Tune in to hear and learn from C.N. Willborn (GPTS, Covenant Presbyterian Church), Joseph A. Pipa Jr. (GPTS), Breno E Roberta Macedo (GPTS, Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church), Ian Hamilton (GPTS, Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Banner of Truth, EPCEW), Peter Van Doodewaard (Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church), Guy Prentiss Waters (Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson), A. Craig Troxel (Westminster Seminary California), and L. Anthony Curto (GPTS, OPC Foreign Missions).
“This is an assertion of glory,” Dr. Pipa declared as he preached on Christ as King during the Wednesday evening session of this year’s Spring Theology Conference. “Because Jesus Christ eternally rules over us and all things in majesty, power, and victory, we then are to serve Him in holiness according to His Word,” he continued as he proposed the main idea of his selected text, Psalm 93.
Through the course of ten main sessions, two panel discussions, one pre-conference lecture, and a multitude of small gatherings and individual interactions, the glories of Christ were extolled, and His Name was exalted among over 370 conference attendees. Preachers and teachers from a selection of faithful churches and premier seminaries expounded upon various aspects of Christ’s Person and Work.
Dr. G.K. Beale and Dr. Jonathan Gibson of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania presented the full humanity of Christ in His Incarnation and Humiliation. Dr. Joel Beeke and Dr. Michael Barrett of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan showed forth the perfection of Christ in His Deity and Beauty. Dr. Richard D. Phillips of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina touted the impeccability and obedience of Christ as the spotless Lamb of God.
Dr. Ian Hamilton, Greenville Seminary Trustee and pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales preached two sermons, one on Christ as Prophet, and another on His Resurrection. Pastor Ryan Speck (MDiv ’05) of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Columbia, Missouri proved the significance of Christ’s Ascension and Session to sit at the right hand of God the Father in Glory. Joseph Pipa and Ryan McGraw preached on Christ as King, and on His promised return, respectively.
During one panel discussion, a question was raised as to the necessity and benefit of seminary experience for young men aspiring to pulpit ministry. Nearly ever participant of the seven-member panel provided an answer to the question! Dr. Benjamin Shaw (Hebrew & Old Testament, Greenville Seminary) pointed out, “Your time in seminary is part of forming you for ministry – it’s part of who you are.” The other members of the panel echoed the sentiment, which exemplifies our emphasis on cultivating experimental piety – that is, truth applied to all of life – as part of the ministerial formation of our students.
Faculty, students, and staff were deeply encouraged to see so many alumni returning to the South Carolina Upstate to be a part of the conference this year. During the annual Alumni Association meeting, Association President Jim Stevenson (MDiv ’12), who pastors Providence Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, exhorted his fellow alumni to refer aspiring ministers to Greenville Seminary, saying, “Send people here because the church needs biblical and faithful pastors and preachers.” During the three-day midweek conference, the experience that produces such ministers was made available to hundreds of guests from around the world.
In addition to guests from across the United States and Canada, the Seminary community welcomed visitors from John Wycliffe Theological College in Randburg, South Africa, which serves as an extension campus for the Seminary. There were also attendees from South Korea and Great Britain (in addition to Dr. Hamilton), not to mention the foreign students enrolled at the Seminary this semester. The Admissions Department was pleased to host a group of prospective students for the GPTS Explore Open-House during the week, as well. Fifteen organizations took part in the conference as vendors and exhibitors: the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the Biblical Worldview Student Conference, Erskine College, Frontline Ministries, the Geneva Institute of Christian Thought, Ligonier Ministries (Reformation Bible College), Lutheran Hospice, Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, Providence Christian College, The Rafiki Foundation, SermonAudio, Wrath & Grace, Mission to Italy, Banner of Truth, and Reformation Heritage Books.
By the final message on Thursday, the gathering received gladly from Dr. McGraw a word of encouragement relating to Christ’s Return: “We have a great hope to impel us forward.” As we fix our eyes on Christ, and meditate upon His goodness toward us, the God-given sense of that hope is intensified. If you would like to purchase audio or video recordings of any (or all) of the messages, please contact Mr. Andy Wortman at email@example.com for ordering information.
