Last night was the graduation ceremony of Toronto Baptist Seminary & Bible College, where I serve the Lord. Nine men graduated, with degrees and diplomas ranging from the one-year certificate in biblical studies to the M.Div. It was a great time of celebrating the goodness and grace of God in the lives of these men. Our guest speaker was Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, where he also teaches Systematic Theology. Entitling his address “Cherish the Church,” he spoke on that much debated verse from Matthew 16, verse 18, specifically the words “I will build my church.” It was a great sermon to the graduates, and to all present, on the necessity of loving the Church.
Dr. Beeke developed what he saw as the biblical mean between the extremes of Roman Catholic clericalism and institutionalism, on the one hand, and the rampant individualism of modern Evangelicalism, on the other. He cited John Calvin to the effect that we ought to cherish the Church above all other interests apart from God and referred to Calvin’s own use of that statement from Augustine (who derived it from Cyprian) that no one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as his or her Mother.
He stressed that we are to love the Church because she is precious to Christ—he gave his life for her. We are to cherish the Church because she is built on the Rock Christ. He interpreted the phrase “on this rock” as a reference to the confession that Peter made and thus ultimately a reference to the Lord Jesus as the Rock on which the Church is built. Finally, he focused our thoughts on the fact that the Lord Jesus is building His Church and he will not fail to make her perfect. Citing John Flavel—“Bury not the Church before she is dead”—he gave us, as he closed, an eschatological vision of the Church in glory, perfectly arrayed for the Bridegroom Christ. Praise the Lord for his goodness.
Since my coming to Toronto Baptist Seminary in 2003, we have been involved in a time of rebuilding and re-rooting the Seminary firmly on the Rock, that is the Lord Jesus, and on the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. And this was a great word of encouragement.
Dr. Beeke is due to speak at Jarvis Street Baptist Church this Sunday morning (11am) and then this Sunday evening at Trinity Baptist Church - Burlington, Ontario, Canada (6:30pm)