WRITTEN WITH A PEN OF IRON WITH THE POINT OF A DIAMOND

by Lloyd Streeter

The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, preached and predicted the future during a time when his people, Judah, had forsaken the Lord and had lived wickedly. He correctly predicted that Judah would be defeated as a nation and carried away into captivity because of her idolatry and sin.

Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, Jeremiah thundered out these words to his people: “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart” (Jeremiah 17:1).

One thing we noticed in going to any of the excavations in the old Mediterranean world is that the ancients did a lot of writing on stone. In Turkey, Cyprus, Patmos, or Crete–it is the same everywhere–there are messages on the rocks. What those ancient peoples wrote is written forever in granite.

The sinner’s heart is hard toward God. And the prophet was telling Judah that her sins were written there, to be remembered forever, written “with a pen of iron, and with a point of a diamond.” God reads hearts.

These same words remind the unsaved person that God writes our sins in a book of works. God writes those sins indelibly, undeniably, and unforgettably that they might be reviewed on Judgment Day. In that day the unbelieving Christless person will be “judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

In this article we will discuss the problem, the proof, the permanence, and the pardon suggested by Jeremiah’s words.

The problem is sin. God remembers the sins of man and brings them into judgment.

What is sin? To the Pharisee in the Bible, sin would have been eating with unwashed hands, or going into a Gentile’s house, or touching a dead animal. The Pharisee hardly ever thought of injustice, cruelty, covetousness, or hatred as sin.

Human nature never changes. People still strain out a gnat and swallow the camel! To the great mass of people today sin is being unappreciative of the UN, opposing homo-sexual marriage, wearing fur, eating meat, or driving an SUV.

But what is sin according to God? It is a lack of conformity to God’s will. It is disobedience to God’s commands. Sin is missing God’s standard of holiness, deviating from God’s requirements, or transgressing God’s law.

We need only look at the Ten Commandments to see how sinful we are. God said, “No other gods!” but we do sometimes put other things, or people, or ourselves, before God.

God said, “Make no graven image and bow down to it.” But many do bow down to images of Christ, angels, and saints.

God said, “Do not take God’s name in vain.” But God’s name so easily comes to the lips as a curse.

God said, “Remember the Sabbath.” But Christ is our Sabbath and He and His day are easily forgotten.

God said, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” And many of us disobey this command.

God said, “Do not murder.” But some have wished another dead, and have been angry with a brother without cause.

God said, “Do not commit adultery.” But many have broken this commandment in deed or in thought.

God said, “Do not steal.” But how often do we steal someone else’s peace of mind?

God said, “Do not lie.” But all people are liars.

God said, “Do not covet.” And all of us are guilty of breaking this commandment.

The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . They are all gone out of the way” (Romans 3:10-12)

So, the problem is that we have sinned against a holy God.

The proof of this is that “It is graven upon the table of their heart.”

It is imprinted within our nature. It is what we love and prefer. Until a person is born again he does not want spiritual things, and does not want to hear about God or eternity. It comes out. You can not keep it hidden. It manifests itself in a thousand ways. “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deed were evil” (John 3:19).

What is most precious to you? What do you worship? What takes most of your time and money? What gets most of your attention? What occupies most of your thoughts? This is proof of your sin. It is graven upon the table of your heart.

And it is permanent. The nature of man never changes. It is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond. Can an Ethiopian change his skin? Can a leopard change his spots? So is man’s nature permanent. That which is born of the flesh is always just flesh.

The Bible uses many similes to show the permanence of man’s sinful nature. The Bible says our old sinful nature is like the adder that has venom, like the ass that is stubborn, like the bear that is cruel, and like the canker worm that is destructive. Our nature is like the uncleanness of the dog, the desolateness of the dragon, and the fierceness of the leopard. Our sin nature is ravening like a lion, stupid like a sheep, filthy like the swine, and ferocious like the wolf. And it is permanent.

“Well then,” you ask, “how can we have pardon? How can we get sin out of our hearts and lives?” You can not do it by yourself. But if you repent of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus as your only Savior, He will forgive your sin. He will then take away your sin and give you a new heart.

Yes, the Bible says if you will repent and trust Christ He will “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31).

Nehemiah 9:17 says, “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”

So, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

WHAT TO DO WHEN TROUBLE COMES

A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter

No life is without trouble.  Even the apostle Paul had plenty of it.  In Acts 27:4, Paul finds himself in a ship when a storm arises.  This storm was the result of a seasonal and well-known wind called Euroclydon.

All of us have our Euroclydons.  Though, presently, we may find a South breeze blowing softly, as Paul did just before his storm broke, we can be sure that there will eventually come a tempestuous wind.  It may be financial trouble, sickness, or family trouble that shatters our world.  Our cherished dreams may turn to nightmares.

Paul’s experience in Euroclydon gives us some biblical counsel about what we should do when trouble comes.  Here are five things for us to remember.

FIRST, SPEND MORE TIME IN PRAYER.  Paul did this in Acts 27.  He told his companions that he had been in touch with God, and that they should be of good cheer.

So, if we want to be strengthened for the time of trouble, if we want our perplexing problems solved, and if we want to see a sick body healed or a sinful soul saved, let us spend more time in prayer.

The hymn writer expresses the value of coming to God in prayer, “Sometimes when my faith would falter and no sunlight I can see, I just lift mine eyes to Jesus and I whisper, ‘Pilot me.’  ‘Fear thou not for I’ll be with thee. I will still thy pilot be.  Never mind the tossing billows.  Take my hand and trust in me.’ ”

SECOND, COUNT ON GOD’S PRESENCE.  Paul knew God was with him in the storm.  He said to his shipmates, “For there stood by me this night the angel of God”  Acts 27:23.

Time and time again in the Bible, God promises to be with His children.  “My presence shall go with Thee” Exodus 33:14.  “I will fear no evil; for thou art with me” Psalm 23:4.  “I will never leave thee” Hebrews 13:5.

A believer in Christ had a terminal illness.  He told his Christian doctor that he felt very alone, and that he feared dying.  The doctor pulled up a chair and told the patient to imagine that Jesus was sitting there.  As the days went by, the dying man gripped the arm of the chair more and more.  The nurses found him there.  He had gone to heaven, but in death, he gripped the arm of the chair.  The doctor said that in the patient’s mind, he was holding to the nail-scarred hand of Jesus.  Jesus was there.  We can count on His presence.

THIRD, BELIEVE THE PROMISES OF GOD.  During Paul’s Euroclydon, he said, “I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” Acts 27:25.

God has made many promises to those who know Him.  He has promised to never leave us; to come back for us; to hear and answer our prayers; and to supply our needs.

God is not a man that He should lie.  He will keep His promises.

Adoniram Judson made a famous, often quoted statement–“The future is as bright as the promises of God.”  Those words have encouraged many.

But, what was the occasion of Judson’s words?  Was everything “coming up roses,”  for Judson?  NO. Judson was in a filthy Burmese jail. He had been put on the rack and beaten.  Now, on a straw bed, he was taunted, “What do you think now of your plans to win people in Burma to Christ?”  It was then that Judson made his famous statement about the future being as bright as God’s promises.

