Pastor's Blog

I am the Teaching Pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN, married to Sarah, raising four children (Rachel, William, Lydia, & Kate), and seeking to honor God in all things. I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology from MTSU, and my Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies and Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament and Greek from...
I am the Teaching Pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN, married to Sarah, raising four children (Rachel, William, Lydia, & Kate), and seeking to honor God in all things. I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology from MTSU, and my Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies and Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament and Greek from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
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Radical

Few things will get you as strange a look among American Christians as the mention of the principles found in David Platt's book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, published by Multnomah.  This book, however, is timely in that the material prosperity of the American church has been no greater than today.  With such prosperity comes avalanches of temptations to "do Christianity" out of a man-centered, self-effort sort of way.  The biblical fact is that Jesus has called us to a life of sacrifice and suffering.

While there is nothing sinful about having earthly wealth as a Christian, I am convinced that it is sinful to do with our wealth what too many of us do.  When the statistics bear out that more than 26,000 children will die today of starvation or a preventable disease and that Christian Americans have the means of making a difference in the lives of many of these children, then we must reevaluate our spending habits, both as churches and individuals.  Reflecting on the American church's historical blind spot of slavery, Platt rightly contemplates:

"We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, 'How could they have treated fellow human beings that way?'  I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, 'How could they live in such big houses?  How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes?  How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn't have food and water?  How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn't even exist?' "(p.111)

Radical is a call to a simplified approach to possessions for the sake of helping others with the basic needs of life, including food, water, clothing, shelter, and (not the least of which), THE GOSPEL.  Platt makes the poignant statement, "Surely this is something we must uncover, for if our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to questions just how effective we will be in declaring the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth." (p.111)

One of the driving points of Radical is that Christian Americans need to understand that God has blessed them materially so that they can be a conduit of blessing to the nations.  While it is not sinful to live  in abundance (as is amply clear from Scripture), it is sinful to live stingily and callously toward the poor.  While caring for the poor must not be substituted for preaching the gospel, how can we preach to the poor without a deep compassion for their physical human condition and not just their souls?

I pray that God would continue to use the message of Radical to impact Christians around the world for the glory of God and His great gospel

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: In the Bond of Peace

The purpose of The Ephesians 4 Project: A Call for SBC Unity has been to remind Southern Baptists that we have a consensus document in the Baptist Faith & Message.  From the very beginning of this blog series, I have demonstrated from the BF & M 2000 that Southern Baptists are unified if we can conscientiously affirm this document.  The problem of late has been a certain element within Southern Baptist life that tends more toward a Fundamentalistic rather than a Baptistic understanding of Christianity.  While there is much about Fundamentalism with which I agree, the tendency of such proponents is more akin to lynch-mob Christianity than seeking “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Nevertheless, The Ephesians 4 Project has been a success in the sense that the BF & M was upheld as a unifying document of belief.  It has been my prayer that these articles have been received as words of humility, for I have worked hard to maintain such an attitude.  We can only pray that Southern Baptists will remain steadfast in maintaining the Spirit of unity for the sake of the gospel and Christ's Kingdom.  Even so, come Lord Jesus.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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What Is the Gospel?

I recently read a great little book titled What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert and published by Crossway.  In the same way he introduced his book, I introduce this book review with stating the obvious: You would think that answering the question, what is the gospel?,  would be easy for those professing to be Christians.  Gilbert noted, "It's like asking carpenters to sit around and ponder the question, What is a hammer?" (p.15). 

Therefore, Gilbert's book addresses a serious question for Christians to ponder, indeed the most serious of all questions.  If we get this one wrong, then it is a matter of eternal life or death.

In eight short chapters, Gilbert addresses the question, what is the gospel.  Chapter 1 begins by pointing inquirers to the Bible as our only sure hope of truth and authority.  The remaining chapters highlight what we find in the Bible that are inseparable pieces to the gospel puzzle.

Chapter 2 affirms God as the righteous Creator of man.  As such, God has Creator-rights over man and demands holiness from those who have been created in His image.

Chapter 3 affirms man's sinfulness by both nature and choice.  As such, man is completely unable to initiate any step toward God.  Rather, God must take the first step of spiritual birth referred to as regeneration in the Bible.  Gilbert noted, "The gospel of Jesus Christ is full of stumbling stones, and this is one of the largest.  To human hearts that stubbornly think of themselves as basically good and self-sufficient, this idea that human beings are fundamentally sinful and rebellious is not merely scandalous.  It is revolting." (p.51).

Chapter 4 affirms that Jesus Christ is the one and only Savior of mankind.  He is the long-awaited Messiah, fully God and fully man.  He lived the righteous life that man should have lived.  He died the horrendous death, enduring the wrath of God, that sinful man deserved.  He was raised from the dead victoriously as the first-fruit of resurrection.  He nows sits at the right hand of God the Father making intercession on behalf of His people.

