church

How To Use the Cell Phone.

Last Sunday evening at church, we reviewed some considerations for using the cell phone (assuming a cell phone with data and text messaging functionality). Some might say that this is not a spiritual issue and is outside the bounds of pastoral ministry. However, I believe it is a pastoral concern because:

1) Relationships are suffering.

2) The world and its ideologies are pumped in through the cell phone/social media.

3) Digital dialogue is taking over the church’s communication.

4) More and more children have them, thus affecting their ability to hear their parents.

Matthew 18:1-10 indicates that the way that we treat those who follow Christ is the way that we treat Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, it would be better to drown yourself than to cause a “little one” to stumble into sin. Jesus also instructed us to “love one another” (John 13:34). The NT goes on to instruct as to how to love one another in the world so that we might demonstrate to the world that we are disciples of Christ, both for their conviction and drawing work of God.

The fact that both of these teachings come down to conversations, how we speak, is clear in the NT. Our conversations with one another must be well thought-out, purposefully edifying, and meant to provoke one another to love and obedience (see Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 3:16-17; Hebrews 10:25). If Proverbs teaches anything, it certainly instructs us in the wisdom of useful conversation. For example:

Proverbs 16:13
Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
And he who speaks right is loved.

 

Proverbs 16:21
The wise in heart will be called understanding,
And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

 

Proverbs 16:23–24
The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Learning how to speak to one another with righteousness, wisdom, and pleasant words will take time, effort, and practice. In fact, so much so, that it takes a lifetime of effort to produce words “fitly spoken” (see James 3).

However, what seems to be the case, is that the product of having all kinds of data, stories, and pictures at instant disposal, has produced in people a failure to communicate face to face. The ability to look someone in the eye and learn what they need to hear at that very moment is precious and valuable in the church (it is at the very heart of ministry!). But, the lack of interest in the concerns of others is evident in the superficial and careless communication that exudes the church. In short, personal, verbal, communication is unclear. And, when communication is unclear, the mind is muddy. And, when the mind is muddy, the glory of God suffers, and we cannot look at one another in the church in love.

Why make that assertion? Consider:

Philippians 2:3–4
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

How much of what we do on our cell phones is for personal interest? News stories (so-called), rumors, trends, shopping, music, latest scores… In fact, there are very few things that can be done on our cell phones (or other personal digital devices) that are for others. Sure, you can send a text message of encouragement, email an important letter, look up something for someone. But, don’t let the little things like that, give permission for the greater problems that are created by the wasted, selfish, time spent. The fact is, it is a phone. Phones were created to communicate with someone else. The new technology that allows deep self-interest is actually working against the commands to love others before yourself.

A mature believer uses things the way they are meant to be used. When he is done, he puts it away until useful again. In that way, the phone becomes a tool, not a worker. It remains a slave and not a master. Many conversations are lost due to untold hours surfing Facebook, “checking” text messages, reading useless weather reports and articles. And that, beloved, is leading the church to superficiality at best, and sinful self-indulgence at worst (compare the wisdom of Paul in Acts 20:24).

Quite simply, put it away. Use the technology to alert you when your spouse, children, or other important people, are trying to get contact you. Limit your business calls to regular work hours, where appropriate. Otherwise, put it down and do the dishes, wash the car, visit someone in the church, read Scripture, pray, etc.. Channel surfing, whether on T.V., or the cell phone (including iPads etc…), is a complete waste of precious time. Time must be redeemed, not wasted:

Ephesians 5:15–17
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

The Heart of Grumbling

The New Covenant ministry is full of joy. The joy of seeing the image of Christ formed in God’s people; the joy of learning God’s truth; the joy of your own heart and mind being renewed. However, the New Covenant ministry is also full of deep sadness as well. It was said of the Messiah that He would be “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Yet, it was for joy that He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-2). His grief mingled with joy in the Father is THE pattern for His people in a peculiar way (Hebrews 12:3). It is not God’s plan that His servants lose heart or grow weary in their work (Galatians 6:9; Hebrews 12:3). And yet, that is so often the knee-jerk reaction while in the throws of ministry. The heartache of seeing the ravages of sin in the lives of an unbelieving world. The grief over professing believers who refuse the Lord’s instructions. The depth of frustration over personal sin. The zeal aroused at the dishonor of God’s holy name. All of these things fill the heart and mind of God’s men as they seek to simply be faithful the Word of God.

However, there is a particular sin that often generates grief in ministry and it is as common as the sunlight. It is the sin of complaining. Complaining is that behavior that characterizes a man or woman who 1) loves himself/herself more than others, 2) thinks very little of the Word from God, the Bible, 3) simply wants to complain for the shear thrill of complaining. The fruit of complaining is division, broken hearts, fleshly strife, and devastated relationships. It was complaining that:

  • Caused God to judge Israel numerous times after the Exodus, including being confined in the desert instead of entering the land promised to Abraham:

    Numbers 14:26–29

    26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

    27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.

    28 “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you;

    29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me

Led others into the same sin:

Numbers 11:1–3

1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out.

3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

 

Complainers are those who despise the Lord’s purposes for themselves. For Israel, they rejected YHWH’s commands, and since they could not approach God, they grumbled against Him by grumbling against His servant, Moses. These people were not only limited to Israel, however. People are people. Sinners are sinners. Grumblers are grumblers.  The tendency to grumble is the same for all-self-righteousness.

In John 6, Jesus is speaking to the multitudes, but especially the leaders of the multitudes, the Pharisees. These men were the target of the Lord’s ministry in a peculiar way. Because of their leadership, and since leaders will be in greater accountability by the Lord, Jesus initiated that judgment often with them (see Matthew 23, for example. That chapter reads like a judicial sentence). Jesus has been healing, feeding, and teaching the multitudes. The power of Christ and the grace of God was upon all of them. However, what was the response by those who should have rejoiced at the goodness of God? Grumbling. Their grumbling was not directed at the teaching. Their grumbling was directed at the Person of Jesus Christ because of His teaching (John 6:41). It would be one thing to complain about a teaching. However, that simply is never the case. When a person complains, the doctrine is simply the ruse. A complainer is actually assaulting the person doing the teaching, not the instruction itself.

However, it is greater than this, and more serious. Moses said it well:

Exodus 16:8

8 Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”

Any complaining, any, is not simply directed at the leader, it is always directed at the Lord behind the leader. This is why complaining is so very serious. It is an assault upon God. And, for that reason, when a complainer is spotted in the church of Jesus Christ, stay away from them. Confront them with the understanding that they are doing the very thing that brings the wrath of God down upon them. These people infect like a disease. They are exploitative, mean, and hypocritical. They are not interested in joy, righteousness, nor the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is too high for them, they cannot attain to it, so they replace it with their own. And, unfortunately, since this behavior is so common, they often gather followers and influence them to do the same.

The complaints of Israel were fueled by the “rabble” who attached themselves to Israel as they left Egypt. They infected the people by bringing out of their hearts what was already there, but they gave it boldness.

Numbers 11:4–6

4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?

5 “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,

6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

The church of Jesus Christ must refuse grumbling, and grumblers.

 

1 Corinthians 10:9–12

9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.

10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

Philippians 2:14–16

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing;

15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

1 Peter 4:9

9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

 

And, saints, remember, your grumbling and complaining is a weight that bears upon the hearts of pastors so very heavily that they are prone to growing weary and losing heart. This would be unprofitable for you (Hebrew 13:17). Therefore, obey the Lord’s instructions and stop complaining and start rejoicing!

How To Identify False Leaders, and What To Do About It.

The leadership in the church is to be selfless (Titus 1:7b), men under authority. They are not men who establish their own authority, will, in God’s church. How audacious it is to think that the flock of God could become the flock of elders. Men who lead by a heavy hand, self-promotion, and sinful selfish ambition do not belong in the leadership but in the world. These men must be reproved by the church or other elders who hear of these antics.

What do you look for in men who are selfish and in leadership? What are the signs that may point to ulterior motives? How will you know? As the Lord said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). Then, once identified, what should a child of God do about it? Consider:

 

1) THEY CHANGE THE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE IN ORDER TO SELL (PEDDLE) IT:

2 Corinthians 2:17

17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

2) THEY PROMOTE SINFUL LIVING BY PRECEPT AND LIFESTYLE:

2 Corinthians 4:2

2 but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

3) THEY DEMAND ALLEGIANCE TO THEIR WAYS, OFTEN MASKING THAT DEMAND WITH FLATTERY:

Luke 6:26

26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

1 Thessalonians 2:5

5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—

4) THEY DO WHAT THEY DO OFTEN TO PLEASE OTHERS WHO ARE JUST LIKE THEM:

1 Thessalonians 2:6a

6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others

5) THEY BOAST IN THEIR SUPERIOR WISDOM WHILE PARADING A SELF-ABASED LIFESTYLE THAT APPEARS TO EXUDE WISDOM TO THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE UNSUSPECTING. THEY EXALT THEIR FALSE HUMILITY AS RIGHTEOUSNESS:

Colossians 2:18

18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Colossians 2:23

23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

6) THEY DO NOT LOVE:

John 5:41–42

41 “I do not receive glory from men;

42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.

