Drawing from the Well, 1/17/17

For an introduction to the series, read this.

This week we continue working through my church’s statement of faith, based on the Baptist Faith and Message.

Statement of Faith Article for the Week

VII. BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER

Christian baptism, being the believer’s profession of faith, is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer’s cleansing from sin and death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is to be done in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and it should be done by immersion. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership. The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the cup, remember the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Thoughts for Discussion with Children

Imagine that one day you become such a great basketball player that you make it to the NBA. If that happened, there would come a day when you would first put on your team’s jersey and play in your first game as a member of that team. Putting on that jersey for the first time would no doubt be an amazing experience; it would be the moment when you could say, “I made it. I’m part of this team.”

But of course, you wouldn’t just put on your jersey for the first game, take it off, and never put it on again. No, you would put it on for every game after that, as long as you were on that team. The jersey would mark you out every time you wore it as a member of your basketball team. If you ever left that team, you wouldn’t wear their jersey anymore. Perhaps you would wear the jersey of another team, or you would stop wearing jerseys altogether because you had retired from basketball. Team jerseys show who belongs to a team and who doesn’t when that team gathers to play basketball.

The ordinances that Jesus gave to the church are similar to jerseys. Getting baptized is like putting on your jersey for the first time. It is what marks you publicly as a disciple of Jesus, as part of his church, and therefore it is a very important step of obedience in the Christian life. In baptism, we are put under the water to show that we have died with Christ to sin (in other words, sin is not master of us anymore, even though it still affects us as long as we are in this world); then we are raised up out of the water to show that we have been raised to spiritual life with Christ, and that spiritual life will one day blossom into new life of resurrection from the dead, just as Jesus himself was raised. When a person is baptized, he is declaring publicly that he has trusted in Jesus and has been through a death and resurrection, marking a change from serving sin to serving Jesus.

But is baptism the only way we show that we belong to Jesus? No, it isn’t. Just as a basketball player keeps putting on his jersey for game after game after game, Christians also are commanded by Jesus to do something that shows over and over and over that we are still trusting in Jesus alone to save us and still following him as disciples. But unlike putting on a jersey, baptism is not something that should be done more than once. Baptism marks the beginning of our life in Christ, but Jesus gave us something else to do over and over and over to show our ongoing life in Christ: the Lord’s Supper.

So, after we have been baptized into the church, we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper as often as the church serves it to us in order to show that we are still following Jesus and trusting in him alone to save us. The bread, representing his broken body, and the cup, representing his spilled blood, are things we take into our bodies by eating and drinking to show that we don’t trust in what we have done, but in his death for us.

Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are acts of obedience for us as followers of Jesus. But they are also acts of obedience for the church who baptizes and serves us the bread and cup. By giving these signs (or “jerseys”) only to those who show they are believers in Jesus, the church shows the difference between Christians and the world. Christians get to wear the jersey, but non-Christians don’t. That is why these two acts are so special and important.

Suggested readings for the week: Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 6; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Progressive Covenantalism and Israel: How I Changed My Mind

Until recently, I would have considered myself somewhere on the spectrum of what is called “progressive dispensationalism,” meaning I expected the kingdom of God to include a future phase of a national restoration of a redeemed Israel in Christ, with full possession of the land promised to her as part of the inheritance of the whole earth for all of God’s redeemed people. I came to this conclusion some time back based largely on Paul’s argument in Romans 9-11. My reasoning went like this: Continue reading

The Mission of the Church: A Response to Peter Leithart

If I could hand out one book at a large gathering of evangelicals, I would strongly consider What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. In this book, the authors argue that the church’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and that therefore churches should focus their efforts on Great Commission tasks and avoid the pitfall of spreading their efforts into too many good causes that would distract from what they have been sent in the world to do. It is a book that brings great clarity and focus to a discussion that has too often lacked it. It needs to be read far and wide, and if it is, it will be for the good of the church.

Peter Leithart recently wrote a response to the book in which he makes two major arguments against its main thesis. My aim is to respond to these two arguments. Continue reading

Drawing from the Well, 8/8/16

For an introduction to the series, read this.

Now that we have completed a survey of the Apostles’ Creed, I have decided a change of pace would be nice, so for the next several months I will be writing on my church’s statement of faith. This statement is reliant on and adapted from the New Hampshire Confession of 1833, which has been modified into recent forms of the Baptist Faith and Message (1925, 1963, 1998, and 2000). Since it is a statement of faith and not a Creed, it is not written to be memorized. Therefore, our focus won’t be on memorization but simply exposition of what the statement of faith teaches. Continue reading

How Should White People Think about Racism?

It is difficult for white people like myself to have conversations about racism, for a number of reasons. Here are a few I can think of:

  1. Because we think of racism primarily in terms of conscious, intentional patterns of thinking and deliberate actions and typically do not consider the possibility that it might far often manifest itself in unconscious assumptions. For this reason, we believe it’s a problem that some extremists may need to deal with, but certainly not us.
  2. Because we live a culture that is hypersensitive on racial issues, which has led to allegations of racism around every corner by professional race-baiters, and we do not want to give any legitimacy to that industry.
  3. Because our culture’s hypersensitivity leads us to think that we have to walk on eggshells when it comes to this topic for fear of saying the wrong thing. It is easier simply to avoid it altogether.
  4. Because the concept of systemic injustice is often vague and abstract to us, given that we live in a majority white culture and lack the experience that makes it a concrete reality.
  5. Because we are sinners who recoil from being confronted with our own sin.

Continue reading

Christians and Culture: What Is the Way Forward? (Part 5)

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 first.

It turns out that none of the four (or five, according to Niebuhr) models surveyed is free of weaknesses, and that seems to be owing to the fact that all of the models are ultimately reductionistic. Among the ones surveyed, I personally believe the two kingdoms model offers the broadest theological vision for navigating this issue, but it must be supplemented by insights from other models as well, lest it become imbalanced. Continue reading