Archive for October, 2012

Things Money Can’t Buy

By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.

These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.

 

Ecclesiastes 10:19b

 


Introduction

“Money answers everything”, said Solomon, (Ecclesiastes 10:19b).  Likely, you have heard, “Money talks!”  In The Guinness Book of Money, Leslie Dunkling and Adrian Room share the following: “The poet Richard Armour [1906-1989] has said:  ‘That money talks / I’ll not deny, I heard it once:  It said ‘Goodbye.’’”[1]

David George Moore, author of The Battle for Hell, explains in his commentary on Ecclesiastes, “Although verse 19 is somewhat enigmatic, it does seem to point to the fact that the fool believes that earthly things are the way to achieve the good life.”[2]

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe comments Ecclesiastes 10:19b, “This verse declares the personal philosophy of the foolish officers: Eat all you can, enjoy all you can, and get all you can.  They are totally indifferent to the responsibilities of their office or the needs of the people.  In recent years, various developing nations have seen how easy it is for unscrupulous leaders to steal government funds in order to build their own kingdoms.  Unfortunately, it has also happened recently to some religious organizations.

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Is there such a thing “the Baptist Belief”? — part II

(cont’d. from Sunday, Sept. 30)

SBC PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS

SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

San Francisco, California, 1962

HERSCHEL H. HOBBS (d.) served two terms, from 1961 to 1963, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Considered one of the most influential Southern Baptists of the 20th Century, Hobbs chaired the committee that wrote the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message Statement. A prolific author, Hobbs was the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City from 1949 to 1972. Hobbs was born Oct. 24, 1907, and died at 88 years of age.

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When one speaks of “Baptist doctrine” he is usually understood.  There are Baptist Confessions of Faith.  Southern Baptist seminaries have their Abstracts of Principles.  The Convention itself adopted a statement of “The Baptist Faith and Message.”  But none of these is a creedal statement binding upon all Southern Baptists.  They still hold to the priesthood of believers which extends to every Baptist both the privilege and responsibility of interpreting the Scriptures for himself.

What, then, is the cohesive force which holds Southern Baptists together doctrinally?  It is their time honored principle of unity in diversity.  This does not mean doctrinal indifference nor a theological hodge-podge.  It means that each Southern Baptist extends Christian charity to those with whom he differs.  It means that he recognizes the integrity of those with whom he honestly disagrees.  By this principle Southern Baptists have been agreeable in their disagreements.  They have resolved their differences in the greater unity of purpose as stated in their Constitution of “eliciting, combining and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.”  It is thus that Southern Baptists have and will continue to preserve their unity and strength.

It should be remembered, however, that this principle of unity in diversity imposes upon every Southern Baptist a sacred trust.  The emphasis should be placed upon “unity,” not “diversity.”  Liberty is no excuse for license.  The greater body of Southern Baptists have always been a conservative people not given to extreme positions in theology either on one side or on the other.  They have been, so to speak, a middle-of-the-road people.  At given times the theological road has turned either to the right or to the left.  But Southern Baptists have remained in the middle of the road.  No Southern Baptist is justified in disturbing the fellowship by seeing how near to the edge of the pavement on either side he can come and still remain on the road.  A common road sign is applicable here.  “Danger!  Soft Shoulders!”  Nor should Southern Baptists seek to widen the middle beyond reasonable proportions.  If they get out of their lane they may have a head-on collision with strange theological traffic headed in the other direction.

In their differences Southern Baptists must heed the injunction of the apostle Paul to speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).  But they must speak the truth as God gives them to see it.  For Paul also enjoins, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).  But before they apply their anathemas let them heed the words of the author of Hebrews.  “Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (12:12-13).

Still further, Southern Baptists must place a greater emphasis upon teaching and training its constituency.  Defend the faith they must.  But defense is not enough.  For in the last analysis each Southern Baptist determines his personal faith for himself.

Obviously this emphasis imposes a great responsibility upon each church and pastor.  By its very polity the denomination must wait upon the churches.  And the churches look to their pastors for leadership.

The pastor has not discharged his responsibility merely by becoming a defender of the faith.  The shepherd must not only defend but fee his sheep.  He should guard them from predatory animals.  But he may gather them in the fold and stand guard over them only to find that they have perished from starvation.

