reMARK’s on the Church

Reading Mark Dever’s section on the church in A Theology for the Church, I came across a couple stimulating quotations.  One about the already-but-not yet marks of a true church by Donald Bloesch, another from Robert Reymond about the mark of true church being found in its connection with the apostle message, and finally one from Mark Dever himself that displays the power of the Word to form and reform the church.  Consider them with me: 

One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic: Already and Not Yet

The church is already one, but it must become more visibly one…in faith and practice.  The church is alread holy in its sources and foundation, but it must stirve to produce fruits of holiness in its sojourn in the world.  The church is already catholic [i.e. universal], but it must seek a fuller measure of catholicity by assimilating the valid protests against church abuse…into its own life.  The church is already apostolic, but it must become more consciously apostolic by allowing the gospel to reform and sometime even overturn its time-honored rites and interpretations” (Donald Bloesch, The Church [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002], 103; quoted by Mark Dever, “The Church” in Theology for the Church, edited by D. Akin [Nashville: B & H Academic, 2007], 778).

The Continuity of the Church: Dependent on the Ink of the Word and not on the Trail of Blood

“Just as the true seed of Abraham are those who walk in the faith of Abraham, irrespective of lineal descent, so also the apostolic church is one which walks in the faith of the apostles, irrespective of ‘unbroken succession'” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 844; quoted by Mark Dever, “The Church,” 778).

This has implications for Catholic theology and for those Baptists who depend upon the trail of blood for the legitimacy of their church.  Mark Dever continues the thought, focusing on the presence of the Word as the demarcation of a true church.

The physical continuity of a line of pastor-elders back to Christ’s apostles is insignificant compared to the continuity between the teaching in churches today and the teaching of the apostles…God’s people in Scripture are created by God’s revelation of himself (cf. Gen. 1:30; 3:7; 3:15; 12:1-3; Ex. 3:4; Ex. 20; Ezek. 37)…The right preaching of the Word of God that creates the church is not only the Word from God; it is the Word about God [i.e. the Gospel of Jesus Christ]… When God’s people hear about God and what he requires, they will respond (Dever, “The Church,” 778, 780).

May our churches be built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ and the steady foundation of the apostles and prophets teaching (cf. Eph. 2:20).

How Do You Comfort a Family Whose Lost an Infant? Spurgeon on Infant Salvation

This week I am taking a class called Pastoral Ministry.  Its breadth of topics range from SBC life, to ministerial resumes, to the slow and but necessary process of cleaning up church roles. In the variety of topics, the issue of infant death came up, and the question was ask in earnest, “How do you comfort a grieving family in such a loss?”

Dr. Douglas Walker, the professor and one of Southern’s Senior VP’s, cited three passages of Scripture to answer the question: 2 Samuel 12, concerning David’s certainty that he would see his son again; Jeremiah 1, where it is said that YHWH consecrated Jeremiah while in the womb; and Luke 1, where John the Baptist it is recorded lept in the womb when the Holy Spirit filled him in the presence of the Lord, in utero.  His conclusion base on Scriptural inference and Spiritually renewed thinking was that pastors can and must assure grieving parents that their little children are with Jesus.  (For more on the subject, see Albert Mohler’s article.)

After considering these texts, the grace of God in salvation, and the sovereign righteousness of God to do right, Dr. Walker also cited a passage from C.H. Spurgeon concerning the gladdening thought that among the heavenly redeemed, there will be far more sheep than goats.  That in heaven and for all eternity, the saved will outnumber the lost.  And his rationale is that all those dead in infancy will be raised to new life in Christ.

The quotation comes from a sermon Spurgeon delivered on the subject, “Infant Salvation,” on September 29th, 1861 in the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Below I have included the pertinent section of his sermon. Consider his powerful argument and the overwhelming sense of victory that the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ, will one day share with all who have believed in him.  On the cross, Jesus defeated sin, dethroned Satan, and setup the demise of death.  At the end of the age, death itself will be terminated for those in Christ, including all the infants whose lives were tragically ended in this age.  Hears Spurgeon’s inspiring words and rejoice with them.

Once again one of the strongest inferential arguments [for infant salvation] is to be found in the fact that Scripture positively states that the number of saved souls at the last will be very great. In the Revelation we read of a number that no man can number. The Psalmist speaks of them as numerous as dew drops from the womb of the morning. Many passages give to Abraham, as the father of the faithful, a seed as many as the stars of heaven, or as the sand on the sea shore. Christ is to see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; surely it is not a little that will satisfy him. The virtue of the precious redemption involves a great host who were redeemed. All Scripture seems to tenon that heaven will not be a narrow world, that its population will not be like a handful gleaned out of a vintage, but that Christ shall be glorified by ten thousand times ten thousand, whom he hath redeemed with his blood. Now where are they to come from? How small a part of the map could be called Christian! Look at it. Out of that part which could be called Christian, how small a portion of them would bear the name of believer! How few could be said to have even a nominal attachment to the Church of Christ? Out of this, how many are hypocrites, and know not the truth! I do not see it possible, unless indeed the millennium age should soon come, and then far exceed a thousand years, I do not see how it is possible that so vast a number should enter heaven, unless it be on the supposition that infant souls constitute the great majority. It is a sweet belief to my own mind that there will be more saved than lost, for in all things Christ is to have the pre-eminence, and why not in this? It was the thought of a great divine that perhaps at the last the number of the lost would not bear a greater proportion to the number of the saved, than do the number of criminals in gaols to those who are abroad in a properly-conducted state. I hope it may be found to be so. At any rate, it is not my business to be asking, “Lord, are there few that shall be saved?” The gate is strait, but the Lord knows how to bring thousands through it without making it any wider, and we ought not to seek to shut any out by seeking to make it narrower. Oh! I do know that Christ will have the victory, and that as he is followed by streaming hosts, the black prince of hell will never be able to count so many followers in his dreary train as Christ in his resplendent triumph. And if so we must have the children saved; yea, brethren, if not so, we must have them, because we feel anyhow they must be numbered with the blessed, and dwell with Christ hereafter.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss