Monday, July 31, 2006

Plexiglas preaching 2

Continuing with John MacArthur "...listing the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism..."

"It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission. In the modern approach to 'ministry', the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and 'worship' is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church. The effrontery of ministers who pursue such a course is, to me, frightening."

Plexiglas Preaching, by John MacArthur

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Plexiglas preaching 1

In an article entitled "Plexiglas Preaching", John MacArthur describes what he believes is the problem of superificial preaching that is as "lightweight as the plexiglas lecterns from which these messages are delivered." I think a few excerpts are enlightening.

"There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, 'successful' living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes...

"...listing the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism.

"It usurps the authority of God over the soul. Whether a preacher boldly proclaims the Word of God or not is ultimately a question of authority. Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do! In fact, it is hard to conceive of anything more insolent that could be done by a man who is called by God to preach."

Plexiglas Preaching, by John MacArthur

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Two-seedism of Daniel Parker

Elder Daniel Parker (1781-1844) figured prominently in the early history of the American "missions/anti-missions" controversy, and was also a pioneer who helped open the Texas frontier. His Pilgrim Regular Baptist Church of the Predestinarian Faith and Order still stands as the oldest Baptist church in the state of Texas. He is remembered for formulating and promoting a religious idea often known as Two-seedism, which is now most often viewed as a religious curiosity. For a time it was quite a source of dissension among "anti-mission" Baptists in parts of the U.S.

"In brief, he taught that God had an external seed, and the devil an external seed; and that God gave to Adam a seed which we call the body; that our bodies which we inherit from Adam are simply houses for God's and the devil's children to live in. When we die, if God's eternal seed is in us it returns to him; but if the devil's seed it returns to him, while the body returns to dust never to be resurrected." (From J. H. Grime, History of Middle Tennessee Baptists, 1902)

"Come, my reader, let us reason together a moment. You may think my doctrine wretched -- but think again, is it scripturally and experimentally reasonable to believe, but that there are sinners lost? Are these lost sinners the creatures of God by creation? Is it not more reasonable to believe they have sprung from Satan, than from the Divine Being? As I think you believe me, that God never created any one for destruction, is it not more to the glory and honor of God, to believe that he will punish Satan in his own seed., than in beings, which he himself had made, and Satan had got possession of? Does God Possess more love and mercy than wisdom and power? Does, he, as God, want to save more than he will or can save? How can these things be, and he be a God of infinite power and wisdom? Think of these things, and if they fail to bring you to this truth, then I request you to answer, at least in your own mind, these questions I have proposed, with the evidence that have produced, satisfactorily, in another way; for they all mean something, and the truth is what we ought to know and practice. Perhaps you are ready to inquire, what benefit can arise from the belief of this, should it be a truth? I answer, truth exalts the Divine Being, humbles his saints, and defies the enemies of God. And amongst all the truths that appear, this is best calculated to answer and defeat the Arminian errors, and Universalian false basis. Establish the saints, and prevent controversy, as far as it is believed, while, instead of its preventing saints from preaching to, and praying for sinners, if it is believed aright, stimulates them to their duty." -- Parker in Views on the Two Seeds (originally typed by Ben H. Irwin, and made available courtesy of Tom Adams and Hoyt Sparks)

Some comments on Two Seed doctrine by Silas Durand
Two-seedism by James F. Poole

See also The Records of an early Texas Baptist church for minutes of the Pilgrim Church 1833-1847

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tempted in all points, yet without sin

Man in his bent towards evil is in perfect contrast to the GOD of heaven and earth who will not so much as look upon sin (see Hab.1:13) for “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)

We see this contrast most evidently when we look upon the LORD JESUS CHRIST who came into the world born of a woman just like every other man who has been born in time. HE “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) In fact, HE “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:” (1Pe 2:22). The reason that HE committed no sin was that HE had no corruptible nature. HE said to HIS disciples, “for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (John 14:30)

The prince of this world has no power at all against HIM who is without a sin nature. It is impossible that HE should in any way be tainted with the corruption of any sin. The LORD JESUS was free from sin in every aspect except that HE willingly and effectively bore the penalty and guilt of our sin on Calvary’s cross. HE who was totally without sin “became” sin for us, HE who could not be blamed for our sin, took our blame and nailed it to HIS cross, setting us forever free from any condemnation. What a glorious SAVIOR!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.’ (Eph 1:3-7)

-- by Mike McInnis, O’Brien, FL, Shreveport Grace Church bulletin, July 27

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Marriage and divorce

While listening to a radio program this afternoon, I heard a passing comment that the difference in the divorce rate of Christians and non-Christians is negligible (so small as to be meaningless).

