According to a recent report in one of our Evangelical publications, there appears to be an upsurge of interest amongst some Pastors and Churches south of the border, on the subject of “Exclusive Psalmody;” that is, the singing of “psalms only” in the public worship of the Church. As one who writes out of a setting where this practice is commonplace amongst many, may I urge such Pastors and Churches to, perhaps, think again, on the subject. That we should sing psalms in the public worship of the Church (inclusive psalmody) is beyond question, and if we fail to do that, then we are failing to do justice to the relevant passages of scripture which deal with the worship of the Church which the Lord has ordained. The singing of “psalms only,” however, (exclusive psalmody) is a different matter altogether, and should be appreciated as such. We have no doubt that some who are leaning in the direction of exclusive psalmody are doing so with a sincere heart, and with a conscience which they have developed along those lines; but we have a sneaking suspicion that with some it is simply that age-old desire to have something different. “Purity of Worship,” as our psalm-singing friends like to describe their position is, after all, a very attractive proposition, and who wouldn’t want to be part of that? This is by no means an extended article on the subject, but simply a few thoughts that some might like to consider before they abandon good old Isaac Watts and company!…
They cover TULIP, each chapter of the book (The Ten Commandments and the Christian, The Regulative Principle, Covenant Theology, The Church,The Legitimacy and Use of Confessions of Faith) and take a call about music in worship.
“This book is by Reformed Baptists for Reformed Baptists.”
On episode 88 of our interviewpodcast we have Pastor Earl Blackburn and Pastor Rob Ventura back on to tell us all about the new book “Going Beyond the Five Points: Pursuing a More Comprehensive Reformation”.
In recent years, a doctrinal shift has taken place among believers so great that even the secular press has taken notice. Christians across denominational lines are laying hold of the biblical truth of God’s electing love and saving grace in Christ, commonly called “Calvinism.” For many, this marks the beginning of a deeper study into the whole counsel of God in Scripture. A thirst to be thoroughly biblical in all areas of life is driving a more comprehensive present-day reformation beyond the famous “five points.” This book captures the voices of seasoned Reformed pastors graciously guiding and encouraging Christ’s beloved sheep to press on and to seek the “old paths, where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16). In this anthology you will be instructed concerning the abiding relevance of the Ten Commandments, God-centered worship, the masterful unfolding of God’s great plan of redemption through divine covenants, the identity, nature, and work of the church, and the help that confessions of faith lend to our grasp of God’s glorious Word.
Table of Contents:
Editor’s Preface | Rob Ventura
Foreword | Dr. James White
Chapter 1 – The Ten Commandments and the Christian | Dr. Richard C. Barcellos
Chapter 2 – The Regulative Principle | Dr. Sam Waldron
Chapter 3 – Covenant Theology | Earl Blackburn
Chapter 4 – The Church | Earl Blackburn
Chapter 5 – The Legitimacy and Use of Confessions of Faith | Dr. Robert Paul Martin
The rediscovery of “the doctrines of grace” among Baptists during the last sixty years has thrilled my heart! However, this welcome advance does not make a reformation. The further necessary questions of “what is the church?…how should we worship God?…what is Christ like living?…” stand before us still, begging for biblical reformation. Going Beyond the Five Points provides clear biblical direction for reforming churches today. Barcellous’ defense of the Ten Commandments for Christian living under grace is unassailable. Blackburn’s chapters on Covenant Theology and the doctrine of the church are indispensable to Baptist reformation. Waldron’s explanation of the Regulative Principle is greatly needed by Baptists to remind us of our foundational principle which needs renewed application to worship and government. Martin’s persuasive defense of why Baptists need confessions of faith today is irrefutable. To gather them together as Ventura has done provides a classic standard for further Baptist reformation today. Baptist pastors, students, and church members need to study this book to understand what it means to build biblical and Reformed Baptist churches today for the glory of Christ.
—Dr. Fred A. Malone, Senior Pastor First Baptist Church Clinton, Louisiana
Going Beyond the Five Points is a wonderful pastoral resource to give to any brother or sister in Christ who has begun the journey of better understanding the doctrines of grace. If the Five Points are the appetizer for the hungry believer, these essays will provide a rich and satisfying main course to guide them in a deeper understanding of the truth.
—Jim Savastio, Pastor of Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky
Some truths lie close to the surface, others require more digging. In the substance of this book, you will profit from the groundbreaking labours of others, men who have begun to turn over the soil in order to expose the consequences and applications of a thorough embrace of God’s sovereign grace displayed in the salvation of his people, considered not just individually but together. Readers willing to put in the effort will find much to ponder and much from which to profit.
