Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Doctrine of Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, ESV)


Our doctrine of humanity leaves us as sinners, completely unholy, completely apart from God who is holy. As God and man are both persons suited to relationship, we are in need of redemption, reconciliation, and re-creation.


This recognition is not outside of God's knowledge, nor is it outside of God's power. God has made a way for humanity to find reconciliation with Him and that is through His Son Jesus. For many of us we know the saving power of Christ—we are believers. This means that we have accepted Christ as our Lord following Romans 10:9—because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

We cannot rightly understand salvation without understanding the person of Jesus Christ who purchased that salvation for us.


This lesson will look at the person of Jesus Christ. When we understand who Jesus Christ is we have a better understanding of who saved us, how we were saved, why were saved, and our great need for God. It will take a lifetime to understand Christ, because He is God, but as we grow in our knowledge of who Jesus is we will come to have greater appreciation and devotion to Christ and to God the Father and the Spirit.


We will look at Christ from two of the most basic (though not simple) aspects of who He is—His divinity and humanity. From there we should close this lesson by pointing that this God-Man Jesus is our only hope, not just for those who are not saved, but He is the continual hope for those who are saved. We will break down these points by looking at one text in particular: John 1:1-4, 14-18. Though there are many other texts that speak of who Christ is, this one sets out the basics of knowing who Jesus is, which helps us know what He has done for us.

Jesus is God

The first point that we need to make about Jesus is that He is God. This is not the most obvious point about Jesus Christ, especially since it is historically clear that Jesus was a man. But our conception of Jesus needs to be somewhat chronological if we are to understand rightly who He is for us. John 1:1-4 states it this way: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. From this text we need to see a few correlations to who Jesus is in relation to His divinity.


First, we see that Jesus is the Word. Much is made of the Greek word Logos which we translate as Word. A word is much more than the nouns of verbs of speech; it is the conception of an idea, and the conversation that establishes a relationship. So Jesus as God is the embodiment of our understanding of God, that abstract definition of God we made a few weeks back.


John 1:1 directly connects to Genesis 1:1 to shape our metaphysics, In the beginning means "before time." The Gospel writer begins his narrative of Jesus of Nazareth with a connection to the Word, who is eternal. We must remember that eternality is an attribute of no one else besides God. By stating the Word was in the beginning points to the divinity of Christ.


Third, we see that this Word was with God and was God. There have been those who have re-read and re-written this section of Scripture to say the Word was a god. There is no article in the original language, but by adding this indefinite article is an attempt to infer that there can be multiple gods and a variety of powers to those gods. As we studied in the doctrine of God this cannot be so. There is one God (Deut 6). So if there is one God, what is John getting at? The answer is an affirmation of the Trinity. We have God the Father existing from all eternity; here we have with Him the Word which also exists from all eternity. Jesus, the Word is God and is with God, the Father, which is why we can affirm that He is in the beginning with God.


This truth is found elsewhere in the New Testament. In Hebrews 1:3 we are shown that Jesus is the He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Colossians 1:15 states this as well He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (first cause) of all creation. Philippians 2:6 speaks of Jesus as being in the form of God. Jesus was just like God because He was and is God.

Fourth, we see from this passage that All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. This is a simple statement that the Word, Jesus, was the one who created the world. Jesus the Word was active in creation. If Jesus was not God then how could He create us, since that is something only God could do? In Genesis 1 we see the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. The whole Trinity was at work in creation. In Colossians 1:16 we have Jesus as the creator: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. His work goes well beyond His earthly ministry in the flash. He is creator, He is the one that holds all things together, He is God.

Jesus is Man

The second point we want to make in this lesson is that Jesus is also man, which means human. As we read along in John 1 we come to verse 14, which is a pivotal verse for this section of Scripture and a thought that changes everything the world ever knew and would know. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Recall the relational nature of God and man, alienated by the sin of man, now to be restored supernaturally. We are confronted with the reality that our great and good God has decided to become flesh; to clothe His perfect divinity and holiness in human flesh; to bridge the divide between God and man.


There are two ideas from this phrase that need to be highlighted. The first is the literal meaning of becoming flesh. The idea behind the phrase is that Jesus pitched his tent with us. He left the perfect neighborhood of heaven, where everyone wants to be, and moved to the slums of the earth. Because of sin we could not dwell in the presence of God's holiness, but Jesus moved in next door.


The second way to understand Jesus becoming flesh is found in the word incarnation. This word means that Jesus took on our nature. Every part of who we are as humans Jesus experienced. If you have been tempted this week rest assured that Jesus also was tempted in that way. When you find limitations as being a human in knowledge or power, Jesus also experienced that, though still was God. Anything that you can think of as being human is found in Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 states, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. In the early church this aspect of Christ was heavily debated (as well as Jesus being God) and these early church fathers declared, "What Jesus did not assume, He did not redeem." If Jesus was not tempted as you are He did not die for, and cover the sin that you deal with, but if He did you are covered. That is the simple truth of Jesus' humanity.


We find the full humanity of Christ elsewhere in Scripture as well. Of course we know that Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 we have the birth narratives that show Jesus as a human. We see through the Gospels that He grew, He ate, He got angry, He slept, He wept, He bled, He died. He was human in ways in which we know. Scripture also points to the relationship between His humanity and deity. Philippians 2:6-8, says, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. That is the marvel of the incarnation—God became man to serve us and to be found in our likeness as we are created in His.

Jesus is Our Only Hope

We see that Jesus was God and clearly He was man. Are these affirmations that important and significant? The answer is a resounding YES! Without Jesus being God and being Man, that is, being a God-Man, there is no hope of reconciliation. As we conclude this lesson lets look at the end of John's prologue. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1: 18. What we need to notice about Jesus here is that apart from Him coming and revealing Himself to us in the incarnation we, humanity, would have no way to know God. This is not an overstatement, we know that without Jesus we would not be saved, but without Him coming as the God-Man we would not know God in a personal way at all. We need to read this passage as: No one has ever seen the invisible God…but Jesus has made God known. At minimum Jesus as the God-Man brings us the hope of the personal knowledge of God.


As we close out this lesson we should read Romans 5:12-17 for it shows Jesus, as the new Adam who overcame sin for us.

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam's sin and God's gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.


