Monday, September 30, 2013

12 Objections to Baptist Conventions


1. Conventions with their Secretaries and boards supplant the work of the Holy Spirit.
2. Conventions with the Secretaries and Boards not only supplant the Holy Spirit, but they also supplant the churches of Christ.
3. Those institutions with their Boards Secretaries exalt their own wisdom above inspired example.
4. Secretaries who are the creatures of Conventions and the main-springs of those institutions are “middle-men” standing between the churches which do the paying and the missionaries who do the work.
5. Boards and Secretaries collect money from the churches for missionary purposes and then appropriate much of it to other purposes than that for which the money was collected.
6. Under the pretense of missionary work those Boards and Secretaries often “supplement” the salaries of pastors, and that, too, of the stronger churches, and call this “missionary work.”
7. In order to run the business of the Southern Baptist Convention to its liking, an unscriptural office has been instituted and this office filled with unscriptural officers on exorbitant salaries and some of those officers vested with power subversive of the spirit as well as the letter of the gospel. (In this he was referring to the Foreign Mission Board with Corresponding Secretary, Editorial Secretary, Educational Secretary, Field Secretary, and Recording Secretary. rlv)
8. This kind of work leads to making false reports which do not represent the facts in the case.
9. This kind of work leads to and tries to justify the immoral practice of buying and selling votes.
10. The Southern Baptist Convention appropriates much of the money collected by its agents, in the way of buying property and having the same deeded to itself.
11. Convention Boards and Secretaries are a law unto themselves while they hold ministers amenable to them yet they themselves are amenable to no one.
12. Baptist Boards and Secretaries constitute a secret organization; not even their constituents, those who do the paying, know or can know, all the facts of the case.

Food and Health

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 6 Cancer-Fighting Superfoods -- “All the studies on cancer and nutrition point to eating plant-based foods for their phytonutrients and other special compounds.”
* 12 Surprising Sources of Caffeine -- "...the sneaky stimulant can pop up in unexpected places."
* Breast Health, a Great Reason to Love Peanut Butter and Jelly -- " New research indicates that older girls who regularly eat peanut butter, nuts, and other sources of vegetable protein and fat may reduce their risk of developing benign breast disease (BBD) by as much as 39 percent."
* Foods That Fight Cancer -- “No single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself.”
* The Honey Launderers: Uncovering the Largest Food Fraud in U.S. History -- “A second phase of the investigation began in 2011, when Homeland Security agents approached Honey Holding, ALW’s 'garbage can', and one of the biggest suppliers of honey to U.S. food companies. In 'Project Honeygate', as agents called it, Homeland Security had an agent work undercover for a full year as a director of procurement at Honey Holding.”
* The Southern Staple Everyone Should Know How to Make -- “The first few attempts were missing something. After a bit more research, we found several versions of this dish that benefit from a small shot of pickle juice because of its vinegary, sour flavor.”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sandy Valley and its congregation

In the deep south woods, in a remote region sheltered from the hustle and bustle of civilization, lies the sleepy little society of Sandy Valley. In a rustic building resting near a fresh stream good for baptizing and footwashing, meets the body of Christ. These yeoman stock, many of whose movements seldom bring them into the larger world, move and meet for their pleasure and God's purpose and not to please the passers-by. They are far from perfect, but few are anything less than sincere -- even in their faults and foibles. Life turns around family, freedom, and the body of Christ, with a sweet selfish satisfaction thrown in every now and then.

Reverend Nebbish Peacock, a rather large man, is the current preacher and something of an outsider, though he married Sandy Valley sweetheart Mary Dobbs. Mary is as kind and loving as she is pretty and petite, which covers faults the congregation might otherwise see in her husband. Nebbish has his pride, his pandering and his faintings, but he preaches the word of God with enough enterprise and lucidity so as to interest the body of Christ despite his leisurely delivery. Deacon Tal Goodnews is the oldest deacon and one of the older members of the body of Christ at Sandy Valley. The body's respect for his many years of service will usually carry them along the direction of his proffered advice. He may not know the ways of the world, but he is full of common sense. Several ministers are part of the Sandy Valley congregation -- including Elder Poden Tate -- whose lack of education is offset by his power, passion and knowledge of the word of God. Sandy Valley has its delinquents in both the congregation and the community on whom they must keep a watchful eye -- Ellis Woodenby, Fondren Gailey -- as well as a few sisters whose tongues may be a bit longer than their hair.

