Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
A recent Church of England Synod, UK (the flagship of the worldwide Anglican communion), debated whether to bless same sex unions. Advocates said this was not a change to church doctrine, which upholds marriage as between a man and a woman. Many evangelical/conservative/traditional Anglicans raised an alarm, including a lay leader by the name of Benjamin John (who also works for the UK Christian legal ministry Christian Concern). His short speech is a brilliant example of Peter and John boldness we’ve been reading about in Acts:
Subsequently the Synod tragically, though not astonishingly, voted in favour of blessing same-sex unions. There has been Anglican drift for decades. They have exchanged orthodoxy for cultural compromise. Numerous Anglican bloggers and Youtubers have expressed their grave concern. Many individuals and congregations will leave, some joining groups like the Free Anglican Church (The Anglican Network was similarly formed in Canada out of the Anglican Church in Canada). The worldwide Anglican communion, which has given Christianity so much good, is fracturing along biblical lines. Those who naively and foolishly remain will, almost inevitably, drift toward further compromise. As one Anglican commentator put it, you can’t say you’re a vegan and eat sausages. You cannot say church teaching is that marriage is heterosexual and bless same-sex unions. The Lord is patient with the bride He is sanctifying but when it so openly apostatizes (departs from the faith), well, He denies those who deny Him (2 Ti 2:12b). Church history is full of such examples.
Ichabod- Hebrew for the glory of the Lord has departed (1 Sam 4:22).
May the faithful take heed and remain true to the Lord in faith and practice.
In recent decades our country has done a 180 in what it values and believes. Usually this has been for ill. When we exchange God for self “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” (Judges). Truly as a result we now often “call good evil and evil good.” (Isa 5:20).
If you don’t think we’ve done a 180 consider some of the following changes:
To our culture the Lord says, repent and return to me, to know times of refreshing (c.f. Acts 3:19).
To Christians He bids us to stand on His Word and not become “like the nations around us” (c.f. 1 Sam 8:20), all the while loving the lost and hopefully sharing the Gospel. It is the Gospel alone that can reverse our course so we call good ‘good’ and evil ‘evil’ once again.
Over the weekend I was afforded an opportunity to be in a number of different church settings across southern Ontario as I taught and preached. Ranging from Toronto to Windsor, urban and rural, worship and classroom, I was blessed to experience something of what God is doing in Ontario.
Though class sizes at some seminaries remains low because of post-Covid dynamics and demographic trends in education, there are still those who are preparing for ministry via seminary. In Toronto this has a very international feel. One student, from Malaysia, is planning on returning there to minister amongst the predominantly Muslim population. The church is Ontario is connected with the uttermost parts of the earth, both in receiving and sending. God is globalizing His Church.
On the Lord’s Day I was able to preach at a church I had previously pastored in rural Ontario. When I transitioned to a new ministry the church was struggling to deal with carnal individuals who had too long persisted in the congregation (c.f. Eph 4). Since those individuals have ceased to be part of that congregation my friend, who now pastors there, has seen what liberty follows such a happy change. I preached beside the church in a large tent to 200+ people as the church building cannot contain the number of people who have come to Christ (largely from a nominally Christian population group in the community). God is building His Church.
That evening I was speaking at an induction service in Windsor. It was a medium sized urban congregation that, following a wider trend, is moving away from being seeker sensitive and more liberal, to one that is much more robust, healthy and evangelical—this led primarily by the younger generations. It was a joy to be a part of that by offering a biblically grounded charge to the new pastor, congregation and lost amongst them. God is renewing His Church.
On Monday I was back in Toronto speaking to a group of pastors on the “unknown Baptist minister,” Robert Hall Sr. of Arnsby (1728–1791). There was much in his story that was a challenge and encouragement to the brothers (and sisters) gathered there. One of these was to a missionary couple to Asia from Mexico who were visiting Toronto who will now take the lessons from Hall Sr. back to their villages. In spite of the encouragement from the workers from Mexico, one prayer request from the pastors present, i.e. not something unique to our church, is the need for workers. The harvest is plentiful but the labourers in Ontario are few (c.f. Mt 9:37). Not only do we need more young people prepared for ministry in seminary, etc, there is a direct need in the number of older Gospel workers approaching retirement. This is a real and present need; yet God is preparing His Church.
There are many things the church faces in Ontario but there are many things that make this an exciting time in which to serve the Lord. Let us go forward into the unknown in a spirit of faith and boldness and Word-centredness as the early Church did (Acts 4:31).
As a church we believe in and practice church discipline (henceforth CD) (Handbook 10.0). This is because we are a believers’ church comprised of members who have made and continue to make a credible profession of faith (Statement of Faith-The Church; Church Covenant; Handbook 7.0). We not only believe in the Gospel but a Gospel order, which includes CD. These are flip sides of the same coin.
[Corrective] Discipline, in a worldly sense, may simply be defined as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience” (Oxford). Biblically, the word discipline (paideia) means to train a child to reach maturity.
In Christian theology and ethics all precepts ultimately flow from principles and these from the person of God. A study of CD at the level of precept (especially in our culture) can lead to an emotional knee jerk reactions (intolerance, unaccepting, etc) but understanding the heart of what CD flows from reinforces our understanding and informs our practice.
Person: The Character of God
God is both a God of mercy and justice, grace/love and truth (e.g. Ex 34:6–7; Jn 1:17; 1 Jn 4:12).
It may be said that His discipline is directed against unbelievers in His wrath and wayward believers in His correction. Speaking of the latter Heb 12:7b–12 says:
“God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
God is the perfect disciplinarian.
Principles from the Bible
A Believer’s Church- A Christian is one who has believed the Gospel and been added to the church through baptism. We can see the believing nature early in Acts, such as Acts 2:41. Unlike the Old Covenant people and many systems of Christianity today that uphold a mixed nature of God’s visible people (i.e. believers and unbelievers), the New Covenant people are a believing community. While it is true false professors creep in and that the Lord knows those who are His, we have an obligation to ensure membership is based upon a credible profession.
Perseverance of the Saints- The Bible teaches that those who are truly the Lord will ultimately not fail in the faith but persevere to the end. This means that the Church holds members accountable in the Lord. Only those who give a credible profession of faith and practice may be counted as part of it. If assurance is persistently and unrepentantly removed, the assurance of membership must likewise be withdrawn.
The church is a believing community that is given shape through regenerate membership (baptism and discipline).
Precepts: What the Bible says.
There are a number of related Bible verses/passages that speak to the subject of Church discipline. Some of the most noteworthy are:
I.The Correct Spirit: The Lost Sheep precedes Mt 18; Gal 6:1; Lk 17:3
II.As A General Command: 1 Cor 5:9–13; 2 Thes 3:6
III.A Typical Threefold Process: Mt 18:15–20; Tit 3:10
IV.The Authority to Bind (bring into membership) and Loose (exclude from membership): Mt 16:16; Mt 18:19
V.The Example of the Man Excluded and then Restored because of Incest, 1 Cor 5:1 ; 2 Cor 2:5–11
VI.The Example of the Judgement of Ananias and Sapphira: Acts 5:1–11
Those professing believers who persist in unrepentant sin, whether in faith or practice, must be excluded.
Ultimately CD is for the glory of God (doing what God has said); the purity of the church (ensuring it remains a believers’ church); the good of the sinner (not allowing them to walk in false assurance) and the fear of the church (a renewed call for us to confirm our calling and election). (See Five Minute Moment, June 13, 2021, here).
“Today, many professing Christians see church discipline as unloving, and many church leaders are afraid to practice it for fear of appearing merciless. Yet refusing to apply church discipline in careful obedience to Scripture is the most unloving and merciless thing the church can do. When the church does not call out impenitent people, it gives them false assurance that they are in a state of salvation.” - Ligioner
A Short Survey of Church Discipline from Church History
The church has tended to oscillate in this area [CD] between extreme severity (disciplining members for the most trivial offences) and extreme laxity (exercising no discipline at all, even for serious offences). John Stott, "The Message of Acts," p. 112.
 There is also formative discipline (e.g. training in godliness) and restorative discipline (reconciliation).
A lecture on Robert Hall of Arnsby (1728-1791) delivered to a pastors' conference in Toronto, February 6, AD 2023.
A sermon preached at Banwell Community Church, Windsor, February 5, AD 2023
1 Pet 5:1-5
A sermon preached at Norwich Baptist Church, February 5, AD 2023.
What a glorious doctrine of the Scriptures is the teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints!
There are two extremes when it comes to the perseverance of a professing Christian, usually cast in one of the following two ways: a) that through my own wilful rebellion I can lose my salvation, and b) “once saved always saved” or "eternal security."
Yet if Christ isn’t capable of saving me to the uttermost (including holding me) then He isn’t the perfect Saviour and is not to be trusted. Likewise, a mere profession of one’s lips, without the fruit of repentance and faith is surely not evidence of a genuine salvation. The former produces a works that can never rest in Christ; the latter rests too easily in false assurance.
The Perseverance of the Saints (POTS), which is an historic belief that Baptists have held, and which we hold as a congregation (FEB, “Salvation” ; MBC “Salvation” - “divinely preserved”), balances these two extremes. POTS teaches that those who are truly saints, that is those who’ve savingly believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, been converted, and made holy (saints) are also those who will finally persevere, or continue steadfast, to the end. It doesn’t mean they will be perfect but it does mean that even if for a time they grieve the Spirit, their general life trajectory will be persistent righteousness vs. persistent sin (a false professor). Thus, they and we gain final assurance of their salvation by the evidence of the fruit that they bear to the end (Mt 3:8, Mt 7:20, Mt 13:23; Eph 2:10). Not only is this useful pastorally but ecclesiology as we seek to determine who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Some key (and unmistakeable) passages are:
London Baptist Confession, 1644- Section 34 and 27
2nd London Baptist Confession, 1689- Chapter 17
New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833- Chapter 11
We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end: that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special providence watches over their welfare, and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
A Confession of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec, 1925
The preservation unto eternal life of the saints;
The necessity and efficacy of the influence of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.
Southern Baptist Faith and Message (1925, c.f. 2000)
All real believers endure to the end. Their continuance in well-doing is the mark which distinguishes them from mere professors. A special Providence cares for them, and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Cheque made payable to:
Markdale Baptist Church
E-transfer sent to: