Jeff Noblit is the Senior Pastor-Teacher of First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He has served on the pastoral staff for 26 years, the last 18 as senior pastor. Jeff is the founder of Anchored in Truth Ministries, an expository preaching ministry, and is the author of The Accountability Notebook and the witnessing booklet, The Great Answer to the Great Question. He has written articles for various magazines and journals.

We are going to talk about this from Jeremiah 6:16 which says,

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Can you tell me where the ancient path is, because that is the one that we should be on.  1 Tim. 3:15 says that the Church is the “pillar and support of the truth.”  Brothers, if truth is going to be known in the world, God is going to shine it through His Church.  He has no plan B.  Should we not give our lives so that the lives be the Church be the pillar that it ought to be?  (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Tim. 4:1-2).  We must be serious about God’s Church.  It is absolutely an abomination to tamper with Christ’s Bride. 

1 Pet. 1:12 – It is the most astounding, wondrous thing to see what God does through His Church that the angels bend over in amazement. longing to see it. 

Eph. 3:21 – “to Him be the glory in the Church . . .” The glory comes forth chiefly through the Church.  It is the theatre of the manifestation of the glory of Christ.  God’s glory is on the line, and God’s glory is everything

Eph. 3:10 – “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known”

2 Cor. 4:6 – The glory of God in the face of Christ

Heb. 1:3 – The Church is the outworking of the glory that is inherent in the face of Christ.  God has ordained the Church to be the pillar and buttress of truth. 

I am convinced the Church has lost its ancient path, off the proven path.  So I want to go on a history lesson for a while.  I want to talk about the old paths that need rediscovering.  Let’s first look at confessions of faith. 

I.  Remembering Old Paths

Anabaptist Confession: We believe in the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, proceeding from the Father, and from the Son; by whose inspiration we are taught to pray; being by Him renewed in the spirit of our minds; who creates us anew unto good works, and from whom we receive the knowledge of the truth.

1527 Swiss Brethren – “Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death . . .”

1540 Moravian Anabaptists– “Redemption means the working of the Spirit in the individual and his preparation for entrance into the church.  It is the Spirit of Christ that leads into the church.  The work of Christ in man means a complete conversion and rebirth.  Salvation and redemption consists in the liberation from the dominion of sin.  Apart from Christ there is no goodness.  Salvation also is a new covenant.  God has cast our from our heart evil, sin, and the lust to sin, and we are to seek, love, hear, and keep His Word.”

1632 Mennonite – “We believe and confess, that, since the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and, therefore, prone to all unrighteousness, sin, and wickedness, the first lesson of the precious New Testament of the Son of God is repentance and reformation of life, and that, therefore, those who have ears to hear, and hearts to understand, must bring forth genuine fruits of repentance, reform their lives, believe the Gospel, eschew evil and do good, desist from unrighteousness, forsake sin, put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: for, neither baptism, supper, church [membership], nor any other outward ceremony, can without faith, regeneration, change or renewing of life, avail anything to please God or to obtain of Him any consolation or promise of salvation . . .”

1644 London Baptist Confession – “That faith is the gift of God wrought in the hearts of the elect by the Spirit of God, whereby they come to see, know, and believe the truth of the Scriptures, and not only so, but the excellency of them above all other writing and things in the world, as they hold forth the glory of God in His attributes, the excellency of Christ in His nature and offices, and the power of the fullness of the Spirit in His workings and operations; and thereupon are enabled to cast the weight of their souls upon this truth thus believed.”

1742 Philadelphia Confession – On Effectual Calling: This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all forseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, co-working with His special grace; the creature being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.

1758 Sandy Creek – “We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.”

1833 New Hampshire Confession – Of Repentance and Faith: “We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour.”

1834 Free will Baptist – On Regeneration: “As man is a fallen and sinful being, he must be regenerated in order to obtain salvation. This change is an instantaneous renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit, whereby the penitent sinner receives new life, becomes a child of God, and is disposed to serve Him. This is called in Scripture being born again, born of the Spirit, being quickened, passing from death unto life, and a partaking of the divine nature.”

2000 Baptist Faith & Message – On the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.” 

2000 BF&M on Regeneration – “Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.”

2000 BF&M on Election – “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.”

There is not one reputable confession that denied that conversion is the miraculous work of God.

Church Manuals:

Benjamin Keach, The Glory of a True Church and Its Discipline Displayed, 1697
Benjamin Griffith, A Short Treatise of Church Discipline, 1743
Charleston Baptist Association, Summary of Church Discipline, 1774
Samuel Jones, A Treatise of Church Discipline, 1798
William B. Johnson, The Gospel Developed, 1846
Joseph S. Baker, Queries Considered, 1847
James L. Reynolds, Church Polity, 1849
Patrick Hues Mell, Corrective Church Discipline, 1860
Eleazer Savage, Corrective Church Discipline, 1863
William Williams, Apostolical Church Polity, 1874
John L. Dagg, A Treatise on Church Order
J. M. Pendleton,  Church Manual Designed for the Use of Baptist Churches

Great Preachers in Church History: 

John Wesley
George Whitefield (Arnold Dallimore biography of Whitefield)
Charles Spurgeon
Jonathan Edwards
(Long list . . .)

II. Jumping on a Strange Path

Charles Grandison Finney (Iain Murray, Revival & Revivalism)
Anxious Seat and Altar Calls
 – Man-centered techniques

Jacob Knapp (pastor in Ostego, NY)
 – converted Baptists over to new views of Finney
 – implemented immediate baptisms without evidence
 – the “pioneer and champion” of modern evangelism

III. The Lost Record of the Old Path’s Successes

John Calvin’s Ministry
George Whitefield’s Ministry
John Wesley’s Ministry
Edward’s Ministry
Virginia Revival
Kentucky Revival

IV. Today’s Church: Far Down a Strange Path

John 16:8-9 – The Spirit of God works through the preaching of the gospel to bring it to bear in the human hearts.
Matt. 12:31-32 – When you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you cannot be forgiven.   

1.  Rick Warren’s Ministry

“Man is made in the spiritual image of God, to be like Him in character. He is the supreme object of God´s creation. Although man has tremendous potential for good, he is marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called ‘sin’. This attitude separates man from God.”

It is not that you have an attitude problem.  Your problem is your nature!  You are by nature children of wrath!  You need more than an attitude adjustment.

“The Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son as God. He is present in the world to make men aware of their need for Jesus Christ.”

Where is regeneration?  Where is the sovereign work of God? 

Rick Warren seems to address the leaves on a tree but forgets the roots.  This theology is just Finney and Knapp on steroids.  I left this website feeling that Rick Warren is clever, but did not leave understanding that Christ is Lord. 

(p. 58 in Purpose-Driven Life): “Welcome to the family of God” without the gospel, without sin, without repentance, etc.

2. Joel Osteen’s Ministry

“Sin is not on the menu.”  His goal is to give you a boost for the week.  Osteen wants you to go to hell feeling happy. 

Gal. 1:6-8, 11 – a different gospel; distorting the gospel, derivative of man
If anyone brings to you another gospel, that person is to be set apart for destruction, to be anathemized. 

The good way is the ancient way, for therein is the path of life, and you will find rest for your souls.