Pentecost-Today? by Iain Murray: A Reflection and Quotes

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By Evan Knies

Pentecost – Today? was first published in 1998 and is written by Iain Murray. In 1957, Iain cofounded Banner of Truth Trust. Pentecost – Today? is quite possibly one of the most helpful Banner books that I have read. Below are some quotes that I found helpful along with a video from Paul Washer recommending this book.

Pentecost Today available at Banner of Truth

 

Quotes

pg. 18 – It is clear from the book of Acts that all Christians did not remain permanently ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ in the sense of Acts 2:4. Had that been so it would not have been possible to say of the same persons again in Acts 4:31, ‘and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’. Here was an element of Pentecost which was clearly repeatable; there was a further giving of what they already possessed. Again, if being ‘filled with the Spirit’ was uniform in every Christian, what would be the point of the apostles instructing the disciples in Acts 6 to look for a characteristic which all possessed, ‘Seek out….seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit’? It must be true, as the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Assembly states (Question 182), that, while the Holy Spirit is given to all Christians, his working is ‘not in all persons, nor at all times, in the same measure’.

pg. 25 – The New Testament never leaves the Christian in the position of believing that all necessary grace and help is not now available.

pg. 26 – If we think only that the Holy Spirit is continuously resident in the church, as if necessarily present and inherent in the means of grace, we can easily begin to forget how urgently we stand in need of the supernatural.

pg. 52 – Where there is no alienation from sin there is no re-birth.

pg. 59 – Faith is the grace which honours God by its dependence upon Him; and because faith receives all, and attributes nothing to itself, God identifies faith with all that He is himself able to do.

pg. 65 – Prayer is communion with God and in addressing Him we are to begin with the name which assures us of His love.

pg. 74 – Dependence upon God is our greatest need; it focuses our attention upon what He can do; and it makes His glory a supreme reason for all our concerns: ‘Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory’ (Jer. 14:21); ‘Hallowed be Your name’ (Matt. 6:9).

pg. 129 – For the Christian in this world the goal is always beyond him.

pg. 171 – If Scripture loses its true place in the church nothing remains certain.

pg. 190 – Too many modern changes in public worship look like attempts to provide substitutes for the work of the Holy Spirit; and the emptiness of these substitutes is often apparent. If a sense of the greatness and majesty of God is not present in a congregation then nothing else can produce awe and wonder.

Pentecost Today available at Banner of Truth


Evan Knies is from West Monroe, LA. He is married to Lauren and father to Maesyn. He is a graduate of Boyce College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies

Am I Saved? A Brief History of Assurance

By Obbie Todd

There’s hardly a more relevant question in the Christian life than that of assurance. Peter affirms that the telos (the end) of our faith is salvation. (1 Pet. 1:9) So the stakes are pretty high. Yet for a question of such ultimate importance, it’s hardly ever asked. In the church today, there are often more assumptions than answers. And that can be dangerous. In reality, the simple question “How do I know I’m saved?” seems to be one of the best indications that someone takes their faith, and thus their salvation, seriously. So let’s be serious for a moment. How do we know? Can we know? Let’s go back to the first Protestant. To a man plagued with the question of assurance.

It could be said that the entire Protestant Reformation was an issue over assurance. Much of the Reformers’ critique of the old church was leveled precisely against those features of the Roman Catholic system that left people doubtful and anxious about their salvation. This is why Martin Luther deemed the doctrine of justification by faith “the central article of our teaching.” It helped him to reconcile the obvious tension between God’s holiness and persistent human sinfulness. For Luther, theology wasn’t an exercise in scholasticism. It was a life-and-death matter. His extremely tender conscience couldn’t bear the weight of God’s impending judgment, nor could it find sufficient assurance in the Catholic system of penance and priestly absolution. The system of indulgences not only failed to engender the necessary repentance that came with sincere faith, it also left the sinner without any real spiritual security. Was God up there? Was he pleased? Was he angry? The troubled young Luther was plagued with such a sense of panic under God’s wrath that eventually his supervising monk, Johann von Staupitz, ordered him to stop concocting sins in his head! Luther had too many transgressions to confess! This sense of foreboding dread and despair was what Luther called Anfechtung, a sense of doom before God’s watchful eye: “I did not learn my theology all at once, but I had to search deeper for it, where my temptations (Anfechtungen) took me…Not understanding, reading, or speculation, but living, nay, rather dying and being damned make a theologian.” Here in his anxiety-ridden state, Luther found the mercy of a God who was both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26) What abbots and bishops could not furnish for Martin Luther, Christ could. Because of assurance, young Luther became disillusioned with the fabricated religion of Rome: “No man can be assured of his salvation by any episcopal function…because the Apostle (Paul) orders us to work out our salvation constantly in fear and trembling.” Luther continued, “the first and only duty of the bishops, however, is to see that people learn the gospel and the love of Christ.” Therefore to be Protestant, to some degree, is to be certain of one’s salvation. But as we’ll see, that hard-fought assurance became more difficult to define.