Chapter 5 affirms the only appropriate response to the message of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection: faith and repentance.  Faith is relying on the truth of the gospel and the promise of eternal life to all who believe this truth.  Faith is relying on Jesus to secure a righteous verdict from God on our behalf.  Faith alone in Christ alone without any insulting human effort added is the simple message of the gospel.  Repentance is the flip-side of faith.  To believe in Christ is to turn from sin, and to turn from sin is to believe in Christ.  Repentance is not a life of sinless perfection, but it is characterized by a life of warring against sin, no longer living at peace with it.  As Gilbert stated, "We declare mortal war against it and dedicate ourselves to resisting it by God's power on every front in our lives."

Chapter 6 affirms that the gospel is really a command for all people to repent of sin and believe in the King who is building His kingdom.  The gospel is a call to live for the King now and to live with the King one day in His consummated heavenly Kingdom.

Chapter 7 affirms that the gospel must be cross-centered or it is no longer good news for anyone.  While the cross is offensive to many and a stumbling-block to others, it remains the only hope for those who are being saved.  By the foolishness of the cross, Christ put to death sin for all who believe on Him alone for eternal salvation.

Chapter 8 affirms the utter power of the gospel to save sinners to the uttermost.  From repentance and faith, to resting and rejoicing in Jesus, to loving fellow Christians, to loving lost sinners enough to call them to Christ, to longing to be with Jesus in heaven, the gospel has the power over us for God's glory.

And so I end with this plea to my fellow Christ-lovers: proclaim the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, for God's glory alone.  And to any unbeliever that may be reading this I plead with you: turn from your sin that is leading you to eternal destruction and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for your deliverance.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

A few months ago I read Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, which was written by John Piper and published by Broadman & Holman.  As to be expected, Piper has produced yet another God-glorifying text on a most important issue in the American church.  In the opening chapter, he highlights what the pastor ought to be and then questions how closely evangelicals are adhering to this biblical standard:

"I think God has exhibited us preachers as last of all in the world.  We are fools for Christ's sake, but professionals are wise.  We are weak, but professionals are strong.  Professionals are held in honor; we are in disrepute.  We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:9-13).  Or have we?"  (p.2).

The book contains thirty chapters, mostly short, in which Piper exhorts American pastors strengthen areas of pastoral minsitry that he believes have languished in recent years.  Because of the lengthiness of any attempt to addres every chapter, I am going to choose my favorite quotes from various portions of the book and simply quote them.  In doing this, I hope to unobscure Piper's own words and allow him to speak on his own behalf.

  1. Chapter 1: Brothers, God Loves His Glory--"Why is it important to be stunned by the God-centeredness of God?  Because many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered.  It is a subtle danger.  We may think that we are centering our lives on God, when we are really making Him a means to self-esteem.  Over against this danger I urge you to ponder the implications, brothers, that God loves His glory more than He loves us and that this is the foundation of His love for us. . . .  God's ultimate commitment is to Himself and not to us." (pp.6-7)

  2. Chapter 4: Brothers, Live and Preach Justification by Faith--"If you work for your justification, what you are doing is trying to put God in your debt.  And if you succeed in getting God to owe you something, then you can boast before men and God.  If you worked for justifcation and you succeeded, you would not get grace, but a wage.  God would owe it to you.  And when you got it, you would be able to say, 'I deserve this.'  And that, Paul says, is not what Abraham did." (p.25)

  3. Chapter 6: Brothers, Tell Them Not to Serve God--"What is God looking for in the world?  Assistants?  No.  The gospel is not a help-wanted ad.  It is a help-available ad.  God is not looking for people to work for Him but people who let Him work mightily in and through them." (p.40)

  4. Chapter 7: Brothers, Consider Christian Hedonism--"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." (p.45)

  5. Chapter 8: Brothers, Let Us Pray--"Oh, how we need to wake up to how much 'nothing' we spend our time doing.  Apart from prayer, all our scurrying about, all our talking, all our study amounts to 'nothing.'   For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer." (p.55)

  6. Chapter 12: Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker--"Where pastors can no longer articulate and defend doctrine by a reasonable and careful appeal to the original meaning of Biblical texts, they will tend to become close-minded traditionalists who clutch their inherited ideas, or open-ended pluralists who don't put much stock in doctrinal formulations.  In both cases the succeeding generations will be theologically impoverished and susceptible to error." (p.84)

  7. Chapter 16: Brothers, We Must Feel the Truth of Hell--"When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the gospel passes from good news to simply news." (p.116)

  8. Chapter 19: Brothers, Our Affliction Is for Their Comfort--"When Paul says to the Corinthians that his afflictions are for their comfort and salvation, he implies that there is a design and purpose in his sufferings.  But whose design?  Whose purpose?  He does not design and plan his own afflictions.  And Satan surely does not design them to comfort and save the church.  Therefore, Paul must mean that God designs and purposes his pastoral afflictions for the good of the church." (pp.139-140)