This mystery of the God-man Jesus is remarkable to us. But because we were alienated from God by sin, there is really not any other way for God to be reconciled to man. And in Jesus the relationship is restored, and we can know Him and be known by Jesus, who is the perfect image of God.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Doctrine of Man

Since the publishing of Charles Darwin's book "The Descent of Man", the secular world has tended to view mankind as just an evolved animal. This materialist reductionist view means there is nothing to man but the cells that make up our bodies. But this view has a number of problems for which a proper theological understanding of mankind can answer.


In this lesson we are going to look at two areas of humanity that will aid us in establishing our view of what humanity is. In short we are trying to answer the question, "What is man like?" The first is the creation of humanity in the image of God. The second is the makeup of man from that image as we relate to God.

Man—In One Image

As created beings we share commonality with the rest of creation—plants, animals, etc. However, we are distinct from the rest of creation as well. One could say that humanity is the pinnacle of God's creative force. At the end of the last day of creation God made man and woman. This timing sets us off a little bit from the rest of creation, but the element that really distinguishes humanity from plants and animals is the image of God. Look at Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

In theological jargon this doctrine is called the imago dei (image of God in Latin). Since it is an important factor in the makeup of humanity and also the distinguishing feature of humanity we should strive to know in what way are we in God's image.


When most people read "in our image, after our likeness" they think the phrase is redundant, but there are two different ideas in that passage. The Hebrew word for image means shade or shadow. The great kings of the earth would mark their lands with statues or symbols of their own image, so the shadow or silhouette would mark the extent of their authority. Recently on our trip to Eureka Springs on the grounds of The Great Passion Play, we went to see this giant Christ of the Ozarks statue we called "big Jesus" one afternoon, and parked our motorcycles in the shade of big Jesus, and looked at the vast shadow of his image. To me this is the reminder that all of mankind is always in the shadow of God's domain and authority. The second phrase "after our likeness", means similitude. Just how man is similar to God? There are some Bible verses that can aid our understanding.

Genesis 5:1—This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.


Genesis 9:6—Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.


1 Corinthians 11:7—For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.


James 3:9—With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.


2 Corinthians 3:18—And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

In all of these passages we see two things. First, humanity is unique. How we are made and how we act both are in direct correlation to the likeness of God. So the rest of creation is in some sense unlike God. This means that we need to see the importance of humanity over against other creations. We should be good stewards of the world God created and called good. As we are under God's dominion he gave man dominion over the rest of creation. We should be especially good to other humans since they all possess this quality of God's image. It is always a disturbing site to see people that treat animals better than some humans. God has not intended for us to be on the same level with animals since He has given us His image. We are unique from the rest of creation. A recent study on gene expression was trying to understand the differences between man and chimpanzees since our protein coding DNA is similar, but our bodies are so different. The abstract spoke of "the evolutionary chasm that exists between humans and chimpanzees", and that is only considering our physiology, which is actually the least of our differences.


Second we need to note that the likeness in which we are made is related to the person of God. God is a spirit and does not have a body, but God is also a person. This means that He has relational qualities. In the Trinity there is an interrelation between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. In that relationship a likeness was created and given to humanity so we too can relate to one another and relate to God. This means that it was God's intention for us to be in a relationship with our Creator. He wants to know us and relate to us because He gave us His quality of personality so we can know and relate to Him. It is true that in the animal Kingdom we find examples of relationality and even communication, but none compare to the abilities of humanity. We have the capacity to know and be known by God.

Unfortunately humanity fell (see Genesis 3) and sin was introduced into the created world. This affected the relationship between humanity and God, but it did not eradicate the imago dei. Humanity still has the capacity to know God and relate to Him, even if only a little. Moreover, because God is love, He sent His son to come and restore the broken relationship that sin caused between humanity and God. Those who are in Christ Jesus now have the ability to know God and be known by Him again. Our imago dei is restored to set us on the path of continually growing into the likeness of God.


In application, the image of God in our lives means a few important things. First, it means that we belong to God. Everything does belong to God because He created it, but we are His special creatures that He has given His image to and we must be reminded whose we are (especially if we are Christians!). Second, it means that we should pattern our lives after Jesus. In Romans 5 we are shown that sin came through Adam, but righteousness came through Christ. Jesus has re-established humanity by becoming human. He is the example of what true humanity should be in God's image. So we should live our lives in the example of Christ. Third, since we are created in God's image, we should recognize that we are most human when we are living in a proper relation to God. When we rightly subject ourselves to God and seek a relationship with Him we are living the humanity God intended. Fourth, we should work. Humanity was not created to simply exist, Humanity existed to subdue and rule the world, which was God's will. As proper humans in God's image we should strive to work and do God's will daily. Finally, we need to see that being made in God's image means that we are valuable. This value is because God thought us were worthy of bearing His image. We must not forget this point. Satan constantly wants us to believe that we are alone, or that because of sin we are worthless. Not so, we are made in God's image, sin can tarnish but not erase that image.

Man—As One Person

The second aspect of our humanity that we need to consider is how we are constructed. In the Bible there are many ways that the persons are spoken of consisting.


The first major view is the dichotomist view. This view believes there are two parts to humanity—body and spirit/soul (thus the di, which means two). This is the most widely held view throughout the history of the church. Throughout the Bible it is clear that there are at least two parts to humanity. We can call these two parts the material and the immaterial. The material part is the body, that which we can see and feel. The immaterial is the part that we cannot feel or see, but know it exists. Clearly we have a body. We see God create it in Genesis 2:7 with His very breath forming man from the dust of the ground. The body is an important part of who we are, so we must strive to take care of our body while we have it on this earth. (practically speaking, we should go to the doctor, work-out, eat healthy, abstain from bodily immorality, etc.)


The question that divides the positions concerns the immaterial aspect of our person. In the Bible the terms that are used are soul and spirit. When we die we will give up our body and a part of us will go away until we are untied once again with our glorified bodies. This part for the dichotomists is the soul/spirit part. In the Bible the words for soul and spirit seem to be used interchangeable. Often soul could also be translated as life, and it is the spirit that gives life, and departs at death so they are closely related:

And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), (Genesis 35:18)

And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, "O Lord my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him." (1 Kings 17:21)

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)

And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'"
(Luke 23:46)

The dichotomist (two-part) view then would see the terms in the Bible for soul and spirit as being interchangeable and applying only to the immaterial part of a person.


The other major view is the trichotomist view. This sees three parts to the human person—body, soul, and spirit. Those who hold this view do not hold that soul and spirit are used interchangeably, but are distinct parts of the human person. They will appeal to verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:23— Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here we clearly see that Paul is addressing three different parts of a person. If they are interchangeable, why would he list three?


