What is the Spurgeon Fraternal?

So I came back from the Spurgeon Fraternal this afternoon; and it was good. I thought I’d write down a couple of thoughts regarding it.

What is the Spurgeon Fraternal?

3 days, 8 sessions, focused on ‘God is the Gospel’.

The Spurgeon Fraternal is aimed at pastors who hold to the Doctrines of Grace and by and large is attended by those of a Baptistic position [that said, this year there was at least one Paedo-Baptist in the group].

The fraternity’s aims are mutual edification by fellowship with each other and prayer for one another.

That works out in the following way: We have three [or four] sessions a day, of one and a half hours during which we go through some content for half an hour, talk about the content for half an hour and then listen to brothers prayer needs and pray for them for half an hour. The rest of the time is set aside for fellowship and casual conversation (which translates into lengthy debates of the pastoral and theological type).

Where and When is the Spurgeon Fraternal?

Last night bonfire.

Currently the Spurgeon Fraternal happens twice a year; towards the end of the year it’s run on UJ Island, Vaal Dam, and towards the beginning of the year it’s run down in the Western Cape (in Stellenbosch).

The UJ Island, Vaal Dam fraternal is the fraternal that I can make. The beginning of November is just before things start getting crazy and has become a great way for me to gird my loins for the coming battle and I have no doubt that many of the prayer requests offered up are brought before the Lord by brothers regularly in the coming months.

How do I get to go to the Spurgeon Fraternal?

A walk on the wild side.

No group has “rights” to the Spurgeon Fraternal. The mix of Baptist Churches is quite encouraging. This year a number of Baptist Union of Southern Africa churches were represented, some Sola 5 churches, some churches that are in Sola 5 and the Baptist Union of Southern Africa, some independant Baptist churches and a guy from REACH (Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church).

The right person to speak to would be Peter Sammons from Germistion Baptist Church who is the custodian of the mailing list which will inform folk of what’s happening when (psammons@iburst.co.za).

Why consider going to the Spurgeon Fraternal?

To get to the island you take a ferry across the dam. Great times.

Consider going to the Spurgeon Fraternal if you hold tightly to the Doctrines of Grace and desire fellowship with like minded brothers. The fellowship this year was exceptional, the venue as always was great (the sleeping quarters are crude but the food is excellent), the speakers were good (the DVD presentation wasn’t as good as the local content led by Joachim Rieck and Brian Watts), there was worship (we sang a hymn before each session and spent a great deal of time in prayer).

I loved being amongst a bunch of Reformed Pastors and the sideline chats were as edifying as the billboard speakers (I spent an evening been schooled on Amillennial Eschatology and a morning considering Chapter 25 of the 1689; big plus for me). This is a firm fixture on my annual calendar.

Praying for the Holy Spirit

BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Assembly

The theme for the 132nd Assembly of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa was Missions. Click image to enlarge.

I’ve just arrived home from the Baptist Union of Southern Africa‘s 2013 Assembly (It was the 132nd gathering of South African Baptists). The keynote sermons are a mixed bag of fruit. A sermon that really stood out for me this year was preached by Charlie Rampfumedzi. He is the principal of Christ Seminary (can someone closer to the seminary confirm the actual name of the seminary for me? I was told by Rocky Stevenson this past week that it’s actually Christ Baptist Seminary) in Polokwane. Christ [Baptist] Seminary is a campus of The Master’s Academy International.

Now in my home, over Sunday lunch, we play punch the preacher. OK, that’s an overstatement, Liezl (and whoever else is visiting for lunch) gives a critique of the Sunday sermon. Anything’s up for grabs, mannerisms to content, there are no holy cows. I find it useful to my personal growth and it’s become a way for me to gauge whether the main point of my message translated into the mind of my hearers.

BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Assembly, Trent, Trent Eayrs, Umbizo

A highlight of the conference for me was the rich worship. Click image to enlarge.

