My Favorite Study Bibles

Anthony W. Brooks

1200px-GenevaBible

There are many helps that the Christians can use to understand the scriptures in a better light. There are commentaries, lectionaries, lexicons, interlinears, concordances, dictionaries, and many many many other resources. But the most widely used and purchased is the Study Bible. Of course, they come in various sizes, translations, theological preferences, etc… So, it’s no surprise that my favorite study bible isn’t my wife’s favorite, or my sister’s favorite, or my pastor’s favorite.

I only carry around two different study bibles. The reason for this is the size of many of these tomes is incredible. When we put size in the equation it can change the dynamic of the game. Whether or not you want to invest in a particular study bible depend on whether you want to carry your study bible with you or mind leaving on your desk at home.

My recommendations are already posted on the Resource page. But I figured I would go ahead and make a post over this subject.

At the end of each review I’ll rate on a scale of A, B, C, D, F on four things in the order I list them:

Translation Variety– How many translations is a particular study bible available in? Not everyone likes the NASB, ESV, NKJV, KJV, NIV etc… So diversity helps spread the bibles reach.

Study Note Quality– How detailed and frequent are the study notes? This is key, since study bibles are known for their notes. Detail and volume can either make or break a study bible.

Durability and portability– How durable is the bible? And how portable is it? Being well made is a must in a study bible. This is your go-to resource for quick questions. One needs it to be portable and durable.

Theological Preference– How theologically diverse is this study bible? The caveat here is that we are only reviewing reformed leaning study bibles. But on issues like Infant Baptism, Eschatology, and ecclesiology it’s nice to have diversity for differing viewpoints in the Reformed camp.

I’ll start off by mentioning the three bibles that changed the American Evangelical Church and influenced the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement most thoroughly:

  1. The MacArthur Study Bible- This is a medium sized Bible that has many things going for it. This is one of the study bibles that I am actually willing to carry around because it is the top of the portable scale. Here are some features that Grace to You advertises for this study bible: Nearly 25,000 explanatory notes from John MacArthur, More than 140 two-color maps, charts, timelines, and illustrations, Introductions to each Bible book, Index to key biblical doctrines, Over 80,000 cross-references, Extensive concordance, A section of full-color maps, Bible reading plans, Concise articles on “How We Got the Bible” and “Introduction to the Bible”, Dimensions: 9.5”x7”, Text size: 8.7 point, Note size: 7.6 point. So it is safe to say that this bible is loaded with helpful resources. But, all of the study notes are from John MacArthur’s personal opinion. This makes this study bible very biased on a few key theological points: credobaptism, dispensational premillennialism, sacramentology, and ecclesiology. But the diversity of the translation and the durability and portability have good scores. Final scores: A, A, B, D.

 

  1. The ESV Study Bible- This is considered a large study bible. Made by Crossway, this is a very well-built bible in their genuine leather, trutone, and premium bindings. Opening this bible for the first time amazed me. THOUSANDS of study notes taking up every page. Aside from that here are a few features that Crossway adds to their website: Concordance, Extensive articles, 240 full-color maps and illustrations, Includes thumb indexes, Smyth-sewn binding. So, this bible is just as loaded as the last. The notes are also diverse on eschatology, ecclesiology, and the credo/Paedobaptism issue. But this study bible is only available in the ESV bible translation. That fact is okay with me (I love the ESV), but for my friends in the Confessional Bibliology groups it isn’t preferred. I won’t give it an F for that (due to the readability of the translation), but it will get a below average score. Final Scores: D, A, C, A.

 

  1. Reformation Study Bible 2015- This study bible is massive. I couldn’t carry this volume if I wanted to. Focusing on the entirety of Reformed orthodoxy, the theological bias is limited to the 3 streams of Reformed confessionalism: 3 Forms of Unity, Westminster Standards, and 1689 London Confession. It is available in two translations: ESV and NKJV. This makes it available to those who prefer the majority text and critical text. But not every majority text advocate prefers the NKJV and not every critical text advocate prefers the ESV. Durability is low as well. The build of this bible is problematic. I have seen the results of a hardcover, faux leather, and genuine leather Reformation Study Bible being used to death, not pretty. The common life expectancy of one of these bibles is 2 years before the cover comes off. But the quality of the study helps are unparalleled. Not only does it have a full verse by verse commentary, but multiple other helpful resources in the back. Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and an overview of Church History are among the helps. Final Scores: C, A, F, B.

