Wednesday, August 11, 2010

John G. Reisinger: A Tribute to My Brother Ernie: From Drunken Carpenter to Prince in the House of Israel (Encore)

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MP3 Available Here

John G. Reisinger, author, conference speaker and well known advocate of New Covenant Theology among Sovereign Grace Baptists will address the theme: "A Tribute to My Brother Ernie: From Drunken Carpenter to Prince in the House of Israel" (Nov. 16, 1919 - May 31, 2004).

Ernie Reisinger was a pastor, gifted writer and patriarch of the Reformed Baptist movement. Although Ernie's name might not be very well known among Christians outside of Calvinist circles, you can be sure that many of the most renowned of Reformed thinkers today know his work well and are still blessed and edified by it today. Last Monday, May 31, marked the 6th anniversary of Ernie's departing from this earth to Heaven.

Last Monday Tom Ascol, Ernie's pastor and friend for nearly 20 years at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida,paid tribute to Ernie.
The MP3 of that broadcast is available here . You can also read an article written by Dr. Ascol back in 2004 in memory of Ernie here:
http://www.founders.org/journal/fj58/article1.html

Here is an article written by John G. Reisinger the day after his brother's funeral in June of 2004:

A Tribute to My Brother Ernie
By John G. Reisinger

Yesterday I attended my older brother’s funeral. This is the second of my two brothers that have gone home to be with the Lord. At the time of refreshments following the funeral there was an opportunity for personal testimonies and nearly everyone who spoke had come to faith in Christ through my brother Ernie’s witness. On my drive back to New York I kept remembering things about both of my brothers. In some ways they were very much a like and in other ways radically different. At my brother Donald’s funeral over half of the people spoke to me and said, “Your brother Donald was the first person who ever told me the Gospel.” An elderly Amish man said, “I knew a lot about Moses and works but not much about Jesus and grace until I met your brother.” God used my brother Donald’s funeral to bring Ernie’s son Donald to a clear understanding of God’s sovereign grace.

In some ways, my two brothers were two of the greatest Christians I have ever known. Ernest was by far the most famous. I used to say, “My only claim to fame is that I am Ernie Reisinger’s brother” since I was constantly introduced that way at conferences. Under God, I owe my soul to Ernie’s witness to me. I also owe him for many other things over many years. As I said, he was in some ways one the greatest Christian I have ever known. Let me share some things that I think made him the great Christian that he was. I would remind any who feel it is wrong to pay open tribute to a believer’s faithfulness that Scripture says, “Honor to whom honor is due.” It also gives us many examples of God Himself testifying to the faithfulness of some of His saints. Hebrews chapter eleven is only one example.

First of all, Ernie was never bitten with the love of money. He viewed his business as a ministry unto God and seriously treated it as such. The business could have made ten times more money than it did and he would not have been one penny richer. It was God’s business and God’s money. He paid himself a salary and put everything else into a Gospel foundation to help further the cause of Christ. He did not live in expensive homes or drive “rich men’s cars.” He enjoyed the good things of life but never allowed anything to possess him or his affection except the Savior. “Love neither the world nor the things of the world” was not a struggle with Ernie since his heart and life were occupied with something, or Someone, far better.

Secondly, Ernie never did anything in a half hearted way or with a lukewarm attitude. Some may feel he did not always act as wisely as he could have but no one can ever question his zeal or his motive. He could have well answered any critics by saying, “I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t do it.” Let me give a few instances of what I mean.

Not long after Ernie went into the construction business, he went to listen to John Rice preach. He arranged to have the Sword of the Lord, a paper John Rice edited, send for three months to every home with a Carlisle mailing address. During that three month period there were Sword of the Lord’s wrapped around telephone poles, laying in the gutter and doorways, sticking out of garbage cans, etc. I do not know if anyone got converted through that effort but I do know that one whole generation of people living in Carlisle, PA will never say, “No one ever loved me enough to put the Gospel in front of me.” The whole town of Carlisle will be “without excuse” because of Ernie’s effort.

Several years later Ernie went to hear Donald Barnhouse and was greatly impressed. He arranged to have every professional person, doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, college professors, etc. living in Carlisle to receive a subscription to Eternity, the magazine edited by Dr. Barnhouse. Again, I have no knowledge of the results of that effort but I do know that one generation of all the professional people in Carlisle had the Gospel set before them through the efforts one building contractor.

