Are We Truly Being Disciples?- Baxter on the Necessity of Christian Studies

October 14, 2008

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” -Matthew 28.18-20

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” -Hebrews 5.12-14

This is a pet peeve of mine, and maybe I get a little too harsh on it sometimes, but I was excited to see Richard Baxter address it in his book The Reformed Pastor. The issue is that of Christian brothers who are not interested, sometimes even disdainful, of studying the deeper things of God.

Maybe you know who I’m talking about. Those brothers and sisters who week in, week out want to come to church to hear the same old message on John 3.16 or Philippians 4.13 or Jeremiah 29.11, a message of encouragement and self-esteem, and maybe even a word or two about someone else’s sin. The ones who get mad at you or think you are trying to act smart when you use words like ‘justification’ or ‘penal substitutionary atonement.’ The ones who put books like Your Best Life Now and The Shack on the best-seller list while skipping over more edifying works such as Don’t Waste Your Life or Knowing God. On this, I know I have much to say, but I really liked the way Baxter said it, with all his Puritan tongue-in-cheek:

Convince [the church members] what a contradiction it is to be a Christian, and yet to refuse to learn; for what is a Christian but a disciple of Christ? And how can he be a disciple of Christ, that refuseth to be taught by him? And he that refuseth to be taught by his ministers, refuseth to be taught by him; for Christ will not come down from heaven again to teach them by his own mouth, but hath appointed his ministers to keep school and teach them under him. To say, therefore, that they will not be taught by his ministers, is to say, they will not be taught by Christ; and that is to say, they will not be his disciples, or no Christians.

As I finish The Reformed Pastor and as I move on into Light and Heat: The Puritan View of the Pulpit, I am becoming more and more convicted of the need of strong, deep, challenging Biblical teaching from the pulpit and Sunday School classes of our churches. As a Sunday School teacher myself, I see the tendency of church-goers to slip into a humanistic coma, unaware that the doctrines of God’s majesty and man’s total inability to reach him are just as applicable as passages on prayer and the Proverbs.

More importantly, the church continues sliding away into liberalism and pluralism, neglecting the Word of God, because, I believe, they see so much of the Word of God as unnecessary. What matter is it if we deny a fifth of the text when we see half of the text as being of no use to begin with? The battle for the authority of Scripture is more than just a battle over inerrancy, it is a fight over the proper purview of the Living Word in our everyday lives.

We can no longer be satisfied being Christians that aren’t disciples of Christ. We must be committed to the study of the Word or else we might as well neglect the whole thing!