I have heard that "statistic" several times. I have no reason to suppose it is incorrect, though I have seen no hard evidence one way or the other. I believe those who mention this are usually speaking of the Western world or possibly just mainly the United States.

I have given this a little thought. Assuming this is correct, why is the divorce rate for Christians almost the same as for non-Christians?

A few possibilities why this may be so:
Many Christians are Christians in name only
Western Christians are likely to be involved in their culture rather than separated from it
Some Christians are married to non-Christians
Christians are sinners, too

Nevertheless, most people would probably think that Christians SHOULD do better in marriage statistics than non-Christians. Here are three reasons why: the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide them, the ministry of the Word to train them, and the ministry of the body of Christ to edify & assist them.

Should Christians, on average, have a better record of staying married than non-Christians? Why or why not? If they should, why don't they?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wondrous Love

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul?
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”
While millions join the theme I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.
-- Wondrous Love, an American folk hymn

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of Heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
-- From
How Can I Keep from Singing? by Robert Lowry

Monday, July 24, 2006

Do you share Paul's spirit about this?

Philippians 1:15-18 "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."

Are you able to rejoice when Christ is preached with impure motives? It seems that Paul was. But I must confess that I really struggle with this. Yes, even in some cases that intellectually I think may meet Paul's criteria my heart still recoils.

Paul is not speaking of a compromised or falsified gospel. That was anathema to him: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you that that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8)." When he contrasts "whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached" the reference must be to the reason or motive rather than the true facts about who Christ was and what He did.

In the case Paul affirms in Philippians, Christ WAS being preached. It seems there are two classes of preachers in mind, those with impure motives (some preach Christ of envy, strife & contention) and those with pure motives (some preach Christ of good will & love). The pretence is evidently that the pretended cause is to forward the gospel of Christ, when in fact the true motivation is an attempt to cause more affliction to come Paul's way. Their envy and strife is directed toward Paul.

What is the relation of verse 19? "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ..." Does the "FOR" mean that the reason he is rejoicing that Christ is preached is BECAUSE this spreading knowledge will result in his (Paul's) deliverance from his present imprisonment? The attempt of the envious ones will be thwarted. Their pretence causes Paul to rejoice, and eventually lightens his affliction rather than adding to it. He is ready to die for Christ, but expects to be delivered (saved) from his bonds and minister once again to the Philippians (vs. 25,26). Or should we take a more "standard" interpretation -- regardless of how Christ is preached, the truth will not return void, but will accomplish what God sends it to do? Or both?

We should also consider that to some extent this passage emphasizes the importance of the message over the messenger. With that thought I am reminded of Jonah. He was a running, disobedient, whale-vomit-stinking, sulking, pouting prophet who didn't care for those to whom he was sent to preach. But ultimately he did preach the preaching that God bid him!

I suppose I've never found a particularly comfortable middle ground of interpretation of this passage. What think ye?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Out of pocket

Will probably be out of pocket a couple of days, and then will get to posting again (d.v.). In the meantime keep commenting on what's here already.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another John Gill quote

I had a blog relative to Gill a few days back. I received this via e-mail yesterday and thought some would be interested in this quote.

"Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us....O God, thou art majestic out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God" (Psa. 68:28 & 35).
John Gill on these verses: "For this work sometimes seems to be very low and weak, and needs strengthening, and it is God only that can do it, and he will do it (I Peter 5:10); and this shows that the grace of God is not only necessary at first conversion, but to be continued for the performing of the work of grace until the day of Christ....His peculiar covenant-people, his Israel he is the God of. These are weak, and encompassed with infirmities; he has strength in himself for them; he has promised it to them, and he gives it to them as a pure gift and unmerited favor of his" (Gill's Commentary on the Psalms).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This day in 1945


July 19, 1945 - At the direction of Attorney General, Montgomery Ward was seized by United States Army troops because of its refusal to obey National War Labor Board orders. Montgomery Ward chairman Seward Avery was carried out of his office by the troops.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

John Gill on the ministry of the Word

In a reply on the "Hyper-Calvinism" blog, I mentioned that is a charge often leveled against English Baptist pastor John Gill (1697-1771). Here is a quote from him relative to the subject, plus some of Gene Bridges thoughts on the matter. I post this not as proof of Gill being right or wrong, but simply as a matter of record and opinion concerning what he actually believed, which is sometimes a source of controversy.

"The ministry of the word is for the conversion of sinners; without which churches would not be increased nor supported, and must in course fail, and come to nothing ; but the hand of the Lord being with his ministers, many in every age believe and turn to the Lord, and are added to the churches; by which means they are kept up and preserved: and hence it is necessary in the ministers of the word, to set forth the lost and miserable estate and condition of men by nature, the danger they are in, the necessity of regeneration and repentance , and of a better righteousness than their own, and of faith in Christ; which things are blessed for the turning of men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." -- John Gill, as quoted by Tom Nettles in his book By His Grace and For His Glory, p.106 (Read Nettles 73-107 for further discussion of Gill & Hyper-Calvinism)

"Gill's use of the offers vocabulary usually throws people who read it today without knowing his operative categories. You have to remember, Gill was an academic who was trying to be extremely precise. His precision is his downfall, because others who were not as precise have taken and still take his work and misunderstand it, thus historians have had a hard time with where to place him...Gill divides the supra scheme into two parts: postive and negative, where the positive is active, with God effectuating His decree to elect by regeneration; it is passive with respect to reprobation by God passing men over, not by God putting fresh unbelief in their hearts and minds. He says that the degree of reprobation "puts nothing in them, it leaves them as it finds them, and therefore does them no injustice." ...Gill did not deny duty faith. This is the single most commonly adduced charge against him, and it seems based on his rejection of the offers vocabulary. True, he did state: GOD does not require all men to believe in Christ and where he does it is according to the revelation he makes of him. He does not require the heathen, who are without external revelation of Christ to believe him at all; and those who have the outward ministry of the word unattended with the special illuminations of God's Spirit are obliged to believe no further than the external revelations they enjoy reaches. (Cause of God and Truth). However, he is simply stating here that man is not condemned for disbelieving the gospel, rather he is condemned for his sins. The basis for the condemnation of those who have never heard is not their rejection of Christ, but their sins. In short, if they die without hearing the gospel, they are justly condemned and their separation from the gospel reflects the presumptive judgment of God. This is not, as some have thought, a denial of duty faith. Elsewhere he writes that "It is man's duty to believe the word of the Lord and obey His will, though he has not a power, yea, even though God has decreed to withhold that grace without which he cannot believe and obey." ... Gill's take on the offers vocabulary is what really throws us for a loop today, because when we see "offer" we think "free offer of the gospel" and the duty of the minister to urge people to come to Christ. First, Gill teaches that is men's responsibility to call everyone to come to Christ. Secondly, for Gill, he was making a category distinction over those who spoke of an offer of grace. Grace, he says, is not offered in the gospel, it is given by God. To speak of an offer of grace is therefore a category error. Gill's other category for offers is the offer of the gospel. The preacher is to offer the gospel to every person, for, unlike offering grace, offering the gospel is his duty and within his power. ("The minister should preach the gospel with a view to seeing all his hearers is one part of the gospel ministry to persuade men.")" -- Gene M. Bridges on Gill, excerpts from a
Baptist Board thread 30 May 2006

Sunday, July 16, 2006

East Texas Singing Convention - one month away

If you are interested in old shape note religious folk music (or if you would enjoy a day or two of almost non-stop singing), I would like to invite you to the 151st anniversary of the EAST TEXAS SACRED HARP SINGING CONVENTION -- held at the Community Center @ South High & Fairpark in Henderson, Texas, Saturday August 12th, and Sunday August 13th -- 9:30 a.m. til 2:30 a.m. (d.v.). Continental breakfast and lunch are provided, plus there will be a Saturday night informal gathering which includes a light supper and opportunities for more singing, socializing, or recreation.