Of these three the body is the only part a naturalist would recognize. 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.


So last week we looked at God in three persons Father, Son, and Spirit, all as God in relationship with each other. So a part of the threeness of man must be our ability to relate to God, to know God, and be known by Him. It is clearly the spirit of man that is designed to relate to God. Remember the Greek word "spiritus" meaning breath is the way God animated man to life in the beginning. Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.


When we studied creation last year the one creation day lesson I worked hardest on, but was the least satisfied with, was the 6th day including the creation of man. I think the reason for this was my focus on the body and evidence that would refute evolution. In retrospect though, it is not the body of man that provides the clearest differences for humanity. It is the soul including the mind, not the brain (the human computer) but rather the software that runs on that computer. We spoke last week about abstract reasoning (to understand an immaterial God) being unique to humanity, but there is much more. Humans are ultra-social even compared to other primates, with one study finding human 2 year olds many times more highly refined in their interactions and ability to learn from each other than adult chimpanzees. Even in creation God did not consider man to be complete until he was in a relationship with God and with woman.


Humans are unique in their God-awareness. The Hebrew word Yir-ah rendered as the "fear of God" means reverence or awe. It is not dread or terror "pachad" but a god-sense that includes our need to worship. Studies confirm Humans are also unique in altruism, even to the point of self-sacrifice. Only humans make use of symbolic language to enable us to accumulate knowledge and pass it to the generations; a capability specific to the special revelation making recorded scripture possible. Furthermore the consciousness of humans our self-awareness and introspection is useless in evolutionary terms, but makes us moral beings as God intended. The cheetah chasing a herd of antelope aren't saying "no don't take the baby antelope that would be wrong", animals are not capable of moral judgments.


As God exists Father, Son, and Spirit so man exists body, soul, and spirit. We are made with distinct capabilities, endowed to equip us to relate to God, other people and the rest of creation in a way that is uniquely human. We carry the image of the immortal God, and live for His purpose; this is the doctrine of man.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

God Defined

In the words of The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler "Everyone is a theologian, but some of you are heretics". Theology is the study of God; His attributes, person and character. When people talk about God they have in their mind their own abstract ideas of what God is like. Evan an atheist, before he can claim to reject God, has to define in his own mind, what it is that he is rejecting. Thus what we believe about God can influence whether or not we believe in God.

The earliest prayer I learned as a child was this: "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food; Amen". Now most would say that is a really shallow prayer, but it contains the foundation of an outline we can use to define God. "God is great" speaks of the Excellency of His attributes. "God is good" reveals the virtue of His character.

Defining an abstract idea like God may seem odd but it has a very practical application. As a software developer I practice Object Oriented Programming (OOP); wherein you must define system objects with their attributes and functions before you can use them in a program. So today we will begin a theology program by creating an abstract definition of God, using the dual revelation of nature and scripture to aid our understanding.

God is great – The Excellency of His attributes

Spirit and Person – We learn from the origin of creation is that God is not made of or constrained by the matter and energy of this physical world. He is immaterial, he is Spirit (John 4:24). Spirit defined is vital principle or animating force within living beings. Life is not possible without God, He is the animating force behind all life. He (Jesus incarnate) is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17). We also see God as a person in that he has relationships within the Trinitarian God-head and with his created beings (angels and man). So God as Spirit and person can relate to us, but is not limited by the physical realm. We experience God as three persons Father, Son, and Spirit.

Eternal – In Genesis we see God existing before creation. In Exodus God identifies Himself as the "I AM", that is the self-existent one. Revelation 1:8 calls him the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. When we think of eternal, we tend to think a long time, but that is incomplete. Standard Model physics has learned that the Cosmic Creation Event not only created all matter and energy but space and time itself. Time as we understand it did not exist before creation and God exists in this eternal dimension unlimited by time.

Omnipotent – All powerful, God can do whatever he wills. Genesis 18:14 asks "is anything too hard for God"? Job 42:2 says of God "I know you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted". Further we see God's power at work in us in Matthew 19:26 "with God all things are possible". The power that formed the worlds, positioned the stars, brought up continents, and created life, is the same power that will redeem sinful men.

Omniscient – All knowing. A part of this is tied to God's eternal attribute. Where we experience life like a movie one frame or picture at a time, God sees all time as though it were now. What will be true in the future is just as clear to Him as what was true in the past, or what is true in the present. Job 11 asks "Can you find out the deep things of God"?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

    The Lord is the everlasting God,

    the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

    his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)


Whereas we can know God and be known by Him, we cannot know everything God knows. Our temporal minds are limited by our physical reality so we will surely be able to know more once we are translated to be like Jesus. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

Omnipresent – Just as God is not limited or constrained by time, so He is also not limited by space. There is no place where God cannot be, not physically, but just as certain. God moves in a way that transcends our 3 dimensions of space. Comparing God to us is like comparing us to a paper doll on a table, with only two dimensions. Psalm 139:7-12 highlights this attribute God:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,"

even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

Unchangeable – Immutable. Whereas the physical world works on the law of decay or entropy always changing in every way; the immaterial God does not change. Malachi 3:6 says, I the Lord do not change. So as we look at each of the attributes we need to remember they are static, thus once established, they cannot be changed. Thus we see if God is constrained by anything it is only by His own nature.


God is good – The virtue of His character

Holy – Holiness is a purity or incorruptibility of character that begins and ends with God. Recently preacher taught us to chant "holy, holy, holy", like the angels of heaven. The angels only say this in the center of God's presence. Any holiness we experience as people we obtain from our relationship with God. Exodus 15:11 illustrates this, Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness.

God is free from evil and from any evil influence. James 1:13 speaks of this, Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. The holiness of God also explains the difficulty of sinful man to approach God.

Proverbs 15:9—The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, and Isaiah 59:2—but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Because of His holiness God cannot ignore sin, and he has a few ways of dealing with it, which we will see next.