—Jeremy Walker, Pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England
If the church at worship is the epicenter of our spiritual lives then it follows that our God would take a unique interest in what goes one there. He does. In fact, he has given us nonnegotiable Biblical principles to guide us as we think though what we do in worship and why we do it.
The three principles he talks about weave together to form and inform our worship of God. He explain in the series conclusion:
Imagine that in preparation for coming together as the church in worship, we are members of a symphony, getting ready for a concert.
The Vertical Principal of Worship has explained to us who we will be playing for. It is a concert for a King, and so while there are many others who can and should benefit from it, it is for the King. His desires and requirements must always rule.
The Regulative Principle of Worship has shown us how to build our instruments. It has shown us how to identify the parts; to indentify what is in and what is out. Using it we can build an instrument that meets the King’s design.
The Internal Principle of Worship has shown us that from within us must flow the breath that will take that beautiful instrument and make it perform the function it was designed for. The King doesn’t want us to just show him the instruments; he wants them played.
“Worship is a vertical act with horizontal impact.
We must worship God in all the ways and only the ways he has commanded in His Word.
The external act of worship must be an expression of true internal realities.”
When all the principles come together, then you have a symphony of beautiful music worthy to be offered to the King.
And, granted, there’s no command to commemorate the birth, death, or resurrection of Christ, but the way we do those things is through ordinary worship – gathering together as the people of God to sing, pray, receive his Word, and observe the sacraments. Wonderful! But on Ash Wednesday, folks get together to do those things and smear ash on their foreheads. Jesus gave his church two beautiful gospel pictures – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Ash Wednesday adds a 3rd picture not ordained by Jesus or commanded by God. Adding things not prescribed by Scripture to worship is not wise.
I believe it is (as many observers of Ash Wednesday and the Lent season it kicks off point out) beneficial to think on our sin and our need for repentance; to actually repent. I believe that prayer and fasting are a good way to do this (though as I noted in a post several years ago, what typically happens in Lent is not really fasting). I believe that meditating on our sinfulness and need is helpful preparation for truly appreciating the resurrection of Jesus. But I also believe that Jesus himself gave us the perfect way to do that. It is by remembering his finished work in our observance of the Lord’s Supper. Here we remember and have our faith fed by what He has done. Ash Wednesday and Lent dangerously try to reproduce in our lives what Jesus went through in 40 days in the wilderness which tends to emphasize what we do. Dear friends, Jesus underwent that experience in the wilderness so I don’t have to! He earned acceptance with the Father because I never could.
Recently, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) site posted a blog entry entitled – “Lent Is About Jesus: A Free Devotional Guide.” No, I did not make that up… As I read the post and thought about it a bit, I concluded I would like to respond to it. So, as many of you do on various blogs, I sent a comment to that post. Before sending the comment, however, I sent copies of my response to a few friends, just to make sure I was responding correctly and clearly. They encouraged me to post my thoughts…
This is not helpful to me as an individual or, especially, as a pastor. It creates more work for me.
Days after that post, Tom Chantry chimed in as well:
It has slowly dawned on me this week that the folks at The Gospel Coalition have reached down from their lofty pinnacle to tell the rest of us that Lent is all about Jesus and that we really ought to consider celebrating it. Childish practice turns sinister when respected pastors tell me that I ought to engage in it. How should I respond?
In the above post Jeremy Walker’s post, from a year before, was quoted:
“Frankly, it seems odd to me that many of those who have proved very quick to abandon all manner of patterns and habits and convictions of Christians over decades or centuries, retain Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter (Resurrection) Sunday as set in stone in the calendar, one of the high points of the Christian year (which pattern, we are informed, provides the central event in the church year – the climax of worship, expectation, and celebration, an exercise of the church’s discipline). If you’re not sold on Easter, you might be dismissed as one of the “diehard Reformed” for whom “this [Easter] Monday is like every other Monday because Easter Sunday is like every other Sunday.” To say that Easter Sunday is like every other Sunday is not to suggest an upgraded view of Easter Sunday but a downgraded view of every other one.”
