Monday, April 28, 2008

Family Friendly

The Bible has much to say about the family. The family unit was established soon after creation as Adam and Eve were joined together to become one flesh, thus establishing the basis for procreation and the foundation for an ordered society. The husband/father has been given headship over his family as he leads his wife and children in submission to Christ. Wives are to submit to their husbands and children are to submit to their parents.

Our church recognizes the importance of the father in the home. We place a high priority on building strong families and raising up the next generation to the glory of God. You could call us a “Family Friendly” church. This is important in our day when many churches have placed too much emphasis on various “programs.” Too often we find the church trying to serve the function of a surrogate parent evidenced by the proliferation of the “youth group.”

There is a danger, however, of a hyper-family or hyper-patriarchy in which the family becomes the highest institution and the father becomes the sole authority. Under this error the church becomes more and more irrelevant. No one is allowed to teach the children but the father. Some see the home as the primary seat of worship. Some have rejected the church altogether in favor of a covenant-home group. Extremes are always destructive and always dishonoring to God.

The Bible stresses the importance of both the family and the church. It is the church that Christ established upon the earth of which, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It is the church to which Christ gave the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). It is the church that God has set apart as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is the church that is the primary seat of worship as we gather with the people of God. It is the through the eldership of the church that Christ has given oversight over those for whom He died (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28).

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful, and he has a special delight in their devotions in their church capacity. The great festivals, when the crowds surrounded the temple gates, were fair in the Lord’s eyes, and even such is the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. This should lead each separate believer to identify himself with the church of God; where the Lord reveals his love the most, there should each believer most delight to be found. Our own dwellings are very dear to us, but we must not prefer them to the assemblies of the saints” (Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 478).

May God grant us to always strive for Biblical balance in all our ways and may He protect us from the extremes that lead us to dishonor His holy name.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Are Church Covenants Biblical?

In my previous post titled, Without a Vision, I made the statement, “Membership in a local church is a covenant agreement whereby the individual pledges accountability to the body.” Someone asked me if there was a Biblical justification for a church covenant.

We don’t find church covenants in Scripture as an explicit command, but there are many things that the Bible teaches implicitly rather than explicitly. The church covenant falls into this category. The concept of covenant is an important theme running throughout the Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments explicitly express the relationship between God and His people by way covenant. The elements of God’s covenants include: (1) Our relationship with God, (2) Our relationship with other people within the covenant, (3) Our relationship with people outside the covenant. The Christian is united to Christ in a covenant relationship. The covenant was ratified in the blood of Christ. At the last supper Jesus said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). The New Testament teaches us about this covenant relationship: (1) Our relationship with Christ, (2) Our relationship with other believers (His body), (3) Our relationship with unbelievers. The church covenant speaks to these relationships.

The local church is a local representation of the church universal. These local bodies are vested with authority. We can see this authority in Matthew 18 as the procedure for church discipline is outlined. At the close of the passage it is written, “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). Thus, the local church is a group of people organized together under the authority of the whole. It is autonomous and self-governing under the authority of Christ – a Christocracy. Christ raises up elders who are then vested with the oversight of His church.

Every organization will have certain expectations regarding the behavior of its members. Churches should expect their members to seek to conform their lives to the righteousness of Christ and exercise discipline in cases where this righteousness is abandoned. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, for example, we see a system of authority and a system that determines when this authority is exercised in the form of discipline. In this example we find a breech of conduct, the church gathering together to examine the offender, and the offender being excluded from the body for a failure to repent. It is incumbent upon a local church to clearly establish its expectations of behavior. The church covenant is merely a statement of what the Scriptures teach concerning behavior within the church – what the rules are. The church covenant is a reminder of what God requires of His people. It doesn’t invent new rules. It is simply a restatement of God’s rules. In like manner, our Confession is a statement of what we believe the Scriptures teach about the doctrines of the faith. You can’t find a confession of faith in Scripture either, but every solid church since the Reformation has held to some Confession. In fact, the creeds dating back to the early centuries of Christendom declare the need for clarification of what the Scriptures teach. To someone who takes issue with the concept of a church covenant I would simply ask them does the church have authority? Then what is the basis of that authority? They would answer, “The Scriptures.” I would reply, “What do you believe the Scriptures teach about applying this authority? Does the church have the right to have certain expectations regarding the behavior of its members? What are those expectations?” These expectations are essence the covenant. The church covenant, of course, is not exhaustive in its content – the Scriptures are. But the church covenant provides a basic framework to which a person joining the church agrees to commit.

