Skip to comments.The Doctrines of Regeneration and Conversion by Michael Bunker
Posted on 08/26/2006 1:17:19 AM PDT by alpha-8-25-02
***Since I wrote this almost a year ago, I have concluded that there are far fewer true Christians than I first thought, and far more 'ecclesiastical athiests' (or counterfeit 'christians') than I ever imagined. Truly, few there are that are truly saved***
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7)
March 15, 2004 This is primarily going to be a discussion on Regeneration, but in discussing that critical doctrine, it is necessary that we also discuss the difference between Regeneration and Conversion, and the many horrible errors and confusions that are being perpetuated from the pulpits of modern apostate christianity today on the topic.
Paul teaches that all men (without exception) were once children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3); fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and that there was nothing to make us differ from the heathen and the reprobate (1 Cor. 4:7). If a man replies, Well, my election as a sheep made me different from the goats from before my birth, I would ask him to reconcile that belief with the plain statements of scripture that tell us that every man MUST BE BORN AGAIN in order to see the Kingdom. I would say to that man that his election had no effect on him at all prior to his regeneration, and that it was a reality that existed in the mind of his Creator, but did him no earthly good at all.
We can find some important facts about our former condition in Ephesians the 2nd Chapter:
1. We were dead in trespasses and sins and in need of quickening (2:1). Quickening means to be made alive or brought to life.
2. We were uncircumcised (2:11), which means, our hearts were inclined away from God. We were heathen and unclean creatures.
3. We were without hope (2:12), which means had we not been quickened, we could not believe, repent or have faith. We were totally unable to do anything to help ourselves.
4. We were at enmity with God (2:15,17), which means we were NOT seeking God, but were at warfare with Him. We were not looking for peace with God; rather, we were complete and active enemies of God.
5. We had no access to God (2:18) at all, rather, we lacked the necessary requirement to seek or pursue God, that being the Spirit of God which is necessary for us to approach, look towards, or seek the Father.
6. We were strangers and foreigners (2:19), which is used to mean the OPPOSITE of fellowcitizens with the saints.
I have to make a point here, and we will prove and emphasize our point as we go along:
NOWHERE IN THE BIBLE ARE WE ENCOURAGED TO SEEK AFTER, OR TO WORK TOWARDS REGENERATION!
How could we? We were without strength (Romans 5:6). Romans 3:11 says, There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. Just as you did not seek your first generation when you were conceived and born of a woman, you could not seek or work towards your regeneration or being born-again of the Spirit of God. Listen to how John says it, Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. These are the things which were NOT involved in your regeneration:
1. Your blood (who your father is or what tribe you are from).
2. Your desire to seek God (no decision for Christ, or seeking God)
3. Your will (Only Gods will is the cause of regeneration).
It is that simple Did you choose to be born? Then you did not choose to be re-born. Jesus inexorably ties regeneration with generation:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8).
The false, so-called Christianity of today says, I was seeking God, and He saved me, but the Bible says that NO MAN sought Him. The Bible says that they could not even SEE the Kingdom!
Regeneration is a sovereign act of a Sovereign God, without any work of preparation at all in the life or heart of the one regenerated. Regeneration is also called Quickening and being Born-Again in the Bible. Regeneration is an invisible, internal act worked upon the recipient, whereby he is made alive (where he was once dead); his heart is circumcised; his stony heart is removed and replaced with a heart of flesh, and he is enabled to seek the Kingdom of God. No man is drawn to the One True God at all, unless He is given a new heart first. The old, corrupt heart may indeed seek after a christ; it may indeed be religious. It may seek after religious piety and earthly goodness. Religious men may call themselves Christians and pat their own backs and thank themselves for being wise enough to use their free will to get saved. But the truly regenerate man can give no glory to any but Christ, for Christ said, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). Arminians hate the words of Christ, especially when He says, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).
Regeneration is NOT conversion. You were not converted when you were regenerated. Regeneration is a one time act of God upon His elect children. While all men exist in a state of rebellion and open warfare against God, God (while we are yet enemies; while we yet war against Him) Sovereignly and by Grace alone makes some of these dead men a LIVING SPIRIT. This action is by Gods free and special Grace alone, not from anything foreseen in man, not because of any character or value in the one made alive, not because God foresaw that the man would eventually believe and come to Him, but because God will ENABLE his elect to believe and to repent and to come unto Him. Do you know that the Bible says that this is the exact same (and no less) than that power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead?
