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Carey Conference, Swanick, January 2005 [I]

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Category Articles
Date January 12, 2005

About 100 people gathered in Derbyshire for the annual Carey Conference, somewhat fewer in numbers than last year. As in all the free grace conferences in Britain during these years the blessing of God shows itself in the presence of a humble united spirit. There is a good balance of older preachers and younger men. There are no supermen in any reformed grouping today. The following is a summary of the various meetings in the first half of this year’s Carey Conference.

TOM ASCOL: J.B.GAMBRELL

Tom Ascol is the executive director of the Founders Ministries and pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. He gave a paper on an American contemporary of Spurgeon. He said the following, that 1877-1917 were critical years for the ethos of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was a time when the nation was revolutionized; the uniting of the east and west coasts by railroad and car and telephone. It was the time of the rise of theological liberalism. Man was thought of as the centre of the universe and evolving to be a better man. Landmark Baptist churches – Baptist successionism – were creating much difficulty in the Convention, and many who held this view withdrew from it during this time. The Southern Baptist Seminary relocated as also did the South West Seminary.

One of the most influential leaders of the SBC was Gambrell. He was born in South Carolina in 1841 seven years after Spurgeon but lived almost thirty years longer, dying in 1921. He was one of twelve children; all the family and the slaves were led in prayer each day. They moved later to Mississippi when at 15 Gambrell was converted. He was a fox-hunter and dog-lover as a boy and he gathered a great collection of hounds – he was virtually addicted to them. After his conversion his love of reading grew in leaps and bounds, and the books won over the dogs. He gave all the dogs away to the slaves – to his mother’s delight. He would buy and borrow any books he could lay his hands on. The Works of the Irish Baptist Carson in ten volumes influenced his thinking very much.

In 1861 at 19 he enlisted in the Confederate Army becoming a scout and getting to know Robert E. Lee. He fought at Gettysburg firing the first shot and he was part of the Pickett’s charge (General Pickett tried to break through the Union line and many were killed: Gambrell got to within 50 feet of the Union line).

Gambrell became a captain and married Mary T. Corbett a cultured Presbyterian woman in 1864 at 1 a.m. because of the war. They had nine children. The years after the war were very difficult, so much so that he thought of emigrating, with other former confederate soldiers, to South America. But Gambrell went to Virginia where he heard a preacher announcing his text from Romans 5 and proceeding to make a great mess of the passage, Gambrell longed to do it better. He was licensed to preach in 1867, and he first became a pastor of a black congregation in Mississippi. He opposed discrimination in any church. He later moved from West Point to the pastorate in Oxford Baptist church, Mississippi. He began his writing each day, but rarely kept the things he had written.

He became editor of the Baptist Record and was given the title ‘Uncle Gideon’ for his editorials. He took that title to the grave, though he was editor of the Record for fifteen years.

He went to a church in Texas and led Baptist missions in that state. He became the editor of the Baptist Standard in 1910 and four years the executive secretary of the Texas Convention. Gambrell worked tirelessly to unite the SB churches, but opposed the rising ecumenical movement.

Gambrell was convinced of the sovereignty of God, and he urged his students to copy Spurgeon. “He uses little words and cuts his message up; his sermons are full of grace. He never gave an invitation to people to come to the front. Be like him. Preach God’s word and God will do the rest.”

Gambrell also taught at Fort Worth Seminary at this same time when he was 70 years of age and continued until he was almost 80. His last years were not a period of quiet retirement. He served for four terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1917 – 1921). How can we assess his ministry?

1. He was insistent on Christian orthodoxy – that which was predominant in the first 70 years of the SBC. The New Hampshire Confession and the Philadelphia Confession were most helpful. He spoke very clearly about predestination and election. He once described Arminianism as virtual idiocy – it makes God less than man. He also saw the evils of hyper-Calvinism.

Another aspect of his inheritance was his support of connectionalism. Today the problem is that connectionalism has been separated from confessionalism. In the last 25 years the former has been emphasized and the latter ignored.

Gambrell was an educator who supported the erection of colleges and the two seminaries. He was in favour of careful control over the seminaries – ‘in a time of shift and drift.’ “We do not need new doctrines,” he said, “but the old doctrines powerfully preached.” Three final lessons:

1. Warning. The need to strenuously watch your own heart and life. Yet did not see the deviations from the Reformed faith as reasons for sounding an alarm. In his latter years he should have warned the churches about theological decline.

2. Preaching. The importance of preaching to the necessity and capacity of the hearers. Gambrell is a model on what to preach and to suit it to the capacity of his hearers. Plain, simple and dependent on the power of the Spirit was his preaching. He was known as the ‘great Baptist commoner.’ He saw ministers as truth brokers, and doctrinal preaching to be the great need of the day. There is ‘too much milksop preaching these days,’ he said. He despised men who used long words to impress the people. He compared them to people who created dirt puddles that have an appearance of depth because they are not transparent.

3. He went on to the end enduring attacks and setbacks, persevering because of the certainty of his call. “You are entering a hard service,” he told students, “so ‘Hold fast'” he said. His perseverance inspires us today.

VICTOR ATTALAH: ‘JERUSALEM.’

Victor Attalah grew up in Egypt and Lebanon, studying in Beirut where he helped form the Middle East Reformed Fellowship (MERF). For 25 years he served in Arabic broadcasting, church planting and training indigenous gospel workers. He is based in Cyprus. He spoke firstly on ‘Jerusalem’ saying the following:

I do have strong feelings on this matter, but I will not approach it from the political point of view, though it cannot be totally avoided. It is a very touchy subject and many Christians do not see ‘Jerusalem’ as I see it. Certainly the Bible does speak on the land, the city and the temple. There are men who claim that the Jews of Israel today have the right to all the land of Palestine and the whole city of Jerusalem. Some fanatics would like the destruction of the mosque of the Dome of the Rock and of rebuilding the Temple on that sight. There are Moslem scholars who know this sort of thing is being said. Let Christians be aware that after Mecca and another site the Dome of the Rock is the third most important site in Islam.

Mohammed said that Jesus and Moses were both prophets of God and they had miracles to prove it. He was asked, “You claim to be a prophet of Allah – so what confirmatory signs can you give?” He said, “I have the Koran, a miracle of God.” Also he said that God would instantly take Mohammed instantly from Arabia to the site of the Mosque where he had an audience with an angel of God. A billion Muslims believe today that this to be true.

In 2,000 Jewish political leader and former general Sharon led a group of zealous Jews to enter the Dome of the Rock. The Muslims felt that his visit defiled their holy place by its force of entry. At the gate of the Dome of the Rock there was conflict and 37 Palestinians were killed. Sharon went on to win the election, and now he is prime minister.

What light do we get on Jerusalem from Scripture? Haggai 2:14-2:9 is the most relevant section where we read, “So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius. 2:1 “On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 4 But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ 6 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

Is all that true? Has it been fulfilled? Where is the peace? “It is yet to come,” reply many. “The desire of all nations is yet to come,” but is that so? Has he not come? Isn’t the ‘temple of God’ a symbol of the reality today of God’s presence amongst the people of the earth? Christ is the first-born of the new humanity. The temple of God has become a people not a building. In Hebrews we are told that all the types of the temples and tabernacle were all fulfilled in Christ. Jesus did it all. The temple veil has been rent in two. We Christians are the temple of God. The Spirit of God dwells in us.

Abraham is told that his line was going to be made a great nation, and ultimately in Abraham all the nations of the earth were going to be blessed. Before there was a nation, and a temple, and circumcision, God made his covenant with Abraham and his seed, and that seed is Christ. A child of God cannot be closer to God than he already is at this very moment. He is in Christ.

What was the ‘land’? It was only a symbol of that which comes down from heaven, the Jerusalem that is from above. There is no need for anything or anyone else. The Christ who opened the heavens for us now dwells with us and in us.

DAVID ELLIS: THE LOVE OF CHRIST FOR US.

David Ellis was born in the Irish Republic. He was a missionary for many years in France. He is now the pastor in Stowmarket Baptist Church. He preached to the conference on the following verse:

John 13:1 “He now showed them the full extent of his love.

The Saviour washing the feet of his disciples is recorded only in this gospel. On a natural level you first fall in love and then you learn to love. Jesus, on the other hand, loved us before we were born.