Luther’s discovery of assurance and subsequent break with Rome coincided with his new understanding of the ‘justice of God’ in Romans 1:17. For years, the word δικαιοσυνη had struck fear into the heart of the sinful Augustinian monk. The ‘righteousness’ of God was a divine attribute that Luther dreaded, as he knew himself to be wholly unrighteous, and worthy of a righteous punishment. Luther’s conversion, however, came with his eventual re-interpretation of Romans 1:17: the ‘righteousness of God’ was in fact an “alien righteousness” given to sinners. “For He Himself is our sole righteousness until we are conformed to His likeness.” Christ had satisfied the righteousness of God by supplying His own to sinners. Where Augustine had interpreted the verb δικαιοω as “make righteous”, the former University of Erfurt law student interpreted it as “declare righteous.” Justification was a legal action performed by Christ on behalf of the sinner, not worked from within, but declared from without. This is how sinners could remain sinful and have certainty that they were indeed saved. Christians were “simul justus et peccator”: simultaneously just and sinner. Thus the Protestant doctrine of assurance was born. To have faith in Christ is not to achieve salvation personally, but to personally accept Christ’s salvific work done on our behalf. To Luther and to all of his spiritual offspring, Christ Himself is the assurance of sinners. Unlike Roman Catholicism that teaches that grace must be conferred and infused via physical sacraments, Protestants boast in the finished work of Christ via faith. And the result isn’t infused righteousness, but imputed righteousness! We receive the credit for the perfect life of Christ. This of course is modeled for us in the ‘man of faith’ Abraham. (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:3, Gal. 3:9)

After the formative years of the Reformation, the pastoral application of the doctrine of assurance became a growing issue. How did classroom teaching translate into pulpit preaching? How exactly did sola fide fit inside of a church? How could Christians balance the assurance of their salvation with Gospel perseverance? Luther had placed Law and Gospel in distant theological corners. But not everyone saw it that way. To answer these questions, many post-Reformation Protestants engineered a system of Christian practice known as covenant theology (traditionally attributed to Heinrich Bullinger, successor to Huldrych Zwingi). After the rise of Protestant thought, the threat of Antinomianism became an ever-increasing reality in Reformed communities. Antinomianism teaches that the believer is completely free from all obligation to the law, and that any concession to legal duty was an infringement upon free grace. In short, once the Reformation principle of sola fide took shape, Protestant churches faced the new temptation to dispense with all works whatsoever and indulge in licentious, worldly behavior. As a result, pastors were forced to balance the comfort of assurance with the divine mandate to finish the spiritual race set before the church. Endemic to covenant Puritan orthopraxy is what many scholars have called the “third use of the Law.” The first use of the law was civil, guiding magistrates and leaders in rewarding good and punishing evil. (Rom. 13:3-4, 1 Tim. 2:1-2) According to Luther, “The first understanding and use of the Law is to restrain the wicked…This civil restraint is extremely necessary and was instituted by God.” The second use is evangelical, driving sinners away from their own righteousness to trust in Christ alone. (Gal. 3:10, 24) John Calvin wrote, “The law is like a mirror. In it we contemplate our weakness, then the iniquity arising from this, and finally the curse coming from both – just as the mirrors shows us the spots on our face.” Finally, Puritans exercised a third use of the law: directive or normative. In this light, Christians looked to the Law as a “rule of life” to guide them in ways pleasing to God. While Luther never explicitly developed such a use, Calvin did reference the Law as a “rule of life”, though not with the same drawn-out, conditional requirements of Puritan covenant theology. (Calvin, for example, was not a strict Sabbatarian)