FOURTH, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.  That is what Paul did in that awful storm.  He “gave thanks in the presence of them all” Acts 27:35.

There is always something for which we can be thankful.

About a year ago, a family’s home was destroyed in the California forest fires.  The owner was interviewed on T.V.

“Your home and all your possessions have gone up in flames.”

“No,” he said, “not everything.  I still have my wife.  I still have my little boys.  I still have faith in God.  I still have a God Who watches over us.  And, I still have a home in heaven.  I’ve lost very little, really.”

FIFTH, GET RID OF EXCESS BAGGAGE.  It says of Paul’s companions, “They lightened the ship” Acts 27:38.

It is a good time not only to lay aside sins, but also to lay aside the weights of worry, fear, and dread.  These things easily beset us.

Sometimes we treat God like we treat our spare tire.  A spare tire is forgotten for months when no trouble is seen.  However, when we have a flat, then we want the spare to be in good condition, ready for use.  Trouble should bring us back to God.  It should cause us to pray more, to depend more upon Him, and to examine our own lives.

THE RAPTURE IS A REAL COMING EVENT

A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter

Recently, some people have felt threatened by the Left Behind series of popular novels, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The series has been read by millions of people in all religious denominations.

LaHaye and Jenkins followed the Scriptures very closely, and the basic premise of the books is absolutely true in the prophetic details. Of course, the books Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Armageddon, Glorious Appearing, etc., are novels, and as such, the personalities, conversations, and activities of many of the characters are fictional. However, the descriptions of the major events are true and accurate, according to the Bible.

Some people do not like the venue, using a novel to portray prophetic events. However, the technique is not new. About 350 years ago a Baptist preacher, John Bunyan, wrote a fictional story, The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book which proved a most popular and enduring work. An allegory of Scripture, Bunyan’s book has proved helpful to people of all ages in learning Bible doctrine and the way to Heaven.

LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ books have proved helpful also as many people have inquired more carefully about future prophetic events. In fact, many people have been born again as they thought anew about the Rapture.

Some people are very uneasy about books that say that many will be “left behind” when Jesus returns. The truth has a way of doing that to people. Consequently, some have been speaking out, saying that there is no Rapture, no future Tribulation Period on this Earth, and no coming Armageddon.

The truth is that there will be a Rapture of the Church, just as LaHaye and Jenkins portray it. This is not a new teaching. The Apostle Paul taught the Rapture in 52 A.D. He wrote to the Thessalonian church, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” [I Thessalonians 4:16-17]

The word “Rapture” means “caught up.” We can easily see from the above Scripture that the Church is going to be caught up, raptured.

The Church of Jesus Christ consists of all born again people, no matter what their denominational affiliation. All of Christ’s Church, His Bride, will be caught up and taken to Heaven. This will include the resurrection of all Christian believers who have died. It will also include the translation (changing) of all believers who are still alive on Earth in that day.

Christ loves His Church, His Bride, and He will come back for Her. Jesus Himself said so in John 14:2-3, “In my father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Jesus said that when He comes He will “receive” believers unto Himself and will take them to Heaven. That is the purpose of the Rapture. This will not be a “yo-yo” event with the Church being caught up into the air and then immediately coming back down to earth. The purpose of the Rapture is to save the Church out of this world, that the Church would avoid the judgment of the Tribulation Period. The seven year Tribulation Period is a time when God’s wrath will be poured out on this world. The Church will be saved from that unprecedented time of death, disease, starvation, catastrophe, and war. The Bible says that He has “delivered us from the wrath to come.” [I Thessalonians 1:10] God has “not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” [I Thessalonians 5:9]

When the Bible says that Jesus is coming again, it does not refer to Him coming at death, at Pentecost, nor at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. When the Bible says “This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner” [Acts 1:11], it means that He is coming back personally, visibly, suddenly, unexpectedly, and literally.

Many will be “left behind” when Jesus comes, “left behind” because they are not ready, “left behind” because they are not saved through faith in Christ. Any who are not ready should get ready be receiving Christ as personal Savior. As the Bible says, “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” [Matthew 24:44]

RULING LAY ELDERS-ARE THEY SCRIPTURAL?

Lloyd L. Streeter

Every twenty years, or so, the ruling lay elder issue surfaces again among Bible believing Baptists.  Often, a group of laymen in a church will decide that they want neither congregational government nor a pastor who guides the people.  Typically, that group of laymen will either try to establish a Board of Ruling Elders in their local church, or, if their efforts are resisted, to start a church of their own with the desired lay elder government.

Recently, the lay elder concept has become more popular among some Baptists. In 1990, the GARBC, over the protests of many stalwarts, admitted a church which had a board of lay elders (in addition to a board of deacons and a board of trustees). It is believed by many that the teaching of Dr. John MacArthur has done much to soften Baptist attitudes toward the ruling lay elder idea.

Historically, there have been three types of church government in Christendom.  Episcopalian government is rule by bishops and the clergy. This form of church government is employed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal denominations, and, to a lesser degree, by Methodists and Lutherans.  Episcopal government is completely without any scriptural basis.  It is a very dangerous and heretical system because it destroys the autonomy of the local church and sets a hierarchy to rule over the doctrine, practice, and conscience of God’s people.

Presbyterian government is ruled by a presbytery on the denominational level and by a board of elders on the local church level. This board of elders may be called by different names but is present in almost every church of the reformed tradition.  Presbyterian government, with its board of ruling lay elders, is just as unscriptural, heretical, and dangerous as its Episcopal counterpart.  Elder rule destroys congregational government, violates democratic discussion and procedure, and relegates the biblical office of pastor to the station of a “hired hand.”

The third form of church government, of course, is congregational.  This is the form of government which is both true to the Scriptures and true to Baptist history.  It is a system that makes the congregation the final decision-making body and allows the pastor to guide and influence the people by means of his example and preaching.

In congregational government, each member of the body has one vote.  Each member is responsible before God for using his vote and his influence to keep pure the church’s doctrine, to keep orderly the church’s business, and to keep holy the church’s worship and practice.  The scriptural form of church government allows for the pastor to lead, guide, even rule, in the congregation; but his power is not a legal one since he has only one vote like all the other members; rather, his authority is a moral one.  The pastor’s only power is the power of his influence, his counsels, and his position as a God-called, biblical, local church officer.  No doubt, God intended that the pastor should be the most influential member of the local church in matters of business and worship.  God calls the pastor to be the teacher, leader, shepherd, and expounder of His Word in the flock of God.  However, the pastor does not have any more legal authority than any other member.  He must not, and can not, “Lord it over” God’s church (I Peter 5:3).  In deciding all matters of opinion, the majority rules in Baptist churches with congregational government.

Some confusion arises, perhaps, because the Bible speaks of “elders that rule” (I Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17).  What is not usually understood is that the word “elder,” in the New Testament, is simply another word for “pastor.”  As a matter of fact, the words “elder,” “bishop,” overseer,” and “pastor” are words that all refer to the same office in the local church.  These words are all interchangeable as they refer to this church office.