All in all, they're just folks. Like most of the rest of us.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What is a cult?

An intense local "stand-off" has been an active news story in East Texas for a month or so now. Parents of 26-year-old Catherine Grove of Arkansas claim their daughter is being "brainwashed" and held by members of The Church of Wells. Groves' parents and others have called The Church of Wells a cult. As a parent, I wouldn't want a religion to separate my children and me. On the other hand, Catherine is an adult and free to choose what she will do, where she will spend her life, and who and how she will worship.

Even though Wells is an East Texas town less than an hour's drive from my home, I have no direct knowledge of this church or this situation. I am not going to try to figure who is right and who is wrong (or what percentage of right and wrong might accrue to either side). My point in bringing this up is not to assess the problems in Wells, but to consider the oft-thrown-out accusation of a religious group being a cult.

What is a cult? Yesterday I heard Ron Rhodes on the radio speaking about this very thing. His view of a cult was a group that derivative from a "host" religion, claiming to be the true version of that religion while denying one or more orthodox and historic essentials of that religion. This is pretty much in accord with how I was raised to view a cult. For example, our church understood groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology to be cults because they denied certain orthodox essentials generally agreed upon by those denominated Christians.

In discussions about groups like the church at Wells, I believe a different definition is used (and maybe no definition at times). 

On web site says that cults are: [1] Exclusive (we're the only ones with the truth); [2] Secretive (certain teachings are not available to outsiders and sometimes only to certain members) and [3] Authoritarian (leader or leaders expect "total loyalty and unquestioned obedience").

One motivation for calling a group a cult is when they differ from the prevailing "status quo" of their surrounding society. They may look different, act different, maintain separation, or any number of things their "neighbors" find suspicious or offensive. It is dangerous for Christians to buy in to calling groups that are different cults according the new prevailing attitude. Yes, we may think that a group is unbiblical and outside the norm, but in a free society that holds freedom of religion, these believers have the right to follow their convictions. They must answer to God, but not to me. 

This latter way of describing a cult is popular in the secular media. Label a group a cult  -- like the Branch Davidians -- and suddenly it is widely popular for citizens to agree with sending troops to arrest or kill them and then justify it as a necessary action. 

Beware of buying into this mentality. One day "historic Christians" who desire to obey God rather than men may look like cults to the average American. Those who blend in will not be offensive. Where will you be?

News and views, 7 links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 5 Foods That Help  You Sleep -- "The good news is, science has found that many foods, drinks, herbs, and other natural sleep aids can help put you to sleep...naturally."
* Is It Good News That Cohabitation Rates Are Stalling? -- "...Wall Street Journal reports what, at first glance, Christians would receive as good news. We don’t see an increasing number of couples opting to live together before marriage."
* Matt Barber turns tables on 'homofascists' who put bakery out of business -- Read the piece carefully. It is satire, but makes a point.
* Pope says Church must end obsession with gays, contraception, abortion -- "His comments were welcomed by liberal Catholics; but they are likely to be viewed with concern by conservatives who have already expressed concern over Francis's failure to address publicly the issues stressed by his predecessor, Benedict."
* Preach Scripture, not 'Duck Dynasty' or politics, Luter says -- "Pastors, the most important thing we can do on Sunday mornings in our pulpit is not to pull out the latest story from Reader's Digest, not to pull out the latest story from National Geographic, not to tell the latest story on Duck Dynasty, but the best thing we can do ... is hear the Word of God."
* The Matthew Shepard Myth: Was it a hate crime? -- "There are valuable reasons for telling certain stories in a certain way at pivotal times, but that doesn’t mean we have to hold on to them once they’ve outlived their usefulness."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

If you've done it already, it's ok to do it

If you've done it already, it's OK to do it; or, two sins for the price of one?

Jesus taught that those who lust are adulterers in their hearts and those who hate are murderers. Some have taught (especially in the former case) that if it is in your heart you'd just as well do it.

Matthew 5:28   But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
I have heard this verse used -- either confusedly or deliberately -- to justify committing adultery. The thought process is that is lusted against a woman you have committed adultery. So, since you are already guilty of the act, you just as well go ahead and commit the act physically. The problem is that one sin is not justification for another. If you lust after a woman you have committed adultery with her in your heart. One sin. If you commit adultery with her in your body, you have added a second sin. The first requires repentance, not the piling of a second sin upon the other. If you've committed one sin, it does not make it OK to commit a second sin.