Do you see now how Arminianism and Free Will doctrines debase and slander God? Dont you see how Free Will salvation attempts to rob God of His glory? Paul prayed:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:17-20).
Just as Lazarus had no power to seek resurrection, and nothing but a dead and rotting corpse with which to call out to Christ; the Spirit of God must enable that which is dead to see Christ and to come to Him.
The new birth is of God, and God alone.
There are two gospels abroad in the world today. The Free Will gospel exalts man and debases Gods salvation. It seeks God out of the flesh, and refuses Him his due. The Sovereign Grace Gospel (the only True Gospel), seeks God aright, and bestows upon God all the credit and the glory for the new birth. I did seek God. But I did not seek Him while I was dead. I sought Him after He quickened my spirit, and enlightened mine eyes, and drew me inexorably to Himself. Not of the will of man, but of God. Thats what your Bible says.
False Religion Mixes and dangerously Confuses Regeneration and Conversion
The religious, so-called christian world has so horribly mangled the differences between regeneration and conversion that when people hear the truth about the Sovereignty of God and His election and predestination of the Saints, they immediately default to either:
a) Trying to prove responsibility (which we never deny, but in fact emphasize), or,
b) Trying to figure out when they were saved. Was it when they said a prayer? Was it when they walked up to the priest (or pastor) and made a decision? When exactly was I saved? Well get to that
It is critical to your spiritual health and well-being as a Christian that you understand the differences. Your spiritual growth will skyrocket and the eyes of your enlightenment will fly open when you first humble yourself and give God not part, not half, not some but ALL of the Glory for making you spiritually alive, before you even sought Him.
Lets look at some of the differences
Whereas I am locked out of any participation in my regeneration, I am throughout the scripture commanded and enjoined to be converted. Regeneration is necessary and must precede conversion, but conversion is something with which I definitely have something to do. I am regenerated once for ever, according to the scriptures; but I am converted continuously and in different areas of my life, according to my regenerated will to have all of my life come under the government and Kingdom of God.
Jesus locked most of humanity out of the ability to be converted:
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them (Mark 4:10-12).
Do you see what Jesus is saying here? He spoke in parables and hid things from the goats so that they would not be converted and show that their sins were forgiven them! Jesus is telling the disciples plainly that unless they are regenerated, they cannot see Him, believe on Him, understand Him nor can they be converted! John says the same thing in his Gospel:
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them (John 12:40).
Regeneration is Gods Sovereign work bestowed upon His elect; it is the actual giving of ZOE (eternal spirit life) to men; it is a one time, invisible act of God, and it is totally perfect, complete, and irrevocable for ever.
Conversion is mans response to the work of God, it is co-operational and conditional on obedience. It requires true spiritual fellowship with God, and the honest and sincere desire to be brought under Gods government and Kingdom. There is outward evidence of conversion called FRUIT; conversion is always partial (on this earth) and continual, and can be seen in different parts of our lives at different times. Conversion is the entering into the Kingdom of God.
This may hurt just a bit I know many Christians who I truly believe are regenerated, born-again, eternally saved Saints of the Most High God; but I know very few converted Christians. Very few. Too many of Gods children are afraid of the Kingdom and in love with the world. Too many of Gods children are still listening to the world and the worlds increasingly ecumenical religious cult; and they are afraid of losing friends, loved ones, and personal peace and affluence in this world. Why would Christ bid you come unless He bid you come and die? What is it that you love so much that you refuse to be converted? The religious world bastardizes and confuses these words, because they are truly afraid of converted Christians.
Conversion is the response of a regenerated heart to a Sovereign God. Conversion is heeding and obeying the commandments of God.
Conversion shows that we love God.
Conversion is work.
Conversion is fleeing from one country and taking refuge in another.
Conversion is totally submitting our mind, will, and emotions to the government of God.
