Paul's Passing Thoughts

Love Your Local Institutional Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 18, 2017

Originally published October 29, 2014

One of the advantages of having Calvinist friends on my Facebook friend list is that little gems like this one appear in my news feed from time to time. The article is entitled “Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?”*  It was written by a young man named Mark Perry, former Associate Pastor of Westerville Bible Church in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, and now a missionary candidate to Chile.  Mr. Perry could be considered to be of the “young, restless, and reformed” variety.

The opening caption of the article asks the question, is it possible to love Jesus and not love His church? Obviously, a question such as this establishes the premise that such a thing is not possible.  We are to assume that these two things are not compatible.  If you don’t love the church then you must not love Jesus.  The purpose of the article seeks to first define the “church” and then make the argument of why and how we are to love it.  I have reproduced the body of the article in this post so that I can offer a review of Mr. Perry’s arguments (in italics) and insert my comments to relevant sections that I want to point out to you.

Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?

What is the church?

We use the word “church” in many different ways. How can we pinpoint what that means? In Ephesians we are told that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). We can identify the church by asking for which “church” Jesus died.

The church is not the building in which believers assemble. We often use the word church to refer to the building: “What a lovely church!” or “The church could use a new coat of paint.” But surely this is not the church for which Jesus died. In fact, New Testament congregations met in members’ homes (e.g., Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 1:2). In many parts of the world today, our brothers and sisters in Christ meet in homes, parks, or public locations. It is not necessary to own property or have a physical building dedicated to the regular assembling of Jesus’ body.

So far so good. All very well stated. These are all things that Paul and I have both stated on regular occasions. I would agree with Mr. Perry on this point.  Notice how he establishes that the church is not a building.  In fact, he goes to some length to establish what the church is not, thereby framing his argument to follow. Reading on:

The church is not the meetings or ministry programming. Another way we use the word church is to refer to a worship service or ministry program: “Church was great this morning; I really enjoyed the sermon.” “My church has so many ministry opportunities available.” Many people see the church as the sum of services or ministries offered: children’s ministries, fellowship opportunities, teaching and preaching, or other benefits offered to members or adherents. But did Jesus die to secure singles’ ministries, Vacation Bible School, and youth groups? Did Jesus love a certain style of music or preaching so much that he left heaven to give his life? Every generation of believers since the book of Acts has had to work out how to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples in their culture.

Ok, here he starts to drift a little. First of all, we don’t have to “work out” how to obey Jesus’ commands.  His commands are clear.  We either do them or we don’t.  The way we make disciples or “learners” is by teaching them exactly what Jesus said to do.  The message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is not culture-specific.  It is the same for all men everywhere.  We don’t have to “figure it out.”

The other thing I notice in this statement is the implication that evangelism takes place within the confines of the institutional gathering or its ministries. This is patently false.  Evangelism is an individual mandate.  We don’t bring the unsaved to the church through the means of some “program” or “ministry” in order to get them saved.  We as individuals go out to them and preach the gospel to them. When they hear and believe and become saved, we then invite them to fellowship with the assembly for the purpose of edification.

Moving on…

The church is the regular assembly of believers in Jesus. We often say, “The church is the people”

This is correct. Yay! The reason we often say it is because it’s true.

and we are right—almost.

Wait…Huh?  What do you mean “almost?”

On one hand, the universal church includes all believers in Jesus from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture. At the moment of Jesus’ return in the air, the universal church will be assembled for the first time: “those who have fallen asleep” and “we who are alive, who are left” (1 Thess 4:14, 17). But until that time, the church exists on earth in localized assemblies of believers who meet regularly for prayer, Scripture reading, teaching of apostolic doctrine, and fellowship (Acts 2:42). The Greek word translated “church” (ἐκκλησία) means assembly or gathering and sometimes in the New Testament it even refers to groups of unbelievers (e.g., Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

Ok, while I don’t see the NT making any distinction between “universal church” and “local church”, nevertheless his other points here are spot on. And he would have been better served stopping right there, but he didn’t. Read on…

The church is the church when it is assembled.

WHAT? Read that again. He said, “The church is the church when it is assembled”? The logical inverse of that statement would necessarily follow that the church is not the church when it is not assembled. But he just said the word “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “assembly.” The reality of his statement indicates that the church does not exist when it is not assembled. That would mean the church only has relevance when it is assembled.

