Church With Josh

The final day of my visit with Josh was a Sunday. This made the day very bittersweet. Bitter because I knew I would have to say goodbye, but sweet because I would be attending his wonderful church. I had been to his church once previously, clear back in January. And since then I had been anxious to return. At the same time, I was of course nervous about going. (Social interactions in general tend to give me the jitters! Introverted, I am. )

As most of my readers know, I have been on the search for a solid church in my area since last fall. It was at about that time I came to the decision to leave the Evangelical church I had been attending. Since, I have come to realize how hard it is to find a good church. Expository preaching is near extinction. Finding a Reformed church quickly proved impossible and I’d now be happy to find one that preaches from Scripture (as opposed to feel-good, topical, how to do life sermons). I’ve seen some really insane things at churches I have visited. I’ve seen puppet shows being passed off as actual ministries, a preacher herding his teenage sons around the church while whipping them to show how a yoke is used, teen girls in tight clothes dancing on stage being passed off as worship … the list could go on. I always tell Josh he is so blessed to have such a wonderful, Biblical church!

This time around we went for the Sunday class before morning service (last time around we only went to the worship service). The class was on church history. I thought it was really interesting. And, again, I think Josh is so fortunate that he has access to such things every Sunday. I just felt really blessed to be there.

I am also amazed with how kind and welcoming everyone at this church is. To be sure, I haven’t met every person, but everyone I have met has been so nice. It feels like a church should. It’s the only church in my life I’ve actually felt at home at. I have never felt judged by any of the members (being a single mother, and a former teen mother being judged at churches is something I have grown accustomed to).

Of course, the preaching was wonderful. Pastor Steve always does a good job preaching. I’ve been listening to his sermons on sermonaduio since January when I get the chance :o)

I didn’t get to partake in the Lord’s Super. I’m very ready to be baptized to remedy this, but I sort of have to find a church to do that. Most churches require you to be a member to be Baptized. It’s really awful not having a church home. It’s like being a homeless child in so many ways. I’ve been in and out of so many churches wondering when I will find my home. I do pray I find it soon. Anyway, I was baptized as a child but I was not a true believer then. I believed in God, but it was no different than how Satan and his demons believe. So, I feel that I need to be rebaptized.

After worship service we had the fellowship meal. We sat with a great group of people. They had quite a few funny stories! It was a good time of fellowship. I mostly, just listened to everyone because again I tend to be shy. Eventually everyone left the table except us and Pastor Steve. We had some very edifying conversation. It was so nice.

As it was time to leave Josh wanted to say good bye to some people. Of course, we ended up talking even more. I met a like-minded sustainable living brother 🙂 He was so kind to me! Even opening his home to me for future visits. Like, I said I’m amazed by the kindness all these people have shown to me.

I could have spent a lot more time there, but I had to go. As it was I wouldn’t be getting home until around ten and I had to pick up my girls still. We said our goodbyes and headed out. I cannot wait to visit again!

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6 thoughts on “Church With Josh

  1. I am glad you found this church to be such a blessing to you. 🙂 I am a bit confused regarding you not being able to partake in the Lord's Supper – could you explain it more to me? Both Martin Luther and John Calvin vigorously taught and defended infant/child baptism. In fact, unless it was performed by some sect that did not baptize in the name of the Trinity, any baptism (infant, child, or adult) was always valid and never to be repeated. This was the practice of the historic Church from its beginning. "Believer’s Baptism" originates in the post-Reformation Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century; Calvin considered them heretical for, among other things, their practice of re-baptizing. http://www.rts.edu/Site/Resources/FacultyArticles/OneBaptismRevised.pdf

  2. Erika:Luther and Calvin are no doubt two essential pillars of the Reformation, but they are far from the only Reformers and they were definitely not infallible. I think too many people have a narrow view of just who the Reformers really were, not looking very much beyond Luther and Calvin. We tend to get lost in the "big names" and forget the lesser-known people who God used to shape the Reformation. People like Turretin, Beza, Knox, Owen, Bunyan, and others carried on where Luther and Calvin left off. I think many people have the wrong impression that the Reformation ended those two men. Inasmuch as I respect Luther and Calvin, I think in many ways the second generation of Reformers (17th century) are more important because they were forced by various pressures (e.g. a resurgent Rome) to clarify their views. That's why they called the Synod of Dort, for example. It was in this context that questions were brought up concerning baptism. It is true that the Anabaptists revived the apostolic practice of credobaptism (or believer's baptism), but the reasons Hollie and I hold to credobaptism aren't rooted in the Anabaptists but rather the Baptist movement which came out of 17th century England. The Reformed Baptists (or Particular Baptists as they were called) came out of the larger Puritan movement, people who were formerly Presbyterians and Congregationalists. By contrast, the Anabaptists were a continental thing and had no connecton with the Baptists. Indeed, both the First London Baptist Confession (1644) and the Second (1689) explicitly distance themselves from the Anabaptists. Instead, we are rooted in the Reformed tradition. These men had great respect for Calvin and other paedobaptist brethren (as do I), but they would have sharply disagreed on this question of baptism. This question even divided the Presbyterians at Westminster. It's interesting that you linked to the RTS website because that's my school. I think RTS is a wonderful seminary, but I must respectfully disagree with my professors on this point. My response was not to debate you per se, but clear up certain aspects of church history as it pertains to this issue. I hope this helps. 🙂

  3. Josh,I greatly appreciate your taking the time to explain in greater detail the history of this matter. 🙂 It was a pleasure to read your response. If I may I'd like to ask you a broader question regarding this issue. I certainly don't intend on it being an attack so I hope you don't take it in that way. I am sincerely curious as to what your reasoning is in this regard:How do you reconcile the fact that the position you hold on baptism is relatively new in that it did not assert itself until the 17th century? Even if we are to operate off the belief that the infant Church practiced only credobaptism, the underlying assertion is that from the time we have the first written confirmation of infant baptism being practiced throughout the churches (2nd century) until the time of the Synod of Dort (17th century), Christ's Church was fundamentally wrong about her theology. And the majority of Christendom continues to be in error, as those churches who find credobaptism to be the only acceptable baptism are in the definitive minority. It seems to me this is a very serious assertion to make – that Christ has allowed His Church to languish in unchecked error on a fundamental issue for 1500 years and even now only a few are finally getting it right? As you know, Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church – but by saying that the Church already fell into grave theological error by the 2nd century and continued in that error for 15 centuries, aren't we essentially admitting that the gates of hell did prevail (not to mention quickly, and with what appears to be no dissent or debate)? And of course this can be said not only regarding the issue of baptism, but many others which now separate Catholics from Protestants. Furthermore, what are we to make of Paul's statement that the household of God, the Church, is a "pillar and buttress of the truth?" I find it difficult to believe that this statement was intended only to be an assessment of the first century Church. What do you think?Again, I hope this comment doesn't raise any ire with you as it is not my intention to be quarrelsome. I'm genuinely curious as to how you reconcile all this, as I know in my time as a Protestant these issues were either glazed over or addressed with very little intellectual satisfaction.

  4. Erika:

    I appreciate your thoughtful response and candid questions. I shall do my best to answer them.

    To answer your first question, I would start by asserting that credobaptism was the normative practice of the 1st century church. This is nothing new. Credobaptism is not a product of the 16th century. We see this in the clear testimony of Scripture and nowhere do we find any instances of paedobaptism. I would further add that credobaptism, in a sense, is in fact the normative practice of every denomination within Christianity. What I mean by that is the fact that *adults* are not baptized unless they offer a profession of faith. So the issue is really not whether credobaptism is practiced, but whether it is practiced consistently. And I would assert that the churches which promote infant baptism do not.

    As for your second question, Scripture never teaches that we are guaranteed a completely purified church. The people of God will not enter into a state of perfection and glorification until the Parousia. That’s not to say that the Spirit isn’t working through His people, only that the church itself is not infallible. God is without error and everything He says to us can be trusted because of His inerrancy. Scripture is God-breathed and infallible–the church is not. God speaks to us through His revealed word, not through a fallible prince. More to the point, the doctrine of baptism is certainly important, but it’s a secondary issue. Baptism is not required for salvation, so there’s no need for me to break fellowship with my Presbyterian brethren, for example. Even though they are wrong on baptism, I still say that Presbyterian congregations are true churches.

    The church may indeed be subject to gross errors at various times for long periods of time, but that doesn’t mean that the gates of hell have prevailed over her. Indeed, we could ask the same question regarding the Old Testament church. Why did God allow the Israelites to languish in gross error until they were restored and King Josiah re-discovered the Books of the Law? At the end of the day, I think you’re asking a question that really can’t be answered this side of heaven. We can only speculate on why God decreed this or that. But whatever the reason, we know that He has a purpose in it all.

    (By the way, the Synod of Dort didn’t deal with the doctrine of baptism, but instead dealt with soteriology. I just mentioned that in passing as an example of the hammering out of details in the 17th century. Sorry if I caused any confusion.)

    Regarding your last question about Paul’s statement from 1 Tim. 3:15, what he’s saying there is simply that you will find the church where the Gospel is being preached. If a body ceases to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, then they aren’t part of the church. I agree with that completely. This is where we make a distinction between the visible church and the invisible church. Not everyone who professes belief is regenerate. Not every body which calls itself a church is really a church.

    At any rate, I hope this response answers your questions. I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. I was going to go a bit deeper, but I’m not entirely sure where you are going with this. Anyway, I hope this finds you well.

  5. Josh,

    Thank you for the response. If I may, I’d like to share my perspective on some points you made.

    I agree that credobaptism was a normative practice of the 1st century church. However, that only makes sense because there were no prior Christians. The apostles were evangelizing to adults whom had never heard the Gospel. As such, the only explicit baptism accounts in the Bible involve converts from Judaism or paganism.

    However, I would argue that that there is plenty in the Bible that would lend us to believe infants and children WERE baptized as well. The NT implies that adults and children were included in this rite. When the head of a household converted and was baptized, his entire household was also baptized with him (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Co 1:16). The term for “household” included not just the elderly, adults, children, and infants, but even the servants. Peter explicitly mentions to the Jewish audience on Pentecost, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2:38-39).

    In the Old Covenant, the Jews practiced infant circumcision as mandated to Abraham. Without circumcision no male was allowed to participate in the cultural and religious life of Israel. Paul makes the correlation between circumcision and baptism when he said, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism” (Co 2:11-12). The sign of circumcision prefigures that circumcision of Christ, which is Baptism.

    I would argue that the Jews would have naturally assumed their children would be included in the “circumcision” of the New Covenant just as they had been in the Old Covenant. If the practice of infant baptism had been illicit, surely we would find somewhere in the NT documentation of this. But we find no such account or prohibition — neither in the NT nor in the writings of the early Church Fathers. To be sure this is not a definitive answer, but it should cause us to examine the issue more closely.

    Furthermore, the first time infant baptism is mentioned in writings of the Early Church, it is mentioned not as an innovation but as a standard practice instituted by the apostles themselves. Irenaeus — a direct disciple of Polycarp, himself a direct disciple of the apostle John — wrote, “For he [Jesus] came to save all through means of Himself — all, I say, who through Him are born again to God, — infants, and children, and boys, 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).

    This theme is repeated again and again, affirming that the Church was of one mind on infant baptism. We even have Augustine, who wrote: “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]).

    On the other point you brought up: if baptism is merely a secondary issue not pertaining to salvation, why does it come up again and again in the Bible as being just the opposite? We have Jesus proclaiming it himself in John 3:5 and Mark 16:16. Peter’s first words to potential converts are, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.” Paul admonished his hearers after sharing the Gospel by saying this: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). We then have 1 Pet. 3:21, Rom. 6:3-4, and Col. 2:11-12. It has been documented rock solid Church teaching from the days of Pentecost up through the early Reformers that Christ works through baptism to impart the grace of salvation.

    Anyhow, I have gone on long enough on those points. I apologize for being so long-winded. :p

    My main question for you is in reference to your statement, “…you will find the church where the Gospel is being preached. If a body ceases to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, then they aren’t part of the church.” I am going to make the assumption (and forgive me if I’m wrong, please do correct me) that you would probably tell me you think the Catholic Church was fundamentally corrupt AT LEAST by the time of Augustine. It was well documented by then that the Church and those within it taught the necessity of faith and works, transubstantiation, apostolic succession, Tradition, the papacy, baptismal regeneration, Mary as ever-virgin, the necessity of confession to a priest/bishop, absolution, penances, purgatory, and so on and so forth. So then my question is this: If by the 4th century the only known church had ceased to preach the Gospel and thus stopped “being” Christians/part of Christ’s Church, is it your assessment that the Church simply ceased to exist entirely during those years?

    Take your time in responding, if you even wish to do so. By no means feel you are compelled to provide an answer to everything I have written here! I know I got off track quite a bit with the baptism issue.

    Erika

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