Surprised by God’s Word: What Cessationism Actually Implies

Maverick Witlouw

Reformed Anglican Perspective

“Yeah, I know it’s crazy, Reformed people tend to be quite serious about the Word of God, yet somehow they are missing out on God’s Spirit.” So goes the misguided rant of the “Calvinistic Charismatic,” and most charismatics for that matter. For some reason, the assumption is that a cessationist theology necessarily precludes the modern day occurrence of miracles. Of course, that is an absurd claim. It is not only rooted in poor exegetical ground, but it demonstrates ignorance of a deeper historical theological question. The problem with a theology like cessationism is that, just as charismatic theology it has various forms even though the key premises tend to be the same. There are some more “hyper,” than others. What I am proposing is an historically Reformed hermeneutic, to essentially set the record straight about what Reformed cessationists are actually saying, and not what they are not saying. Sound fair? Some people are led to believe that Reformed theology is essentially rationalistic, and that denies any form of deep intimacy with God. Of course, the opposite can only be true, when one actually considers the works of various Reformers across Reformed traditions, look at the Confessions, what do you see?

A Position About Scripture Primarily

The premise of cessationism is firstly found in our position about the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the God-breathed word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Scriptures are a result of the revelation to the prophets, through whom God spoke (Heb 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21), but the ultimate revelation was Christ (Heb 1:2). Of course, the point of Hebrews is precisely that, after God has spoken to Jews by prophets, the fulfillment was speaking “in” the Son. Jesus Christ is “the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 10:4). Jesus is the “substance” of all that the prophets spoke about, and the apostles and prophets have receive that revelation (). Paul beautifully sums this up, “…how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, 4. by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5. which in other generations was not made known to the children of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5). You see the apostles and prophets (apostolic associates) received the revelation of the mystery of the gospel, and they inscripturated it in the New Testament canon. Since this “mystery” is the fulfillment of God’s shadows, and God’s ultimate answer, we do not expect more revelation, because God’s revelation is enough. Charismatic theologian Wayne Grudem concedes this point, albeit inconsistently, “The New Testament writings contain the final, authoritative, and sufficient interpretation of Christ’s work of redemption. The apostles and their close companions report Christ’s words and deeds and interpret them with absolute divine authority. When they have finished their writing, there is no more to be added with the same absolute divine authority. Thus, once the writings of the New Testament apostles and their authorized companions are completed, we have in written form the final record of everything that God wants us to know about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and its meaning for the lives of believers for all time. Since this is God’s greatest revelation for mankind, no more is to be expected once this is complete. In this way, then, Hebrews 1:1–2 shows us why no more writings can be added to the Bible after the time of the New Testament. The canon is now closed.” (1994:44) Furthermore, Paul identifies the offices of the apostle and prophet being foundational, that is, having a specific purpose for a specific time (Ephesians 2:20). We do not go beyond what is written, we should contend for “the faith” (the objective faith), as well as build ourselves up in “the most holy faith” (Jude 3, 20). The central crux of a closed canon is closed revelation, and ultimately the sufficiency of Christ.

The Place of the Spiritual Gifts

The closed canon is closed, because we do not lay a foundation again. The foundation of apostles and prophets has been completed (Ephesians 2:20), the revelation has been codified and given (Ephesians 3:3-5). We do not add more revelation (Rev 22:18-19), because we seek not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). What about the spiritual gifts then? Should we not conclude that the spiritual gifts continue normally? Isn’t differentiating between gifts an unbiblical inference? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are various sources, and I wish I could interact with those, but let’s go a simply route. Remember, it is not so much an issue of the spiritual gifts directly, but the position of the Scriptures.

There are certain gifts that are placed above others, the office of the apostle and prophet are such gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:28-29 speaks of the apostle and prophet as being counted among the spiritual gifts, so I do not in the slightest see the need to differentiate these offices from the gifts. Paul identifies the apostle and the prophet as the “foundation,” and links these two offices to the giving of gospel revelation (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). This is what the spiritual gifts are primarily for, for authentication. I concede that they do not exhaust the function of the spiritual gifts, but authentication is one major reason these things occur. Hebrews 2:2-4 states, “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense; 3. how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation–which at the first having been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard; 4. God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, by various works of power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will?” The context of these passages deals with the danger of covenantal/ecclesiastical apostasy that is, forsaking the faith that one professes in confession and holy baptism. You must not go against and apostatize against what God has authenticated, that’s the rationale here. You see, the “by signs and wonders, by various works of power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” serve the function of “testifying,” of authentication. This is the case of Moses, Elijah, and others in biblical history, miracles primarily functioned to show God’s seal of approval. Guess what? A matter is established on the witness of two or three, and the apostles and their message were authenticated in this (Deuteronomy 19:15).