1 John 3:15   Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
If we applied the former logic applied to the case of lust to this verse, then if someone hates his brother he should just go ahead and kill him. I think most see the vacuity of such logic -- though some have probably tried it. Obviously, the thing to do if you hate your brother is to repent, not go ahead and kill him.  If you've committed the one sin, it does not justify the second sin.

Lust being adultery and hate being murder is very real. BUT it is not justification to follow up on the secret mental sin with the physical act.

7 quotes from 7 sources

"A man's real belief is that which he lives by. What a man believes is the thing he does, not the thing he thinks." -- George Macdonald

"Most teaching on sex inside the church is inadequate, and most teaching on it outside the church is perverted." -- Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, p. xiv

"A genuine faith in Jesus can reside in a very imperfect heart. Sometimes those imperfections get into our doctrine." -- copied

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -- Martin Luther King

"Don't speak until you can improve on the silence." -- copied from a church sign

"Whether people [leaving church services/from preaching] depart alone or in the Savior’s hand will mark the difference between futility and faith, legalism and true obedience, do-goodism and real godliness." -- Bryan Chapell

"Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity." -- Variations of this quote are credited to Rick Rigsby and Frank Leahy

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

7 Reasons Why 1 Corinthians 11:5 is most likely "in the church"

1. Paul praised them for keeping the ordinances he had delivered (v. 2).
2. A headcovering or the lack thereof (vs. 4-5) is a public rather than private issue.
3. Paul regulates both men (v. 4) and women (v. 5) praying and prophesying and gives no indication that the acts of the men and the women are in distinct settings. We know that men prayed and prophesied in the assembly.
4. Paul expresses his concerns to a plural "you", which is the object of his letter -- the church at Corinth (1:2). There is no contextual reason to suppose the "you" of 11:2-3, et al. is a different "you" than that of 11:17-18, et al.
5. The presence of the angels in reference to a headcovering (v. 10) most likely refers to worship; otherwise they are present at times when no headcovering would be expected -- sleeping, washing hair, etc.
6. Prophecy is a speaking gift whose end is someone listening, so therefore not a private gift. The main purpose of prophecy is the edification of the church (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:3-5,31).
7. The “have no such custom” argument in this context (v. 16) refers to customs in “the churches of God.”

Christ my all

On his Baptismal Birthday, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

God’s child in Christ adopted,—Christ my all—
What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply rather
Than forfeit that blessed name, by which I call
The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Father?
Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee,
Eternal Thou, and everlasting we.
The heir of heaven, henceforth I fear not death;
In Christ I live! in Christ I draw the breath
Of the true life! Let then earth, sea, and sky
Make war against me; on my front I show
Their mighty Master’s seal. In vain they try
To end my life, that can but end its woe.
Is that a death-bed where a Christian lies?
Yes, but not his—’Tis Death itself there dies.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A time for business

In many Baptist churches, voting or decision making has often degenerated into the 50.1% forcing their will on the 49.9%. In turn the 49.9% scour the bushes to find supporters to come to business meeting so they can become the 50.1% and force their will on the new 49.9%. Then the new 49.9% scour the bushes....
....and so on.

There is a better way. 

The church is a "decision-making" body
Christ in the Head. The decisions the church makes is to follow the commandments of their Head (not make laws). Colossians 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.
Decisions are made when all the church is gathered together (i.e. not by one individual or a select group). 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Decisions of the church are final (in the sense there is no higher ecclesiastical authority). Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

It is not about majority rule.
Unity is an enduring Bible principle. Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
The church should endeavor to come to the unity of the faith. It is not about majority rule, as in common democratic process. 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

The whole church – leadership and consensus
The "they" -- all 120 of Acts 1:15 -- under the leadership of Peter, and in unity and consensus, appointed two qualified brethren and sought the Lord's choice. Acts 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)...Acts 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
The whole multitude of disciples, guided by the leadership of the 12 apostles, chose 7 men to conduct the church business concerning widows. Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables...Acts 6:5-6 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
The whole church at Jerusalem, guided by the apostles and elders (especially Peter and James), unitedly chose men and sent a letter to the Gentile churches. Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:...Acts 15:22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
(Cf. Also Matthew 18:15-18; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 5 & 6; 2 Thess. 3:6-15)

How do we make it work in practice?

Francis and small things

According to Yahoo News, "In a dramatically blunt interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, Francis said the Church had 'locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules' and should not be so prone to condemn."