Anyhow, the following critique emerged after I preached a sermon from Acts 1 (from both a parishioner and my wife), “You said you must be filled with the Spirit but you never said how.” This past Tuesday, when I sat down with a group over lunch and discussed Charlie’s sermon with them, John Rowland’s critique stood out for me because I’d heard it before. Let me be clear – I’m not advocating John’s position (he makes a link to Dispensationalism whereas I’d make the link to Cessationalism – and for the record, I’m both) but I’d love there to be some debate and John was bold enough to put pen to paper. Below is his thinking. I’d be interested to hear what you say (for the record Charlie only had 20 minutes to preach a sermon on a chapter from Acts so it was impossible for him to develop every theological point, however because this was noted, and because it’s been pointed out in my own preaching, and because John MacArthur… oh, you get the point… read it and comment below):


The thesis of this short paper is that it is an inherent aspect of dispensational theology that Christians should not pray that God would grant the Holy Spirit to them.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus says:-

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

CI Schofield comments:-

‘To go back to the promise of #Lu 11:13, is to forget Pentecost, and to ignore the truth that now every believer has the indwelling Spirit #Ro 8:9, 15 1Co 6:19 Gal 4:6 #1Jo 2:20, 27.’

In his book ‘Found: God’s will’ Dr John MacArthur, Jr writes:-

‘I have sat in church and heard sincere people pray, “O, God, send Your Spirit,” and have thought to myself, No, He is here. He is here! I have heard people pray, ‘God give me more of Your Spirit,” as if He came in doses.’

Is it not also significant that MacArthur says nothing in his study Bible on Luke 11:13 about the wonderful promise, in answer to prayer, of our Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit?

Both Schofield and MacArthur are being consistent with dispensational theology. This teaches that after the Jews had rejected Christ and the kingdom, God moved to his parenthetical plan B and introduced the church age. Hence since our Lord’s words in Luke 11:13 were given in his teaching to Jews they no longer pertain to the church age because the church received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

I have heard two brothers from dispensational backgrounds; give moving messages on the need of the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry. Especially, they spoke of our need of him in preaching. Both failed to tell us how to obtain that power.

There are two problems with dispensational theology at this point:-

1 It dismisses precious truth taught by our Saviour as irrelevant.

2 It does not account for prayers in the other parts of the New Testament:-

‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.’ (Eph 1:17)


‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,’ (Eph 3:14-16)

On the same page quoted above, MacArthur also dismisses prayers for more grace. In many of the letters of the apostles we find such greetings as:-

‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Phil1:2)

Also closing words of their letters such as:-

‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2Cor 13:14)

Are these two latter references not prayers?

To my dispensational brothers, I encourage you to turn from such erroneous teaching and to seek the Lord’s face for what the church in South Africa desperately needs. We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival. Pray in terms of our Lord’s promise in Luke 11:9-13.

John Rowland

Angus Buchan at Ein Gedi, Debunked

Maybe you’ve watched a YouTube video of Angus Buchan, at Ein Gedi, which claims to show a miracle of Acts 2 importance? It is a Hollywood fabrication. This is footage of the night with comments and notations.

You can find this ministry (The 5 Minute Theologian) on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The5minutetheologian.

Rezolution Conference, South Africa

I’ve loved the focus on Scripture on the Rezolution Conference Promo Slides. Thought I’d load all of them up into one place.

Will you be at the conference? I’m looking forward to catching up.

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How to handle departure from the truth in church denominations

As you may have heard David Carmichael will be addressing the Grace Ministers Conference in January. Maybe you will not be able to attend that conference but there might be another opportunity to hear this gifted expositor on his South African tour. Covenant Fellowship (corner Raath and Cutten streets, Horison, Roodepoort) would like to invite Baptists and Presbyterians to get together on Monday, 14th of January, 2013 at 12:00am to hear David deliver a paper entitled ‘How to handle departure from the Truth in church denominations’, detailing his experiences in the Church of Scotland around current issues including the homosexuality debate. Lunch will be provided and there will be no charge.

Please RSVP to Neal Beatson (nrbeatson@gmail.com, 011 672 3043) before the 10th January.

David Carmichael

David Carmichael

David Carmichael has exercised a faithful parish ministry in Abbeygreen since 1982. He faithfully explains the truth of the Bible weekly to that congregation in a clear and relevant way. In addition, he is in increasing demand as a national and international conference speaker and is a much respected Christian leader in Scotland. Recent conference work has taken him to Europe, the USA and South Africa. He is Chairman of the missionary society UFM Worldwide (Scotland), Chairman of the largest Reformed minsters fraternal in Scotland and Chairman of the Scottish Reformed Conference.