Three years ago Reformed Baptist Fellowship featured this one:
Another unbiblical aspect of Lent is the very public manner in which it is practiced. Jesus condemned hypocrites for their outward displays of piety (Matt. 6:1-18), revealing the self-righteous nature of such gestures. Lent is very legalistic as well and Paul warns us against binding the conscience in areas which God has left free (Rom. 14:1-12). True sanctification involves the recognition that our consciences are liberated by Christ’s teachings (Mark 7:17-18) while also understanding that the corrupt, sinful heart is what separates us from God (vv. 20-23).
So, here’s a thought: how about giving up semi-Roman Catholic dogma, humanly-mandated asceticism, and empty gestures? Rend your heart and not your garments, and do so not because it is a particular time of year, but because you have a particular kind of heart with its particular manifestations of rebellion. Self-control is never out of fashion. Repentance and confession may have their particular seasons in the life of the saints, but it is worth remembering that when our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent,” he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
On today’s broad cast of After Darkness Light, Heinz Dschankilic and Michael Haykin look at the essence behind the Christmas story. This essence is described in John 1:14 where the apostle notes that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Come join us today as they explore The Incarnation.
I’m not sure if every pastor out there gets the same questions I do, but one that seems to come up pretty regularly this time of year is all about Christmas…
While Christians often debate this issue, I am convinced that the 2nd commandment forbids the making of images of Christ in every respect. I oppose the ikons of Eastern Orthodoxy depicting the members of the Trinity, and just as strongly oppose the myriad of attempts at depicting Jesus in art of various forms (film, paintings, sculptures, crucifixes, etc.). God has said quite categorically, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). So the nativity scenes of Christmas depicting Jesus as a baby are a violation of the 2nd commandment, and while well intentioned, should not be displayed by Christians.
There are at least five areas to consider when working through the biblical arguments against Christmas celebration. They are festivals and special days of observance, the Lord’s Day, the regulative principle of worship, cultural engagement, and Christian liberty.
It’s that time again. The run-up to Christmas. We’ve been preparing our children. We’ve warned them. They mustn’t say it. They mustn’t even hint at it. Whatever anyone says to them, they mustn’t let it slip. They don’t believe in Santa.
In a few weeks time most of us will be celebrating Christmas. So how do we, as Christians, decide what it’s right to spend at Christmas? We face the same pressures as other folk. Let me remind you of five important truths.
It directs to the observation of several fasts and festivals, which are no where enjoined in the word of God, and for which it provides collects, gospels and epistles to be read: the fasts are, Quadragesima or Lent, in imitation of Christ’s forty days fast in the wilderness, Ember weeks, Rogatian days, and all the Fridays in the year; in which men are commanded to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving. The festivals, besides, the principal ones, Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, are the several saints days throughout the year; which are all of popish invention, and are either moveable or fixed, as the popish festivals be; and being the relics of popery makes us still more uneasy and dissatisfied with them.
It happened again last week. On Thanksgiving morning I received an email from a friend of a friend. The first line read, “It appears I am being forced out of my pastorate.” The story that unfolded in the rest of that email and upon further inquiry is filled with themes that are tragically too common…
Each year, I receive letters asking my thoughts about the celebration of Christmas. So last year, I posted over a dozen articles on the subject of Christmas expressing a number of different perspectives from respectable men…
Ponder through the Twelve Days of Christmas series and test each of them by the Word of God.
Each Christmas we hear the story about angels and shepherds, of wise men and strange sightings of a star, of a donkey, and of the Child that was laid in a stable manger. Yet the actual birth of Jesus, though highly unusual, was not entirely unique. Of course, not everyone is born to the sight of a star moving and coming to rest overhead, or to the sound of angelic announcements and trumpet blasts! Yet it is true to say that many children have been born in humble surroundings. Therefore, it was the manner in which Jesus was conceived that marks Him out from others.
The doctrine of the Virgin Birth holds that Jesus’ birth was the result of a miraculous conception whereby the Virgin Mary conceived a baby in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, without a human father.
Christ’s miraculous birth tells us much about His nature.
So, why did Caesar, the most powerful man in the known world, send out the decree? Because “this…has been written by the prophet”. Because “the heart of the King is in the hand of the Lord as rivers of water — he turns it wherever he wills”. Because the fullness of time had come, and for no other reason. It was God’s sovereign design, and not that of men.
On Sunday morning, December 21, 1856, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon to prepare his growing church for the coming Christmas season. He titled it “Going Home,” and the aim of the message was to encourage each member of his congregation to humbly, wisely, and appropriately find opportunities to share their personal testimony with family and friends.
