A Puritan Father and Son on the Proper Treatment of Wives

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Many are familiar with Matthew Henry’s (1662–1714) commentary on Genesis 2:21. Henry, whose exposition of the entire Bible is still in print today, found it instructive that God formed woman from the side of man.

That the woman was made out of the side of Adam, not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.

Although this is oft-quoted, what is lesser known is that the original source for this exposition was from Henry’s father, Phillip (1631–1696), a Puritan preacher himself. As a twenty-year-old, the younger Henry had written out his father’s exposition of the text. It was discovered and published in 1829 as An Exposition with Practical Observations, upon the First Eleven Chapters of the Book of Genesis. From the words of Phillip you can ascertain the development of Matthew’s understanding on how a husband should treat his wife.

Adam lost a rib, but he got a better thing out of it, even a help meet for him. Thus God uses [is accustomed] to deal with his children: they lose sometimes some of their creature-comforts; but then perhaps they get more of the Creator’s comforts, and that’s a blessed exchange. This bone was taken out of Adam’s side, fitly noting the woman’s place; not out of his head, to be above him; not out of his feet, to be trampled on by him; nor from before him, as his better; nor from behind him, as his servant;—but out of his side, to be equal with him; near his heart, for he owes her love; under his arm, for he owes her protection. Surely they forget from whence the woman was taken, that carry themselves haughtily and abusively towards their wives. (Phillip Henry, An Exposition with Practical Observations, 56)

See Allan Harman, Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence (Christian Focus, 2012), 154–155.

Ten Principles for Christians Interacting with Cultural Moments

I have noticed that some of my friends on social media are concerned that the current cultural moment will create a backlash against central biblical teachings. No doubt some will use this moment to advance their own agendas, but Christians have nothing to fear from any cultural moment that helps us see truth more clearly. Also, we must be careful about impugning motives to people who are taking a stand on matters of social justice and/or siding with women who have been victimized by men, as being a part of some vast left-wing conspiracy to lead Christians into theological liberalism. Although we must be always vigilant for the truth, some of hysteria that I have seen borders on libel. For those who affirm and have not denied the core doctrines of the Christian faith, we should not accuse them of a strategy of subterfuge because we might disagree with their application of biblical truth to a specific situation. We often have a knee-jerk reaction to anything recognized or celebrated by our culture. This is understandable given the fallen world’s general opposition to divine truth. However, just because our culture is recognizing a truth, does not mean that the church must reject that truth. Here are some principles that I believe we should use in evaluating cultural moments in light of divine revelation.

  1. All truth is God’s truth.
  2. Because of general revelation, we should not be surprised to find divine truth reflected in human culture.
  3. This truth is often distorted because of human rebellion against the Creator.
  4. However, there are areas of overlap between biblical truth and truths recognized by our culture.
  5. Scripture is our ultimate authority and will always overrule cultural mores.
  6. However, Christians have sometimes misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture.
  7. Scripture is infallible, but our interpretations and applications of Scripture are fallible.
  8. The majority of American Christians have been tragically wrong on some major issues, eg., Slavery, Civil Rights, and treatment of women.
  9. When cultural moments allow us to recognize and correct our misinterpretations of Scripture, this is not compromise but faithfulness.
  10. These cultural moments are opportunities to reevaluate our interpretations and applications of Scripture, but must never cause us to deny the trustworthiness and sufficiency of Scripture.

The Problem of the Parables

2018-05-14 21.14.20.jpgIn Matthew 13:10-17, in the midst of his parables of the kingdom, Jesus explained something of the purpose of the parables to his disciples. The answer is problematic, however, because it goes against our common assumption that the purpose of the parables was to simplify and clarify. Consider the following:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.”

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

This raises a couple of questions.

Is the Purpose of the Parables to Reveal Truth?
This seems to be one of the most obvious things in the world at first glance. My guess is that if you asked most regular church attenders what the purpose of the parables was, you would hear something like “stories that illustrate truths or principles from Jesus.” And for good reason. The word “parable” actually comes from a compound Greek word παραβολα meaning “to throw alongside.” In other words, a parable is meant to be a story thrown alongside a more abstract idea to illustrate it in familiar terms. Parables are earthly stories illustrating heavenly truths. For example, has ever a better illustration been given of what it means to love one’s neighbor than the story of the Good Samaritan; or, of the forgiving love of the Father than the story of the Prodigal Son?
So the parables exist to reveal, clarify, illustrate truth.

But, if this is the case, why did Jesus have to explain his parables so many times? This leads us to our next question.

Is the Purpose of the Parables to Conceal Truth?
In verse 10, Jesus is asked by his disciples the precise question that we are considering this morning. This what we want to know. “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus’ answer is as pointed as it is shocking. Rather than to reveal his teaching, Jesus says his parables are meant to conceal truth. First, he says, it distinguishes between his disciples and the unbelieving crowd. Verse 11: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” This highlights the necessity of supernatural revelation for us to know divine truth. Divine revelation is necessary because humans naturally do not understand God’s truth. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The scriptures clearly teach human inability to attain any saving knowledge of God apart from an exercise of his grace. For example, in John 6:44, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The word “can” is a word of ability. While all are invited to come and all “may” (a word of permission) come to Christ, the biblical reality is that no one can apart from God’s gracious drawing of that individual to himself. This fulfills Isaiah 6:9-10 quoted in verses 14-15. We see here the nature of human ability. It is not the lacking of some physical faculty, but a moral inability. They see, but will not see. This means they are morally responsible, because it is not lack of physical ability that hinders them from coming to Christ. This is why Jesus could say in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Their guilt is their own.