This book explores the Westminster Confession of Faith’s claim that “there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” outside of the church by asking what it means, whether it is biblical, and why it is important. The author concludes that the Westminster Confession rightly stresses the role of the church in bringing people to salvation without making this claim absolute. We should love the church because Christ loved it and gave Himself for it. He died for the church so that we might live in and with it. Let us study this subject with our Bibles in our hands, the Spirit in our hearts, prayer on our lips, and our forefathers helping us along.
Table of Contents
Part One History—What Does WCF 25.2 Mean?
1. Reformation and Early Reformed Background
2. The Westminster Confession of Faith and Beyond
Part Two Theology—Is WCF 25.2 Biblical?
3. The Church in the Old Testament
4. The Visible Church in the New Testament
5. The Invisible Church in the New Testament
Part Three Practice—Why Is WCF 25.2 Important?
6. The Ordinary Necessity of the Visible Church for Salvation
“Among the many teachings of Scripture that the Protestant Reformation recovered was a right understanding of the importance of the church to the Christian life. In The Ark of Safety, Ryan McGraw deftly reacquaints us with the rich heritage of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed reflection on the church and rehearses its biblical foundations with clarity. I warmly recommend this book to any reader who wants to know better what the Bible says about the ‘apple of [God’s] eye’ (Zech 2:8).” – Guy Prentiss Waters (RTS-Jackson)
“For many years I have sought a theologically reliable, reader-friendly, and imminently practical work to address the vital relationship between ‘the roll called up yonder’ and the local church. My search has come to a delightful halt. In this brief treatment, Ryan McGraw expertly crafts persuasive answers to the pressing questions concerning personal faith and church membership. As he compellingly contends, every true believer is not only of the church invisible but must be in the visible church visibly! May our church rolls increasingly reflect the roll to be called up yonder!” – David B. Garner (WTS-Philly)
For more information, or to order the book, visit Amazon.com.
(photo credit: Carolyn “Sissy” Pipa)
The following is a brief excerpt from Dr. Pipa’s newly released booklet, How Can I Do All Things For God’s Glory?, his latest contribution to the Cultivating Biblical Godliness Series published by Reformation Heritage Books, and edited by Dr. Ryan McGraw and Dr. Joel Beeke. He is currently working on a third booklet handling the subject of tithing, giving to the church, and prudent stewardship.
To understand this statement (Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever), we must begin with God’s glory. We, of course, do not add to God’s glory. God’s glory is the essence of who He is. As light is essential to the sun, so glory is the essence of God’s being. In Acts 7:2, Stephen called Him “the God of glory.” His glory is singular, as He claimed in Isaiah 48:11: “I will not give My glory to another.”
The essential glory of God is stated succinctly in the Westminster Confession of Faith: “God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, not deriving any glory from the, but only manifesting his own glory, in, by, unto, and upon them: he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things, and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth” (2.2). No mere man can look on this glory, as God said to Moses when he asked to see God’s glory: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20). However, God reveals His glory to us by His names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works (WSC, Q. 54). When Moses wanted assurance that God would continue in the midst of the people as He promised, he asked God to show him His glory (v. 18). God responded that Moses could not look on His face (His essential glory). Rather, He would place Moses in a cleft of a rock and cause His glory to pass by. He would cover Moses’s face while passing and then allow him to see the backside of His glory. But God declared that Moses would learn of His glory from what God said: “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (v. 19). Notice that Moses would learn of the glory of God through the proclamation of God’s name.
In Exodus 34:6-7, Moses gave an account of what took place: “And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” God revealed His glory in two names: LORD (Jehovah) and God (El). The name “LORD” manifests that God is the eternal, self-sufficient God who makes covenant and redeems His people. The name “God unfolds His powerful nature as the sovereign, almighty Creator and Governor of all.
