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Thursday, 07 April 2016
clear

The question that has plagued man since the beginning of his existence has been "What on earth am I here for?" From the beginning of time men have struggled with this perplexing question. As Shakespeare wrote;

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace till the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Life is but a shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."[1]

 Shakespeare's MacBeth

 

Sadly, the words of Shakespeare are akin to what many people go through their whole lives feeling, believing, and experiencing. Though man's existence on this earth has spanned thousands of years, the sad reality is that most still fail to have a good answer to this question. The secret to truly living and enjoying this life is to discover and then fulfill the answer to this question. As has been said, "What are the two most important days of your life? The day you were born and the day you figure out why."[2]

   Because this is true, one could understand the importance of grasping the purpose for this life. The purpose of this paper will be to cause the reader to consider what the purpose of life is and then cause him to consider how he could fulfill that purpose in his life.

            In considering this subject matter, it is wise to recognize some of the ideas that others have had about the purpose of life. There are a few differing ideas as the reader can see in the following statements. The humanist would say, "this is the only life of which we have certain knowledge and that we owe it to ourselves and others to make it the best life possible for ourselves and all with whom we share this fragile planet."[3] From this statement one could conclude that this system of belief focuses on the centrality of man to all things.  Another idea concerning the purpose of life comes from the materialist; who holds to "the theory that physical matter is all there is."[4] One who adheres to this philosophy of life would live entirely for the material giving almost no thought to the other aspects of life. Their belief system could be summed up in the statement "get all you can, can all you get". In considering the above two philosophies it would be easy to see that one would deem the purpose of man in this world to live entirely for man, while the other would be prone to live entirely for material things.

Both of these philosophies of life have some legitimacy. For instance, humanism recognizes the superiority of man above the rest of the created beings. He is seen as the focal point of all that is in existence and being that focal point is the highest being in existence. Thus, life will revolve around him. He will be the greatest, wisest, and most important thing in the world. Humanism makes man the supreme being in existence. For those who adhere to this belief system, man is god. For the materialist he has recognized that the material things in this life have value and meaning. He understands that many of these things are necessary for life and that there is wisdom in paying mind to them. However, the materialist will find himself making things god. His life will be lived entirely for things.

To gain the true purpose of man in this life one would need to go back beyond the material things in this world, and beyond the beginning of man and look at the source of these things. This brings up the third possible source for the answer to life's greatest question, theism. Theism is "The belief in one personal God, both immanent and transcendent, who exists in three personal distinctions, known respectively as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."[5] Those who hold to a theistic belief system would believe that neither man nor things are the highest in existence, but instead he would see the highest being as God, the Creator and sustainer of all things. One who would hold to this belief would recognize life and all that exists in the creation to be in existence for the purposes of God, the Creator. This truth brings the created being to the reality of the purpose of his existence, to glorify God. In the Bible, which is the source of man's understanding of God, it says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corthians 10:31. In Revelation 4:11 the Bible says, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." In both of these verses the reader is given a glimpse of the purpose of man. "What on earth am I here for?" The answer lies in these verses, to bring glory to God. As Colin Brown states, "the highest duty of man is to glorify and praise God in worship, word and act"[6].

To properly understand this statement, which is presented as the purpose of man's existence, it is necessary to answer two questions: first, why should man live his life for God? And then secondly, what does it mean to bring glory to God. To answer this first question one would need to understand man's origin.  The theist believes that man, as well as every other thing in existence was created by God[7]. Because God created man, then it would only stand to reason that man would then belong to God and would be subject to the purposes of God. Colossians 1:17 says, "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist". Everything that God created also depends upon Him for it's existence. As the Puritan writer wrote, "Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him?"[8] We depend upon God for every bit of our very existence and thus we should live for God with every bit of our existence.

The world as it exists today has no concept of this great reality that it exists to bring glory to God. Instead it has settled for much less than this wonderful privilege. However, the world is not the only one that has failed in this area. For what will be discovered in this study is that the Church has also failed in its primary responsibility as well. Below it will be discovered how this author believes that the conservative church has failed to keep the glory of God at the focus of everything it does and, just like the lost world, has shifted its focus off of this most important purpose that it has and placed it on something lesser than that which God has set as the supreme focal point. It is pertinent that the Church grasp the reality that its purpose is to bring glory to God and then ensure that it is doing that very thing.

 

Writing the Biblical Foundations for the Theological Research Project

           

            "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."[9] The Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly states that man exists for the purpose of bringing Glory to God, below effort will be made to analyze the Scriptures to discover if this is truly the main purpose of man, and if so how man might accomplish this task according to the Word of God.

            It seems that the Scriptures teach not just that glory is to be given to God but that "glory belongs to God intrinsically"[10]. Passages such as Matthew 6:13, where believers are taught to pray "thine is the…. glory" and 1 Chronicles 29:11 where David says, "yours is the…. Glory" teach us that the God whom the Bible reveals to the reader is a God of Glory. M.R. Gordon wrote, "It is not some accidental feature of God's character, but an essential quality in it."[11] Mr. Gordon makes the point that glory is not just something that belongs to God but is actually a completely necessary part of His character, and that God is glorious in His very being. Thomas Watson said it this way, "Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so co-natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it."[12] Glory is truly an inseparable part of God's being.