The new pope's views on things such as homosexuality and abortion appear to be a wide departure from his predecessor. The annual worldwide deaths of 43.8 million* unborn children should never be identified with "small things" or associated with "small-minded rules". That is outrageous. Roman Catholics should be ashamed of their leader on that count. This also reminds us of the ever-changing faith and practice of a church that claims to have a man who speaks for God.

* Guttmacher Institute stats for 2008, the most recent I found.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Father of Modern Landmarkism

A new book on the life of Benjamin Marcus Bogard is available from Mercer Press or Amazon.
The Father of Modern Landmarkism: the Life of Ben M. Bogard by J. Kristian Pratt, part of the James N. Griffith Series in Baptist Studies
An interesting collection of "Sermons & Lessons" by Bogard can be found HERE and four recorded sermons HERE.

Bogard's Pillars of Orthodoxy is online HERE.


Notedly quoted

"Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly." -- Francis Chan

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." -- Winston Churchill

"When you see a turtle on a gate post, you know he didn't get there by himself." -- unknown

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."
-- Omar Khayyám (translation by Edward Fitzgerald)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Preaching: differences and similarities

As I noted in yesterday's post, the sermon examples of Jesus and the apostles are the examples the Bibles supplies for our learning. If we cannot learn from them, we have no scriptural examples to follow! But the degree to which we may imitate these sermons must be understood in their context. We must understand there are some differences that will not be  When the apostles spoke by immediate inspiration of the Spirit they were speaking infallible Scripture to be handed down through time. When we speak we are mediating their message to our contemporary audiences. We do not speak infallibly, yet that is not cause to abandon spiritual leadership -- which we do have -- for enticing words of man's wisdom.

A favorite story I enjoyed hearing is a dialogue my father had with a young preacher they had called to the church. My Dad said something to him about the leadership of the Spirit. The preacher replied, "The Spirit doesn't have anything to do with my preaching." At this point in the story my Dad would add that the church had figured that out! Too many abandon any idea of spiritual guidance in preaching in favor of academic attainment and scholarly pursuits. For shame. Just because we aren't authoritative apostles with immediate inspiration doesn't mean we should abandon the power and authority we do have -- the Spirit of God and the Word of God.

New Testament preachers
Post-New Testament preachers
They had the Old Testament
We have Old & New Testaments
They were eyewitnesses
We have their eyewitness testimony
They had direct inspiration of the Spirit
We have the leadership of the Spirit
They had the gospel
We have the gospel
They preached to unbelievers & believers
We preach to unbelievers & believers
They preached Christ crucified
We preach Christ crucified
They preached not with enticing words
We do not preach with enticing words
They preached the gospel freely
We should preach the gospel freely
God was at work
God is still at work

We can learn from the differences between New Testament preachers & preaching and us. We can apply that learning to the benefit of our ourselves and our congregations. We can learn of the similarities between New Testament preaching and our preaching, and test whether ours measures up to God's standards.

Link 'em up, move 'em out

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Biblical-Era Town Discovered Along Sea of Galilee
Important Principles in Theological Discussion
Preaching, Part 2: The Method of Preaching
Preach the Word series
San Diego State University Arabic professor distributes map without Israel
Stop Using Facebook To Send A Message to People That You Won't Confront Directly and Privately
The Cadence of Good Preaching
The Priesthood of the Believer
The Truth, Not the Whole Truth, but Nothing but the Truth
The Worst Decision B. H. Carroll Never Made
Topical preaching

Friday, September 20, 2013

Answering 7 questions from Monday

Over the past 4 days I have posted on the subject of preaching and sermons. In the beginning, I asked 7 questions. Having investigated some of the preaching of the New Testament, I am prepared to suggest some answers to those questions. (Please understand much more study needs to be done on this subject.)

1. There are several "kinds" of sermons recorded in the New Testament. Some might be considered topical. Several relate God's redemptive history. Some might be called testimonies. Some are or include support or defense of doctrine (Acts 15), practice (Acts 2) and even "legal" (Acts 26). The closest to the pattern of the modern expository sermon might be the preaching of Philip to the eunuch. Though we are not told the details of Philip's words, we know that his teaching began with a text and a question about the meaning of that text.

2. I have not yet investigated the sermons of Jesus. I expect we will find a wide variety of teaching "styles", with a few possibly resembling the modern text-driven sermon while most do not.