 

Next we’ll cover a couple of extra study bibles that might also be of interest to you.

  1. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible- This is a medium sized and portable volume. The materials vary from goatskin to leather-touch but all well-built. The commentary is a very nice and thoroughly Reformed commentary, but has strong biases toward amillennial eschatology and Presbyterian church government. Also, a very biased view is taken toward covenant theology as opposed to Reformed Baptist covenant distinctives. But, there are some cool features offered: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms in the back of the bible. Thoughts for personal and family worship is added at the end of each chapter, and many others. As the name suggests this bible is only offered in the KJV making it obsolete to many who cannot understand the High modern English of the 17th Century. Final Scores: F, A, A, D.

 

  1. Reformation Study Bible (Condensed Edition)- This is a small and especially portable bible. The materials vary from hard cover to genuine leather. But, like its larger predecessor, the quality of build is problematic. Unlike Crossway’s leathertouch materials (which are Smyth-sewn), the leather-like covers only come in glued in bindings. The font is small so if you are hard of seeing, probably not for you. The study notes are a condensed version of the larger version. Over-all they are good, but not as extensive and leaves many questions unanswered. Theologically, the notes lean toward the more narrow Presbyterian covenant theology like its larger counterpart. Also, this bible is only available in the ESV, leaving its diversity of translation lacking. Final Scores: D, C, D, D.

 

The ability to look at these study bibles objectively is a good help for those of us who desire to have an overall good look at these resources. So it looks like the MacArthur Study Bible edged out all others in the objective score.

Of course, the scoring was subjective to my theological preferences, preference of bindings, and what I consider to be good commentary. But, when I judge these bibles I tried not to compare them, but judge them in overall usefulness. If you like the ESV, prefer Covenant theology, and don’t mind a large volume the ESV Reformation Study Bible might be for you. But if you only read the KJV the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible might be a good fit. If you just want an evangelical study bible the ESV Study Bible or MacArthur Study Bible might be good fits. There are plenty of good choices to go around here.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Confronting the Cage-Stage

Skyler Gerald
The idea of the cage-stage is all too familiar both inside and outside the reformed
community. It is the common ailment that occurs when someone first comes to affirm the doctrines of grace. They are loud and proud and will let you know they’re a Calvinist whether you asked or not; whether you’re a Calvinist or not (though especially if you’re not). It stays for a period of time until whether in their own reading of Scripture, prayer, or a loving brother/sister in Christ confronts them of it. Then it passes often leaving behind a trail of harmed friendships. Most of us know one and a lot of us were one.

Now, we can all agree that a desire to know the truth is important. We all eagerly want to
learn more about God, what he has done, and what he’s doing. But we have to ask ourselves, is this form of theological discussion in yelling and frustration biblical and edifying? Before we answer that question we first need to look at where the cage-stage even comes from. We know that it happens when people first become Calvinists but why?
A lot of current and former cage-stage Calvinists (though current cage-stage Calvinists
probably won’t acknowledge that they’re indeed cage-stage) will tell you that it sprouted from them feeling that they were “stupid” before and that they wish they had known earlier. That’s a very important thing to understand about all of this as we analyze whether this is Biblical or not. Romans 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 are crucial passages to look at here because they tell us the state of our minds and who it is that gives us the wisdom we need given our state. Romans 3:11a reads, “no one understands”. Left to our own devices we do not know what we need to know about God; we are not wise but fools. That’s not a very pretty thing think about… until we see what happens in spite of that. God, seeing our foolish state as we were steeped in sin, graciously opened our eyes to the reality of Himself (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Though He uses people to share his gospel, it is ultimately God who lets that truth penetrate their hearts. This is also not merely
talking on the occurrence that takes place at regeneration. It is the reality that we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for the truth. As I said, left to our own devices… we are fools.
Okay, God is sovereign and we need to depend on him for our understanding. That’s all
well and good, but what effect does all of this ultimately have on cage-stage Calvinism? There’s a reason why I said that cage-stage calvinists’ feeling of former stupidity is important. It assumes that our knowledge of biblical truths depend on our own intellect; our own ability to understand. But that is a gross misunderstanding of our need for the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17). I had once known a reformed professor of theological studies (who’s name and institution I will refrain from mentioning) once say, “Atheists are stupid, that’s why they don’t believe”. I couldn’t believe my ears. Now, of course Calvinists would not (or at least should not) say that non-Calvinists aren’t believers but I think the flawed argument is the same nonetheless. We must
depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us and instruct us, not our own depraved strength and minds. If we do we will know that, where we can affirm doctrines such as Calvinism and attempt to instruct others on their truths, it is ultimately God who administers wisdom among the believers and being loud and arrogant does nothing but hinder.