Come see us. For more information, directions, etc. message me. For more info on Sacred Harp -
The Sacred Harp Home Page and Sacred Harp Singing in Texas.

"Shaped notes -- helpful for those who know them, unobtrusive to those who don't."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Finding out you're wrong

"If our views are correct, we need not fear when they are examined and scrutinized in the most exacting manner using the highest possible standards. Let them be tested. It will do them no harm. If such examination finds error in our beliefs, thank God for it! We should be happy to be instructed in the way of God 'more perfectly'. To learn of my errors today means I am wiser than yesterday!" -- Bill Lee, Director of the Baptist Standard Bearer, in "To Our Readers", The Baptist History Collection CD-Rom, 2005

BTW, The Baptist History Collection is a great value buy for those interested in Baptist history. Check it out at
The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Who or what is a Hyper-Calvinist?

Question: "Who or what is a Hyper-Calvinist?"
Answer: "Anyone who is more Calvinistic than I am!"

Some folks regularly write about and against "the Hyper-Calvinists" as if that is some readily identifiable group, when in fact it is not.

Free Will Baptists look at Southern Baptists and say they are hyper; while Southern Baptists look at Calvinistic Southern Baptists and say they are hyper; while the Calvinistic Southern Baptists look at the Limited Predestinarian Primitive Baptists and say they are hyper; while the Limited Predestinarian Primitive Baptists look at the Absolute Predestinarian Primitive Baptists and say they are hyper! You get the picture.

Many would think the Absoluters wouldn't have anybody to point the finger at, but then there's the
Outside the Camp folks who believe a true Christian "...obviously believes that Arminianism is a false gospel, that all who hold to it are lost, and that all who claim to believe the true gospel but who speak peace to those who bring a false gospel of Arminianism are lost." I'm not sure if there is anyone more hyper than that! ;-O

The point is not just about what the above groups believe, but to point out that "Hyper-Calvinism" is truly a matter of perspective. AND the use of the term is generally pejorative, a type of argumentum ad hominem debate sometimes called poisoning the well. The fact that one is a Hyper-Calvinist should be "proof" enough that they are wrong, shouldn't it?

Ultimately, if we're reading discussion about "Hyper-Calvinism" we must try to find in the context of the writer just whom he/she thinks is a Hyper-Calvinist to properly understand what is being written.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Liberty of Conscience

"There is one aspect of liberty of conscience in which the baptist is frequently misunderstood and sometimes baptist themselves have failed to grasp it. Whereas baptists have always claimed total liberty of conscience for all men so that the 'Turk and the Jew' should be afforded freedom to practise their faiths uncoerced by civil and clerical powers, yet within the christian church the baptist has affirmed and enforced a strict discipline of conformity to scriptural faith and practice. Hence, any toleration of heresy or deviation from biblical standards is utterly abhorrent to the baptist."

-- From The Baptist: An Historical and Theological Study of the Baptist Identity, by Jack Hoad (London: Grace Publications, 1986)

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:30ff. The story of the Good Samaritan is full of deep truth. Perhaps sometimes we are so intent on mining those nuggets that we miss the simple wealth strewn on the surface -- that we ought to be good helpful and compassionate neighbours.

Why should we help? be compassionate? be a good neighbour?

The condition of the hurting: "stripped of his raiment...wounded and...half dead" v. 30; The world is a sinful world full of hurting people. If this was a perfect place perhaps there would be no need. But it isn't and there is.

The unconcern of others: "a certain priest...saw him, he passed by on the other side...a Levite...came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side." vs. 31, 32; Jesus commanded Peter to "follow me", but Peter shifted attention by questioning what John was supposed to do. Jesus replied, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me." We are not responsible for others.

