On June 5, 2011 some who would eventually become the founding members of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church gathered for worship for the first time. The year leading up to the founding of this church was tumultuous. The years following have been very happy, but challenging in their own way.
Looking back, I feel like I have experienced a religious conversion of sorts. I do not mean that I was not a Christian before. Nor am I suggesting that the church we left was not Christian. Rather, I am saying that our move away from the independent Bible church tradition (I think that is best thing to call it) to the Reformed tradition was very significant. I can see this with increasing clarity with the passing of time.
To mention just a few things, we were once anti-doctrinal, but now we are confessional; we were dispensational, now we are covenantal; we were independent, now we are associational; we were elder ruled, now we are congregational; we were pre-millennial, now we are a-millennial; we were program driven, now we are simply devoted to the ordinary means of grace. In brief, we were once broadly evangelical, but now we are Reformed. Specifically, we are Reformed Baptists who fully subscribe to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith.
Those familiar with these terms and traditions will understand why I have said that we experienced a religious conversion sorts. It is impossible to describe in brief how our view of God, man, Christ, salvation, and the church have changed and matured with the passing of time. These changes are invisible, for they reside within the hearts and minds of the officers and members of Emmaus, but they are manifest in our worship, in our approach to the sacraments, in the reception of new members, and in the discipline of the church, to name a few things.
Though it may be hard for those outside the Reformed tradition to understand, many of these reforms have been spurred on by our growing understanding of and appreciation for what Christ taught his disciples in that small town outside of Jerusalem, called Emmaus. He appeared to them in his resurrection and said, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27, ESV). And he appeared to others later that night in Jerusalem and said, “’These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” (Luke 24:44–45, ESV).
In the dispensational tradition, I understood the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I did not understand the scriptures. The Old Testament seemed foreign to me. But in the Reformed tradition (particularly with the help of what is commonly called 1689 Federalism) the message of the Bible has become clear. I feel as if the Lord has done for me what he did for those disciples when he met with them in Emmaus and later in Jerusalem — he has opened my mind to understand the scriptures by showing me that Christ is the fulfillment of the prophesies, promises, types, and shadows found with the Old Testament. Where there was once only discontinuity (and confusion), now there is continuity (and clarity) concerning God’s marvelous plan of redemption in Jesus the Christ. Where there was once confusion regarding the relationship between the Old Testament and the New, now I see that “in the Old Testament the New is concealed, in the New the Old is revealed” (Augustine of Hippo). I now have a complete Bible, and the central theme is the glory of God in the establishment of his eternal kingdom through Jesus Christ.
As I look back upon the past ten years (today is May 13, 2021) I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the grace that God has shown to us. The Lord has richly provided. It is incredible to consider the resources, people, and institutions that God has set in our path. We have learned so much from others along the way, and I am grateful.
I have called this blog The Emmaus Road because I hope to fill it with resources to help explain our journey into the Reformed Baptist tradition, our distinctive’s, and to encourage others to follow the same path, for the glory of God, for the good of his beloved church, and for the salvation of sinners, until Christ returns to judge and to make all things new.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church