Now I want to talk for a minute about the confusion about the when of salvation. When was I saved? is a question people ask and, Lord willing, I will get to the answer in just a minute. But it frustrates me that so many people are so confused as to the basic Biblical teachings concerning this issue
So many people are flooding the world (primarily third world countries) in their misplaced zeal for missionary evangelism that they never stop to consider what Gospel they themselves have believed, and what Gospel they are spewing on the world. Jesus Christ Himself rebuked the Pharisees about this:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Matt. 23:15).
The false Free Will gospel has many adherents and many missionaries, most of whom will never question themselves or even stop to think that they are creating children that are TWICE the children of hell than they themselves are. Think about that. Most of these missionaries (just like many of you) are suffering from I Disease. I hear from these people every day, I just want to put God first in my life, they say; then listen to them: I was saved when I saw that my life was going bad and I decided to go to church, or, I decided to go to a revival, and I saw that I was a sinner, and I needed to be saved, so I said the sinners prayer and I went forward to confess this to my priest (pastor), and then I got saved, and now I want to live MY life for God. All that and they want to put GOD first in their life? How man Is did it take to get to God? Youve got I Disease out there, and it is communicable, and people are spreading it all over the world. Jesus looks at it totally differently:
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:65).
Do you understand the importance of Jesus saying that NO MAN can come unto Him unless it is given unto him to come; and that ALL THOSE who the Father gives Him will come unto Him? Do you understand that these simple truths lock the Pharisees of that time and in the present from ever entering into the Kingdom? Where is your I Disease now?
Modern religionists want to take part in (and take credit for) regeneration, which they had nothing to do with, but they reject the continuing work of conversion and obedience in which they are specifically ordered to engage!
I get e-mails every day that honestly ask me, How do I know if I am elect? Now that is an honest question. But first we must agree that not only CAN you know, but the Bible exhorts you to make sure and to do not stop until you do know:
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:10).
If a man is hired to move a cord of wood, and he asks how do I move it? we must first agree that he CAN and that he MUST move it. It is his obligation. Peter says that if you will spend the time and effort to make your calling and election sure FIRST, that you will then have a way opened unto you into the Kingdom. Remember, the entering into the Kingdom of God is about your conversion. Make your calling and election sure, and you will then see your duty clearly. You will see the commandments of separation, of holiness, of obedience more clearly. Now the world sends out missionaries who dont even believe that there EXISTS a divine calling and election! What kind of proselytes do you think these people make? If you do not even understand the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace, why, you should be concerned with evangelizing yourself first. You should focus on making your calling and election sure. I know I am the elect when my doctrine is pure and undefiled, when Gods sovereignty in election and reprobation is the centerpiece of my belief system, when Gods providence is my worldview. I know that I am the elect when the TRUE Fruit of the Spirit is evident in my life and ministry (not the false and lying fruit taught in religious whorehouses today). I know that I am the elect when I daily seek to enter into the Kingdom; when I take the Kingdom by violence; when radical obedience without regard to consequence is my method. Most people say that they want the Kingdom, but they love the kingdoms of this world too much to take the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lets talk about when you were saved. The religious One-World Cult has made this term saved into a costume that you can put on and take off at will. But the Bible is a little more clear about it.
1. God saved me eternally in His perfect, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent mind, before the foundations of the world were laid, when The Father (who exists out of time) promised a particular bride, a particular church, a particular people, to His Son. God purposed from all eternity to save me, and I was specifically on His mind, when I was engraved into the hands of Jesus, and written into the Lambs Book of Life.
2. God saved me legally by the completed work of Jesus Christ almost 2000 years ago when He fulfilled the law perfectly and served as a propitiation for my sins PARTICULARY, and when He served as my representative in completing the law on my behalf PARTICULARLY, and when He ascended to the right hand of the throne in Heaven and sat down next to the Father because His work was done.
3. God saved me particularly when I was regenerated by the Spirit of God in time. This happened NOT while I was seeking God or trying to please Him, but when I was dead in trespasses and sins, and bearing the weapons of my warfare against Him. Christ CAUSED me to be regenerated, gave me a heart of flesh and gave me the gifts of belief, repentance, and faith to seek Him aright.
4. God saves me continuously from peril and hardship, from temporal punishments and curses, from desperation and anguish, from the loss of peace and the loss of temporal safety, from all those things that are not according to His will concerning me when I seek Him and follow after Him as His disciple.