The command of the Saviour: "Go, and do thou likewise" v. 37 (cf. v. 27: "Thou shalt love...thy neighbour as thyself.") When Jesus commanded Peter to "follow me", Peter wanted to shift attention to John. Jesus replied, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me." The command of the Saviour ought to be enough. Everything else is secondary.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Singing Convention -- planning meeting

The 151st anniversary of the EAST TEXAS SACRED HARP SINGING CONVENTION will be held at the Community Center @ South High & Fairpark in Henderson, Texas, Saturday August 12th, and Sunday August 13th -- 9:30 a.m. til 2:30 a.m. (d.v.).

IF you are local enough to be interested and available, we are having our final planning meeting tomorrow -- Sunday July 9th -- at the Depot Museum in Henderson (514 N High St) at 2 o'clock p.m. We will meet under the pavilion. Come by and see the East Texas Convention historical marker that was erected last year, AND volunteer to help with some of the necessities of carrying on the convention.

Friday, July 07, 2006

In that day blog site

Ever since I knew how, I have carried a link to the "In that Day" blog site of Elder C. C. Morris. His purpose is to discuss Biblical eschatology. The blog has been inactive for awhile, but he is renewing it. If you've looked at it in the past and it wasn't active, drop back by and take a look in the next week or so.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

On Predestination a formative from two Latin words, prae (before), and destinatio (a purpose, destination, determination, etc.), so to predestinate is formed of prae and destino, of like import. Hence to predestinate is to purpose, to determine beforehand. So the Greek word rendered to predestinate, signifies to define, to bound, to determine, etc., beforehand. Hence predestination is a counseling, purposing or determining beforehand. And these words, as is well known, relate to the conclusion a person arrives at relative to his own future management, rather than to a rule to be observed by others. Thus men predestinate, not absolutely, at least not with certainty, for whilst all is certainty with God, time and chance happeneth to all men. A man predestinates to build a house; he predestinates the size, the form, the kind of materials, the class of workmen he will employ, etc., and if he knew, as God knows, he would predestinate the exact time and expense it should take; and this predestination is to govern his own arrangements in contracting for, and ordering the building, etc. So God’s predestination is that according to which He governs the world; and conducts all things relative to salvation and glory. It extends with the utmost precision to every event that occurs under His dominion, even to the fall of a sparrow, and to the hairs of our head, and to the small dust of the balance; for nations are counted as the small dust of the balance by Him; and His infinitude extends as directly to the notice of the one as the other, Matthew 10:29-30; Isaiah 40:15. So the term predestination is evidently used in the New Testament; as in Romans 8:29, "He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son". This is not given as a rule to which the elect must conform themselves, but a declaration of what God, by His grace, will do with, and for them. And so in Ephesians 1:5. Thus, while God’s decree forbade Adam’s eating of the tree of knowledge, He predestinated his eating of it; that is, God foreknowing with certainty that Adam, if left to encounter the temptation in his own creaturely weakness, would sin, predestinated so to leave him to meet the temptation, and to permit the temptation to be presented to him. So every sin which God permits to take place in the world, from the greatest to the least, from the crucifying of Christ to the parting of His garments among the soldiers, God predestinated its taking place and its working for the greater good. Acts 2:23, and 4:27-28; and Psalm 22:18, compared with Matthew 27:35. This predestination is not a constraining the will of the individuals, but a leaving them to act it out under the attending circumstances. Thus God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), permitting sin to transpire where He sees it for good, and restraining it in other cases; and constraining by His providence, or grace, to acts of goodness, etc. - Elder Samuel Trott, 1845

The scriptures are very clear that God predestinated the crucifixion of His Son: Acts 4:24-28 "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." God's counsel determined before (prooizo, same word also translated predestinate) the crucifixion of Christ. Consider also: Acts 2:23 "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:" and Luke 22:22 "And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!" If God determined before (predetermined or predestinated) the crucifixion of His Son, this shows the predestination is broader than just determining beforehand concerning those whom He would elect. Also Acts 17:26 indicates that at least some times and events are determined before: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;"- R. L. Vaughn

We do not know what is predestinated tomorrow, but tomorrow we will know a little of what was predestinated to come to pass yesterday. - Elder Stanley Phillips of Mississippi

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Plurality of Elders

Plurality of elders = pastors plural instead of pastor singular

The New Testament practice indicates a plurality of elders in each church. There is a consistent use of the word "elders" (plural) and the word "church" (singular). There were multiple leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:4), Philippi (Phil. 1:1), Ephesus (Acts 20:17ff.), and the churches to which James was writing (James 5:14). The use of "them" in Hebrews 13:7,17 also seems to be in agreement with the concept of plurality of elders.

