Connecting the Dots

In my last blog post I shared how the Lord had worked in my life to open my eyes to the message of God’s grace as it was displayed in the Gospel. As I looked back through church history, it encouraged me to find that I was not alone in my belief of God’s sovereignty in salvation. The history of the Church was full of people who shared this belief, such as the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, who proclaimed:

I have my own private opinion, that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas, and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith without works; not unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor, I think, can we preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for his elect and chosen people; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation, after having believed. Such a gospel I abhor. The gospel of the Bible is not such a gospel as that. We preach Christ and him crucified in a different fashion, and to all gainsayers we reply, “We have not so learned Christ.

By this time in my life, through God’s providence, I had moved to Shreveport, Louisiana to be the pastor of a Southern Baptist church on the north end of town. While there, I attended a conference where Fred Malone, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Clinton, Louisiana, taught about a Biblical doctrine called the Regulative Principle of Worship. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) defines this doctrine in the following manner:

The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture. (WCF XXI.i)

The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 follows the WCF almost word for word. I discovered that this was a great controversy during the 1600s with the Baptists, Puritans, and Presbyterians uniting in their support of this principle, while the Lutherans and Anglicans opted for the view that one can worship God in any way he chooses, so long as that particular form is not prohibited in Scripture. I must admit my understanding of this principle changed entirely my view of the corporate worship of God. Prayer, of course, is one element that is to be a part of public worship along with the “reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.” (WCF XXI.v)

As I studied the Scriptures, it was becoming clear that God was sovereign, not only over one’s justification, but over all things, particularly His church. (To be continued)

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