5. God will save me gloriously, according to His promise, when one day very soon I die and am eternally resurrected and taken to be with Him where He is; or when He returns to this world to save the remnant of those who are left alive and remain when He bodily returns. On that day I will be saved from the body of this death and from the sting of death, and I will be securely ushered into the presence of our gracious heavenly Lord and Savior, in whom I live and move and have my being.
Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. The modernist invention of so-called christianity today is the false gospel heresy of free-will Pelagianism. It has been cooked up and re-hashed by the Romanist Anti-christ church, and it has been widely trumpeted and spread by the false prophets and lying Pharisees of the last days religious order.
If you are a child of God, regeneration is the work of God that is behind you; conversion is the work set before your eyes tonight. Would you have life? Then you must be born-again it is the mysterious and Sovereign work of God and it is glorious to behold; but would you have life more abundantly? (John 10:10), then repent and be converted!
Whereas you are nowhere in all of scripture commanded to be regenerated, you are commanded throughout scripture to repent and be converted (Acts 3:19). Who will be converted? Only the regenerated can obey and follow the commands of God. God keeps regeneration solely under His complete command and control, but He has invited you to be converted.
Make no mistake, regeneration is a work done secretly inside the elect of God, but conversion only takes place outside the camp, where our Lord and Savior was mocked and scourged, put to an open shame, and made a spectacle to the world. Will you be converted? Then you must leave the City of Destruction and become a pilgrim and a stranger on your way to the Celestial City. Will you be converted? They you will turn your back to the false religious systems of the world, and you will seek first the Kingdom of God. Will you be converted? Then you will suffer all things for His sake; you will reject what is popular and emotional, for what is unpopular and painful. Will you be converted? Then you will embrace the stake, and the whip, and the rod; you will embrace the chains and isolation; you will embrace fires and lions; and you will hurry towards that which your flesh abhors. Will you be converted? There is no other way to enter the Kingdom than to shun the filthy and profane modern harlots, and all their daughters, and all their whorehouses, and to set your nose like a flint towards the Kingdom of Heaven.
I pray that many of you will be converted to Christ tonight.
I remain your servant in Christ Jesus,
*** Since I wrote this article, I have studied long and hard about this subject of salvation. After reading the Works of Thomas Shepard (especially The Sincere Convert), I have concluded that there are many, many "false salvations", that bear false fruit and feign good doctrine.
1. There are those that put on the form of religion through a light profession of faith, and they doubt not that God and Christ exist, and that they will one day give an account; but they live on with the false belief that God is "all mercy and no justice, all honey and no sting" - not realizing their perilous state, until they die and are sent from the presence of God into eternal damnation.
2. There are those who are made aware of their wicked estate, and their sins bear down upon them, and they seek religion to be saved from their sure place in hell; but they love this world so much, that they cannot put it down, so they seek the "bottom line", or what is the minimum duty I must meet to be saved. They speak well, and act well, but cannot and will not leave the world or fall upon Christ alone. They will have the world AND Christ, but never Christ alone.
3. There are those who truly reform themselves, correct themselves - seek right action above all things, even to the point of separating from the world and all unrighteousness. They wish to read the right books, hear the right sermons and desire to be directed from the paths of evil. They live their lives (as seen by others) as Christians and above board; but they never came to know their sin, and to hate it, and to recognize the reality of their state and to groan under the weight of it. They flee to a cardboard cutout of Jesus, which they build out of external duties that they hope will please him and satiate His wrath.
You may be regenerated, and struggle and suffer in your conversion; but if you are not regenerated, you will never truly be converted to Christ. You may go through many forms and styles of religion, but you will never be a true Christian if you are not reborn of the Spirit first. Many there are who will approach the throne of God only seconds after their deaths, and will be told away from me ye cursed. Those who know their state, and desire to flee from the wrath that is to come, and who find beauty and bottomless mercy in the love of Christ, will seek to work those works that are commanded of them as a sign to themselves that they are His. You will not save yourselves with your works, but you will surely damn yourself without them. You may flee to Christ only to be sent away from His presence, but if you do not flee to Him, you will certainly perish without Him.