Acts 14:23 - And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Acts 15:4 - And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
Acts 20:17 - And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.

Phil. 1:1 - Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

James 5:14 - Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

In the New Testament books, elder, bishop and pastor is one office/function; For example:

Titus 1:5-7 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;...

Acts 20:28 - Paul tells the elders at Ephesus to pastor the church over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers.

I Peter 5:1-4 Peter tells the elders to pastor and be responsible as overseers.

The plural elders are of equal standing; equal in the sense that there is not one ruling over the others. Jesus indicates the ideal for equal Christian servants in Matt 20, Mark 10, Luke 22. We can still recognize that among these equals there are those with differing gifts and even differing amounts of experience.

Matthew 20:25-27 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant...

A pastor should never be called the head of the church. There is one head, that is Jesus Christ.

Matt. 21:42 - Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

Eph. 1:22 - And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

Col. 1:18 - And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

The concept of someone "in charge" seems to come more from the world than from the New Testament. Take the apostles, for example (see Matt. 20:25-27). Which one did Christ put in charge over the others? Were they equal? Does this equality mean there was no leadership? Is there a New Testament example of one elder being in charge of the others?

This does not negate the fact that some elders may be gifted in one area and some in another. The exercise of those gifts provides leadership in various areas. The elders work together. There are differences in gifts and differences in amounts of experience. Needs, problems and circumstances arise, and leadership rises from within the eldership to meet those needs based on their gifts and experiences. One may lead in one instance and another in another.

One practical difference in what I am saying from those who disagree, is that "leading" elders move as leaders by exercising their spiritual gifts and having them recognized by the church, rather than being appointed to a "leadership position" over and above others. We must not fail to differentiate here between assigned leadership and natural leadership, gifts & calling (cf. Acts 9:15). When the church at Antioch set apart Paul & Barnabas, they did not put one "in charge" over the other. See Acts 13:1-4. They set them apart to the work to which God had called them. God obviously had a special calling for the Apostle Paul. Even at that, though, there was not a contrived authority under which Barnabas assumed he must always acquiesce to whatever Paul wanted. See Acts 15:36-39. There is probably also the apostolic element that must be figured in. I do not believe there was a "head apostle" and "assistant apostles". But the apostles in relation to the early church occupied a special place not held by any officers today.

Some of these cases on their own may seem to prove little. But when the consistency of them becomes apparent, they speak volumes.

Acts 14:23 - Paul & Barnabas ordained elders in every church in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. Nothing is notable that would indicate any of one the elders is different from the others. They appointed plural elders when they went to the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Pisidia). This they did in each place. This they did without electing or ordaining one elder in charge over the others.

Acts 15 (esp. 2,4,6,22,23) - With the church and the apostles, the elders deliberate the question "except ye be circumsized ye cannot be saved". No one elder seems to be distinguished from another. They are mentioned as a body or group. Paul & Barnabas take the lead in opening the session, declaring how God was working among the Gentiles. Certain Pharisees rejoin against their testimony. Peter rebutts, recalling how God sent him to Cornelius. Quietened by Peter's address, the body listens to Paul & Barnabas again. Then James takes the lead in closing the session, giving his "sentence" (judgment). This might be taken by some as authoritative, as in James making the decision. But should it be? The apostles, elders and the whole church did not acquiesce to James because of his authority, but gladly agreed because it seemed good to them.[This James is not James the brother of John (Acts 12:2), but apparently James the Lord's brother; seems to be called an apostle by Paul in Gal. 1:19]

Acts 20:17 - Paul called the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus. He addresses them equally, as a body, exhorting them to feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost made them overseers. He met with them all, taught them all, exhorted them all, warned them all, and prayed with them all. No one is drawn to the forefront for special charges or recognition.