Emery H. Bancroft, the noted Baptist theologian, explains the significance of the words “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” in his book, Christian Theology, Systematic and Biblical:

The passages in which the elders appear as church officers are as follows: Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 10:17; 21:18; I Timothy 5:17; 19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1; II John 1; III John 1.  This term is by far the most frequently used of them all. This probably grew out of the fact that it was already an established word among the Jews, and while it describes the same office as the other two, bishops and pastor, it has rather the idea of maturity and experience, thus describing the character of the officer rather than the function of the office.  Another term for this office is “bishop.”  There are only a few places where this term appears: Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; I Timothy 3:1,2; Titus 1:7.  The word bishop from the Greek (episcopos) means literally an overseer, and in the margin of the Revised Version is so rendered.  This title of overseer as applied to an officer in the church looks rather to the functions of the office than to the character of the officer, describing his care, his outlook upon those who are committed to his keeping, as a leader, guide, and teacher.  It carries with it more of the idea of authority and rule than does that of elder.  The third title for this same office is that of “pastor.”  There is only one passage where the word is used, that is Ephesians 4:11, where, in describing the gifts bestowed on the Church by the ascended Christ, the Apostle says, “and some pastors and teachers.” This term seems to have in it the thought of shepherding.  See John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20; Acts 20:28; I Peter 2:25.  Thus the term pastor, “shepherd,” involves the personal tendency and spiritual concern which the bishop-elder should exercise over his flock. (J. F. May Press, Hayward, CA, 1949, p. 236)

The Bible teaches congregational rule in such passages as Acts 6, where men were chosen out from among the congregation for special work; in Romans 14, where the congregation had power to receive certain members; and in I Corinthians 5, where the congregation had power to discipline its members.

A church may have more than one minister, such as a youth minister, assistant pastor, minister of education, or minister of evangelism.  But, it would appear from a study of the New Testament that a church has only one elder-bishop-overseer-pastor.  The term “Senior Pastor” is as foreign to the New Testament as the term “under-shepherd,” inasmuch as the term is not found in Scripture and seems to indicate that there should be a plurality of elders.

There is only one “chief shepherd” for the flock of Christ (I Peter 5:4), and that fact would tend to set the procedure for the local church as well.  One pastor (elder) is responsible for taking the oversight over each local flock to feed it and care for it (I Peter 5:2).

Each of the seven churches of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, had only one elder-pastor.  The elder-pastor is addressed there as “the angel [messenger] of the church of Ephesus” (Rev. 2:1); “the angel of the church in Smyrna” (Rev. 2:8); “the angel of the church in Pergamos” (Rev. 1:12); and so forth.  This same language is used for all seven of those local churches (see Rev. 2:18; 3:1, 7, 14).  It would seem that each of those churches had only one elder, otherwise Jesus would have addressed them in the plural.

Epaphroditus was the only pastor of his church at Philippi (Philippians 2:25).  James was the only pastor of his particular local church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). And it would appear that Timothy was the only pastor at his church at Ephesus (I Timothy 1:2-3).

Yes, there is to be only one pastor in each local church, according to the Bible; and that one pastor-elder is to be both teacher (Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 5:1; Acts 20:28) and ruler ( I Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17; Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24; and I Peter 5:2).

In many Bible cities, there were many local churches, each of them having a pastor, so the elders are mentioned at Ephesus, for example, in the plural (Acts 20:28); whereas, when the bishop and deacons are mentioned as from a specific local church, then the “bishop” is singular (I Timothy 3:2) but the “deacons” are plural (I Timothy 3:8; 11, 12).

The conclusion of the matter is that the present day movement to have a “Board of Ruling Lay Elders” to rule over the church and over the pastor is an unscriptural invention.

The word “deacon,” on the other hand, means servant.  Any movement to make deacons into a “Board of Elders” (in everything except name only) is as unscriptural as any other form of elder rule.

Congregational rule is scriptural, but, practiced biblically, it does not take away the pastor’s authority, making him simply a hired hand to “preach the sermons.”  Lay-Elder-Rule advocates like to call the pastor the “teaching elder” to distinguish him from the “ruling elders.”  They divide, in an unscriptural way, the functions of the pastor’s office, giving to the pastor the teaching responsibilities, but giving to the “lay elders” the “ruling” part of the pastor’s work.

Edward Hiscox in his book, New Directory for Baptist Churches (which has been a standard book on Baptist government since shortly after the Civil War), says, on page 100, under the heading “The Pastor’s Authority”:

The pastor is to be loved, honored and obeyed, in the Lord.  He is placed over the Church by both the Head of the body, and by the free and voluntary act of the body itself.  Though he professes no magisterial authority, and has no power, either spiritual or temporal, to enforce mandates or inflict penalties, yet the very position he occupies as teacher and leader supposes authority vested in him.  On the one hand, the minister is not to be regarded with ignorant and blind devotion, as if possessed of super human attributes, whose official acts must be venerated even though his private life be scandalous; not yet, on the other hand, is he to be considered a mere puppet for the capricious mistreatment of such as wish to show their independence, and “use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness.”

Dr. Clay Nuttall was absolutely correct when, in his book, The Weeping Church, he wrote:

The third level of discipline–discipline by the pastor–is the one that is most neglected.  This is the major cause of heartache in the local flock because no one but the pastor can accomplish it.  When a brother goes to a brother, he goes as a peer.  While the shepherd should and must act in tenderness, he must act.  Discipline by the [shepherd] is a despised subject, but since it is a Biblical mandate we cannot dismiss it.  Further, let us be reminded that a church without pastoral discipline will be a weeping church.  The pastor will weep in his own failure when he faces the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

The shepherd’s tools include a rod; therefore, a pastor must exercise discipline.  Since he is elder/bishop/shepherd, this discipline extends to his oversight in every area.

His supervision of paid staff, including multiple pastors, must include the heavy responsibility of directing, guiding, and, if need be, releasing them by use of that oversight.  Since all volunteer persons also fall within his God-given administration, he must be willing to dismiss them from service.  The pastor’s tool for discipline is the ability to remove from service and place of leadership.  There can be no exception to that rule or a monstrosity of headship is created.  He must reprove and rebuke with the authority of the Word (2 Tim. 4:2). Without pastoral discipline he is not shepherd at all.

