Dec 12, 2015

Distress of Nations

Political Omens

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them with fear, and for looking after those things which are coming to pass on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luke 21:25, 26)

These are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God, towards the latter end of his life and ministry. He was on the Mount of Olives, itself significant in old testament prophecy, and his whole sermon show him fully in his character as "that Prophet."

It would be at the Mount of Olives that Christ would later assemble with his chosen disciples, after his resurrection, and would ascend into heaven in their sight, with the promise given by angels that Christ would return just as he has left. He left bodily and visibly and will return in like manner. This is the hope and expectation of every Christian. In the old testament it was said, in connection with the Mount of Olives and the coming of Messiah:

"Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." (Zechariah 14: 3-5)

If one interprets this prophecy literally, which seems to be the only way to interpret it, then this prophecy cannot be said to have been fulfilled at the time of Christ's ascension, for the topographical changes to the land of Israel did not then occur.  It is for this reason that many Christian expositors believe that the complete fulfillment of the primitive prophecy of Zechariah will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ, who will descend not only in the manner he ascended, but even descend to the very place he ascended.

Though some of the things that Christ foretold in the Olivet sermon have been and are being fulfilled, many yet await fulfillment at the time of Christ's second coming to earth to his glorious apocalypse. 

In the words of the text, Christ said that there would be "signs" in two geographical areas, one is in the heavens, in the place occupied by sun, moon, and stars, and the other "upon the earth."  It appears, from the text, that these signs occur together.  The signs that are taking place in the heavens, or above the earth, are taking place at the same time as the signs that are taking place upon the earth. 

The question to consider is what is it that is causing "distress" and giving "perplexity" to the nations towards the time of the end?  What is the reason for the great "fear" that will characterize the world community in the time of the end? 

It appears that the signs in the heavens occur first, and help to cause the nations of the world to be in distress, fear, and perplexity.  This is evident from the fact that it is specifically said that men's hearts will fail them for fear as a result of "looking after those things that are coming on the earth," things which result from the "power of the heaven" being shaken.  The shaking of the heavens, and the signs in the heavens among the sun, moon, and stars, begets the distress on earth.

Yet, it seems to me that we are seeing something of an initial fulfillment of this in the growing social, economic, and political problems that are increasing in severity to a degree never experienced in previous generations (at least since the flood).  We have all kinds of things that today worry the masses.  We have global terrorism, the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, of laser weapons and numerous advanced technologies that pose a threat to man's very existence.

People sense that something is coming.  They are building bomb shelters, storing food and weapons, etc.  Further, the things producing fear are not the result of irrational paranoia, because the things are very real indeed.

Men are realizing that they cannot save themselves, that they need a savior.  They put their faith in science but science is showing itself to be a sorry savior.  The world is destined to accept Antichrist rather than Christ.  God help us as Christians to witness to this distressed and perplexed world by pointing them to the one and only true savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, the king of kings, and to his promised return.

The Coming Babylonian Megalopolis

The future Babylon will be a major center of world culture, music, art, commerce, and trade according to Revelation chapter 18.  What is going on now in the land of Shinar, in the Euphrates river area, politically speaking, is all preparation for the rebuilding of Babylon.  Listen to the presidential candidates and what they are saying should be done with Iraq, with plans for its future, and you might see that we are nearer to the time of the Apocalypse than most realize.

Dec 6, 2015

Hardshell Evolution in Doctrine

In my many years of research into the history of that group that today calls itself "Primitive Baptists," I have discovered many things about the evolution in doctrine that occurred within this denomination. Today's Hardshells generally do not know that there has been any change in doctrine over the past 181 years since the Black Rock Address (1832). They unknowingly believe that what they believe today is exactly what the first Hardshells believed in the early 19th century.

When I was a young Hardshell preacher, and just beginning to be schooled by the veteran Hardshells about their history, I was told many things that I later found out to be false. This is also true concerning the numerous Hardshell histories that I had begun to read.

The first falsehood I was told was that the division among the Baptists that occurred in 1832, as a primary result of the "Black Rock Address," was because the Baptists at that time began to believe things that were new, things that Particular Baptists had not believed before, and that this forced those who supposedly adhered to the old views to declare non-fellowship with them, which created two groups, styled "Missionary" and "Primitive" Baptists.

Another falsehood that I was told is that all the Baptists were united in their beliefs, and that they all were anti missionary and all believed in Spirit alone or immediate regeneration or regeneration apart from faith via the Gospel.

Another falsehood that I was told was that missionary organizations, theological schools, and special religious education for the young, were all new things among the Old Baptists.