  9. Chapter 21:  Brothers, Don't Fight Flesh Tanks with Peashooter Regulations--"Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn't look like one.  Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.  Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.  Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.  Alcoholics don't feel welcome in the church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in the church." (p.155)

  10. Chapter 23: Brothers, Tell Them Copper Will Do--"The person who thinks the money he makes is meant to mainly to increase his comforts on earth is a fool, Jesus says.  Wise people know that all their money belongs to God and should be used to show that God, and not money, is their treasure, their comfort, their oy, and their security." (p.168)

  11. Chapter 28: Brothers, Focus on the Essence of Worship, Not the Form--"It will transform your pastoral leadership in worship if you teach your people that the basic attitude of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with your hands full to give to God but with your hands empty to receive from God.  And what you receive in worship is God, not entertainment." (pp.238-239)

  12. Chapter 29: Brothers, Love Your Wives--"Loving our wives is essential for our ministry.  It is ministry." (p.246)


For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XVIII

Article XVIII:  The Family
God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God's pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Unifying Principles of Article XVIII
It has been several weeks coming, but we have finally arrived at the last article of the Baptist Faith & Message.  After this article, I will post one final article that highlights some of the more notable points of unification and contention among Southern Baptists.

As for Article XVIII on The Family, Southern Baptists are in agreement on the importance of the family “as the foundational institution of human society,” as marriage between one man and one woman in a lifelong commitment, and the complimentarian view of the marriage relationship.  Further, Southern Baptists agree that “children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord."  My one concern, as with many other statements of belief in the BF & M, is that too few Southern Baptists are actually living out this doctrine of the family.  The alarming fact that most evangelical Christians are statistically identical to non-Christians in America when it comes to the family (especially regarding divorce) demonstrates that this is a genuine problem.  Despite this, Southern Baptists are united by this article of the BF & M.

Let me end this article on the last statement of the BF & M with my recurring claim throughout this series: EVERY CHURCH AND INDIVIDUAL THAT IS CONSCIEOUNTIOUSLY ABLE TO SIGN THE BAPTIST FAITH & MESSAGE EASILY FITS WITHIN THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project XVII

Article XVII:  Religious Liberty
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Unifying Principles of Article XVII
On this Independence Day holiday weekend, it is most appropriate that I post this particular article.  History is replete with examples of the blunders and abuses that occur when religion and the state become too cozy.  I think of the atrocities infamously known as the Crusades, Nazism, and various Islamic dictatorships.  This is why I am glad that the Baptist Faith & Message contains Article XVII on Religious Liberty.  Since God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but a Divine Independent, the church should be wary of promoting secular politics within its body.  The BF & M leaves no stone unturned on this issue but makes it abundantly clear that, “Church and state should be separate.”  Rather, the church should “render loyal obedience thereto [the state] in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God.”  Therefore, all Southern Baptists can agree that our churches are to be religiously free from and yet conditionally accountable to the state.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XVI

Article XVI:  Peace and War
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.
The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.

Unifying Principles of Article XVI
Few articles in the Baptist Faith & Message resound with unifying language like Article XVI.  This article unifies Southern Baptists in our joint effort to live at peace with all men and “do all in their power to put an end to war.”  As a part of Christ’s world-wide church, we have the grand responsibility of proclaiming peace and righteousness to the nations, and we must begin this task on our knees in prayer.  Surely this statement on Peace and War is sufficient for some Southern Baptists to put down their proverbial swords and take up the pruning hooks for bringing in the gospel harvest.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XV

Article XV: The Christian and the Social Order
All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

Unifying Principles of Article XV
The Baptist Faith & Message calls Southern Baptists to responsible Christian living in their particular subcultures of society.  We all agree that the “will of Christ” is to be supreme in our personal lives and that this should inevitably affect our society as the power of God’s regenerating work demonstrates the effectualness of the gospel.

According to this statement of faith, all Southern Baptists agree that some of the primary ways that the Christian should impact society are in the areas of: racism, greed, selfishness, vice, every form of sexual immorality, orphans, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, the sick, and abortion.  The key phrase in regard to how each of the items on this list should be approached is “in the spirit of Christ.”

While I do believe that Southern Baptists agree on this point, there is a handful of people in our denomination that are not practicing what they believe but seem determined to split-hairs over some of these things.  Even recently a pastor from Waco, GA, Peter Lumpkin, has been calling out Albert Mohler regarding Mohler’s past comments on homosexuality and homophobia.  The culmination came when this pastor formally addressed Mohler at the 2011 SBC.