This reality of human inability makes divine initiative an absolute necessity if anyone is ever to be saved. Thankfully, God graciously reveals himself to some. To his disciples, Jesus said in verse 11, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” This is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 11:25-27.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses highlight the divine prerogative that God has to reveal truth to some and conceal it from others. We don’t understand this fully, but we are committed to believing what Scripture teaches and rejoice that God in his grace has chosen to reveal himself to us. This is exactly what Jesus says we should do (verses 16-17). Marvel at divine grace to you! The doctrine of election is never in Scripture something to be argued over and debated, but something to wonder over in amazement at God’s grace. If we truly understand human sinfulness and rebellion, our question will never be, “Why does God not reveal himself to some?”, but “Why, oh why, has God revealed himself to me?”

The Answer is “Yes.”
So, the answer to the question, “Did Jesus teach in parables to reveal or conceal truth?”, is an unequivocal “Yes!” Jesus taught in parables to illustrate and clarify abstract spiritual truths with physical illustrations with which everyone could identify. However, he did so in such a way that those truths would actually be unclear to those in rebellion against him and clear only to those committed to following him. Though Jesus spoke these parables in public to large crowds, they mostly only heard a good story. They didn’t understand the spiritual meaning. When Jesus was alone with his disciples, he would explain the heavenly meaning. In this way, Jesus made it more difficult for his opponents to have accusations against him, but he also used this method to fulfill his divine prerogative of revealing truth to some and concealing it from others. The same sun that hardens the clay, also melts the wax. In a similar way, the same parables which concealed the truth to some, revealed it to others.

At the end of the day, our response should be gratitude to God for his gracious revelation of himself to us.

Conclusion
The primary response of believers should be gratefulness! We who were spiritually dead and totally unable to come to God have been awakened by divine grace and made to see the glories of Christ to which we have gladly responded in repentance and faith. To God Alone Be the Glory!

This teaching should also lead us to compassion for the lost. That we would weep for them as Jesus did and plead with them to come to Christ (as Jesus did). We should pray to God that the same God who opened our eyes would open their eyes to the gospel. This is their only hope. If we truly believed this, we would be people of prayer!

Finally, we should be grateful that we have in Scripture Christ’s own explanation of many of these parables. These teachings have been preserved for us by the work of the Holy Spirit who inspired biblical writers to record this information. We also have the presence of this very same Holy Spirit in our lives as believers to lead us in our study of Scripture. The Spirit of Christ himself lives within every believer guiding in our understanding of God’s Word. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!

Prayer, a Water Bottle, and a Baby Doll

I love the following story about prayer and God’s provision. I shared it this morning with my Sunday School class and was asked to share it online. The story comes from Helen Roseveare (1925–2016), English missionary to the Congo. Justin Taylor did a profile of her when she passed in 2016.

THE HOT WATER BOTTLE – A True Story By Helen Roseveare, Missionary to Africa

One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.

We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.

A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, ” …And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen?” I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next, came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas – – that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the…could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, “A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!” I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, “Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God’s prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child — five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it “That afternoon!” “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

Helen Roseveare a doctor missionary from England to Zaire, Africa, told this as it had happened to her in Africa. She shared it in her testimony on a Wednesday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

The Goal and Meaning of Expositional Preaching

I think that the best way to understand Ephesians 4:12 is to remove the commas: “For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This verse is saying that the job of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry and as a result, the church will grow. This is how Christ builds His church. But what resources does the pastor-teacher have to accomplish this? In 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2, the Apostle Paul tells us.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

John MacArthur has correctly drawn attention to the link between a belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and the need to preach it expositionally.

The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.

This is why whenever a church chooses a pastor, it should be a non-negotiable that the man be an expository preacher. Not everyone who claims to preach expositionally, actually does it. There may be some who don’t know the word, but do preach expositionally. Expositional preaching is preaching that takes as the point of the message, the point of the passage being preached. It’s not a special ability or a style, it is the pastor-teacher’s calling! It’s simply preaching the meaning of a text. Very simple, but it takes hard work to know the meaning of the text and communicate it to God’s people.

To put it another way, expositional preaching, as I once heard Danny Akin say, does not view a text as a peg to hang a bag of miscellaneous thoughts, but as a master that determines what is said. The calling of a pastor-teacher is to equip the saints by the proclamation of the Word of God just as the Holy Spirit of God inspired it. It’s interesting that those who talk so much of the Spirit of God, prefer a method of preaching which basically says that the Holy Spirit did not do a good job organizing Scripture. Instead, they seem to think, they can do a better job.