7) THEY REJECT THE SHAME OF THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST. THAT IS TO SAY, THEY REFUSE TO BELIEVE, OR TEACH, THAT THIS LIFE, THIS WORLD, HAS NOTHING TO OFFER YOU AND THAT YOU MUST BE CRUCIFIED TO IT. THEY WOULD RATHER TELL YOU HOW TO ASCEND THE LADDERS OF THIS WORLD IN ORDER TO GET MORE OUT OF IT:

Galatians 6:12–13

12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.

8) THEY ARE SNEAKY:

Jude 4

4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…

Galatians 2:4

4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

9) THEY PREY UPON WEAK WOMEN (AND WEAK MEN). THEY ATTEMPT TO CONVINCE THEM THAT THEY, THE TEACHERS, ARE ACTUALLY THE RIGHT ONES AND THE APPROVED LEADERS ARE THE WRONG ONES:

2 Timothy 3:6–7

6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,

7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

10) THEY OFTEN ARE THE MOST VOCAL, BOASTING OF THEIR SIN, UNWORTHINESS, AND, CONSEQUENTLY, THEIR GREAT LOVE FOR GOD AND HIS LAW:

Romans 2:23

23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?

 

In this day, especially with the advent of social media, it seems that these kind of men, and women, are coming out of the woodwork. The beloved ones of God often are not vigilant enough to identify these kinds of people and need to be told what to look for. So, the hope is that this list will at least generate some level of discernment among God’s people so that they are strengthened and maturing into those strong in the "once-for-all-delivered-to-the-saints-faith" (Jude 3).

If you identify a leader who has these characteristics, here is what you should do:

 

1) IF YOU ARE UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP, BE SUBMISSIVE. THAT IS, BE SUBMISSIVE TO GOD, RECOGNIZE THE "CHAIR" OF AUTHORITY GIVEN TO THAT MAN BY GOD AND STICK CLOSE TO THE WORD OF GOD:

Matthew 23:1–3

1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,

2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;

3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

2) PRAYERFULLY, AFTER SINCERE SELF-EXAMINATION, SEEK OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF HUMBLY GOING TO HIM WITH YOUR VERIFIABLE CONCERNS:

Luke 17:3

3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

Galatians 6:1

1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

3) IF THERE IS NO REPENTANCE, PRIVATELY, FIND OTHER WITNESSES OF THIS MAN’S SINS, AND BRING THEM TO THE MAN, OR, IF NECESSARY, OTHERS IN LEADERSHIP:

1 Timothy 5:19

19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.

4) PROMOTE PEACE IN THE CHURCH:

Matthew 5:9

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Romans 12:18

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

5) WAIT FOR GOD’S WORKING IN THE CHURCH TO EITHER REMOVE THAT LEADER, OR GRANT REPENTANCE:

Revelation 2:20–21

20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

21 ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.

Revelation 2:24–27

24 ‘But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you.

25 ‘Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.

26 ‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;

27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;

6) AT THE LAST, VERY LAST STRAW, LEAVE THAT CHURCH, AFTER TIME HAS VERIFIED A REFUSAL TO REPENT, REFUSAL TO LOVE, A REFUSAL TO LISTEN. IDENTIFY ANOTHER CHURCH IN THE AREA THAT HAS GODLY MEN IN LEADERSHIP AND GO THERE AND STAY THERE. COMMIT YOURSELF TO GOD IN THAT BODY AND SERVE THERE. MOVE IF NECESSARY. DO NOT CONSIDER NOT ATTENDING A CHURCH AN OPTION:

Acts 19:8–10

8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.

10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

 

1 Timothy 5:24–25

24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.

25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Family 101–pt.1

Foundations are the most important part of any structure. For example, a five-million dollar home, with all of its detail and opulence is only as glorious as its structural integrity. If the foundation crumbles, the whole structure goes down and then where will the opulence get you? The five-million is only as good as the concrete below…and the skill of the man who put it there.

It is no different in the family. Structurally, you could say, the family is crumbling. Well, let me clarify a bit more. In reality, the family has been crumbling since Genesis 4. If you don’t believe me, consider Cain’s actions toward his righteous brother Abel. I would call that crumbling. So, please don’t believe the panic-mongers who alarm everyone by proclaiming the disintegration of the family and then call you to jump on their conference bandwagons (for a fee) in order to fix the problem. Now, I am all for conferences. They have their place in the church (e.g. Acts 15). However, to make a living at it, and to use the leverage of the hypothesis that the family has fallen from its once lofty position of the Early American Colonies is false. The disintegration of the family is nothing new and to believe that somehow we have overcome the heart of Cain toward the Abels in the world (and in the family)  is an illusion and fantasy. 

It is more appropriate to say, I believe, that the doctrine of the family  is disintegrating in the church. Let me say it again. It is not the family that is falling apart. It has always done so. It is the doctrine of the family that needs serious overhaul. In fact, if the inspector would come to the job site and examine the work of the men laying the foundation of that five-million dollar home, I believe He would halt the project immediately and declare the work not up to code and would demand that the foundation be destroyed and rebuilt. It is the doctrine of the family that is suffering from dilapidation and the fruit of it is the condition of families in the church today.

It is always the concern of pastors that God’s people believe the truth. In fact, I am more concerned about what a Christian believes than what they do. When a child of God is told that he/she has cancer, my greatest concern is that they do not believe error as a result of that discovery and blame God for His evil in their life. That is why a faithful pastor should visit his people at home regularly and in the hospital when necessary. In the same way, the result of what you believe about the family makes itself evident in the condition of the family itself. Even in the worst of family situations, the leadership and care of a faithful, godly, husband and father becomes evident. Not by the presence of swashbuckling boys and “damsel-in-distress” girls. But by the gospel being exhibited in that situation. Neither is it acceptable to simply resign your leadership, men, to the doctrine of depravity. “Sinners will do what sinners do” is a reluctance to obedience to God, who designed, created, and is the foundation of, the family. It is a rejection of the wisdom required and demanded of Christians in the home to rescue sinners.

Saying all of that, I have been recently reminded of the need to rebuild family foundations so that the Inspector will not come to the job site and condemn the footers and foundations of our homes. Before we begin this series, I want to say a few personal words. My family and I have learned that the priority in the home is the kingdom of God. Jesus instructed His church to

“seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (temporal needs-vv. 25-31) will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

The Lord’s instructions here are not meant to fill the shelves of theological libraries, although they do very capably. They are meant to be the pursuit of the children of God their whole life long. That includes submission to them in our homes. In fact, I will argue, it demands the priority of submission to them be in our homes before they are ever exhibited in the church or the world. To seek the kingdom at church, but shelf it at home is hypocrisy. To seek the kingdom on the street-corner with a soapbox and a bullhorn, but quiet down at home is hypocrisy. That is not from God. However, to seek the kingdom in your homes, even for singles, will insure that the kingdom will be prioritized in the church and in the world. It is not difficult to motivate Christians to evangelize once they have righted the ship and prioritized the kingdom in the home.

Second, the foundations having been built over the years are faulty. The material used to build the homes of far too many Christians include:

  • Natural revelation – “I feel that I should raise my children this way…”
  • Sacramentalism – “If we attend a church service, youth group, conference, regularly, my home will be fine.”
  • Peer influence – “My children must be around children their own age in order for the Bible to make sense.”
  • Neglect – “I am too busy in the ministry to bother with the concerns of my wife.”
  • Ignorance – “I don’t really understand why the family even exists.”
  • Shepherd-dependence – “My husband won’t…I need to ask my pastor what I should do.”
  • Societal emphasis – “I will avoid the really bad parts of society in order to ensure they don’t influence my family.”
  • Millennial mayhem – “My family is like the family of Israel and so I will make sure that I am a prophet and priest to them.”
  • Leavening – “I can’t shelter my children, so I will involve them with the world and hope things work out.”
  • Parental laziness – “My children are too high-maintenance. I need a break.”
  • Agnosticism – “The Bible does not give us comprehensive instruction about the family.”

The doctrines listed above are not acceptable in the building of the home. There are more. However, these are predominant and very influential ones of our day. The Word of God does not allow for these and neither should they be in our homes.

I want to explain comprehensively what the structure of the family is from Scripture, Old and New Testaments, such that God’s people, if they obey what is verifiably evident from His Word, will grow in the wisdom and understanding that is priority over all things in the home.

If you are reading this, please take the time to examine it carefully. Further, share this series with other Christians. The body of Christ is only as healthy and strong as the children, and families, in the churches. Because of that, we must have this series.

Catholicism.