At the beginning this author made points about what a church is not. It is not a building, it is not a program.  But please notice his emphasis is still on some group entity over the individual.  In Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy, there is no relevance or meaning or existence outside of the group! To them, our relevance as believers only matters within the church. So, when we are not assembled, we don’t matter.

It is those believers who regularly gather in Jesus’ name. Therefore, the church that Jesus loves and for whom he died is the gathering of believers. These local assemblies or gatherings of believers are the only church we can know this side of heaven.

I would dare to ask Mr. Perry that if the church is the Body, and we are individual members of that Body, each with our own function, then do we cease to be a part of that Body when we are not assembled? Are we only part of the Body when we meet on Sundays (or Wednesday, or Saturday, or any other required meeting time/place)? I contend that our relevance as believers extends far beyond that which we do when we gather for fellowship.  And our not being assembled together in fellowship at any given time does not preclude our identity as a member of the Body of Christ.  He continues:

What does it mean to love the church?

We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2). In other words, we are to love the church just as Jesus does. The command to love Jesus’ church is the same as the oft-repeated New Testament command to “love one another” (e.g., Rom 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Pet 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). So we love Jesus’ church when we love the brothers and sisters in our local assembly.

What about other brothers and sisters in other assemblies around the world who are not part of our cult group assembly, who don’t necessarily share all the same beliefs in matters of practice? Are they not a part of the body because they don’t assemble with us?  Is our church somehow better/superior to their church because we don’t “worship” the same way they do, because we “do church” the “right way”?  Are they any less a part of the body of Christ?  Are they part of the assembly because they are born-again believers in Christ or instead because they regularly assemble at our “church”?

And this is where it gets difficult. We may love our church’s beautiful building, we may be enraptured by our favorite preacher’s sermon series, or we may appreciate the array of ministries and opportunities our church offers, but loving these difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people is a different matter entirely! Jesus’ love for us is our example to love his church. What about the sinful people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was a sinner (Rom 5:6–8). What about the cantankerous or antagonistic people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was his enemy (Rom 5:10). What about the people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards in my church? Jesus served others, not himself (Rom 15:3; Mark 10:45).

Mr. Perry must not think very much of the members in his church. Look at what he calls them: “difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people… cantankerous or antagonistic… people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards”. Wow, I sure want to be a part of that church now that I know what the pastoral staff thinks of me!  The view of the continued total depravity of the saints is clearly evident in this paragraph. The Bible does not call believers “sinners”.  That is what we were in the past. Let us not forget the rest of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God…”  Believers are righteous, Mr. Perry, because we have the righteousness of God the Father.  We have His seed in us that cannot sin! (1 John 3:9)

As I continue to read these last points, the emphasis of the church as an institution (…our church’s beautiful building…preacher’s sermon series…array of ministries and opportunities…) vs. a body of individuals is apparent. The “church” is referred to in terms that place the emphasis on this “entity” that is something other than the body of Christ. It is very subtle, but the implications are there.

How can we love the church?

How then can we “walk in love” and serve one another through love (Gal 5:13)? Here are four practical ways.

Meet regularly with Jesus’ church. Don’t turn your back on Jesus’ church because you don’t like the facilities or prefer a different ministry emphasis. Don’t abandon Jesus’ church for something that is not the church. Jesus has promised his presence with his church until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Jesus meets with his church—do you?

There is a veiled threat in this point regarding abandoning the church. What happens to the one who abandons the church?  What is the “something that is not the church”?  Do you not see the equivocation here that if you are not part of the church then you are not a part of the Body, ergo, you are not saved?  Whether or not it is stated plainly, reformed orthodoxy functions under the belief that salvation is found within the institution.

Pray for Jesus’ church. If you see problems [sic] When you see problems in your church, pray for your church.

Yes, by all means, we ought to pray for each others’ needs as we fellowship together. We ought to pray that our fellowship time is efficacious.  We ought to pray that we would be on our guard for wolves who would do violence to the flock and that we would be discerning regarding false teaching.  But that is not what this author has in mind.  His concern here is with the actual institution itself.  Consider report after report of spiritual abuse and scandals that have rocked the religious word in the last few years.  But yet it is these same institutions that must be preserved for the “cause of Christ”, regardless of the problems that exist.  Look at this next paragraph:

Are you concerned about your church? Remember Jesus loves his church—he died for her—and he cares for your church more than you ever could (Rev 1:12, 20). We pray with confidence when we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), and we know what God’s will is for the church—that she becomes like Jesus! This is what God is at work doing (Phil 1:6; 2:13). Pray the God-breathed prayers of the New Testament for your church (e.g., Eph 3:14–21; Phil 1:9–11; Rom 15:5–6; 1 Thess 5:23–24). Jesus prayed for his church (John 17:20–26) —do you?