1. THE MOMENTOUS OCCASION THAT THIS WAS.

It was the Passover feast and the hour had come. Whenever God in his word speaks to us of his love then redemption is never far away. John the Baptist cried, “Behold the Lamb of God . . .” at the Passover. This was the final Passover in Christ’s live and there was never going to be another Passover – only in its dying form. At the Wedding at Cana he does not reveal his identity, nor in the feast of the Tabernacles in the Temple. Again in chapter 8 he tells them that he is the light of the world, but no one could show his opposition because his hour had not yet come. In chapter 12 he speaks of the coming of that hour. He knew it (13:1); he showed them then the full extent of his love.

There is nothing approximate, no ‘roughly this hour’ about this event. The timetable of Christ’s ‘departure’ is coming into operation, i.e. his removal from where he is to where he is going to be until the end of the age. He knew that the hour had come; he was not surprised by it. He knew that his departure was at hand and that now he must show them the full extent of his love. Here is a climax of his love, the fulness of the extent of his love for them, a covenant love. They knew that Jesus loved them; there were many demonstrations of this. He had borne with them so patiently and they had this confidence in him. Sometimes love is a ‘given,’ that is, we simply know the love of the other. Yet there are other times when love has to be confessed: “whatever happens you know that I love you . .” The circumstances are usually a trial.

So it was here, that they all faced a great trial and he has to show them his love. This is the way he did it, by washing their feet. It is stated so carefully by John. How does it show the full extent of his love? You have to understand who he is. Here is an enacted parable – the details John gives to us. He stripped himself and girded himself, take basin and water and washed their feet. Judas was going to betray Jesus while across the room Jesus is taking the towel and water. He knew that all things had been eternally put in his hands. Nothing had been excluded. He would do with it as it pleased him. All creation is in his hands; all redeeming work is in his hands; now a towel is in his hands. He came from God purposefully to do his Father’s will, supported and encouraged by the Father at every step of his mission. He comes to us without leaving God, and he returns to the Father without leaving us.

He has the whole world in his hands, and now the towel is in his hands. He shows the full extent of his love in this way, as a servant – this eternal Son. He has convened this meal as its host, and yet he gets up and lays aside his clothing – as a menial servant he draws near. He bathes us and cleanses us. What is the full extent of his love? The glorious one washes their feet because he loves them. They are arguing as to who is the greatest, while he kneels before them. He loves them with a boundless and everlasting love.

He has some awkward disciples on his hands, one who says, “you are never going to wash my feet,” and another called . . . Judas.

Another acted ‘parable’ is within this ‘parable’ – “if you are not washed, Peter, then you have no part of me,” like the Corinthian Christians who had been ‘washed’ and sanctified and justified. He does the work and then he resumes his seat. It is a picture of Philippians 2:5-11. When his work is over he confers on them his marvellous mission. How do we wash one another’s feet today? It is by the preaching of the Word and the means of grace and the influence we have over one another in Christian fellowship.

“You call me teacher and Lord? I am, but you will learn from me if you give me that designation. You too are to wash one another’s feet. Be loving and be serving if you are learning from me. That is the mission. You have to do what I am doing.”

How hard it is to love the unloving and the hostile, but Jesus is saying, “I did it, and you must do it the same way.” William Still on the ‘Work of the Pastor’ says that you will make some people glad and others mad, but you will never hear a thing from the first category!

Our success in the ministry will be that when we have done everything the Lord has given us to do that we bow and say, “I am an unprofitable servant.” He wants us to work in imitation of him. The Greeks despised labour but Jesus laboured with soap and water and towel.

What does Jesus expect us to do? To be holy and be devoted to the Father’s good, to press on for the Father’s reward, “Well done good and faithful servant.” We remember certain people by their Christlikeness. We say, “You know all things; you know that I love you.” So it is, “Feed my sheep.” Submit to him and learn of him for he is meek and lowly of heart. If he is not your teacher he is not your Lord, and if he is not your Lord you cannot be his disciple. We know these things; happy are we if we do them. This passage cannot bless us spiritually until we do what he does.

HUGH COLLIER “The Compassion of Christ.”