            However, although God is glorious in His being, believers are told to glorify God. M.R. Gordon said it this way, "The intention of God is that man and all creation should give glory to Him."[13] His glory is God's intent. Passages such as (Romans 15:6, "That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God..."), (Romans 15:9, "And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy…"), (1 Corinthians 6:20, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."), each instruct the born-again believer to bring glory to God through his life. The Apostle Paul goes a step further by not only telling the believer to glorify God but he tells him that he is to Glorify God in everything he does, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Apostle Peter shares a similar instruction by stating, "..that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.." (1 Peter 4:11). These verses in Scripture make it clear to the reader that his task in this life is to bring glory to his God.

            Because it is clearly stated that man is to spend his life bringing glory to God, it would be vitally important to understand how he is to accomplish this task. As stated above, man is called to glorify God in everything he does. That being true, the question arises, "How can man glorify God in "whatsoever" he does?" The answer to this question lies in the Scriptures. Because God made us for the purpose of bringing glory to Him, then He will reveal to the believer how he can accomplish this task. Watson breaks down the means by which man brings glory to God in four actions; he says they are 1. Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection, 4. Subjection.[14] The first action of man that can bring glory to God is appreciation. "To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent…"[15], by this is meant to be ever thankful for God and who He is and what He does. The second action of man that brings glory to God is adoration. This word means worship. Worship is, "the believers response of all that they are-mind, emotions, will, and body-to what God is and says and does."[16] Adoration is the believer's response to all God is. Affection is the action by which man loves God. It is the emotion that man engenders when he realizes who God is and then the affection that he holds toward God. The final action that Watson prescribes to man to bring glory to God is subjection. "This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service."[17] In these four actions is contained all that man can do to bring glory to his God. Intermingled here is prayer, witnessing, obedience, desire, seeking, faith, trust, joy, kindness, forgiveness, and many other commanded attributes that the believer is to possess in response to His God. God is glorified when His people believe and obey Him.

            The greatest thing a man can do is bring glory to God. Because this is true it will be worthwhile to consider how man can fail to glorify God. A failure to glorify God through one's life would be the greatest of failures. To not glorify God would be to fail on the primary level of a human life. Albert Barnes wrote that a man fails to bring glory to God when, "when he has no respect to his authority; when he breaks his laws; when he leads others to treat him with disrespect."[18] When man lives such that God does not exist and when he is not mindful of Him he sins and fails to bring glory to God. To say it another way, to disregard God is to fail to bring glory to Him. To disobey God is to fail to bring glory to Him. To disrespect God is to fail to bring glory to Him. To try and live independent of God is to fail to bring glory to Him.

            Colossians 1:16 says, "…all things were created by him, and for him", revealing to the Christian that his existence is for God. The demand of God upon man is that he bring glory to Him. Above, the Scriptural grounds for these statements has been identified and discussed. Truly, "the chief end of man is to glorify God…".

 

Writing the Historical Foundations for the Theological Research Project

 

                        "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."[19] The Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly states that man exists for the purpose of bringing Glory to God, below effort will be made to analyze the historical stand of the Church to discover what its emphasis has been down through the years. Has the Church always had this as the forefront of its goal or have there been lapses in its commitment to this truth? What about the Church of today? Where does it stand on this subject? Below effort will be made to analyze this very important issue.

            It was around 1647 that the Westminster Shorter Catechism was finished[20]. The writers no doubt were focusing on trying to gather the core doctrines of the church and compile them into this format. There is no doubt that the composers of this document fully recognized the preeminence of God's glory in the believer's life. Though this was only a few hundred years ago, this will serve to begin to search back in history to discover exactly what the Church's view has been on this important subject.

            It doesn't take long in studying historical theology to discover that man has moved in cycles concerning his beliefs. In most cases, it seems that man has swung almost as a pendulum from one extreme in theological beliefs to another. Instead of looking to a more balanced position, on most issues there seems to have been an almost knee-jerk reaction swinging from one extreme to another. Because this is true, history is plagued with times of true commitment to a life fulfilling the purpose of bringing glory to God and then a lull of man-centered religion that operates centered around man and his needs in the place of God and His Glory.

            The invention of deism proves to be a reflection of man and his understanding of his purpose in this world. This philosophical system of belief came to be during the 16-1700's. Deism says that God created all things but is not involved with life on earth in any way. Those who propagated such a system of belief definitely had no understanding of the truth that man exists for God. The end result of this philosophy is best stated as follows:

If God is not in control, the universe has no purpose and God created the universe for no particular purpose other than to watch its inhabitants suffer. It gets worse. From what we now know, within a few hundred million to a few billion years, the earth will be too hot from the expanding Sun to support any life. Everything will die[21].

The loss of man's purpose for existence has most certainly lead to many corruptions of what God intended life to be.