Another falsehood that I was told was that the division, or separation of the Hardshells from the general Baptist family, was doctrinal, over the issue of the means question (in regeneration) and over the extent of the atonement (over "Fullerism").

A few years ago I was shocked to find out that one of the more popular views among the first Hardshells of the early 19th century was the view that saw the new birth as being exactly like natural/physical birth, and that as physical birth has stages, so does spiritual birth. There is first the implantation of the seed, the origin of the child, then there was the time of growth in the womb, and then finally the birth of the child from the womb. This view I have learned is still the teaching of the old Regular Baptists and some Presbyterians, and was also the teaching of A.W. Pink. In chapter 52 under the title "Beebe-Trott Model" and chapter 57 under the title "The Original Paradigm" I documented how this view was an accepted view among many of the first generation Hardshells.

This view sees "regeneration" as corresponding to the implantation of the seed, the time in growth in the womb as corresponding to the time when a regenerated soul is under conviction of sin, yet in darkness, without Gospel hope, without conversion to Christ. Finally, there was the "birth," corresponding to the time when the soul is "delivered" from the womb of conviction and darkness and brought forth into the light of the Gospel, when the soul believes in Christ and is converted.

This view was promoted by elders Gilbert Beebe and Samuel Trott, mainly in only one of the four Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s, in the "Signs of the Times." A few writers in the other three Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s also promoted this view. Elder William Conrad of Kentucky held this view and he was a close associate of Elder Wilson Thompson who also seems to have held this view. Thompson was a close associate of Beebe and Trott and frequent writer to the Signs of the Times periodical. Further, in chapter 50 under the title "From Law to Grace?" I showed how this seemed to be the view of Thompson. This view of things was put forth well into the 1850s.

This view of regeneration and the new birth led some Hardshells of the 1830s to reason regeneration was immediate, apart from faith via the Gospel, while the new birth was mediate, through faith via the Gospel. Knowing this about the first Hardshells is important. Just because a writer of the 1830-1860 period may have affirmed that regeneration was immediate, does not mean that he denied that the new birth was likewise immediate, nor does it mean that he denied that one had to be converted as well as regenerated to be finally saved in heaven. In fact, as I have shown in my book "The Hardshell Baptist Cult," the oldest articles of faith of the Hardshell churches all say that they believe that all the elect will be "regenerated AND converted."

In the other periodicals, especially that of "The Primitive Baptist," however, this view does not appear to be generally promoted, the writers in this periodical generally making no distinction between regeneration and conversion, and affirming that regeneration was accomplished through the means of the Gospel. Elder John Watson, who helped put out and write for the "Old Baptist Banner" seemed to believe as did the writers in the "Primitive Baptist" periodical. Further, the writers in "The Christian Doctrinal Advocate and Spiritual Monitor" also seemed to identify conversion with regeneration.

These historical discoveries led me to do further research into exactly how and when the Hardshell denomination took on its present doctrinal stand, when it comepletely denied that regeneration or the new birth was accomplished by the Gospel, and denied that faith in Christ was necessary to be finally saved in heaven.

Around 1890 there was a watershed event dealing with this question of means in regeneration and the new birth. The Mt. Carmel Old School or Regular Baptist church (Luray, Virginia) divided over this question along with the issue of having bible classes and Sunday Schools. This division occurred at the time of Elder John Clark's death who lived in the area and who was editor (since its beginning in 1852 or 1854) of the Hardshell periodical "Zion's Advocate." He lived in Luray. He was a major leader among the Hardshells, and outspoken opponent of Beebe and Trott, who he opposed for holding to Sabellianism, Arianism, and to the eternal children doctrine of Daniel Parker, as well as some of their other errors.

Elder Clark's writings are generally not available on the Internet today as are the old issues of the Hardshell periodicals of the 1830s and 1840s. Hopefully they will be reviewed by me sometime in the future. However, it is clear to me that Elder Clark believed that regeneration was accomplished by the means of the Gospel. He was a frequent writer to the "Primitive Baptist" and never wrote to that periodical to disagree with their oft advocating the means view. Further, I have presented evidence that Elder Clark affirmed the Gospel means position in the very first issue of "Zion's Advocate." However, I have seen some Hardshell web pages where Clark is cited as supposedly affirming that means were not used in regeneration. Now, something is amiss here. Did Clark contradict himself? Or, did he believe in the three stage model of the new birth, as Beebe, Trott, Conrad, and Thompson, and therefore advocated that initital regeneration was apart from means, but that the birth, or complete regeneration, was by means? Or, as I suspect, the citations that these Hardshells give wherein Clark supposedly denied the use of means have the infamous Hardshell ellipsis, of which I have written about in a previous post (see here).  I therefore suspect that the omissions in these citations are intended to cover up the real views of Clark on this issue.