Hugh Collier is the pastor of Great Ellingham Baptist Church in Norfolk. He said:

Our concern is that we become more like the Son of God. What would have struck us about Jesus Christ? Many things such as his purity, holiness and wisdom, power, authority and teaching, but one of the most striking things was his compassion for the countless multitudes. Jesus was move with compassion and pity for the crowds who thronged him. There was no detached professionalism about him. He loved and cared for them.

How easy it is to lose that compassion. We are dealing with people all the time and it is easy for us to become mechanical. Preachers can be on ‘automatic pilot.’ People let us down; they are not what they appear to be. It is easy to become cynical. We are still battling with our own selfishness rather than getting involved with other people’s lives. If we are to be like the Good Shepherd then our ministries need to be marked by a big-heartedness.

WHAT IS THE COMPASSIONATE SAVIOUR LIKE?

He is like his Father in heaven – as our children are like us – but too often in our worst features! Jesus had the compassion of Jehovah as revealed to Moses in Exodus 33. God showed him the glory of his compassion. God does not tire of meeting the needs of the poor and needy. He makes provision for the fatherless and the widow. He is full of compassion – absolutely and infinitely full! The size of the object marks its distinctiveness when it is full. “We are full,” people say after a meal, but some seem to be able to eat far more than we can! God is infinite in his compassion. When his Son comes he displays his compassion. We have been recipients of it. The father of the prodigal sees his son and he runs to meet him in his love. Jesus is like the Father who sent him.

He is busy and tired having set himself to preach in all Galilee in all their synagogues. Josephus says there were 204 such communities; he was teaching in them all. It was an extended period of ministry. But crowds have come from all of them to hear more of him. He doesn’t turn one away, and so late into the night he is helping people. That is what compassion is, an active sympathy reaching out to help others. He is the one who came not to be served but to serve. In Mark 6 we are told of Jesus taking his disciples apart for a break. He was human too and needed a rest. Not even a storm could awaken Jesus in a boat on the lake. Jesus felt they needed a rest in order to work better. Though he is busy and tired he is moved with compassion for them. If we are going to like him our lives will be busy too. We should be used to weariness.

WHAT DOES THE COMPASSIONATE SAVIOUR SEE?

Don Carson was outraged at finding so many high-schoolers living it up at a lake at which he had gone for a break, but his compassionate friend saw in the same scene an opportunity for the gospel. What might Jesus have seen? A group of people out for what they could get from him. No, he saw sheep lacking a shepherd, weary and scattered folk. They were alone and vulnerable, soon lost. No one knows where they are going; they are lost people in danger. Easy prey for the evil one, and Jesus is moved with compassion and is determined to shepherd them. That is why he has come. Ezekiel shows the irresponsible shepherds who do not teach the people, but promises that God will establish one shepherd over them (Ez. 34). What sort of eyes do we have? Do we see in the Sunday morning congregation those who have no sympathy for us, unruly deacons, rebellious teenagers who will not listen to such an ‘uncool’ man, that man who is there to take money from you, the man who looks for anything to criticize you for. Or do you see the lost and bewildered men and women who need to be turned to the Lord?

As you walk down the High Street what do you see? Unruly young people, men and women living in sin, people who have no regard for the Lord’s Day? Is that what you see? Or do you see sheep without a shepherd? People are victims of the latest trend, lost wandering people, in desperate need. That is what the Saviour saw and what we must see. He did not excuse sin. Do we find it easier to condemn than to pity?

WHAT DOES THE COMPASSIONATE SAVIOUR DO?

Compassion is something active. The father ran to meet his son. What does Jesus do? He teaches them many things, preaching to them the kingdom of God. I love the fact that Jesus was a preacher. This was his great work. He goes on to the next town to preach, for this was the purpose of his ministry. He brings them the word of God, and that is how we show our compassion to them, from the pulpit and in our daily lives. We must spend time in our pulpits to give them rich food, to prepare the best teaching for them. Are we compassionate men? That is what Jesus did – he was teaching them.

Jesus also fed them, meeting their material needs. He fed the 5,000 not just as a sign but because of the compassion he had for people’s needs. He is like his Father in heaven who cares for the needy. We have no place for a social gospel but we are faced with people’s needs. The book of James has those striking exhortations such as to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. The people of God are to be marked by good works. We are to care for people in their entirety. The compassion of Christ is to be seen in the body of Christ and spill out in our concern for others. The refugee, the troubled, the old. Galatians 6:9&10 exhorts us to do good to all men especially those of the household of faith.