Just – God is perfect in justice and thus all the judgments he renders are righteous. God separates himself from sin either by purifying it sacrificially, or destroying it. Jesus is revealed in scripture as the righteous judge, and when looking at scripture we saw last week it is the words of God that will judge the actions of man, and it is this justice that sinful men find most objectionable. "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire; this is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:12-15


Love – 1 John 4:16 tells us flatly that God is love. God can love deeper, forgive more perfectly, and wait more patiently than any other relationship you will experience.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)

Who demonstrate their love like God? Greater love has no one than this, than that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13). This is what Jesus did for us, but it also is the love of the Father for us, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)


Though we are sinners and stand in front of a holy God, we also are standing in front of a loving God who loved us so much that He created a way for us to overcome His wrath because of sin (derived from the justice of God) and redeems us. This is love. Any other concept of love is derived from it.

Conclusions about God

Philosophers don't start with the question "Is there a God?" they ask, "Why is there something, rather than nothing"? One of the great philosophers on the subject of God and creation was Thomas Aquinas. And he made a few fundamental observations that still plague those who argue against God's existence. 1) If it is possible that something might not exist, then it is certain that at some time it did not exist. 2) Everything that begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist, so the universe has a cause. 3) If anything exists contingently, at least one thing exists necessarily.

Plug what we know from modern cosmology into this philosophy and the answer is obvious. The universe at one time did not exist. To come into existence the universe had to have a cause. A universe with a beginning, and a cause, points to a supernatural existence outside of creation. This supernatural eternal existence, the uncreated cause, is best described as the God of the Bible.

An old rabbinical proverb puts it like this: Being what he is, God could not fail to be who he is, and being who he is, God could not fail to be. So the sum of the matter from the Bible is thus, God is the eternal creator, because an eternal creator was necessary. The infinite God exists, because he must. The temporal cannot exist without the infinite.

namespace Theology


protected abstract class God


#region Great //Excellent attributes

static Attribute Spirit_and_Person;

static Attribute Eternal;

static Attribute Omnipotent;

static Attribute Omnicient;

static Attribute Omnipresent;

static Attribute Unchangeable;



#region Good //Virtuous character

public bool Holy(object nature) { return true;}

public bool Just(object judgments) { return true; }

public bool Loving(object relationships) { return true; }




public sealed class Trinitatian_Godhead //3 persons one God


public class Father : God { }

public class Son : God { }

public class HolySpirit : God { }



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Doctrine of Scripture

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)


This week we begin seven lessons on doctrines of the faith. In the next seven weeks we are going to cover some of the important doctrines that the church has believed, upheld, and defended through the years. We are going to highlight what we think are the most important: Scripture, God, Man, Jesus, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Last Things (eternity).


This week we are going to look at the doctrine of Scripture. We will to discuss the nature of the Holy Bible as has been believed by Christians for thousands of years. More than that, it is important to also show how the Bible is important for humanity today. One could say that we should start a series on doctrine with the doctrine of God since He existed (is existence) before the Bible, but the reason we start with Scripture is that most of our knowledge about God comes from Scripture.

Scripture is Revelation from God

The first aspect of the Bible that we need to note is that it is a revelation from God. God reveals to us things about himself, mankind, and his plans by revelation in scripture. This is exactly what God does for us. His nature (discussed next week) is one that is separate from creation. He is accessible and works within creation, but He is beyond it as well. Because of this He has to come to us to reveal Himself to us. Without Him revealing Himself to us we would not be able to know anything about Him personally. Thus, we know that God reveals Himself to us, and He does that in two ways: General and Special Revelation.


Our topic today is on Special revelation (the Bible) but we must briefly mention General Revelation. This type of revelation is a disclosure of God that is addressed to all people of all times and is therefore available to all people at all times. We find this throughout the Scriptures. God is revealing Himself through nature, by moving His redemption plan through history, and through the very makeup of man. Psalm 19 is the best example of this type of revelation:

The heavens declare the glory of God,

    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,

    and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,

    whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the earth,

    and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,

    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

    and its circuit to the end of them,

    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6)

In this passage we can see that God has revealed Himself through creation, however we must not stop (or even begin) with general revelation. For in it we do not know the more important things of God—salvation, law, God's Person—rather we only know that a god exists.


Because of that we are in need of what we call Special Revelation. Special Revelation is a disclosure of God to certain people at certain times. Overall we could find a few different types of special revelation in history. For instance Moses' conversations with God are considered special revelation. The sacrifice at Mt. Carmel with Elijah is another instance of special revelation. In these instances we see that God revealed Himself to certain people at a specific time (Moses and Elijah and company).


The main idea of special revelation, though, is found in Scripture. By Scripture we mean the Bible in two testaments—Old, with 39 books; New, with 27 books. This is the Christian Bible and the church has believed it to be the sole source of special revelation from God. In it we find the plan for humanity, the Law, Salvation, and most of all, the Person of God. This is why we call it the Word of God. When we read Scripture we are coming into contact with special revelation, and as such we can say that we are coming into contact with God's very own word and words. In short, we hear from God through the Bible. This truth alone should compel us to read the Bible more and more. The remainder of Psalm 19 speaks to this as well as the entirety of Psalm 119. The Law, the writings, the Gospels, etc. are the words of God revealed to us.

Scripture is Authoritative for Man

When we think about authority we think of those who have the power to tell us what to do or not to do. We may think of our boss at work, a teacher at school, a police person, or a parent in the home. In the church we think of Jesus as having authority as Matthew 28 shows that all authority is given to Him and He has given that authority to us to do His will. But there is another side of authority we must comprehend and it relates to truth.


When we read Scripture we must come to believe what Scripture says as being true and beneficial for us. In a sense we can see the authority of Scripture in affirming that there is power and meaning in Scripture. It is powerful because it is God's very Word. It is meaningful because it is applicable to our lives. Our main text today attests to this very nature of Scripture: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We see that all of Scripture is breathed out by God—His power—and all Scripture is profitable.


The Bible is God's Word. This means that if we believe God is speaking to us in Scripture then we must trust the words of Scripture, since they are God's very Words. A great example of this in Scripture are the words of Jesus in John 12:47-50:

If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.

When we read the words of the Bible we are reading a book that has been well preserved through time so that we can hear the authoritative words of God. When we do not heed these words we are judged because of it, but when we submit to their authority we find eternal life.


If we are to grow in our faith we must submit to the authority of the Word and do what it says, for we have no other authority.

Scripture is Inspired by the Holy Spirit

It is important to understand that the Word of God is also powerful, as mentioned above. If the Bible is not powerful then it cannot really help us no matter how meaningful it may be. But if it is powerful it will bring great help to us to be able to save us and complete us as Christians. That power comes to us in the nature of Scripture as inspired by God. That word inspired literally means to exhale. The words of Scripture have been breathed out by God and are thus full of His power.


