Foundational Teachings on Church Associations from the 2016 ARBCA GA

I was blessed to attend the General Assembly (GA) of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America (ARBCA) this year. It was hosted by Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois from May 26-28. The host church went above and beyond in showing hospitality. It was truly an excellent experience. Mike and I recorded a podcast in which I provide an overview of the GA. If you have not listened to it yet, please do.

Here I wish to set before you some of the preaching and teaching that we were blessed to receive at the GA. There were a number of devotionals, lectures, and sermons delivered. All of them were very good. They can be found at Here I wish to highlight those lectures and sermons that speak directly to the issue of church associations. What is the biblical warrant for local churches belonging to an association of churches? How should associations be formed? How ought they to be maintained? What is the purpose of forming associations? These questions are addressed in one way or another in the teachings I have selected.

Brothers and sisters, I would encourage you to listen to these if you can find the time. The leadership of Emmaus has grown convinced over the years of the importance of belonging to an association of churches that share the same view of the Bible and the same view of the mission of the church. We have been officially received into the Southern California Association of Reformed Baptist Churches (SCARBC) and we will be prayerfully considering ARBCA in the months (maybe years) to come.

Foundational Teachings on Church Associations from the 2016 ARBCA GA:

A Defense of Confessionalism  – Arden Hodgins –  4/27/2016

A Tale of Two Associations Revisited – James M. Renihan – 4/27/2016

Devotional from John 17:20-26 – John Miller – 4/28/2016

Associational Churchmanship: LBC 26:12-15 – James M. Renihan – 4/28/2016


2 Peter 2:1 and Limited Atonement

I came across something the other day that reminded me of how people use 2 Peter 2:1 to deny the doctrine of limited atonement. I preached a sermon on this a while ago (can’t remember if it was good one, to be honest), and I also dug up an article that I remember being helpful. I do wish that folks would take the time to do careful exegesis on these difficult passages instead of carelessly using them as poof texts to support their presuppositions. Hope these resources are helpful to those who care to wrestle with this doctrine.

From Your Heart, Forgive

It is true that it can be difficult to forgive someone who has wronged you, but forgiveness is the Christian way!

Jesus said, “Pray then like this… ‘forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’” (Matthew 6:12, ESV)

In my short time in pastoral ministry I have noticed that Christians sometimes struggle to forgive. There are times when the unforgiving disposition is indeed due to a hardness of heart. But often I find that the Christian’s unwillingness to forgive is due, in part, to a lack of understanding concerning what forgiveness is, and what it is not, according to the scriptures.

May I encourage all of you, and especially those struggling with the issue of forgiveness now, to prayerfully, thoroughly, and thoughtfully read the attached article. It’s a bit longer than a Twitter post, but it presents the Bible’s teaching on this issue with the depth and breadth necessary to help move the Christian to a God honoring place when it comes to forgiving others from the heart.


Pastor Joe


Calvin on Self Denial

I’m reading through the Institutes as a part of my devotional time and I figured that I might as well share the portions that seem most pertinent to me. At the very least this will serve as a journal of sorts for my own use – all the better if someone else comes along, reads the post, and is blessed as I was.

Moreover, we see by these words that self-denial has respect partly to men and partly (more especially) to God (sec. 8–10). For when Scripture enjoins us, in regard to our fellow men, to prefer them in honour to ourselves, and sincerely labour to promote their advantages (Rom. 12:10; Phil. 2:3), he gives us commands which our mind is utterly incapable of obeying until its natural feelings are suppressed. For so blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love, that every one thinks he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison. If God has bestowed on us something not to be repented of, trusting to it, we immediately become elated, and not only swell, but almost burst with pride. The vices with which we abound we both carefully conceal from others, and flatteringly represent to ourselves as minute and trivial, nay, sometimes hug them as virtues. When the same qualities which we admire in ourselves are seen in others, even though they should be superior, we, in order that we may not be forced to yield to them, maliciously lower and carp at them; in like manner, in the case of vices, not contented with severe and keen animadversion, we studiously exaggerate them. Hence the insolence with which each, as if exempted from the common lot, seeks to exalt himself above his neighbour, confidently and proudly despising others, or at least looking down upon them as his inferiors. The poor man yields to the rich, the plebeian to the noble, the servant to the master, the unlearned to the learned, and yet every one inwardly cherishes some idea of his own superiority. Thus each flattering himself, sets up a kind of kingdom in his breast; the arrogant, to satisfy themselves, pass censure on the minds and manners of other men, and when contention arises, the full venom is displayed. Many bear about with them some measure of mildness so long as all things go smoothly and lovingly with them, but how few are there who, when stung and irritated, preserve the same tenor of moderation? For this there is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most noxious pests, self-love and love of victory (φιλονεικία καὶ φιλαυτία). This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us to remember, that the endowments which God has bestowed upon us are not our own, but His free gifts, and that those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. “Who maketh thee to differ,” saith Paul, “and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). Then by a diligent examination of our faults let us keep ourselves humble. Thus while nothing will remain to swell our pride, there will be much to subdue it. Again, we are enjoined, whenever we behold the gifts of God in others, so to reverence and respect the gifts, as also to honour those in whom they reside. God having been pleased to bestow honour upon them, it would ill become us to deprive them of it. Then we are told to overlook their faults, not, indeed, to encourage by flattering them, but not because of them to insult those whom we ought to regard with honour and good will. In this way, with regard to all with whom we have intercourse, our behaviour will be not only moderate and modest, but courteous and friendly. The only way by which you can ever attain to true meekness, is to have your heart imbued with a humble opinion of yourself and respect for others.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).


The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World

One of my habits is to listen to podcasts throughout the week as I drive in the car and run. I plan to grow more consistent in passing along the good stuff to you so that others can also be edified.

As of late I have enjoyed listening to The Reformed Forum podcast. There are so many wonderful issues covered, and so many top-notch scholars interviewed in this broadcast – I would highly recommend that you listen in.

In particular, I would commend an episode entitled The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World. This is one of their “less academic” programs, but the content is so deeply practical – I think it would be worth your time to have a listen.

Blessings, church. I look forward to gathering with you all on the Lord’s Day.


The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World