For the record, Mohler is right.  The fact is, Southern Baptist have traditionally approached homosexuality in a homophobic way, much like they approached (and still do in many quarters) racism in a ethnophobic way.  Both of these phobic sins hinder proclamation of the gospel to these segments of our culture.  The comments made and the tactics used by some in our denomination appear to be only loosely attached to “the spirit of Christ,” yet Southern Baptists as a whole are unified in our understanding of The Christian and the Social Order.

In light of what has been said here, let us hear again the closing sentence of the BF &M with my emphases added: “In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.”  May it be so by God’s grace.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XIV

Article XIV:  Cooperation
Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

Unifying Principles of Article XIV
One of the reasons that I am proud to be a Southern Baptist is her history of Christian cooperation, not only within the SBC itself but also with “various Christian denominations.”  The Baptist Faith & Message gives a proper balance here around which all Southern Baptists can rally.

In recent days, however, it seems some Southern Baptists have become divisive over what really should be non-divisive issues such as the following, just to name a few: single, pastor/elder-led congregationalism versus plural, pastor/elder-led congregationalism; use of church discipline versus refusal to use church discipline; consumption of alcohol versus teetotalism in regard to alcohol; and Reformed soteriology versus Arminian soteriology (perhaps more of a fence-riding form of Arminianism since Southern Baptists affirm perseverance of the saints; see the BF &M, Article V).

These divisions are regrettable and lamentable when a world of lost people remains lost.  Let us, therefore, return to a deeper sense of cooperation as Southern Baptists and preach the gospel to all the nations.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Guest — Ben Simpson
Jeremy, I've read this article before, but given some of the debates I've been in on the blogosphere, this article is evermore rel... Read More
Monday, 13 June 2011 00:24
Guest — jeremyvanatta
You're right been. It is a sad day when Southern Baptists are not cooperative with other like-minded (not same-minded) believers ... Read More
Monday, 13 June 2011 01:10
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XIII

Article XIII: Stewardship

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth.

Unifying Principles of Article XIII
The Baptist Faith & Message’s statement on stewardship has no areas of disagreement among Southern Baptists according to my understanding.  Therefore, only a short response is required.  We all agree that God is the Giver of “all blessings, temporal and spiritual.”  We agree that “all that we have and are we owe to Him,” which is directly connected to our understanding of God as provident and gracious.  We all agree that we have been entrusted with the treasure of the gospel and with material possessions as well for “the glory of God and for helping others.”  While we may sometimes disagree how cooperative funds would best be used, we all agree that they would be used for the building of the kingdom of God through world missions and education.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Truth about Tragedy

(This is a manuscript of a sermon I've preached in the face of great tragedies)
We live in a world full of tragedy.  And sometimes it is difficult to know how we should react to the devastating things that go on all around us.  Perhaps we should ask ourselves the question, what’s our disaster response look like?  The list of possible responses could be quite long:  from “Why me?”; to “I don’t understand.”; to “They’re getting what they deserve!”  But are these biblical responses?  Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about devastation and disaster.

1. Tragedy strikes all people regardless of who they are (vv.1-2, 4)
A.  Tragedy can be deliberate as with Pilate’s rampage (vv.1-2). Over the course of human history, countless catastrophes committed by man could be recounted.  One of the more recent in memory is September 11.

B.  Tragedy can be natural as in the case of the Siloam tower (v.4).  Again, history is full of persistent natural disasters.  Today, we might could argue that such disasters pay the bills for the media.  A prime example of a tragic natural disaster is the recent Haitian earthquake.

C.  Tragedy can strike both the rich and the poor (vv.1-2,4).  In verses 1-2, we see devastation affecting both the Galileans who were the working class poor (vv.1-2) and the Judeans who were the upper class rich (v.4).  Hurricane Katrina is a convincing modern day example of a disaster that was no respecter of persons.

D.    Tragedy can always be traced back to the will of God.  God’s very nature proves this, His providence being the prime example.  We as Southern Baptist are in agreement on this as made plain in our unifying statement of faith.  In Article II of the Baptist Faith & Message, it says:

God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Not only does our Baptist statement of faith affirm this, but God’s very word declares that God’s will ultimately will be done, and what He did to Jesus is the prime example, for Isaiah 53:10 tells us:

Isaiah 53:10a—“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;”

The greatest tragedy ever to have occurred on the planet was at the same time the greatest act of God on behalf of sinners, all for His glory and our joy.  Therefore, we can say with confidence that God uses all things, even tragedy, to glorify Himself, and no tragedy is purely accidental or coincidental.  But not only does tragedy strike all people regardless of who they are, but . . .

2.  Tragedy leads believers to abandon all self-righteousness (vv.3, 5)
A.  Tragedy proves that no one is more righteous than another.  This is true for at least two reasons.  Man is incapable of producing his own righteousness.  Man is only capable of producing self-righteousness.  Now he may produce some things that are good from man’s perspective, but the Bible is clear that “none is righteous . . . no one does good” (Rom. 3:10, 12a).