Another important Bible text on Scripture is found in 2 Peter:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21,)

Although Peter was able to receive a certain special revelation at the transfiguration of Christ he points to Scripture as being more sure (as other translations have it) than him seeing Jesus glorified. When we read Scripture we need to realize that the words written therein are not man's words, as many in our world would like to believe. These are the very words of God given to man to write down.


In both 2 Timothy and 1 Peter we have the concept of inspiration. Peter speaks of Scripture not being written by man but being carried along by the Holy Spirit. Paul writes to Timothy to show that Scripture is theo-pneustos (God-theo; breathed-pneustos). Another word for Spirit in the Greek language is wind (pneuma). Both of these texts show us that God has been active in the writing of Scripture through His Holy Spirit. This means that when we read the words in Scripture we are coming to read the words that God intended to be written and the words that God has preserved through the centuries to be read. We are reading divine, authoritative, words of God.


When we read Scripture we must submit to what it says because it is the Word of God, but we also must know that it has the ability to empower us because it is the Word of God. There is no other writing in history that will affect you like Scripture. You can read the best prose, the most enticing philosophy, or the greatest literature from Homer to Shakespeare and not find anything comparable to Scripture. The nature of Scripture is that it is the divine revelation of God in authority in word form for us—it is God's power. If we want God's power in our life we must follow Scripture.

Scripture is Inerrant in Itself

Finally, we must state that Scripture is what is called inerrant. For most of church history the authority and inspiration of the Bible was not questioned, but in our Modern times we do nothing but question to the point we are not sure of anything. The Bible came under great attack and those who believe it to be true and trustworthy have had to respond back by declaring it to be inerrant.


Inerrancy means that there are no errors in Scripture. This is a term not found in the Bible itself, but has been used to clarify what is meant in the trustworthiness of Scripture. It can be defined a variety of ways, but we will define it as: without the possibility of erring. This means the Bible is not wrong, it is truth. For many of us who have accepted the authority of Scripture this is an easy acceptance. We trust the Word of God, so why do we need to claim it to be inerrant. We assert this for our friends and family who lose their trust in parts of Scripture.


One reason we spent so much time teaching through the days of creation last year showing how the science actually confirms what the scripture is saying is that some have failed to address the challenges of evolution and theoretical physics; and many stopped presuming the Bible is right about creation. A problem arises though, if the Bible is wrong here, then it could be wrong elsewhere and the slippery slope goes from denying the Bible in relation to how we got here, to denying the Gospel. That is a simplified overstatement, but it is the trajectory for those who disbelieve parts of the Bible. A statement on the truthfulness of Scripture needs to be affirmed and that is found in stating that the Bible is without error or inerrant.


This line of thought goes well beyond fact checking science and comes into play in the moral arenas in our churches where Christians are choosing to believe some Scriptures and not others. For instance, Jesus is accepted as savior, but is denied in His teaching on marriage, divorce, and sexuality. Some have called this limited inerrancy, but the problem is that there is no consensus on what limits are drawn up. Either Scripture is without error and therefore trustworthy or it has errors and we don't know what to trust.


In conclusion, we have a great gift of God in Scripture that is able to make us complete not only because it has wise sayings, but because it is the authoritative, inerrant, inspired, revelation of God given to us and preserved for us. We must see its permanence and importance most of all since it is something that will not pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It’s Not about You

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11, ESV)


This week we look at the final lesson from the book I am a Church Member. For those who are utilizing the book this lesson is based upon chapter three, "I will not let the church be about me." As we broach this subject and look at what the Bible says, we need to keep in mind two things about being a church member. First, as members of a larger body our preferences are not most important. In other words, its not about you. Second, what it is about is service, serving, and being a servant.


At the beginning of the book Rainer pointed out that there is a difference between a church and a social club. In a social club, because of the dues that are paid (among other things), personal preferences can be sought out, argued for, and accomplished. However, in the church, the body of Christ, we are not to exist for our own desires, but solely for the desire of the one who bought us and brought us out of darkness into glorious light. Though we know this truth at times we allow our individual preferences to eclipse our work for Christ. We all fall prey to this in one form or another and it is just selfish. In the realm of the church a selfish church is labeled an inwardly focused church. Rainer provides a list of areas that kept churches inwardly focused:

Survey of Inwardly Focused Churches

  1. Worship Wars
  2. Prolonged minutia meetings
  3. Facility Focus
  4. Program driven
  5. Inwardly focused budget
  6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care
  7. Attitudes of entitlement
  8. Greater concern about change than the gospel
  9. Anger and hostility
  10. Evangelistic apathy


In reading this list we may find the areas that we have been more inward focused than outward focused, falling short of the will of God in the great Commission. The way to ensure that we are not being inwardly focused is to make sure we are serving, as a church body and individually members of it. The topic of service is an integral element in the life of the church.

Service Helps us Love One Another

When we looked at unity we saw as God was adding people to the church as it pleased Him, he was also supplying two kinds of supernatural glue to bind us together. One mentioned in Ephesians 4:1-3 is peace (endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace). The second one highlighted here is love.


The beginning of the passage takes us directly to the way in which we are able to live together and serve each other: keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. We have discussed the interplay between the varieties of gifts found within the body, but they do not work well together without love. Paul exhorts us here to love one another because without love we are nothing (1 Cor 13).


Not only must we love one another, but we must do so earnestly. Found in this word is the concept of loving unfailingly. It is further highlighted by the next clause: love covers a multitude of sins. All of the problems of the inward focused church (made up of fallible people like us) go away when love abounds unfailingly. When we consider love first we begin to see each other as Christ sees us: forgiven. We find empathy with others when we love them first (we saw this last week as an effect of praying for others). Most of all we find that it becomes easier to serve with others in the church when we eagerly desire to love them.


The Bible elsewhere speaks of the need for the body to serve one another. In Mark 9:35 it says, And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." We are not to seek to be first, but lovingly we consider others greater than ourselves. The greatest example of this is in the life of Jesus as presented in Philippians 2


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus considered our humble estate and loved us by coming, but he also served us in coming as well. He came in the form of a servant in the greatest act of love ever presented in the history of mankind. We, as the church and church members, are to follow suit and be like Jesus. We are to be servants who love those we serve.