Notice the collectivist emphasis in terms. The individuals are expendable.  The “church” must become like Jesus, not individuals.  We must pray for God’s will for your “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus died for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus prayed for the “church”, not the individuals.  But consider that last reference in John 17 carefully.  When Jesus prayed that night in the garden, he wasn’t praying for a church, he was praying for you and me!  He was praying for the PEOPLE, the individuals that comprised His Body.

Follow the spiritual leaders Jesus has placed over his church. If you don’t like or don’t “click with” your church leadership, you might be tempted to turn your back on Jesus’ church. In fact, disagreement with the teaching or ministry direction of our leaders is a very spiritual-sounding reason for abandoning the group of brothers and sisters to whom we have committed ourselves

It’s more than just “spiritual-sounding”, it is commanded by Scripture! Come out from among them and be ye separate. Earnestly contend for the faith.  Mark and avoid those who cause divisions because of contrary doctrine.  But somehow this is abandonment?

 But if Jesus was going to show us something new from his Word or to correct a misunderstanding we had about the Bible, how would he do that? Wouldn’t he use the leaders and teachers he has given to his church for that very purpose (Eph 4:11–14)? It seems the Chief Shepherd would use the shepherds he has set up over his church (1 Pet 5:4–5) to “keep watch over your soul” (Heb 13:17). Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, entrusted the church for which he died to your elders (Heb 13:20–21; Acts 20:28)—do you follow them?

First of all, there is nothing “new” in the Bible. We’ve had it for 2000 years or more.  Are leaders and teachers giving us new revelation?  Do they have some special dispensation or gifting that enables them to speak for God?  Has God divinely appointed them (predetermination) to be in a place of authority, and so we must obey them?  No because pastors and teachers are gifts given for the purpose of equipping and edifying the assembly, not for the purpose of authority or speaking for God. There is no mediator between God and man other than Jesus. We don’t need men to interpret God’s word for us.  God gives discernment to  every believer through the Holy Spirit.  Each believer is responsible to test EVERYTHING (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).  We don’t passively wait for some authority to do the testing for us.  Shepherds guard and protect, they don’t rule. They see to the needs of the flock so that each believer can be effective in his own ministry. They don’t dictate to the flock how to think and act.

Put the spiritual needs of Jesus’ church above your own preferences. Often our opinions about how the building should be decorated or the way in which the meetings or programs should be set up are more important to us than the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters.

Mr. Perry keeps bringing up these references to the building and ministries after he made it a point early on to emphasize that the church is not either of these. Why do these thoughts constantly preoccupy our thinking? Because it’s been ingrained into our mindset. This beast has created all of its own problems.  Matters of preference or décor or carpet color or music choice or programs or how much to tithe all become moot when we simply get back to a Biblical model of fellowship.

If anyone could have lobbied for his own interests instead of giving himself for his church, it was Jesus (Phil 2:3–8). Jesus gave up his rights and reputation for his church—do you?

This is obviously a reference to Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation…”, but this same passage also states that Jesus gave up nothing, but instead constantly affirmed His equality with the Father.

Next Lord’s Day, as you gather in Jesus’ name with that group of believers you call your brothers and sisters in Christ, look around and ask yourself this question: “Do I love this church like Jesus does?”

Thankfully, that is the end of the article, because there is much more I could add, but I’d be writing forever. The bottom line here is that consistently the emphasis in the NT regarding the church is the assembly, or the individual members of the Body. We are to love the people, not this thing they call the “church”. Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy equivocate whenever it speaks of “church”, and that is by design. Their double-speak confuses and obfuscates the real matter- their belief of salvation being tied to the institution, and not the finished work of Christ.  When you love the people you are loving the church because we are all members of it every moment, not just when we gather for fellowship. We are individual members of a Body, and no man ever hated his own body.  We have got to be clear what we are talking about when we use the words we use!

Andy
* The link to the cited article is no longer available

Conforming to the Group – Is This Why It’s So Hard for Christians to Leave the Institutional Church?