We do not agree with all that W. A. Criswell has done.  Especially, we do not agree that he should have stayed in the Southern Baptist Convention. However, we do heartily agree with this noted Baptist scholar and pastor when he says of the pastor:

Anytime there is anyone else who is leading the church, they will be a poorly-led congregation.  I do not care who he is, how many there are, or however they may be organized.  The church may be run by a clique, or by an organized group, or just by anybody, but God intends for the rulership of the church to lie in the pastor.  He is under God, responsible to the Lord for the church.  These who stand by his side are fellow helpers.  A deacon is a diakonos, a servant, a helper.  He is to stand by the side of the pastor and hold up his arms like Hur and Aaron.  You will have a mighty church if you have laymen and deacons who stand by the side of the pastor and help him build up the house of God.  They make an unbeatable team, a consecrated deacon and a dedicated pastor.  It takes both of them. [Quoted by Dr. Kenny McComas in The America Review, 1st quarter, 1985]

Charles Haddon Spurgeon made some interesting comments in discussing the need for the men whom God calls.  In his sermon, “The Two Draughts of Fishes,” he speaks of the Plymouth Brethren, whose assemblies are ruled by elders:

The Plymouth-ist strives to get rid of the pastorate, but he never can, for the Lord will ever continue to give pastors after His own heart to feed His people, and all attempts made by the flock to dispense with these pastors will lead to leanness and poverty of soul.  The outcry against the “one man ministry” cometh not of God, but of proud self-conceit, of men who are not content to learn although they have no power to teach.  It is the tendency of human nature to exalt itself which has raised up these disturbers of the peace of God’s Israel, they will not endure to submit themselves to the authorities which God has Himself appointed, and abhor the teachings of the apostle, where he says, by the Spirit of God, “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you.”  Brethren, I warn you, there is a spirit abroad which would pull down the men whom God Himself has raised up, that would silence those into whose mouths God has put the tongue of fire, that foolish men might prate according to their own will to the profit of no one, and to their own shame.  As for us, we shall, I trust, never cease to recognize that agency by which the Lord works mightily among us.  We would check no ministry in the Church of God.  We would be too glad to see it more abundantly exercised.  Would God that our solemn protest against that spirit which, under pretence of liberty to all, sets aside the instrumentality by which the Lord especially works.  He will have you still keep the fishermen to nets and to their boats; and your new ways of catching fish without nets, and saving souls without ministers, will never answer, for they are not of God.  They have been tried, and what has been the result of the trial?  I know not a Church in existence that has despised instrumentality, but it has come to an end within a few years either by schism or decay.  Where upon the face of the earth is there a single Church that has existed fifty years where God’s chosen instrumentality of ministry has been despised and rejected? “Ichabod!” is written upon their walls.  God rejects them because they reject God’s chosen way of working.  Their attempts are flashes in the pan, meteoric lights, will-o’-wisps, swellings of proud flesh, bubbles of foam, here to-day and gone for ever on the morrow.

In the light of Baptist history and doctrine, and in the light of common wisdom, the modern Ruling Lay Elder movement should be rejected.  It is a movement that would have proud men install themselves as rulers over God’s church-men who have not been called by God to that work, have not been gifted by God for that work, and have not been trained for that work.  It is a movement that would place over God’s churches a form of government which is totally contrary to God’s will.

OUR FINAL AUTHORITY

(A newspaper column by Lloyd Streeter)

Why do you believe what you believe? In a sense, that is the most important question related to religion. Why do you believe what you believe and why do you do what you do in your religion? Throughout history theologians have had a term for this determining factor: FINAL AUTHORITY.

Something has to be the final authority in your belief and in your behavior. Something must regulate your doctrine and your practice. If what we believe and what we do is to be pleasing to God, then we must follow the authority which God has given us. In the Old Testament we read of the dark days of the judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

When a person does not claim Christ as king and when a person does not follow what King Jesus has said in the Bible, that person will end up doing that which is right in his own eyes, but, it will not be right in God’s eyes.

The Bible should be our final authority and not man-made tradition. The sixty-six books of the Holy Bible are sufficient in all matters of faith, doctrine, and practice. Nothing should be added to the Bible or substituted for the Bible as the final authority.

The final authority even tells us what the final authority is. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16). “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

The Apostle Paul’s standard was always, “For what saith the scripture?” (Romans 4:3).

The diligence of the Berean Christians was commended. They tested everything and judged everything by the Word of God. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were” (Acts 17:11).

On the other hand, Jesus condemned making mere human tradition the final authority. “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men….ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition….Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition” (Mark 7:8, 9, 13). “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?….ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition…But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:3, 6, 9).

Our traditions are fine as long as they do not go contrary to the Bible. Some of our traditions are helpful. Paul admonished the Thessalonians, for example, to hold fast to the traditions which he had taught them (II Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6). It is only when tradition or human teachings are substituted for, or made equal to the Bible that they are dangerous. God is very displeased with those who add to or subtract from His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19).

So, if anyone asks us, “What and where is the real Church of Jesus Christ?” Our answer is that the Bible is our sole authority on that subject. The Bible teaches that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a spiritual organism, a living body consisting of all born-again regenerated persons from the time of Pentecost until now. It does not consist of a single denomination or organization (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:22; Acts 2:47).

Or, if someone asks, “Does the Lord’s Supper and baptism help make it possible for a person to go to Heaven?” We reply that only the Bible answers that question with any authority. And the Bible teaches that we are saved only by faith in Christ not by such works as baptism or the Lord’s Supper (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5). These ordinances only symbolize Christian truths.

Or, if someone asks, “What should we believe about the Virgin Mary?” Our answer is that we should believe just what the Bible says about her; no more, and no less. What the Bible teaches is that Mary was a lovely Jewish girl, highly favored and blessed of God, worthy of our honor and esteem, a sinner saved by grace, a virgin until after Jesus was born, the mother of at least seven children, and not one to whom we should pray (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 13:55-56; Matthew 1:25; Psalm 69:8; I Timothy 2:5).

No man, no church, no denomination, no seminary professor can be the final authority. To make them such is to usurp the place of the Bible and of God Himself.

Someone asks, “But which Bible is the final authority?” That’s a good question in this day of a multitude of new versions, versions that differ greatly from each other.

My answer is that the Bible that God’s people have always had is the Word of God and it is the final authority. After all, God promised to preserve His Word (Psalm 12:6-7), and so every generation of true believers have had God’s final authority. The true Word of God was preserved in the vast majority of manuscript copies, in Luther’s Bible, in Calvin’s Bible, in Tyndale’s Bible, and in the Authorized King James Bible.

The new English translations have been made from two or three corrupted Greek manuscripts of suspicious origin. New translations weaken Bible doctrines in numerous places. For example, some of them have removed GOD from I Timothy 3:16. They remove Jesus’ blood from Colossians 1:14. Some of these new translations remove the resurrection of Christ from Acts 2:30, and the ascension of Christ from John 16:16 and Hebrews 4:14. One of the new versions even says that Elhanan killed Goliath (II Samuel 21:19) even though we all know that it was David who killed Goliath (Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother). Some new versions call Joseph the “father” of Jesus in Luke 2:33. And they leave out many verses entirely.

We do not say that the new translations are “no good,” because they do have many verses properly translated, enough so that a person can get saved reading them. However, the new versions have too many mistakes in them to be called the final authority.

OLD IS BEST

A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter

There is a poem which contains the words “After all, old things are best.” No doubt, it is not always true. Some things about the “good old days” were not so good. I, for one, am all in favor of modern conveniences, modern transportation and modern health care.