This means that we are to have an outward view of our church membership. Every other person we come across in our church needs to be an object of our love. This is not always easy, but it is necessary for the church to function properly and be healthy. It also is the only way we are going to be able to serve, and, consequently when we serve and love find it becomes easier and easier to serve and to love others.

Service Helps us Strengthen One Another

As just mentioned, the result of service in our lives and in our church brings great benefits to us. In a world that is always out for number one, the benefits of charitable acts are lost. Why would we spend time at a food pantry? Why would we give up a Saturday to fix someone's car? Why would we give away hundreds of dollars to people we do not even know? These are the questions of the world and often we believe them. However, those who know how to serve know the intangible benefits of serving.


Service is an attitude that is prevalent in the New Testament. We find servant 57 times and the word serve 58 times. So over 100 times in the New Testament we have the concept of service presented. Sure it seems necessary that we practice serving one another. Jesus did when he washed the disciples feet (John 13). We see it throughout the early church in the book of Acts. Christians are caring for one another and are being exhorted to care for one another. This is what our text in 1 Peter says as well. It is the common activity of the church.


We are to be those who serve each other because we cannot do everything. When we read: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another (v 10), as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies (v 11), we are coming across the idea of the Body of Christ again. We each have different abilities and are to utilize them not only for the kingdom of God but also for the embitterment of each other. God has gifted us to take care of one another.


When we chose to be selfish with our spiritual gifts we are not only withholding needs from others we are also withholding the blessings that come along with serving. It is pure selfishness to keep these services to ourselves. We must remember that we are better together as a church body than we are as each individual members. When we practice our gifts in service to one another we all find strength from it. When we do not we only find weakness. We must strive to strengthen each other through service.

Service Helps us be the Body

Finally, we need to see that service helps is be the body. We have already mentioned this is in brief in the points above. When we are serving one another in love and finding strength from one another we are being the Body of Christ. When we are the Body of Christ we are able to fulfill the final part of our verse: in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. When we lovingly serve and act as God intended His churches to act, then we give Him glory.


With that being said, we must state a few things. First, by being inwardly focused, by seeking our preferences most of all, by withholding our gifts, we are limiting the glory God receives from the church in that the church is more our reflection than His. We are limiting the ability of God's church to worship Him. We are limiting the ability of the church to do what it needs to do. A service-centered attitude in the church is a Christ-centered attitude. We are no better in the Body of Christ than we are doing Christ's work as the Body.


Second, we must make sure that we are doing the work and not expecting others (or hiring out) to do our work. In many churches the answer to more ministry and service is a new staff member. Hire a new pastor and then we can do many more things. Sure there will be a productivity increase, but not to what it needs to be. In Acts 6 we have a passage that I believe introduces the role of the deacon. The apostles could not give proper attention to leading the church in the ministry of the word because they were waiting tables. They chose out men to help with this so they could teach. It is true to this day. Pastors are to function in the church as the leading and training agents for the rest of the church to do what God has called them to do. In Ephesians 4 Paul presents this:


he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-14, ESV)

Notice that the job of these offices is to equip the saints. It is not their job to do everything. They are just one part of the body—a visible part—but just one part that relies upon the remaining members to do their part. Members are to share in the work of the church with their leadership, not leaving the work to church staff.

Find ways to serve others in the church. Encourage others to serve more. It will make our church more loving, stronger, and able to glorify our Lord and Savior greater.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Indispensability of Intercession

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV)


This is our third week in our Core Values Series and the third of four from Rainer's I am a Church Member. We will be addressing the chapter on prayer, chapter four. I think it is greatly valuable for all of our classes to hear the introduction that Rainer provides to this chapter:

It's Thursday morning. Pastor Mike [not Haley] has a clear calendar, an aberration in his busy schedule. Actually, the calendar is not really clear. He has set aside time to finish his sermon for Sunday. His Bible is open. Study aids are nearby. He begins to study.

Then the phone rings.

His assistant tells him about a car accident involving a family in the church. The ambulances are already on the way to the hospital. Mike leaves all his study material on his desk and jumps into the car.

On the way to the hospital, his assistant calls him again. The entire Godsey family of five were in the car. None are seriously hurt except for Gary, the father and husband of the family. His condition is grave.

Pastor Mike walks into the emergency room. The family has just been told that their husband and father did not make it. They see their pastor and run to him sobbing, in total shock. Mike is there for them. He stays with the entire family for three hours until he is certain enough people are around to care for them.

He stops by his home to see his wife and grab a quick sandwich. It is now afternoon. He's not sure if he can return to his sermon preparation, but he knows he must. He must fight the emotional exhaustion of the morning and finish the message. But as he walks back to the church, his assistant apologetically tells him that two people need to speak with him. They consider it urgent.

Mike meets with the two men. One of them is the worship leader of the church. He is struggling with his ministry and is considering giving up. For two hours Mike listens, consoles, and attempts to encourage the staff member.

The next visitor then catches Mike off guard. George is one of the key lay leaders in the church. Mike considers him a friend and an incredibly vital person in the overall leadership of the congregation. George struggles to speak: "My wife is having an affair . . ." There are no more words for five minutes. Just tears and sobs.

Mike stays with George for over two hours. They pray together and talk about the next steps.

It's nearly five o'clock in the afternoon. Mike is too drained to get back to his sermon. Instead he begins to look at his crowded e-mail inbox. He cringes when he sees one of the senders of an e-mail. But he cannot stop himself from opening the message. It's from one of Mike's most frequent critics in the church. She has two complaints. The first irritation was something he said in last Sunday's sermon. The second complaint addressed Mike's failure to visit her sister-in-law who had minor outpatient surgery yesterday. The woman is not a member of the church. And mike knew nothing about the surgery.

Pastor Mike shuts the laptop cover and moves to his car slowly. He'll stop by the house to grab a quick bite to eat. Then he needs to check on the Godsey family. He will stay with them for a while, but he must leave prior to 7:30, when he is to give the invocation for a local high school basketball game.

Several people corner him at the game, so he doesn't get home until after nine o'clock. He goes to his small study in his home, shuts the door, and begins to cry.

Gary Godsey, the father and husband who was killed in the car accident was Mike's best friend.

This was the first chance Mike had to grieve. (Rainer, 43-46).

I find this story to be a sobering glimpse into the reality of the life of a pastor. Sure not every day for a pastor is like the one Rainer pointed out, but these days exist.