            When the focus is shifted to the present day illustrations of the loss of man's purpose abound. Humanism is the by-product of this loss of purpose. It is man centered and self-serving. Because there is no god, according to the humanist, then there is no reason to be concerned with glorifying a god who doesn't exist. John Murray describes the present day view of man in the following quote:

To be sure, with such gross idolatry we have zeroed out the almighty, transcendent God from our worlds. We live in a God-zero culture: I can drink the artificial because I choose to do so.  And it is OK because it tastes, feels, and sounds good to me. The god of my creation, an impostor, is the real thing because I say so.  In this radically reductionistic and idolatrous world of self-adulation, a world in which I am lord simply because I want to be, the transcendent God becomes transcendently absent.[22]

The present day church world has an erroneous view of the purpose of man as well. From the "seeker-sensitive" movement to the fervent push to evangelism at all cost, there is a dangerous swinging of the pendulum away from truth once again. The "seeker-sensitive" movement says "If you want to know how to build a church, ask the community, and give them what they want."[23] This is the epitome of man centered religion. This is the church movement of the day and it has completely lost sight of the purpose for man's existence.

            Why does man exist? The Word of God makes it clear that it is for the purpose of glorifying God. It is evident that the church has historically had those who got this wrong and it is even more evident that there are those who have it wrong today. The endeavor for each true believer in Christ is to acknowledge this truth and spend all of his life striving to achieve this end.

Proving Your Thesis for the Theological Research Project

           

            "What on earth am I here for?" Though man's existence on this earth has spanned thousands of years, the sad reality is that most still fail to have a good answer to this question. The secret to truly living and enjoying this life is to discover and then fulfill the answer to this question. As has been said, "What are the two most important days of your life? The day you were born and the day you figure out why."[24]

            Those who have realized that the world was created by God and that He controls and sustains this world, also have realized through the study of God's Word that man was created for God and that man is the best when he acknowledges this truth. Man is happiest, most fulfilled, and most content when he begins to form his thinking and life around the reality that he exists for God. The reality is, that if man was created by God then his existence is for God. That being the case, then God has created man for a purpose, and as one studies the Scriptures he discovers that God has called man to a purpose. To bring glory to God is the great end of man, but to serve God is the calling of man, this is his purpose. He is to serve God with all that God has given Him and he is to follow God's direction throughout his whole life. When man commits to doing these things he will truly find and fulfill his purpose on this earth. This fulfilling of his purpose is the way by which man finds true enjoyment in this life, or may it be said, "this is how man enjoys life".

The church world has often faltered on this subject. The truth that is being presented here can be clearly stated in the following statement, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."[25] The Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly states that man exists for the purpose of bringing Glory to God. It was around 1647 that the Westminster Shorter Catechism was finished[26]. The writers no doubt were focusing on trying to gather the core doctrines of the church and compile them into this format. The men who formulated and wrote this statement were attempting to sum up the main purpose for which man exists. Because the present-day church world seems to be in disagreement with this premise, if not in fact at least in practice, it is important to establish this truth in one's understanding.

"How has the church faltered on this subject?" one might ask. The answer lies in the focus of the church and how it understands God and all that God is doing. There are many who are involved in the "health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel" of the day who clearly have distorted God's purpose for man. They believe that God exists for them. They view Him almost as a cosmic Santa Clause who awaits their wishes. And upon hearing their wishes is obligated to move on their behalf. Almost to the point that it would seem that they are ordering God and telling Him what to do. A prime example of this kind of thinking would be as follows: "Creflo Dollar says this of prayer: When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass.'"[27] These individuals have grossly misunderstood who God is and what they exist for.

Another way that the Church has lost its bearings concerning the purpose of man and the place of God has been in the elevating of man's spiritual needs above God. This was not done as deceitfully nor even intentionally. Those who are guilty of this error fell into it by accident. They believed that "the most important thing in the world is to save souls". This sounds very biblical at first, and there is no doubt that God has called the believer to spread the Gospel and bring people to Christ; however, if taken to its extreme this kind of thinking also begins to place man before God and brings the needs of man to a place where they are supreme. Those who preach and push this type of thinking will often fall into the trap of doing things that would be dishonorable to God and fail to glorify Him for the purpose of bringing souls to Him. The means which these individuals might use to save souls often end up being things that dishonor the God to whom they are calling men to come. Those who would fall into this category often use slogans such as "Win the lost at any cost" however, this philosophy is unbiblical and very dangerous.

Because the greatest and highest calling of man is to glorify God, then it is the responsibility of the believer. He must set this as his aim and then structure his life accordingly. If he exists for God and not God for him then he must ensure that his beliefs and behavior line up with this truth. Accepting this as the truth will cause the believer to bring everything that he does under the litmus test of whether or not it brings glory to his God. This may seem contradictory, however, if he does this then he will also ensure that the life he lives will be a joyful one because he is living it unto God for His glory.

 

The Conclusion of Theological Research

 

            What is the reader to conclude? After considering the many facets of the topic of the purpose of life, and considering whether the glory of God is to truly be at the heart of everything the believer does, what conclusion should be drawn? From those who grossly misinterpret scripture with the intent of creating a man-made god who responds to man's every whim and command as a cosmic Santa Clause, to those who sincerely have misdirected the focus of the church in an effort to accomplish the great task Christ left for it to do, there is no lack of differing views and ideas about this subject. As is expressed in the title, "What on Earth am I here for?", is a question that must be answered.