However, I am not ready to throw away everything that is old. I am not ready to part with the old just for the sake of change. In many cases “old things are best.”

This is especially true in religion. We should not be quick to change the time-honored, tried and proven beliefs and practices which have sustained God’s people through centuries past. There are plenty of new items–new beliefs, new cults, new music, new morality, new doctrines, and new versions of the Bible. There also is a lot of new irreverence to go along with these items.

Just because something is new does not mean it is better. It means only that it is different; and usually in religious matters the new is deleterious. I’m reminded of what a well-known Bible teacher said (back in the good old days) about new doctrines. He rightly said, “If a doctrine is new, it is not true; and if it is true it is not new.”

Here at First Baptist Church of LaSalle, we still like the old music, the old hymns. We are not ready, and don’t expect to ever be ready, for the new irreverent cabaret night club sound in church music. We don’t have “soft rock” (much less “hard rock”), contemporary Christian music. Reason?–the old music is far better. We still sing out of a good hymnal, hymns such as Charles Wesley’s, “Arise, My Soul, Arise!”

Arise, my soul, arise! Shake off thy guilty fears;

Thy bleeding Sacrifice in my behalf appears,

Before the throne my Surety stands

My name is written on His hands

 

Five bleeding wounds He bears, received on Calvary;

They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me;

“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,

“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

Yes, we love to sing the great old hymns, such as “O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth;” “A Mighty Fortress is Our God;” “Be Thou Exalted;” “Nothing But the Blood;” “The Lily of the Valley;” and “Amazing Grace.”

These old hymns are filled with good theology, true to the Bible. They help to teach us the love of God, the salvation of God and perfections of our Savior. They are so much better than the new man-centered, fleshly, worldly songs. The old hymns are best.

Here at First Baptist Church of LaSalle, we still love the old King James Version of the Bible. No one has ever improved on this old A.D. 1611 Bible. It is the clearest, the most accurate and the easiest to read. So, we read from it at every service. We preach from it. We do not correct it, because it is our final authority. It is the Word of God.

Some teachers of religion are saying that on the basis of two or three newly discovered manuscripts of the Bible that the new versions of the Bible are better. This is a relatively new theory, less than 120 years old. And it is a false theory, proven false by more than 5,000 ancient manuscripts.

The King James Version is the best because it does not add to the Word of God, subtract from the Word of God, nor change the Word of God as new versions do.

The Old Book and the Old Faith are the Rock on which I stand!

The Old Book and the Old Faith are the bulwark of the land!

Thro’ storm and stress they stand the test.

In every clime and nation blest;

The Old Book and the Old Faith are the hope of every land!

Here at First Baptist Church of LaSalle, we still love the old Gospel message. We reject all new “gospels” such as the social gospel, the gospel of good works, and the gospel which says that none is lost and that everyone is going to heaven. These new gospels will save no one. The old Gospel message of the Bible is that until we come to know Christ, we are sinners, lost, and condemned. But Jesus loves us and died for us, shedding his blood to pay the penalty for our sins. He was buried, but after three days and three nights, He rose again from the dead. This is the true Gospel. Those who believe upon Jesus become the children of God, have forgiveness of sin, and are saved for eternity.

We preach and teach this Gospel. It is the old message of the Bible. It is good for all people, no matter what their religious background, race, or station in life. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

My sin was old-fashioned, my guilt was old-fashioned,

God’s love was old-fashioned, I know:

And the way I was saved was the old-fashioned way,

Thro’ the blood that makes whiter than snow.

MY FAVORITE SCRIPTURE VERSE

(A newspaper article by Lloyd Streeter)

I would like to tell you today about my favorite verse of Scripture. Romans 8:28″And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

It seems too wonderful to be true. All things, even the disappointing things, even our most painful experiences, even our failures and sins, work together for good to them that love God. To know this is to have the best knowledge in the world.

We believe God’s Word but we do not always understand the working of God. He permits us sometimes to go through the fire. He permits us to weep, to feel pain, and to be lonely. We ask ourselves, “How can all of this be for good?”

And we know– Blessed is the believer who knows some things and knows that he knows them. Some think that it is sophisticated to not be sure of anything, to be agnostic, an ignoramus. But, those who claim such ignorance have rejected God’s truth.

Would not it be wonderful if all things worked together for good even if we did not know it? Yes, even if we thought everything was working out for bad but then found out when we got to heaven that it was all for good, that would still be okay. However, God is gracious in not only making all things work together for good but also in allowing us to know it. We know it because the Bible says it. And it is the knowing of it that gives us confidence concerning the past, that gives us tranquility concerning the present, and gives us joy concerning the future.

“That all things work together for good” This is difficult to comprehend. It was difficult for a small boy to understand how the clock worked. He took the back off the clock and there he saw wheels, gears, and levers. Some of the wheels were large while others were small. Some moved forward while others moved backward. Some moved fast while others moved slowly. He did not understand it. But he did learn that all of the parts were needed! All the parts had to be in the proper place doing what they were designed to do for the clock to work.

We are like that small boy as we look at all of the events of life. Some of them are big events while others seem trivial. Some events move things in one direction and others in a different direction. These things happen not by blind chance, nor by the “luck of the draw.” God is working out His purpose.

We can see that all things worked together for good for Job. Through all of his trials, his faith was strengthened. At last he declared, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him” Job 13:15.

We can see that all things worked together for good for Joseph. Sinned against by his brothers and sold into Egyptian slavery, he could see the hand of God in it. After years of lonely exile he could say to his brothers, “You thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” Genesis 50:20.

“To them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” These words refer to saved people. Let us be clear. All things do not work together for good for unsaved people. All things work together for bad for Christ rejecters. Only saved people love God–only saved people are referred to as “the called.”

Jesus said in John 3:18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Well then, how do we start loving God? You do that by trusting in His Son, accepting Him as your own personal Savior. All things will then work together for your good.

There is tranquility in knowing that God is working things together to arrive at His ultimate divine plan. His plan is to conform the believer to the image of Jesus Christ. His plan also involves us having fellowship with Him both now and in eternity. His ultimate good for us is heaven.

No wonder some people refer to Romans 8:28 as “a soft pillow for a troubled heart.” In a world wracked by terrorism, war, sin, and death we can look up and find hope.

What tho’ the way be lonely

And dark the shadows fall

I know wherever it leadeth

My Father planned it all.

He guides my faltering footsteps

Along the weary way.

For well He knows the pathway

Will lead to endless day.

THE CANONICITY OF THE BOOKS AND WORDS OF THE BIBLE

By Lloyd Streeter

It is our conviction that the Holy Spirit led the true people of God to accept the words and books of the Bible as genuine Holy Scripture, authoritative and inspired. In my book, Seventy-five Problems with Central Baptist Seminary’s Book: The Bible Version Debate (p. 75), I argue for the preservation of all of the words of Scripture on the basis of the doctrine of canonicity. We argue that if Central’s professor, Roy Beacham, believed in the canonicity of the books of the Bible, then to be consistent, he should believe in the canonicity of the words of the Bible as well.

