J.D. Greear on Islam and the Religion of Works

Every Thursday afternoon at Between the Times we highlight the writing of Southeastern alum, J.D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durahm, North Carolina. This week J.D. discusses Islam as the ultimate religion of works. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God. Righteous acts are righteous only when they are done out of a love for righteousness and not as a means to anything else.

 

The Qur’an, however, is not an adoring, worshipping love letter about God. It is a guide for what behavior will increase your chances of avoiding hell. Merit, threat, and reward form the entire foundation on which Islam is built. And this never addresses the root of man’s sin—our desire to substitute God with something else.

Read the whole post here.

Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Need for Gospel Consistency

[Editor's Note: This summer we at BtT are featuring old but good posts for your reading enjoyment. Look out for an all new BtT in August 2014. This post originally appeared on August 16, 2008.]

Students of history know that there are two long-running debates among Baptist Christians that began in the mid-17th century and continue to the present day. The first debate has been common among many groups of Protestants: Calvinism versus Arminianism. The second debate is almost totally unique to Baptists: the relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is a topic that I have written on in the past. While I do not believe this debate is the most important issue facing contemporary Southern Baptists, it is nevertheless an important question that is worthy of our attention. We might consider this a necessary excursus that develops from my previous article on baptism.

Until the rise of the parachurch movement during the mid-20th century, most Christians have argued that baptism is prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. All agree that this is the order portrayed in the New Testament and makes good logical sense because virtually everyone believes that baptism marks the public entrance into the church, though obviously there is considerable debate about the proper mode and subjects of baptism. Until the late 1800s, a majority of English Baptists argued that baptism is prerequisite to communion. In North America, with the exception of the Free Will Baptists, most Baptists argued for the chronological priority of baptism until the mid-20th century. In some places in the American South and Southwest, this view is still almost universal. The idea that baptism is prerequisite to participation in the Lord’s Supper has been called a number of names, including closed communion, close communion, strict communion, and restricted communion.

But from at least the second generation of Baptists, there has been a minority report that has argued that regeneration alone is prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. Over time, this minority report has become majority practice among Baptists in both Britain and (probably) America. The view that all Christians can participate in the Lord’s Supper, regardless of their baptismal status, is most often called open communion, though it is a modified form of open communion because the ordinance is still restricted to believers. Only liberal Baptists (and other Christians) invite all people to the table, irrespective of their spiritual condition.

There are many noble reasons for holding to an open communion position. Proponents argue that the ordinance is intended to signify the unity of believers in Christ, so to forbid some Christians from participating in communion puts a breach in Christian unity. Others argue that allowing unbaptized (non-immersed) Christians to participate in communion is a sign of brotherly love that may help convince some of them to eventually submit themselves to New Testament baptism. Some concede that closed communion appears to be the New Testament practice, but argue that since we live in a world where more than one practice is called baptism, the charitable thing to do is allow Christians who we believe are unbaptized to participate in communion. Open communion advocates often point out that it is the Lord’s Supper, so who are we to tell those who belong to the Lord that they cannot participate in the ordinance?

Though I am sympathetic to the desires behind these arguments, I think closed communion is the more consistent position. The Lord’s Supper is surely a picture of our unity in Christ, but advocates of non-New Testament baptism are the ones who severed that unity with the advent of infant baptism and other practices foreign to the biblical record. Baptistic Christians are not the ones who are sectarian in the matter of baptism, though we are (at the moment) in the minority among professing Christians. To quote the Baptist Faith and Message (2000):

Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

The hope that inviting unbaptized Christians to the Lord’s Table may convince some to be biblically baptized is dangerous logic, in my opinion. This is the same logic used by colonial New England pastor Solomon Stoddard when he argued that communion could be a “converting ordinance,” so unbelievers should be invited to the Table. The result was not mass conversions, but a church filled with unregenerate members. I suspect that churches that practice open communion in hopes of changing the minds of pedobaptists will find that they make lots of pedobaptist friends, but few of them submit to believer’s baptism by immersion.

The argument that we should be charitable because we live in a world where a plurality of baptismal practices prevail seems particularly weak. The fact that there is one Lord, one faith, and many baptisms in our contemporary context does not change the biblical record. Obedience to Scripture seems more important than contrived unity, which would be the case with any unity that is based on a practice not commended in Scripture. I personally think open communion is such a practice. And concerning the idea that it is inappropriate to ban Christians from the Lord’s Table, I would respond by agreeing that it is the Lord’s Table, which is why it is of utmost importance that we practice the ordinance in the way the Lord has willed it to be exemplified for us in His Word, lest we find ourselves disobedient to the Lord.