It is also additionally important for those who do not affirm the doctrines of grace to
know that experiences with cage-stage Calvinists, where very unpleasant, do not affect the truth of Calvinism. Calvinists, don’t be a cage-stager and don’t encourage it. Non-Calvinists, give your cage-stage brothers and sisters in Christ some grace and love them as God first loved you.

**Feature photo courtesy of Adam Ford**

Soli Deo Gloria!

Layman’s Commentary- John 10:1-30: For Whom Did Christ Die?

John 10 is a common text of contention between the Reformed and non-Reformed camps. The question that is brought up is “For whom did Christ die?” And that is exactly what Christ answers for us in his parable here. Lets jump in…

**Editors note- Scripture quotations will be in Italics while the commentary will be in Bold  type.** **All Scripture is taken from the ESV**

John 10

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

In this passage I want us to notice the three categories of people here. There is the shepherd, sheep, and the other men. The shepherd is the good keeper of the sheepfold, the gatekeeper opens the door for him and allows him in. Christ is this shepherd (vs 11) and the door (vs 7). The sheep are Israel (Matthew 15:24). Then there are those who are not sheep: the thief who climbs in another way. The stranger is also not the shepherd or the sheep. The sheep hears his voice and will not follow him.

 

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Christ is the door. He is the only way of salvation (John 14:6). Those who came before him were thieves and robbers (not sheep), and the sheep (true Israel) did not listen to them. Enter by the door (Christ and his salvation) and you will have life.

 

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…

The thief (who is not a sheep) comes to steal kill and destroy. This is probably a reference to Satan, but, by extension, the tools of Satan as well. False teachers and false prophets can be this thief. Christ came that “They” may have life… Who is the “they”? The sheep! Why? Because Christ is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the SHEEP. Who is the hired hand? Well, not a sheep, either. Someone who the shepherd has trusted with the sheep. This is probably the Pharisees who gave into Rome and hypocrisy. The hired hand saw the wolves coming and fled instead of fighting for them. But Christ promises not to flee but to lay down his life. He knows his sheep and his sheep knows him.

 

15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Christ brings in his relationship with the Father to show the unity of him and the sheep in verse 14. He mentions other sheep of another fold. This is most likely the Gentiles (Romans 9:24ff) who are to be grafted in later (Romans 11). When the other sheep are brought in they are to be one flock (Church) under one shepherd (Christ). Christ speaks of the Fathers love for him due to his obedience of laying down his life. I am convinced this is not the surface level reason, but to show the complete obedience of Christ and the Father’s love of Christ. Christ willingly does this (vs 18). No one is offending his will. It was his will to lay down his life before it was the Pharisees will to kill him. This was the will of the Father and the Son from all eternity.

 

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

It is obvious that there were divisions among the Jews as to the validity of his words. Some saw him as possessed and others saw him as being from God.

 

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

This was not the same teaching as above. This occurrence came after the previous section. But I believe there is a reason for it’s placement. The Jews are asking for an answer. Is Jesus the Christ? He says that he has told them, but they do not believe. He has done many great works from the Father, but they do not believe because they are not of his sheep. These are of another kind than the sheep. Christ has not laid his life for them. Because his sheep hear his voice and know him, he knows them, and follow him. These are the ones who will receive eternal life, they will never die. The Father, who gave the sheep to Christ (John 6:35-44), is greater than all, and no one will snatch them out of his hand… Christ and the Father are one… I believe what this is referring to isn’t necessarily trinitarian, but the unified will to save the sheep.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Reformed and Ancient?

Wow! A new website… A new Start… But the same audience. This is exciting, humbling, and faith growing. So, what’s new? Well, plenty. I am willing to bet that many of you who visit here are void of anything better to do. And I can only imagine how ridiculous it seems that my little blog is anything important. Stay with me.

We are Reformed!

westminster

This blog follows the four main streams of Reformed thought. Anglican, Dutch, Presbyterian, and Particular Baptist. The writers who are published here are from one of those four influences. All are conservative and engage in ministry somewhere, somehow.

We are Ancient!

Saint_Augustine

This one might get me in trouble a bit… Many churches have claimed the title as the one church established by the apostles. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox (and company), the Landmark Baptists (wink wink!). But it is my belief that being ancient is irrelevant if there is no apostolic teaching to hang your hat on. This blog desires to show the truth of the apostolic witness.

We are here for you!

Have any questions? Comments? Concerns? News pertaining to the existence of Smurfs? Contact us to share. We will respond in an orderly and swift manner. (The orderly manner of our response depends on whether or not you share proof of the existence of said Smurfs…)

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

The Lord’s Supper and the Real Presence… (What Many Evangelicals Have Forgotten and Forsaken)

One of the last things I found myself accepting in the Westminster Standards was the real presence of Christ in the Supper. Looking back on it now, I cannot reason why I ever had an issue with it in the first place, but, lo, I did.

One thing we as believers need to be balanced on before we look at this issue is that we shouldn’t be trying to look for a Jesuit behind every bush… aka… Just because we are discussing the idea of Christ being REALLY present in the Supper, does not mean that we are discussing the uniquely Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Mass as being propitiatory, or worshipping the consecrated host. Now, what are we talking about? Let’s look at what the traditional protestant position is from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

CHAPTER 29

Of the Lord’s Supper.

“I. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein he was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in his Church unto the end of the world; for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death, the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body.

II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

III. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to declare his word of institution to the people, to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants; but to none who are not then present in the congregation.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table, and can not, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.”

And the Westminster Larger Catechism:

“Q. 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?

A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.”

———-

Okay… That is a lot to take in, I know, but it is necessary to understand 1. The doctrine of real presence and 2. How it fundamentally opposes the Papist doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Lets dive in…

What do Reformed Protestants traditionally believe concerning the Real Presence?

“V. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to him crucified, as that truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the thigns they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly, and only, bread and wine, as they were before.

VII. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.”

This is the doctrine in a nutshell. The first thing we see is the elements are set apart by the blessing of the ministers (art III & V) and have a relation to the Crucified Christ and so can be referred to as the Body and Blood of Christ. But, this is important, remain truly and fully Bread and Wine, even after they are blessed.

After they are blessed they are handed out only to worthy receivers (a topic for another time). These believers, when they consume the bread and wine, inwardly by faith, feed upon the true body and blood of Christ spiritually, not carnally or physically. Therefore, feeding on all the benefits of his death. The body and blood of Christ are spiritually present to the faith of the believer in the ordinance just as much as the elements are to the outward senses.

So, to summarize, Christ is spiritually present within the bread and wine so that when we consume the elements we are truly feeding upon his body and blood. Now, what is the scriptural proof of this:

Luke 22:19 (ESV)

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

So Christ said “This IS my body”. I know that is what a Lutheran would normally say, but I have the personal belief that consubstantiation (using this phrase for the sake of argument) is as illogical as the Catholic position. But we hold the belief that it really is his body that we are communing with…

1 Corinthians 10:16

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

So Paul is making an argument that when we take the Supper we are really and truly participating and communing with the body and blood of Christ. We are not merely taking a memorial that is empty of his being… that is a-scriptural. Paul is arguing that the participation is real, so we argue this as well.

How is it opposed to the Catholic position?

“II. In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to his Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of himself, by himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.

IV. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone; as likewise the denial of the cup to the people; worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use, are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ.

VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.”

This isn’t all the confession as to say in opposition to the Romish Mass, but it will have to do.

First, we do not see the supper as a sacrifice. Christ is not being offered up to the Father on the alter of a priest, that is a blasphemous way to look at it. But it is something we look to in remembrance of his offering himself up, by himself, once for all time… There is no elevation of the elements or words of consecration. There is no lighting of incense, but a simple service of scripture and communion. The confession states, “; so that the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.” Which is to say that it is idolatrous and heretical.