            Through the process of this study, it has been proposed that the purpose of man, the reason for life, the calling of the human being is to bring glory to his God. Once an individual realizes this to be the truth, it brings a since of enlightenment and a level of understanding into life that was never realized before. Once this is understood and accepted as truth, then the believer comes to the place where he can better understand what God has presented in His Word and what is taking place in this world. The acceptance of this truth truly opens the eyes of the believer to understand the whys of Scripture. Understanding this truth helps the believer answer the hard questions in life. Coming to grips with the reality that one's existence is primarily for God and His glory enables the believer to see clearly what God has said and what God is doing.

            Once an individual comes to the place where he realizes that his very purpose for existence is God's glory, meaning that he exists for God not God exists for him, then he can begin to make decisions on a daily basis to choose to fulfill his purpose for existence. This understanding will bring the individual believer to the place in his maturing in the faith where he will begin to consider every decision not on the basis of how it will affect him, his family, his finances, but how it will effect God. Once an individual comes to this place in his life he then will bring great glory to the God of Heaven. There is no question that this is what God wants out of the lives of His children.

            In conclusion, it is important that the believer learn to avoid the philosophies of the humanist and the materialist. They would have every man living for himself showing no regard for God. Also each believer must be careful not to be swayed by those who would take a theological approach and try to shift the order of man's relationship with God. He made each of His children and each one of them shares an ultimate purpose, that purpose is to bring Him glory. May God help each believer come to a realization of this truth and then empower each life to reflect it. As has been quoted earlier in this writing, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."[28]

 

 

Works Cited

 

All About Philosophy Website, Materialism. http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/materialism.htm . Taken 9/22/2015.

 

The American Humanist Association Website, What is Humanism. http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Definitions_of_Humanism. Taken 9/22/2015.

Barnes, Albert. Barnes' Notes. 1 Corinthians 10:31, taken from (Power Bible CD version 5.9), 2010.

Brown, Colin. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI, 1986. 47.

 

Deem, Rich. Why Deism Fails as a Philosophical Paradigm of the Universe. Online Resource.

  http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/deism.html.  Taken October 8, 2015.

Gordon, M. R.. "Glory," The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill Tenney (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library., 1976), 731.

Quote from John Macarthur taken from http://rr-bb.com/showthread.php?106566-Seeker-Friendly-Church-definition .Taken October 8, 2015.

McSwain, Steve. Online article for The Huffington Post. Know Why You're Here: The Point of Human Existence. Online http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/is-the-life-i-live-the-legacy-i-leave_b_3660144.html . Taken September 24, 2015.

Mitchell, Corrie. Online Article. Ten Verses of Scripture that Prosperity Gospel Preachers Need to Stop Misusing. Taken from http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/05/09/ten-verses-prosperity-gospel-preachers-need-stop-misuising/32019. Taken 10/15/15.

Murray, John. The Catechisms of the Westminister Assembly. The Presbyterian Guardian. 1943. Taken from online http://www.westminsterconfession.org/confessional-standards/the-catechisms-of-the-westminster-assembly.php. Taken October 7, 2015.

 

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Take online. http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_5_5.html . September 24, 2015.

Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1979, 21.

Watson, Thomas. Man's Chief end is to Glorify God. Sermon Website http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm . Taken 9/22/2015.

 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechism 1. Online, http://www.creeds.net/reformed/Westminster/shorter_catechism.html, taken September 29, 2015.

 

Wiersbe, Warren. Real Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000), 26.

 

 

[1] William Shakespeare. Macbeth. Take online. http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_5_5.html . September 24, 2015.

 

[2] Steve McSwain. Online article for The Huffington Post. Know Why You're Here: The Point of Human Existence. Online http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/is-the-life-i-live-the-legacy-i-leave_b_3660144.html . Taken September 24, 2015.

 

[3] The American Humanist Association Website, What is Humanism. http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Definitions_of_Humanism. Taken 9/22/2015.

 

[4] All About Philosophy Website, Materialism. http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/materialism.htm . Taken 9/22/2015.

 

[5] Henry C. Thiessen. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1979, 21.

 

[6] Colin Brown. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI, 1986. 47.

 

[7] Ibid, 569.

 

[8] Thomas Watson. Man's Chief end is to Glorify God. Sermon Website http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm . Taken 9/22/2015.

 

[9] The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechism 1. Online, http://www.creeds.net/reformed/Westminster/shorter_catechism.html, taken September 29, 2015.

 

[10] M. R. Gordon. "Glory," The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill Tenney (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library., 1976), 731.

 

[11] Ibid.

 

[12]Watson, (What is it to Glorify God?).

 

[13] Gordon, 731.

[14] Watson, (What is it to glorify God?).

 

[15] Ibid.

 

[16] Warren Wiersbe. Real Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000), 26.

 

[17] Watson, (What is it to glorify God?).

 

[18] Albert Barnes. Barnes' Notes. 1 Corinthians 10:31, taken from (Power Bible CD version 5.9), 2010.

[19] The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechism 1. Online, http://www.creeds.net/reformed/Westminster/shorter_catechism.html, taken September 29, 2015.

 

 

[20] John Murray. The Catechisms of the Westminister Assembly. The Presbyterian Guardian. 1943. Taken from online http://www.westminsterconfession.org/confessional-standards/the-catechisms-of-the-westminster-assembly.php. Taken October 7, 2015.

[21] Rich Deem. Why Deism Fails as a Philosophical Paradigm of the Universe. Online Resource.

  http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/deism.html.  Taken October 8, 2015.

[22] John Murray, Ibid.

 

[23] Quote from John Macarthur taken from http://rr-bb.com/showthread.php?106566-Seeker-Friendly-Church-definition .Taken October 8, 2015.

[24] Steve McSwain. Online article for The Huffington Post. Know Why You're Here: The Point of Human Existence. Online http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/is-the-life-i-live-the-legacy-i-leave_b_3660144.html . Taken September 24, 2015.

[25] The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechism 1. Online, http://www.creeds.net/reformed/Westminster/shorter_catechism.html, taken September 29, 2015.

 

 

[26] John Murray. The Catechisms of the Westminister Assembly. The Presbyterian Guardian. 1943. Taken from online http://www.westminsterconfession.org/confessional-standards/the-catechisms-of-the-westminster-assembly.php. Taken October 7, 2015.

[27] Corrie Mitchell. Online Article. Ten Verses of Scripture that Prosperity Gospel Preachers Need to Stop Misusing. Taken from http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/05/09/ten-verses-prosperity-gospel-preachers-need-stop-misuising/32019. Taken 10/15/15.

 

[28] The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechism 1. Online, http://www.creeds.net/reformed/Westminster/shorter_catechism.html, taken September 29, 2015.

 

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Posted on 04/07/2016 1:19 PM by Pastor Tim
Thursday, 10 March 2016
clear

Have you ever wondered how to become a Christian? The following will clearly explain to you how you can receive Christ as your Savior.

Realize That God Loves You
God loves you and has a plan for your life. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

The Bible Says That All Men Are Sinners
Our sins have separated us from God. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23

God made man in His own image. He gave man the ability to choose right from wrong. We choose to sin. Our sins keep us from God.

God's Word Also Says That Sin Must Be Paid For
"For the wages of sin is death...." Romans 6:23

Wages means payment. The payment of our sin is death and hell , separation from God forever. If we continue in our sin, we shall die without Christ and be without God forever.

The Good News Is That Christ Paid For Our Sins
All of our sins were laid on Christ on the cross. He paid our sin debt for us. The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, and He arose from the dead. He is alive forevermore.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

We Must Personally Pray And Receive Christ By Faith
The Bible says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13

Pray And Receive Christ As Your Savior
Lord, I know that I am a sinner. If I died today, I would not go to heaven. Forgive my sin, come into my life and be my Savior. Help me live for you from this day forward. In Jesus' Name, Amen. The Bible says, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13

New Life
Everlasting life begins when we receive Christ as our Savior.

If you have made the decision to follow Christ please let us know. We want to help you grow as a Christian.

email us at pastortim@shadygrovechurch.net and we will get you some more information to help you begin your journey of faith.

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Posted on 03/10/2016 9:37 AM by Pastor Tim
Thursday, 07 February 2013
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The following is a paper that was written following a study of the Baptist Church and its roots. I hope it will prove to be helpful to you as you learn a little about the history of the Baptists.

 

With thousands of Baptist churches in America with differing names and creeds, it causes on to wonder how they got so diversified and if they share a common beginning. From Southern Baptists, to American Baptists, to Northern Baptists, to Free Will Baptists, to Independent Baptists, the list of Churches that claim the name Baptist seems to have no end.  In the 21st century there are numerous groups who claim the name Baptist, the purpose of this paper will be to attempt to look back and discover a common origin shared by each of them and from that common origin how they become so diverse.

The first thing that needs to be established is the question "what does it mean for a church or an individual to say they are Baptist?" Though there are many different definitions of what a Baptist is, Dr. Herbert Samworth  says that a Baptist is one who holds to the following four distinctives: 1. The Baptism of Believers by immersion, 2. The acknowledgement of two offices that of pastor and deacon, 3. That the churches are indigenous, 4. The separation of church and state.[1] Others claim that the things that make a Baptist a Baptist are more numerous and list them as follows: 1. the Lordship of Jesus Christ, 2. the Bible as the sole written authority for faith and practice, 3. soul competency, 4. salvation from sin and eternal death to forgiveness and eternal life only by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior who is the grace gift of God, 5. the priesthood of each believer and of all believers in Christ, 6. believer's baptism, 7. baptism and the Lord's Supper as wonderfully symbolic but not essential for salvation, 8. church membership composed only of persons who have been born again, 9. religious freedom and its corollary, the separation of church and state.[2]

What seems to become evident as one begins to study the different beliefs of the many different Baptist groups and churches is that they all do not have the same beliefs.  However, there are a few things that most of them seem to hold in common. The present day Baptists hold a high view of Scripture. They believe in baptism by immersion. They do not practice infant baptism. They believe in voluntary church membership and that only by those who have made a profession of faith. However, there are some beliefs that they hold in contrast to each other. From style of worship, to specific standards of living, to theological beliefs, Baptist churches are very diverse in their beliefs and practices. It seems that the presence of so many different beliefs may very well be the reason for so many different flavors of Baptists. Because each church is seen as indigenous it may be that this possibility for individuality could be the cause of there being so many differing thoughts.

The first Baptist church in America was a General Baptist Church and was established in Providence, Rhode Island around 1637.[3] Most sources that are available seem to agree that this was the first of the organized Baptist churches. They later formed into a conference. The early formation of this group included most of the Baptist churches that were in existence at that time. From those who followed Calvinism to those who Leaned toward Arminianism, it seemed that the group was comprised of churches of both theological backgrounds. This group was formed mainly for the purpose of furthering educational and missionary endeavors.[4] The diversity of the make-up of this group would seem to make it impossible for it to continue long-term. The different beliefs that were present would soon find sufficient grounds to divide into other groups. And history tells us that that's exactly what they did. It seems that this was the closest that the Baptists have ever come to being under the same umbrella. The coming years would prove to bring multiple divisions that would give birth to many other groups.

This early church was claimed later by the American Baptists also known as Northern Baptists. However, historic references claim that the American Baptists merely inherited another group which was the offspring of the first church.[5] That group was called Six Principle Baptists (also known as English General Baptists and old Free Will Baptists).[6] This church was started by a pastor by the name of roger Williams.[7]

Roger Williams was a very interesting individual who would prove to play a large role in the beginning of the Baptists in America. He fled England because of the corruption and un-Scriptural practices of the Established Church. [8] It didn't take him long to discover that the long arm of the established church reached across the waters as well. When arriving at Boston "he was called to preach at Salem, but he could not commune with the church at Boston, established on the principles of the church of England..".[9] After a few years of trying to coexist with the existing churches in New England he was banished and called to repent of his objection to the church's un- Scriptural actions, he and his family left the colonies and headed out of their jurisdiction.[10] Williams ended his journey in a place he called Providence.[11] It was here on March 7, 1638 that he and eighteen other men would establish what is commonly referred to as the first Baptist church ever started in America.[12] Williams, though not a member of the Particular Baptists was ardently against the practices of the established church. He rejected their teaching of infant baptism and practice of the "state church". As he was involved in establishing the early documents for the future state of Rhode Island the document stated: " Every man, who submits peaceable to civil government in this colony, shall worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, unmolested."[13] Mr. Williams was keenly aware of the hostility that he had experienced while in England because he did not hold to the state church's teachings, and wanted to ensure that a land would be established where men could worship God according to the Scriptures and not based upon the dictates of men. It is said that he believed, "that the princes of Europe had no right whatever to dispose of the possessions of the American Indians; and secondly, that civil rulers as such had no authority from God to regulate or control the affairs of religion."[14] Each of these convictions are distinctively Baptist. There is no doubt that Mr. Williams was Baptist. He would remain in the Providence Church for a "few years" until he returned to England to secure a charter for Rhode Island.[15]

            The Baptists seemed to work together from the beginning in the American colonies. The focus was more on their likenesses than it was on their differences. They shared a common enemy which was the oppressive established church of England and desired earnestly to be freed from her grasp. Though there were some who traveled to the new world for financial gain, many of those who risked their lives and the lives of their families to take the long voyage across the seas did so for the purpose of finding a new freedom that they had never known before. Reference has already been made to the fact that the established church's arm reached across the ocean to the new world, however the colonists were determined as a whole, to begin a new life in a new world that would give them the opportunity to serve their Lord in a manner that seemed fitting to them.

            The unified body of Baptists in America, though very meager in its beginning, sought diligently for the opportunity to have freedom of worship. This was the tie that bound Particular and General Baptists alike. They had each seen the ugly face of religious tyranny and their hearts desire was to find a place where such a villain would no longer be. It seems that this common desire was what united the Baptists in the early years of the American colonies. There seems to have been very little competition and conflict between the Baptist groups, but instead a common desire to see the freedom to worship and serve the Lord freely. They had each experienced religious persecution from established religion and knew that they wanted something more. They also rejected any form of authority of the magistrates over man's religion.  Roger Williams best portrays the feelings of the Baptists in his position concerning the Ten Commandments, he "readily acknowledged the power of the magistrate to regulate breaches of the second table (duties to man)", "However he denied that any civil authority could regulate or punish offences against the first table."  The Baptists also shared in common the belief that the Scriptures were to be taught and followed as the rule of faith and practice in the church and not the dictates and rituals of man. They had seen the darkening effect of the dead rituals of the established churches and wanted nothing to do with them. As the reformer Martin Luther had declared years earlier "Sola Scriptura", these individuals sought to bring the church to the place where the Scriptures truly became their guide and the source of their truth.

            This spirit of unity was truly the breeding ground for the working of God in the early days of the Baptist Church in America. The distinctives that made Baptists Baptist were the very things that men began to recognize as their eyes were opened and they began to look to the Scriptures instead of tradition for their direction and practice. As Christian says, "The converts…. Were taught to throw aside tradition, and take the Word of God only as their Guide in all matters of religious faith and practice. This was in perfect coincidence with all Baptist teaching, and, as was predicted by the most sagacious among the opposers of the revival, ultimately led thousands, among whom were many ministers, to embrace our views and enter our churches."  This reference was the the Great Awakening and its effect on the Baptist churches of that day. The Church truly grew. As Dr. Samworth said, the Baptist grew in this time from 900 in the year 1700, to around 70,000 in the year 1800.  God blessed the commitment to truth and the spirit of unity shared by these people in the early days of America. However, this great unity would soon dissolve.

The break away from the established church was, for many, a last resort. They tried extensively to keep the connection with the British Church but their consciences would not let them. As is stated of Mr. Williams when he arrived in the new land, " but he could not commune with the church at Boston, established on the principles of the church of England". [16]

As Mcbeth states, "Most of the early settlers in the leading colony of Massachusetts were militant puritans, filled with godly zeal and militant intolerance for any who differed from their theocratic concepts. They succeeded in establishing the Congregational Church as the state sponsored religion of most of New England. The alliance of church and state called for religious conformity as a prerequisite to good citizenship."[17] 

Though many of these believers saw the fallacy of the church they still would struggle, many of them for years, before they could completely break with all the practices that they had learned and observed from the established church. These beliefs were often the subject of much controversy for the newly found churches. The student of these historical times can quickly see the inability to govern religion by the state. The fact that true religion must involve the will is the common stumbling block for those who want to govern religion. Those who had fled England for religious freedom often found this and other false practices that they had learned from England to be issues of serious conflict and frustration.

            The Williams Church was soon joined by another church started by John Clarke. This Church, established sometime around 1640 .[18] This church, like the Providence church suffered division as a result of differing beliefs. Some of these divides were the result of types of Baptism, General or Particular atonement, those who wanted to follow the Quakers, etc. The early church in America seemed to have a rocky beginning.

It has been said that a good philosophy in church building is to divide and conquer. The meaning of this statement is that when a group had grown to a certain point it should be split and two growing groups would be formed. However,  the Baptists in America seemed to experience some division but it wasn't always for the purpose of conquering. Though the people who made up these churches loved the Lord and wanted to freely worship Him, the many differing beliefs that they shared caused frequent turmoil and division. Despite their very obvious Baptist distinctives, these groups were still in the process of forming into the different groups of Baptists that exist in America today.  Though the purpose of this writing is not the investigate the theology of the General Baptists in comparison with the Particular Baptists, it would prove beneficial to define exactly what the main distinctions were between the groups. Once this is done it will be informative to see what they each have in common.

            The names General and Particular signify what would be seen as the beginning of these groups differences in the theological realm. The General Baptists believed in a for all men. "They believed that men had the freedom to believe in Christ; that whoever will believe may be saved; that none are predestined to damnation; that the saved may renounce their faith and thus lose their salvation; and that all the local churches make up only one church."[19] Their beliefs were largely influenced by a Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius.[20] These believers understood the teaching of Scripture to be that men had the "Free Will" to choose to believe the Gospel. They understood the Gospel to be given to everyone (every creature) and that no one was predetermined to eternal torment in hell. Their understanding of the Scriptures was that if a man entered into eternal damnation it would be because he rejected the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Their beliefs ran consistently throughout their theology to the end of the believers life. Just as the individual has the freedom to choose Christ they also believe that this individual has freedom to choose to turn away from Christ. Their understanding of Scripture was that a person is saved by faith and thus he is kept by faith until the end. Thus, their understanding is that a person must exercise personal faith to be saved and must continue to believe to remain in a saving relationship with Christ. They have confidence in the power of God to keep them, and are secure in their relationship with Christ, however they understand the teaching of Scripture to be that it is possible for them to turn away. Thus, despite much misunderstanding, they did believe in salvation by faith, they just believed in the necessity to continue in faith to experience final salvation in heaven.

            The Particular Baptists were influenced by the theologian John Calvin. They believed in a Particular Atonement. This meant that they held "that Christ died only for the elect."[21] Thus they believed that Christ paid only for some sins when He died on the cross. He paid only for those whom God had elected to believe. The obvious outcome of this belief system would be what they termed eternal security, seeing the individual was elected to believe by God and thus would have no choice but to continue to believe. They didn't believe that man had a free will in believing and that he didn't have a free will in choosing to continue to believe. An interesting observation is that the Particular Baptists seemed to take the theology of the Church of England to a large extent. McBeth says, "the semi-separtists who later became the Particular Baptists accepted the Church of England as in some sense a true church, despite its many problems and imperfections."[22] According to McBeth's historical account, the Particular Baptists took the theology of the established church where the General Baptists seemed to entirely break from the established church and its teachings.

            Though there were some very major differences, these two groups shared some things in common as well. They both rejected infant baptism which was the practice of the established church. They each believed that the Church should be separate from the state. Thus men should have soul liberty to practice religion and it not be forced upon men by the government. They agreed on the baptism of believers only and none others. Thus the Baptist church was very diversified in its beginnings and yet very alike in many of its beliefs as well.