From Geneva, John Calvin aided the Elizabethan Puritan movement by serving as a refuge for Protestant exiles during the reign of ‘bloody Mary.’ He also wrote important letters to critical leaders during the incipient years of Puritanism. However, Calvin differed from traditional Puritanism in one significant way: assurance. While Calvin defined assurance into the essence of faith, many Puritans (including the Westminster Assembly) did not necessarily equate the two. For this reason, many scholars through the years have posited that Puritans fundamentally departed from classical Reformed theology, compromising the sola fide principle that Protestantism was built upon. (R.T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649) Christopher Hill even suggested that English covenant theology was a means of “smuggling works into Calvinism,” due to its seeming conditions upon God’s grace. (Hill, Puritanism and Revolution)

Such false assertions reflect the tension that exists in biblical soteriology. One way or another, all theology must be wrapped in ecclesiology. Pastors are called to balance the beautiful assurance that believers possess in Christ with the call to persevere to the end of the Christian life with holiness and love. The Holy Spirit that comforts the church with the words “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” also exhorts that “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Rom. 8:1, Matt. 24:13) Christians carry promise and perseverance hand-in-hand. The spiritual imbalance of these two crucial principles has become the avenue for some of the church’s most dangerous heresies. Antinomianism itself is the certainty of God’s promises without the observance of His commands. This is in essence the sin of Hyper-Calvinism. Antinomians will correctly affirm Romans 8:16 as cause for godly assurance: “The Spirit Himself bears witness without our spirit that we are children of God.” However, without a proper Christian ethic, it’s not difficult to see how Antinomian assurance easily translates into direct divine revelation, the likes of which America witnessed in its first major heretic: Anne Hutchinson. Sydney Ahlstrom has called the Antinomian Controversy “the opening chapter in American intellectual history.” Today we see the spiritual offspring of such extra-biblical revelationists in the Pentecostal movement. On the other hand, to carry perseverance without God’s sovereign promise is the foundation for legalism, the sin of Arminianism. Arminians correctly affirm John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” However, without a correct understanding of God’s sovereign grace, Christianity tends toward moralism, the likes of which America witnessed in Deism and Unitarian virtue. Puritans, in their obsessive quest for conversion, cultivated a means to confirm salvation called “practical syllogism,” a mode of observing one’s holiness as practiced in everyday life. However, without a proper sense of the Spirit’s witness and the inherent human temptation for self-trust, this ‘syllogism’ could often lead to legalism masked as Reformed covenant theology. (Theodore D. Bozeman explores the connection between Puritan covenant theology and the Antinomian controversy in his The Precisianist Strain)

The question of assurance is perhaps the most necessary question in the Christian life. And in an age when many evangelicals tout “once saved, always saved” only to live a life identical to the world, a biblical view of assurance should be restored. An unbeliever who was baptized when he or she was eight years old needs a biblical model of perseverance as badly as the thief on the cross needed the sweet words of assurance. Pastors are called to balance both. And when sinners are baptized and then told that they “can’t lose their salvation,” something else is missing. By the same token, no Christian should ever walk through this life thinking they must add something to the finished work of Christ. If there is no assurance, there is no Christ. And if there is no race, there is no faith.

Should Your Church Baptize Children?

By Colton Corter

*Note: This position is my own and does not necessarily reflect the rest of the DSR crew. We can be together for the gospel and still disagree on how best to guard it! Praise God for that.

“Our church is almost exactly like your church. Except we don’t hate children.” That’s how a buddy of mine compared our two churches. We preach the exact same gospel, the same truths about God’s sovereignty in salvation and even agree on the same church polity (how the church is structured and governed). Our churches are basically “sister” churches, nearly identical twins! But there is one difference: our church will not baptize children under a certain age.

Now, just to be clear, this is not a huge deal. It is not the gospel or even immediately related to the gospel. Good brothers can disagree on this question and still do a lot together – maybe even plant churches together. But just because the issue is not essential does not make it unimportant. It is the kind of question that Bobby Jamieson says is between “What is the gospel?” and “What color carpet should we install?” Not necessary, but still important for how we go about trying to be faithful to the Word of God and ultimately trying to protect the glory of Christ in the gospel. The issue is one of prudence stemming from biblical principles. That is to say that if you are looking for chapter and verse for proof then you won’t find one. But let me try to set this question in context and then attempt to answer it biblically.