 

I was raised Catholic. Being from an Italian/Irish lineage, I was given ample opportunity to be submerged into the culture and doctrine of The Roman Catholic Church. The traditions, the expectations, the habits, the components of religious duty, all surrounded me…but was never explained to me. I was about 17 or 18 when I begin thinking about god in some fashion. It would not be until I was twenty-one that I was seized by God with His truth being face to face with His Word, the Bible and what it teaches. I then heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I remember sitting in that church building, being invited by my neighbor from the dorm, listening, knowing, and affirming that I deserved Hell, I was a sinner, and that Jesus died. I absorbed all of that during my short years in cognitive interaction with The Roman Catholic Church. However, that day I visited that little Bible church in Bozeman, Montana was the day that the pastor mentioned the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The reality of that, and its significant implications, hit me deeply (to put it mildly), and immediately I was given faith to believe and submit to that Lord of Glory. I remember it well.

However, the years prior to that, I was struggling. In so many ways I was lost-angry, frustrated, hopeless. I remember thinking one particular question over and over again, “If Jesus was such a nice guy, then why did the people kill Him?” I could never get an answer to that nagging question from any Mass I attended, any discussion I heard, or any ritual I observed. There was never any sense in which you could really understand what Jesus did in my time attending the Roman Catholic Church, only that He did it. He died, gave His body, laid to rest in a tomb, held by his mother, conferred religion to mankind…all of which was enshrouded in absolute impregnable mystery. That is not for us to know, only accept. The life, death, and resurrection is not for people to understand only accept. The Jesus of the Catholic Church I attended in Kansas City, MO. and the variety of feasts as well was simply acts of response to our religion. Why? I didn’t know. It was never explained. I am convinced that if I were to ask the average Catholic “Why did Jesus die on a cross? Why was He raised from the dead? Who benefits from His death? What does the Bible say about all of these things?” they would not know either.

Pagan religions have one stick to beat people with-mystery. It is mystery that keeps you attending. It is mystery that keeps you giving. It is mystery that keeps you fearful about ever questioning, or simply understanding, the purposes behind the religion. I am convinced that The Roman Catholic Church is a Pagan religion, primarily for that fact. The leadership of Catholicism does not divulge the purposes for its decrees, nor is it compelled to. They cannot tell you why they do what they do. They cannot tell you where they can find Jesus’ words concerning the Mass, Indulgences, or the Rosary. They cannot demonstrate, exegetically, how Peter was the “Papa” and head of the church. They cannot explain how ex Cathedra can be supported in light of Scripture. Thus, like the life of the church itself, it is all a mystery. And that is the way they like it. Furthermore, this is the foundational component to its “unity.” The reality is that the Catholic church is a shell, a crust. The so-called unity found there, that they say Protestants don’t have because we have so many denominations as if proof of our erroneous doctrines, is only external unity because most Catholics cannot explain Jesus Christ or what He has accomplished. So, in order to keep order, they enshroud the Church with mystery and thereby maintain their idea of unity. It is not unity. It is utter chaos. The Apostle Paul taught that the means of unity is the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:11-13). Those who do not believe, and thus teach against, what the Scriptures teach about Jesus Christ cannot remain in fellowship with God’s people (Romans 16:17-18). When a church says the same things about Christ, the kingdom, and all that Christ taught, it is unified. That demands extensive knowledge of those things, the very thing Rome despises.

I want to address a few typical considerations that I have heard over the years from Catholics concerning the differences between them and us, those who are termed “Protestants.” Martin Luther and his actions drove a wedge between us that needed to be driven. I praise God for his conscience that led him to stand alone that day in the face of the anger and tyranny of the leadership of the Catholic Church. What a man. But, just what were the teachings that made up that wedge? What was it that compelled this scholarly monk to renounce The Roman Catholic Church in such stark terms? I believe it comes down to a few teachings (although, admittedly, volumes could be, and have been, written):

  1. THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF JESUS CHRIST.
  2. THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
  3. THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN.

The Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Rome cannot understand the kingdom of Jesus Christ. If we can know a tree by its fruit, then we can surely see this in Rome. Rome seeks to introduce the kingdom to the world by means of subduing people to the Mother Church. Or, to say it another way, Rome wants everyone to “come home.” That is not the announcement of the kingdom. We, those truly born from above, may have to enter eternity by means of a sword. Jesus said,

Matthew 10:34–36

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

35  “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36  and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Jesus never gave the illusion that somehow the world would be subdued by His church. He never indicated that the church is the vehicle by which the world is made peaceful. That was not His goal in coming to this earth. By His own words He came to this earth to divide the earth. Jesus purposefully initialized the animosity that would arise between family members because some would believe in Him and some would not. What is the good news in that? It is this: when division does happen, a person can be in the family of the One who will ultimately rule. Compared to the alternative, which is to be judged by Him, it is good news. To be reconciled to Jesus Christ, the Judge (John 5:25-27) is the announcement that true Christians have and Rome does not. The gospel that Jesus Christ preached is the announcement of the kingdom. Indeed, it is often referred to as “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Luke 16:16). It is the announcement that Jesus Christ has received a kingdom and He is inviting the world into it (see Matthew 22:1-14). That is not to say that everyone will, or can, enter into it. Jesus Himself said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The gospel demands the call to the world to repent from its sins (Matthew 4:17; Acts 17:30-31). The world, which loves darkness (John 3:19), is the recipient of this announcement and is obligated to obey (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8). The heart of the gospel, and the provision for men to enter into Christ’s kingdom is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This provision, and this alone, is what “merits” man’s entrance into the kingdom. Catholic theology teaches that our works also merit our entrance (Council of Trent, Session VI, Justification, Canons 4, 7, 32). They condemned those who teach that the requirement for entrance into the kingdom was met by Jesus Christ alone, without cooperation from manas heretical (Ibid, Canon 12). In doing so, they condemned Christ Himself because Jesus taught, in context, that man cannot even know how to justify himself nor accomplish it, even by the cooperation of Christ (John 3:1-8). If a man could birth himself physically, then sure, he could cooperate with Jesus Christ for good works that produce eternal life and more of it. But, no man ever cooperated in his physical birth, and no man can cooperate in his spiritual one either.

The Authority of the Scriptures.

The written Word of God has the same authority as the spoken Word of God from His throne (which is not in Rome, by the way). That is to say, God has spoken through His prophets and they recorded what was to be recorded into books and letters and those have been preserved and collected into a mini-library called the Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews wrote that God spoke in many portions and in many ways to His prophets, and ultimately in His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1). This speaking of the Father is what we are after. His speaking was recorded by “men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). The office of prophet is no longer in the church (1 Corinthians 13:8). Thus, for the Pope to speak a new form of doctrine or liturgy, and to ascribe the same level of authority upon it as Scripture is simply not possible. Thus, in the same vein of Deuteronomy 13:1ff. that person who says that they now speak on behalf of God as if God Himself is speaking in him, or recognizing his own words as His, then that person is to be rejected. God has closed the canon. Surely, if there was ongoing revelation through a prophet, of which the Pope would have to be labeled, then we have the right to test all that he writes and says against the Word of God (all 66 books-see 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; cf. Deuteronomy 13:1ff.). However, Catholicism admits that, in a very real sense, the canon is not closed. By that I mean that they believe that they have unbroken succession of traditions from the Apostles down to this very day (Trent, session IV, ‘Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures’). Not only do they accept the Apocrypha, which has been proven non-canonical internally, but they list them as authoritative and binding. So, the authority of Scripture, which is unique to the Scriptures alone, is now shared with spoken tradition and the Apocrypha (as well as the early church fathers, as they call them). Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote,

2 Timothy 3:16–17

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

17  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

What is validated as Scripture, not by council but by the Scriptures themselves, is Scripture. Human tradition and extra-canonical writings cannot, and should never be, placed upon the same level as the written Word of God.

The Depravity of Man

Finally, Rome does not believe in the teaching of Scripture regarding the depravity of man. If they did, they would not anathematize those who teach the mercy of God (Justification, Canons 4, 9, 12). Rome says,

It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight (Ibid, Chapter 5, emphasis mine).

Although the Council of Trent affirms what seems to be a sound understanding of human depravity, by definition of other doctrines, namely sanctification, they deny it. That is, as Paul said, the righteousness that makes one holy is only by faith in Jesus Christ, worked out in us by God who generates obedience in us by His power alone, not with our cooperation (Philippians 3:7-11; 2:12-13; See Romans 1:5 & 16:26). God certainly works in us for righteousness, not to aid our flesh, but to live out the regeneration which comes by His Holy Spirit through His Word by faith (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The depravity of man is not that his innocence is lost by Adam. It is that he hates God, is His enemy and despises righteousness with his whole heart (John 3:19-20; cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 8:6-8). This is why millions run to the Catholic churches, as well as a multitude of other cults, because of their refusal to submit to the righteousness of God which is by faith (Romans 10:1-4). They build their own set of righteousness, all by the imitation of the righteousness of God, which is in the Scripture, and they do what they think Scripture says (John 5:39-40), but they do it by means of their own depravity. The righteousness to which they attain is not from heaven, but earth, and is therefore condemning, not meritorious.

The most righteous act imaginable is to believe God. The Bible teaches that this act is not possible, either by man, nor in a mixture of his will and God’s (John 1:12-13), nor in any other fashion. The faith that must be in man as proof of eternal life (John 3:15) must be given to man, as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), and is not earned. If it were earned, the death of Jesus Christ would not have been necessary. Besides, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, which has come to the Gentiles, is only by faith, and not by the fruit of faith which is righteous behavior (Galatians 3; esp. vv. 8-9). Catholic doctrine demands that the sinner must cooperate with God in the regeneration that is required to enter the Kingdom of Christ. However, if that were the case, then the Apostle Paul was wrong when he taught that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor the perishable the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). That is why the Lord taught that a man must die in order to follow Him (Matthew 10:37-39) and then must be born from above, from God (John 3:3-8; cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27). What could possibly make a Catholic think that he could assist God in this endeavor? God does not remodel a sinner-the sinner must die and be reborn. He must be a “new creation” in order to be acceptable to God and enter God’s kingdom (see Matthew 5:48).

For any person who believes Catholic doctrine, and has believed in the teaching of the Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, of centuries past or today, read and re-read what I have written. I am not asking you to become a Protestant. I, as a pastor of Christ’s flock, am instructing you to submit to Jesus Christ by means of repentance from erroneous doctrine and dead works and believing in what He actually did teach-you must be born from God, not man, in order to enter His kingdom.

“Have Tongues Ceased?” And Other Curious Questions Easily Answered

 

Yesterday, I was reading a string of comments on a post in Facebook concerning whether tongues and miracles etc.. have ceased from the days of the apostles. The statements that I saw one gentleman making were summed up in this thought, “There is not a single verse in the New Testament that shows that tongues (and thus by implication and extension other revelatory and sign gifts) have been taken away.” The argument goes that since there is no single passage that demonstrates this, then it is clear that they have not stopped. 

As I read that post and the comments, I wanted to immediately write back (even though I was not part of the discussion) and correct that statement. However, I had my own responsibilities to tend to. But this morning I am making time to explain that there is a singular passage that definitively teaches the “cessation” of tongues. Further, it teaches why and when. Further still, it teaches the cessation of other revelatory gifts and giftedness and it does so in a capable manner.

My goal in this post is to stifle that kind of statement above from being heard any longer and cause these kinds of statements to become subject to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter (2 Corinthians 10:5).

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians occurs between chapters twelve and fourteen. This obvious statement is critical to its interpretation, although many commentators disagree as to its function. However, if you simply follow the text, it will tell you. First Corinthians 12:1 indicates that one of the many questions that the folks in Corinth had was concerning the use of “spiritual gifts.” Literally, Paul writes “τῶν πνευματικῶν,” “in reference to the spirituals.” The idea of giftedness primarily comes from the endowment that occurs when a person becomes a believer. Ephesians 4:11-16, a companion passage to 1 Corinthians 12-14, teaches that when Jesus Christ ascended He then sent the Holy Spirit, as promised, and the Holy Spirit then endowed men with “gifts.” These endowments are listed in that passage as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. Not only are these the categories of giftedness, but they are sequential, or chronological in scope. We know this because earlier in the same letter, Paul taught that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are at the ground-level of the building (Ephesians 2:19-22). The apostles, chosen by Christ Himself, are the first in the order of things in the church. They were closest in proximity to Jesus Christ and His teaching. Next in line are the prophets. These were folks who were given direct revelation from the Spirit on the spot. This endowment was in order to teach something that would guide the church in some fashion locally. Agabus is one such example. In Acts 11:27-30, He and a number of other prophets from Judea came into the church at Antioch to warn them of the coming drought. Luke records that they said this by the Spirit and it happened in the reign of Claudius (cf. Acts 18:2). So, that information was necessary for the churches, in Judea and Antioch, to prepare for the drought for all the saints. That is prophecy in the New Testament (NT) sense. It is commensurate with the Old Testament (OT) use as well.

In line, then, with the groundwork of apostles are the prophets. By the way, this very work included the men who wrote the NT also. All the writers of the NT were prophets in that they were given direct revelation, “prophecy,” by God to be recorded into Scripture. This is important.

After the prophets come the evangelists and teaching pastors. I will leave those here since the offices of apostle and prophet most concern us in 1 Corinthians 13. The positions overlapped in time, but were sequential in order of being given. In other words, you don’t see NT prophets before you see the apostles.

Paul is writing to the confused and crazed church in Corinth. This dear group of saints were the joy and distress of Paul at that same time. The problem came in when false apostles began to infiltrate the church and introduce error and accusation against Paul. These were false apostles, agents of Satan, who preached a counterfeit gospel, one which the Corinthians were bearing with beautifully (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 12-15). With their false claim to apostleship came a new gospel. And, as Satan does, they introduced a false spiritual giftedness as well. We can see this in the entire argument. There is clearly the true giftedness and the false. That is the backdrop of this section of Paul’s letter.

The Context:

Paul starts chapter 12 with a reminder that they used to be ignorant pagans following every wind of doctrine (v.1). This appears as a condemnation for the way in which they are putting up with the false apostles in their midst. These men apparently were publicly saying, or teaching, that Jesus is actually accursed instead of teaching that Jesus is Lord (v.3). And with this demonic doctrine came a demonic use of gifts, which undoubtedly included a false giftedness originating from Satan just as their gospel also originated from Satan. Therefore, Paul’s teaching in this section (chapter 12-14) is really a correction against the false teachers who had infiltrated the church and brought in speculations that were contrary to sound doctrine and they were imprisoning the saints with their rhetoric, display of so-called spiritual giftedness, and self-proclaimed apostleship. And true to the use of signs and wonders, Paul himself showed by them that he was a true apostle and not a fake like them (2 Corinthians 12:12-13). Paul’s sarcasm and facetious speaking in these letters are evident and necessary as he is attempting to reason with this confused bunch.

With that as backdrop, we can move forward in the letter. Paul now is forced to write concerning spiritual gifts (χαρισμάτων-“gifts/endowments”) which the church possessed. These evidences of grace of God are meant to further sanctification. They are not meant to be used for personal reasons, nor for self-aggrandizement. They are not, as the imposters were teaching, meant to contradict sound doctrine, the doctrine of the apostles and true prophets. Thus, Paul, after explaining the multifaceted work of the Holy Spirit in the church in this manner, explains that the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) and as such must function as a body functions-in unity and usefulness. The fact is, God Himself appointed in the church these gifted men and giftedness as He desired (v. 28). God, as in salvation, is responsible for the giving of the gifts (and their removal). Not everyone in the church, whether during the time of the Corinthians or on a larger scale as time went on in the church, has the gifts and giftedness that others had early on. Not everyone will speak in unlearned languages, heal, perform miracles, or have divine revelation. Only those to whom God Himself has given them.

But notice the priority that Paul introduces in 1 Corinthians 12:28. He gives order to the positions of apostle, prophet, and teacher. That is, he introduces them with the ordinals “first, second, third.” That is, these positions of responsibility are prioritized over the following giftedness of miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and tongues. Thus, the first three are in a class all their own in importance. They are the greater gifts. That is what Paul is calling them to. Paul instructs them to give their interests to those who are apostles, prophets, and teachers more than they give to the other manifestations of the Spirit of God. Paul is pointing them back to those through whom come the Word of God. Each of those three positions are predominantly teaching positions, and by that leadership positions (Hebrews 13:7). He is lowering the position of miracles etc.. to a lesser status in the face of the teaching and leadership of the apostles, prophets, and teachers. This is why he urges these people to desire most that some might prophesy. Apostleship cannot be desired because there cannot be apostles added to the original twelve, excluding Judas, and Paul (Acts 1:21-22). But prophets are to be listened to, as God gives them to the churches. Also, teachers are to be listened to as God gives them to the church as well.

The Point

And here is the main point: the function of all of these gifts is to edify. The church is to be built up, sanctified, made holy and useful to God (John 17:17). Thus, the work of these men is to edify the church such that, as Ephesians 4:11-12 states, they might continue to edify one another. In the face of the abuses of the gifts of God, or the proper use of the gifts of Satan, edification will always be lacking. Mutual edification is Paul’s point in these chapters (see 1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 17, 26).

The gifts of the Spirit are given for mutual edification. In order for the church to collectively be made holy and useful, which is what edification is, it must exercise its gifts toward one another. That is the “way” of 1 Corinthians 12. But, Paul says, there is a more excellent “way” to edify one another-love. First Corinthians 12:31 indicates that the Corinthians should prioritize their interests toward the hearing of the Word of God from the Apostles, Prophets, and teachers, instead of fascination with miracles and tongues (so-called). That is because, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the teaching of the Word of God equips the saints for ministry in the church which is edification. However, all of that must be done in the context of love:

Ephesians 4:16

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

The way to edify the church is for the church to hear the Word of God (John 17:17). However, if you have the Word of God in a context of avarice, greed, and selfishness (as they were doing), you “do not know as you ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3!). Love edifies. Love is the more excellent way to edify the body of Christ, in the context of the teaching of the Word of God. When Paul says, then, that I show you a more excellent way, he is speaking of the more excellent way of edification of the church. It is more excellent than mindless use of potentially Satan-inspired giftedness.