            The division came into the picture through a few different catalysts. As Dr. Samworth pointed out in his lectures, the divide occurred in a three-fold manner. First, it came through the anti-missionary movement in the 1820's. This was the result of some of the pastors who felt it unnecessary to support foreign missionaries to perform fulltime ministry. The second cause of the division stemmed from what would become the Campbellite movement. This group followed the teaching of Alexander Campbell. He believed that faith was more intellectual that a commitment. The rise of this movement caused some division among Baptists. The third great cause of division in early Baptists was what would ultimately be one of the great influencers of the civil war. It was a question of whether slavery was acceptable, and more specifically could a minister own slaves. Many of the Baptists felt that it was wrong to own slaved and others felt that slavery was an acceptable practice.[23]

            These controversies were the beginning of the division of the Baptists however, they were by no means the last of such divisions. The Baptist have divided down through history over so many different issues that it would be impossible for one paper to include all of them. From specific secondary theological beliefs, to personalities, to practices; the Baptists have divided over almost everything. The atmosphere of the day seems to almost spiritualize divisiveness as some kind of godly trait. It seems as if the church should focus on its differences instead of its similarities. There is no doubt cause to be always alert and aware of ones beliefs and practices, but the idea of division being the first solution to every disagreement is without a doubt an unbiblical mindset.

            The early Baptist church in America was a way more unified group than the Baptists of today. They unified along the lines of what they had in common instead of focusing on the minute differences that each held. The Baptists of today could learn a lot from their example. Dr. Samworth, makes mention of the great influence the Baptists had on early America and Christianity as a whole, and one could but wonder what kind of influence they could have again if they could be united in their fight against the devil and his world system. [24] Sadly, unlike the unified front that the early American Baptists had, the Baptist Church of today is in many ways, a house divided.

 

Works Cited

Benedict, David. "The Cause of Roger Williams Banishment." In A general history of the            Baptist denomination in America, and other parts of the world,, . Boston: Printed   by Lincoln & Edmands, no. 53, Cornhill, for the author, 1813.

Crowe, Dr. David. "The Spirit of Roger Williams." Advancing In Missions, January 1,     2000, Copied pdf.

McBeth, Leon. "Baptist Beginnings in New England." In The Baptist heritage, .    Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1987.

Newman, Albert Henry. A history of the Baptist churches in the United States. 1894.        Reprint, New York: Christian Literature, 1898. Copied pdf.

Pinson Jr., Wm. . "Baptist Distinctives." Baptist Distinctive http://www.baptistdistinctives.org/articles/what-makes-a-baptist-a-baptist/       (accessed July 21, 2014).

Samworth, Herbert. (2014, July 08). Lecture 3. [Video File]. Retrieved from                 http://online.thecrowncollege.com/mod/page/view.php?id=157760

Wikimedia Foundation. "Triennial Convention." Wikipedia.             http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triennial_Convention (accessed July 21, 2014)

 

[1]  Samworth, Herbert. (2014, July 08). Lecture 3. [Video File]. Retrieved from http://online.thecrowncollege.com/mod/page/view.php?id=157760

 

[2] Pinson Jr., Wm. . "Baptist Distinctives." Baptist Distinctives. http://www.baptistdistinctives.org/articles/what-makes-a-baptist-a-baptist/ (accessed July 21, 2014).

 

[3]  McBeth, Leon. "Baptist Beginnings in New England." In The Baptist heritage, . Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1987. 130.

 

[4]  Wikimedia Foundation. "Triennial Convention." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triennial_Convention (accessed July 21, 2014)

 

[5]  Crowe, Dr. David. "The Spirit of Roger Williams." Advancing In Missions, January 1, 2000, 4. Copied pdf.

 

[6]  Ibid.

 

[7]  McBeth, 130.

 

[8]   Newman, Albert Henry. A history of the Baptist churches in the United States. 1894. Reprint, New York: Christian Literature, 1898. Pg. 237. Copied pdf.

 

[9] Ibid.     

 

[10] Ibid. 238.

 

[11] Ibid. 239.

 

[12] Ibid. 244.

 

[13] Ibid. 247.

 

[14] Benedict, David. "The Cause of Roger Williams Banishment." In A general history of the Baptist denomination in America, and other parts of the world,, . Boston: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, no. 53, Cornhill, for the author, 1813.

 

[15] Newman. 255.

[16] Newman, Albert Henry. A history of the Baptist churches in the United States. 1894. Reprint, New York: Christian Literature, 1898. Pg. 237. Copied pdf.

 

[17] McBeth, Leon. "Baptist Beginnings in New England." In The Baptist heritage, . Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1987. 124.

 

[18] Ibid 138.

[19] McBeth, Leon. "Baptist Beginnings." In The Baptist Heritage, . Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1987. 32.

 

[20] Ibid. 21.

[21] Ibid. 39.

 

[22] Ibid.

[23] Dr. Herbert Samworth. Lecture 18,  ED 545ex Baptist Distinctives and History of the Church. Can be found at: http://online.thecrowncollege.com/course/view.php?id=1336.

 

[24] Dr. Herbert Samworth. Lecture 15,  ED 545ex Baptist Distinctives and History of the Church. Can be found at: http://online.thecrowncollege.com/course/view.php?id=1336.

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Posted on 02/07/2013 12:59 PM by Pastor Tim
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