The largest percentage of Southern Baptist baptisms in the last few decades have been in the age range of 6 to 10. Around 67% of all baptisms come from children who still live in their parents homes. And, if I remember correctly, half of the other baptisms were counted as “re-baptisms,” meaning that they had made a false profession of faith at a young age and then were baptized for the first time as believers later. Many of these baptized kids have left the faith all together, still on membership roles and yet showing no evidences of grace in their lives.

I think that we have lost the meaning of baptism by both individualizing it and by separating it from church membership and its privileges (the Lord’s Supper and church discipline).

Baptism is not in the hands of the parent to decide. Why? Because baptism should only be practiced by the local church. Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the church (Matt 18:16-18). The highest authority on earth – the institution given authority by the Word of God to represent the heavenly kingdom of God – is the local church.  The church affirms and protects the who and the what of the gospel. The church is like an embassy, extending visas to those they can affirm as rightful citizens of the country given the evidence of their lives. The church does not make someone a Christ but judges their profession of faith based on their testimony and understanding of the gospel that saved them. The local assembly is to reflect God’s character by their confession of faith and their lives (see Eph 3:10).

These keys of the kingdom of exercised by the right preaching of the gospel and the practice of gospel ordinances. Church membership normally begins with baptism and is “renewed” by taking the Lord’s Supper together. So it is the church that administers baptism. Only they have the authorization to do so! Baptism is too often seen as a personal devotional act between ourselves and Jesus only. Baptism is certainly not less than our “going public” that we have repented and believed the gospel of free grace and now stand against our sin and with God in Christ. However, baptism is more. Not only does the individual believer speak, the church speaks as well. When someone is baptized by a local church the church is saying, “Yes, this person is someone to whom the world can look to know what God is like. They are on ‘team Jesus.'” In baptism, the church gives the Christian the team jersey because they have now joined the team of the gospel people of God.

Even now it should be obvious why we should not baptize our little ones. Even if we think we should, it would be the church who would decide based on their profession of faith and not the parents. They cannot inform the church that the child is now a Christian and so they should be baptized as soon as possible. Parents just haven’t been authorized to do so by God. But even if a church thought perhaps they were really a Christian, should they still baptize them? In most cases I don’t think so. Remember that the church is giving them the authorization to represent Christ on earth. That means they have to be able to give testimony to the gospel by their articulation of the gospel (even in simple form) and by their lives. They must be able to give evidence that they can stand on their own two feet as it were, standing up for Christ over against the world, the flesh and the devil. This is nearly impossible for a child to do (there may be some exceptions in other countries where it costs more to make a profession of faith).

Furthermore, baptism should normally be baptism into church membership. And that should mean something. The local church is less like country club and more like the embassy described above. That means that we don’t “join” churches as much as we submit to them as a normal part of being a Christian. Membership is not less than having your name of a roll but it is more. We are submitting our lives to the congregation and to the authority of the elders. We are given the responsibilities of membership like voting (exercising the keys of the kingdom together with the assembly) and the privileges of taking the Lord’s Supper. Are you comfortable with having this child be a full-fledged member of your church? Given the duty of a member? Subjecting them to discipline and even taking their jersey back if it appears they are playing for another team? If not, that is understandable. We just shouldn’t baptize them then. Baptism affirms someone’s profession of faith until they prove it otherwise to be false.

We should not baptize anyone whom we do not expect to be a thriving member of our church. To be sure, most members have a lot of instruction ahead of them and the mark of the true church member is repentance and not perfection. But we should only baptize the people we are comfortable putting out to the world as those who are representing Jesus in the everyday. Can you say that of the children you would baptize?

What is at stake here? Thankfully, many good churches do baptize younger children and their gospel witness has not been weakened. We should praise God for that! However, such a practice has the potential to weaken our churches by nominal members who gave a profession of faith early in life but now live as the world does and so tarnish the name of Christ before a watching world. Before anything else, the church is to testify to the glory of God. In the church the manifold wisdom of God is displayed to the nations. The power of the gospel is shown forth. But we begin to fib about the gospel what if we are not careful about the gospel who. Instead of emotion appeals let us strive to be biblical and labor to be jealous for meaningful membership to the glory of God.

 

(For a better defense of this position, check out this statement from a church that would handle the issue similarly to mine: capitolhillbaptist.com/ministries/children/baptism-of-children)