Something to ponder.
Yes, you are right. I forgot about Samuel. And it is true that even godly parents can have children with more of a propensity for doing rotten things than others. My guess is, that since some have been ultra-blessed in this department, they WILL, without a doubt, be tested more than others. That's where one cannot just sit back on their laurels and think God will rescue them and their children, without so much as lifting a finger. Everyone will be tested to the point which it can be dealt with. More blessings=More testing because there's more resources to solve problems. But, in the end, we're all just people who have problems to solve, and each person must be responsible for solving their own problems. Not government or some other such thing, as many are led to believe.
BTW, I also think Jeremiah(the weeping prophet) is a good example of a father/son relationship. He remained loyal to God, the father, to the point of just being a, bearer of bad news, simply because the people would not listen at all...
Exactly right. And if we presuppose that on earth there is a correct and Scriptural church of God, given by God, then it behooves us to find that church and strengthen it as best we can.
Calvin realized that a Biblical, judicial structure of the church was vital to preserving God's word. Checks and balances. The diagonal appeal to a board of elders.
The alternative is the sort of spiritual anarchy
Exactly. While a Presbyterian system does not ensure 100% faithfulness, it is the best system possible (and appears to be Biblically-mandated.) Just like our republican form of government is not perfect, it still remains the optimum system yet devised. No central, controlling authority but the word of God. And no independent doctrine without peer review and approval in light of Scripture.
LOL. I see myself as a cinched but barefoot Puritan. 8~)
The dismantlement of ecclesiastic accountability is all part of the modernist's push to further deconstruct Christianity and the authority of God's word.
"The dismantlement of ecclesiastic accountability is all part of the modernist's push to further deconstruct Christianity and the authority of God's word."
I don't think anyone is calling for this. The question is the validity of para church ministries, like Ligonier Ministries, Key Life, Vision America or seminaries or campus ministries like Inter Varsity, Campus Crusade or Navigators or mission societies like AIM or Overseas Missionary Fellowship or Wycliff, that are not under the direct authority of a church.
"The Rev. Dr. Michael S. Horton is Professor of Apologetics and Theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is also the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine and the main host of The White Horse Inn radio broadcast. He received his M.A. from Westminter Seminary California, his Ph.D. from Wycliff Hall, Oxford and the University of Coventry, and also completed a Research Fellowship at Yale University Divinity School.
Dr. Horton is the author/editor of more than fifteen books, including, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship, The Law of Perfect Freedom, Made In America, Where In The World Is The Church, We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostle's Creed, Covenant & Eschatology, and many others.
Dr. Horton is a minister in the United Reformed Churches of North America. He has served two churches in southern California, and currently resides with his wife and four children in Escondido, California. [From the White Horse Inn web site]
And while you correctly say that Ligonier is an independent ministry, RC Sproul is under the authority of Saint Andrews Chapel. If he preaches heresy at Ligonier, I'm sure he will be held accountable by the Session at St Andrews. (Esp since many of his CDs and radio programs are recordings of his Sunday School classes and sermons at St Andrews.)
Westminster Seminary is an independent non profit corporation not under the authority of any church.
One more nit to pick: It is interesting to refer to a seminary as an "independent non profit corporation." While I can't find a specific denominational affiliation, it is important to know that among Reformed Denominations, young men don't just "go to seminary." They are under the care of their sponsoring church. A sponsoring church will not send a budding teaching elder to a heretical seminary. The accountability is there because if you teach heresy, no students. No students, no money. No money, shut the doors and turn off the lights. The accountability is clearly there.
It is not my purpose to defend every parachurch group, whether Reformed or otherwise.
However, let me try to make a distinction and see if this helps. You may not agree, but I think it is a worthwhile exercise.
Let me start with Westminster Seminary. Westminster Seminary does not ordain officers in the church. It does not evangelize or send out missionaries. It merely performs a (partial) training function. If you are familiar with Reformed/Presbyterian polity, the authority to ordain teaching elders/pastors rests with the presbytery or classis in each denomination. Thus, the elders in the church are ultimately responsible for who is ordained or licensed to preach the gospel and who is not. The local presbytery performs the checks and balance over the product of Westminster Seminary.
