of others before Christ saved them. Sexual trauma, child abuse, addiction, and idolatry to name a few. These things have been so a part of ones life that now need to be completely transformed by His grace. May we never forget that Christ does the work in an individual, sanctifying them through His Word, and by His Spirit. This sanctification takes place in different ways, at different times, and at different speeds. Things take time, patience, tough love, and care.
Christian leaders, point the people of God to the perfect One. Teach them to pursue holiness in their own lives, but to never take their eyes of the Holy One, who is Christ. Get to know the people under your care. Again, this takes time, love, effort, and much patience. May we never forget that the ones we are speaking to on our social media, our favorite books, podcasts, or the like, make up only a fraction of the Christians who fill the pews on Sundays. In fact, the majority of the Christians we encounter on any given Sunday no nothing about popular books, podcasts, or the latest debates many feel they have to defend themselves in. May we be a people who attempt to give others the grace that has been given to us. May we forgive others as we have been forgiven. May we remember the words of Sinclair Ferguson who reminds us that, “Christ Himself is the only adequate resource we have for the development of sanctification in our lives.” He is the perfect One, not us. We are to look outside of ourselves to Him, not inside of ourselves to try hard to become just like Him. Again, Sinclair reminds us, “that the determining factor of our existence is no longer our past.” Point people to Christ, their forgiveness in Him, the righteousness He has freely given to them, and their rest in Him. Not backwards to their failures, past sin, or daily struggles. In other words, attempt to view the people of God, as hard as it may be at times, in the same way He views them from His glory. They are His own. He has purchased them with the blood of Christ. He has drawn them with the Spirit, they have heard His voice, have come to Him, and He promises to raise them on the last day. When the father sees His own, he doesn’t see their past, their struggles, their sin, their neediness, or their shaky pursuit of holiness. So neither should you.
When He sees His own, He sees His Son. Oh, what a comfort that is…
“And therefore although the Covenant and Promises were made to Abraham, and his seed, yet the consequences will not follow, that the Covenant is likewise made with all believers and their seed, for believers only are the seed, and the seed only, and none of them the father in the Gospel sense, nor any other, save only Abraham to whom and his seed the Covenant and Promises are made.”
~ Andrew Ritor, The Second Part of the Vanity & Childishness of Infant Baptism (London:1642).
“Concerning God, and those that are of him, and in him, neither is the mind of man able to conceive what they be, how great they be, and of what fashion they be: neither doth the eloquence of man’s mouth utter in speech words in any point answerable unto his majesty. For to the thinking upon, and uttering out of his majesty, all eloquence is mute and dumb, and the whole mind is too, too little. For it is greater than the mind: neither can it be conceived how great it is: because if it can be conceived, then must it needs be less than man’s mind, wherein it may be comprehended. It is also greater than all speech, and cannot be spoken. Because if it may be spoken, then is it lesser than man’s speech, by which, if it be spoken, it may be compassed and made to be understood. But what sooner may be thought of him shall be less than he and whatsoever in speech is showed of him, being compared with him shall be much less than he. For in silence to ourselves we may partly perceive him: but as he is, in words to express him, it is altogether impossible. For if you call him light, then do you rather name a creature of his, than him, but him you express not. Or if you call him virtue, then do you rather name his power than him, but him you declare not. Or if you call him Majesty, then do you rather name his honor than him, but him you describe not. And why should I, in running through every several title, prolong the time? I will at once declare it all. Say all of him whatsoever thou canst, and yet thou shalt still rather name some thing of his, than himself. For what canst thou fitly speak or think of him, that is greater than all thy words and senses? Unless it be, that after one manner, and that too as we can, as our capacity will serve, and as our understanding will let us, we shall in mind conceive what God is, if we shall think that he is that, which cannot be understood, nor can possibly come into our thought, what kind of thing, and how great it is… What can you fitly think of him, that is above all loftiness, higher than all height, deeper than all depth, lighter than all light, clearer than all clearness, brighter than all brightness, stronger than all strength, more Virtuous than all virtue, fairer than all fairness, truer than all truth, greater than all greatness, mightier than all might, richer than all riches, wiser than all wisdom, more liberal than all liberality, better than all goodness, justice that all justice, and gentler than all gentleness. For all kinds of virtues must needs be less than he, that is the Father and God of all virtues: so that God may truly be said to be such a certain Being, as to which nothing may be compared. For he is above all that may be spoken.”
John Owen was not a Baptist. Our argument is that he sure sounded like one on many occasions (see below). To understand why the confessional Baptists of the 17th century, as well as confessional Baptists of today appeal to Owen see here…
The judgement of most reformed divines is, that the church under the Old Testament had the same promise of Christ, the same interest in him by faith, remission of sins, reconciliation with God, justification and salvation by the same way and means, that believers have under the new… The Lutherans, on the other side, insist on two arguments to prove that there is not a twofold administration of the same covenant, but that there are substantially distinct covenants and that this is intended in this discourse of the apostle…
Having noted these things, we may consider that the scripture does plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way as can hardly be accommodated by a twofold administration of the same covenant…Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than merely a twofold administration of the same covenant, to be intended…
Having shown in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition to the old covenant, so I shall propose several things which relate to the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace.