Home Page
cover of 6-2-2024 | CPC Sunday School | Westminster Confession of Faith #1
6-2-2024 | CPC Sunday School | Westminster Confession of Faith #1

6-2-2024 | CPC Sunday School | Westminster Confession of Faith #1

00:00-56:26

Nothing to say, yet

Podcastspeechsilencemale speechman speakinginside
8
Plays
0
Downloads
0
Shares

AI Mastering

Transcription

The speaker is starting a series on the Westminster Confession and explains why Presbyterians love it. The focus of chapter one is the word of God. Confessional Christianity is a growing interest that takes doctrine seriously. The speaker discusses the decline of cultural Christianity and the negative view of Christianity in society. Confessional Christianity is marked by theological conservatism and an elaborate confession of faith. The speaker emphasizes the importance of church structure and accountability. The speaker references the Great Commission and the appointment of elders in the early church. Confessional Christianity is about building the body of Christ on earth. So we're starting a series today on the Westminster Confession, so we're going to use this morning is begin with a little bit of an intro and a background. See why is it that we is this particular denomination Presbyterians love the Westminster version of a confession of faith so much and then we'll get into the actual meat and marrow of chapter one. I'll be starting with that. Pastor Evans will be doing the next week and then we have a series of C camps. You always have to use a first name with a C camp because you never know which C camp will be teaching and you can't do something as simple as put a J because there are of course three of those also. And then to finish out the month, Elder Morris will do chapter five for us. So again, we're just going to do a little bit of an introduction to the confession, some backgrounds and history, and we'll look at God's word of throughout all of that. And really the focus of chapter one is the word of God, which is unique and we'll get to that in various confessions. So here's a quote that we're going to start with. I'm actually going to read it in its entirety, but kind of ponder and stop or take your time with this. So in recent years, we've seen a witness, a growing interest in what is increasingly known as confessional Christianity. This is the most encouraging development because the term generally refers to Christianity, which takes doctrine seriously. Confessional Christians are those who believe that the Bible actually teaches things about God, which apply in all times and in all places to all people. I think that this is true because there seems to be, at least in my view, a real split in the world where there's there's a cultural Christianity that has melted away. It could be through the 80s and 90s that it was generally accepted that it was a good thing to be a Christian. If we back to harken to even earlier days, there'd be a point where most of Americans would agree that, yeah, we live in a Christian nation, that it's a good thing. It's a positive thing to be a Christian. And as time has marched on and secularism has become more and more progressive, probably from about the mid 90s to the early 2000s, we found ourselves in a neutral space. Well, it's fine for you. And moral relativism has come in such that if you want to be a Christian, that's fine. Nobody really cares about it. Keep your religion private. Here today, we find ourselves at a time where it's actually probably going to be a negative. If you are openly a Christian in your place of work, at school, in whatever context, people are going to step back and say, oh, you're one of those backward bigoted people. You're one of those people who are intolerant. You're one of those hateful people. Well, first of all, that's the farthest thing from the truth. But the culture no longer has a positive view of Christianity. But in times of opposition, we do actually see that there's a sorting of sorts. There's more skin in the game if you're going to claim the name of Christ today. And so the people who are willing to say, not just in a neutral space, or maybe you could, maybe if in 30, 40 years ago said, yeah, I'm a Christian and not really mean it, then it wouldn't have cost you anything. It might probably even be to your benefit. But if you claim the name of Christ today, it's probably going to cost you something. So those of us who are left over generally do take our doctrine seriously. And this is a good thing. The church has been stressed, but a church under stress will actually grow strong. So continuing on, nevertheless, there's more to a truly confessional Christianity than a mere belief in the importance of doctrine. In fact, I have a suspicion that today's confessional Christianity is simply a reiteration of what used to be called conservative Christianity, a Christianity which believes in the non-negotiability of 10 or 12 basic points of doctrine, usually embodied in a congregation's doctrinal statement. Confessional Christianity, however, is actually more than that. And there are a rise of Calvinistic churches, churches that are dedicated to preaching God's word expository to really dig in and teach whole swaths of scripture. And that's good. But when we are doing what we're doing here, we're not doing something new. We're actually doing something old. And so it's in some ways the modern church, the non-denominational church, we do see some of them rising and we do see them growing. And this is a good thing. But they're kind of stumbling upon some of the truth that we've been leaning and resting upon for hundreds of years. And so that's encouraging. But what they're missing is a little bit more. This is all via Carl Truman, by the way. He says that confessional Christianity, true confessional Christianity, is marked by two things, not simply just a theological conservatism, not simply people just who love God's word and are truly in the game, but an elaborate confession of faith, not just a doctrinal statement. And if you've been from one church to another in the last 10 years, one of the first things that I've done, and I know that we move from Connecticut to Texas, when we got here, many of us are transplants to the area. One of the first things that I did when I was looking for a church is I go to the web page. And after I go to their web page, I want to go to the very first place is seeing their statement of faith. And how disappointing is it to get a one-page PDF that says, this is what we believe? It's not even begin to explore all the depths of theology. And sometimes they'll make reference to, we also believe in this Baptist confession of faith, or this other section, like they'll make reference to other documents, their web page will say like what we believe can be put on one to two pages of a Word document. And that's certainly not in keeping what I think is sufficient. So if you were to come to our web page, I don't remember this off the top of my head, but we're Presbyterians and we're confessionally Presbyterians. And so what that means is that we hold to the Westminster standards. And if you wanted to look it up, we're going to look today and see that there's over 30 chapters of what we believe with detailed thoughts and well-thought-out propositions that are all in reference to scripture. So not only just an elaborate confession of faith that is that statement, but also a church structure, which provides elders, accountability, and indeed, ongoing pedagogy. Pedagogy meaning ongoing teaching, that there's always something for us to be working on, always something for us to be continuing the Reformation tradition, always something for us to need to reinforce. So if confessional Christianity, which is currently so popular, is to mature, and again, it's a good thing that there are many churches who are interested in right doctrine. It's a good thing that there are many churches that are growing, but we want to see them to be not only young churches, but mature churches. Those mature churches need to become what is truly confessional in a traditional ecclesial sense. So Karl Schumann's quote on that, and this is at the beginning of a book written by Chad Van Dykshorn, a Hesperterian pastor who made a large commentary on the entire Westminster Confession of Faith. And if you're interested, I'll give you a reference to where you can find that book. It's a thick one, but it's really worthwhile. So a lot of material that the teachers are going to be talking about throughout this series probably comes from that commentary on the confession, and it just puts in plain language some things that you might want to see and consider out of our tradition. So to review, if we're going to be truly confessional, we want to need an elaborate confession of faith and a church structure that supports that. It is the church structure that is dictated by our confession of faith. Our confession of faith is dictated by God's Word, and so we don't come up with this idea that this is the way we need to run the church purely because, well, that's what we think will work really well. This is not a pragmatic approach. This is a scriptural approach. So says who? Why do we need elders? And why are we doing all of this? So we should always have something to read ourselves in scripture for the reasons that we're doing the things we're doing. So consider the Great Commission. Jesus says to them what they're supposed to do. They're going to go make disciples. So that's not an all-encompassing charge. There's not a full operational plan that is contained within the phrase go make disciples. He does elaborate on that, but we'll just park there for a second. How do we see the apostles doing the thing that Jesus called them to do? So in Acts 14, we see that Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. So throughout the missionary journeys of Paul throughout the book of Acts, we see that Paul is doing things. He's going, he's proclaiming the gospel. He's making disciples. There are converts. And after he gathers this assembly of converts, what he does is he appoints men in order to lead over those people to help encourage them to go back to what they know. This is a cycle that has always propagated throughout the early church. And in every church, Paul is appointing elders. Paul, when he's speaking to his apprentice, Timothy, he says to them that you are to entrust faithful men who will be able to teach others also. So in Paul handing off his ministry to Timothy, encouraging Timothy to do in the same work that he has done, he says, what you're doing is building these churches, proclaiming the gospel. And as you do so, you need to find faithful men who will continue after you. This is a faith that is once and for all delivered to us like Jude. And we're to strive to build this thing on earth, which is the body of Christ, which is the church. So within our confession, within the idea of going and making disciples, within the Great Commission, appointing even a leadership structure for the church is extremely important. So why do we need this leadership? Well, because there's accountability built into being in the body of Christ. Christ is our good shepherd, and a shepherd is one who oversees and watches and cares for and tends the sheep. So Christ is the chief shepherd, and he appoints elders as under-shepherds in order to do that work. So he has workmen that are going to be following after him, obeying what he says. So we have no authority as elders except that which authority is delegated to us as workmen underneath Christ. But when we're doing that, we're feeding the sheep by giving them the word. That's not ongoing pedagogy. But we're also protecting them, and protecting them means that there has to be some level of accountability. That level of accountability is throughout all of scripture, but one example with that would be, we say, perhaps Matthew 18. So if your brother sins against you, you go to him privately. If he won't hear you, take another brother. And if still he won't hear you, then you tell it to the church. So who would you tell it to the church in? Well, the elders, which are part of that church structure above you. In Romans, Paul tells us that our duty is to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. Well, how do we do this? How do we become more holy and acceptable in our practice? It is through the renewal of our minds. How are we to renew our minds? Through the preached word of God. Who will be doing this? Again, elders, pastors, overseers. In Hebrews 10, it tells us that we are not to neglect coming together as the habit of some, but encouraging each other all the more day by day as you see the day drawing near. So there is a devotion of, we must attend, we must be under teaching, we must be under accountability, we must continually be renewing our minds. And the structure that Christ has established that is the word of God first and foremost, that he has entrusted to elders so that there is accountability so that his sheep are well cared for. Well, how are we going to continue to care for them? Going back to the great commission, Jesus says, go make disciples. And he wants them to do what? Teaching them, all of the disciples to observe all that I have commanded you. It's not going to be a simple one day lesson. Oh, that we could all hear the gospel and say, yes, I'm heaven bound. I got everything I need to know. I don't know about you. My Christian life has been marked by fits and starts. And I continually need to go back to the source, back to scripture and have more and more those teachings and truths retold to me because each time God's word is living and active and it shows me something not brand new, but maybe understand in a deeper and more meaningful way than I had in the past. So even also back to the book of Acts, how do we see that the early church began? Well, they're making disciples. They're preaching God's word. They're devoting themselves to the apostles, teaching fellowship, breaking bread and the prayers. Essentially, this is an act chapter two. As the church is being born, what it does is the very thing that we do every week. This is the same model. We're not changing anything. We're not making anything new. This is not. And they added many programs. It does not say. And they had outreach events every single week, although they were doing that. But those outreach events did not include a helicopter egg drop at Easter. What it means is they devoted themselves principally to the apostles teaching what were the apostles teaching the word. So this ongoing pedagogy is so essential that we're always pointing ourselves back to the word. And in Corinthians, Paul talks about I fed you with milk, not solid food for you're not ready for it yet. There is an ongoing need because as we grow in Christ, we will need more and more strong meat truth that will actually change us, not just simply elementary principles, but really gaining a fuller understanding of scripture. This does not mean that there is an A team and a B team. You do not graduate to be a senior Christian. There are no super apostles among us. We're all still learning to walk in the image of Christ and growing slowly. But it's the way that we understand that. So this is always something that's an evolution in the individual Christian and that we are continuing to grow in our ability. And as you are being filled, you're more and more able to then fill out other people. All right. So just before we move on from that. Oh, no. Yeah. Any question about this elaborate confession of faith and need for it or church structure? Yeah. I was just wondering if you could give an example of like a doctrine that fits in milk and one that fits in solid food. Yeah. Just like that distinction. So as we're going through this, I'm going to go back a little bit. So chapter one, we're talking about today, the word of God, scripture, and we'll pull several of those things out. But even in the commentary, Josh Seacamp has been off perhaps more than he knew that he was going to have to choose chapter three and chapter five of God's providence and God's eternal decree. These are hard things for us to wrap our minds around. We consider the sovereignty of God and all the implications for that. We are responsible, yet God is sovereign. That's not generally the first lesson that we begin with in a Bible study. So your sin and accountability to God is something that even our children can understand. But how God is simultaneously sovereign over all things and yet not the author of sin. Chapter three is a doozy. Good luck, Josh, wherever you are. But we're going to see like there's definitely some things that you see the goodness in it, but maybe in our flesh we immediately feel like, wait a minute, don't I get a vote in this? Don't I have say, isn't it my choice? So sovereignty of God would be a good example of that predestination. So those are things that are absolutely true in manifesting God's word, but maybe that's more of a meat subject than a milk subject. Is that helpful? Anything else? I hope we don't have a ton of questions. Not that I'm not willing, but that means I'm missing something. All right, so a little bit of background and maybe a history of how we got here. So the apostles show up. We've got the early Christian church and the idea of Protestantism, there's splits throughout all of this. And these are not really hard lines because there's people even as early as the early church who were talking about like, well, hey, wait a minute, does the seat of power really need to be in Rome? Or is the Pope really infallible? I mean, those ideas, as we read church history, and I would strongly recommend that you read church history. I was always a little bored with the idea of church history, and then I formally took classes in church history at RTS down in Dallas. Love it. Absolutely love it. Couldn't stop reading enough early church history because all the things that we talk about even today, we're like, oh, this is a new subject. I wonder if anybody's talked about that before. Yeah, they have. The church fathers that we stand on as a tradition that we follow today have dealt with all of the controversies and things that we see in church. And to even look at the councils and concessions, this is looking at what the church does as they gather together and say, well, there's an issue, how do we respond to that? And the answers that they come up with are always principally rooted in the word of God. It is not purely on tradition alone. It was through a careful study of what God's word reveals. And so we come out of this branch of the Christian family tree, if you will, this Presbyterian we're in, just after Protestantism and the birth of Catholicism throughout Europe during the time of the Reformation in particular. Here we have Martin Luther not nailing his theses to the Wittenberg church wall. And it's at this moment that really we kind of begin. But that's not to say that was the only time. So there's some funny words here, but the Huguenots or early French proto-reformers, so prior to Martin Luther, there's a significant number of people who are asking questions about the role of the church and the abuses that they saw within it. And these are smaller groups that were still dealing with those same things but did not have the same traction. It wasn't as though the same moment when Luther nailed his theses and really lit the world on fire. Or another group we'd call the wallards. I did a paper on John Wycliffe who was very, very interesting. One of the guys who's principally responsible for translating the Bible into English. Fascinating little tidbit. There were some wallards who, in England at the time because the Roman Catholic church was supreme, their children were found to be reciting the Lord's prayer in their native tongue and for that they were all burned at the stake. So the Catholic church absolutely wanted supreme control and authority over this. But the Reformation says no, God's word belongs to God's people. It is your birthright to understand what your father in heaven has spoken to you. So this is not a simple disagreement. This was about power and control. And when Luther really started the Reformation, it started a huge movement. When people started opening scriptures to themselves and reading before. But there's so many people throughout church history that were very important in being either forerunners by making the word of God available, rediscovering old languages. John Wycliffe went back and most of the English translation of the Bible that we have, which becomes the King James, about 80% of it was written in his pen. He went to Germany where there were pockets of people who still understood how to read the Hebrew scrolls and he went back and translated everything from the originals. Whereas before, Jerome had translated all of the scripture into Latin, creating the Vulgate Bible from the originals, all other translations thereafter were from Latin back to native tongues. So Wycliffe's work was unique in that he went back and actually had original text. So we have Martin Luther in Germany. And so kind of just thinking about that, Luther in Wittenberg in 1517 starts this and then the church responds, the Catholic Church, Council of Trent thereafter. Calvin, contemporary to that, in Geneva. So Luther and Calvin were contemporaries, although I don't believe that they ever met. So you see this Lutheran aspect coming up into the Netherlands and you have more of Calvinistic aspect from Calvin's work down here. And then who's the Scottish guy? I just lost it. Knox, thank you. Too many things to keep straight in my head. Knox comes down and studies under Calvin and then takes that back to Scotland. And so we have various, not disparate in their theology, but there's going to be a different emphasis depending on which particular man was leading that reformation in their geographic area. Cultures come into play with this. And so there's going to be a particular way that those truths are translated. And as those geographic structures show up, then there's going to be an ecclesiological structure. So if down in France you have Calvinism in one place and the Lutheranism spreads up into the Dutch area, then they're further enough apart and isolated by language that they're going to create their own church structures. And so there's going to be slightly different variations, but really kind of the same thing. So why is it that we hold so much to this English tradition? So the context of this whole thing. So we've got King James of the KJV, if you happen to have one. King James, yes, that King James was followed by Charles I. Charles I ends up getting himself decapitated because of his poor rule over England. And this is during the English Civil War. So there is something called the Long Parliament, which calls in the Westminster Assembly to go back. And thinking about all of the reformations of the Catholic Church and all of this going on in the background, Parliament asked what we refer to as the Westminster Divines to look at what is it that we believe? How can we reform and unite the church, the country, around ecclesial language? Rather than having Catholics and Protestants or the Anglicans and Knox and the Scottish reformers, is there some way the United Kingdom could be reformed in such that the church that everybody could participate in? And so the Anglican Church has much more of a Catholic flavor, just simply devoid of the responsibility of the Pope. And that's because of King Henry VIII. But with all of that, we see this period of time is when this is happening. And then after there's Charles II is reinstated because Cromwell refuses to take the king. He's just a kingship. He doesn't want to be the lord and protector. Within this, if you download the slides afterwards, Table Talk Magazine has a link. And so I have a little history. There's a hyperlink there if you want to see more about the history of the Westminster Confession. So here's a painting of the divines as they were gathered together. And we say divine, and we don't mean that these people were truly divine. It's simply an old-fashioned way of saying the pastors, the theologians, the people who were gathered together for that purpose. Just an old English rendering of that concept. So they were gathered at Westminster Abbey in 1643 during this English Civil War. There were about 120 delegates, not all there at the same time, but throughout the 10 years that they were involved in doing this. They completed the confession and they presented it to Parliament. Parliament said, this is great. By the way, we want you to go back and give us scripture references for every single one of these things, which they got in the first place. It's not that they sat around saying, well, how can we just reform the church and make it up after our own image? These men were wholly devoted to scripture, but then they went back and added all the citations. So when you look at your Westminster Confession today, there's little letters by every single thing, and you can find all the scripture references. It would be a great devotional tool if you went through this and you're just finding, well, what does chapter 5 say? To go back and look at all of the scripture citations. It's interesting because to a reader of that time, they would read that and say, oh, yeah, I see exactly what you're saying to it. But some of that is lost to us. So we're far enough in history and the preaching that we have is different enough that they may have a psalm making reference to this point B. I don't immediately see it, but that's kind of a fun tool to dive a little deeper. I think it's worth your time in some places. I don't have a good example of that yet, Lisa, but I'll think about it. So on average, you had about every day, about 80 members working about five days a week on this. And why only five days a week? Well, they got one day off and they were all preaching on Sunday back in their congregations. So what did they accomplish? They wrote this Westminster Confession of Faith. In addition, the larger and shorter catechisms, which a catechism is simply a way to apply these truths in a teachable way, a directory of worship. So they had rules and regulations essentially. And today we have this manifest in the Book of Church Order. They constructed a Psalter, had other shorter papers, and they examined over 2,000 additional preachers. So they had a system set up to say like who is actually qualified to preach. And they also got rid of some people who should not have been. So they also examined some heretics. So there were more men ordained than there were excommunicated, but still, nevertheless. So let's start at the beginning of this book, which is of course a very good place to start, as we are looking at this book. If you were going to write a doctrinal statement for a church, or if you were going to set out to have a confession that says here's what we believe, because that is after all what a confession is, this is us saying this is what we find to be true in Scripture, what is the very first thing that you would put down? What theological concepts or doctrines would you lead off with? That's a question. Doctrine of God? Scripture? Knowledge of truth? Epistemology perhaps? All great answers. So Luther's concession, which was really written by his protege Philip of Melanchthon, does begin indeed with the doctrine of God. And Calvin's concession, or the Geneva Confession, has a political preamble, and then again a doctrine of God. But Calvin, you have to understand, the Geneva Calvin system had so much more of a political arm and movement into it. And then there's some interesting concepts we can explore at a different class about the blending of church and state within that, because Calvin had so much control over the civil government in addition to the ecclesial government. But that's interesting to see that his confession begins also with his political preamble. The Dutch Confession begins with Scripture. I'm going to say Scripture with a little asterisk, because it is very short. It says, Scripture is our foundation. Next chapter. I mean, there's more to it than that, but it has very, very little in comparison when you consider the Westminster, the Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Confession for the Dutch. And then John Knox also begins with doctrine of God. However, Westminster is unique with respect to the fact that it puts so much priority and specificity on the word of God. This is the standard by which all matters of faith are to be arbitrated. And I love that our confession begins so heartily with its endorsement of Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. So while we do love the confession, we never put this confession above Scripture. It is always subordinate to Scripture. And that which we find is, well, maybe this is a hard thing. We go not down to the confession, but up to Scripture to do all of our teaching and things. So then what is in the confession? Here are all the chapters. There's thirty-three of them, and that's a little overwhelming. We're starting on Holy Scripture, and then it goes to doctrine of God thereafter. And then we basically get this biblical theology in that we have creation, fall of man, Christ, the intermediary, the adoption, this ordo salutis, effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, saving faith, repentance in the life, and then good works, how we are saved, and then what we do thereafter. Can we keep our salvation? This is a very pastoral document in that it answers a lot of those questions that you would naturally come to. And so one of the things I love about it is, as you're digging deeper, the next question that you have is often the very next question that they answer. So let's color code that a little bit. If we think about the first eight chapters, this is more of a theology proper, or a systematic theology, although all of it is truly systematic theology. You have, first and foremost, thinking about God and his relationship to man. And then we want to next consider, well, how then does God effectuate this salvation for us? So this is not just a theology proper, but soteriology. After that, practical Christian living. Chapter 21 is missing out of that, because that gets put a little bit later. Only one thing that's a little out of order. As we've moved from Christian living in our duties of every single day, we see particularly our commitments around worship. So religious worship on the Sabbath day, the function of the church, the community of the saints, our view of the sacraments and the Lord's Supper. Ecclesiology, the doctrine of how the church is to be governed, and that there are church censors, the ability to confirm or remove somebody from fellowship, and synod and councils. The reason that sometimes we see in the past large councils like Nicaea or Constantinople or the like, is the church will gather together and say, well, wait, what does God's word say about this? And we find that even early on, as in the Book of Acts, they say the Jerusalem Council. There are questions in the early church about, well, how do we know what is necessary for somebody to save? What portion of the law must we keep? And so the whole church gathers in Jerusalem, they weigh the matter, and they send a letter back. We do the same thing, actually, next week. Pastor Evans and I will be going to Virginia, and we're today going to be participating in General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church. And so we're going to do exactly that same thing. We're going to gather together and say, these are the theological issues that we need to talk about. And those men will gather. There's study committees to advise on that, and we'll have a vote based on our conviction on Scripture. So this is the same methodology and things that we find within Scripture also. And then finally, the state of man after death and the last judgment. So there's an eschatological portion of it. And for those of you who are eschatology fans, it's not as clear as you would like, but it's still something worth reading. So chapter one that we're going to talk about today is of Holy Scripture. Questions about the content and the contents of the first chapter or of the book on the whole? Let me go back to the entire thing. Is that helpful? Does that make sense? Eric? I don't want to get you guys off track. Can you talk for a minute? Sorry. Can you talk for a second about the difference between the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Catechism, shorter and longer? What are those documents? So the confession is going to be the whole of what we believe. This is a statement that we say, this is what we believe that God's word says. Whereas the catechism is a document in order to teach that. And so each week we confess our faith together, not by reading the entire confession, but taking the catechism, which is, you know, Christian, what do you believe? Well, excuse me, that's the Apostles' Creed. But like they'll be even in our order of worship today, there'll be some question that is related to the sermon topic that is a practical application of the theme that we're going to be talking on today. And so there'll be some theological concept and then the answer. And the reason that that is, it's a device to both instruct adults and then the shorter catechism and the children's catechism for teaching younger and younger children. So they're not dumbed down, but they're simplified so that they're a teaching tool. So there's a large document that everything is made reference to. And then the question and answer component breaks that in, again, a logical chain. So if you begin with, you know, what is God? And then after that, well, how does this one God exist? And then how does, you know, what is sin? Did our first parents sin? Like, where does this all come from? It's just a question and answer that's a logical chain so that you can teach your children at home and for each of us to be able to further have a reflection and devotion on that. Whereas if you have the whole of the document of the Westminster Confession, it's a little bit chunkier to break it down in smaller teachable parts. All right, so. So again, we're starting with scripture and it begins, although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God as to leave men inexcusable, yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore, it pleased the Lord at sundry times and diverse manners to reveal himself and declare his truth and declare that which, declare that will, excuse me, and declare that his will unto his church. So immediately in light of nature and works of creation do manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God. What does that remind you of? Romans 1. Very good, Brian. And then how about, therefore, it pleased the Lord at sundry times and diverse manners to reveal himself. So here's somebody say Hebrews 1. Yeah, absolutely. So it's not that they created this out of whole cloth and said, oh, this will be good. No, this is just echoing scripture, but it's putting it on the bottom shelf for us. It's tying together all of these themes that we find throughout scripture. So, and declare his will to his church. And afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against corruption of the flesh and the malice of Satan and the world, to commit that same holy into writing, which make it the holy scripture to be most necessary, those former ways of God revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. So in this first little stanza and paragraph, there's so many rich theological truths that we find. We find the implication that there are two books of revelation. There is natural revelation or general revelation into which you know that there is a God and you're not him. And that you also can see that there is special revelation that God has spoken to his people, that natural law is insufficient for salvation. There's an essential necessary portion of scripture that alone, that special revelation exists. But also if God has revealed himself, this reveals him as a relational God, a God who condescends, who comes to us. The usefulness of scripture being absolutely essential for us, the reality of Satan and evil, and it also has this idea of a closed canon, that God has spoken in the past and it is sufficient for us and we do not need to go looking for other things. What God has said is enough. So I look at that and I immediately say, okay, so there's this closed canon, those times of speaking have now ceased. So which books should be included in the canon? It's a logical question to have that. Well, it just so happens that they provided that for us. Under the name of the Holy Scripture, the Word of God written now contain all the books in the Old and New Testaments, which are, and they list off all the books of the Bible, which are in your canon. All which are given by the inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life. See, again, there's a little asterisk here. There's a scripture reference to all of these things. And so you can just think that you can go back and look all of those things up if you prefer. So there's all of those books and you have them in your Bible. So how did they decide that? That seems to be a pretty valid question. So those are the books of the Bible, but why do we think that? So this is not straight out of the confession, but there's two myths that people fall into one of two ditches on this. Some people believe that John wrote that last amen in the book of Revelation and then bam, a leather-bound Bible shows up and there we go. That's, it's all done. That's not exactly true, but it's also not true that nobody knew what was actually biblically true until Nicaea. We did not go a couple of hundred years in the future and people were like, well, you know, this might be scripture. This might not be scripture. And so the church got together in Nicaea. And so that lie goes to consolidate power. They said, this is truth and we'll find all the rest of this inconvenient. So we know that books are canonical because God's word declares them to be as such. So in second Peter, Peter is referring to the writings of Paul and saying, some of these are hard things, but he refers to them as scripture. They're internally consistent. So if you had a apocryphal book, a book, which is not following the canon of scripture, and it has something that is contradictory, not just a little contradictory, but a lot contradictory. Those were rejected at the time. So we'll know that's not true. It's also, there's not historical acceptance in that it's important that it's be history. But if we know that from the very beginning that the church were circulating and using these texts, that's very helpful to let us know that even the earliest people who would have known the apostles in the patristic time would have accepted them as such. And then also textual or manuscript support. If there are established dates that we can know that these books actually are written at the time of the apostles or they're contemporary to the gospels, then those are more valid books. But if we know that this book shows up after 500 years, well, we can discount that. So there are people who are a whole genre of people writing gospel accounts or books, they purported to be scripture, but they were not. And they were not within the same timeframe where it could have been possible for them to be actually authored by apostles or by anyone that we would have accepted that from. So again, there's another hyperlink. I've got this little thing at the bottom. But what is canon? There's an article, and that's from Ligonier Ministries. So if you're interested in that, that's a great topic. One of the first things after I came to faith was I wanted to know, like, well, wait a minute, how do we know scripture is scripture? So which books are excluded from this list? Well, the confession tells us the books commonly called the Apocrypha, and some of these still show up in Catholic Bibles or others that are not even excluded in that, not being a divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of scripture and therefore have no authority over the church, are not to be used otherwise approved or made use of other than human writings, which is not to say that there's not something useful in some of these books. You know, can we read the Greeks and get something out of it? I think we can. We can read ancient literature because if it's true, then it's God's truth because that which is true comes from God. But should we have the weight and authority that we place on these things to tell us how we ought to live? Certainly not. And they are not going to lead us to salvation. Nobody reads Plato and finds Christ. There's a difference there. But we can glean interesting things from that, and maybe that will be useful to us. But should they have authority and rule over our life as a church? No. So what authority establishes scripture as scripture? So how do we know that these books are truly scripture? Well, the authority of the Holy Scripture, we're glad you asked, for which ought to be believed and obeyed, dependent not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God, who is truth itself, the author thereof, and therefore is to be received because it is the word of God. So a simple way to rephrase that is the word of God is the final word on the word. God says that this is scripture, so it is. And so you might say to yourself, isn't that a circular argument? And you are right, and this is the one time in life that you can say, I will take that circular argument to the bank, because if God himself says it, then that's how you know it is true. So somebody might say, well, just because something says it's scripture doesn't mean it's scripture. In this case, it does, and for all of the other ancillary arguments that could be upon it. So how do we know that this is the word of God? So we may be moved or induced by the testimony of the church, again, because we are trusting in the faith that's once and for all delivered to us, to high and reverent esteem of the holy scripture, because the church loves it. That's one of the reasons that we believe it, but it's also the heavenliness of the matter and the efficacy of the doctrine. We see that scripture does change lives. Men are brought from death unto life, and so that's not the case in any other means. If you consider what scripture does, its actual application, that's a strong argument for it. The majesty of the style and the consent of all the parts, to see that Genesis to Revelation is one cohesive thought, to see God working through all of history, to see his plan of salvation and his exaltation of himself throughout scripture is unbelievable. This is not a single book, but 66 books given to us over thousands of years. That is a strong argument, and the scope of the whole to which God has given glory and the many other comparable excellencies. So there's so many ways that we can love scripture and see that it is good internally within and of itself. However, the abundance of the evidence of the word, this is all evidences of the fact that this is the word of God, and then they say, yet, again, just to review that, tradition, little t, tradition, the transcendence, the effect of it, the cohesiveness, that this is not the kind of story that any man would write. This is not something that somebody got to pen and paper out and said, here's the greatest story ever told. Yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and insurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, speaking of scripture, is the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts. So we read scripture and the Holy Spirit illuminates that to us. God himself comes to us and shows us the truth of scripture. And this is what the confession states, is that it's not purely by human argumentation. Although the word is beautiful, although it is cohesive, although it does make lives better, it is not just a therapeutic text. This is not a self-help book. It's because the Spirit applies the word of God to us, and that changed lives. And we see that that, again, is scriptural. So this I, John 15, 26, says, I will send the Helper from the Father, and the Helper is the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, and when he comes, he will tell about me. When we read scripture, the Holy Spirit illumines that scripture to reveal Christ to us unto our salvation, into God's glory. So we've got all of this scripture. We can take, okay, it is, this is the word of God. Well, what's in it? The next logical question. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, first and foremost, his glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Again, there is a closed canon. We do not accept new revelations to hate, like Joseph Smith, for example, who says, God came to me and told me some convenient things, and so we're going to go a different direction. Absolutely, we do not do that. So here's a good question. When it says that whether by good and necessary consequence can be deduced from scripture, does that mean, as the confession here is saying, everything that we could ever want to know is black and white written down in scripture? No. Some things we have to figure out. So what are some things that we believe, as Christians, which we have to derive from good and necessary consequence? Trinity. Very good. That's on my list. Order of salvation. Yeah. Which thing happens first? Is it a regeneration first? Is it our repentance first? How does that work itself out? Right. In scripture, if you look for it, you have to still reason through it. But it's not like, you know, the book of operations. That does not show up for us. Right. Anything else? Christian living. Yeah, there's some things that are like, these are somewhat gray areas. I have a couple. One, the Trinity. Infant baptism. I know we're all like, we're all on board with this. Yes, we think, yes, infant baptism. But there is some debate. When we do love our Baptist brothers, we just disagree. What about the, can women take communion? Wait a minute. That's preposterous, right? Where's your verse? So we can go too far, right? We can take our regular principle and say, like, if we don't see it in scripture, then we're not doing it. Are you telling me that just because I can't find a verse that says, and also the woman took communion because, well, if we're replacing different signs, maybe, you know, baptism is analog to circumcision and women would have taken the Lord's Supper. I mean, excuse me, the woman would have celebrated the Passover if we make correlation between those things in the Old and the New Testament. It would be preposterous for us to say, well, just because we don't see evidence of, and this woman in scripture took communion, that you can take this too far is what I mean. So yes, of course, to me, yes, of course. And yes, of course. But those things don't show up in black and white in scripture. So there's some things that we have to say, yeah, that is a good and necessary consequence. We've taken the whole of this, and we're reasonable people, and God doesn't have to say literally every little thing. Like, I could tell my kids, hey, I want you to clean your room. They say, well, did you mean my bed too? Like, well, yes, of course I meant that, right? I mean, your bed's in your room, and it's all included. So how do we understand and apply the truth that we receive? So it says, nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and the government of church common to human actions and societies which are to be ordered by the light of nature. So again, these are not things written down per se. And Christian prudence, so we have to depend on the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. So what about the circumstance of, say, worship? Why do we show up at 10 o'clock for a worship service today? Could it be dawn? Some of this, you know, like the fact that we have a 10 a.m. Sunday school, there's no book of operations that tells us that we must have Sunday school. We think that it's good, but there are some things that are left to the government of the church that it's not important, but we should always say, as long as it doesn't interfere with God's Word very plainly, then some of this is up to us as far as the administration. And we can understand why that would be important, that there's flexibility enough that it could work in some cultures, it could be slightly different in others. If we have too lucid a view of this, then anything goes, but we also need to have the flexibility that this can be applied across the globe. So the circumstance of worship, I would say, meeting, there were no chairs in the Bible for the congregation to sit at. In fact, it would probably be that I would be sitting and you all would be standing if we're in biblical times. So some of that just doesn't matter that much. What about the government of the church? So we know that there should be elders. How many are we supposed to have? A reasonable amount, right? So this is what we come to as Christian prudence in the light of nature. So we need to have enough elders that we can actually take care of people. But if literally everybody is made an elder or every single man in here is now an elder, are there any elders anymore? Not really, because then everybody's an elder, but it would be great so all of you men, it's Christ, pursue that. So is this whole thing that we're doing, this Christian experience, going to be straightforward? No, it won't be. All things in scripture are not alike in plain, nor alike and clear to all. So some people will understand some things, some people will not understand nearly as much. However, it tells us, yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded and open in some place of the scripture or other that it is not only the learned but the unlearned who can understand them. And in due use of the ordinary means may attain sufficient understanding of them, sufficient for salvation. So we believe that that which is in scripture sometimes is more complicated, sometimes less, but sufficient to obtain salvation, even the unlearned or the simple in some translations of this, even a child, even children can understand what is being presented and freely offered. We know that there is God who is holy, we are not him, we are in his debt, and he loves us. That's a simple enough thing that we can all understand that, as long as we are making sufficient use of this ordinary means. What do we mean by the ordinary means? Because we love that word around here. What is the ordinary means of the use of scripture? Eric, always faithful. Is it the way that God typically works? Yeah. We can observe through scripture and experience. That's right. Through his word, particularly his word preached, we see this in Romans, and the opening and dependence on the Holy Spirit to bring sinners to salvation. It is by knowing God through him in his word revealed to us. That's the ordinary way in which people are brought to salvation. Again, we have this confession of faith because we're looking to scripture, and the ordinary means are ordinarily people who belong in a church, and those elders are providing accountability and ongoing teaching. This is what we mean by that. This, again, harkens back to exactly what Carl Truman was saying. If we're going to mature as a church, if we're going to be efficacious, we're going to lean on God's word, and we're going to seek after what he has established, devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, the breaking of bread, and prayers. This is what the early church has done the whole time, so we've never