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Showing posts from July, 2015

On Falling From Grace (Part 4): Some More Texts on What it Actually Means to Fall From Grace

In the last installment we were looking at some Scriptures to see what it actually means to fall from grace. And today we’re going to do a bit more of that. (For the previous posts in the series so far, see: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

The writer to the Hebrews takes up the topic again in Hebrews 10. There we’re encouraged to ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful’ (Heb. 10:23). Our hope doesn’t need to be shaken, for our God is the faithful God. At the end of the chapter the writer quotes from the LXX of Habakkuk: ‘Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him,’ followed by the assurance: ‘But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul’ (Heb. 10:38-39). In both the OT quotation and the assurance, the contrast is between faith and drawing back. Faith leads to life and salvation, but drawing back to perdition and God’s displeasure. Again, th…

'Thy Loving Kindness is Better Than Life' (A little tribute to Ps Hugh Mitchell)

We're going to have a wee break from our current series today for a wee tribute. Today's the funeral of Pastor Hugh Mitchell, who died at the age of 100. If Apostolic pastors were the House of Commons, Hugh Mitchell would have been the Father of the House. But he wasn't simply the eldest pastor in the church. He was a faithful servant of God who had a significant impact on the life of the Apostolic Church, not only in the UK, but also around the world as Missionary Secretary. And his impact went far beyond the Apostolic Church as well.

These last two Sundays we've been singing one of his best-known choruses, Thy Loving-Kindness is Better than Life, in church (as well as using the patten he and the other members of the Gospel Quintet gave to the church at Easter 75 years ago). And when I went on the internet to see if I could find the song anywhere, I found it everywhere: from Lutheran hymnbooks, to recordings by the Maranatha Singers. From renditions by black gospel c…

On Falling From Grace (Part 3): What does it Actually Mean to Fall From Grace?

Let’s have a closer look at some Scriptures to see what it actually means to fall from grace. A good place to start would be the text the expression comes from – Galatians 5:4: ‘You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.’

Here we see what we’re talking about and what we’re not, which will help clear up a few misconceptions about the possibility of falling from grace. For a start, Paul’s writing about Christians who go back to relying on attempts to keep the law for salvation. (Specifically here, it’s about Christians who decide they need to get circumcised.) Now, the whole point here is that he’s writing to Christians. These aren’t unbelievers. These aren’t just people associated with the Church. They can only become estranged from Christ because they were united to Christ. They can only fall from grace because they were in grace. So this is a warning about true Christians losing their salvation.

But how? By attempting …

On Falling From Grace (Part 2): Holding the Assurance and the Warnings Together

But how can we have such strong true assurance if the warnings are true warnings? Or how could the warnings be true warnings if our assurance is so certain? Surely the two can’t stand together! Well, that’s the way many evangelicals approach these texts. On the one hand Calvinists will hold onto the assurances and explain the warnings. On the other hand Arminians will hold onto the warnings and explain the assurances. Some Calvinists argue that the warnings are hypothetical; others that they’re aimed at people who’re in the church but aren’t really Christians. Some Arminians argue that the assurances are misread (either they’re prayers/hopes/rhetorical expressions of confidence in God, or not actually speaking to the subject); others that they’re to be taken conditionally.

But, although those are the common alternatives for reading these texts among British evangelicals, they aren’t the only ways they’ve historically been read by Protestants with a high view of Scripture. For, even b…

On Falling From Grace (Part 1): Scriptural Assurance and Scriptural Warning

The Bible is explicit in the assurances it gives of salvation. Jesus Himself said that no one could ever snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28-30). Paul gives thanks to God, ‘being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6). God ‘will also confirm [us] to the end, that [we] may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). Peter writes that we’re ‘kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5). In fact, Paul even goes so far as to say:
I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39) Now that’s assurance!

The Bible is also explicit in the warnings it gives about falling away from salvation. Jesus Him…

Some Early Pentecostal Communion Choruses

Scattered throughout the pages of the Riches of Grace can be found examples of the choruses (and hymns) that were sung in the early years of Pentecostalism in Britain, and of the Apostolic Church in particular. So I've gathered together some of the choruses that were sung at Breaking of Bread services here. Some are specifically for the sacrament; some take up broader themes like the blood of Jesus or communion with Christ.

Come and gather round the Table spread,
Come and drink the wine and break the bread.
Here we shall meet our risen Lord,
Here we shall feast upon the Word.
   (George Perfect)


Keep me under the Blood, dear Lord,
Calvary's crimson flood.
Not mine own, but Thine alone,
Keep me under the Blood.