With this in mind, Paul inserts this marvelous chapter on love. Since love is the more excellent way, or context, in which to minister, he will “show” or “demonstrate” to them what that looks like.

By means of overview, I will work through this chapter.

1 Corinthians 13:1–3

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

If I had all the gifts that God has given to the church, including apostleship, and yet did not minister to the church motivated by love for the church, and Christ, I am not really ministering. I am serving myself. In fact, the sounds out of the mouth of a loveless person is obtrusive and noisy. There is no profit for myself, or others, if I do not love. So, what does this “love” look like?

1 Corinthians 13:4–7

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Patience, kindness, humility, wholesomeness, truth, and joy, these are the effects of love in the body. If the body at Corinth would have ministered in this fashion, they would not have rejoiced at the incest nor abused the Lord’s Table. Love edifies the church and keeps is so. Love takes the Word of God and holds it high and rejoices in it, and its effects in us all. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things in the lives of the other saints for their edification (Ephesians 4:17-32). This is the point of the chapter.

Therefore, in light of this, we approach verses 8-13. This is the passage that unequivocally states that revelatory gifts would cease, future to Paul, and past to us.

1 Corinthians 13:8–13

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Love never fails to maintain its lofty position of edifying the body. The word “fails” is the word that means to fall, or be brought down. Love will never fall from its priority or usefulness. It is, as you remember, the hook that the entire Law of Moses hangs on (Matthew 22:40). However, gifts of prophecy, especially tongues, and knowledge will fall in time. Their usefulness will diminish.

Gifts of prophecy “will be done away.” This verb used here is a future passive verb meaning “to be removed, done away with, or render ineffective.” I like how one lexicon defines it: “…from the basic sense cause to be idle or useless, the term always denotes a nonphysical destruction by means of a superior force coming in to replace the force previously in effect, as, e.g. light destroys darkness…” (Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, 221.) This verb means that something greater than itself will come and remove the gift of prophecy. So, it will, at some point future to Paul, be rendered inoperative and useless. It will fall from use. Incidentally, it is the same verb as that related to “the gift of knowledge” later in the verse. Both the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will be rendered inoperative some time in the future, from Paul’s perspective.

The gift of tongues, as they are called, will also fall. But Paul’s teaching here is a bit more intentional. He wrote, “if there are tongues, they will cease…” Tongues will cease. This is a different verb. The verb here means to “cease, to cause to stop (oneself).” And the way that it is written is conspicuously significant. It is written in the Middle Voice, which in NT Greek means that the subject is doing the action of the verb upon itself. Thus, tongues will cease itself. It will make itself useless, done, stopped, and they will fall. So, the gifts of tongues/languages will cease to exist and be useful to the church. This leads us to ask, or at least it should, “What were tongues for?” Paul explains this in the very next chapter.

 

The Purpose of Tongues

 

1 Corinthians 14:20–22

20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

21  In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.

22  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

Mature thinking, a throwback from his argument in chapter 13:8-11, does not prioritize spiritual giftedness, especially the miraculous gifts, but prioritizes the revelation of God. They should be inexperienced in evil, but not in their thinking. Paul then quotes Isaiah 28:11. This passage is at the end of a prophecy that God would send to Israel those who will speak to them. That in itself, is a facetious thought because He had just finished describing the way that the prophets of Israel have been “speaking for God.” They were drunken and staggering when they would give judgments for God (vv. 7-8). They were supposed to teach knowledge, but they stammered with their tongues. He will not give His message to children (vv. 9-10), which is a reference to the infantile behavior of drunken Israel (which is also a comparison of the Corinthian church as well as he compares them to infantile Israel, as they even were drunk at the Lord’s Table in the same manner as Israel was at the altar-1 Corinthians 11:20-22). Therefore, since they speak gibberish while drunk, He will speak in incoherence to them, by means of other languages. These other languages will seem as gibberish to them and they will not have an interpretation (see Isaiah 28:9). Thus, this passage indicates to us the very thing that it goes on to say-tongues are for a sign. And, by extension, so is the gift of interpretation. A sign will be to one edification, and to another damnation. Tongues are languages of the world (Acts 2:5-11). They were known, grammatical, verifiable languages which certain people would speak depending upon their geographic location. God says in Isaiah 28:11 that He was going to give Israel a sign. That sign would be the proclamation of His message in other languages of the world. And He did that at Pentecost.

Paul, then, is explaining the use of languages as a sign against Israel, unbelieving Israel. That is why he says that this gift is for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). That teaching needs to define and describe every consideration of the gift of tongues. That gift is not meant to edify the church. It is a sign against unbelieving Israel. Remember, Paul habitually entered synagogues and taught Christ. Remember also that predominantly the early church was Jewish. Further remember that since Israel refused to repent in the presence of Christ, Christ turned away from them, temporarily blinding them from His kingdom (Matthew 13:10-17; 21:42-44; cf. Romans 11:25) and turned to the Gentiles. As the church grew in its Gentile makeup, the giftedness of tongues died out. It was no longer useful as the Jews were blinded, partially and temporarily, and the Gentiles/Nations are being discipled. That is why the very gift itself will cause itself to die out-the purpose for its existence will no longer be needed.

 

The Coming of the Perfect

 

Paul continues in verse 9 by saying “for we know in part and we prophesy in part.” He is saying that prophecy and knowledge are only “in part.” In other words, what they would prophesy and speak from knowledge was only from a portion of complete prophecy and knowledge. It was only in part. However, there is coming a time when complete knowledge and prophecy will arrive and at that time partial prophesying and speaking knowledge will be “done away” (same verb as in v. 8). What will be done away? Literally, “that which (is) from a part.” That is, since the prophecy and knowledge of Paul’s day, i.e. the time of the apostles and prophets, was only “partial,” its usefulness for edification is limited. There is just so much more to learn!

However, Paul says, when the “perfect” comes, the partial will be done away with. The perfect and the partial must be the same thing, one of greater degree than the other. The word “perfect” is better translated, “mature,” or “the complete.” In light of Paul’s illustration of a child becoming a man and putting childish (“partial”) things away when he became a man (“mature”), so also is this teaching. The perfect is the mature prophecy and knowledge. It is not a reference to heaven because that is obtuse to this context of revelation of that which edifies. Further, heaven certainly will have its perfections, but the subject of the perfect is the content of prophecy, not a state of being. The perfect is the prophetic word (see 2 Peter 1:19-21). Once the prophetic word comes, by virtue of its coming, it will nullify the need for, and the effect of, that which is “partial.” We understand that the Bible we hold now is the Word of God, God’s prophetic Word.

Notice, in closing, vv. 12-13

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Notice the adverb “now.” That is, in Paul’s own time (“now”), they see in a mirror dimly. But, when the mature prophecy comes (“then”), “face to face.” Isn’t this magnificent! The complete revelation of God’s eternal gospel revealed for us all to see as if we were unhindered in our gaze (look at Ephesians 3:9-11; the church is the steward of this gospel, which is the content of the completed prophetic Word). We see face to face with God’s true, full, complete, prophecy in our day! In our day, we can know fully, even as fully as we are known by those who see us face to face. But, for Paul’s time, until the mature, complete, full, revelation of God comes (which we know to be the Word of God-2 Timothy 3:16-17), they will remain in the edifying power of truth exhibited through “faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the more excellent way to minister the words of Christ to one another, not so-called gifts of the miraculous.

Conclusion

So, Paul has taught us that clearly the usefulness of the revelatory gifts will be removed. They will be rendered useless. For those who are seeking for them, they will not find them. They are chasing the wind. Their use in the church is no more. Their function in the church, which served for a time for a sign for unbelievers (especially unbelieving Jews), and edification for believers (1 Corinthians 14:4-5), has been replaced with the completed, canonized, enscripturated breath of God-the Bible.

Where To Start?

Last post we attempted to open the door to considerations concerning the interpretation of Scripture. It must be understood and believed that the Bible is not vague, unknowable, or empty. That is, God did not write the text of Scripture in such a way that, say, there are 4 potential ways God created the world. There are not 4 potential ways that God created the world. He only created it one way. The only way to know that is through the pages of Scripture. “But,” someone will ask, “…how do we interpret the Scripture so that we will know what it says?” That is, if the answer to this question lies in the interpretation of Scripture, then how do we interpret the Scripture? That is what this blog series is about.

Our basic premise is:

STUDY THE BIBLE THE WAY IT WAS GIVEN

Since that is a bit open-ended, I must review the nature of the origin of the Bible. This is a must because when we understand the origin and transmission of the Bible, we then have grounds for interpretation. Until then, we are left to consider our own method of interpretation and that simply won’t do.

