Saturday, March 3, 2012

All Things Are Yours

"Each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas [Peter],' or 'I follow Christ.'  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"  (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

"For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not being merely human?  What then is Apollos?  What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each."  (1 Corinthians 3:4-5)

"So let no one boast in men.  For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."  (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

I pretty much love Reformed theology.  It shows up in every post on this blog (hence the unabashed shout-out to God's foreknowledge in the title Beloved Before Time).  Reformed churches--both the preaching and the people--have set my faith on a firm foundation.  So as I wade through the murky waters of biblical teaching on baptism and covenant theology and the nature of the church, I come face-to-face with the fact that I might end up going against the Reformed confessional standards that I have so profited from (namely, the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Westminster Standards).  To go against conscience is neither wise nor safe (Luther).  And yet this is so hard for me, because I want everything in neat little boxes, with no loose ends or perplexing uncertainties.

While I recognize that in some gray areas it's more expedient for pastors to simply stick with a denominational norm and then get at the hard work of caring for souls, slavish commitment to one expression of sound Reformed theology is not the goal of these confessions.  Their goal is to teach Christ-exalting truth.  And they still do, even if I differ on a few points.

If I say I'm reticent or unwilling to believe or practice X (and X is not sin) because the Heidelberg says otherwise, am I not being merely human in my allegiances (1 Cor. 3:4)?  The reality is that I do not belong to Calvin or Ursinius or the PCA, but that "I belong, body and soul, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1).  Quite oppositely, they belong to me and to the flock under their care (1 Cor. 3:21-23).  Theologians, pastors, books, confessions, and traditions exist not as masters over Christ's church but as her servants, and each belongs to her to build up and beautify her in its own appointed times and ways.  There are many workers in God's field and many builders in God's temple, each of whom has his (or her) own unique but necessary contributions (1 Cor. 3:8-10).  We may be less without them, but they are insufficient on their own.  As a Christian, I do not exist to bolster the validity of the Reformed confessions, but rather they exist to bolster me and all Christians, and along with others to contribute to the chorus teaching us to sing God's praises.

So even if I find that Olivia and I choose to embrace a more baptistic view of baptism, that's okay.  The foundation is what makes a building strong, and that one foundation of God's sovereign grace in Christ Jesus has been well-laid (1 Cor. 3:11).  My life and family stand strong because Reformed theology is "rooted and built up in Christ" (Col. 2:6-7) and serves as a strong foundation and framework for my house.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that John Murray or B. B. Warfield has to install the plumbing.

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