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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 32 – OF THE STATE OF MEN AFTER DEATH, AND OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

Westminster Abbey

This is the 32nd chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. I have been publishing one chapter every few days in order to encourage its reading and study. In 1643, the English “Long Parliament” convened an Assembly of Divines at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to advise Parliament on how to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship.

CHAPTER 32

1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.

2. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.

3. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor: the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to his own glorious body.

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The Current Decline In Preaching

 

James Montgomery Boice

James Montgomery Boice was truly one of the great preachers of our time. In the following excerpt, Boice addresses the decline of sound preaching in our modern times. Is it possible for someone to attend a church most of their lives and not hear Biblical preaching? Tragically, I believe this is so. How is it that we now find much preaching in such poor condition? Boice shares his conclusions with us:

[T]he current decline in preaching is due, not to external causes, but to a prior decline in a belief in the Bible as the authoritative and inerrant Word of God on the part of the church’s theologians, seminary professors, and those ministers who are trained by them. Quite simply, it is a loss of confidence in the existence of a sure Word from God. Here the matter of inerrancy and authority go together. For it is not that those who abandon inerrancy as a premise on which to approach the Scriptures necessarily abandon a belief in their authority. On the contrary, they often speak of the authority of the Bible most loudly precisely when they are abandoning the inerrancy position. It is rather that, lacking the conviction that the Bible is without error in the whole and in its parts, these scholars and preachers inevitably approach the Bible differently from inerrantists, whatever may be said verbally. In their work the Bible is searched (to the degree that it is searched) for whatever light it may shed on the world and life as the minister sees them and not as that binding and overpowering revelation that tells us what to think about the world and life and even formulates the questions we should be asking about them.

Nothing is sadder than the loss of this true authority, particularly when the preacher does not even know it. The problem is seen in a report of a panel discussion involving a rabbi, a priest, and a Protestant minister. The rabbi stood up and said, “I speak according to the law of Moses.” The priest said, “I speak according to the tradition of the Church.” But the minister said, “It seems to me…” (The Foundation of Biblical Authority, London & Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis, 1979, pp.123-143)

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 14 – OF SAVING FAITH

Westminster Abbey

I am currently posting, every few days, one chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. It is woefully neglected by the average Christian in this age; yet, it should be studied regularly by all who classify themselves as Protestants. In 1643, an Assembly of Divines convened at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship:

CHAPTER 14

1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the 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 the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

2. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

3. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 13 – OF SANCTIFICATION

Westminster Assembly

I am currently posting, every few days, one chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. It is woefully neglected by the average Christian in this age; yet, it should be studied regularly by all who classify themselves as Protestants. In 1643, an Assembly of Divines convened at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship:

CHAPTER 13

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 9 – OF FREE WILL

Westminster Assembly

In 1643, the English “Long Parliament” convened an Assembly of Divines at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to advise Parliament on how to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship. One chapter of the Confession follows:

CHAPTER 9

1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.

Westminster Confession Of Faith: CHAPTER 5 – OF PROVIDENCE

Westminster Confession of Faith

In 1643, the English “Long Parliament” convened an Assembly of Divines at Westminster Abbey in London. Their task was to advise Parliament on how to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland and the Continental Reformed churches. The Westminster Assembly produced documents on doctrine, church government, and worship. One chapter of the Confession follows:

CHAPTER 5

1. God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

3. God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at his pleasure.

4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

6. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasions of sin; and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

7. As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of his church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.

John Stott Died Last Week. . . .

John Stott died last week at the age of ninety. When John Stott began his ordained ministry, evangelicals had little influence in the Anglican Church hierarchy. He often bemoaned the anti-intellectualism apparent in some Christians. Stott believed that most evangelical Christians were not integrated in their daily living. He saw a tendency among Christians to exclude certain areas of their life from the lordship of Jesus; it might be their business life and work, or their political persuasion.

Concerning preaching, Stott, when speaking to the Langham Partnership International said:

The church is growing everywhere of course, or nearly everywhere, but it’s often growth without depth and we are concerned to overcome this lack of depth, this superficiality, by remembering that God wants his people to grow. Now if God wants his people to grow into maturity, which he does, and if they grow by the word of God, which they do, and if the word of God comes to them mainly through preaching, which it does, then the logical question to ask is how can we help to raise the standards of biblical preaching?

John Stott

John Stott’s best-known work, Basic Christianity, has sold two million copies and has been translated into more than 60 languages. Other titles include The Cross of Christ, Understanding the Bible, The Contemporary Christian, Evangelical Truth, Issues Facing Christians Today, The Incomparable Christ, eight volumes in The Bible Speaks Today series of New Testament expositions, and most recently Why I Am a Christian. Billy Graham called John Stott “the most respected clergyman in the world today,” and Christian author John Pollock described him as “in effect the theological leader of world evangelicalism.” Chuck Colson recently wrote in an article titled “John Stott: Will Evangelicals Continue His Mission?” the following:

In 1967, at a time when most Evangelicals were content to remain safe behind the walls of their churches, ignoring the larger world around them, Stott wrote a book entitled, Our Guilty Silence.

In it Stott made the case that because the Gospel is “Good News” we are under an obligation to share it with others. This sounds obvious, but in 1967 this kind of witness, and that kind of engagement with the larger society, was the

John Stott

last thing many Christians wanted to do. They much preferred their comfortable worship and cultural isolation.

Among its many benefits, this isolation didn’t require them to think too much, especially when it came to matters of faith. So five years later, Stott wrote Your Mind Matters, a book whose title could serve as a mission statement for this broadcast.

In it Stott criticized the “spirit of anti-intellectualism” that pervaded Evangelicalism at the time. This “spirit” often produced “zeal without knowledge” that was mistaken for Christian maturity. True Christian maturity is impossible without understanding what it is we believe and how it applies to our lives.

It is true. John Stott will be sorely missed. The question, “Will evangelicals continue his mission?” is an important question and it will have to be decided by each of us.

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