3. When expository preaching is considered in what I feel is its most common presentation, we are hard pressed to find Peter, Paul, Stephen, James and others preaching these types of sermons.

4. The command to "preach the word" cannot strictly mean text-driven expository sermons, unless we are ready to admit that Peter, Paul, Stephen and others did not "preach the word". The one who laid down the mandate in 2 Timothy 4:2 did not preach that way, as far as I find in the record.

5. Is textual/expository preaching driven by a scriptural mandate, personal preference, education or something else? Answering this question fully requires investigation or survey of preachers and is outside the textual investigations that have preceded this post. It is my opinion (and nothing more) that text-driven expository preaching, though couched in scriptural mandate, is just as often mandated by logic, seminary training and personal preference.

6. The sermon examples of Jesus and the apostles must be followed. If not, we have no scriptural examples to follow! The imitation of these sermons must be mediated by several considerations. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the eternal omniscient Son of God. His sermons were perfect. They are perfect examples of how a perfect God can preach. He didn't just read and quote the book, but also said "I say unto you!" Such is too high and ultimately unattainable by sinful man. It does not mean we do not look to Christ for guidance in preaching. The apostles spoke by direct inspiration and also had a degree of authority we do not have. In a sense they were composing Scripture where we are reading and interpreting it. There are parts of the biblical examples we cannot attain; they are still the examples we have. We preach the same message (the word), from the same authority (God), by the same power (the Spirit) to the same kinds of people (unbelievers and believers).

7. One  flaw of modern preaching is the combination of following the single pastor model (instead of plural elders) and the always one-sided lecture to a group of people. A single individual delivering a discourse to a crowd is seen mostly in the examples of preaching the gospel to unbelievers. But even on those occasions there is often a level of interaction between the crowd (or someone "in the crowd") and the preacher that is unseen in the modern pulpit delivery method. It is my sense that the teaching of gathered believers took on a more interactive style of communication -- one that included dialogue and that could be stopped if someone else had a word of teaching (Cf. 1 Cor. 14). Further, the single pastor model places almost all of the communication in the lips of one man, whereas the plural elder model uses the gifts of several men for the basis of teaching and edification in the gathering of the church.

I do not object to expository sermons or text-driven preaching. Most of my preaching probably fits in that category. I have heard preachers who seem to preach the same sermon whether they start out expository, topical, or some other way. Regardless of what text they use, they always end up in the same place. But I object to narrowly identifying this one type of sermon -- expository -- with "preaching the word". Preaching the word is presenting the truth of the word of God in many different ways. One preaching style does not exhaust the command to "preach the word".

[Note: David Allen further clarifies expository sermons as "text-driven". In text-driven sermons "all the points of the sermon, main or subordinate, are derived exclusively from the text itself...When the sermon outline reflects the semantic outline of the text, the sermon will follow this trajectory..."]

7 Quotes about ministry

“You don’t deal with things as they’re supposed to be, you must deal with them as they are.” -- A. J. Kirkland (from memory, not an exact quote)

“We must deal with things the way they are. Don’t just leave things the way they are without trying to get them to where they ought to be.” -- R. L. Vaughn

“Ministry is often the conflict of the ideal and the real.” -- Dave Miller

“Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work.” -- Oswald Chambers

“Ministry is the least important thing. You cannot not minister if you are in communion with God and live in community.” -- Henri Nouwen

“It is one of the ironies of the ministry that the very man who works in God's name is often hardest put to find time for God. The parents of Jesus lost Him at church, and they were not the last ones to lose Him there.” -- Vance Havner

“It's amazing how many people go into the ministry who don't really like to be with people.” -- John Piper

Thursday, September 19, 2013

3 "church" sermons

In the posts of Tuesday and Wednesday, I considered some of preaching to unbelievers in the book of Acts. Today we will consider three occasions when the speaker or speakers addressed a church/gathering of disciples.

Peter's defense & testimony before the Jerusalem Church, Acts 11:4-18.
After Peter preached in Caesarea, the word was out; good to some -- the Gentiles has received God's word -- and bad to others -- Peter had eaten with uncircumcized Gentiles. It was necessary for Peter to give account of himself and the progress of the gospel. He tells of his vision and associated events, including traveling to Caesarea at God's insistence (he also had witnesses). He identifies this experience with their experience "at the beginning" (Pentecost) and quotes Jesus's promise about the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Everything is attributed to God, and their can be no resistance. The church is satisfied and glorifies God. This preaching by Peter is much in the form of testimony rather than expositional preaching, and the only scripture quoted (as a "proof-text") is the parting promise of their Lord.