The book of Acts tells us exactly which gifts functioned to authenticate the apostles and their associates. They speak of speaking in various languages (Acts 2:6, 11; 10:46); prophecy is mentioned too with speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6). The gift of healing, which is different from mere healing (something I will spell out afterwards), is also mentioned as happening (Acts 5:16; 8:7; 9:34; 10:38; 28:8, 27). Judging from their purpose as authentication, it seems then conclusive to say, that since they have served that purpose, there is no need for their occurrence outside of this. Tongues and prophecy were revelatory sign gifts, since they have served their purpose which includes revealing divine gospel mysteries (1 Cor 14:2), and authentication, their normative functioning would thereby cease. Furthermore, to put it quite briefly, prophecy is never seen as anything but perfect revealing of God’s truth (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Less than accurate prophecy is something I cannot find in the New Testament text. However, I will not deal with this here.

Who’s Afraid of Miracles?

Furthermore, no cessationist denies that God still does miracles. What we are however saying is that there are certain kinds of miracles which are unique to the foundational period of the church. The difference between the gift of healing and God healing is that in the first instance, it is God empowering a specific vessel like an apostle or apostolic associate to heal someone directly. Cessationists are saying, that kind of special empowering of people to heal does not happen, however, we are not saying God does not heal in response to prayer. God still does do all of those amazing things, we just do not expect miraculous gifts which are given for revelatory and authentication purposes to continue. This is the Reformed hermeneutic. Baptist theologian MacArthur points out, “Clearly, there has been no parallel in history to the unique healing miracles that occurred at the time of Christ and the apostles. Today is no exception. The apostolic gift of healing has ceased.” (2013:176)

To be fair, the extraordinary is not something any cessationist denies. It is a lot more nuanced than most care to admit. It will not take you long until you find some startling experiences and statements by cessationists, and perhaps you might seem that it is weird. No, cessationists are all for dynamic encounters with God. It is not at all something we shy away from; we simply believe that it must be viewed from the lens of Scripture.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Works Cited

Grudem W 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Bible Doctrine. InterVarsity Press: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

MacArthur J 2013. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship. Nelson Books: Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Romans 8:1-8 and the Inability of Man…

 

By Anthony W. Brooks

**This is actually a “vintage” article from the old website. But I believe that it addresses the recent challenges that Dr. Leighton Flowers raised on his YouTube channel about the common Calvinist understanding of Romans 8:1-8. Does Romans 8:1-8 address how one goes from being in the flesh to being in the spirit? If so does is say that this process is irresistibly caused by God? Our answer is, no, 4 verses (5-8 in which he is referring to) do not address this massive question. But the entire Bible might. We call this “Tota Scriptura”.**

One day I was messing around on a debate page on Facebook and I came across a post over Total Depravity. It was asking Calvinists which verses best supported the doctrine. I saw many of the classic responses: Romans 3, John 8, Ezekiel 36-37, Ephesians 2:1-4… But I didn’t see my favorite, Romans 8:1-8 on the list… So I decided to post it.
Well, to my surprise, Leighton Flowers (pre-doctorate) was responding to the comments and he responds to mine. The man can normally talk, but this time it was a short conversation that basically ended in his saying that Romans 8 doesn’t say enough to support this assumption.
I was surprised because I believe that it does say enough. So, in the words of Dr. Flowers, let’s unpack it:

Romans 8:1-8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This text is packed with truth from God. We have a contrast between the Life in the Spirit and the Life in the Flesh.

Life in the Spirit: they are set free, the law is fulfilled in them, they set their mind on the things of the Spirit, they have life and peace…

Life in the Flesh: they are condemned, they cannot fulfill the law, they set their mind on things of the flesh, they only have death, they are hostile to God, the will not and cannot submit to God’s law, they cannot please God.

Some say that the only application is the regenerated church member who has fallen into sin is this fleshly individual… But remember what they get, “death”. A regenerated individual will not get death… And the unbeliever will still live according to the flesh anyways because he doesn’t have the Spirit to live in.

But let’s focus in on the ability aspect for a moment. We have one aspect of this fleshly, carnal, individual that is pointed out here. That aspect is that they cannot please God. So I want to point out what the non-Calvinist says we must do to find salvation in the simplest of terms: Humility, Faith, and Repentance.

Humility is the act of denying oneself and humbling oneself to recieve his Grace. James 4:6 says “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” so this is something we must do to be saved. Well according to David, humility is pleasing to God, Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” And no one will deny this.

Second is faith. Faith is an obvious requirement, Ephesians 2:8-9. And faith is the instrument by which we live. So it is extremely important to us and our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 says this, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” That blatant statement is a repellent to the carnal man. He doesn’t have faith, it must be given, he can’t have it because he is an enemy of God.

The last thing is repentance. So much is said about Repentance… My favorite being Psalm 51 where verses 16-17 say this, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
So in this text, God is pleased with a broken and contrite heart (aka a repentant heart). And David spends the whole text repenting and being broken in his heart.

Now these three things are the items that Dr. Flowers would see as requirements of salvation. Humility, Faith and Repentance. All of them are pleasing to God, and the text says clearly that the carnal man cannot do them, because they are pleasing. They cannot do them unless the Lord gives them to him effectually. So I disagree with the assumption that this text doesn’t support Total Inability.

Soli Deo Gloria!

It is Undeniable that the New Testament Teaches Jesus is God

Anthony W Brooks

I am often dumfounded at the attempts that people make to tell me the New Testament nowhere teaches that Jesus is God… All I need is three verses to disprove this monstrous assertion, but first I want to make an apology.

 

My apology is for the extended break I took from the blog. That is my fault and I apologize for not letting you know.

 

Now, my evidence.

 

John 1:1-2- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

This well-known verse has been abused by opponents of the incarnation for millennia, starting with the arians all the way up to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others. It says two things: 1. The Word (Jesus, see v.14) was God. What is clearly in view here is that Chirst (Called here Logos, or the Word) is God. He was also “with” God. This is clearly distinguishing between the persons, as in Jesus is not the Father, the Father is not the Son, etc. This is a necessary distinction to be had. 2. All things were made through him. He was a necessary and active component in creation. If he is God as we said above, then it is not shocking to owe creation to him, since all creation belongs to God alone.

Colossians 1:15-16 -“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

This verse is confusing at times. But I think we can unpack it consistently. 1. He is the image if the invisible God. This is not the same thing as our image. Since God is uncreated [see comments above on John 1:1-2 about the Word being God] this simply means that Christ is God made visible. 2. Firstborn of all creation. This gets a little tricky so I’ll quote the Reformation Study Bible on this point:

“Paul is not saying that the Son was the first created being (v. 17 note). In the Old Testament, a firstborn son would be the principal heir of an estate (Deut. 21:17; cf. Ex. 4:22Ps. 89:27). Used of Christ, the term “firstborn” means that He has such honor and dignity, not that He was the oldest child in a family. Christ is especially loved by His Father (v. 13), and all things were created in Him, by Him, and for Him (vv. 16, 17).”

Source here.

3. By him (Jesus) all things were created. By Jesus all things were created in heaven and earth. He is the preexisting one, the text makes this clear. He is again paired with the text of the Genesis creation account.

Colossians 2:9-10- “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

1. In him (Jesus) is the fullness of deity. Deity here is θεότης which is “Theotes”. This word means literally “that which makes God himself” Or “that which makes God “God””, aka deity. A clear reference to Christ being of the same substance as the Father and can be compared with Isaiah’s Temple vision (Isaiah 6).

2. Him who is the head head of all rule and authority. As in “He’s the head of everything, aka, he’s God. No one is higher or grander than He.

 

Long story short, Jesus is given explicit credit as God in the New Testament. Nothing is higher or greater than him who is creator of all and the firstborn son (heir of the Father). God of God, light of light, Very God of Very God. There is much much more that we can bring out to prove this point. Jesus is often placed in subordination to the Father. This is certainly true in the New Testament. But the Reformed view is clear that this is not eternal subordination, and that this is not evidence against his (Jesus’) deity. When we consider these texts, we need to consider the thought that flows through the Gospels and into the apostle’s teaching. They are not at odds with each other.

Soli Deo Gloria!

INFANT BAPTISM IN CHURCH HISTORY

Anthony W. Brooks

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).

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]).
Soli Deo Gloria!
Photo: My Son’s Baptism at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (OPC)

A Question Asked is a Question Answered: What is my favorite Study Bible?

Question to Anthony W. Brooks

On a post I wrote about a month ago I received a question via Gmail asking me what my favorite Study Bible was. The post aimed to objectively grade known Reformed Study Bibles on a number of aesthetics. You can read it here. But I never said what my favorite study bible is. Well, no doubt, it was in the post, and the answer might shock everyone here, but I’ll tell you.

Before I tell you what it is and where you can buy one I want to tell you what I look for in a Bible before I buy one. Bibles are not about aesthetics with me. They don’t have to look and smell pretty for me to buy one, but they do have to be in an accurate translation, with good layouts, and quality materials. I don’t want to buy a Bible that is only going to last a year. I want a Bible that will be a joy to me for many years, and so far, that is my experience with that criteria.