After all, if the Holy Spirit led the true churches of Jesus Christ to accept the genuine inspired books of the New Testament (and He did!), would He not also lead the true, Holy Spirit indwelt churches to accept the inspired and preserved words of those books?

How does Beacham know that the canon of Scripture which all of us accept is correct? How does he know that the sixty-six books of the Bible are all of the books God intended for us to accept? How does he know that some of the books were not left out? How does he know God intended for them to be canonical? After all, God did not give us a list of canonical books. So, what is Beacham’s faith based on?

The answer to the above questions should be that the canon of Scriptures is based on the same verses which I cite for promises of Bible preservation. If God could lead and guide His people to accept the right Books for the canon, could He not also guide His people to accept the right words?

A considerable amount of faith is required if we are going to believe at all that we have God’s Word, even in “a practical virtual sense.” When we consider some of the facts in the history of the Old Testament text, we must conclude that God was overseeing and caring for the words of Scripture just as He had indicated in Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Psalm 119:152; Psalm 119:160; Isaiah 40:8; I Peter 1:23-25; Psalm 12:5-8; and John 14 and 16. [Seventy-five Problems, pp. 75-76]

The words of Scripture were received by true believers in the true churches of Jesus Christ as soon as they were delivered. No church or church council made the Bible. The Holy Spirit made the canon of Scripture by leading the true people of God to receive the Books and the Words. The canon of Scripture was settled hundreds of years before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence and hundreds of years before the Councils of Nicea and Hippo.

In I Thessalonians 2:13, Paul wrote of how the Thessalonians had received the Word of God:

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Some commentaries would say that Paul here refers to the Old Testament Scriptures which he read to the Thessalonians. Others would say that he refers to the New Testament revelations which Paul wrote down under inspiration of God and then read to the church. In any case, the statement shows how the true people of God and the true churches of Jesus Christ receive the Word of God when it is presented to them. The Holy Spirit teaches the child of God to receive the Word.

Of course, we do not mean that any individual Christian, nor any individual church is infallible. But, all of God’s people together and all of His churches together made the right decisions about the canon of Scripture.

Dr. Wilber Pickering, in his excellent book, The Identity of the New Testament Text [Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1977] on pages 94-100, makes the case that the New Testament writings were recognized as Scripture immediately:

It is clear that the apostle Paul, at least, considered his writings to be authoritative–see 1 Cor. 14:37, 2 Cor. 10:1-16, Gal. 1:6-12 and 2 Thess. 3:6-14. And it is reasonable to infer from Col. 4:16 that he expected his writings to have a wider audience than just the particular church addressed.

Peter, also, puts the commandments of the apostles (himself included) in the same class with “the holy prophets” (2 Pet. 3:2). In 1 Tim. 5:18 Paul puts the Gospel of Luke (10:7) on the same level as Deuteronomy (25:4), calling them both “Scripture.”

Taking the traditional and conservative point of view, 1 Timothy is generally thought to have been written within five years after Luke. Luke was recognized and declared by apostolic authority to be Scripture as soon as it came off the press, so to speak.

In 2 Pet. 3:15-16, Peter puts the Epistles of Paul on the same level as “the other Scriptures.” Although some had been out for perhaps fifteen years, the ink was scarcely dry on others, and perhaps 2 Timothy had not yet been penned when Peter wrote. Paul’s writings were recognized and declared by apostolic authority to be Scripture as soon as they appeared.

Pickering goes on to show that Clement of Rome (96 A.D.), Barnabas (70-135 A.D.), Ignatius (110 A.D.), Polycarp (115 A.D.), Justin Martyr (150 A.D.), Theophilus, Irenaeus, Athenagorus, and Tertullian all quoted the New Testament writings calling them “sacred Scripture.”

In the book, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, by R. Laird Harris, Ph.D., he makes these points

  1. By neither appeal to authority nor appeal to history can the apocryphal books be properly included in the sacred canon. (p. 180)
  2. We do not disparage the apocryphal books because they are of real value and should be read by more Christians because they give good historical insights. (p. 180)
  3. The apocryphal books were written after prophecy was recognized to have departed from Israel. (p. 181)
  4. The common Jewish canon did not include these apocryphal books and Jesus and His disciples accepted that Jewish canon. (p. 182)
  5. Most of the Old Testament books are quoted in the New Testament, but the apocryphal books are never quoted. (p. 183)
  6. When Josephus listed the Jewish Scriptures, he listed the same 39 books, no more and no less, that we have in our AV. (p 185)
  7. The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) contained apocryphal books but it was an Egyptian production and not a Palestinian one. (p. 186)
  8. Eight prominent Church fathers of the fourth century, including Athanasius and Cyril, left us lists of Old Testament books, all of which agree with the Jewish canon. (p. 189)
  9. Augustine (and the councils which he dominated, Hippo 393 A.D. and Carthage 397 A.D.) included the apocryphal books in his canon. (p.190)
  10. Roman Catholics officially adopted the Apocrypha in reformation times (Trent, 1546). VERY LATE!
  11. In so far as the New Testament canon is concerned, the Church, very early, received all of the 27 books “as inspired and therefore canonical.” (p. 201)
  12. The Syriac version (Peshetta) was most likely written in the second century (about 125-150 A.D.), and did not contain any apocryphal books. (p. 216)
  13. The Old Latin Bible, predating Jerome’s Vulgate, had the same 66 books as the reformation Bible. (p. 217)
  14. Regarding the Roman contention that the Roman Catholic Church made the Bible, Harris says, “Of course, the main assumption of Roman Catholicism is the usual contention that the Church of the first three centuries was a Roman Catholic Church. If so, it was a strange one. No present-day Roman Catholic would have felt at home in it. There was no doctrine of purgatory, of confession, of the mass. Both elements of the Communion were given to the laity. The infallibility of the Roman pontiff was nowhere held, because never claimed. There was no rosary, no celibacy of the clergy, no doctrine of indulgences, no treasury of merit, no doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary or special adoration of her, no immaculate conception or bodily assumption of Mary. The fact is that the Church of those centuries would have passed very well for a Protestant Church, but a present-day Roman Catholic would scarcely have known he had been to church if he had attended a meeting in the catacombs! This was the Church which for three centuries was testing the evidences concerning the New Testament books and was within fifty years in full agreement on all but a handful of them. The remainder were accepted as the evidence was circulated and recognized. No church made them into Bible books.” (p. 274)
  15. Harris quotes John Calvin (Institutes) who emphasizes the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit and says that unsaved men are unable to think rightly about heavenly things (canonicity). Says Calvin, “The Word will never gain credit in the hearts of men til it be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit.” (p. 276) The French Confession of 1559, in which Calvin had a large hand, says, “We know these books to be canonical, and the sure rule of our faith, not so much by the common accord and consent of the church as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit which enabled us to distinguish them from other ecclesiastical books.” (p. 277)
  16. He quotes S.R.L. Gaussen, who argues that “providence has led the Church catholic in the selection of our 66 books, but [God] gives no authority to the Church in this matter.” (p. 278)
  17. He quotes Princeton Professor Archibald Alexander, who wrote a book concerning the canon, and says that the Old Testament canon was settled “very simply by appealing to the historical fact of the testimony of Christ and His apostles.” (p. 279) Furthermore, Alexander said of the New Testament books, “Their right to a place in the canon does not depend on the vote of any council, or the decision of any bishop, but upon the fact that they were given by inspiration; and this was known by the character of the men who wrote them. The appeal to testimony, therefore, is not to obtain the judgment of the Church that these books were canonical, but to ascertain the fact that they were indeed the productions of the apostles, to whom the Lord promised plenary inspiration.” (p. 279)
  18. He quotes B.B. Warfield from his Revelation and Inspiration. Warfield says Scripture was imposed upon the Church by the apostles and that this guarantees canonicity. (pp. 279-280)
  19. He quotes C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, that the canon of the Old Testament is determined by the approval of Christ and His apostles. “The principle on which the NT is determined is equally simple. Those books, and those only which can be proved to have been written by the apostles, or to have received their sanction, are to be recognized as of divine authority.” (p. 280)
  20. Harris says, “God’s providence, which watched over the preservation as well as the preparation of these sacred books, was doubtless a factor . . . at least we may cheerfully concede that God in His providence saw to it that these books were preserved. . . .” [It is my conviction that the Words, not just the Books, have been preserved by God, and that what Harris says about the Books applies to the Words, and for the same reasons. LLS]
  21. Harris concludes, “We have thus come to the conclusion that historical study and Biblical evidence combine to give us a test of canonicity that is definite and which was readily applied by the early Christians. It can even be applied with confidence by us in spite of the lapse of centuries and the diminution of the evidence. The books did not become authoritative by Church decision or as a result of the veneration attaching to things of antiquity. They were authoritative when written because given by inspiration of God. They were recognized as authoritative, inspired, and canonical by the generations to which they were addressed because of the position of the authors as acknowledged spokesmen of God. In the ancient times the succession of writing prophets following Moses, the great prototype, gave us our Old Testament. In the times of the founding of the Christian Church the apostles were God’s chosen instruments appointed expressly by Christ for the purpose and endued by Him with the Holy Spirit for their revelational activity. They were conscious of such a holy gift, and as they write to us the Word of God they attach to it a suitable blessing for all who receive it in faith and practice it: ‘Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Rev. 1:3)