Did Peter "preach the word" to the Jerusalem Church?

Peter, James, and the Jerusalem Council, Acts 15:7-21.
The church at Jerusalem came together to consider the effect of doctrine taught by "certain which went out from us." The dissension was over the relationship of salvation to the law of Moses, particularly circumcision. This interactive meeting addressed the concerns of the disciples, and includes speech by Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James. The words of Paul and Barnabas are not recorded, only that they testified of God's work among the Gentiles.

Peter's teaching consists of reflection and testimony. He draws their attention to his preaching in Caesarea, when God opened up the field of the Gentiles, concluding with the observation that both Jews and Gentiles are saved by grace, not law. James claims their attention and references Peter's testimony. He finds agreement in prophetic testimony with the experience of Peter (Amos 9:11). He does not further expound on the prophecy, but uses it as a basis for judgment that the Gentiles not be troubled with Jewish ways -- though he gives a recommendation whereby Gentiles might not be offensive to their Jewish neighbors. James reference to Amos might be nearer to the dreaded "proof-text" than to an expository text of a sermon. Nothing in these speeches before the church in Jerusalem looks like the "mandated" expository sermon, and calls in question whether the apostles ever had any such mandate.

Did Peter and James "preach the word" at the Jerusalem council?

Paul at Troas, Acts 20:7-12.
Unlike the first two accounts reviewed, Luke does not record the content of Paul's speech at Troas. Later in this chapter, a lengthy "farewell speech" to the elders of the church at Ephesus is recorded. Yet meeting at Troas yields some interesting information. From the time of coming together until midnight, Paul preached at Troas. After an interruption of a young man falling from a third floor window, Paul broke bread and talked again until day break. No thirty minute sermon for Paul! More like a 12 hour one. Considering the context and word choice of Luke (dielegeto), it is likely that this preaching done by Paul at Troas was not a nearly 12-hour marathon speech, but rather a dialogue conducted by Paul with the brethren at Troas. There is no information to indicate whether Paul chose a text to concentrate on and expound for this preaching session, or that the dialogue ebbed and flowed as it went.

Did Paul "preach the word" at Troas?

Over three days I have investigated 8 sermons from the book of Acts with an eye on whether we might find any expository sermons. The evidence for them is weak, if we're looking for a "mandate". There are many more sermons or sermon references, and perhaps someone will think that I have tried to choose to avoid the inevitable. Please review such records yourself and bring forward any testimony I have missed. I don't think the record denies that we should preach expository sermons, but rather indicates it is only part of the type of speaking that should go on either in church or before the world. There are defenses, testimonies, dialogues and more. It would be wrong on our part to pick our preference and exalt it to first place just because it is our preference.

More links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* A new Utah polygamous family on reality TV  "Brady Williams has five wives, 24 children but no organized religion."
* Don’t Store Your Treasures in Holey Buckets "I can remember when Augustine was born, but not where I put my keys. I know my wife’s birthday, her social security number, and the phone number she had when we were in high school, but for the life of me I can’t remember what she wants for Christmas..."
*  Michael Haykin on Biblical Meditation "In the circles in which I run, many evangelicals are nervous about meditation, mostly because they equate meditation with anti- or sub-Christian practices."
* Trapped: The Church Vocation Issue We Don't Talk About "It’s one thing to keep your job as a realtor for a few years while you figure out what your next move will be. It’s another thing to keep preaching the Word of God on Sunday mornings when you don’t want to be there anymore."
* What’s the Deal with the “T” in LGBT? Those advocating transgender rights...argue that self-perception is sacred and must never be challenged, either by Christian theology or physical realities.
* Why is Rehabilitating Christians OK? " is okay for Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries to seek a sort of conversion therapy if you are Christian business owners who seek to life and work by your Christian convictions."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

3 "evangelistic" sermons

Yesterday in What kinds of sermons? I considered two of the best known sermons in the book of Acts -- Peter on Pentecost and Paul at Mars Hill. Neither of these sermons yield much evidence to support modern expository preaching as the mandate for the pulpit. Today I will consider three more in which Philip, Peter and Paul preach to unbelievers -- a Jewish proselyte, Gentile "God-fearers", and Jews & "God-fearers" at a synagogue.

Philip to the eunuch, Acts 8:26-40.
The 8th chapter of Acts is hemmed in by preaching beginning to end. Luke presents persecution as the cause of scattering the church, with the "scatterees" going every where "preaching the word" (Cf. 1 Tim. 4:2). Luke then focuses on one of the scattered flock, Philip, as he goes to Samaria and preaches Christ. The author provides no excerpts of the spoken words. Soon after God calls Philip to go south where he meets a eunuch returning from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. The eunuch is reading scripture -- Isaiah 53:7-8. Philip begins at the very place the eunuch is reading and preached unto him Jesus. Some will identify this as personal evangelism/witnessing rather than a sermon. But just perhaps this hints that we don't know exactly what "preaching" is. Though we don't know the exact content of Philip's preaching, the context suggests this as one of closest examples of expository preaching -- and the preacher didn't even choose the text!

Did Philip "preach the word" to the eunuch?

Peter to Cornelius's household, Acts 10:34-44.
Peter is called by God and three messengers to go to Caesarea to preach to the Gentiles. When he opens his mouth, he witnesses to his new-found perception of a God bigger than the Jews. He goes back to the beginning -- John's baptism -- and testifies of his eyewitness account of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. He takes no scripture text, though he does allude to it, especially the fact that Jesus is the one of whom the prophets foretold. Before the preacher can finish his sermon, God pours out His Spirit on the Gentiles. They speak in tongues and magnified God. Any further sermon was redundant for the moment, and Peter called on witnesses to agree to their baptism. Nothing in the record of Peter's sermon in Caesarea hints of a comparison to expository preaching.

Did Peter "preach the word" to Cornelius's household?

Paul at Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13:15-42.
Paul and Barnabas are called to preach the gospel in regions beyond. Answering that call, they make their way from Antioch in Syria to Antioch in Pisidia. On the sabbath day they visit the synagogue services. As visiting Jews they are given an opportunity to exhort the attendees. Paul does not read a specific text, though one could wonder if he starts where "the reading of the law and the prophets" left off. He traces the redemptive history of God with the calling of Abraham, Isaac and Israel ("our fathers"). When he comes to David, he introduces Jesus as the son of David and the Saviour. He brings the testimony up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. He introduces quotes from the Psalms to support the doctrine of the resurrection. He presents the power of this man to justify them where the law could not, and finally concludes with a scriptural warning from the prophet Habakkuk. Though this message is full of scriptural history and references, there is no exposing of a specific text to the congregation.

Did Paul "preach the word" in Antioch Pisidia?

Considering three more notable examples, we see little support of a scriptural mandate for expository sermons. Nevertheless we find sermons full of "preaching the word". Surely no Bible-believers will reject than conclusion.

Carroll – B. H. – was a “Landmarker”

Jason Allen gets it wrong in The Worst Decision B. H. Carroll Never Made. Allen wrote a good article about an interesting historical incident, but he made one glaring error – that B. H. Carroll was not a “Landmark” Baptist. Allen writes, “While Carroll agitated for Whitsitt’s removal, he never fully embraced the Landmark understanding of Baptist origins as championed by his younger brother J. M. Carroll.” Allen credits Leon McBeth as the source of this information. [H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville: Broadman, 1987), 670.] Nevertheless, McBeth merely says it without proof.* In contrast to Allen’s and McBeth’s assertion, B. H. Carroll wrote, for example, this Landmarkist statement: “Jesus said, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ I do not believe they have. They have never been able to convince me that the gates of hell have prevailed against the church. I believe that God not only has had people in all ages, but that he has had an organized people...I do not undervalue church history, but far more important to me than fallible human records of passing events is the New Testament forecast of church history. The former may err – the latter never.” [From Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews in An Interpretation of the English Bible]

B. H. Carroll is a giant among Southern Baptists. Though he has been dead for almost 100 years, he “yet speaks”. Love and admiration for Carroll combined with despising Landmarkism create a strange mix for anti- and non-Landmark Southern Baptists to distort, misinterpret or reinterpret history. Landmark Southern Baptist historian Ben Stratton has addressed this briefly in A Response to Errors on Landmarkism.

I would simply add, “do your homework and don’t let your biases distort history.” Antis, don’t redefine Landmarkism so narrowly, carefully and complexly so that you can include those you despise and exclude your “favorites”. Carroll was not a “Landmark” come-out-er, but he was a “Landmark” stay-in-er. He held all the tenets of classic Landmarkism – Baptist church perpetuity, rejection of alien immersion and so on.

