It’s always a joy to baptize a person into God’s covenant community, whether that person is the infant child of believing parents or is someone who has not been baptized and is making a profession of faith. It’s one of my favorite duties as a pastor.
This past Sunday I baptized a baby boy at the 9 a.m. service. I used the form prescribed in our Directory of Public Worship more or less to the letter (though I made a few changes, partly to shorten it some). I find the description provided there of the meaning of baptism and the grounds for infant baptism especially helpful. There’s a good chance someone in the pews doesn’t understand the biblical rationale for infant baptism, so it’s a great teaching opportunity.
Since we had our congregational meeting on Sunday, I decided to preach a sermon on the Church. My passage was Ephesians 4:1-16 but I focused particularly on verses 15 and 16. In these verses Paul speaks of church growth – not growth in numbers but growth in spiritual maturity.
A big part of this growth, and a major concern of that entire passage, is unity in the church. A church building itself up in love (by God’s grace) will be growing more unified since biblical love naturally fosters harmony among the people of God. And earlier in the passage, Paul links unity in the church to the oneness of God. His implied argument is: just as there is perfect unity in the being of God (and by inference at least, complete harmony among the three persons of the Godhead), there ought to be unity among those who belong to God by faith in Christ: “… one body and one Spirit … one Lord, one faith … one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
The news last week of the death of theologian J. I. Packer brought to my heart again an immense appreciation for his writings. I’ve sometimes wished I could preach like Sinclair Ferguson, teach like R. C. Sproul, and write like J. I. Packer! He was a true wordsmith, a pleasure to read.
As a young Christian, I picked up a copy of Knowing God at a local bookstore (in the days when a Christian bookstore sold actual books!). I loved the book, and it taught me to think about God as he reveals himself in his Word. I believe Knowing God gave me a theological orientation in the best sense – an understanding that we come to know God better as we devote our hearts and minds to studying (and believing) his revelation.
Perhaps, in my Christian infancy, the book even steered me away from the sort of shallow, subjective Christian faith that is sadly so prevalent among evangelicals today. Knowing God gave me an appetite for the truth of God.
Another of Packer’s works that influenced me in my early Christian years is Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Though the entire book is excellent, I can still remember one passage in particular that was profoundly convicting. In speaking about the sovereignty of God, Packer says that some Christians have experienced a “real Copernican revolution” in which they come to see that what stands at the center of the universe is not man’s happiness and concerns, but God’s own glory.
This truth hit home. And Packer’s description of the meaning of God’s sovereignty helped set me on a trajectory to embracing Reformed theology, which is essentially an explication of the sovereignty and glory of God in his works of creation, providence, and salvation.
I believe like the works of the Puritans whom he loved, Packer’s writings will be a blessing to Christians for generations to come.
Soli Deo Gloria!