O that the Saviour might give us eyes like his, a heart like his, a compassion like his. That is my longing for my own ministry.

DAVID KINGDON “The Humanity of Christ.”

David Kingdon has held pastorates in England, South Africa and Wales. For eleven years he was principal of the Irish Baptist College. He said:

I have often said to myself in preparing this paper, “Kingdon, you’re a fool to have suggested giving such a paper.” It is such a massive subject. I will not explain the old heresies or the modern kenosis theory in this paper.” When David was a student he was working at a secular job and someone asked, “How is it that when people become Christians they get less human?” For all practical purposes Christ’s humanity does not function in Christian living as it should. I know a man who will not sing the words ‘helpless babe’ regarding Christ as he believed it did despite to the Lord, but how did the Saviour come to earth? Some Christians feel guilty for weeping at the loss of a loved one, but Jesus wept.

1. THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST AND THE INCARNATION.

The church has confessed the humanity of Christ in the incarnation. He became man without ceasing to be God. As the Westminster Confession says in chapter 8, “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.”

The virgin birth is a sign of God’s judgment on the human race – it needs a redeemer but it cannot produce one. He must come from outside. The humanity of Christ was created by the Spirit. He overshadowed Mary and thus she conceived Jesus. Adamic guilt was not imputed to Christ. He was freed from such entailment from the very beginning. His humanity was not created in heaven but it was ex Maria, from her flesh and substance. Jesus underwent normal embryonic development, and he grew after birth through the stages of infancy and childhood. He was born under law. He was obedient to his parents, though filled with wisdom. He was perfect for every stage of growth. The strictly normal development from infancy to manhood that the world has seen.

He was subject to the constraints of human existence, for example, he voluntarily really and actually accepted them. He gathered information as we do. He lived by faith in an unknown future. Yet as God he was omniscient; his divine nature communicated knowledge to him. Supernatural knowledge is not infinite knowledge. The incarnation requires some kind of ignorance. Jesus was never ignorant of anything he needed to know.

Just as our Lord had to fulfil his office as mediator with the weaknesses of a human body so too with a human mind’s limitations. He must serve with the limitations of finiteness. Such limitations need not infer an absence of infallibility. Jesus did not err, though truly human. The real premise of his infallibility was that he was a divine prophet and specially endowed with the Spirit.

There was the fulness of human life that he experienced. All the emotions of human life he experienced including the fulness of exultant joy, and this joy is what he gave to his disciples. He experienced anger at the synagogue at Capernaum when he healed the man with the shriveled hand (Mark 3:2-5). He was deeply troubled at the grave of Lazarus.

He was made sin for us, though he had no sin, and that can be said of the entire ministry of Jesus.

He was tempted; he never drew comfort from his impeccability. When he was tempted he did not take it in his stride that the devil could not conquer him. He asked for the prayer support of Peter, James and John. He lived as a man with the uncertainty of the future, by trusting in God.

2. THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST GLORIFIED.

Peter in Cornelius’ household comments on the humanity of Jesus, his going about doing good. Other apostles speak of his manhood, their letters presupposing his humanity.

i] Incarnation and atonement. The writer of the Hebrews links his humanity to his saving work on the cross and his continued work in heaven. In answer to the question why Jesus came we are given such answers as these, that he might destroy the devil, to free those who were in slavery, to become a faithful high priest and to make propitiation. He did not assume partial humanity but the whole except for sin.

ii] He made propitiation and took our humanity with him to heaven, there not subject to weakness. His mission could not be accomplished without raising his body to glory. If we share in his sufferings we shall share in his glory. It is in human nature he will return.

iii] His incarnate humanity in the glory is the stuff of his sympathy and for us. The presence of glorified humanity is the ground of Christ’s compassion for us.

We are to imitate Christ; he expects us to follow his example. To this we are called. We are promised that one day we shall be like him. We await the transformation of our humble bodies. Early in the 1970s an American reporter asked John Stott about what his outstanding ambitions might be. Stott said, “To be more like Jesus.” Is that your ambition and mine now?

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