This can happen to spiritual sheep as well.  In every theological crisis which has swept through the ranks of Southern Baptists, many were carried away because they “believed the Bible,” but knew little about what the Bible taught.  Doctrinal conviction and understanding among the rank and file of present-day Southern Baptists leave much to be desired.

Southern Baptists do not live in a theological vacuum.  Through the mass media of radio, television, and the printing press, to say nothing about daily personal contacts, they are exposed to varied theological positions.  The pastor cannot be everywhere at the same time to stand guard over them.  They only reasonable procedure is so to teach them that they may read and discern for themselves, and not be carried about by every wind of doctrine.  This can be done by utilizing the various media of teaching and training provided by the denomination through the churches.  The greatest need in Southern Baptist pulpits is a wave of expository preaching.  When the sheep look up they should be fed.

Furthermore, Southern Baptists look to their colleges and seminaries to play a major role in meeting this crisis of our age.  From time to time concern is manifested in this regard.  Like any other Southern Baptist or state Baptist institution their schools are not above criticism.  Nor should they be discouraged by it.  They should fear more if they were ignored.  This concern indicates that Southern Baptists realize the vital role of these educational institutions in the life of the denomination.  They have seen the departure of many denominations from their historic faith begin in their colleges and seminaries.  They have a right to be concerned.

But this concern should be expressed in love, not vindictiveness.  To do otherwise only serves to defeat a well intended purpose as it creates a gulf between the churches and their schools.  Nor should a particular problem be generalized so to throw a blanket of suspicion about the entire educational family.

The schools themselves are not without concern when problems arise.  During the past year it has been my privilege, in response to invitations from the presidents, to meet with the faculties of all of our seminaries.  In respective cases we have spent from two and one half to four and one half hours discussing their problems.  I have found them to be concerned deeply about their relation to the denomination and the internal matters which affect them.

Out of these discussions have come four convictions.  First, this generation of seminary professors is equal in fact or in potential to any in Southern Baptist history.  Second, these men and women are aware of their responsibility and the trust placed in them by their denomination.  But they hunger for understanding and help by the denomination as they discharge this responsibility.  Third, they respond favorably to any interest shown in their problems.  Without exception they have expressed appreciation that the president of the Convention would take time out of a busy schedule to consider with them their problems.  Fourth, these people are worthy of our trust and understanding.  The vast majority of them, largely unnoticed by the denomination, are teaching and training their students in a way to gladden the heart of every Southern Baptist.  I am not unaware of those areas in which problems have arisen or could arise.  But these should be dealt with in particular, not in mass.

The ratio of such problems is no greater now than in past years.  When I entered the seminary thirty years ago Southern Baptists had two seminaries and one Bible Institute whose combined faculties would scarcely exceed that of one of our larger seminaries now.  Now they maintain six full-fledged seminaries whose faculty members exceed many times those of former years.  Southern Baptists had problems thirty years ago.  They have them now.  So long as God chooses to work through human personality they shall continue to have problems.  But they are an evidence of life, not death.  Southern Baptists should deal with them in such fashion as to make them the occasion of growth, not dearth and death.

Three affirmations I would make.  These are not the affirmations of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Nor are they those of its president speaking ex cathedra. They are the affirmations of one Southern Baptist as he views the current theological scene in our denomination.

First, Southern Baptists have a basic philosophy of theological education.  It is not to teach theology for theology’s sake.  Rather it is to teach, train, and equip men and women for the purpose of providing a Bible-centered and informed leadership for Southern Baptist churches and institutions.  Any program of theological education which proposes to do otherwise is to depart from the purpose of those who established and continue to maintain their seminaries.

This does not mean that they expect their seminaries to ignore current trends in theological thought.  Theological thought is never static.  Any graduate of Southern Baptist seminaries should be thoroughly at home in this atmosphere.  But he should be so grounded in the historical and grammatical elements of the Bible, and so orientated in the current theological scene, as to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff as he shepherds his flock.

Such a result involves not only the contents of instruction but the method of instruction.  Someone has described some of the current methods of teaching as the “shock” method designed to produce thought.  This method may be used beneficially in theological education as in psychological therapy.  But it should ever be remembered that the difference between shock therapy and an electrocution is the skill of the technician and the amount of electricity applied.