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 31, 2016

This is perhaps one of the most profound social experiment videos I’ve witnessed.  Notice how quickly a newcomer not only feels compelled to conform to the group but also trains others to do the same.  What is really scary is that they have no idea why they are doing it either.  And there is no force of authority other than simply observing the behavior of others!

Now couple that with a power of an authority figure, and you might have an explanation for why it is so hard for people to leave the institutional church – they have been conditioned into a particular behavior!

Andy


Love Your Local Institutional Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 18, 2016

 

Originally published October 29, 2014

2016 promo 4One of the advantages of having Calvinist friends on my Facebook friend list is that little gems like this one appear in my news feed from time to time. The article is entitled “Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?”*  It was written by a young man named Mark Perry, former Associate Pastor of Westerville Bible Church in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, and now a missionary candidate to Chile.  Mr. Perry could be considered to be of the “young, restless, and reformed” variety.

The opening caption of the article asks the question, is it possible to love Jesus and not love His church? Obviously, a question such as this establishes the premise that such a thing is not possible.  We are to assume that these two things are not compatible.  If you don’t love the church then you must not love Jesus.  The purpose of the article seeks to first define the “church” and then make the argument of why and how we are to love it.  I have reproduced the body of the article in this post so that I can offer a review of Mr. Perry’s arguments (in italics) and insert my comments to relevant sections that I want to point out to you.

Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?

What is the church?

We use the word “church” in many different ways. How can we pinpoint what that means? In Ephesians we are told that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). We can identify the church by asking for which “church” Jesus died.

The church is not the building in which believers assemble. We often use the word church to refer to the building: “What a lovely church!” or “The church could use a new coat of paint.” But surely this is not the church for which Jesus died. In fact, New Testament congregations met in members’ homes (e.g., Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 1:2). In many parts of the world today, our brothers and sisters in Christ meet in homes, parks, or public locations. It is not necessary to own property or have a physical building dedicated to the regular assembling of Jesus’ body.

So far so good. All very well stated. These are all things that Paul and I have both stated on regular occasions. I would agree with Mr. Perry on this point.  Notice how he establishes that the church is not a building.  In fact, he goes to some length to establish what the church is not, thereby framing his argument to follow. Reading on:

The church is not the meetings or ministry programming. Another way we use the word church is to refer to a worship service or ministry program: “Church was great this morning; I really enjoyed the sermon.” “My church has so many ministry opportunities available.” Many people see the church as the sum of services or ministries offered: children’s ministries, fellowship opportunities, teaching and preaching, or other benefits offered to members or adherents. But did Jesus die to secure singles’ ministries, Vacation Bible School, and youth groups? Did Jesus love a certain style of music or preaching so much that he left heaven to give his life? Every generation of believers since the book of Acts has had to work out how to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples in their culture.

Ok, here he starts to drift a little. First of all, we don’t have to “work out” how to obey Jesus’ commands.  His commands are clear.  We either do them or we don’t.  The way we make disciples or “learners” is by teaching them exactly what Jesus said to do.  The message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is not culture-specific.  It is the same for all men everywhere.  We don’t have to “figure it out.”

The other thing I notice in this statement is the implication that evangelism takes place within the confines of the institutional gathering or its ministries. This is patently false.  Evangelism is an individual mandate.  We don’t bring the unsaved to the church through the means of some “program” or “ministry” in order to get them saved.  We as individuals go out to them and preach the gospel to them. When they hear and believe and become saved, we then invite them to fellowship with the assembly for the purpose of edification.

Moving on…

The church is the regular assembly of believers in Jesus. We often say, “The church is the people”

This is correct. Yay! The reason we often say it is because it’s true.

and we are right—almost.

Wait…Huh?  What do you mean “almost?”

On one hand, the universal church includes all believers in Jesus from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture. At the moment of Jesus’ return in the air, the universal church will be assembled for the first time: “those who have fallen asleep” and “we who are alive, who are left” (1 Thess 4:14, 17). But until that time, the church exists on earth in localized assemblies of believers who meet regularly for prayer, Scripture reading, teaching of apostolic doctrine, and fellowship (Acts 2:42). The Greek word translated “church” (ἐκκλησία) means assembly or gathering and sometimes in the New Testament it even refers to groups of unbelievers (e.g., Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

Ok, while I don’t see the NT making any distinction between “universal church” and “local church”, nevertheless his other points here are spot on. And he would have been better served stopping right there, but he didn’t. Read on…

The church is the church when it is assembled.