What I Said Ten Years Ago (and still believe)

Ten years ago today, I preached my first sermon as pastor at Farmdale Baptist Church. I preached a sermon titled “Jesus Christ: The Builder of the Church” from Matthew 16:13-19. I focused on verse 18, where Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I said in part (and still say):

The word Jesus uses that is translated church in Matthew 16:18 is the Greek word ekklesia which is a compound of two words in Greek ek “out of” and kaleo “I call.” The church is a community of people called out from the world who have received the revelation from God that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s ultimately what unites us here at Farmdale Baptist Church. Not because we’re all natives of Central Kentucky, we’re not. Not because we’re all UK fans, we’re not. Not because we all have the same hobbies and interests, we don’t. We’re united here despite our differences because of a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of the church, the rock upon which Christ builds His church: the confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!

Jesus is the one building His church. He is the One who is calling out people to be a part of His ekklesia. I recently received in the mail an advertisement from a company whose slogan is “We build Christ’s church!” No, they don’t! They may build buildings, but they don’t build the church. Christ alone builds the church.

I’ll never forget hearing John MacArthur describe his response to a reporter who asked him about his desire to build the church. He said,

When a reporter asked me once if I had a great desire to build the church, I told him, “No. I have absolutely no desire to build the church. That’s not my job. Jesus said, ‘I will build My church,’ and I would rather not compete with Him. I simply want to allow Him to do that through me in a small way in one location.

I don’t want to be in competition with Jesus! Do we think we can do better? Our job is to be faithful to do what He has told us to do in His Word. As Mark Dever has summarized what the church is to do: Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible (through the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism). As ministers of the gospel, we are called to faithfulness, not success.

Whenever people have encouraged me by telling me how that God has helped them through my ministry, those words mean a lot to me. But if you want to know what I’m thinking when I hear those encouraging words, without fail it is amazement at the power of God’s Word simply proclaimed. I don’t have any great plans or programs to implement here other than preaching God’s Word verse-by-verse. If anyone is helped by my ministry it is a testimony to the power of the Word of God and not my abilities. This is what I’ve always desired. I desire that the testimony of the German Reformer Martin Luther would be mine:

I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.

Christ is building His church!

200th Anniversary of Buck Run Baptist Church

Cover of BRBC History

Cover of forthcoming history of Buck Run Baptist Church

On January 31, 1818 (200 years ago today), the “Baptist Church of Christ at Buck Run” was constituted. The initial meeting was held in the home of Isaac Wilson near Buck Run Creek on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky. Wilson was one of twenty-one charter members of the church. Present at this gathering were some of the most prominent of the Baptist preachers in Kentucky. The pioneer preacher William Hickman was there and served as the moderator for the meeting. Silas Mercer Noel, a Circuit Court Judge turned preacher and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Frankfort two years earlier) was there and served as the clerk for the meeting. Also present as a charter member was the inimitable John Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth.

Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two primary documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). Baptist churches are not formed based on geography or genealogy. In other words, a person does not become a member of a Baptist church simply by living in a certain area or by being born into a particular family. Baptist churches believe in what is called regenerate church membership. This means that only professing believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who give credible evidence of that profession are admitted as members. Therefore, the only reason a Baptist church can exist is if a group of believers come together sharing a common set of beliefs (a confession of faith) and an agreement of how these believers are going to dwell together (a church covenant).

Although similar in form and content to other churches’ founding documents, the Buck Run documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor. The sixty-five-year-old Taylor had by this point been laboring in gospel ministry for forty-five years. He was a well-respected leader among the Baptists who had seen many converted through his preaching and had helped to establish many churches. Taylor would later write that, in the constituting documents adopted by Buck Run, “the creed of my own heart on these subjects, is very [sic.] fully expressed.” He went on to say that these ideas were not a recent revelation to him, but instead reflected his “unwavering opinion from my youth.” In these documents, Taylor declared, one could “see the complexion of my whole soul in theology.” Although he had considered writing an explanation of the beliefs contained in these documents, he said “they stand explicit for themselves.” In these beliefs, Taylor said, “I have lived long, by them I expect to die, which I hope is not far distant.”[1]

Taylor would live another seventeen years to the age of eighty-four years. Those extended latter years were given in service to the Buck Run Church. A contemporary young man whose job it was to ring the court house bell to announce the beginning of preaching services for the various churches in the Frankfort area reminisced of how often he “hammered That old Cort [sic.] house Bell For … old man Tailor [sic.], “the Father of the Buck Run Church.”[2] Clearly, Taylor was recognized as the founding father of Buck Run by those in the community.

To read the church’s founding confession of faith, see here.

If you would like to pre-order a copy of this history, please comment below and I will send you the information on how to secure your copy at the special pre-release price of $25 (it will retail for $40).

[1] John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 2nd ed. (Bloomfield, KY: Will. H. Holmes, 1827), 199-200.

[2] Frances L. S. Dugan and Jacqueline P. Bull, ed., Bluegrass Craftsman: Being the Reminiscences of Ebenezer Hiram Stedman Papermaker, 1808-1815 (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1959), 80.