Commenting on Harold Kushner’s book, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People,” someone asked one pastor what he thought the answer to that question was.  He said, “I haven’t met any good people yet, so I don’t know.”  We see this affirmed in the New Testament in Jesus' interactions with the Pharisees, and we can learn at least two things from their negative example:

1)  Self-righteousness is always hypocritical in some way (Matt.6:21-22).  For example, it is easy for most people to affirm that murder is wrong and say, “I’ve never murdered anyone.”  But what about anger?  Have you never been unrighteously angry at another person?  Jesus says,

Matthew 5:21-22—“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Again, it is easy to affirm that adultery is wrong and for many to say, “I’ve never committed adultery.”  But what about lust?

Matthew 5:27-28—"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

It would be even easier for most Southern Baptists to agree that homosexuality is wrong and that they have never committed such atrocious acts, but what about the disgraceful things that flash across our television or computer screens?

2)  If the Pharisees could not achieve righteousness, how can anyone? (Matt. 6:20).  And the answer, of course, is that we can’t.  We simply have no righteousness of our own that would make us acceptable to God.

B.  Tragedy reminds us of every person’s need of repentance.  Tragedy is not a time for anger, revenge, complaining, or bitterness.  You see, each of these is the opposite of repentance.  All tragedies, whether something that affects us personally or not, are God’s gracious reminder of our need of repentance.

III.  Conclusion
So we come back to our original question.  What is your typical response to tragedy and suffering in life?  Whatever it is, it tells a lot about the state of your soul.  Tragedy is no respecter of persons.  It strikes all people in all circumstances all over the world.  If you find yourself responding to life’s tragedies with anger, vengefulness, bitterness, cynicism, or despair, then you must ask yourself, “Do I really know God?”  For you see, tragedy leads believers to abandon all self-righteousness through the gift of God that is repentance.

So today, what’s your disaster response look like—worldly self-righteousness or humble repentance?  Instead of asking, “Why me?”, shouldn’t you ask “Why not me?”  Instead of saying, “I don’t understand.”, shouldn’t you say, “God knows.”  Rather, than screeching, “They’re getting what they deserve!”, shouldn’t you cry out, “Lord, unless I repent, I too will perish.  Be merciful to me a sinner, O Lord.”

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article XII

Article XII: Education
Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ's people.

In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.


Unifying Principles of Article XII
One of the distinguishing marks of being a Southern Baptist has been the emphasis placed on the necessity of Christian education.  The Baptist Faith and Message puts forth a clearly unified statement on the importance of education and its co-ordinated connection with “missions and general benevolence.”

Here I would like to offer to disclaimers for Southern Baptists.  One, we are right to emphasize Christian education in our churches, theological schools, and missions, but we must be sure that these educational pursuits are hinged with lots of accountability.  It’s easy to assume that people are being educated in the ways of the Lord when they’re not.  Two, we are right to ask churches for their “liberal support,” but not for the sole purpose of pouring multi-billion dollars into the building of elaborate American church/seminary facilities when simple facilities will do just fine and when Christians in foreign lands are in such great need of assistance.

Despite any disagreement with these disclaimers, Southern Baptists agree that Christian education is crucial for the edification of the church of God.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Education has been one of the ways Christianity has generally benefitted the world. Wherever the gospel has gone, education has g... Read More
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The Ephesians 4 Project: ArticleXI

Article XI.:  Evangelism and Missions
It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man's spirit by God's Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.


Unifying Principles of Article XI.
One of the reasons that I am most proud to be a part of the SBC is the fact that we are a “go and tell” denomination. The Baptist Faith & Message reminds us of this with its statement on evangelism and missions. I praise God that Southern Baptists are unified on this great “duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” No matter our varying theological stripes, we are united by our “love for others” as imparted by the Holy Spirit. While our methodologies may vary, the BF & M allows for this among Southern Baptists by stating that evangelism ought to be pursued “by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.”

Here we must make an especially heartfelt cry for unification. There are some in our denomination that accuse their fellow Southern Baptists who have a more Reformed understanding of salvation of not “believing in evangelism” or not being “passionate about evangelism” or even “refusing to evangelize.”  The fact remains, that as long as a Southern Baptists can conscientiously sign the BF & M, then they are affirming their commitment to our Lord’s command to preach the gospel to all the nations.

Therefore, we must refrain from spouting such slanderous accusations against our fellow brothers in Christ.  The reality is that all of us could use an extra unction of God’s Spirit for the purpose of personal evangelism and missions.  In the end, this accusation is nothing more than a straw man designed to tear down another for three main reasons: to promote one’s own theological understanding, to boast of one's own evangelistic pursuits, or to shift attention away from one’s own evangelistic negligence.  With any of these, pride is the culprit.  Let us humble ourselves before the LORD our God, think the best of our fellow believers in Christ, and link arm to arm in the preaching of the gospel!