It must be remembered that Elder Burnam, who was advocating the means view, and who was one of the leaders involved in the split in the Mt. Carmel church, and one of the persons testifying in the Mt. Carmel church trial that happened many years later concerning this division, was an associate editor with Clark on "Zion's Advocate."  It seems unlikely that Clark would have him on his editorial staff if he disagreed with Burnam regarding means.  Further, Burnam testified in the trial that he had proof from writings in the Advocate that showed that Clark believed in means.  This was denied, however, by those on the other side, men like Elders Dalton and Waters.  Dalton became editor of the Advocate when Clark died. Further, Elder Clark was a close friend to elders Watson and Osbourn who clearly taught regeneration by the means of the Gospel.

In the trial Elder Burnam said:

"It was left to the last quarter of the 19th century to give birth among the Old Order of Baptists to the notion of regeneration without faith, or that it is not necessary that one should exercise repentance, faith, or any spiritual gift, in order to be saved, a heresy than which none more pernicious was ever put forth by any professing to be followers of Christ."

Is Burnam saying that the no means view of regeneration/new birth was not promoted at all prior to the last quarter of the 19th century? Surely this change in doctrine did not occur in a vacuum or instantly, but probably had its advocates prior to this time. I was anxious to find out, to discover the causes of this evolution in doctrine.

There is little doubt in my mind that it was in the time period mentioned by Burnam when the anti means faction became the majority view and this led to a formal division between those who still held to the old view, the means view, and those who grabbed hold of the new anti means view.

It is clear that it was the overwhelming majority view of the Hardshells up to the time period mentioned by Burnam that all the elect would be converted, via evangelical faith. It is true that some Hardshells prior to this time were advocating that initial regeneration was immediate, without means, but nevertheless held that conversion was necessary for final salvation and was accomphished by evangelical faith. I suspect that it was the teaching that initial regeneration was immediate that led later Hardshells to deny a distinction between regeneration and conversion and to believe that conversion was not necessary to be born again or finally saved.

It must be remembered that the debate over mission organizations, Sunday Schools, theological schools, tract organizations, protracted meetings, etc., all came down to the question of the condition of the heathen who have no knowledge of the Gospel. How can they be saved if they do not hear the Gospel? This question was a problem for the first generation of Hardshells to deal with as they tried to give a defense for their opposition to mission operations. At first, they did not generally argue that they could be saved whether they ever heard the Gospel, but simply attacked the methods being advocated to bring the Gospel to the heathen. But, after a period of time, their arguments wore thin, and it became apparent to many of them that they would have to come up with a better apology in their fight against missionary operations. This they later decided to do by denying that anyone had to have evangelical faith, or to hear the Gospel, to be regeneration, born again, or finally saved.

In middle Tennessee Dr. R.B.C. Howell put out a paper called "The Baptist" (which was later taken over by Dr. J.R. Graves and who later called it "The Tennessee Baptist"). In this periodical Howell fought against Daniel Parker and his followers, who were strong in his area, and against his neighbor, John Watson. (Note: Watson also battled against the Parkerite faction of the newly formed Hardshell denomination) In Howell's paper, in the 1830s, Howell mentions how the Parkerite Hardshells were responding to the case of the heathen, and of their need to take the Gospel to them. Howell says that they were saying that they would be saved because they were ignorant of the Gospel, and since they never heard it, it was not necessary for them to hear it. If one heard the Gospel, reasoned the Parkerites, then of course they would have to believe it to be finally saved. Howell argued that such reasoning amounts to the heathen being saved by their ignorance, would force one to believe in wholesale heathen salvation, and that it would be better not to preach the Gospel to them at all.

Thus, it seems that the first ones to assert salvation apart from hearing the Gospel were the small Parkerite faction. This is substantiated also by elders John Watson and Hosea Preslar. Watson indicates that this novel view began with some among the followers of Parker, and Preslar, in his book "Thoughts on Divine Providence," as I have cited before, and who moved to middle Tennessee from North Carolina, in the time in question, also intimates that the anti means view as a peculiar view of the Parkerites.

My Experience with Cults

Over the past several years I have had many thoughts about my Christian experience, which includes my years (1972-1985) spent as a "Primitive Baptist" aka "Hardshell." I often wonder how things would have turned out for me religiously had I never embraced Hardshellism, becoming a member of a cult.