A scholarly discussion of the Apocrypha and of Roman Catholic claims is found in Loraine Boettner’s book, Roman Catholicism. Boettner (pronounced: Bet-ner) was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary from which he also received a Th.M. in 1929, where he studied under C. Hodge. He was also a graduate of Tarkio College and the University of Missouri. He was the author of many books, including The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, The Millennium, and Studies in Theology.

He says that the Roman Catholic Church did not make the Bible as it claims because there was no Roman Catholic Church at the time the Bible was written and reached canonicity.

Romanism developed, says Boettner, over a long period of time. Prayers for the dead began about 300 A.D. Making the sign of the cross started about 300 A.D. Veneration of angels and dead saints and the use of images came in at about 320 A.D.

The mass did not begin as a daily celebration until 394 A.D.

The beginning of the exaltation of Mary came in at about 431 A.D.; extreme unction in 526 A.D.; and the doctrine of purgatory in 593 A.D.

The College of Cardinals was not established until 927 A.D.; the canonization of dead saints in 995 A.D.; and the Apocrypha was added to the Bible in 1546 A.D. [pp. 7-8]

Here are some points made by Boettner:

Ever since New Testament times there have been people who accepted the basic principles now set forth in Protestantism. That is, they took the Bible as their authoritative standard of belief and practice. They were not called Protestants. Neither were they called Roman Catholics. They were simply called Christians. During the first three centuries they continued to base their faith solely on the Bible. They often faced persecution, sometimes from the Jews, sometimes from the pagans of the Roman empire. But early in the fourth century the emperor Constantine, who was the ruler in the west, began to favor Christianity, and then in the year 324, after he had become ruler of all the empire, made Christianity the official religion. The result was that thousands of people who still were pagans pressed into the church in order to gain the special advantages and favors that went with such membership. They came in in far greater numbers than could be instructed or assimilated. Having been used to the more elaborate pagan rituals, they were not satisfied with the simple Christian worship but began to introduce their heathen beliefs and practices. Gradually, through the neglect of the Bible and the ignorance of the people, more and more heathen ideas were introduced until the church became more heathen than Christian. Many of the heathen temples were taken over by the church and re-dedicated as Christian churches.

Thus in time there was found in the church a sacrificing and gorgeously appareled priesthood, an elaborate ritual, images, holy water, incense, monks, and nuns, the doctrine of purgatory, and in general a belief that salvation was to be achieved by works rather than by grace. The church in Rome, and in general the churches throughout the empire, ceased to be the apostolic Christian church, and became for the most part a religious monstrosity. [p. 11]

Boettner says the true church is composed of all who are true Christians, those who have been “born again,” or “born anew.” [p. 19]

He points to “Roman Catholic” as a denominational name, and says,

In the Bible the word “church” never means a denomination. The Bible has nothing to say about denominations. Whether a local church chooses to remain strictly independent, or to enter into a working agreement with one or more other local churches, and if so on what terms, is not discussed in Scripture, but is left entirely to the choice of the church itself. And we find that in actual practice churches range all the way from those that remain entirely unrelated to any other, to the other extreme of those that subject themselves to some hierarchy of denominational overlords who own property and send the minister. [p. 20]

He says, “When our Lord prayed for unity, ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21), it was primarily a spiritual unity, a oneness of heart and faith, of love and obedience, of true believers. . . .” [p. 20] (empasis LLS) Then says,

It is just here that the Romanists, who claim to be the only true church, err in attempting to bring all churches, even to force all churches, into one external and mechanical organization. The oneness for which Christ prayed was not external and visible, but spiritual and invisible. There can be and actually is real spiritual unity among Christians apart from organizational unity. The church is not a mechanism, but a living organism, whose head is Christ; and any unity that is mechanical and forced is bound to hinder the very thing that it is designed to promote. When we hear the pope and occasionally other church leaders talk about uniting all churches into one super organization, the words they employ and their method of approach make it clear that what they have in mind is not spiritual unity of believers but an ecclesiastical and mechanical unity of believers and unbelievers, designed primarily for what they think would be greater efficiency of operation. [p. 21]

Boettner does not believe the early church had any power over the conscience of men. Says he,

We are inclined to believe that the early church was neither Episcopal, nor Presbyterian, nor Congregational, but a combination of all three, and that local churches then as now may have differed considerably in their manner of government. In any event it is quite clear that the Roman Catholic Church, with its hierarchial form of government, was not the New Testament church, for the institution of the papacy, with a sacrificing priesthood, did not develop until some five centuries later.