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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I love how you characterize us as a "go and tell" denomination. Very good! Although we do sometimes get a little mixed up and do... Read More
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 10:48
Guest — jeremyvanatta
I agree that we've become more of a "come and tell" denomination in the past 50 years, but thank God "by and large [we] get out th... Read More
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 23:47
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article X

Article X.:  Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

Unifying Principles from Article X.
If there were no other doctrine in the Baptist Faith & Message to prove that Southern Baptists are doctrinally unified on the whole, the BF & M’s statement on the doctrine of eschatology would be sufficient.  There is no particular eschatological view being touted here, although the wording would be more akin to what a post-tribulation, historic premillennialist would say.

All Southern Baptists agree that God will bring an end to the world as we know it “in His own time and in His own way,” despite what false teachers like Harold Camping say.  All agree that Jesus will deliver His chosen bride from the wrath of God to come and perfect judgment will be meted out.  The “unrighteous will be consigned to Hell” and the “righteous . . . will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.”

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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I'm not sure about this unity thing when it comes to eschatology! Just kidding. Once again, the BF&M does a great job of leaving... Read More
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 10:27
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Ben, you've pinpointed the entire reason that I've pursued The Ephesians 4 Project. To lose our heads over most secondary, and fo... Read More
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 23:30
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article IX.

Article IX.: The Kingdom
The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God's will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.

Unifying Principles from Article IX.
Regarding the doctrine of God’s Kingdom, there is no major disagreement within the SBC.  All Southern Baptists agree that God is reigning sovereignly over the universe, including “His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King.”  The exact outworking of God’s sovereignty may be disputed, but we all agree that God is sovereign.  Further, all Southern Baptists agree that God’s Kingdom includes both the “realm of salvation” and the awaited “full consummation” of His Kingdom at which time God’s will “will be done on earth.”

Once again, the BF & M frees Southern Baptists from trivial doctrinal disagreements for the purpose of unification around the building of God’s kingdom through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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I'm glad to have a King and to be a part of the Kingdom!
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 10:00
Guest — jeremyvanatta
For sure!
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 23:26
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article VIII

Article VIII.:  The Lord’s Day
The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Unifying Principles from Article VIII.
The doctrine of the Lord’s Day can involve some disagreement among Southern Baptists.  Some would like the wording from the BF & M 1963 reinstated that includes phrases denoting activities to avoid on the Lord’s Day.  The former statement said that the Lord’s Day ought to be observed “by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, works of necessity and mercy only being excepted.”

Interestingly, Southern Baptists from a variety of theological understandings argue that the 1963 wording was best, while other Southern Baptists from those same varieties of theological understandings argue that the 2000 wording was a needed change. It appears, however, that the BF & M has maintained a delicate balance between the two more opposing views by catering to both.  Here is a great example in which a local church ought to draw up an additional statement of belief  that will be “commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

The unifying principle remains the same despite minor disagreement, which is Southern Baptists agree that the Lord’s Day ought to be observed regularly for the remembrance and worship of our great Savior, Jesus Christ.  Further, I would conclude that all Southern Baptists agree that Jesus is not only Lord of the Sabbath, but He is also Lord of the Lord’s Day.  If we can conscientiously sign the BF & M with its statement on the Lord’s Day, then we are welcome under the umbrella of the SBC.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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I think the BF&M 2000 got it right placing the activities of the Lord's Day under the authority of the Christian conscience. Sund... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 10:56
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Ben, I agree, despite my great respect for the Sabbatarian Puritans : ) Sola Fide, Jeremy
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 15:48
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article VII

Article VII: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Unifying Principles from Article VII
Again, the Baptist Faith & Message has established a unifying statement for Southern Baptists to embrace.  All Southern Baptist agree that baptism is the post-salvation immersion of a believer that is symbolic of the believer’s faith, death to sin, and his having been raised to walk in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.  If churches and individuals can conscientiously sign the BF & M, then they are saying that they agree with this doctrine.  They agree that baptism is scripturally administered post-salvation.  This is important for today because there are some in the SBC who have suggested that Southern Baptists who hold to a more Reformed understanding of soteriology are toying with paedo-baptism (baptism of babies). Regarding this issue, I would like to make three statements.

First, we must understand that a person’s consideration (study of the practice) of baby-baptism is far different than their believing it, teaching it, or actually performing it.  Second, we must understand that a person who is teaching baby-baptism and performing it is no longer signing the BF & M in good faith, and therefore should remove themselves from the SBC.  Third, we must understand that it is unlikely that someone who has adopted the practice of paedo-baptism would bother to remain in a denomination that is whole-heartedly committed to believer baptism. Therefore, it is unkind and slanderous to suggest that a Baptist who is adhering to a Reformed understanding of salvation is threatening the entire SBC with paedo-baptism.  The fact remains that one of the major defining marks of being a Baptist is post-conversion, believer baptism.