WHAT? Read that again. He said, “The church is the church when it is assembled”? The logical inverse of that statement would necessarily follow that the church is not the church when it is not assembled. But he just said the word “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “assembly.” The reality of his statement indicates that the church does not exist when it is not assembled. That would mean the church only has relevance when it is assembled.

At the beginning this author made points about what a church is not. It is not a building, it is not a program.  But please notice his emphasis is still on some group entity over the individual.  In Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy, there is no relevance or meaning or existence outside of the group! To them, our relevance as believers only matters within the church. So, when we are not assembled, we don’t matter.

It is those believers who regularly gather in Jesus’ name. Therefore, the church that Jesus loves and for whom he died is the gathering of believers. These local assemblies or gatherings of believers are the only church we can know this side of heaven.

I would dare to ask Mr. Perry that if the church is the Body, and we are individual members of that Body, each with our own function, then do we cease to be a part of that Body when we are not assembled? Are we only part of the Body when we meet on Sundays (or Wednesday, or Saturday, or any other required meeting time/place)? I contend that our relevance as believers extends far beyond that which we do when we gather for fellowship.  And our not being assembled together in fellowship at any given time does not preclude our identity as a member of the Body of Christ.  He continues:

What does it mean to love the church?

We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2). In other words, we are to love the church just as Jesus does. The command to love Jesus’ church is the same as the oft-repeated New Testament command to “love one another” (e.g., Rom 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Pet 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). So we love Jesus’ church when we love the brothers and sisters in our local assembly.

What about other brothers and sisters in other assemblies around the world who are not part of our cult group assembly, who don’t necessarily share all the same beliefs in matters of practice? Are they not a part of the body because they don’t assemble with us?  Is our church somehow better/superior to their church because we don’t “worship” the same way they do, because we “do church” the “right way”?  Are they any less part of the body of Christ?  Are they part of the assembly because they are born-again believers in Christ or instead because they regularly assemble at our “church”?

And this is where it gets difficult. We may love our church’s beautiful building, we may be enraptured by our favorite preacher’s sermon series, or we may appreciate the array of ministries and opportunities our church offers, but loving these difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people is a different matter entirely! Jesus’ love for us is our example to love his church. What about the sinful people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was a sinner (Rom 5:6–8). What about the cantankerous or antagonistic people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was his enemy (Rom 5:10). What about the people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards in my church? Jesus served others, not himself (Rom 15:3; Mark 10:45).

Mr. Perry must not think very much of the members in his church. Look at what he calls them: “difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people… cantankerous or antagonistic… people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards”. Wow, I sure want to be a part of that church now that I know what the pastoral staff thinks of me!  The view of the continued total depravity of the saints is clearly evident in this paragraph. The Bible does not call believers “sinners”.  That is what we were in the past. Let us not forget the rest of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God…”  Believers are righteous, Mr. Perry, because we have the righteousness of God the Father.  We have His seed in us that cannot sin! (1 John 3:9)

As I continue to read these last points, the emphasis of the church as an institution (…our church’s beautiful building…preacher’s sermon series…array of ministries and opportunities…) vs. a body of individuals is apparent. The “church” is referred to in terms that place the emphasis on this “entity” that is something other than the body of Christ. It is very subtle, but the implications are there.

How can we love the church?

How then can we “walk in love” and serve one another through love (Gal 5:13)? Here are four practical ways.

Meet regularly with Jesus’ church. Don’t turn your back on Jesus’ church because you don’t like the facilities or prefer a different ministry emphasis. Don’t abandon Jesus’ church for something that is not the church. Jesus has promised his presence with his church until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Jesus meets with his church—do you?

There is a veiled threat in this point regarding abandoning the church. What happens to the one who abandons the church?  What is the “something that is not the church”?  Do you not see the equivocation here that if you are not part of the church then you are not a part of the Body, ergo, you are not saved?  Whether or not it is stated plainly, reformed orthodoxy functions under the belief that salvation is found within the institution.

Pray for Jesus’ church. If you see problems [sic] When you see problems in your church, pray for your church.

