Category Archives: Church Order

These posts deal with putting churches back into order.

Divorce

I am preparing a doctrinal treatment on the topic of divorce for our Church and I felt compelled to share a small portion from this treatment here (I will post the full treatment online when I am finished):

Biblical doctrine is full of the glory of God; far from being cold and heartless, it vividly expresses God’s heart and illuminates His divine character in ways that call God’s true worshippers upwards to Him in spirit and truth! That is our highest aim here today, to bring the whole of who we are before God in the true worship of spirit and truth!

With this in mind, the reality that beloved brothers and sisters have deep wounds caused by divorce is of great concern. The purpose of doctrine is not to hurt wounded souls! Rather, sound Biblical doctrine calls the flesh and pride of mortal beings to the cross while restoring the soul and rejoicing the heart!

Psalm 19:7, 8 “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul… the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart!”

When we humble ourselves before the Lord and place our trust in Him, we have confidence that hope shall arise upon the hopeless! The following will be difficult words to accept, but those who do will enter the liberty of truth and find hope to carry them home.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Jesus places divorce in the greater context of adultery and confronts us with the reality that adultery is being perpetuated among the people of God through the mechanism of divorce.

Matthew 5:27-32 “27 You have heard that it was said by the ancients, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is profitable that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body be thrown into hell.

31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.

The Jews were defending themselves by saying that they were not adulterers because they had the written certificates of divorce. But Jesus preaches against their adultery by saying that adultery begins in the heart through lust and is multiplied in the land through divorce.

Jesus exposes the catastrophic sin of adultery among them and it is imperative that we grasp the goodness of Christ in doing this; adultery disqualifies from the kingdom of God (1st Co. 6:9-10), but the Pharisees were deceiving the people by mishandling the Law of God to justify illegitimate divorces that were bringing the people of God into exponential adultery!

The wickedness of adultery is evident to all who have been victims of it. Those who have lived in marital unions that have been compromised by lust readily understand the searing pain of adultery that comes as the heart of their spouse increasingly grows cold towards them; they are all too acquainted with the fights, arguments, and quarrels that arise from the increasing distance between their hearts. Likewise, those who have gone through a divorce know the terrors involved in dividing a family; it is a terrible, wretched, and violent process that leaves deep scars. And Jesus is preaching against this sin and fully exposing it for the wickedness that it is.

The holy union between a husband and wife must not be broken, and when it is broken, the consequences are very painful no matter how you slice it. Jesus merely exposes that divorce does not lessen the consequences and havoc wrecked by adultery, it actually perpetuates it!

But a closer look is warranted:

Matthew 5:31-32 “31 It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

Mark 10:11-12 “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Illegitimate divorce perpetuates adultery coming, going, and staying! When someone divorces their spouse and remarries, they commit adultery against their true spouse, they lay a stumbling block before their true spouse to cause them to come into adultery if they remarry, and they cause whoever they remarry to come into adultery! Rightfully God has said that, “He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence. Therefore, take heed to your spirit that you do not deal treacherously!” (Malachi 2:16)

Perhaps the most shocking statement made by Jesus is in the first half of verse 32, where He says “whoever divorces his wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery”. These are not easy words to accept at first, however, upon further examination the purity of Christ’s words become clear.

Firstly, the sacred union between a man and a woman is God’s ordination and it cannot be undone by man, therefore, “whomever God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9). Jesus is demonstrating the glory of God’s work in holy matrimony that cannot be simply undone by the certificates of human courts. If someone divorces their spouse for any reason other than sexual immorality, their divorce is invalid; this places a stumbling block before the divorced spouse by giving them the false option of remarriage that would bring them into adultery if they were to go ahead and remarry.

While we cannot focus on the syntactical side of the Greek Grammar involved in Matthew 5:32, I will note that the verb for “adultery” is used twice in Matthew 5:32, once in the passive voice and once in the middle voice, which in English the nearest equivalent is the active voice (Gerhold L. Lemke , Dakota-Montana District Fall Pastoral Conference, Nov. 6th, 1973):

μοιχευθῆναι (moicheuthenai – moicheuo) – Aor. P. Inf. – commit adultery, seduce to
μοιχᾶται (moichatai – moichao) – Pres. P. Ind. 3s. (Durative) – commit adultery.

For this reason some translations have wrestled with how to demonstrate the Greek sense of differentiation between these two verb forms in a way that would not acquit the guilt of the “passive adultery” but that could convey its passivity.

Thus the Berean Study Bible’s offers this translation of Matthew 5:32:

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, brings adultery upon her. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Secondly, it must be noted that this teaching is not gender dependent.

The last half of Matthew 5:32 is repeated in Mark 10:11 and then directly reversed in Mark 10:12 to acknowledge that what is true of a man is likewise true of a woman. Therefore, “if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12). This indicates that the first half of Matthew 5:32 can also be read to say “if a woman divorces her husband, except for sexual immorality, she brings adultery upon him”.

Without fail the prophets give us their timely warning:

Malachi 3:5 “And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien – because they do not fear Me.”

God takes adultery very seriously, and divorce perpetuates and multiplies adultery!

The conclusion is that whoever divorces their spouse, except for fornication, and remarries another, enters into adultery and causes both the one they remarry and the one they leave (if he or she also remarries) to commit adultery! Jesus is not permitting them to deceive themselves any longer; He is ripping their lies to shreds in order to set them free by the truth!

Here is my chief aim in bringing this here: adultery is being perpetuated and multiplied among God’s people through divorce, and no one is standing up to lovingly, mercifully, and truthfully call the Church to account on this sin. We act like we are righteous if we just don’t have homosexuality in our midst. We must be fervent and bear fruits in accordance with our repentance!

To the one who is wounded by these words, my heart reaches out to you as one who has been pierced by the word of God myself; and I say “run to Christ”. You have questions that need the answers of the King!  Turn to His word and pay attention to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.

The Sabbath: should Christians keep the Sabbath?

Recently I have been getting questions about the Sabbath and whether or not Christians should observe the Sabbath. So I thought I would share my thoughts about this subject on this platform as well. But before I begin, let me acknowledge that I understand that this subject can be a very contentious one, so let me encourage my brethren to participate in this discussion as followers of Christ and children of God (Matthew 5:9).

There are three Sabbaths commanded in Israel:

1. The seventh day Sabbath (Exodus 31:15-17). This was a reminder that it is God who sanctifies them.
2. The Sabbath year to be kept every seventh year (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:1-7). On the sabbath year the land was to rest by not being sown, cultivated, or harvested (Ex 23:10–11). God promised to provide for Israel’s needs while the land lay fallow (Le 25:20–22).
3. The Year of Jubilee– or Jubilee Sabbath- is to be observed on the 50th year after observing seven Sabbath years; Israel was to rest for another year (Leviticus 25:8-17; cf 25:1-8). It was heralded on the day of atonement by the sounding of “jubilee” (Heb. yobel), i.e., a “ram’s horn” or a trumpet made in the shape of a ram’s horn (Le 25:9; cf. 16:29–30). The year of jubilee provided Israel with a time of release and rest (Le 25:10–12). Like the Sabbath years of rest, it was to be observed “to the Lord” with celebration and trust that God would provide food as He promised (Le 25:2–7, 11–12, 18–22).

Although the weekly Sabbath receives most our attention, these other two Sabbaths are very important to God. One of the purposes for the seventy-year Babylonian captivity was to make up for and punish Israel’s failure to observe the sabbatical years (2 Ch 36:21; cf. Le 26:34–35, 43).