The spurious logic of the hierarchy through which it lays claim to supreme authority over all Christians finds no support in Scripture. [p. 29]

The primary point of cleavage between the Roman Catholic and the other churches seems to be the fact that the Roman Church is hierarchical and authoritarian in its form of government, while the others are essentially democratic and place the control of church affairs in the hands of the people. It was the Vatican Council of 1870, with its pronouncement of papal infallibility, that sounded the death-knoll [sic] of any democratic processes in the Roman Church and placed it irrevocably on the road to totalitarianism. [p. 42]

With regard to the Apocrypha, it is only through the coersive power of the hierarchal system that the spurious books are accepted:

The 14 or 15 books that the Roman Catholic Church adds to the Bible and pronounces equally inspired and authoritative are known as the Apocrypha. These are printed as a part of the Bible and must be accepted by all Roman Catholics as genuine under penalty of mortal sin. . . .

They are listed as follows:

  1. The First Book of Esdras
  2. The Second Book of Esdras
  3. Tobit
  4. Judith
  5. The additions to the book of Esther
  6. The Wisdom of Solomon
  7. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach
  8. Baruch
  9. The Letter of Jeremiah
  10. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men
  11. Susanna
  12. Bell and the Dragon
  13. The Prayer of Manasseh
  14. The First Book of Maccabees
  15. The Second Book of Maccabees [p. 80]

Boettner correctly says that the canon of Old Testament books was settled by the Jews long before the time of Jesus:

The Hebrew Old Testament was completed some four hundred years before the time of Christ. In the second century B.C., a Greek translation by Hebrew scholars was made in Alexandria, Egypt, and was called the Septuagint because the translators numbered 70. There developed an important difference, however, between the Greek translation and the Hebrew canon since the Septuagint contained a dozen or more Apocryphal books interspersed among the books of the Hebrew Bible. But not all copies contained the same books–suggesting that there was no general agreement among the translators as to which of these additional books were authoritative. [p. 81]

So, we find that at the time of Christ there were two versions of the Old Testament current in Palestine, the more liberal Alexandrian Septuagint, including the Apocryphal books, in Greek, and the more conservative Hebrew version which included only the canonical books of the Jews, and the Roman Catholic Bible follows the Alexandrian while the Protestant Bible follows the Hebrew version.

The loose talk of some Roman Catholic writers about the “Greek Bible,” the form of the Septuagint that originated in Alexandria, Egypt, being the Bible of the early church, is no credit to scholarship, for it ignores the most important point of all, namely, that so far as the evidence goes, Jesus and the New Testament writers did not consider the Apocryphal books canonical but instead accepted the Palestinian version of the Old Testament.

Furthermore, Josephus, the noted Jewish historian, about 90 A.D., gave a list of the books of the Jewish law and prophets, but he did not include the Apocryphal books. Other Jewish sources support Josephus. The Apocrypha was rejected by Origen, who is generally acknowledged to have been the most learned man in the the church before Augustine, by Tertullian, an outstanding scholar in the early third century, by Athanasius, the champion of orthodoxy at the Council of Nicaea and by Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgste which became the authorized Roman Catholic Bible. [p. 82]

The Roman Catholic Church did not exist when the Bible was given by God and canonized by the Holy Spirit’s work in the minds of the believers. As Boettner says,

A fraudulent claim recently put forth by the Knights of Columbus in a series of newspaper and magazine ads designed to appeal to Protestants and others is that the Roman Catholic Church produced the Bible and that we received it from her. Some of her spokesmen attempt to say that the canon of the Bible was established in the fourth century, by the pope and council of Carthage, in 397 A.D. But that statement is erroneous on two counts. In the first place, there was no pope as such in 397 A.D. It was not until the Council of Chalcedon, in 451, that the bishop of Rome was designated pope, and the authority of the bishop of Rome never has been acknowledged by the Eastern churches. Previous to that time all priests and bishops were called popes (Latin, papa), and in the Eastern churches that title is applied to ordinary priests even to the present day. The Council of Chalcedon attempted to restrict the title exclusively to the bishop of Rome, who at that time was Leo I, and conferred it posthumously on all previous bishops of Rome in order to make it appear that an unbroken succession of popes had proceeded from Peter.

And in the second place, the New Testament was produced during the first century of the Christian era and had assumed its present form centuries before the Roman Catholic Church developed its distinctive characteristics. At that time the Eastern churches were dominant in Christian affairs, and the Church in Rome was relatively insignificant. Gregory I, called Gregory the Great, who was consecrated pope in 590 and died in 604, was in effect the founder of the papal system. He reorganized the church, revised the ritual, restored monastic discipline, attempted to enforce celibacy among the clergy, and extended the authority of the Roman Church into many countries adjacent to Italy. He more than anyone else gave the Roman Church its distinctive form and set the course that it was to follow in its later history.

Furthermore, long before the Council of Carthage the particular books now found in the New Testament, and only those, had come to be looked upon by the church at large as the inspired and infallible Word of God on the basis of their genuineness and authority. These particular writings, in distinction from all other books of that age, manifest within themselves this genuineness and authority as we read them; and the Council of Carthage did not so much choose the books that were to be accepted in the New Testament but rather placed its stamp of approval on the selection that by that time, under the providential control of the Holy Spirit, had come to be looked upon by the church as the New Testament canon. The Old Testament canon was completed and had assumed its present form long before the coming of Christ. The Roman Church, of course, had nothing whatever to do with that. [pp. 102-103]

Boettner recognizes that there were many Christian churches before the Roman Church came into existence. They did not have the name Baptist, Presbyterian, or Catholic attached to them.

He also recognizes that there were true-to-the-Bible churches all through the Dark Ages, churches which were not part of the Roman Church. It was these churches which were led of the Spirit to receive the Books and Words of Scripture.

There remained, however, some groups, small in numbers, usually in isolated places, and later primarily in the mountains of northern Italy, who maintained the Christian faith in reasonable purity. There were also individuals throughout the church in all ages, usually more or less independent of the church at large, who continued to hold quite correct ideas concerning the Christian faith. But the half paganized condition continued through the Middle Ages and on into the sixteenth century when the religious revival in the West, known as the Reformation shook the church to its foundation. [p. 11]

We have looked at several Scriptures which show that the genuine books and words of Scripture were received by the true believers and true churches of Jesus Christ, and that this was done as soon as the Scriptures were presented to those churches and believers. The canon was not made by any denomination or church council. We have found that some significant scholars have understood the work of the Holy Spirit, of true believers, and of the true churches in the formation of the canon. Wilber Pickering, Laird Harris, Archibald Alexander, S. R. L. Gaussen, B. B. Warfield, C. Hodge, Loraine Boettner, and John Calvin have been cited as some who have understood the work of the Holy Spirit, of the Apostles, of true believers, and of true churches in the formation of the canon of the New Testament.

The Holy Spirit has been active through out history in the preservation of the genuine words of God as written in Holy Scriptures. Both the words and the books are canonized, not by a denomination or council, but by God Himself. Most protestants do believe that the books of the Bible were canonized by the Holy Spirit working in the minds of believers, but to be consistent, they should also recognize that the words of the Bible were canonized on the same basis.