Second, we believe that we should celebrate the Supper in a corporate setting. Also, when we take the Supper, we take both elements. We do not worship them, adore them, or keep them past the time of the Supper. When the ceremony is done, they continue their ordinary use. All of these things are contrary to the purpose the Lord gave the Supper.

Third, the Confession speaks directly against the papist doctrine of Transubstantiation. It calls it Repugnant to Scripture, common sense, and reason. It says that it overthrows the nature of the sacrament and has been and still is the cause of superstition and idolatry. This is a massive charge. But it is a consistently Protestant charge.

——–

So we see now that the Reformed concept of real presence is not just Biblical, but also fundamentally opposed to the position that it normally gets confused with, the Roman Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. So I hope this has been useful to you

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Objective Promise of Baptism… (The Post that Might Kill this Blog)

I have a feeling that this post will get me into more trouble than anything I’ve written before. But I want to make a few things clear before we get started:

1. I am in complete subscription to the Westminster Standards on the subject of baptism.

2. I do not believe that as water goes on, saving grace goes in.

3. I believe that saving faith and saving grace are coupled. You can’t have one without the other.

4. Baptism is not efficacious for everyone.

5. I believe in all Five Solas of the Reformation.

Okay, now that that is over. I can explain my angle here. I have recently come to the conclusion that many Presbyterians are just Inconsistent Baptists… They baptize their infants, placing them into the covenant, but refuse to believe that this baptism does anything for their child, and even refuse to call them Christians. This is sad to me, and I’m about to quote the Larger Catechism and make a few people angry in the process. But I wish to encourage all Presbyterian/Dutch Reformed Christians to pay attention to the argument and try to find fault with it. Examine it like a good Berean would. With that said, here’s the Larger Catechism:

Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

Sometimes it makes evangelicals uncomfortable when you tell them that their baptism was more than just a step of obedience. The Westminster Assembly was unified on this statement. Baptism is an effectual means of salvation. How so? Well not because water hit my head, or because the minister baptizing me was ordained, or because the act of baptizing had any power at all, but because the Lord chose to work through that medium to place me into an objective covenant relationship with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Check out this scripture:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We were buried with him in baptism… We were baptized into Christ… Baptized into his death… We were raised in that baptism by the glory of the Father. That is objective language. This doesn’t mean that everyone who is baptized is regenerated. Not everyone who is baptized is elect. Neither does this mean that one can’t be saved without it… Calvin believed that we shouldn’t limit God to the sacraments for his salvation. Baptism places us unto an objective covenant relationship with Christ that, when broken, breaks his heart. We should take this seriously. Baptism does not guarantee salvation, just like circumcision didn’t secure salvation for the Jew. But when the Jew broke the covenant, God was upset.

What can we learn from this? Baptism is important. It is blessed by Christ to be a medium of Covenant Relationship by which he sanctifies us. We can always look to our baptism as a seal of our covenant relationship with Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Here are some resources on the Confessional view of Baptism…

Infant Baptism in Church History

Baptism is always a hot topic. In the Baptist church I was an avid opponent of Infant Baptism and saw it as part of a corrupt papist false gospel. So, what changed my mind? Well, Biblical consistency and covenant relationships helped… Also, the Biblical consistency of Covenant Theology. But I am also an advocate of historical theology as well. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much sense an argument makes, but if it isn’t believed in the first 500 years of the church, it shouldn’t be believed.

One of the greatest arguments against paedobaptism is that there is no explicit command in scripture to baptize our children…. and this is true. But that would mean that many other doctrines that we believe to be true in scripture can’t be believed because they aren’t explicit (e.g. Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Sola Fide, etc…). So I will post a list of Early Church quotes that date back to 125 AD.

Disclaimer**The quotes listed are not representative of the beliefs of this blog as they contain perspectives not accepted or defended by this blog, but are mere quotes that support the historicity of Infant Baptism**Disclaimer

Irenaeus

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34 [A.D. 190]).

Hippolytus

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Origen

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).

“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).

“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

Gregory of Nazianz

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).

“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

John Chrysostom

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

Augustine

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).

“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).

“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

Council of Carthage V

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 401]).

Council of Mileum II

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).

Source: Church Fathers

 

Soli Deo Gloria!