The King’s Calling – Session 5

The Gospel is so simple isn’t it? “Christ died, Christ rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.” Now what? Believe! and after that, tell! This is not a message that one can keep to oneself.

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Below is the slide deck from Session 5 for the BYSA Summer Camp.

The Graphical Gospel – Session 4

Over the years I’ve found this graphical representation of the Gospel really helpful. I’ve done it 100s of times with a pen and a piece of paper however on the recent Baptist Youth Summer Camp I needed to include it into a presentation. I thought I’d write down the sequence and explanation.


The first slide is a line (continuous for those that care). It is my experience that most folk think of morality as a relative quality, rather than good or evil we believe we hang somewhere in the balance.


To kick off a conversation it’s useful to throw a few very well know faces at a teenage audience. There are three “good” people that I find are always tagged as “very good” by South African teenagers: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. These are great examples because they press home the exclusivity of the Gospel later on (“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”) Ask any kid where on the line Nelson Mandela should sit. Guaranteed they’ll shout “good”.


Once you’ve got a baseline for “good” have some fun with bad. I’ve asked 100s of kids where they’d put Lady Gaga, without exception all have said “bad”, most have said “very, very, very bad” bordering on pure evil :). Other great examples are Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.


Now it’s time to get relative. On the camp I used the examples of the Camp Director, Ulrich Fobian, our MC, Mark Paul, and one of the worship team, Cjay Jansen. Here’s the point: everyone puts themselves on a ladder comparing themselves to the people around them. We compare ourselves to our family, our friends, our pastors, our youth leaders… everyone. Where would you peg yourself? It’s like we’re trying to climb a ladder, hoping that if we get close enough to “good” God’ll look down, notice us and say “That one is good enough, I’ll choose them for My heaven.”

But that takes sovereignty away from God and gives it to ourselves, it makes salvation a work that we do, a goodness found in ourselves, a righteousness of our own making.

This game we play of relative goodness leads only to death and destruction.


You see God is holy. The angels declare of Him, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

What does that word mean? Quick analogy, put water and cooking oil into a jar, mix them around a bit, wait 10 minutes, what happens? The water and the oil separate. The word holy describes God’s complete separation from sin. Jesus said, when the rich young ruler came a questioned Him, that “only God is good.” We work on these relative horizontal scales of goodness and badness, comparing ourselves to everyone around us, but God works on absolute scales, good or bad.


Which brings us to sin. Sin isn’t a mistake, an oops, a little problem – it is a debt we owe God we can’t pay, it is a crime committed that demands a sentence, it is a rebellion against God which separates us from Him. And God is clear, “The wages of sin is death.” It doesn’t matter what you do to make yourself look good on the outside God looks at you on the inside and sees your true state, your sin, your separation from Him, and God hates sin, He is holy, and is separate from it. The games we play, hoping to look “gooder” than the guy standing next to us, make us look despicable in the sight of God, in fact “our good deeds are like filthy rags” before Him.

That’s really bad news. And truthfully no one will ever understand the Good News until they understand who they are before Him.

The right response to our sinful state is the question “How then can I be saved?”


So here’s the Gospel, Jesus died for you. He paid the price, took the punishment, reconciled you to God. The Bible says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” AMAZING! Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was a substitute. But not only that, Jesus rose from the grave. God accepted His payment. When Jesus said, “It is finished” it really was. His Resurrection means that God’s wrath is appeased.

The gates of heaven are open wide. Praise the Lord! But if the Gospel presentation stops there it’s short.


Jesus commission His apostles, and us, to proclaim that salvation is available to all by repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repenting means turning from our sins and turning to Christ. Forgoing everything else, our goods works, our social standing, any other mechanism of approaching God. Rather than trust in our own work we’re to trust in Christ’s work upon the cross. We rely upon Him and His righteousness alone. If “you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And that’s it.

This is a base, a mechanism, a springboard. There are so many other words that can be added in order to convey the truths of the Gospel, however it is distilled to “Christ died, Christ rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.”

Helpful? Concerns? Questions?