Yes, by all means, we ought to pray for each others’ needs as we fellowship together. We ought to pray that our fellowship time is efficacious.  We ought to pray that we would be on our guard for wolves who would do violence to the flock, and that we would be discerning regarding false teaching.  But that is not what this author has in mind.  His concern here is with the actual institution itself.  Consider report after report of spiritual abuse and scandals that have rocked the religious word in the last few years.  But yet it is these same institutions that must be preserved for the “cause of Christ”, regardless of the problems that exist.  Look at this next paragraph:

Are you concerned about your church? Remember Jesus loves his church—he died for her—and he cares for your church more than you ever could (Rev 1:12, 20). We pray with confidence when we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), and we know what God’s will is for the church—that she becomes like Jesus! This is what God is at work doing (Phil 1:6; 2:13). Pray the God-breathed prayers of the New Testament for your church (e.g., Eph 3:14–21; Phil 1:9–11; Rom 15:5–6; 1 Thess 5:23–24). Jesus prayed for his church (John 17:20–26) —do you?

Notice the collectivist emphasis in terms. The individuals are expendable.  The “church” must become like Jesus, not individuals.  We must pray for God’s will for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus died for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus prayed for the “church”, not the individuals.  But consider that last reference in John 17 carefully.  When Jesus prayed that night in the garden, he wasn’t praying for a church, he was praying for you and me!  He was praying for the PEOPLE, the individuals that comprised His Body.

Follow the spiritual leaders Jesus has placed over his church. If you don’t like or don’t “click with” your church leadership, you might be tempted to turn your back on Jesus’ church. In fact, disagreement with the teaching or ministry direction of our leaders is a very spiritual-sounding reason for abandoning the group of brothers and sisters to whom we have committed ourselves

It’s more than just “spiritual-sounding”, it is commanded by Scripture! Come out from among them and be ye separate. Earnestly contend for the faith.  Mark and avoid those who cause divisions because of contrary doctrine.  But somehow this is abandonment?

 But if Jesus was going to show us something new from his Word or to correct a misunderstanding we had about the Bible, how would he do that? Wouldn’t he use the leaders and teachers he has given to his church for that very purpose (Eph 4:11–14)? It seems the Chief Shepherd would use the shepherds he has set up over his church (1 Pet 5:4–5) to “keep watch over your soul” (Heb 13:17). Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, entrusted the church for which he died to your elders (Heb 13:20–21; Acts 20:28)—do you follow them?

First of all, there is nothing “new” in the Bible. We’ve had it for 2000 years or more.  Are leaders and teachers giving us new revelation?  Do they have some special dispensation or gifting that enables them to speak for God?  Has God divinely appointed them (predetermination) to be in a place of authority, and so we must obey them?  No because pastors and teachers are gifts given for the purpose of equipping and edifying the assembly, not for the purpose of authority or speaking for God. There is no mediator between God and man other than Jesus. We don’t need men to interpret God’s word for us.  Shepherds guard and protect, they don’t rule. They see to the needs of the flock so that each believer can be effective in his own ministry. They don’t dictate to the flock how to think and act.

Put the spiritual needs of Jesus’ church above your own preferences. Often our opinions about how the building should be decorated or the way in which the meetings or programs should be set up are more important to us than the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters.

Mr. Perry keeps bringing up these references to the building and ministries after he made it a point early on to emphasize that the church is not either of these. Why do these thoughts constantly permeate our thinking? Because it’s been ingrained into our mindset. This beast has created all of its own problems.  Matters of preference or décor or carpet color or music choice or programs or how much to tithe all become moot when we simply get back to a Biblical model of fellowship.

If anyone could have lobbied for his own interests instead of giving himself for his church, it was Jesus (Phil 2:3–8). Jesus gave up his rights and reputation for his church—do you?

This is obviously a reference to Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation…”, but this same passage also states that Jesus gave up nothing, but instead constantly affirmed His equality with the Father.

Next Lord’s Day, as you gather in Jesus’ name with that group of believers you call your brothers and sisters in Christ, look around and ask yourself this question: “Do I love this church like Jesus does?”

Thankfully, that is the end of the article, because there is much more I could add, but I’d be writing forever. The bottom line here is that consistently the emphasis in the NT regarding the church is the assembly, or the individual members of the Body. We are to love the people, not this thing they call the “church”. Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy equivocate whenever it speaks of “church”, and that is by design. Their double-speak confuses and obfuscates the real matter- their belief of salvation being tied to the institution, and not the finished work of Christ.  When you love the people you are loving the church because we are all members of it every moment, not just when we gather for fellowship. We are individual members of a Body, and no man ever hated his own body.  We have got to be clear what we are talking about when we use the words we use!