God is not to be blamed for my joining a cult, or believing doctrinal errors, though he has used my experience in the Hardshell cult to further transform and sanctify me. He is good at bringing good out of evil. Nothing that has happened in my life is a surprise to God. Had God willed, my past life could have been much different. I can also say that had I willed, my past life could have been much different.

I have had other experiences with two other Baptist cults, that embracing Campbellism, and with a local Baptist cult that is Sabellian, among other heresies. I have born witness against the errors of these cults. I want to believe that my labors in the word and doctrine against the heresies of the cults will be blessed of God for the salvation of souls, as well as for my own.

I believe what is taught in the Reformed confessions about God and salvation. I am Baptist because I maintain a belief in believer's baptism, rejecting infant baptism. I am a Baptist because I maintain that baptism must be done by immersion in the name of the blessed Trinity. I am Particular Baptist, maintaining the confessional views expressed in the 1689 London confession and the 1742 Philadelphia Confession. By this standard I call myself an "Old" (or primitive) Baptist.

I have had people say to me - "why do you bother with these little fringe groups when there are other larger heretical groups that deserve attention?" I cannot answer that fully. I can only speculate. My time spent in the cults (Hardshell cult for over ten years, and a local cult for three years) has made me an expert on those points of doctrine in dispute, on the beliefs and practices of the cults. Why should I not be an apologist against the beliefs of these cults? If but a few are saved from these cults, it will be worth it all.

Being in a cult is not a healthy good thing for Christians. Being in a Bible believing church, one that is not a cult, is what Christians need in order to grow and be preserved. Believing the basics of Christian doctrine, and staying free of heresies and corrupt doctrine, is what ought to characterize the Christian life and struggle.

My experience has forced me into Christian apologetics and God has used my association with cults, I believe, as a means of bearing witness to the cultists, and of increasing my understanding and appreciation of the Scriptures.

Dec 2, 2015

Philadelphia Confession = Hardshellism?

In his debate with Dr. W. P. Thorgmorton on the question "Who Are The Primitive Baptists" (1887), Elder Lemuel Potter said (emphasis mine):

"He (Throgmorton) says we have not the Philadelphia confession of faith in any of our churches or associations. He says they have. It is not so much a matter of concern with me as to who have it, but as to who believe it and preach it. That is the question we are here to settle. We are here to identify each other by what we preach and teach; to identify ourselves with the Old Baptists on that subject. Remember, that although the Philadelphia confession of faith is still a “Hardshell” Baptist document some of the Missionary Baptist associations fight it. That is, the doctrine it contains. Not only a few of them, but take the country over, a majority of their ministers today preach the doctrine of Arminianism, the very thing that this London confession of faith denied when it was first gotten up."  (see here)

Is there any Hardshell apologist today who wants to come to a serious discussion as to whether today's "Primitive Baptists" believe and preach the doctrines of the Philadelphia Confession?  If it can be shown that today's Hardshells reject the teachings of that confession, though once accepted by their ancestors, does it not prove that they are not "original" as they claim?

Nov 19, 2015

Calvin on Gospel Invitations

Wrote Calvin (emphasis mine):

"Christ began His sermons thus, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel. First of all he declareth that the treasures of mercy are set open in Him. Secondly, He requireth acceptance. Lastly, confidence in God's promises. 'To what end,' some will ask, 'do exhortations tend?' Why are not men rather left to the conduct of the Holy Spirit? Why are they solicited by exhortations, since they can only comply with them so far as the Holy Spirit enables them? This briefly is our answer: The sinner cannot impute the hardness of his heart to any one besides himself, and oh man, who art thou that wouldst impose laws on God? If he choose to prepare us by means of exhortations to receive that very grace to obey those exhortations which are addressed to us, what hast thou to object to this conduct of the Lord, and what is there in it which thou canst justly condemn?"  ("CALVINISM AND HYPER-CALVINISM: Mr. J. E. Cracknell's Reply To Mr. Wale's LETTER ON "MINISTERIAL APPEALS TO THE UNCONVERTED."")  (see here)

John Owen on Gospel Invitations

John Owen was a Calvinist, but he was no Hyper Calvinist, as the following citations show.

Wrote Owen (emphasis mine):

"Wherever there is a declaration of the excellencies of Christ, in his person, grace, or offices, it should be accompanied with an invitation and exhortation unto sinners to come unto Him. This method Christ himself first made use of (Matthew xi. 27, 30. John vii. .37, 38,) and consecrated it unto our use also. Besides, it is necessary from the nature of the things themselves; for who can dwell on the consideration of the glory of Christ, being called therewith to the declaration of it, but his own mind will engage him to invite lost sinners unto a participation of him?"