Phil. 1:1 - The church at Philippi has plural elders. Paul & Timothy write to the saints at Philippi. Bishops are addressed, but none more than others.

1 Thess. 5:12,13 - The church at Thessalonica has plural elders. Those that labour among and are over are a "them" plural. "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." None are said to "be over" them more, or to be esteemed more.

I Timothy 5:17-20 - Those who "rule well" are plural in number. While this is general instruction to Timothy to teach others, the practical application appears to be plural elders in a singular church. Who is going to count them worthy of double honour? Who is going to not muzzle them? Who is going to hear accusations? Who is going to rebuke them? The local church.

Hebrews 13:7,17 - "Them which have the rule over you and watch for your souls" are described in a plural manner. One is not said to rule more or to watch more, or that one is to be obeyed more or remembered more.

James 5:14 - The sick are to call to themselves the elders of the church. Admittedly, the author is writing a general epistle, but in a real-life situation the singular sick person is instructed to call elders plural. The lack of a presbytery or plural eldership in a single church might not make that impossible, but would certainly mitigate against it being readily followed.

Rev. 2:1,8,12,18,3:1,7,14 - I mention this passage because of the common view that the "angel" of the church is the (singular) pastor. If this is true, it seems to be so in exception to all other cases noted. Several possibilities exist, including the fact that angel in its simplest meaning is simply the messenger from or to the church in each of these places. Or as the old English Baptist Hanserd Knollys contends, angel could be used figuratively as a collective noun representing the elders of the church (especially since this is a book of signs & symbols). Nevertheless, it seems that the main burden is for those against plurality of elders to show why their interpretation is not consistent with the rest of the New Testament.

Other mentions of elders in the churches or passages that might have application, IMO: Acts 11:30; Acts 13:1; Eph. 4:11; I Tim. 3:1-13; I Tim 4:14; Titus 1:5ff., I Pet. 5:1ff., & III John 9.

[Side note - the same idea appears to be true when the church at Jerusalem appoints deacons. Two rose to a prominence of sorts because of their gifts and activity. BUT, the church appointed seven men equally over the work and did not assign one a title or status over and above the others.]

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Two by Two, but what about the Sevens?

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female,” Genesis 7:2

Most of us know about God bringing the animals into the ark two by two, but what were these extra clean beasts Noah was to take in by sevens, male and female? There are a number of lessons we can draw from this.

The distinction of clean and unclean beasts, being before the flood, was in view of the sacrifices that Noah would need to offer to the Lord upon exiting from the ark after the waters subsided, Genesis 8:20. Although Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, Genesis 6:8 (Eternal electing grace), and God prepared that ark to preserve Noah and his family alive through the judgment of the world (a type of salvation), yet, it all could not be without the shed blood of innocent victims, all typical of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus- Hebrews 9:22.

Why clean animals? While some proclaim loudly today that ‘Christ made sin’ means that He actually became guilty with sin charged to Him, and died guilty of the sin of His people, NOTHING could be more foreign to the Scripture types and teachings. Why the importance of CLEAN animals? It is because they typified Christ the SPOTLESS LAMB, ‘who did NO sin, nor was guile found in his mouth,’ 1 Peter 2:22. Scripture says that He died THE JUST FOR THE UNJUST, 1 Peter 3:18, NOT the GUILTY for the unjust. He was made sin (legally and judicially CHARGED with the sin of His people BY IMPUTATION only). Our sin was laid on Him, not put in Him. He died FOR our sin, not IN it. He was numbered AMONG the transgressors, He was NOT a transgressor. He was affected BY our sin, not infected with it. His soul was made an offering for sin, not made sinful. It was for this reason that God was pleased to bruise Him, because He was just, holy and the PERFECT sacrifice, and thereby the JUST God and Savior, Isa. 45:21; Isa. 53:6.

The clean animals were to be taken into the ark by sevens. Is not seven the number of perfection, pointing to the perfect work of the Lord Jesus in His cross death, perfectly redeeming and justifying there ALL of His elect once for all? See Romans 3:24 with Hebrews 9:15.

by Ken Wimer in Shreveport Grace Church bulletin; July 2, 2006