invented anything new here, but we're leaning on what we find to be true in scripture. So they say, well, we are leaning these ordinary means. They expect men to dig deeper, and for the sake of time, it says scripture, as we are understanding it, is true in the native language in which it was written to these people of old, so the Old Testament and the New Testament in their respective languages. So this is why when we have men who are ordained, it is required of them that they be proficient in both the Greek and the Hebrew, and we'll skip some of this because this is wordy, but that's the big idea, like the original language and the original delivery of this by the Holy Spirit was in those original languages. We lose something in translation, but it's important for us to recognize that the truth of God was conveyed to those people in that tongue and written down and saved for that reason. I took Greek, and I can tell you that your ESV is really good. I spent a lot of hours taking Greek to come away with and say, yep, that's what it says. So those are faithful men who have translated that to us. So we have to have men who are like Pastor Evans who are going to dig deeper and do the work, but this thing, this Christian life, is going to be laborious for us, to God's glory and for our joy, but the infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is scripture itself, and therefore when a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, which is not manifold but one, it must be searched and known by other places which speak more clearly. So if we come across something that we don't understand in scripture, how do we understand it? We use scripture to define what God is talking about, and this is again what Peter was talking about when he's thinking of Paul's writings. He said, you know, some of the things that he teaches are difficult, so how do we understand that? If we have two things in scripture, we say, well, it looks like God is sovereign, and it looks like man has free will. They seem to be at odds. It doesn't mean that there's a problem. It means that we need to back up a little bit or understand what's the context of this. How do we understand what this faithfully and truly means? We use scripture to decide that, not our opinions. So again, the word is the final word on the word. So the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined and all decrees and counsels and operations of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and the private spirits are to be examined, and in whose sense we are to rest and can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in scripture. So we do not lean upon the teachings of anyone in particular. It is not because of faith and tradition. This has aim at the Catholic church at the time. There's understanding in this, again, in this Reformation context. It is not the councils. It's not the popes. It's not the cardinals. It's not anybody else, but it is scripture alone that tells us what is true. So that is the first chapter of the Westminster Confession. We're going to get into the next several after this. I hope it's a blessing to you. I would encourage you, if you don't have a copy of it, just look it up. It's available freely online, and we can get you a copy if you don't have one already. But so good and deep and true. And I love, again, just to drive home the point that we have a tradition and a domination that puts scripture, God's word, first and foremost, and that is the reason that we do everything that we do. So any questions before we close? Carly. So you addressed this a little bit already, but Sebastian wasn't here. He asked me a few weeks ago if there will ever be any more books of the Bible added, and given that the answer is no, why did the canon close when it closed? Maybe you can answer that for him better than I did. So, Sebastian, Hebrews chapter one says that long ago, in various ways, God spoke to us through the prophets and the apostles, through the prophets and the scripture and everything. But in these last days, it says he has spoken to us through his son. So because we have Jesus speaking to us, because God himself, not using men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit, or not using men who were inspired, but Jesus has given us the apostles and the finished work of the Bible, and so we don't need to know anything new. What Christ has told us is that he said, this is what you need to know. So at one point in the future, when he returns, so we can think of scripture as God talking to us. And so if you're asking, well, is God ever going to talk to us again? The exciting thing that I'm so thrilled to tell you is yes, but he won't be writing you a book. He'll be speaking to you face to face. I just want to kind of add to that and, you know, get your comments on this, that, you know, we can never pump the depth of scripture, you know, it's impossible. You know, there's so many different layers and deeper understanding of, you know, of certain biblical truths and applications. So there's this last slide, and this gets a little bit off topic, but I think it's worth it. I've got to go the other direction. So there's this little parenthetical statement, the full sense of any scripture, which is not manifold, but one. I can't remember the quadrium, Mark, the fourfold meaning of scripture. Who's the principal author of that idea? I don't know. It's medieval. So there's a medieval idea, a concept, and that there's an analogy to be made in scripture, that there's a literal sense in scripture, that there's a broader sense. So in medieval teaching, particularly, there'd be a, you know, if you went to medieval church, the sermon would say like, oh, we, of course, know not the three points of application for this, but here are the four meanings of this text. And so this, again, is taking aim at what was previously teaching. It's not that the text can mean four different things. They have in view of the divines here saying like, no, there's one clear meaning to text. And so it's not to say and to negate that this couldn't be also making reference to something else. It's not that it's not making an homage or a reference to deeper the meaning. Like when we see, you know, Satan crushed in the garden, it doesn't mean that, well, the only thing that means is that Satan was crushed in the garden. Well, it also is looking forward to Christ. So there are types and shadows, and the filament of scripture is found in Jesus Christ himself. But it's also, they're just taking an aim at like you, there's a truth, a single truth that we can be understand as principally the thing that you were to understand from scripture. So, all right, we can talk a whole lot more about that, but three minutes over, not bad today. Father in heaven, thank you so much for your word. Thank you that you have spoken to us. And thank you, Lord, that we will see you face to face. And that when we speak, we hear your words again, it will be to hear the very words of Christ. We pray that when we hear those words included in them, we'll be that we are good and faithful servants. And we pray that we would be told that we have done a job well done. We look forward to continuing the work that you have begun by building part of your church. And we love you, Lord. We pray that our worship this morning would be glorifying to you in Jesus name. Amen.

Listen Next

Other Creators