I want to say that I actually have great respect for those Sabbatarians who take their position in response to their reading of the Old Testament commandments (Exodus 31:15-17) with a pure desire to express their love to God through obedience to His commandments. And I have nothing but respect for the fact that at some point in their life they took it upon themselves to study the Word to gain understanding for why we do what we do – I can only wish that others would follow suit! So many Christians who worship on Sunday have never asked themselves why, nor taken it upon themselves to bring their understanding of the matter before the Word of God. Unfortunately, there are also many Sabbatarians who have found their way to observing the Seventh day Sabbath for the same reasons; someone came to them with strong argument, or they were raised in a Sabbath observing family, and they never questioned what they were presented with the same rigor that many Sabbatarians have questioned observing “The Lord’s Day”. I’m sorry for such a lengthy side note here, but I do not want to conceal my respect for those who have sought to obey God in earnest. That is commendable.

Should Christians observe the Sabbath(s)? Here is my view:

Each one of the ten commandments is expressly repeated in the New Testament gospels- and significantly elevated- except, some would argue, the Sabbath. I would argue that the Sabbath is implicitly addressed in the gospels and elevated in the New Testament epistles.

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I believe the three Sabbaths progressively build on each other and culminate in the Year of Jubilee, which is observed on the Day of Atonement; these three Sabbaths point us to Christ. The weekly Sabbath is “a sign that it is I the LORD who sanctifies you” (Ex. 31:13); the yearly Sabbath is to teach dependence (faith/ trust) upon the blessing of God (Lev. 25:20-22); the Jubilee Year is to joyfully celebrate and proclaim liberty (Lev. 25:10). Atonement, faith, and liberation from captivity (to sin) form the bedrock of all Christian doctrine.

This is what I believe Jesus is implicitly teaching here.

Hebrews 4:1, 9, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it… There remains therefore a sabbath-rest for the people of God.”

The Sabbath and Circumcision were given as “perpetual signs” to the Children of Israel. Circumcision is elevated in Scripture to a “circumcision not made with human hands” (Colossians 2:11), and I believe Scripture has elevated the Sabbath to a “promised rest in Christ”.

My hope is to encourage both Sabbatarians and The Lord’s Day observers to bring their understanding before the Word of God and peacefully discuss this subject as the children of God (Matthew 5:9).

Unity: Wisdom is Justified by her Children

Unity in the body burns in Christ’s heart so much so that it consumed His last prayer before His crucifixion (John 17:20-23) and by the Holy Spirit who speaks only what He receives from Christ instructed the Church to reject a divisive man (Titus 3:10). For my part, through the communion of the Holy Spirit, my heart has been broken over the disunity that plagues the Church today. The Scripture certainly hit the nail on the head, saying, “know that the divisive man is warped and sinning” (Titus 3:10).

But I am not without hope! The very nature of “love” always hopes, and I believe that those who love Jesus will be broken over the state of disrepair the Church’s love for one another has fallen into, and we will all be compelled together again someday; even that one day tears will run over the time and fellowship that we needlessly lost!

Does this make me ecumenical? By no means! I believe the Church will unite in sanctification and honor. I believe that in humility and meekness we will one day endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Perhaps it will be through trial and tribulation that we will have our pride and arrogance purged from us and learn to walk in the grace of God, rather than just being content to talk about the grace of God. But I am certain that through the work of God love with be revived in the Church again and unity restored to our Body!

The difference between the move of God towards unity and the apostate ecumenical movement is that the latter is made on man’s terms, on man’s timetable, but the former is according to the infinite wisdom of God who works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose; one is made in the peace of Christ, and the other is made in the peace of the world.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (MEV) He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so we may no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by craftiness with deceitful scheming. But, speaking the truth in love, we may grow up in all things into Him, who is the head, Christ Himself, from whom the whole body is joined together and connected by every joint and ligament, as every part effectively does its work and grows, building itself up in love.

“Teachers” were given, in part, for the purpose of building up the body until we all come into the unity of “faith” and “knowledge of the Son of God”. Though teachers today are more known for accomplishing division rather than unity, it is my hope here to offer something by which the body may be strengthened according to the timely work of God for the “unity of the faith and the knowledge of His Son”.