My Favorite Study Bible

There are many things about my favorite Study Bible that might only be appealing to me. That is why I need to stress this point, that not everyone will like this study bible and there is need to research all the possible contenders before you invest in a study bible for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it…

Here it is, My favorite Study Bible!

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Isn’t this surprising! A KJV Bible won my heart… But it is true. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is my favorite. Let’s get into specifics as to why I chose this beauty.

Layout!

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This is a clean page out of 2nd Samuel. There are many things to consider here. First thing that stands out is that there are no chapter introductions or cross references. The norm in a study bible is a center or side column cross reference system and that isn’t here. All references are included in the footnotes at the bottom. Also the chapter headings are at the bottom as well introducing the footnotes on a particular chapter. This allows the scripture text to be clean and readable for the reader, and keeps all man made additions (aside from the chapter and verse divisions) to stay in one place for reference if need be.

Personal and Family Worship Study Questions

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This is unique among study helps. This study bible was commissioned by Joel Beeke (a puritan expert) who has stressed the need for family worship in the home. His study bible is no different and is built to aid the family in this endeavor. At the end of each chapter there are sections for family worship questions and thoughts to aid in instruction on these issues.

Extras!

This Bible has plenty of extras to aid a growing and conscientious Christian. Mind you, this is a Reformed study bible, so all of the aids and extras will be Reformed in nature. So if that isn’t your mindset, this Bible isn’t for you.

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This cool section is a brief outline of church history. It goes century by century through history and hits all of the highlights.

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The top of the cake is that you can carry your book of confessions around with you. The necessary creeds of the faith along with the “Six Forms of Unity” as I call them.

Apostle’s Creed

Nicene Creed

Athanasian Creed

Belgic Confession

Heidelberg Catechism

Westminster Confession

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Westminster Larger Catechism

And even better is that all of these confessions and catechisms are contain scriptural annotations to look up the relevant passages of scripture.

Cons!

There are cons for people looking into buying this Bible. This Bible is only available in the KJV. I was raised on the King James Version so I do not mind this being my regular reference. But for some people a modern version is a better option.

This Bible doesn’t have a central reference system. All necessary references are contained in the footnotes. For those who find a columned reference Bible useful and preferred, this isn’t for you.

This is a classically Reformed study system. The Young, Restless, Reformed believers who don’t accept Classic Reformed Confessions, Reformed Ecclesiology, or Eschatology this isn’t for you. It also has a cessationist leaning as well as opposed to continuationism.

What I carry it in!

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I carry it in a simple charcoal gray zipper case. There is about half an inch around the side of the case for the Bible to breath. I keep my Pigma Micron in the pen-holder inside so I can study anywhere and write notes as needed.

Where can you buy one?

You can get one as cheap as $24 here.

Soli Deo Gloria

Why all believers should spend some time in the King James (Authorized) Version

By Anthony W. Brooks

There was a time in my life where all I read was the KJV. When I was in private school, I learned the history of the King James translation, and was sold on it’s accuracy. I carried this conviction all the way into college where my New Testament professor threatened me with failing grades if I didn’t use a modern translation. Of course, I did eventually make use of other translations like the ESV. But recently the Lord has been reviving my love of the Authorized Version. And because of this, I want to encourage all believers to make use of the King James and spend at least some time exploring this historic translation.

  1. It is the translation of our forefathers of the Faith.

As protestants we can look throughout history and see the AV as the translation of our forefathers. This can go deeper than just translation into discussions of the Critical Text vs the Majority Text traditions but lets just say that the manuscript and translational traditions are what was in use until the dawn of the Critical Text. This should bring a certain nostalgia into our minds to look back and experience the past of our faith. What did Matthew Henry or Charles Haddon Spurgeon read when they were writing their sermons? How about John Edwards or John Wesley? They used the AV.

  1. It is a difficult read.

This translation has at least a 12th grade reading level, higher than most of us can comprehend (believe it or not). But this has an added benefit of forcing us to think about what we are reading as we read it. Translations with lower reading levels are often seen as hard to comprehend because they are breezed through by the reader and they come out not comprehending what they read. With translations of higher levels, they force the reader to contemplate the meaning of words and sentences so as to understand the meaning of the text. The AV is no different. When I read the AV I actually have to think about the words I am reading and try to understand them so I don’t butcher them while I read.

  1. It is poetic.

The AV is actually considered a literary masterpiece in the world of literature. It is poetic and uses high Elizabethan English. This makes it a work of art and beautiful to read.

All in all, I believe that the common believer should spend some time reading the King James (Authorized Version). I believe doing so will allow the believer to appreciate where the church has been and where it is going. It will also allow the believer to see and appreciate the history of the English Bible and give insight into the common Bible you hold in your hand.

My Favorite Study Bibles

Anthony W. Brooks

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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!