In this lesson we will cover two different aspects of the life of the church member. First, we will look at the nature of intercession in a church member's prayer life. This is an indispensable job for every member of the body on behalf of every other member of the body. Second, we will look at the importance of that intercession especially applied to the pastor, the man for whom God has called, equipped, and gifted to shepherd the flock He gathered at a particular place. Because of this divine calling, this person has many demands and many adversaries. We need to be aware of the important ministry of intercession for these men in our lives.

The Nature of Intercession

If we are going to argue that intercession is a needed activity of the body of Christ, the church, then we should have an appropriate working definition of what intercession in our prayer lives is. The passage in 1 Timothy lists intercession alongside other types of prayers in which we are to be involved. So we need to understand what it means. To intercede means to change a person's standing by personal involvement in the circumstances at hand. In terms of prayer this means we take up the cause of another and pray as though it were our problem not theirs.

This means that we are to become a people that stand in the gap for others, so to speak. The prime example of this is our own salvation in Jesus Christ. Our sin left us in a precarious position before God since there was nothing we could do to save ourselves. Then in steps Jesus, the only one who could stand in the gap for us and overcome our sin problem. His life was an act of intercession to God, but He also has a continual ministry now as an intercessor for us: Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25). So just as Jesus is constantly making intercession to God the Father for us, so we should make intercession for others.

Last week we looked at the unity of the church from Ephesians 4, which encouraged us to bear with one another. Part of bearing with one another is found in the way in which we pray for one another. Often we are aware of the problems of those in the church and we long to pray for those people. This is intercession; it is us asking God to take care of others in our church. Now this raises an interesting theological question: Is God unaware of our church's problems? If not then why are we praying? Though one can argue because the Bible tells us to I like the answer that Philip Yancey provides in his book Prayer:

I once envisioned intercession as bringing requests to God that God may not have thought of, then talking God into granting them. Now I see intercession as an increase in my awareness. When I pray for another person, I am praying for God to open my eyes so that I can see that person as God does, and then enter into the stream of love that God already directs toward that person. (Yancey, Prayer, 303).

We need to realize that intercession is far more than petitioning God on behalf of others. In praying for others through intercession we are able to act as the body that rejoices and grieves together as 1 Corinthians 12:26 exhibits. In short, by interceding to God for others in the church we are able to come to love and support them in a manner similar to how God does.

The Necessity of Intercession for our Pastors

With the command from Paul for us to intercede on behalf of all people, we need to remember that within that grouping are those who are called to lead the local church. We as Baptists usually refer to these shepherds as the pastor. And though there are different job titles there really is only one set of qualifications for these titles.

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

There are a variety of practical reasons for all of the requirements for the life of the pastor of a church, but they all can be boiled down to the difficulty that comes along with the job. Managing people is never easy, but shepherding (that means managing lovingly so) people is even harder. Now add to that mix the constant assaults from the enemies of God and you have quite a difficult job. This is why the end of the text says, so that he may not fall into reproach, and a snare of the devil. Pastors are in need of our intercessions since the job is difficult.

There are quite a few lists of things that pastors personally deal with:


  1. Loneliness
  2. Stress
  3. Feelings of Inadequacy
  4. Depression
  5. Spiritual Warfare (Maxwell, Partners in Prayer, chapter 6)


In addition to these striking problems he also provides these statistics of pastors:

90 % work more than forty-six hours a week

80% believe ministry has affected their families negatively

33% say that ministry is a hazard to their family

75% report a significant stress-related crises at least once

50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job

90% feel inadequately trained

70% say they have a low self-image

40% report a serious conflict with a church member at least once a month.

70% do not have someone they consider a close friend (Maxwell, Partners in Prayer, 80)

Given these statistics and requirements for our pastors in the church we should definitely be interceding for them as 1 Timothy exhorts us to. The question that only remains is: How? Rainer provides four areas in which we can pray:


  1. Praying for Pastors, Staff, and Church Leaders
  2. Praying for the Pastor and His Family
  3. Praying for the Pastor's Protection
  4. Praying for the Pastor's Health


In addition the following is an exemplary prayer for pastors.

"Things I pray for pastors and leaders:

I pray that they would love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that their ministry would never steal from them their first love, Jesus Christ.

I pray that they would love and serve their wife and family with glad hearts and that their family would have love for the ministry instead of resenting it for "stealing" their husband and daddy away.

I pray for a passion; for conviction and dedication to their calling and to Jesus Christ.

I pray that they will walk in confidence while kneeling in humility as gentle shepherds who care for their sheep.

I pray for encouragement in their faith and ministry, and against those who attack, slander, harm, or speak evil against them.

I pray that their teaching and preaching will be accurate, true, bold, convicting, encouraging, anointed, and Christ-centered.

I pray that God will guard them from burnout and depression.

I pray that they will never fall prey to envy, jealousy, insecurity, or comparison.

I pray for their holiness and purity, and against lust, affairs, love of money, and pride.

I pray for rest spiritually and physically, and that they know that it is not their ministry they are leading, but God's.

I pray that they will finish better than they started.

I pray that they will take time to have fun, do things they enjoy, spend time with their wives and play with the kids, and get away often to find peace and solitude.

I pray for God to raise up people around them to assist them, serve them, honor them, encourage them, pray for them, admonish them, and protect them.

I pray that ministry, teaching, preaching, and leading will never become a chore for them, but that it would always be a joy and blessing to serve the Lord and His people with kindness and gladness, and that they would enjoy every aspect of leading, whether easy or hard, for the glory of God.

I pray these things for pastors or leaders. I hope all of us will pray them for one another." (Written by Pastor Dick Hester)

As you close out your time with your class let me suggest that you take time to pray for our pastor. Perhaps you can pray in groups or you may just want to pray altogether, but the best application to this lesson is to be an intercessor for our pastors.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What is a Church Member?

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27, ESV)

True or false, the church is a volunteer service organization?

Church is the "ecclesia" the called out assembly, so to be in a church you need two things; one is to be called by God, and two is to assemble together, but many misunderstand the concept of assembled as just gathered (I went to church on Sunday) but in reality it means arranged and combined in a specific way for a particular purpose.


Based on our research of 557 churches from 2004 to 2010, nine out of ten churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities. Simply stated, churches are losing ground in their own backyards. . . .

We can blame it on the secular culture. And we often do.

We can blame it on the godless politics of our nation. We do that as well.

We can even blame it on the churches, the hypocritical members, and the uncaring pastors. Lots of Christians are doing that.

But what I am proposing that we who are church members need to look in the mirror. I am suggesting that congregations across America are weak because many of us church members have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.

(Rainer, I am a Church Member, 5-6).

Before we jump into this text let us be reminded of the context of the passage. The first letter to the church at Corinth was written by Paul as a way of reprimanding them for the practices they were allowing within their church. In short, Paul uses this letter to point out what was wrong with them and then teach them what is right. The topic he covers varies from spiritual gifts, to the Lord's Supper, and factions within the church. Overall, Paul wants the believers in Corinth to understand that there is a proper way for a church to conduct itself and Paul is giving them that model.


In particular to our passage Paul is redressing the concern he broached in chapter 1. There he states, I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:10-12, ESV). The divisions that are mentioned here are also highlighted in chapters 12-14 with special attention made to spiritual gifts. Apparently there were believers in the church who were touting their particular gifting as being the gift and division then occurred. In the middle of this discussion about who is better in the church Paul presents us with an illustration of how the church exists.

The Church has Many Members

We live in a place that still has cultural Christianity. Growing up I have seen people come to church for business, politics, and social status. And if you go to a really big church this is amplified due to the local celebrity status of Mega-church pastors. One Mega-church recently dis-invited about two thirds of its members. They looked at the records and found that one third of their families did all the giving and volunteering, and asked the others to get in or get out.


We must have a definition of a church member that sees its benefit beyond itself and exists in an outward functioning manner. This is where Paul's analogy of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 is extremely helpful. Notice what he says in verse 12, For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body so it is with Christ. Illustrations are often the best teachers and it is especially true in construing a correct construction of a church member. The body is appropriate not only because the analogy works, but because we all have one. All of us have (or have had) these various parts: hands, feet, arms, eyes, mouths, etc. So as we think through what a church member is let us do so by contemplating our physiological selves.

In verse 14 Paul mentions the diversity of the body but highlights that there is necessity in diversity. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

Some people disqualify themselves from active church membership because they don't think they have one of the high-profile gifts like teaching or singing. But your body has more interior parts that go unseen then, those that get all the attention. People write poems about eyes not livers, but people function pretty well as blind, but you can't survive without your vital internal organs.

We must affirm with Paul that God has beautifully and perfectly built us together, But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. Practically speaking, this verse means that even though everyone has a different gifting (and maybe even not the one most desired at times) each gifting is necessary for the church to operate as God wants. John Calvin states it well on how the diverse members of the church are to work together, "each member ought to rest satisfied in its own station, and not envy others." Calvin goes on to show the result of those who do not rest satisfied, "That member, therefore, which will not rest satisfied with its own station, will wage war with God" (Calvin, 1 Corinthians, 409-10).

But as we affirm the necessity of diverse gifts and callings we also need to expect diversity in service. If God is fitting the church for service with each one he calls, what ministry did he have in mind when he called you? The inescapable conclusion of diversity is that it is there of necessity as a part of God's plan, so we must embrace diversity in service so we don't waste God's gifts, allowing the uninvolved to stay uninvolved.

The Church is One Body

The second part of what Paul wants to show us in the illustration of the body is that we are not only many different members, but we are one body. In verse 13 we are reminded that we have all been baptized into one body . . . and made to drink of one Spirit. Many scholars disagree about what Paul is particularly referencing here (some say water baptism, some spirit baptism, some say the Lord's Supper), but it is clear that the common unity that the church has is its connection to Christ, as the end of verse 12 shows—so it is with Christ. Paul could have said "church" here, but he said Christ. This is the completion of the picture of the body, for we must remember that our unity is found in our commonality, which is in Christ. We are the community of the faith, whom God has called, and we responded in repentance (change your mind), confession (surrender), and belief (trust).

In Colossians 1 we have a picture of Jesus as the head of the body, the church. Paul here is making this same connection to the church and the body, and in both we have our headship in Jesus Christ. Our unity to Him as our Head is most important for us as a church and as individuals. For what Augustine said long ago still is true, "Since we are in Christ, a fruit-bearing vine, what are we out of him but dry twigs?" Our unity is in Jesus Christ alone.

So the relation then between various body members, that are church members, is their relation Christ. That is to say, we are to find unity with one another because we are unified with one another in Jesus Christ. In that unity then we need not be ashamed of our giftings (or purposes in the church) thinking that some giftings are better than others. All giftings are needed for a healthy church body. This is why Paul mentions the relationship to the weaker body parts, On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. All of these body parts, though some weaker or more modest, are integral for the body of Christ to function properly.

Not only can we make that simple statement that we are needed and necessary in the unity of the whole body, but Paul encourages us with the note that God has placed each of us in our positions for His great purposes. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. That unity exists so that there is not division in the body (as the Corinthians had been facing). We must exist as unified members of the body in the way Paul mentions it here. When one suffers all suffer, when one rejoices all rejoice. This is what it means to be unified in one body.

The Church Serves in Love

God can replace anyone at any moment (and often does). What I am saying is that God wants us to do a job in our church and our spiritual health and that of the church depends on us doing our part.

Rainer points out in his book that only about one third of church members actually serve, or are functioning members in their churches. He concludes from this, "But if we are true biblical church members, we will be functioning members . . .

Sometimes people ask, "How can God use me?" I often answer them that they probably already know, for God gives us the desires to do His will. But if you do not know there are many programs that can help you figure out how you can be used and serve in the church. We have utilized in the past spiritual gift inventories, and most recently a program called SHAPE (put out by Saddleback Church). These are tools and by no means are authoritative on where and how you should serve, but they greatly help. In reality, if you are not serving the answer to what you should is to just do something; there is plenty of work to be done.

Second, we must remember that when we serve in the church as functioning members we must do so in love. Following chapter 12 is the famous Love Chapter
1 Corinthians 13. In the same context relating to divisions in the church, Paul presents to us the need to be a people of love. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Though we may think we are serving God and the church sometimes, we must be mindful that all our serving must be done so in love. Love is the unifier of the church and the motive that keeps us serving. It was the motive for Christ to die for us and will always be our motive to "die" for others as members of the church body.

The only true church members are those united by Christ (called) and assembled to serve his purpose.

That's right: membership in the body of Christ, the church, is a gift from God. It's not a legalistic obligation. It's not country club perks. It's not a license for entitlements. It's a gift. A gift from God. A gift that we should treasure with great joy and anticipation. (Rainer 71)