WISDOM IS JUSTIFIED BY HER CHILDREN

Matthew 11:18-19 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a wine bobber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Luke 6:43-45 “A good tree does not bear corrupt fruit, nor does a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. Men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a wild bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bears what is good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bears what is evil. For of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. ”

Perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks to Christian unity has been in knowing how to exercise unity in light of faithfulness to God. There can be no doubt that many of the “divisions” that have occurred in Church history have followed great moves of the Holy Spirit to separate His children from various apostasies (1 Cor. 11:19 & 1 John 2:19). But the vast majority of divisions within the brotherhood throughout our history have come from contentions over the appearance of godliness, but which in substance had nothing to do with godliness.

If we will humble ourselves and wait to observe the fruits of a matter, perhaps we will not be so easily divided against one another. In waiting- and praying- for the fruits of a matter to be revealed we will more clearly see the hand of God at work in our midst, and we will be slow to form harmful and unrighteous judgments against one another. But one thing may be said of this that I can see no way for the boastful, the proud, or the mighty who are puffed up with knowledge to practice this kind of patience; I believe this practice will only bear fruit worthy of the Holy Spirit when it is received with the meekness of wisdom, then we will see the fruits of righteousness that are sown in peace by peacemakers in the church of Christ again.

Perhaps the Lord will create the platform and provide the environment for the Church to be strengthened by what every joint and ligament supplies for the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God; perhaps we will again see the love of God awakened and rekindled to a fervent pitch in the heart of the Church until we can no longer stand to walk in the darkness and be divided against one another like we were enemies (1 John 2:11).

The Book of Beginnings: Genesis 1 & 2

In this lesson we begin our year-long venture into Genesis and Exodus to look for God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and the hope of the gospel that has been preached from the beginning.

GENESIS

I have attached my lesson outline for personal reference and study purposes.

A Young Man’s Guard Against Pride

For the past month I have been reflecting on how young men can guard themselves from pride.  It seems that pride is perhaps the greatest foe young men of God face; it has the capacity to distort our zeal and our knowledge.

With this in mind, I want to draw our attention to a passage in scripture that I am convinced is appointed as guard to the young man’s soul against the awful onslaught of pride.

GUARDING THE TONGUE AGAINST PRIDE

The tongue is the favored instrument of pride; it speaks great boasts and is used to exalt itself over others.  We all know that pride can inflict great wounds as it uses the tongue to trample others down.

But what can be done to resist pride’s surge into our life so that we might have time to humble ourselves before the Lord?

Let every man be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~James 1:19-20

This discipline of giving place to others by exercising a readiness to listen and a slowness to speech is one that severely limits pride’s opportunity to take hold of the tongue for its own purposes.

If we as young men learn this principle, we will have a strong guard in our life against pride.

Giving place to others allows us to take a position of meekness and give honor to others.  It gives us time to consider our words and examine our heart.

HUMILITY

To practice this discipline it is necessary that we have both resolve and humility.  We must be willing to be last, and even unheard if necessary.  And we must have strength of resolve not to give place to the tongue that will surely “quake” within us as it seeks opportunity to speak those unwanted words of pride!

WHY SLOWNESS?

Reflect on “why” pride prefers a ready tongue to a reluctant one.

A ready tongue is unbridled and easier to sway, whereas a reluctant one is under the control of a greater authority and much more difficult to persuade.

Most importantly, the Devil prefers a ready tongue because a ready tongue cannot impart grace.  Grace takes time to cultivate.  It has the meekness of the Lamb.  But when it comes, it comes with the power of the King!

A reluctant tongue cultivates grace and is able to impart grace to its listeners.

EXHORTATION

In reflecting on my own past I have observed how the vast majority of my mistakes were made in being too quick to speak.

Be willing to listen and concern yourself with the concerns of others.  In this you will find wisdom and peace.

Important Questions: Baptism

It came to my attention that I have never addressed the topic of baptism online before. Baptism is an important topic that is considered “elementary” to the Church, that is, it is foundational to the Church.  Yet because there are so few scriptures it can also be a difficult topic to address.

