Thursday, February 18, 2010


(The following is taken from my "'Under God's Rainbow')

With one foot in the grave the Scotsman Sir Walter Scott (1731-1832) asked his son-in-law to read to him. Lockhart asked from which book? ‘There is only one Book!’ Scott is said to have replied. A talisman? Some treat the Bible as such. Hold a Bible in your hand when you die and Peter will see it and let you through the pearly gates? Never! First off, it’s nothing to do with Peter whether you enter heaven or not. And secondly, notice that Sir Walter wanted to hear the words read from the Book. His interest was in the words of everlasting life, the Good News! The Good News? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).

No doubt many homes have a ‘Family Bible’ that has been passed down from one generation to the next. The trouble is that it is no good when it is only collecting dust. Its words need to permeate the home and your whole being for the Book to be of any use. The Spirit works with the Word to convict, convert and then to edify.

Before his conversion Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was interested in rhetoric, so he went to hear the Christian preacher Ambrose. Thus Augustine heard the same Good News that Sir Walter Scott heard. Some time later while under conviction Augustine was asking God to purify his unclean thoughts and habits. He heard a child singing outdoors, the kind of song that you or I might hear children sing when they are playing skipping rope. The words of the song were, ‘Pick it up and read it. Pick it up and read it.’ So, Augustine picked up the Book and read it! The first passage his eyes fell upon said, ‘Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts’ Romans 13:13-14. Thus, Augustine turned from his sins and put on Christ, i.e., he repented and believed in the Gospel of salvation. Years later, as death began crouching at the foot of his bed just waiting to pounce on him, Augustine had some of the Psalms of David hung around his bedroom walls. Good luck charms? Absolutely not! Augustine wanted the Word of God before his eyes to read before he went to be with the Lord. He died of a fever in 430.

The Scotsman David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a great missionary and explorer. Livingstone was sick and lay in a shack while a man kept watch outside his door. Some came seeking to see Livingstone. The watcher told the group that David couldn’t be disturbed. He could see that Dr Livingstone was on his knees in prayer. ‘The White Doctor is ill. Besides, he is praying to his God and must not be disturbed.’ Turns out, Livingstone had died there on his knees at his bedside in prayer!

In great illness of health that great Reformer of the Church the Frenchman John Calvin (1509-64) would respond to his friends’ urges that he should rest, with ‘What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when He comes?’ As he was dying he handed his friend Farel a letter, containing the following, ‘Since it is God’s will that you should outlive me, remember our friendship. It was useful to God’s church and its fruits await us in heaven. I do not want you to tire yourself on my account. I draw my breath with difficulty and expect each moment to breathe my last. It is enough that I live and die for Christ, who is to all His followers a gain both in life and in death’ (see THL Parker). Calvin was buried in an unmarked grave on Sunday 28th May, 1564.

Augustine, Scott, Livingstone, and Calvin were united in, by, and through Christ. Indeed, all were Augustinians or Calvinists. Therefore, as a testimony against the following caustic and fallacious statement, ‘the doctrines of Calvinism will deaden and kill anything: prayer, faith, zeal, holiness,’ (Vance) we may hold up the lives of at least the four aforementioned saints. Each by grace through faith had ‘put on Christ.’

To live and die for Christ, as Calvin says, is gain both in life and death. It’s as the Apostle Paul says, ‘For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ and ‘we are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord’ (Phil. 1:21 & 2 Cor. 5:8). Calvinism? Calvinism is about doing all things to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). ‘He who believes in God without reserve and is determined that God shall be God to him in all his thinking, feeling and willing – in the entire compass of his life activities, intellectual, moral and spiritual – throughout all his individual social and religious relations, is, by force of that strictest of all logic which presides over the outworking of principles into thought and life, by the very necessity of the case, a Calvinist’ (Warfield).

‘While Calvinism is much more than a mind-set, it nevertheless begins with a mind that is enlightened by the truth of the Gospel’ (Ryken). Therefore, ‘Pick it up and read it’. Let that old Family Bible collect dust no more! ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom’ Colossians 3:16.

Friday, February 12, 2010


As a minister of the Word and Sacraments in the Presbyterian Church of Australia I have been given the great honour and privilege of baptizing my little grandson at the Presbyterian church my daughter and her husband attend. Much of my own and extended family will be there to witness this grand event as we, along with the rest of the congregation, officially welcome this infant into the Lord’s church.

Since baptism is a sign and seal of God’s promise of salvation to all who believe, I will baptize my grandson with water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit by sprinkling him with water. Sprinkling is Scriptural: See eg, Dr Francis Nigel Lee’s Sprinkling is Scriptural – A Reply to the Baptist Adamthwaite’s “Baptism is Immersion”

“Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.... It be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance!” Westminster Confession, 28:3-5.

Baptism does not regenerate, but the Holy Spirit certainly does! Hence the Father's promise of the Holy Spirit with the shed blood of Jesus as sign-ified in Covenant Baptism. As wax with the stamp of the king’s sign-et ring sealed an official letter, so the water with the name of the Triune God affixed on the baby’s head sign-ifies and seals the promise God makes to believers and their children – including my grandson.

May we all be reminded to improve on our baptism! (See Westminster Larger Catechism 167 below)

WLC Q. 165 What is Baptism?
A. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into Himself, of remission of sins by His blood, and regeneration by His Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.

WLC Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to Him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to Him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.

Q. 167. How is our baptism to be improved by us?
A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and endeavouring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


A friend, in an email to me, mentioned that so-and-so was a “Reformed Baptist.” I must admit that I don’t know what the term “Reformed Baptist” means. Are “Reformed Baptists” Reformed or are they Baptist? Is the term “Reformed Baptist” not an oxymoron?

The term “Calvinistic Baptist” perhaps helps a little. From this term one can see that the Baptist at least has Calvinistic leanings, kind of like the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, who are Methodists with Calvinistic leanings. Why then don’t we refer to Calvinistic Methodists as “Reformed Methodists”? Maybe some do and I’ve just missed it. Anyway, I found the following helpful hint about areas in which Reformed Baptists so-called believe that Calvin misread Scripture:

“Are Baptists Calvinists? If a Calvinist is a person who follows strictly the teachings of John Calvin, then in three important respects Baptists are not, and have never been, Calvinists. Calvin was a pedobaptist (practicing infant baptism); Baptists are credobaptists (believers' baptism only). Calvin believed in a presbyterian form of church government; Baptists are congregationalists. Calvin believed that the civil magistrate should enforce both tables of the law (moral responsibilities towards God and towards one's neighbor), suppressing heresy and blasphemy by force if necessary. Baptists believe in religious liberty for all persons.” Timothy George

According to the above Calvinists are:

1. Pedobaptist (ie, believe that the Bible teaches Covenant Baptism).
2. Presbyterian (ie, believe that the Bible teaches the Presbyterian form of Church Government.
3. Theonomist (ie, believe that the Civil Magistrate has the duty to administer the Ten Commandments in Civil Law.

To be sure there a Calvinists who don’t like the term “Theonomist” to describe the responsibilities of the Civil Magistrate, but it seems to me like a fair enough description of the how the Bible describes the function of the Civil Magistrate.

From the three points above we can discern that the Baptist has a different view of

a) The nature of the children of believers.
b) The nature of the Church.
c) The nature of the Civil Magistrate.

For the Calvinist the nature of the children of believers, according to Scripture, is “holy” and therefore is “covenantal.” In a word, infants and little children of believers, on account of God’s covenant, are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Thus, according to Scripture, they are candidates for baptism.

For the Calvinist the nature of the Church is universal, many churches make up the one Church. A church is a congregation which is overseen by a plurality of elders (ie, at least one teaching or preaching elder plus two or more ruling elders.

For the Calvinist the nature of the Civil Magistrate is one that is an expert in the interpretation and application (ie, the administration) of God’s Law as summarized in the Ten Commandments.

Since Reformed churches are Presbyterian in Church Government and Presbyterian churches are Reformed in their doctrine, the term "Reformed" in Reformed Baptist is (to me at least) at best simply confusing and at worst meaningless!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


(Photos by me)

Please forgive me, but writing the following is good (purifying and cleansing) therapy for me!

Every once and a while I feel a great need to swing the old baptism chestnut. Honest, I don't wish to cause any grinding of teeth, but I know that those of the baptistic persuasion won't admit defeat on the meaning and mode of baptism till the Lord returns! But it does drive me a wee bit bonkers (conkers?) when I read comments such as, "It would seem clear from Scripture that those who were baptized were fully immersed in water." O yeah, where in Scripture?

Talk about presuppositions: baptistic people always think "immersion" when the read the word "baptize" and its cognates - even to the point of refusal to even admit that Presbyterian or Reformed sprinkling and pouring are valid and Biblical. However, see where, for example, Moulton's "The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised" lists meanings of Baptism and its cognates which include "to dip", to dye", "an ablution", "immerse", "to cleanse or purify by washing".

The Reformed or Presbyterians believe "to cleanse or purify by washing" is the best definition of what Scripture teaches about baptism. Thus the meaning and mode of baptism is not an historical issue, but rather theological.

The quoted comment: "It would seem clear from Scripture that those who were baptized were fully immersed in water" was found in a book containing the entire KJV of the New Testament. See how the aforementioned quote squares with, for example, Mark 7:4: "And when they come from the market, except they wash (baptisontai), they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing (baptismous) of cups, and pots, and of tables".

I've heard of dunkin' donuts, but tables? Give us a break! Try sprinkling, it will save you heaps on not having to buy new furniture! And how does the one size fits all "immersion" fit with Hebrews 9:10's "divers washings (baptismois)"? What's "divers" about "immersion"? Can there be various "immersions"? I think I'll stick with: Baptize: "to cleanse or purify by washing", at least it's Biblical!

With the definition in mind, "to cleanse or purify by washing", hear what the writer to the Hebrews (referring to Exodus 24) says, "Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, saying, this is the blood of the testament which God has enjoined to you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of ministry." Hebrews 9:18-21.

Covenant Baptism (as opposed to baptistic baptism) pictures Christ's purifying blood and cleansing Spirit, ie, the Promise, the Covenant Promise of the Father, being applied to the passive recipient.

How does Jesus Baptize His Church with His Spirit? Does He dunk His Church in His Spirit or does He pour His Spirit on His Church? (See eg, Joel 2:28; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:17,33,38,39,41 etc. etc. etc. All of Scripture attests to the latter mode of baptism (ie, to sprinkling or pouring).

I'm glad to have gotten that off my chest (nut)!

(See also my "Baptism" and "The Baptismal Seal"):