Regarding the Lord’s Supper, all Southern Baptists agree that this is a “symbolic act of obedience” for the purpose of remembering the death of Christ and encouraging us to await His second coming with joyful expectation.

Having reviewed Article VII, we can again declare that the BF & M is a unifying document for those that can conscientiously sign it.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Great remarks concerning those who use paedo-baptism as a tool to slander. Although a Baptist might agree with his Presbyterian b... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 10:06
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Ben, it seems that you’re having horticultural issues ; ) I have generally used “the fruit of the vine” mainly because of its use... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 15:41
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article VI

Article VI:  The Church
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Unifying Principles from Article VI
Historically, Baptist have been strong on their view of the local church, and the statement made in the Baptist Faith & Message confirms this for Southern Baptists.  The unifying principles abound from article VI.  We all agree that the church is founded upon the New Covenant in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We all agree that the church is an “autonomous local congregation of baptized believers.”  We all agree the membership in the church is “by covenant in faith and fellowship in the gospel.”  We all agree that there are only two ordinances (baptism and communion).  We all agree that the church is to be operated “under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.”  We all agree that the two “scriptural offices are pastors and deacons,” though we’ll need to address this one further.  And we all agree that the office of pastor is to be “limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

There are, however two areas in which we need to clarify the doctrine of the church.  In the area of local church autonomy, we must remember that this means that local churches “have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.” (BF &M, The Preamble).  Therefore, the SBC has a right to hold the local churches accountable on doctrine and practice only so far as the BF & M demands.  This means that local churches will be similar in many ways, but not uniform.  So, we must be careful not to confuse the denomination with the local church, which leads to a second area in need of clarification.

While we all agree that the scriptural offices of the church are pastors and deacons, we must give the local church some freedom to work out their understandings of Scripture.  Please note that the biblical terms of elder/overseer/pastor each refer to one office and that the term elder is used far more than the others in the New Testament.  I have chosen to use the more familiar words to Baptists of pastor and elder.  The following models must be given a hearing in the SBC because each one is firmly congregational, even though we may disagree on the biblical accuracy of one or more (this is not necessarily an exhaustive lists since a number of variations of these can play out in a local church):

  1. Pastor/Elder-ruled:  Some churches have chosen this model in which the pastor/elder is held accountable by the congregation, but he makes the majority of decisions on behalf of the church.

  2. Pastor/Elder-led:  Some churches have chosen this model in which the pastor makes some independent decisions but is held accountable by the congregation, which has ultimate decision-making responsibilities.

  3. Pastor & Deacon-led:  Some churches have chosen this model in which the pastor/elder is held accountable directly by the deacons, and both the pastor/elder and deacons make some independent decisions but are held accountable by the congregation, which has ultimate decision-making responsibilities.  This appears to be the dominant model in the SBC at this time.

  4. Pastors/Elders-led:  Some churches have chosen this model in which a plurality of pastors/elders make some independent decisions but are held accountable by the congregation, which has ultimate decision-making responsibilities.


Out of these three, it is my understanding of Scripture that only models 2 and 4 are biblically validated, but within the boundaries laid out by the BF & M, each of these is permissible at the local church level.  Notice that I have excluded the elder-ruled model because accountability to the congregation is lessened to such a degree that one would be hard-pressed to prove that it is Baptistic as opposed to Presbyterian.

Despite what some Southern Baptists are saying, each of these models maintains congregational-rule, and we pray each of them is ultimately Christ-ruled.  No matter the model of congregational church polity adopted, there is no reason that we cannot be unified as Southern Baptists.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Jeremy, concerning the leadership structure of the church, here is where we must weigh tradition with Scripture. It is clear that... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 10:44
Guest — jeremyvanatta
I believe Menikoff is right on target. Turning from Scripture to the culture for guidance on church polity will be a nightmare at... Read More
Thursday, 02 June 2011 09:44
Guest — Ben Simpson
Also, some are trying to equate elder-led with elder-ruled. Are they the same? If not, what are the differences?
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 10:47
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article V

Article V:  God’s Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Unifying Principles from Article V
The doctrine of election may be the most debated doctrine in the Baptist Faith & Message.  The debate usually revolves around one’s precise understanding of the doctrine, specifically whether one should view election as unconditional or conditional.  The purpose of The Ephesians 4 Project, however, is not to resolve this longstanding argument but to demonstrate that the Baptist Faith & Message’s statement on election is thorough enough for Southern Baptist’s holding to either unconditional or conditional election to agree to disagree, which in fact we have been doing for all of our existence as a denomination to one degree or another.