SCRIPTURES:  

  • 1st Peter 3:18-22;
  • Galatians 3:26-29;
  • Romans 6:1-6;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13-14;
  • Matthew 3:11;
  • Matthew 28:19-20 (cf Mark 16:14-18);
  • 1 Corinthians 1:17

A PLEDGE: 1st Peter 3:18-22

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.  In that state He also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.

Peter shows us that baptism is an antitype of Noah’s flood in which all the wickedness of the flesh was wiped away leaving behind only the righteous souls who were housed in the covenant of God.

The parenthetical statement sometimes breaks up Peter’s thought, so we’re going to take it out and read the sentence through before replacing the parenthetical thought: “baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  Peter says that baptism, as it corresponds to Noah’s flood, saves us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is not the substance or power of our salvation; it operates through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  “If Christ is not raised” as Paul said, “we of all men are most pitiable”.  It’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ that gives baptism its meaning, and God chose baptism as the mechanism through which we are conformed to the resurrection of Christ. Then if we put Peter’s parenthetical statement back in, we see that baptism is not about the outward cleansing of the body, as were the Jewish baptisms of the Law, rather, it is our pledge of a clean conscience towards God.

Baptism, then, is our pledge of a clean conscience towards God by which we are saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

PUTTING ON CHRIST: Galatians 3:26-29

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

It is said that the word of God is many-sided; and so it is that Paul reveals the same thing as Peter by approaching it from another side of God’s wisdom: baptism is how those who are children of God through faith have put on Christ.  Here we see faith and God’s covenant working in baptism.

Baptism never works by itself because baptism is not the substance of God’s work in believers.

BURRIED WITH CHRIST: Romans 6:1-6

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.  For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,

The believer is joined to Christ in both the likeness of His death and resurrection in baptism, and offers this act as proof that it is impossible for a Christian to continue in sin.  By joining Christ in the likeness of HIs death sin’s terrible grip on us through the flesh is done away with so that we can join Him in the likeness of His resurrection and walk in a new way of life!

Every baptism which does not result in the death of sin’s hold over the flesh and the new life of the believer is a counterfeit.

BY ONE SPIRIT INTO ONE BODY: 1 Corinthians 12:13-14

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  So the body is not one part but many.

Baptism is the act by which the Holy Spirit brings us into the body, and it is offered here as a proof for Christian unity (c.f. Ephesians 4:1-6).  Of particular note here is that the agent of baptism is the Holy Spirit.

WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT & FIRE: Matthew 3:11

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

John the baptist clearly delineated between his baptism and the baptism of Jesus; his baptism was with water for repentance, but Jesus’ baptism is with the Holy Spirit and fire.

It is a mistake to take this passage to mean that there is no water baptism in the Church, as many do.  This passage does not teach that Jesus did away with the element of water in baptism, but that the substance of Jesus’ baptism is the Holy Spirit and fire.  Of particular interest is the Levitical laws pertaining to baptism and fire; water was used for such things as could be cleansed outwardly (such as our bodies), while fire was used for things that were so infected that the entire entity had to be destroyed, such as a building infested with mold.

IN THE NAME: Matthew 28:19-20

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The prophet Ezekiel foretold by the words of God that God would vindicate His great name in the days that He would put His Spirit within us (who comes in His name- John 14:26) and take out our hearts of stone and give us new living hearts (Ezekiel 36:22-27).  In fact, Ezekiel reveals to us by the words of God that the reason for God’s act of redemption is on behalf of His great name!

It is by baptism that we enter as co-heirs into the name of our Father, His Son, and His Spirit.  But here I feel compelled to stop and note how concerned, and even terrified, I am by how trivial and ritualistic the recitation of this passage has become during the act of baptism in the Church.  I worries me that so many Churches stand without hallowed reverence to baptize men and women into the name the Holy Name.

NOT SENT TO BAPTIZE: 1 Corinthians 1:17

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.