Andy
* The link to the cited article is no longer available

The Potter’s House: Lesson 71 of Romans Series

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 25, 2015

HF Potters House (2)Series Archives

Romans 15:1-14 audio link. 

The Potter’s House: Romans 15:1-14; Points About Authority and the One Body of Jews and Gentiles

We are finally back to our study in the book of Romans. We have the last two chapters left, and this morning we resume at verse one in chapter 15. The first eleven chapters are a heavy dose of justification, and what we have learned from them has radically transformed our lives. A lot of Bible “learning” unfortunately comes from second hand knowledge rather than God speaking directly to us. After learning many things about justification in the first eleven chapters, we are now learning many things about the roles of Christians in kingdom living. One we should take note of is that there is NO horizontal authority among God’s people. Elders aid believers in exploiting the full potential of their hope—they have no authority.

God’s assembly is not an institution. Institutions are always defined by some kind of authority structure. Authority necessarily needs something to be in charge of, and at least within the walls of the institutional church, it is in charge of truth which leads to orthodoxy. An explanation of truth that is a commentary between God and everyday people is a troubling idea in and of itself. Once you concede that there is horizontal authority in the church, the logical questions that follow are not only troubling, but are answered by the slippery slope of Protestant tyranny. Authority is conceded, but the specific bounds are the elephant in the room because history shows that the church is utterly unable to restrain its own authority. As John Immel often notes, “polity,” or church polity is a soft term for church government. This all implies an authority over truth on behalf of God. There is no orthodoxy—only truth. There is no church government—only gifts, and there is no authority other than Christ.

And as we progress in Romans from chapter 12, we see this reality more and more, beginning with verse 1 here in chapter 15:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (NIV)

“Neighbors” is really a word that refers to someone close. It doesn’t exclude the literal neighbors of the hearers, but primarily refers to the fellow believers at Rome. Notice that this verse is an exhortation to the “strong,” and “each of us” in general should focus on building others up. This is a glaring pattern in the New Testament. The call to build up the body is to everyone and those we usually deem as God’s authoritarians are conspicuously missing throughout Scripture. In regard to the all-important elders and pastors, where are they? An inspection of Scripture in regard to this question reveals a stunning reality: elders and pastors have little significance in the New Testament. The emphasis is everyone working together for the building up of the body which as we will see includes a call to ministry usually ascribed to pastors and elders. Where are the elders? And who are all of these people who are supposed to be doing their jobs?

Let’s look at the word, “shepherd,” as in, you know, John MacArthur’s annual “Shepherd’s Conference.” The word (poimēn) appears 17 times in the New Testament and mostly refers to Christ or literal shepherds of herds. As far as I can tell, the word is only used once in regard to a pastor and that is in Ephesians 4:11. Think about that, reference to pastors as a shepherd appears ONCE in the New Testament.

Let’s look at “overseer.” The word (episkopos) appears five times in the New Testament. It refers to pastors once in Acts, once in 1Timothy, Once in Titus, Once in Philippians, and a reference in 1Peter about Christ.

Let’s look at the word “pastor.” It is the same word as “shepherd.” The two are used interchangeably in English translations. Both together represent the aforementioned 17 citations of which one speaks directly to the idea of “pastor.”

Let’s look at the word “bishop.” See, “overseer.” Again, these two words are used interchangeably for the same Greek word in the English translations.

But most telling is where these words are not used. In the magnum opus of justification, Romans, elders are not spoken of in any way, shape, or form. In the magnum opus of correction, the two letters to the Corinthians, again, there is no mention of pastors or their supposed roles even in Christianity gone wild. Of the 27 New Testament letters, at least 19 are corrective and address false doctrine, yet as mentioned before, a direct reference to pastors only occur in about five books. Only three books address leadership specifically with the remainder always addressing the congregation as a whole. Even in regard to the letters addressed to individuals, they were obviously intended to be made very public as well.

But most astounding is the fact that throughout the Scriptures those who are primarily addressed, the general congregation of God’s people, are called on to do ministries that we usually attribute to the “qualified pastorate.” And we will continue to see that throughout this study as well.

Romans 15:3 – For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written:

“The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Psalm 69:9)

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (NIV)

The Scriptures were written to “teach us.” This is a direct line of sight from the Bible to believers in general. Nowhere in Scripture is there any merit for an orthodoxy overseen by elitist teachers or elders.