First, we need to define the terms unconditional and conditional election.  While there may be some Baptists that have found their way to a seemingly tenable “middle of the road” view of election, these two terms represent where the majority of Baptists have landed.  The following definitions themselves may not satisfy every sector of Southern Baptist life, but they are accurate enough for us to carry on an honest conversation in this article.

Unconditional election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but solely because of His sovereign good pleasure.  Conditional election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses people whom He foresees responding positively to God’s offer of salvation.  In a nutshell, proponents of conditional election assert that God’s election is conditioned by man’s faith, that is God makes His elective decision based on man’s decision.  Proponents of unconditional election assert that God’s election is unconditioned, that is nothing outside of God affects His elective decision but is simply God’s sovereign choice.

We can see immediately why this can be such a controversial issue, but we must fight the temptation to be lured into a divisive debate.  In order to avoid uncooperative attitudes among Southern Baptists, let’s focus on what unifies us from the BF & M’s wording:

  1. Election is based on God’s “gracious purpose.”

  2. Election produces regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification in believing sinners.

  3. Election in no way violates man’s free agency.

  4. Election in no way nullifies the means to the end of salvation such as evangelism, preaching, prayer.

  5. Election is all about “the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness."

  6. Election is “infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable,” and as such believers have no room for boasting.

  7. Election affirms the perseverance of the saints because God has accepted believers in Christ who are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.


As long as Southern Baptists agree that God is sovereign in salvation yet man has real opportunities to turn to God for salvation, let’s be unified and preach the gospel together.  The fact remains that the doctrine of election should be a cause of rejoicing in God’s grace rather than in any effort put forth by man.  Further, the fact remains that no matter one’s view of election, no one can or will be saved unless we proclaim the gospel to unbelievers (Rom. 10:14-17) and that anyone who genuinely wants to be saved can and will be saved by trusting Christ (Jn. 3: 14-16; Rom. 10:8-13).  May God unify the SBC around Article V of the BF & M.

 For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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As you well know, Jeremy, this topic is a hot-button issue in the SBC right now. One of the reasons is that many people confuse p... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 09:47
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Ben, I do agree with your differentiation of election and predestination, and I do agree that many people confuse predestination a... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 15:21
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The Ephesians 4 Project: Article IV

Article IV: Salvation
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A.  Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.”

B.  Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C.  Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.

D.  Glorificationis the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Unifying Principles from Article IV
Here is where some disagreement, or at least potential disagreement, can rise up among Southern Baptists, but controversy over the doctrine of salvation should not surprise us.  I am convinced that battling spiritual darkness (Eph. 6:12) is no greater than in the arena of soteriology because Satan knows that it’s the difference between eternal life and death.  The fact is that the Bible is replete with examples of God’s people contending for the faith.  From the showdown with Baal’s prophets on Mt. Carmel to Paul’s defense of the gospel against Jewish legalism in Galatia, salvation has always been controversial.  Despite this fact, I believe that Southern Baptists should be united by the biblical foundation that has been established through the unifying principles set forth in the Baptist Faith & Message.  While not exhaustive, the following are some of the more critical principles that unify us within the SBC.

The opening statement of Article IV on the doctrine of salvation is solidly orthodox.  As such, Southern Baptist should be unified here, and I believe that we are for the most part.  We agree that God redeems “the whole man” by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, “who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.”   This is well-balanced for Southern Baptists of various theological stripes.  It confirms that salvation is offered to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, while acknowledging that eternal redemption was paid only for believers.

Regarding sections A-D, each section demonstrates that Southern Baptists ought to be unified on salvation as a gracious gift of God.  The statement on regeneration can be affirmed by Baptists of varying theological stripes because it includes both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.  God sovereignly regenerates believers through “a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit” who convicts the sinner of sin.  The regenerated man responds to this work “in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Further, God sovereignly and graciously grants the regenerated man repentance and faith as “inseparable experiences of grace”

The statement on justification can be affirmed by Baptists of varying theological stripes because it roots justification in the grace of God that affects the “full acquittal” of every believer based on God's righteousness.  Thus, man has no righteousness of his own to add to the justifying act of God.  Further, the statements on sanctification and glorification can be affirmed by Baptists of varying theological stripes because each one affirms the doctrine of eternal security, or perseverance of the saints.

We may disagree on how the specifics of A-D work themselves out in God’s plan of salvation, but we agree that each of these understandings of Scripture is crucial for defending the true gospel.  Anything less than what the BF & M has stated regarding soteriology would relegate salvation to a work of man rather than the supreme work of God in human history.

For His Glory,
Jeremy Vanatta
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Jeremy, I'm suspecting that that first phrase is often skimmed over and taken for granted, but it's very important. It says, "Sal... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 09:10
Guest — jeremyvanatta
Amen Ben. I agree that it is easy to skim over that first section, and you're right that it is a crucial issue. I would argue th... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2011 14:50
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