As powerful and important as baptism is, Paul’s testimony here serves to sober the mind of churches regarding baptism where baptism has become the primary focus and end objective; Paul understood the work of preaching the gospel, not baptizing, to be the central work of the Church, for he knew that it is the “gospel that is the power of God for salvation to all who believe”.  Paul neither diminished the necessity of baptism, as we’ve seen in his other writings, nor exalted it to some measure of success like many today have done.

 

 

Important Questions: Should the Church Name & Oppose False Teachers?

There’s a new kind of wisdom being preached that says it’s fruitless to name and oppose false teachers, and that, instead, we should apply ourselves to other more fruitful endeavors.

So that is the question we will be address.

Should the Church bother itself with naming and opposing false teachers?

LIMITTING THE BODY

Double standards are something that I try to keep an eye out for when considering what I’m hearing, and I both see and experience a double standard when I encounter this kind of wisdom; namely, that those who say that it is fruitless to oppose false teachers because we should be applying ourselves to more fruitful endeavors then apply themselves to opposing anyone who names and opposes false teachers.

So, while it may not be every member’s place in the body to name and oppose false teachers, we have to ask ourselves if there is a place for that function anywhere in the body, and, if so, does this new wisdom limit those parts of the body in which this work has a place?

GOD’S STANDARD

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron… If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

~1 Timothy 4:12-6

Among those things that Paul exhorted Timothy to be a good minister of Jesus Christ in instructing the brethren in was the dangers of deceiving spirits and demonic doctrines that false teachers speak in hyposcirsy.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~1 John 4:1

John follows Paul’s exhortation by encouraging the brethren to test every spirit to see whether or not they are from God because of the multitude of false prophets that have gone out into the world.

The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. ~Acts 17:11

In God’s standard, no one was exempt from being tested; not even an apostle! Far from being criticized for testing all things that were said, the Bereans were praised for their diligence.

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. ~Jude 3-4

Jude found it necessary to exhort the brethren to contend earnestly for the faith because of the false teachers who had crept in unnoticed.

When we tell members of the body that they are fruitless for opposing those false teachers and false prophets who sneak in bringing destructive heresies into the body, we do not uphold God’s standard, we oppose it.

It is just to answer today’s question by asking another question: should the Church bother itself with opposing those members who feel led to name and oppose false teachers? Invariably most people who do not feel comfortable with one will engage in the other.

OPPOSING BY NAME?

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good concsience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. ~1 Timothy 1:18-20

One function of naming a false teacher or prophet is that it makes it more difficult for them to sneak into an assembly unnoticed and introduce their destructive heresies elsewhere. Paul did not shy away from naming people who were in error;

And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:17-18

The message of false teachers was viewed as a cancer not to be ignored; both the message and the messenger were named and opposed.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctring that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. ~Romans 16:17-18

The unity and liberty of the body was of such importance that Paul instructed the brethren in Rome to keep watch for individuals who bring division and bondage and avoid them because they do not serve the Lord Christ, but their own appetites. The duty to keep watch is not reserved for an apostle only, but for the brethren as a whole.

LETTING THE BODY WORK

A city that shames its watchmen will be overthrown when the enemy invades. I believe we need to acknowledge individuals who know God’s word and heed their warnings when they sound the alarm against the wolves they spot trying to sneak into the assembly.

Our shepherds need to keep watch over the flock; let us not reject their tending.

When I hear the new wisdom that discourages watchmen from sounding the alarm, I look at the state of the Western Church and I find little reason to trust this new wisdom. But what really dismays me is that those who don’t want to put their fingers on the name of false teachers will so readily apply themselves to shaming anyone who does.

This is the real travesty; our watchmen have become the hunted!

Important Questions: Are Sending Churches Necessary?

Does a minister need a sending/sponsoring Church to be legitimate?

We’re addressing this question here because it affects the course the minister will take into ministry.  It has great bearing on the mobility, accountability, capability, and flexibility of ministers everywhere. But sometimes it get’s taken for granted and doesn’t get asked out-loud.

So let’s ask this question out-loud.

WHAT IS A SENDING CHURCH?