How was the Bible given? That is, how did we get the Bible? For most reading this blog, it is a simple answer. For some, however, it may not be so simple since many churches don’t even deal with the origin of God’s Word (to their shame). A quick review will be helpful.

Peter sums it up for us. He wrote,

2 Peter 1:20–21

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Peter tells us, on the basis of his own experience receiving divinely inspired truth (see Matthew 16:13-17), as well as the testimony of the OT prophets, that no portion of Scripture is understood by a single person’s own interpretation. That is, the written word is not subject to, nor did it originate from, what a man decides. Peter is saying that the Scripture is interpreted (see Mark 4:34) by a method, or practice, of interpretation appropriate to the written Word of God. Biblical interpretation is not the result of one’s own personal study habits. The Scripture is not subject to an individual’s unique understanding of a text, no matter how novel it sounds. Why is this the case? Because men did not originate the Scripture, so men cannot be allowed to interpret the Scripture the way they want. In other words, since the Holy Spirit moved men to write what He wanted (see 1 Corinthians 2:12-13), the Scripture, then, must be handled in a way commensurate to that reality. Peter is calling the churches in Galatia, Cappadocia etc. (see 1 Peter 1:1) to approach the Scripture they had, including his own letter (2 Peter 3:1-2, 14-16), in the same way that it was given to the prophets and apostles. Further, since God the Holy Spirit originated the Scripture and moved men to write it down in history and with actual language, we do not have a text that can change or be altered-it is fixed and propositional. If we feared God, we would never approach the Scripture being willing to assume that there are multiple meanings to a verse.

Thus, the Bible is a unique collection of books. It is the only book in existence that is inspired of God. Therefore, it is unique and holy (Romans 7:12). However, since the Holy Spirit moved men to write it, and men lived in time and history, and God is working out His redemptive plan in the history of the world, then it is read and interpreted in the same manner we would read and interpret any other book. It is literature, after all.

The summary of our discussion is that God is the source of Scripture. Since God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2), then what He caused to be written is true and accurate. This is inerrancy. The Scripture’s that were written were themselves inerrant in every way. They contained no errors. Further, since we don’t have those originals (“autographs”), the copies of those inerrant originals are to be considered and that has been done to the extent that we can have full confidence that we can locate the inerrant text of Scripture with very high precision in the copies we have.

Now, this lays the groundwork for us. Since God wrote the Bible, the teachings and actual words are God’s (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). Thus, it bears authority and accuracy. That is, what it teaches is true and identical to what is true with God and His kingdom. It also is true in relation to discerning the realities of life in this world as well. However, God Himself did not write the text of Scripture with His own hand. He used the hands of men to do it. These men, from Moses to John the Apostle existed in an historical setting and wrote with a language that was/is verifiable and real. They did not use esoteric, heavenly language. If they did, it would not make sense to us. The languages with which they wrote Scripture were composed in the very same way that all language is composed. Therefore, what was written is subject to the laws of language. In order to interpret the Scripture, a person must understand language. By the way, we all do. We could not communicate in the world if we did not. We use nouns and verbs all the time. However, most people simply don’t consider these things when they talk or read the morning newspaper. Lastly, since the text of Scripture was written in history, and with actual languages of the day, and God has written all that He is going to write (Hebrews 1:1-3), then what we have in the Bible is fixed and unalterable. That is, what a passage meant to Ezekiel when he wrote it means the very same thing to us when we read it.

To sum up, here is what we have:

  1. We understand the Bible is from God. Thus we realize its authority, accuracy, and permanency.
  2. We understand the Bible is written by men. Thus we realize its history, language, and propositional nature.
  3. We understand the Bible is fixed. Thus we realize that it is not properly understood apart from the author’s meaning/intention for writing it (it is not from one’s own interpretation).

Therefore, since the Bible is from God, written by men in history and with actual language, we cannot interpret it any other way.

Here is an example:

Exodus 20:13

You shall not murder.

This is straightforward. From the surrounding verses we understand that God is speaking to Moses and Moses is to relay this to Israel (Exodus 20:1; 21:1). The verse is a command. Don’t do something. The translation of the original Hebrew is good here and it simply says, “Don’t kill.” That is, don’t want to kill something and thereby murder. Moses has given Israel a very straightforward and clear instruction. This would be the way that Israel would understand it as well. It is God’s intention in the meaning of the command.

However, some think that when it comes to prophetic passages there are different rules for interpretation. No there are not. How do I know? I know because no matter how fanciful something appears (Ezekiel 1, for example), it was still written down by Ezekiel in actual language. Therefore, a person cannot assign meaning to something that is arbitrary to the language of that passage.

For example, I was speaking with a man one day who refused to believe that the water flowing under the temple in Ezekiel 47:1 is actual water. It appeared too fanciful to him and since he preconceived that water has nothing to do with heavenly things, then this verse must be speaking of something else (which he assigned, i.e. “one’s own interpretation”). Therefore, he assigned a new meaning to that passage which has nothing to do with any of the context in history or language. Further, many other passages affirm water in the temple (Ps. 46:4; Is. 30:25; 55:1; Jer. 2:13; Joel 3:18; Zech. 13:1; 14:8; esp. Rev. 22:1, 17). Thus, in this example, and there are multitudes of examples, the text took on a meaning that is not evident by the history of the writer or the audience, nor does it accord with the language of the passage. There are things figurative in Scripture (John 10:6; 16:25-29). However, many attribute figurative meanings to those things that they don’t believe, or that do not fit into their theological pre-understanding of a passage, or that seem too far-fetched in their view (like water in the Temple). To reassign a meaning to a passage of Scripture is a sin. It is to call God a liar and us the truth-teller. Remember, God is the author of Scripture.

Remember, Paul commanded Timothy to handle the text accurately.

2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

That is, “cut it straight” in relation to the text of Scripture. Timothy, you must handle the text in an accurate way. To reassign meaning to the propositional and completed text of Scripture is to create your own text. Thus, you can only “preach the Word” after you have actually learned that word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). And the only way to learn that word is in the same manner that it was given.  

 

Next time, I will introduce how to do this in some detail. 

What Does The Bible Mean?

 

In an effort to encourage the church, I will be reviewing the basics of sound Bible study. That is, I want to identify the process of concluding that a person knows, for certain, the meaning of a passage in Scripture. To some, this is a difficult task. Many believe it to be impossible. Many conclude that the Bible is basically unknowable. At that point, a person has just crossed over into the realm of the agnostic. They are sure a meaning exists. However, that meaning is unknowable.

I have had a number of recent conversations in which the person with whom I am speaking has asked how do I know what a verse means? How can I be so sure? At that point, I basically answer them from the standpoint that God cannot author confusion. God is not a source of confusion and thus His Word is not confusing. However, I have not really answered the question. I have simply given them something to think about.

To begin, we must rebuild our confidence in Scripture. We must regain our footing if we are going to climb this mountain. So, let’s begin there.

First of all, consider what the Bible actually says about itself:

Psalm 119:160

160 The sum of Your word is truth,

And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

Here, the Psalmist affirms a basic reality about the Bible-it is truth. The Hebrew term means something reliable, trustworthy, or true. The idea is that of the ultimate trustworthiness or reliability. Thus, all that is identified as “Your word” is utterly reliable, trustworthy, and true. The Lord Jesus takes us along the same lines when He prayed:

John 17:17b

17 Your word is truth.

We can fill this in a bit more. The Bible is repeatedly asserting itself as the Word of God. From Genesis to Revelation, the instruction of the Bible is that it, and no other book, is the record of the words which God spoke and wanted recorded for His own purposes.

Throughout Moses’ career as a prophet and the original leader of God’s covenant people, he spoke the Word of God. That is, he repeated to the people whatever God said to him. Further, he was also a teacher. Moses taught the people from the things which God spoke. Involved with this is the fact that he wrote down all that God had said and taught in a collection of books we call the Pentateuch. The first five books of the Bible are considered the Pentateuch, or Torah, and they are the revelation of God and His Word to Moses (see Deuteronomy 31:9, 24). These books of Moses form the foundation upon which the entire Bible would be built.

From this foundation, there are many other builders. Many other men wrote as they were instructed to by God. Job, David, Samuel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Asaph, and many others, wrote and what they wrote was added to the collection of books we call the Bible. This process was initiated by God, the oversight of what was written was by God, and the preservation of that which has been written is also by God. The Apostle Peter helps us to understand something of this process. He wrote,

2 Peter 1:19–21

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Peter is teaching us that there is nothing in Scripture that is from man alone. Men only wrote what they were instructed to write by the Holy Spirit. This is verified against the other writings of Scripture. The unity and consistency in doctrine and purpose is uncanny. There is no portion of latter Scripture which contradicts earlier revelation and vice-versa. It is a unified whole.