There is one instance where a nasty situation was created quite intentionally. Shortly after I went to Bible school I stopped to see Ernie and he gave a “great book” by a man named Andy Telford. It was on the subject of predestination as it relates to personal salvation. I had just recently come to understand the doctrine of sovereign grace in election. I opened the book and the author gave his understanding of predestination on page one. He said, “The doctrine of predestination means that believers are ‘predestined’ to get safely to heaven. It has nothing to with getting saved. It means “pre” and ‘destination.’ The train company predestines or guarantees that a certain train will take you to Chicago. If you will use your free will and get on the train, the train company guarantees that, because of “pre” – “destination” you will arrive safely in Chicago.” I am sure it was not even close to the wisest way to say it, but I blurted out, “The man does not know what he is talking about.” A very nasty discussion followed. What I did not know at the time was that Ernie had gone to hear Mr. Telford and true to form, he had bought 500 copies of his book. All of you who know Ernie will know that he changed his mind about predestination.

Thirdly, Ernie knew how to see the big picture and always keep it in view. He had that rare ability to be a 100% idealist and 100% realist at he same time. It was this gift that enabled him to accomplish many things that the pure idealist would never touch with a ten foot pole and the 100% realist would say it was neither practical nor possible. Ernie was chided for going into the Southern Baptist. He was called a compromiser because he bent over backwards to take people where they were and slowly teach them “a better way.” Few, if any, Reformed Baptists could have started or developed the Founders Ministries in the Southern Baptist. I personally think the Founders was one of Ernie’s greatest accomplishments even though that ministry, along with Ernie’s disagreement with the view of Eldership practiced by men like Al Martin, created one of the splits within Reformed Baptists that exists to this day. I should add that I personally feel the split was more than justified.

During the last fifty years Ernie and I differed on more than one subject. It would be dishonest with history and a dishonor to both my brother and myself to gloss over the obvious. On nearly all of our differences over the years we ultimately reached agreement, the one exception being the morality of the Sabbath commandment and Law and Grace in general. Of all our theological differences over the years, this is the only one that he refused to discuss with me even though he wrote quite extensively on the subject. He sincerely believed and stated , “There is nothing to discuss, the creeds have said it all.” I would feel that Ernie did not really understand what I believed. I was often asked, “How do you feel about your brother Ernie’s strong disagreement with you over law and grace?” I would reply, “If I believed what Ernie thinks I believe, I would be more upset than he is. Given what he thinks I believe, he would be a hypocrite if he were not upset. He is more than justified in opposing me as long as thinks as he does about my convictions.” It would be both unfair and untrue for anyone to say, “Ernie worshipped the creeds.” He did not. He was committed to the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith only because he sincerely believed it was the true expression of what Scripture taught. This is why I could honestly respect his convictions and sincerely respect and love him as a Godly Christian. I can understand exactly why at one point he could most conscientiously regard me as being on the border line of heresy. I think in later life he modified that to mean I was “grievously wrong.” However, his attitude was based 100% on what he believed the Scriptures taught and what he understood me to be teaching.

Ernie’s body will lie silently in the grave until the resurrection but we will still hear him speak. Though he is dead his voice will be heard for a long time. We will see his foot prints in a lot of places and in a lot lives for many years to come. Ernie’s death coincided with Ronald Reagan’s death. As I listened to the many changes that had taken place in the world of politics because of Reagan’s vision and influence, I thought of Ernie. I heard Reagan list a few of the things that he and his philosophy had changed and then he said, “Not bad, not bad at all.” I thought of a ninth grade drop out well on the way to being an alcoholic being rescued by sovereign grace and then having the unbelievable effect on so many lives and the well being of the Church of God at large and I thought, “Not bad! Not bad at all!”

Before he was converted Ernie had never read a single book. He did not even read the funny papers. His conversion filled him with a thirst for knowledge and truth that made him wiser than his peers. Despite his lack of education his greatest influence was with professional people. Again we can rightly say, “Not bad, not bad at all.” God took a nobody and really made him a somebody. He took a drunken carpenter and made him a Prince in the House of Israel. He will be both remembered and missed.

You can find out more about our guest John G. Reisinger, his sermons and his books, here:
http://www.soundofgrace.com/.

You can order Geoff Thomas's biography of Ernie Reisinger here:
http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/item_detail.php?4891

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