Before we begin it will help to define what we’re talking about: the term “sending Church” refers to a Church that provides counsel, financial support, and spiritual encouragement to the ministers they send out.

The emphasis on this subject is usually placed on ministers receiving financial support, so we’ll give the topic of financial support its due attention, but I also want to address the other elements of a sending Church as it pertains to the minister’s legitimacy.

GOD’S STANDARD

So, does the scripture address this topic?  Not directly, however, it does indirectly address our questions:

2 Corinthians 11:7-8    Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?  I robbed other churches by taking pay from them to minister to you.

The apostle Paul  did actually receive wages from other churches so that he could minister the gospel free of charge to other churches.

This liberty is given in scripture:

Luke 10:7    Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house.

Where the scripture gives liberty to receive sustaining support from the Church, it is altogether silent on any instruction that would bind ministers based on receiving financial support from the Church, or that would elevate ministers who do to positions from which to look down on those who do not.

But I don’t want to miss the fact that Paul made most of his livelihood from his own tent-making labors; our lucrative financial support system would have been very foreign to Paul and the early Church Christians.  The support Paul received from other Churches seemed to be aimed at sustaining Paul and enabling his ministry, not enriching his 401k.

My intent is not to bind ministers in the opposite direction, saying that it is wrong for them to benefit in surplus from the grace and love of their supporting congregations, rather, to caution against an arrogant spirit I have encountered in the Western Church among pastors who look down on other ministers who fulfill their ministry’s without charging the Church; consider that your surplus is reason for lowliness of spirit (James 1:10), not haughtiness.

As touchy as this subject can be, I hope for an open ear from pastors because of how much error has been witnessed in our century with pastors where money is concerned; the haughtiness, pride, and sin that often times follows those who place too much importance on being paid ministers is evident to all.

WHO SENDS MINISTERS OUT?

The blessed liberty for ministers to receive support from the Church for their gospel work settles the question of whether or not a minister can receive financial support from a Church; although there is nothing that requires a minister to be paid, the liberty is given.

Next we want to ask who commissions the Lord’s ministers?

Romans 10:14-15     “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”

Matthew 9:37-38     “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.  Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’.”

Matthew 22:2-4     “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.  Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fated cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’

Fundamentally, it is God alone who commissions and sends out His servants.  Unless He raise up and establish His servants there would be no one to work in the harvest; He has to send them out, that is why the Church needs to be praying for more laborer’s!

One of the symptoms of a church that has lost sight of God’s supreme place of sending out laborer’s is that she does not pray to God for more laborer’s but employs other methods of obtaining them for herself.

God gives the grace to appoint ministers to various ministries according to His own will.  The Church primarily recognizes that divine appointment and supports the Lord’s work through what every joint supplies.

There is no doubt that Overseer’s were heavily involved as God’s instruments to acknowledge and support the ministers that He appointed; the apostle Paul often directed Titus or Timothy to go or stay in certain cities for work that was needed, and in Paul’s case, he was separated by God for three years in Arabia before he went to Jerusalem to see Peter and James for 15 days; he then went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia and ministered the gospel for fourteen years before he went up again to Jerusalem by revelation with Barnabas and Titus to communicate to them the gospel that he was preaching to the gentiles.  It was then, when the apostles saw by the proof of Paul’s work that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to him in the same way that the gospel for the circumcised had been committed to Peter, that they extended to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 1:11- 2:10).

What the scripture presents to us is a Church in which Overseer’s recognize and acknowledge ministers upon whom the grace of Christ has been poured out and provide appropriate counsel, wisdom, and oversight to those ministers.  Sometimes we see prophetic words being spoken about a minister, like Timothy, but we do not see the Church setting up programs to certify ministers apart from the proof and working of God demonstrated in them.

Again, this is not to invalidate the benefit that a minister who has been called out by God can receive from a program that trains ministers in doctrine and builds them up with sound wisdom and counsel, but, it is to point out the great potential for error when we assume that someone who has completed a man-made program is called out and sent by God into ministry.  There is no scriptural basis for that, and, the present condition of the Western Church seems to suggest that this approach is wrong.