In the following we have his method of dealing with the unconverted sinner:

"Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto Him. This is somewhat of the word which He now speaks unto you,—Why will yc die?—Why will ye perish?—Why will ye not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure or your hands be strong in the day of wrath that is approaching? It is but a little while before all your hopes, your reliefs, your presumptions, will forsake you and leave you eternally miserable! Look unto me and be ye saved. Come unto me and I will ease you of all your sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls. Come I entreat you, lay aside all procrastinations, all delays, put me off no longer, eternity lies at the door. Cast off all cursed self-deceiving reserves, do not so hate me, as that you will rather perish than accept of deliverance from me. These, and the like things doth the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead, and urge on the souls of sinners as it is fully declared (Prov. i, 20, 34). He doth it in the preaching of the word as if He were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you. And because this world does not suit His present state of glory, He hath appointed the ministers of the gospel to appear before you, and to deal with you in His stead, avowing as His own the invitations that are given you in His name (2 Corinthians, v. 19, 20)."  (Owen's Glory of Christ, page 535)

Mr. J. E. Cracknell's Reply To Mr. Wale's LETTER ON "MINISTERIAL APPEALS TO THE UNCONVERTED."")  (see here)

Oct 25, 2015

Tyrants of Faith

"Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand." (II Corinthians 1: 24 KJV)

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. " (I Peter 5: 2, 3 KJV)

It has been said - "God's people are like sheep, not cattle. They can only be "led," not "driven." Ideally, this is true, but, practically, it is often not so, at least with many professing Christians. Some, in respect to their "faith," are "driven with the wind and tossed." (James 1: 6 KJV) These have no firm "anchor," and so, like a ship without one, in rough seas, is "driven" and "tossed about."

"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (Ephesians 4: 14 KJV)

The community of believers has always had trouble with those who desire to be little "lords" among them, men like Diotrephes who "loved to have the preeminence among the brethren." (III John 1: 9) These want to be "lords" and autocratic rulers in the church.

"A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment." (Proverbs 28:16 NIV)

A "tyrant" is one who is despotic, harsh, cruel, unjust, oppressive, dictatorial, fascistic, totalitarian, brutal, domineering, lordly, autocratic, and bossy.

"This is the portion of a wicked man from God, And the inheritance which tyrants receive from the Almighty." (Job 27: 13 New American Standard Bible)

Tyrants will be judged by Lord God, be they political tyrants, or ecclesiastical tryants.

"Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, Or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?" Surely, thus says the LORD, "Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; For I will contend with the one who contends with you, And I will save your sons." (Isaiah 49: 24, 25 New American Standard Bible)

No one can be "lord" over the faith of the believer other than Christ. The above verses teach the right of each individual to come to his own conclusions about faith matters without coercion from others, even from the church. No group of believers has any right to lordship or tyranny over the consciences of individual Christians. Each believer is a priest to God and needs no earthly mediator. Beware of those who use tyrannical practices, such as do the "cults," to enslave your minds and consciences.

Father, help those whose minds are enslaved to cult dictators. Keep our own minds free of the tyranny of others.

(From my blog My Daily Bread)

Jun 7, 2015

Shocking Hermeneutics

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."  (Heb. 6: 4-6)

Who Are They?

1. Once for all enlightened
2. Tasters of the heavenly gift
3. Made partakers of the Holy Spirit

4. Tasters the good word of God
5. Tasters the powers of the world to come
6. Renewed unto repentance

According to some Calvinists, these descriptions are of unregenerate people.  That is shocking hermeneutics indeed!

"Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."  (Acts 26:17-18)

Who Are They?

1. Eyes closed
2. Turned to darkness and away from light
3. Turned to Satan and away from God
4. Unforgiven of sins
5. No inheritance among the sanctified

According to some Hyper Calvinists, such as the Hardshell Baptists, these descriptions are of regenerated people!  That is also shocking hermeneutics indeed!

Jun 3, 2015

Hardshells & Expository Preaching II

The Following are some of the leading questions to be addressed in the remainder of this series.


1. Is verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible the only way to do expositional preaching and teaching?

2. Should this "verse by verse" model be the only method used by preachers?

3. What method did Christ and the first new testament preachers use?

4. What method have the great pastors and evangelists primarily used in the past?

5. Are there more than three methods?

6. Is the expository method of preaching, as Bradley has defined it, a way for Hardshells to have seminaries and Sunday Schools?  When one sits Sunday after Sunday and hears lecturing and commentating, is he not sitting in a kind of Bible class? 