Next, God proclaimed five of His attributes: mercy, grace, long-suffering, goodness, and truth. God’s attributes are distinguishing characteristics that reveal His glorious nature. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives an expanded list: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Q. 4).
Furthermore, God revealed His glory through His works. He pointed here to His two great works of grace and justice: “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (v. 7).
Moreover, as the God of glory, He reveals His glory in all His works of creation and providence. In Psalm 148, the psalmist commands us to praise God for His work of creation. He summarizes in verse 13, “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” In Psalm 104, after detailing God’s works of creation, the writer exclaims, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works” (v. 31). David, in Psalm 29:3, declares of the thunder storm, “The God of glory thunders.” God manifests His glory in His works of creation and providence.
But the greatest display of God’s glory is in the perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate. Paul called Him the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). In heaven, the angels, the living creatures, and the elders should with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12). Hence, if you would see God’s glory, you should meditate on His names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
One of our core values in providing seminary education to called men from all walks of life is Accessibility. Whether by Internet or some other means, we seek to make our programs available to men who are called to the ministry, but cannot relocate to Greenville, South Carolina for whatever reason. Over the years, our distance program has even made it possible for incarcerated men to pursue advanced theological education with us.
The following reflection was penned by a first-year student who is taking correspondence classes from behind bars. He was referred to us by a PCA pastor who has studied with us. He and his session have affirmed this man’s call to the ministry. The author is in the final years of a decades-long prison sentence, and hopes to join us on-campus upon his release from prison. His identity is being withheld for his protection.
What does God’s sovereign work of grace really look like?
Among those who do not instantly assume battle stations when “sovereignty” is
mentioned, there is in most cases agreement about human inability to produce divine
satisfaction for sin. But, does our agreement that all men are sinners and need
God’s free grace reach far enough to include those who are unable to sit beside
you during Sabbath worship? Can you imagine the grace of God reaching into the
depths of a prison to save the despised and rejected? Can you fathom that there
are elect souls living as social lepers?
Since 1999, my physical world has been contained within a
perimeter lined by fences capped with razor wire. However, the most secure
barriers erected by the South Carolina Department of Corrections to separate
its residents from the outside world could not bar the entrance of God’s
extended arms of love. In 2001 the free and irresistible grace of the Sovereign
One transformed my life so that I am now free to live for Him. He looked beyond
the criminal record, beyond the depravity that marked my life, beyond the
contempt in which I held Him, and He saw His eternal intention. Can I offer you
the 20/20 hindsight of this dreadful situation? In most respects, I was merely
a sinner just like you. God saved me with the same infinite grace by which He
Dressed in my prison garb, I don’t look like you, but I worship
the same Lord. Our homes are drastically different, but we daily look forward
to the same reward and eternal place where we will dwell in His presence. Our
neighbors are as different as we are from each other, but I join you in
proclaiming to them the doctrines of grace and the necessity of the local
church. I even experience the same contempt as you do from men that want their
feelings to dictate to them the meaning of Scripture, who desire a god that can
be summoned to grant their wishes of health and wealth, and who ultimately live
for personal glory. My desire and my need are just like yours, to preach the
gospel first to myself and then to others daily.
My prison environment is not always conducive to making progress
in my seminary education, and the pursuit of my studies is often hindered by
the very worst expressions of human depravity. Yet, the unique challenges I am
facing make the theological treasures I am unearthing so much more precious.
The examples we have in our godly heritage, men that I strive to emulate, allow
no room for complaint. Be it chains or persecution, abandonment or expulsion;
the prophets and apostles, the Reformers, and unwavering preachers of God’s
Word have walked the most dreadful paths. Yet, they have been used to pen
Scripture, to launch reform and revival, and to draw men into the ministry of
the Word. From Moses to Paul, Scripture grips my mind and heart. Godly men like
John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, R.C. Sproul, and Sinclair Ferguson preach my mind
and heart to greater devotion. Just like you, these things stir my heart for
the glory of God! Hallelujah – He has visited prison!
It is an honor to be a different
kind of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary student echoing the same message of Sovereign Grace.