ANOTHER WAY

If you have been called out by Christ and given the grace to minister in some capacity, you may be asking yourself if there is another viable alternative to getting financial sponsorship from a sending Church, and there is; though there are many instances in which a minister needs financial support from the Church to do his work, there are many cases in which it is actually harmful to the Church when ministers seek support for ministries that do not need it because it needlessly ties up resources in places that do not need it.

The most effective option for entering a mission field where little support exists or is needed is for the minister to become self-supporting and start building from the ground up using simple evangelism approaches.  As disciples are made the Church’s ability to take on more ministry will grow in a self-sustaining way.

For missionaries with their eye on local U.S. cities, there may be very little support available because the city you feel drawn to is not a priority, or, for missionaries who are looking to some fields abroad where employment opportunities for U.S. citizens are abundant, you may be able to free up Church resources by supporting yourself.  It’s part of being a good steward in the Kingdom of God to discern whether or not it is appropriate to tie up Church resources in the work that you are doing.

LIBERTY ABOVE FORMULA

My conclusion is that we need to gladly live within the liberty God’s word gives to us rather than bind formula’s on those who are trying to do God’s work.

During different seasons I have been “salaried”, “unpaid”, and “love offering” based, and in every season I have seen the fruit of God that endures.

I also want to encourage those brothers and sisters out there who have experienced an outpouring of Christ’s grace for a ministry but who are already meeting resistance from people who want to require you to meet human standards before you do the Lord’s work; do not be discouraged when you meet people who are more concerned with the appearance and titles of ministers than with the fruit of God’s Kingdom- set your hand to the plow and do not look back.  Guard against arrogance and pride, and never grow weary in doing good!

May the grace, peace, and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ abound to you all, amen!

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 Unity vs. Denominationalism

We’re continuing our lesson series on the Corinthian letters with 1st Corinthians 1:10-17.

I believe this section from Paul’s writings is one of the most timely exhortations for the Church in our day as we find ourselves smack in the middle of 37,000 distinct denominations, countless scholarly opinions on each verse, and an ever widening schism in the brotherhood!

BEING MISSIONARIES

There is no office of the “missionary” found in scripture, which is why we understand “being missionaries” as the perpetual state of living in which the Christian voluntarily chooses to answer God’s call with their whole life; it is a life that sets them apart as a distinct, different, and holy people. The missionary life is lived entirely to the glory of God, with joy and worship, for the reconciliation of the world, in discipleship to Christ.

One of the strangest-feeling questions that my wife and I received when we returned home between 2013 – 2016 was “what was it like being a missionary?”  This question feels so strange because, while  we came back to the States having a more keen awareness of what it meant to be missionaries, we nevertheless came back as missionaries.

THE MISSIONARY CRY

ISAIAH 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘who should I send? Who will go for Us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am. Lord, send me!’”

The missionary is someone who hears God’s call and rises up eagerly, shouting, “Here I am, Lord send me!”  That is what it means to be a missionary; to make your life entirely available to God’s service.

I’ve noticed that missionaries are usually those individuals who have spent a considerable amount of time praying that God would raise up laborer’s for the harvest, and, in the process, were raised up themselves and sent out into the harvest.  They open their lives willingly to God, and ask Him to send them.  The heart-cry of “here I am” is just as significant as the heart-cry of “Lord send me!”

A WORD OF CAUTION TO THE MISSIONARY

One of the most dangerous things to happen to a missionary is that they become distracted and “settle in”; every missionary I met abroad who “got settled in” became cold and calculated, and lost their fire to serve God.

Here’s Jesus’ warning:

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” ~Luke 21:34-36

Missionaries can’t become heavily burdened with the cares of this life; they must learn to trust God for all their needs and devote themselves entirely to seeking the Kingdom of God.  I’ve never met a missionary who was worried about filling his/her 401k that didn’t become distracted from God’s call in their life.

UPDATED: 3/10/2017 to reflect date of return abroad.