Jesus is Victor! The battle is won.
We can do nothing, for all has been done;
Jesus is Victor! The foe from the dust
Never can rise again, if we but trust.


Wonderful Jesus, wonderful Jesus!
Filling my soul with heavenly power;
Wonderful Jesus, wonderful Jesus!
Cleansing and healing thi…

Fantastic Book on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

William P. Atkinson, Baptism in the Spirit: Luke-Acts and the Dunn Debate (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick, 2011)

William Atkinson has done the Pentecostal world a great service with his short, clear, and readible book on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. As the subtitle points out, the focus is on the debate started by James Dunn 45 years ago with his book Baptism in the Holy Spirit which argued strongly against the Pentecostal position.

For anyone outside the Pentecostal academy it might seem strange to focus on a book from 45 years ago, but that’s just how influential Dunn’s book has been; it has largely set the agenda for Pentecostal scholars’ work on the baptism of the Spirit from its publication in 1970 until now.

And this is where Atkinson’s book is so useful. You see, many of the Pentecostal books interacting with Dunn have been very long and dense, and they all make different arguments. But Atkinson manages to sum up and sift the main lines of argument over these last 45 years. He’s …

Four Things Good Apostolics Can’t do with Left-over Bread and Wine after Communion

‘After the close of the meeting when the Breaking of Bread service has been held, anything left of the emblems (bread and wine) should be destroyed, so as to avoid desecration ... (Ex. 12:10).’ The Apostolic Church: Its Principles and Practices, p.216.  ‘The Breaking of Bread ... is administered by the Presbytery to set forth the dignity and holiness which should be associated with this [sacrament] and to preserve it from any abuse ... At the conclusion of the service emblems remaining should be destroyed for the same reason.’ Introducing the Apostolic Church: A Manual of Belief, Practice and History, p.44.1.) Can’t Reserve them for Adoration
2.) Can’t Keep them to distribute another time, at another service
3.) Can’t throw them out with the rubbish
4.) Can’t keep them to reconsecrate again at next Sunday’s communion
So eat up (or otherwise you'll have to burn them!).

Here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?: On delayed baptism and theological presuppositions

Baptism’s been on my mind a lot of late, for a variety of reasons. So that means I’ve found the discussions going on between Jonathan Leeman, Mark Jones, Andrew Wilson and Joe Rigney regarding children and baptism somewhat interesting (at times, also frustrating, but nevertheless interesting). My rather superficial and completely un-nuanced overview of the views expressed so far is that Leeman advocates neither baptising nor affirming a child’s profession of faith until adulthood (or thereabouts); Jones is a paedobaptist who worries that Leeman’s approach runs the risk of effectively telling true believers that they may well not be believers and so causing them to doubt their salvation; Rigney says go ahead and affirm their profession of faith, but don’t baptise until they’re ready to assume the responsibilities of adulthood; Wilson finds merit in Rigney’s position. (Rigney gives links to most of the relevant posts at the bottom of this article, except Wilson’s last post which came …

Liturgical and Pentecostal (and why that’s a good thing!)

Sitting in a pew in the medieval church at the heart of a city where medieval and modern still sit comfortably side by side waiting for Holy Communion to commence on a pleasant spring evening a year or so ago, one might have been forgiven for expecting the pipes of the organ to spring to life or the minister to stand up to say the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect for Purity. Instead, as in so many English evangelical churches, irrespective of architecture, denomination or theology, it was the band that sprang into life with the sound of Hillsong stretching to the vaulted ceilings. Then, when the service did reach the communion, the minister made a long apology for the being liturgical, before asking people to pass the peace and then continuing on without much discernible liturgy at all. At that point the friends whose church I was visiting turned to me and said, ‘You’ll have had much more liturgy in your Pentecostal church this morning that we’re having in our Anglican one tonight.’ We …

Five Apostolic Values - Tim Jack

It's coming up to Convention time again, which (together with happening upon my convention notebook) has reminded me of something I wanted to write about from last year's convention, but so far haven't. One of the speakers at last year's Convention was Tim Jack, the former national leader of the Apostolic Church in Australia. So this post is a summary of some of what Tim Jack spoke about at AblazeUK 2014, ending with his 5 Apostolic Values.

Tim reminded us how everything flows to us from God's great love, by His grace. Grace is not a commodity. Grace is God's love coming to us in Jesus.

And this grace is rooted in the communion between Jesus and the Father. It comes from the presence of the Triune God. This is where the power for our mission flows from. So we need to be people of the presence of God as w haven't been for a generation or maybe two. The gracious power of the presence of God melts the power of hostility and indifference.

The Church is the Bod…