Romans 15:5 – May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Listen, this is it in a nutshell: the goal of one mind in Christ resulting in one voice. You decide from what we have learned in the past two lessons; does Paul say that is a result of blind obedience to authority, or is everyone to be convinced in their own mind? Granted, persuading those who are free to follow their own conscience is hard work. But that is the calling of a true elder. The New Testament does not endorse the dictation of truth in any way, shape, or form.

7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: (NIV)

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;

I will sing the praises of your name.” (2 Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49)

10 Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” (Deut. 32:43)

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles let all the peoples extol him.” (Psalm 117:1)

12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” (Isaiah 11:10)

When Paul writes, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” he is talking about Jew and Gentile, he is writing about the mystery of the gospel. Remember what that is? It is God’s promise that He would bring Jew and Gentile together into one body for His praise and glory. And I do not think that goal has ceased—this is still the mystery of the gospel. This is why anti-Semitism is completely unacceptable among confessing Christians. Listen, any separation gospel or supersessionism is a blatant denial of the gospel. And this is yet another lost aspect of Christianity that must be recultivated; that is, the mystery of the gospel. Jew and Gentile worshipping together in unity is a major source of glorification. This opportunity is probably lost to a great degree because of Jewish customs that are no longer recognized by Christians. We know that Christ’s assemblies recognized Passover for at least 200 years after Christ’s ascension.

As home fellowships learn and grow, I think we will see the power of God’s word come alive to His glory in many-faceted ways. Also, let’s note Paul’s use of the Scriptures to make his case in citing three Old Testament passages. This speaks to the continuity and truth that guides us.

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Once again, on the one hand, we see a sparse emphasis on elders in the New Testament while God’s people in general are told to do the tasks and ministries that are usually attributed to the “expertise” of the elder.

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

The fact that the institutional church pays pastor’s CEO-like wages for something that God’s people are called on to do leaves one dumbfounded in the face of how powerful the traditions of men are. The Scriptures are clear as to what roles pastor’s play in Christ’s assembly.

Ephesians 4:11 – So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

First of all, some of these gifts are starter gifts. Prophets were a temporary gift to the church to get things started. But at any rate, these are “gifts” and not offices of authority. Pastors are not mediators or authoritarians. The office of mediator between man and God and the authority thereof is the exclusive office of Christ. Unity in regard to a single truth is not by authority, but as each Christian is “convinced in their own mind” (Rom 14:5). The apostles who were the forerunners of the elders (1Pet 5:1), and continually beseeched the saints to be “one mind in Christ” (Rom 15:6, Phil 2:2, 1Cor 1:10, 1Pet 3:8, 1Cor 2:16).

Key to this unity and cooperation is a proper biblical ministry model. Listen, if the mystery of the gospel is the joining of Jew and Gentile into one body, who’s in charge? That’s an interesting question, no? The answer is that no one in these two groups has authority—it’s a cooperation of gifts under one head which is Christ. What is the biblical ministry model?

Ephesians 4:4 – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

When Christ arrived on the scene and began preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, it was in the midst of a Jewish religious community heavily predicated on hierarchy and authority. Judaism was an institutional monstrosity fraught with the traditions of the Jewish sages and ruling sects. The issue of Jesus’ lack of formal authority in institutional Judaism is a constant theme throughout the gospels. This is the reason Jesus came performing authenticating miracles—if you were not a recognized religious authority in that day, your ministry was going nowhere. Jesus broke the cycle and ushered in a new ministry model. Today, we don’t have authenticating miracles to validate our message, but we do have the testimony of the Scriptures.

Regardless of the massive religious system of that day, Christ made it clear that the people were “sheep without a shepherd.” They were not led. Jesus was not talking about a lack in the people being ruled over, there was plenty of that, He was talking about the people not being led in the truth.

The new way is a body of believers working together in mutual edification according to the gifts given them by God—a faith working through love. It is unity in one truth according to the way the one master thinks, and that one master is Christ. We are baptized once into one body with one head—one master—one Lord.

Our calling is unity in the one body and its maturity to God’s glory. Over and over and over again the apostles “appeal” to love and unity—NOT authority. It is a cooperation of gifts that are obedient to the one Master. In the rest of chapter 15 and also chapter 16, we see this in action bigtime.

Is America a Christian Nation? The Consequences of Worldview

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on February 1, 2015

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