7. Is the expository method best for the main Sunday services?

8. Is the main purpose of Sunday morning services to simply impart scripture knowledge?

9. Is it the best kind of preaching to build up a church?

10. Are most preachers able to do "expository preaching" as Bradley defines it?

8. Will this method force Hardshells to deal with difficult passages that they would normally ignore?

9. Will it force them to do honest exegesis?

10. What are the negatives of expositional preaching?

11. Do we need a better definition?

12. Can one do expositional preaching using textual, topical, and other methods?

What is "Expositional Preaching"?

Is verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible the only way to do "expositional" preaching and teaching?  In "A Caution for Expository Preaching", well known author Iain Murray wrote (emphasis mine):

"In a number of circles today “expository preaching” is in vogue, and it is being urged on preachers as the way to preach. If this means that the preacher’s one business is to confine himself to the text of Scripture, and to make the sense plain to others, there is nothing more to discuss; who can disagree save those who do not know that the Bible is the word of God."

Murray is attacking the view of some of the so-call expository preachers, like Bradley, who think that those who do not go verse by verse through a book of the Bible are not doing "expository preaching."  And, as I showed, such a definition leads Bradley to condemn all the preaching of the great Baptists of the past as being inferior, and to condemn most of his own preaching for some fifty years as also been inferior.  Did Bradley not do expositional preaching when he gave textual and topical sermons during that time?  Did he not "confine himself to the text of Scripture" (which is the true definition of "expositional preaching")?  Did Spurgeon?

Murray also wrote:

"But “expository preaching” has often come to mean something more. The phrase is popularly used to describe preaching which consecutively takes a congregation through a passage, or book of Scripture, week by week. This procedure is compared with the method of preaching on individual texts that may have no direct connection with each other from one Sunday to the next. The latter is discouraged in favour of the “expository” method."

This is what Murray, others, and I are fighting.  It is not expository preaching but the definition that some are giving to "expository preaching."  It is the view that topical and textual preaching are not expository.  It is the new definition which limits expository preaching to those who go verse by verse through a book of the Bible.

To show how others, like Bradley, are defining "expository preaching" in this way, I will cite the definitions of others.

In "Topical, Textual or Expository Sermons – What is the best method?" by D. Goodmanson (Sep 12, 2006 - see here) the writer says:

"An expository sermon is following a book of the Bible, passage-by-passage to allow the text to determine the point." 

He says further:

"Most conservative churches would argue that expository preaching is the only way to preach.  Reformed churches stress lectio continua (preaching through whole books of the Bible in course).   Timothy Keller summarizes the sentiment as he writes why conservative churches feel non-expository preaching is theologically inferior; "1) First, other forms of preaching are considered 'man-pleasing' because we are choosing texts we prefer rather than preaching through the 'whole counsel of God' as God provides it in the Bible.  2) Second, other forms of preaching are more open to abuse since your thesis is not being controlled directly by the text.  3) Thirdly, other forms of preaching do not show as much honor to the text of Scripture.  The expositor focuses on the Biblical passage itself in a way that the others do not."

Thus it is clear what is at stake in this debate over just what constitutes "expository preaching." Such a definition limits "expository preaching" to those who go through a book of the Bible verse by verse, in a lectio continua way. By this definition, Spurgeon did not do expository preaching when he preached on individual texts, nor any other great preacher.  Spurgeon was man-pleasing when he gave textual and topical sermons.  His preaching was theologically inferior.  He did not by this method preach the whole counsel of God.  He did not focus on Biblical passages by his textual and topical preaching.

In "Four Kinds of Expository Preaching" (March 01, 2006 - see here) Ed Stetzer wrote:

"There are many different kinds of expositional preaching. The four most common are: verse-by-verse, thematic, narrative, and topical."

He says:

"Verse-by-verse preaching is the systematic reading and explanation of a biblical text. In involves a unified book of Scripture and its piece-by-piece analysis."

He says:

"Thematic preaching is an excellent form for preaching Bible doctrine. The speaker can focus on everyday topics by expounding a specific biblical text. The pastor can focus on Bible sayings on any relevant subject by a careful study and exposition of relevant biblical passages. Thematic expository preaching generally appears in a sermon series over several weeks and introduces many Scriptures focused on the same theme. Thematic messages may include as many as 10 or 12 Scripture passages in each sermon. Since the Bible tends to provide teachings on themes dispersed through different books, this form of preaching is a good way to preach the "whole counsel of God." This method also introduces new believers or unschooled unbelievers to general themes and patterns that appear throughout the Bible."