Although, I am not taking a tremendous amount of time to qualify every detail of these statements, they are, nonetheless, the fact of the matter. The Bible is the only collection of God’s words in written form in existence. Therefore, they are trustworthy, true, and reliable. That is, what they say is true. What is asserted and taught in the pages of the text of Scripture is accurate and true. Therefore, we can know for a fact that once we arrive at the understanding of a passage, it is true and reflects the truth that God has communicated to us.

One last item needs to understood as well. The Bible was not written in English. It was not written in French, Latin, or Russian. The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and certain portions in a kind of Hebrew identified as Aramaic. The New Testament was written entirely in Greek. Why is this significant? This is significant because this becomes the key to a proper interpretation of the Scripture. What I have found is that many who are screaming that we cannot understand the text of Scripture (they do this by what they say and the example they give in handling the Scripture) are those who do not understand these languages. Many who present alternate views on a verse are those least qualified to do that. To be sure, there are many who do know the languages of God’s Word and they also confuse the issue. However, that does not mean that the discipline of language work is useless. It is the key to proper interpretation. I want to give you an example.

Genesis 1:1

1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

 

What you see above is Genesis 1:1 in the original text of Hebrew. In English, we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That is an accurate translation. We know this because we can answer basic questions about the text: Who is the subject of the verb? What is the main verb? What is the subject doing? To whom is He doing it? When we answer these questions, we have begun the process of rightly interpreting what God had Moses write.

The New Testament was written in Greek, as below. The verse is John 1:1. It reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word (or, the Word was God).”

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

Again, the work of identifying the verbs, subjects of the verb, etc… becomes the only way to accurately, confidently, identify the meaning of the text. The way to do this, in English, will be the heart of this series. If a person is willing, in taking the steps that I will outline, he or she will be able to confidently ascertain the basic meaning of any passage. The question after that is, “Do I believe it?”

I can imagine someone saying, “All that just to understand the Bible?” Well, yes. The Bible is not simply a devotional book of insights. It is a highly complex collection of revelation from God. That does not mean that we cannot understand it in English. It means that many people have given long hours in study and translation work in order to make the Bible readable. Therefore, even a child can pick up the English Bible and read it. However, behind the English (or any other language) translation work, is a mountain of complexity and challenge for even the most able scholar.

At this point, I want to introduce the basic premise of valid Bible study. Here it is:

 

STUDY THE BIBLE THE WAY IT WAS GIVEN. 

 

That is the rule of proper study and interpretation. This means that since the Bible was written by real men, in real history, in real time, from a real God, in real language, then we must do what we can to understand these things in order to interpret the Word of God we possess. I will outline for you how to do this.

Like many things in Christianity, the church needs to recover confidence in the Word of God and the veracity of all that is written in it. If we don’t, we have no basis for our understanding of what we believe and why.

The Pastor’s Home-pt.4

Last time…

we considered the fact that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, in order to deal with teaching that contradicts sound doctrine. Part of that work is to confront leadership in the church and call them to repentance. That is quite a work for a man to do, but the church is a precious thing and needs to be cared for by godly leadership. If a man in leadership is teaching error, he needs to be removed. However, that will create a gap. So, what are Timothy and Titus to do? They are to appoint new leadership. That is why Paul gave these instructions in these chapters (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 respectively). Both of these men must appoint leadership. The assumption is that this activity is a priority because God has appointed men to lead the sheep and tend the flock of God. If a church has no leadership, or has unqualified leadership, they are not being cared for.

In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, and Titus 1:6, Paul makes sweeping statements that are determinative of whether a man should be a pastor or not. Paul wrote,

1 Timothy 3:4–5

4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity

5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),

And in Titus,

Titus 1:6

6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

These passages instruct us in the necessary qualification of a man to leadership in the household of God, the church (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19). The point of this series is to attempt to bring to light that the condition of a man’s home is a qualification for service in pastoral ministry. This is not negotiable, any more than being able to teach is negotiable. A man’s efforts, heart, abilities, failures, repentance, and overall righteousness through the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5; Philippians 2:12-13) are all on display in the home and those things affect everyone else in the home.

We have seen that Paul says that if a man cannot lead his home, he cannot lead the church. This is because both the church and the home are essentially made of the same categories of people. In the church, there is a Father (Ephesians 4:6) and there are children. Where does the wife and mother fit in? She is one with the father of the children (Ephesians 5:28-33). Men and women who obey Christ are made children of God, and He becomes their Father. The collection of these children all under the care and instruction of God the Father is what Paul refers to as a “household.” Jesus Christ is to have preeminence in that household (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18). Therefore, that body of people, in Christ, is as precious as any household. In fact, given the One who is Head of the household, the church is even more precious. These are great realities and, unfortunately, very little is being written about them (although this was a refreshing reminder of these things).

Now…

we come to the similar phrases found in 1 Timothy and Titus involving the children. As with many passages of Scripture, there are a number of disagreements over what Paul wrote here. The reasons for these disagreements are varied. But the disagreements are not caused by the lack of clarity in the text itself. It does not appear to be vague, nor meant to be. I will work through these things here and delineate some conclusions.

Paul wrote that Timothy (and Titus) are to look for men for leadership who are appropriately raising their children. That much is clear. In fact, in 1 Timothy, the indication is that the condition of the children is the litmus test for the ability of the man to lead his home. In other words, to see if a man can lead his home, look at the fruit of that leadership, the hearts and lives of the children (this is evident by the participles “manages” and “keeping” which would modify the main verb, “to be”). Interestingly, there is nothing explicitly written here about the condition of his wife. The assumption is that she would fall into the category of his household. Everything that the man is head over, wife, children, and resources, are his “household.” However, if you want to see the fruit of that man’s know-how of raising children, and managing his home, look to the quality and condition of his children.

His children should be “under control” (the phrase “with all dignity” refer to the man and his quality of training his children to be under control). The phrase “under control” is the Greek prepositional phrase, ἐν ὑποταγῇ. The preposition “ἐν” is usually translated “in.” That is not possible here because Paul is not insisting that the children be “in control” of the household. The next word “ὑποταγῇ” also has a preposition on the front of it, hupo, which is usually translated, “under” as in spatially, or logically, under something or someone else. It makes sense with this particular word “ὑποταγῇ” because the other half of the word is the word for obedience, or submission. In fact, it would, together, indicate a willing, voluntary submission under the authority of another (Jesus, of course, exemplifies this precious and powerful truth in Luke 2:51). Coupled with the preposition “ἐν,” Paul is driving home this reality. The fact is, a father and mother have authority in the home, with the husband as the head, or leader, of the two. He has the right from God to instruct, and care for, all the others. Children should be in such a condition of heart to choose to submit to that authority.

This kind of humbling is not natural to a child (Proverbs 22:15; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:9-18) and is only produced through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The will of a child despises God’s authority. They welcome the care and benefits of God (Acts 17:25b; cf. Matthew 5:43-45). But, they naturally reject His righteousness. Essentially, the man of God should know how to bring his children to the point of obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This cannot mean to simply control the children externally, without any repentance and submission in the heart. God expects more than that out of His children (Mark 7:6-7). God’s expectation of His children is as much submission and obedience from a pure heart as Jesus Himself has (Matthew 5:48). Otherwise, the New Covenant would be unnecessary since the target of that covenant is the heart and the product of that new heart is obedience to God’s instructions (Ezekiel 36:26-27). If the good news of Jesus Christ is that God’s eternal plan of making sinners into sons (Revelation 21:7) has come to earth, then that should be most evident in the homes of the leaders of God’s church (Romans 8:28-30; cf. Ephesians 3:8-11). Paul reiterates this in Titus as well.

Paul wrote to Titus that an elder should "[have] children who believe.” Again, since Paul taught that the condition of the home determines whether or not a man knows how to lead, it would be basic to assume that Paul expects the children of the elder/pastor to believe in Christ. The adjective “πιστά” describes the children. This description coincides with 1 Timothy 3:4 that the children are obedient and voluntarily submissive to their father. This kind of faithfulness to their father is demonstrated by their behavior. And just as there is a list of behaviors for elders, here is a little list for his children as well. In other words, the behavior of the children (as well as the elders and deacons/deaconesses listed in 1 Timothy 3) demonstrates their hearts.

The question for many is whether or not this demands that the children of the pastor need to be believers. Is it Paul’s intention to instruct Timothy and Titus to only approve men whose children are following Jesus Christ? I believe that Paul is instructing just that. Whether the children are simply faithful or believers, the point is the same. A faithful person is one who adheres to a kind of expectation. That expectation for a Christian is contained in the Scripture. If a man is teaching these instructions of Scripture to his children, the assumption is that the children are faithful to those instructions. To rebel against those instructions demonstrates an unbelieving heart. To obey and submit to those instructions demonstrates a believing heart. James would say that faith in Christ necessarily evidences itself in “works” (James 2:14-26). The works of faith are ultimately evidenced in submission to teaching. If you believe something, you obey it (Romans 6:16-18).