Timothy George writes: "One of the much neglected features of contemporary Baptist church life is the congregational covenant, an expression of communal commitment in responsibility, setting forth the ethical standards and obligations incumbent upon all members. Historically, Baptist church covenants have encouraged not only public worship, personal devotion, and congregational discipline but also a caring and pastoral attitude on the part of each church member toward every other member" (New American Commentary, Vol.30, page 415).

The Christian individual can choose whether or not to join with a particular local church. By joining, however, he is agreeing to abide by certain expectations of behavior, expressed by way of covenant – which, again, is simply a statement of what the Scriptures teach. Our church covenant not only provides prospective members a framework of expectations to which they must commit themselves, it also provides an expression of identity to the community. Our confession tells them what we believe; our covenant tells them how we live.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Church of Oprah

As millions of the mindless masses watch, Oprah tantilizes them with the lie, "One of the mistakes human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live. There are many ways to God." In the video posted by YouTube, Oprah and her guest, Eckhart Tolle, teach that it isn't what you "believe," it's what you "feel" that matters. There is no sin. Salvation comes from within.

These teachings are not new. Human beings have been denying God and His Word since the fall of Adam. The first recorded words of Satan were, "Hath God said" as he called into question the truth of God and His Word. God in His mercy has sent forth His Son to save rebellious sinners. Oprah and her friends are shouting the words that have been lifted up by multitudes, "Away with Him!" Sadly, Oprah has garnered for herself a huge following. Millions tune in and embrace her words as truth, many believing themselves to be Christians. The words of the Apostle ring loudly today, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

For Christians this opens many opportunities. As the narrator of the video announces at the end, "Open your eyes, turn off the TV, and pray." We must be prepared to speak against this New Age mysticism. There are many Christians who are unwittingly aiding her false teaching by placing greater emphasis on "feeling" than "believing." It would seem that doctrine has fallen upon hard times. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." The Christian more than ever must be equipped with sound doctrine "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:9).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting Stronger

Last Saturday our church gathered at a local park for a friendly game of softball. Such things seem easy at a distance, but after several times at bat and a few sprints across the field attempting to seize the ball and stop the progress of the runner around the bases, I was brought to the reality that I'm not as young as I used to be. As I walked away from the field, my legs and back aching, I pondered how easy such things used to be. As the years pass it will only get worse. But there is a glorious truth behind such melancholy thoughts. For the Christian, though our physical body grows weaker and weaker, our spiritual strength and vitality should only be getting stronger. If growing old means growing closer to Christ old age is to be considered a glorious thing. We are aching to see Christ face to face. Although this mortal flesh is decaying before our very eyes, this frail body shall soon pass away to immortality. As Paul wrote, "we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon our house which is in heaven" (2 Cor. 5:2). Our daily prayer should be, "Lord, with each passing day, may I know you more and be conformed more and more to the image of Christ."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Without a Vision

In Proverbs 29:18 we read: "Where there is no vision the people are unrestrained." The word for "vision" refers to a vision or oracle from God. The word "unrestrained" (translated "perish" in the KJV) refers to a people who go their own way, do their own thing. In other words, without a clear Biblical understanding a people will be without direction.

In our postmodern American generation we are plagued by a low view of the church. Even pastors who give themselves to consistent expositional preaching find it difficult to impress upon the modern Christian a Biblical view of the church. Most Americans are fully indoctrinated by a high sense of individualism. In other words, they are motivated primarily by that which affects them personally.

In Christian salvation individualism loses ground to the concept of "body." The Christian is a part of the Body of Christ. The local church (ekklesia) is a body of believers. Spiritual gifts are dispensed, not for personal edification, but for the edification of the body. Membership in a local church is a covenant agreement whereby the individual pledges accountability to the body. In similitude to JFK's "Ask not speech" during his 1961 inauguration, instead of asking, "What can the church do for me," the church member should ask himself, "What can I do to strengthen the church?"

Unfortunately, most church members today continue to operate strictly on the level of the individual. They join churches according to their needs, and they leave without any regard for the wellbeing of their congregation.

May God grant us to see our church as our Divinely appointed place of service and may we give ourselves fully to its health and prosperity. May God grant us a Biblical "vision" of His church and our place in His church.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


This is my first venture into the "blogosphere." Since such a venue has limitless possibilities I'm approaching it with a sense of excitement and anticipation. At the same time, knowing of all the wonderful blogs by men of great ability, I also approach it with humility. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and hearing yours.