He says: 

"Narrative preaching presents the biblical text in the form of story and follows that story to completion. A narrative sermon functions as a lengthy illustration that uses a biblical text as its beginning and end.

When using this form, the speaker shares a story from the gospel such as that found in the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4). In telling the story, the preacher asks the listener to join in the narrative."

"Narrative preaching will grow more popular in the coming years. This is good news as long as the narratives remain consistent with biblical texts. Jesus demonstrated the value of narrative preaching by his use of parables."

Concerning topical expository preaching he says:

"Of the four forms of exposition, I recommend this form the least. Its weakness grows out of the limits of time and the speaker's inability to include enough biblical text about the topic in one sermon. Although I discourage this form, it is helpful at times.

Topical exposition generally revolves around one passage, centering on one theme. It is topical because it is usually a single message on a single subject. It is expository because it uses the biblical text as its source.

Most preachers use this form on special occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Easter, but topical preaching does not provide adequate time to address the whole counsel of God as other methods do. Topical preaching limits opportunities for presenting proper understandings of the context as opposed to verse-by-verse preaching. In addition, the topical approach does not offer the opportunity to use the graphic and powerful images of narrative preaching. The church planter will probably use topical exposition, but it should be used sparingly.

(Ed Stetzer is vice president of LifeWay Insights for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is visiting professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, visiting research professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at 15 other colleges and seminaries. He also serves on the Church Services Team at the International Mission Board. He coauthored Transformational Church with Thom Rainer.)
Stetzer is correct in showing that verse by verse preaching is not the only way to do "expository preaching."

Murray wrote:

"Why has this view of “expository preaching” become comparatively popular? There are several reasons. First, it is believed that the practice will raise the standard of preaching. By a consecutive treatment of a book of Scripture, it is said, the preacher is taken away from any hobby-horses, and congregations are more likely to be given a broader, more intelligent grasp of all Scripture. The preacher is also delivered from a constant search for texts—he and the people know what is before them."

Is the verse by verse method of expository preaching a safe way to get Scripture perverters to stop twisting Scripture?  To come to see their errors and heresies?  Will this method force Bradley and the Hardshells to deal with passages they have historically ignored and failed to properly exegete?  Will it force the Hardshells from off their theological hobby-horses?  As Spurgeon would say, "I trow not." 

Murray wrote:

"The argument that the “expository” method is the best means to cover most of the Bible is too largely connected with the idea that the foremost purpose of preaching is to convey as much as possible of the Bible. But that idea needs to be challenged. Preaching needs to be much more than an agency of instruction. It needs to strike, awaken, and arouse men and women so that they themselves become bright Christians and daily students of Scripture. If the preacher conceives his work primarily in terms of giving instruction, rather than of giving stimulus, the sermon, in most hands, very easily becomes a sort of weekly an end in itself. But true preaching needs to ignite an ongoing process."

"In our view, however, it is time that the disadvantages of this view of preaching are at least considered."

When Murray speaks of the disadvantages to "expository preaching," he is speaking of it as it is narrowly defined by men like Bradley.  There is no disadvantage to doing expository preaching when it is properly defined, which then would include topical and textual types of sermons.

In "Seven Qualities of Expository Preaching" By Wayne McDill (see here), the author writes:

"Among evangelicals, the term expository preaching has come to stand for authentic biblical preaching. However, exactly what constitutes expository preaching varies from writer to writer and preacher to preacher.

I have talked with preachers who described themselves as “expositors,” and I believed them until I heard them preach. For many, exposition seems to mean taking a text and preaching on the subject the passage seems to address. For others exposition means defining some of the words in the text. For others expository preaching seems to mean giving a history lesson on a text with most of the sermon in the past tense."

Again, what is being opposed by Murray, and by me in this series, is the way "expository preaching" is defined, which excludes any preaching that is not part of a series in which a book of the Bible is being examined verse by verse and line by line.

In "What is expository preaching?" a writer says:

"Expository preaching is typically defined in terms of the length of the Bible passage used. Andrew Blackwood's definition: "Expository preaching means that the light for any sermon comes mainly from a Bible passage longer than two or three consecutive verses."1 The passage is often a Bible paragraph or chapter, sometimes an entire book. The most valid definition, however, would deal less with the length of the passage treated and more with the manner of treatment.

Our definition of expository preaching in its strictest, most narrow sense: Expository preaching is preaching based on a significant Bible passage so that the sermon's principal lessons originate in Scripture and are applied to a present human need. In its broad est sense, expository preaching is simply biblical preaching."

This is why I like Stetzer's outline concerning types of expository preaching.

In "What expository preaching isn't" another author wrote:

"It isn't springboarding. Our perpetual temptation is to use the Bible as a springboard from which to jump into a discussion of our own thoughts. The Scripture is adjusted to fit our thinking, rather than our thinking adjusted to fit the Scripture. We use the Bible as a sermon resource, but it is not the sermon's real source.

It isn't lecturing, if lecturing means including everything in the passage in detail. It isn't a verse-by-verse commentary on an entire passage, nor is it a word study. It isn't giving a lot of facts with no more unifying purpose than a page from the dictionary. Rather, it must focus on one principal proposition found in the passage and either omit or pass lightly over every thing else.

It isn't just teaching. Expository preaching emphatically includes teaching, but it is teaching not for the sake of knowledge alone but for the sake of using that knowledge to move the listener's will to do the will of God."

These words are worthy of consideration in this discussion.  The same author wrote:

"We can define expository preaching in its broadest sense as genuinely Bible-based preaching; textual, biographical, or topical sermons, if truly biblical, could be considered variations of expository preaching. The topical approach, although fraught with the obvious danger of lifting texts out of context, is almost essential to doctrinal preaching. To learn the whole truth on any subject, the whole Bible needs to be studied. If topical preaching is belittled, doctrinal preaching will likely be neglected."  (see here)

Well, amen to that!

May 25, 2015

Hardshells Adopting "Expository Preaching"

Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church, pastored by Lasserre Bradley Jr., has a web page ( and one of the links leads one to the question and answer section.  These answers were given by reps of the church under the heading "Questions and Answers With Our Pastors."  One of the questions was "What is expository preaching and why do you do it?"  Elder Bradley gave the audio reply.

Bradley first defines "expository preaching" as

"...selecting a book of the Bible and going through it verse by verse to draw from the text the message that is there."

He says that some of the advantages of "expository preaching" is that it forces people to face difficult texts, "texts which they can't ignore."

To his credit he did say that it is justifiable to preach on topics or short texts sometimes, saying "there are relevant issues that are needed at a particular point.  For example, we have done a series on money."

Types of Sermons

In this discussion it is taken for granted that sermons have been categorized into textual, expository, and topical.  (For instance see Broadus in his "Preparation and delivery of sermons")  All do not agree on the definition of these categories, but Bradley's definition of "expository preaching" is defective, as I shall show.

It is also to be noted that not everyone defines these categories exactly alike nor that sermons cannot be a mixture of the above categories.

Perhaps a definition of "sermon" might also require some attention.

Problem #1 - The Definition

According to brother Bradley's definition, we have to conclude the following:

1.  Only those who go through a book of the Bible verse by verse, fully explaining its meaning (doing exegesis), are doing "expository preaching."  Thus,

2.  Those who are not doing "expository preaching" by this definition are not doing the best kind of preaching.  Thus,

3.  All the Hardshells of the past, and 99% of the present, are not preaching in the most profitable way.

4.  Elder Bradley himself has spent most of his years as a textual or topical preacher and so confesses that he did not do his best preaching then.

5. Elder Bradley is also affirming that his preaching style, recently adopted, is superior to not only the preaching style of his forefathers, and of his own former preaching, but that of Spurgeon, whom he admires.

Of course, people like Spurgeon, who take texts, either short or long, do "exposition."  But, Bradley's definition implies that only those who go verse by verse, Sunday by Sunday, through a chosen book of the Bible, do "expository" preaching.

In this posting I will look at the negatives of this style of preaching and recommend how the three types of sermons can be utilized.  But, before doing this, I would like to ask - "why is this method being adopted by Bradley and some others of his ilk?" 

A Remedy?

It is an old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Obviously Bradley and other Hardshells think something is defective in traditional and historical Hardshell preaching (as well as in the preaching style of other textual preachers as Spurgeon).  They know that they are dying as a denomination.  Each year 100 churches go out of existence for every one that comes into existence.  Most of the churches that remain today only have a handful and these are mostly old people.  But, Bradley's church seems to be working hard to stay alive.  Over recent years they have added Bible classes, schools, programs for the young, missionary work, etc.  And, it seems, that it has helped to keep them from death.  Now it seems that the Cincinnati church wants to adopt the Reformed Baptist trappings, which includes their insistence on what they call "expository preaching."  One wonders, however, whether this latter experiment will yield the results intended and hoped for.  Has it, or will it, increase the growth of the church?  As we shall see, in part two of this mini series, the track record of those who promote "expository preaching" is not good.