This discussion is not exhaustive, and there are several other arguments that could be made (from both sides), but in keeping with the theme of this series, I think the most important reason to reject open communion is that it seems to make the ordinances inconsistent with the gospel. To be more specific, open communion severs the ordinance that marks our formal entry into the gospel community (baptism) from the ordinance that signifies our ongoing sanctification within the gospel community (communion). The picture of the gospel painted by the ordinances is smudged whenever we treat baptism and the Lord’s Supper as practices that are virtually independent of each other. Baptism marks the public beginning of the Christian’s life in the community of the gospel, the church. Communion marks the Christian’s ongoing identification with that gospel community and the Lord who formed her. For this reason, I prefer to call the view that baptism is biblically prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper consistent communion, because it is only in this practice that the ordinances are truly consistent with the gospel they portray.

In closing, I am not convinced that one’s view of the relationship between baptism and communion should be a bar to cooperation among Baptist Christians. Though I affirm consistent communion and am a member of a church that requires baptism before communion, I believe that my church can cooperate with sister churches that have a different understanding of this matter. But the fact that this issue is (in my opinion) secondary in nature does not render it unimportant. Baptists desire to be obedient to all that Christ commands, so it is incumbent upon us to discuss this matter biblically and charitably, in the hopes of one day arriving at greater consensus on this issue, for the glory of God and the health of our churches.

[Note: I have previously addressed this topic in a more substantial manner on behalf of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can click here to read that White Paper, titled "Baptism as Prerequisite to the Lord's Supper."]

Biblical Marriage In A Broken World, Part 5

[Editor's Note: This summer we at BtT are running some older but good posts. Look out for all new content in August. This post originally appeared on November 3, 2008.]

Portrait Of A Redeemed Husband

Having called a man to love his wife in Ephesians 5, God also instructs a man to “know” or “understand” his wife in 1 Peter 3:7. Moving into the area of practical theology, I want to raise and attempt to answer the question, “what does a marriage look like when a man has come to know his wife as God made her?” How can he love and bless her as he comes to more fully know and understand her? I believe a husband can be a blessing to his wife by loving her as Christ loved the Church and giving her specific gifts of love that speak to her heart as a woman. What do these gifts look like? I suggest seven.

1.Be a spiritual leader.

Be a godly man of courage, conviction, commitment, compassion, and character. Take the initiative in cultivating a spiritual environment for the family. Become a capable and competent student of God’s Word and live out before all a life founded on the Word of God. Lead your wife in becoming a woman of God, and take the lead in training the children in the things of the Lord (Psalm 1; Ephesians 5:23-27; 6:1-4).

2.Give her personal affirmation/appreciation.

Praise her for personal attributes and qualities. Praise her virtues as a wife, mother, and homemaker. Openly commend her, in the presence of others, as a marvelous mate, friend, lover, and companion. Help her feel that, to you, no one is more important in this world other than King Jesus. (Proverbs 31:28-29; Song of Solomon 4:1-7, 6:4-9, 7:1-9).

3.Show personal affection (romance).

Shower her with timely and generous displays of affection. Romance her in a language she understands! Tell her and show her how much you care for her with a steady flow of words, cards, flowers, gifts and common courtesies. Remember, affection is the environment in which sexual union is enjoyed and a wonderful marriage developed (Song of Solomon 6:10, 13; Ephesians 5:28-29, 33).

4.Initiate intimate conversation.

Talk with her at the feeling level (heart to heart). Listen to her thoughts (i.e., her heart) about the events of her day with sensitivity, interest, and concern. Such conversations with her convey a desire to understand her not change her (Song of Solomon 2:8-14, 8:13-14; 1 Peter 3:7).

5.Always be honest and open.

Look into her eyes and, in love, always be truthful (Ephesians 4:15). Explain your plans and actions clearly and completely because you are responsible for her and the children. Lead her to trust you and feel secure with you (Proverbs 15:22-23).

6.Provide home support and stability.

Take hold of the responsibility to house, feed, and clothe the family. Provide and protect, and do not feel sorry for yourself when things get tough. Look for concrete ways to improve home life. Raise the marriage and family to a safe and more fulfilling level. Remember, the husband/father is the security hub of the family (2 Timothy 5:8).

7.Demonstrate family commitment.

After the Lord Jesus, put your wife and family first. Commit time and energy to spiritual, moral and intellectual development of the children. For example, pray with them (especially at night by the bedside), read to them, engage in sports with them and take them on other outings. Do not play the fools’ game of working long hours, trying to get ahead, while your children and spouse languish in neglect (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:19-20).

Marriage and family are good gifts from a great God. They must be treated with tender care. Our Lord has provided a blueprint for us to follow. When we do, we will find the joys and blessings he intended from the beginning when he put a man and woman together in this holy covenant.