When we think of Christmas, we often think of the beginning of Jesus’ life here on earth, of when he was incarnate in the flesh and the beginning of the story of the Gospels. But we don’t often think of Christmas as an Eschatological event. The historical reality of the incarnation wasn’t just a sign of a new beginning, but of a completion and fulfillment. Christmas is a mark of the end, the eschaton, as the God who will bring the final day steps into time and space to bring about the culmination of all things. With him comes light and peace and hope; and also judgment and terror, and finality. Far from a celebration of just a cute little baby that we call Jesus, Christmas shows us the declarative and magnificent power of the omnipotent God who reigns over all things.
A thought occurred to me while I was driving home on Christmas Eve listening to callers to a radio station share their Christmas memories. They were all trying to be happy, but they all sounded depressed. It struck me of a sudden that I understand why this is.
In the beginning God said, let there be singing. The act of creation is described as a time of singing. It was when “the morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7). Since that time God in His providence has said, Let the earth bring forth all kinds of singing and music. He has said, Let there be love songs, laments for the dead, ballads for the brave, and let there be hymns of praise to ME! He has also ordained that just as there should be a great variety of songs, there should be a great variety of music. Out of His creative providence have sprung all sorts of musical instruments and all sorts of musical geniuses. In the world we enjoy everything from brass bands to Bach and much more. Singing and music are wonderful gifts of God made for us to enjoy. Indeed, there is a great deal of Christian liberty with regard to this matter. Some may push this matter of their liberty way beyond what is good for them or glorifying to God or edifying to their brethren. Yet still without question there is great Christian liberty to enjoy these good gifts of God. Christians may enjoy sacred concerts, the singing of biblical psalms, the talents of great musicians, Southern gospel quartets, soloists, duets, trios. All these are good gifts to be enjoyed. Christians with discretion may also enjoy all sorts of secular music. Of course, care must be taken not to fill our minds with music that defiles us. But there is a place for all these sings in the rich life that God has given to His people.
But in my preaching for Grace Reformed Baptist Church in the series, How Then Should We Worship?, I am not dealing with the liberty Christians have to enjoy God’s good gifts in their own lives as they see fit. I am not speaking of what kinds of music they may bring into their own homes or concert halls. My concern is different. We are asking what God has appointed about this matter for His own house. There are many things that have a place in God’s world that do not have a place in God’s house. We have a liberty to order our own houses that we do not have in the house of God. The very essence of the regulative principle of the church is that God exercises a special rule over His own house that is different from His rules for life in general. This is the reason Paul said to Timothy I write so that you may know how one ought conduct Himself in the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15). In the world we have Christian liberty within the limits of His laws. In the church we have God dominating His own worship.
In this series, then, when I came to the required part of worship which the 1689 Baptist Confession describes as teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord, my intention was not to say much of anything about the music to be enjoyed outside of the church. We may do as we will in the world within the limits of God’s laws, but in His house God condemns will-worship or self-made religion (Col. 2:23). The question I set for myself was simply this: What has God said about the singing of His praise in His worship?
Let me sum up in this my final post in my series on the subject of exclusive psalmody. First, let me repeat my love and respect for the brethren who hold exclusive psalmody. They are among my most beloved brothers. Second, let me nevertheless my deep concern that their views not become prevalent among those who hold the important Reformed doctrine of the regulative principle. Exclusive psalmody runs so contrary to basic instincts of the Christian heart and life that I fear that its prevalence would bring (as it has brought) disrepute and suspicion on the regulative principle itself. Third, let me review my arguments against exclusive psalmody.
First, the exclusive psalmodists themselves do not actually sing inspired psalms.
Second, we are commanded to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24), that is, we must worship in the light of gospel fulfillment and not Old Testament shadows.
Third, we are commanded in Scripture to sing new songs in keeping with the progressive revelation of God’s redemption.
Fourth, exclusive psalmody is out of accord with the requirements God makes with regard to other parts of worship.
Fifth, the best interpretation of Ephesians 5:19-20 and Colossians 3:16-17 leads to the conclusion that Paul was not thinking strictly of the Book of Psalms in this passage or even of inspired songs.
Waiting on the Spirit of Promise is a study of the life and ministry of Abraham Cheare (1626-1668), containing selections from Cheare’s works, and rescuing an important seventeenth-century Baptist from obscurity. Cheare has been overshadowed by other more celebrated Baptist contemporaries, but as the pastor of the Particular Baptist work in Plymouth, Devon, Cheare played a key role in the advance of the Baptist cause in the West Country in the 1650s. His Sighs for Sion is an excellent illustration of early Baptist piety. With the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Cheare, like many other Dissenters, suffered arrest for his refusal to give up preaching. Cheare’s prison writings reveal both a sturdy faith in God and a deep-seated piety. Despite the fact that he was incarcerated in a series of “nasty prisons,” Cheare used this time of suffering to deepen his walk with God and so provide a model for his congregation of Christian integrity and joy in the midst of trial. To the very end of his life, Cheare eagerly awaited further outpourings of the Spirit of Promise upon the Church and looked forward to that day when his Lord Jesus would make all things right.
Baptists are not often thought of as leading theologians and practitioners of worship. But forgotten in history is one crucial fact: the Baptist tradition formed out of a desire to worship God purely. Early Baptists devoted immense energy to questions of worship and drew conclusions of even contemporary value. Through the seismic liturgical shifts of English society in the seventeenth century, worship was both their most galvanizing and disintegrating impulse. As time passed and terminology changed and Baptists shied away from this divisive topic, this emphasis was lost. No one today considers worship a Baptist distinctive.
Pure Worship re-creates the fascinating historical context of the early years of the English Baptists. Examining many thousands of manuscript pages, Matthew Ward pieces together an entire theology of worship that not only guided the early Baptists but also attracted the attention of many elements of English Christianity. Baptist thoughts on worship were neither minor nor tangential but the very heart of what distinguished them from the rest of England. Pure Worship offers a complete reenvisioning of what it meant to be an early Baptist and reveals their overwhelming desire to be known as pure worshippers of God.
Historians have painted a picture of nineteenth-century Baptists huddled in clapboard meetinghouses preaching sermons and singing hymns, seemingly unaware of the wider world. According to this view, Baptists were “so heavenly-minded, they were of no earthly good.” Overlooked are the illustrative stories of Baptists fighting poverty, promoting abolition, petitioning Congress, and debating tax policy.
Politics and Piety is a careful look at antebellum Baptist life. It is seen in figures such as John Broadus, whose first sermon promoted temperance, David Barrow, who formed an anti-slavery association in Kentucky, and in a Savannah church that started a ministry to the homeless. Not only did Baptists promote piety for the good of their churches, but they did so for the betterment of society at large. Though they aimed to change America one soul at a time, that is only part of the story. They also engaged the political arena, forcefully and directly. Simply put, Baptists were social reformers.
Relying on the ideas of rank-and-file Baptists found in the minutes of local churches and associations, as well as the popular, parochial newspapers of the day, Politics and Piety uncovers a theologically minded and controversial movement to improve the nation. Understanding where these Baptists united and divided is a key to unlocking the differences in evangelical political engagement today.
In his An Orthodox Catechism published in 1680, Hercules Collins’ response to the question, “Doth the Scripture any where expressly forbid the baptizing of infants?” reveals the commitment which he would later argue for in his book on baptism. Collins replied:
It is sufficient that the Divine Oracle commands the baptizing of believers, unless we will make ourselves wiser than what is written. Nadab and Abihu were not forbidden to offer strange fire, yet for so doing they incurred God’s wrath, because they were commanded to take fire from the altar.
This logic by Collins mirrors that of Calvin, who said, “It ought to be sufficient for the rejection of any mode of worship, that it is not sanctioned by the command of God.” This same commitment was shared by all the early Baptists. The earliest Particular Baptists writing on the subject shared Collins’ commitment to worship ordered by Scripture. Of infant baptism, John Spilsbury would write:
For sure I am, there is neither command, or Example in all the New Testament for such practise, as I know, and whatsoever is done in the worship of God, in obedience to Christ, without his command, or apparent example approved of by Christ, is of man, as a voluntary will-worship, after the commandments and doctrines of man; the which Christ testifies as against a vain thing.
Likewise, John Norcott would argue that sprinkling could not serve as a substitute for dipping because “God is a jealous God, and stands upon small things in matters of Worship”:
tis likely Nadab and Abihu thought, if they put fire in the Censer, it might serve, though it were not fire from the Altar; but God calls it strange fire, and therefore he burns them with strange fire, Leviticus 10:2-3.
For these Baptists, baptism was vitally important. Their defense of the practice of believer’s baptism by immersion was driven by their commitment to the regulative principle of worship. In their view, infant baptism simply could not be found in Scripture, and therefore had to be rejected at any cost. Believer’s baptism by immersion, they believed, was the plain testimony of Scripture and was therefore to be defended at all costs.