Second, Southern Baptists expect the administrations, trustees, and faculties of their seminaries to insure that this underlying philosophy of theological education is brought to a full fruition in the products thereof.  They are the repositories of a sacred trust which must be carried out.

The original framers of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention wisely provided that the Convention shall not violate the charters of its institutions.  This provision places a heavier responsibility upon the elected personnel of these institutions.  The problems which invariably will arise should be dealt with by them cooperatively, courageously, patiently, prayerfully, and realistically.

The position of a trustee of a theological seminary is most vital.  If ever one should be as wise as a serpent, as harmless as a dove, and as courageous as a lion, he should.  He is a steward of eternal verities.  He is the link between the denomination and its centers of theological training.  Often there swirl about him conflicting streams of thought.  And out of these swirling eddies he must help to chart the course of the ship which bears precious cargo indeed.  He is deserving of the prayers of his denomination which he endeavors to serve.

One of the most vital functions of his office is to help to preserve within the teaching process the delicate balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility.  And in this he must have the full cooperation of the administration and the faculty.

Southern Baptists, on the one hand, should never deny to their seminaries the right of academic freedom.  To do so would be to stifle the very genius of theological investigation and interpretation.  On the other hand, they should never cease to require academic responsibility.  Responsibility without freedom or freedom without responsibility is a misnomer.  There cannot be the one without the other.  God made man free, but He also made him responsible.  Indeed, for freedom to serve its purpose it must be balanced by responsibility.  A river flowing within its banks is free to carry the cargoes of commerce or to turn mighty turbines.  But once it spreads beyond its banks it becomes a destructive deluge.  In violating its responsibility it destroys its freedom.

Theological thought is like that.  Southern Baptists grant to their theologians freedom of investigation and thought.  Indeed, they expect them to think ahead of them.  But they expect them to think down the road by which they may follow, not in the by-paths which lead to theological confusion.  They ask only that they not get so far ahead that they cannot follow, nor speak in terms that they do not understand.

Southern Baptist seminaries must enjoy the confidence of their people if they are to serve them.  To lose it would be to fail in their purpose.  If Southern Baptists are to continue to blow the trumpet of God with a certain sound, it must be heard most loudly and clearly in their seminaries.  For if not, who shall prepare to the battle?

Third, for Southern Baptists to fulfill their purpose they must retain their theological distinctiveness.  Southern Baptists have enjoyed the blessings of God.  But prosperity has its perils.  One of their greatest perils at the moment is the growing desire to fit in rather than to stand out.  There is something about frugal fare that strengthens.  Luxury, on the other hand, tends to enervate.

Israel, flushed with the thrill of a God-given destiny, said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8).  But settled in the land of milk and honey they demanded of God’s leader, Samuel, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations . . . . ” (I Sam. 8:19-20).  God told His prophet to grant their request, saying, “. . . for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (8:7).  In their desire to fit in they ceased to stand out.  Thus they took the first step that led to the hour when Jesus said to them, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:42).

This must not happen to Southern Baptists!  They must continue to stand out.  This is not theological snobbery but theological conviction!

Recently Doctor Hans Hofmann, a Harvard theologian and a native of Switzerland, stated that a new kind of theology is emerging in the United States.  He says that orthodoxy, liberalism, and neo-orthodoxy will be discarded when this new theology takes hold.  This new theology, says Doctor Hofmann, will emerge at the grass roots level in the churches.  He state further that one concern of this theology will be whether or not God is being revealed, glorified, and enjoyed.

I quote approvingly another’s comments.  “If this new theology does develop it will be simply because present day theologians have abandoned the grass roots of our religious bodies and are spending their own time in theological discussion among themselves and criticizing the Bible from a textual standpoint. While the theological world is putting great stress upon scholasticism and concern for the educated few, the masses making up the churches are overlooked . . . . If liberalism and neo-orthodoxy become the ‘norm’ among Southern Baptists, we can see easily how Professor Hofmann’s predication could come true.”  The same may be said should the “norm” be an extreme form of Fundamentalism.

The words of Doctor Hofmann may well be a challenge to Southern Baptists.  I would summon this Convention to accept that challenge!  This does not mean that it shall forsake theological education.  It means that with definiteness of purpose Southern Baptists shall support it with renewed fervor and strength.

Someone is going to shape and guide this new theology. And Southern Baptists are best fitted to do so.  They are a “grass roots” people.  Their success is due largely to the response given by the “grass roots” to the Gospel as Southern Baptists preach it.  If Southern Baptists forsake their conservatively, middle-of-the-road interpretation of the gospel, the “grass roots” wills eek elsewhere for spiritual food and guidance.  And Southern Baptists as such largely will have lost their reason for being.

This is not a call for retreat but for advance.  It is not a plea to discard the intellect, but to employ it in giving to this age a theology which speaks to both the minds and the hearts of men.  The “modern mind” is not without a soul.  Whether a man be a Doctor of Philosophy or follows a plow his basic spiritual needs are the same.  Southern Baptists cannot say that they have fulfilled their destiny until they have spoken to both.

In such an endeavor Southern Baptists must look to their colleges and seminaries for guidance.  I am certain that such will be forthcoming.  To do so will call for the greatest intellectual endeavor.  It is much more demanding intellectually to blaze a new trail than to follow a beaten path.  To create a new theological vocabulary, if such is needed, calls for more ingenuity than to repeat with strange and uncertain sounds the recently coined phraseology of other theological traditions.  Southern Baptists’ greatest need in this regard is not a new vocabulary, but an understanding of the vocabulary which they now have.  Southern Baptist theologians must employ every tool of investigation and research to prepare a highway of truth through the present-day theological wilderness.

This is not to say that Southern Baptists will forsake their traditional theological position.  They must rather keep pace with the changing scene to interpret and declare it in terms that will find a ready response in the hearts of all men.  The last word has not been said regarding the revelation of God.  The revelation is complete.  But man’s understanding of it may become ever larger as it is unfolded to him by the Holy Spirit.

Conclusions in research must be based on the autonomy of the Christian religion.  The Old Testament must be interpreted in the light of the New Testament.  Jesus Christ Himself is the final criterion of truth.  The New Testament records of His person and work are their own best interpreter.

Southern Baptists will do well to heed the words of the apostle Paul.  Literally rendered he says, “Beware lest any man take you away as spoils of war through philosophy, even empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic elements of the cosmos, and not according to Christ.  For in him is continuously and abidingly at home all the attributes of deity, the state of being God in bodily form” (Col. 2:8-9, author’s translation).  In short, Southern Baptists must judge their philosophy, and science, according to Christ, and not Christ according to philosophy and science.

Yes, this is an age of crisis.  But Southern Baptists are not afraid of crises.  They were born in a crisis.  Their history reveals that they have passed through seven major crises.  And Southern Baptists emerged from each stronger and more resolute than ever before.  They have always turned a crisis into a conquest.  God grant that they shall do so now!

Not My Bible

by Walker Moore, founder, AweStar Ministries (awestar.org)


When not traveling on Sundays, I attend Parkview Church in Tulsa, Okla. If you visit our church, you’d come away scratching your head. There’s not a park to be seen.

I asked one of our founding members about our church’s name. He told me when it was built, you could see Tulsa’s famous LaFortune Park from the front door. As the years passed, buildings filled the space. Since Parkview Baptist no longer has a park view, maybe we should call it “Parking Lot View Baptist Church.”

I don’t attend there because of the view, but because the people have a heart for the lost and encourage those who have ministries outside the church. These include Dr. Lin Brister with First Fruits Ministry; Frank Baxter and Up with Downs, a ministry to special needs children in Russia; Alan Carlton’s ministry to Venezuela; and the least of these, Awe Star Ministries, where I serve.

This past Sunday, I attended Parkview. After church, a friend came up and told my wife and me that not long ago, she volunteered to help at a library. She was going through some books when out fell an old newspaper clipping with the date “2001” written on it.  Picking it up, she noticed a picture of the columnist, who looked like a younger version of me. You guessed it: the clipping was one of my Oklahoma Baptist Messenger articles.

Having spent many years serving as a church staff member, I’ve performed my share of funerals. Often, when I visit a home to prepare for the service, I’ll ask if the deceased had a favorite Scripture verse. Many times the family can’t recall one, so I ask to see their departed loved one’s Bible. I leaf through the old, worn Bible they bring me, looking for an underlined verse or handwritten notes in the margin. Almost without fail, I find a sheet of paper stuck between the pages: a poem, a newspaper clipping or a thank-you card from a friend or relative.

Mom and Dad, encourage your children to have their own study Bible that will take them into their adult years. Right after I became a Christian, I bought a New American Standard Bible. Through the years, I’ve marked and underlined it until the pages are worn down and falling out. Next year, I’ll celebrate forty years as an ordained minister, and in those forty years, I’ve had only two Bibles. I had to retire the first one because the students kept rearranging the books inside. I would find 1 John in the book of Leviticus or Malachi in the pages of Revelation. The second Bible, my newest, is held together by duct tape. I hope it lasts another ten years, because I hate breaking in a new one.

My Bibles are the most sacred thing I own. I’ve told my family if our house catches on fire, and if they can do this safely: save my Bibles first. When I was new to the ministry and went to hear some of the greatest preachers of those times, I would ask them to sign the back of my Bible. I have the signatures of W.A. Criswell, J.D. Grey, Hyman Appleman and others. This Bible holds the record of my journey as a new believer up to today. As I type this, I look to my right, and there it is sits on the desk like a well-worn sword.

I’m writing this because as I travel, I see more and more people pulling out iPads or cell phones with Bible apps. I’m glad they have the Word on their devices and can follow along, and I know they can write notes on them … but it isn’t the same. You can’t flip through an app or write an outline in its side column. I can’t imagine going to a home 10 years from now and asking the family, “Can you bring me Grandma’s iPad so I can pull up her Bible?” I’d probably discover Grandma forgot to leave her family the password.

Have you ever stuck a prayer request into an iPad? Or tucked a Season of Prayer insert into your cell phone? Please understand, I’m not against modern technology. I use it daily for study and research. Almost all of the books I’ve read in the past four years have been on my Kindle, but the Bible is more than just another book. It’s something to be meditated upon, written in, dissected, studied, and memorized. No electronic device can take the place of God’s holy Word written on paper. I use the Bible app sometimes, but it’s not my Bible.

When you see me on Sunday, whether I’m at Parkview or Parking Lot View, you’ll recognize me. I’ll be the one with a well-worn Bible at my side.

 

 

 

A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 7: The Image of God Aspect of the Gospel Invitation

 

by Dr. Michael A. Cox, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Pryor, Oklahoma, and author of Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism


This is the tenth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child. All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
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There are four basic views concerning mankind being created in the image of God: the substantive-structural view, the relational view, the functional view, and the composite or eclectic view. Let us briefly discuss these perspectives and their implications.

The substantive-structural view says that being created in God’s image means that humans possess an inherent characteristic, or characteristics, be they physical, psychological, or spiritual, within our nature which include reason, self-consciousness, or self-determination.1 The biblical passage used to support this view is Gen. 1:24-28.

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Ancient Wine Production and the Bible

By David R. Brumbelow, Highlands, Texas.

David Brumbelow is a pastor, and a graduate of East Texas Baptist Uuniversity and Southwestern Seminary. He is author of “Ancient Wine and the Bible: The Case for Abstinence,” (freechurchpress.com); foreword by Paige Patterson. He blogs at gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com.


Misperceptions abound about the Bible and wine.  Many believe the wine of the Bible was the same as today and always alcoholic.  But the biblical and ancient words for wine were generic; they referred to both alcoholic and nonalcoholic wine.  For example, Jesus referred to unfermented wine as “wine” (Greek word, oinos; Matthew 9:17).  The Old Testament referred to just pressed grapes as “wine” (Proverbs 3:10; Isaiah 16:10; Joel 2:24).Just pressed grapes produce nonalcoholic wine or grape juice.  It refers to grapes on the vine as “wine’ (Isaiah 65:8).  Scripture even speaks of infants crying for wine (Lamentations 2:11-12); parents do not give alcoholic, but nonalcoholic wine to infants.

Ancient writers did not have a word for alcohol, but Aristotle, Plutarch, Pliny, Hippocrates, Colum Ella, Athenaeums and others recognized some wine would intoxicate and some would not.  Aristotle said sweet wine (which had not fermented, thereby taking away it’s sweetness) would not inebriate.  Plutarch gave a confused discussion of why sweet wine would not intoxicate, and other wine would.

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