Organizations like Key Life and Ligonier do not, in general, go into a town where there are existing Christian churches and hold evangelistic crusades. Neither do they deputize pastors, evangelists and missionaries. In other words they do not preach the gospel as that term has been traditionally understood. Their primary purpose is to make materials available for the church to use as it carries out the work of the Great Commission. They do not undertake to do the work themselves. The same is true to to a certain degree with Gary DeMar's work.
By telling them that the only time they can hear the Gospel is on Sunday between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 12:00 P.M.
Since no one is saying that, it is a red herring. No Reformed church that I'm aware of views its activities as being limited to certain hours of the week. That's more a fundamentalist view of the church than Reformed.
Both of these commands were given to individuals not the institutional church since it was not in existence when they were given. That is theology not pragmatism.
So tell me, how does one reign in rogue "preachers" with bad theology in this individualistic model?
Although Horton and Sproul are ordained by various churches, they are ministering in independent para church ministries that are accountable, not to the churches, but to independent Boards of Directors; Horton to the seminary he teaches at and his own independent apologetic ministry and Sproul to Ligonier. Now they may be preaching/teaching in a church at the same time, but their independent ministries are not subject to church discipline. They can go on without church sanction. Churches can withdraw their ordination and the teaching ministries can still go on.
Seminaries are in the same situation. They may be connected to a denomination or system of theology but they are accountable to independent Boards of Directors, not any particular church. From my experience, students attend seminaries on their own, not because a particular church sends them. The church might recommend a seminary that is close to them theologically, but ultimately it is the student who decides and pays for the education.
As a subscriber to Ligonier's ministry I would agree with the first part of your statement but disagree with the second part. Ligonier does far more than make material available for churches publishing a monthly devotional, a CD, and financing their ministry through their radio broadcast and other means. In fact, RC Sproul is establishing a new bookstore to make Reformed material available but not through Ligonier.
I think B-D has some valid points and (while albeit important) you are making too much out of church government. There are many ways churches of all groups are getting the message out besides the "established" church. I would add that some of the greatest Protestant heretics arose through the established Presbyterian government-and the Presbyterians didn't do much about it. That being said, I think today one has to really discern the word more than ever. There is just too much noise. Good sound teaching is very hard to come by.
That's not to say church government isn't important; just that you have to keep the perspective. If it was so important the PCA would never be in a position of breaking away from the PCUSA.
Your argument sounds pretty good, but I'll like to point out that when Jesus gave the command there were no organized Churches. Though you could argue though that Jesus gave the command to disciples that would become leaders of a Greater Church that is far greater then Churches with walls and physically locations and physical congregations. Never the less Para-Church organizations would under this thinking would more fit in line with the definition of churches with walls, locations, and congregations.
Church officers in Reformed denominations can be deposed from office. This is a form of church censure. Teachers who are ordained in these denominations do not take such process lightly, nor do the folks in the pew who also happen to support the ministries. It's unlikely that a minister who is deposed, say, for legitimate theological reasons could continue to prosper in that "independent" ministry.
From my experience, students attend seminaries on their own, not because a particular church sends them.
Are you familiar with the way Reformed denominations generally operate wrt seminary and their students? For example, sticking with Westminster Seminary, each applicant must submit a church reference form to be filled out by the leadership which states (in part) "The Admissions Office takes very seriously the evaluation that you will give below. Our primary concern is to admit those who are deemed by their spiritual mentors to be called by God to ministry." Generally seminary students must be "under care" by their respective church body, usually a presbytery or classis. I believe this is the rule in most Reformed seminaries.
The church might recommend a seminary that is close to them theologically, but ultimately it is the student who decides and pays for the education.
Having been a member for many years of my presbytery's theological examination committee, I can tell you that students who do not attend "approved" seminaries have a very hard time making it through the process. The content of the courses they take is carefully inspected, and their examinations tend to be much longer and more intense. A student from the PCA would be advised of the task should they attempt to go off to some unapproved seminary and then try to come back into the PCA as a teaching elder.
Of course it does happen. We get students all the time who attend Dallas Seminary or Fuller Seminary who later "see the light" on Reformed and covenant theology and then wish to come into the PCA. We may give them a hard time, but if they can demonstrate a suitable level of competence in theological matters they can get in.