The assumption is that the man’s aptitude in teaching shows itself primarily in his home. This teaching, with wisdom and skill, will accomplish what God intended. Paul told Timothy later in his second letter,

         14      You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
         15      and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. –2 Timothy 3:14-15

According to Paul, the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, as well as the entirety of Scripture (3:16), is able to produce the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Men, do you understand Scripture well enough to train your children in this wisdom (cf. Deuteronomy 4:5-6; Job 32:7–9; Psalm 119:100)? Do you understand the eternal gospel well enough to expose their hearts by the appropriate wielding of the Word of God?

Some would object to this understanding insisting that to expect this is to limit God’s election. That is absurd. First, nothing limits God’s election, whether entire cities (Jonah 3:5-10; cf. Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32), households (cf. Acts 16:31-34; cf. Acts 11:14), or individuals. This argument is a philosophical one, not an exegetical one.

Second, some object because they know of a pastor who was faithful for many years over a church and when a child left home and that child renounced Christ, or lives in such a way that denies Christ (Titus 1:16). The question then is, was the father truly faithful? Remember, an elder needs to be one who manages his household well. Did he really do that? To say that we have no control over or children when they are out of the home is a sad thing to say. Of course, as parents, we don’t have control over them (Genesis 2:24-25). However, do you not expect a child to continue in the things that you taught when you taught them? What were you training them for? Solomon wrote,

            6      Train up a child in the way he should go,
      Even when he is old he will not depart from it.-Proverbs 22:6

 

Some would say that is not a promise. Some would even say this is a warning against allowing the child to continue in “his own way.” However, this is a command (Ephesians 6:4). Solomon is instructing his son to train up his child in the way that he is expected to live when he is old. If you do that, even when he has grey hair, he will not depart from that teaching. The failure, then, is not the children necessarily. It is the training they received. That is the heart of the issue.

I believe that the situation in the leadership of the church is dire. Judging by the number of unqualified and disqualified men in leadership over God’s household, I would say that there needs to be a serious examination in this area. I would also assert that the goal is not a witch-hunt. It is to equip where there apparently isn’t any, or at least very, very little. I hope to at least introduce some teaching from the Word of God along these lines.

The Pastor’s Home-pt.2

Last post, we introduced the requirement, mandate really, of the pastor being proven and qualified by the condition of his home. We considered that the godliness of the people in the household qualifies a man for ministry because it is in the home wherein all the other qualifications play out and are demonstrated. If a man is above reproach, truly, it will be first and foremost demonstrated in the home. His wife and children will be able to testify and validate the temperance, faithfulness, and soundness of theology in the private times of the household. Again, a man can “flip the switch” and turn on godliness in public. But what he is in private is really him. His passions, his desires, his direction, his interests, all testify of the singular focus of that man’s leadership.

The impetus for this series was my observation of a number of situations over the years that were made known to me concerning the household’s of pastors. I have either observed, or heard of, a number of situations in which a pastor’s home had completely fallen apart. However, this is not simply in a divorce, or wayward child, or the like. This is also in a wife who is bitter about the ministry her husband is in. Or, a child who, although when younger appeared well-trained and on the right path, once older has decided that the world had more to offer than the church, or Christ. Or, a man who privately, repeatedly, committed adultery while in the pulpit. These are all stories that are far too common in the church, in pastor’s homes.

My intent in this series is not to point out all the failures of pastors. My real intention is: 1) to establish the fact that if a man cannot lead his household, he cannot lead God’s household. 2) to admonish that if a man is not leading his household properly, according to the instructions of the Word of God, he must either be taking steps to remedy the situation immediately, or step away from his ministry so that another man can take the leadership of the church. 3) to call churches to realize that they must hold their pastor or pastors to the standard that God has laid out in Scripture. This is not to beat him up, or seek to destroy his effectiveness. It is to increase it. The bottom line in this discussion is simply that man is not the head of the church. Jesus Christ is. As such, the Lord, who is glorious, holy, and exalted, is to be served by those whom He has qualified for that position. It is not a matter of making a man like that as it is identifying him. God makes the man.

I also want to add that I don’t have a wide readership. However, I do hope that those who do read these blogs will not be offended, or simply scoff at what is written. Rather, I am held to this same standard as will be outlined in this series and I would ask that the Word of God be taken seriously. I realize that it is hard to shepherd God’s people and raise a family and maintain a marriage all at the same time. There are so many pitfalls, temptations, lack of information, as well as the sin in our children, wives, and ourselves that keep us busy. However, men, that is exactly what God is calling us to. We must take up the challenge of leading in all these areas with holiness, godliness, righteousness, and capability. That is why I say that a man needs to be willing to humble himself and learn what is required of him, where he is not meeting those requirements, and be willing to admit that maybe God did not qualify him for ministry.

Given that, let’s review some basics about pastoral leadership.

First, our responsibility is a calling from Jesus Christ. When I use the word “calling,” I am using it in the sense of stewardship for which a person will be held accountable for faithfulness to the One calling him. Jesus taught this fact of stewardship in Matthew 25:14-30. In that parable, the emphasis is that the man who went away, after depositing varying amounts of money with his three slaves, will return and expect something for His investments. Two of the three slaves were faithful to make the most of the money and gain the praise of their master. The assumption is that the master expected that to happen and the slaves were faithful to do what they would expect their master to do. The third slave did nothing with his share, and received the punishment of the master. After all, he was a hard man (v.24). Essentially, the two slaves were faithful, the third, lazy. The two, as slaves, did their jobs according to their own ability (v.15). The third, had no ability by virtue of the fact that he did not do what his master would have expected with the money.

This really is a picture of many things which God has given to people. It does not mean to limit the parable to only one kind of work or person. The point is that God expects something from His slaves, and those who refuse to obey will be punished. Pastoral ministry was not created by man. It is a position of slavery to God created by Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ Himself said, "

Matthew 23:34–35

“Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Paul taught us that when Christ ascended, sent the Holy Spirit, He assigned certain men to positions of work by reason of their gifting.

Ephesians 4:7–8

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

When we talk of pastoral ministry, very often it is full of the trappings that accompany the office in our day. We immediately think about counseling, preaching, taxes, conferences, and the like. However, for a faithful slave, there is only one thing on the forefront of his mind: “What does my Master expect? What does it take to get it done?” It is very common for pastors of our day to never have that kind of thought even enter their minds. Afterall, there are so many pressing needs in the church. Yet, according to the parable, those men who did not take what they were given and use it accordingly, all the while concerned about the Master’s will, are the unfaithful slaves who will never know the praise of the Master.

Second, since we are given our task by Christ, we represent Him. This truth is crucial. As a slave, your will is no longer in existence. You are subject to a Master. He determines where you go, what you do, and how you do it. And, in the end, he will reward you or not. His expectations, His instructions, and His “money” all express His person. It is to be used wisely.

I am afraid that many pastors think that they are the church. I was watching a man preach the other day in a typical Baptist church. This man makes his rounds in Evangelical, Bible-believing churches and is a big name in the one of a thousand movements in modern Christianity. As I watched this man, who said he was about 50 years old, and yet was obviously physically fit and spends a fair amount of time in the gym, I watched him “pose” as he was preaching. Flinging his arms, exposing his physique, and simply in general, drawing all attention to himself. It was deplorable. On top of that, what he was preaching was not worthy of “preaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The slave does not exist, except to serve his master. For a slave to replace his master is treason.

Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, were offering “strange fire” one day and God killed both of them on the spot. Why? Because they were not performing their “service” according to the instructions of the Master (v.1). Therefore, God punished them. The statement from Moses reminding their father, Aaron, is important to hear. He said,

Leviticus 10:3

Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’ ” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Aaron’s response was apt-he kept silent. What could he say? His sons were disobedient, and may have even been drinking (v.9). Aaron could say nothing. Men, realize that every Sunday, or under any other venue, when you ascend the lectern to preach God’s holy Word, you represent God, the same God who incinerated Nadab and Abihu and could do the same to you for offering “strange fire…which [God has] not commanded.” If for no other reason than that, take the money from the Master and use it accordingly.

Third, your homes represent the Lord as well. The condition of our homes, marriages, children and their submission to Christ, as well as finances, home orderliness, and a myriad of other things, are all meant to reflect the glory and beauty of God. As I mentioned before, most men can “flip the switch” in the pulpit and no one would ever know that he just had a knock-down, drag-out fight with his wife before church. However, that man who has done that really should not even “open the book” until he repents. Personally speaking, preaching is a very good way for me to not hang on to sin. I cannot preach unless I know that I have repented from any sins of that time prior to entering the pulpit. Sometimes, it is just a matter of confessing it in my heart and turning from it. Sometimes, it involves speaking with someone before service, or at home, asking for forgiveness. Whatever it is, I cannot preach in good conscience knowing that I have sinned against the God whom I am supposed to represent in the pulpit.

As we will see in our next post, the purity, wholesomeness, righteousness of our households, or the lack thereof, are the proofs of able-bodied, godly leadership in the home, or not. That is the man who has been qualified by God for leadership in His church.

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