All of which clearly points to accountability.
I believe BD is limiting such to the direct hiring/firing and control of the financial purse strings. Ours is more deliberative and inferred.
I think we are getting off subject. The question is are the gifts of evangelist, preaching/teaching (Eph. 4:8-13) given by the Holy Spirit as an office to the institutional church or are they given to individuals (like the charisma in 1 Cor. 12:4)?
In other words can an individual have these gifts and operate as an itinerant teacher, evangelist or church planter or are the gifts given by the church "with the laying on of hands (ordination)" and removed by the church as it wills? We are not speaking now of over sight or accountability but the actual gifts themselves, (individual or institutional?).
Why do you wish to divorce the two? What compels you to do that other than a fondness for certain independent "preachers"?
Clearly the gifts are spoken of in terms of the church, the visible church that is. The letters where these ideas are developed by the apostle were written to real, "institutional" (I prefer the term "visible") churches. They were not written to individuals. In fact they were written to churches who had identifiable leaders responsible for oversight within the body. And the body by its leaders was to exercise control and authority over all the gifts.
So back to my question, why the need to distinguish "individual" from "institutional"?
Oh, like that never happens around here! ;-)
I think there should be accountability within the broader context of the church. I think it provides credibility and a safety net to insure sound doctrine is preached.
I think both. (How's that for being diplomatic?)
There is biblical evidence of both the individual operating as an itinerant teacher and with the authority resting with the formal church. Apollos and Paul both started their ministries without the formal approval of the church. People had to take Apollos aside and correct his doctrine but he was teachable even in enjoying a thriving ministry. They certainly didnt have to do that with Paul. Timothy and Titus, OTOH, were bought up in a more formal setting being properly instructed.
Topcat is correct that a very formal, structured approach is the best approach. Otherwise you have 10,000 Apollos running around creating all sorts of confusion. There are areas for doctrinal disputes to be sure but look at all the doctrinal confusion on this board. I dont know a great deal but there are certainly traditional doctrines that Ive always thought ALL Christians believed. Im shocked to see people denying the atonement, claiming clear verses are mysteries, and believing God favors just about anyone who says they love God. Many Christians simply tossed traditional doctrine out the window simply to suit their fancy. Im just beginning to understand that people really need to have a structured, methodical approach in being brought up in the faith.
To be perfectly blunt, b-d, I never really felt like I grew in any bible study by the Navigators, Campus Crusade, or any other similar group. Usually you go through a 20 page book with maybe a hundred scriptures to think about, and, POOF, you now can witness to others. Just memorize the word using the handy memorization pack, which you can purchase at a reasonable price, and start sharing the Four Spiritual Laws at the mall. If youre fortunate to have someone pray with you (if not, whats wrong with you), then you go through a 20 page book with them. Hit the big topics (prayer, witnessing, tithing, memorizing) and youve got it (oops, go to church too). Ive only learned late in life this isnt what its all about.
Apollos was teachable and this is a sign of a true Christian; being able to discern truth. He knew what they were stating was true. God can and does rise up individuals to do His will. But if He does, that person isnt going to be spouting things like God wants to make you rich. and (at the risk of sounding judgmental) true Christians should recognize it.
A question arises here: Were the evangelists always Apostles or church officials directly commissioned for such work? That is, did God require a succession under formal church authority? Or were the evangelists merely identified as anointed, thus going about Gods business on His terms, with the corresponding blessing of their fellows? I do not pretend to answer the question authoritatively. This is an honest difference between Presbyterians and historic Reformed Congregationalists, such as the American Pilgrims and later their neighbors the Puritans. Acts 6:8 declares, And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Did he receive this power from the church, or did the church merely recognize Stephens gifts when they called him to the deaconate? We know that Stephens great power to witness of Christ became manifest after his ordination as deacon. Then there is Philip. After Philip evangelized Samaria, the church sent Peter and John to them (Acts 8:14). Nothing in the text indicates the church specifically sent Philip, but rather, Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them (Acts 8:5). The language seems to indicate personal volition.
Authority to Establish a Work of God by Ronald Kirk