* Had McBeth any real information proving his assertion, it would have been nice for him to reference it rather than just reference J. M. Carroll’s Trail of Blood booklet.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What kinds of sermons?

What kinds of sermons are recorded in the New Testament? How many of them, if any, follow the pattern of the modern expository sermon? If some or all of them are not expository, what are they? 

Peter on Pentecost, Act 2:14-40.
Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost is one of the most notable biblical sermons, outside those of Jesus Christ Himself. It is the longest in terms of actual content that is recorded. It is the first, with the possible exception of Peter's address to the 120 disciples in Acts 1:. In this sermon Peter accomplishes 2 or 3 functions. He explains the phenomena that occur, then directs their attention to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He quotes and explains scripture to support the testimony of Jesus' resurrection. Finally, Peter directly interacts with the question from the crowd interrupts, as well testifying of Jesus and exhorting the crowd "with many other words" that Luke did not record in the book of Acts.

Would Peter's sermon be described as expository in the commonly accepted definition of the term? Only by stretching the definition to include Peter's sermon can Peter's sermon be described as an expository sermon. Peter did not choose a text to expound, find his points in it or focus his thoughts around it. He did use scripture. First, he uses Joel in a "this is that" explanation rather than an exposition. Second, Psalms with exposition, but more as a "proof text" than as a text that stands as the foundation of an expositional sermon. I'm not sure what type of descriptor best describes Peter's sermon -- topical, maybe? I'm pretty sure it isn't expository!

Did Peter "preach the word" on Pentecost?

Paul on Mars Hill, Acts 17:22-31.
Paul's sermon at Mars Hill in Athens is another well-known and remembered sermon. It is an address to philosophers who gather to hear him explain more about Jesus Christ. No text of scripture is used, for exposition or otherwise (there certainly are allusions to scripture). Paul begins with a burden on his heart regarding the superstition of the Athenians, and bridges from that superstition to present the true God and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. While not quoting on explaining scripture, Paul does quote some of their own poets to show that they are so close and yet so far -- almost grasping the truth yet stumbling around as one blind. He appears to have been interrupted when beginning to expound on the resurrection, though perhaps there is more said than is recorded. The session ends with some deriding Paul and some wanting to hear more.

Would Paul's sermon be described as expository in the commonly accepted definition of the term? Certainly not. There is no text of scripture that serves as the foundation of the sermon, and therefore no exposition of said scripture. It most likely fall under a "topical" descriptor.

Did Paul "preach the word" on Mars Hill?

These are only two examples among many, and all the many should also be consulted and considered. But it is worthy of notice that two of the most memorable sermons of the books of Acts should not be described as expository sermons. This "lays the ax to the root of the tree" that expository sermons are the biblically mandated sermons.

In these and others, Peter and Paul are not just preaching sermons but they are "making scripture" as well. They spoke with a direct and immediate inspiration of a kind not available to the preacher today. This should not frighten us away from these examples. But it should give us pause and bring us to them in diligent consideration. To what extent can we follow the examples of sermons by immediate inspiration? If we cannot follow with direct and immediate inspiration, should we follow them at all? It is intriguing – if not much much more – that the Holy Spirit would directly inspire sermons that are not expository, if that is the kind of sermon mandated in the Scriptures.

"Alliterated" sermons

The Center For Expository Bible Preaching states that an "alliterated sermon is easier to read, preach and listen to." Says who? (besides them of course) But what authority says this? Some professor of preaching? He didn't ask me. I find it not easier, but annoying and cloying to listen to "an alliterated sermon". Give us a break. Alliteration, like chocolate, should be for special occasions rather than a steady diet!

At least some scholars are getting on the right page. David Allen, professor of preaching at Southwestern Seminary, writes, "I am not a fan of using alliteration in outlines very much these days."

Monday, September 16, 2013

True New Testament Preaching, 7 questions

Because of Paul’s mandate to “Preach the Word,” (II Tim 4:2), expository preaching is "theologically mandated by Scripture." So says David Allen, professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Expository preaching "is preaching the text of Scripture, explaining it, illustrating it, and applying it...takes a text (a cohesive and structured expression of language that intends a specific effect) of Scripture, engages in exegesis to determine the meaning of that text of Scripture, constructs the fruit of that exegesis into a sermon (a discourse that explains the meaning of that text to people, illustrating and applying it as well)..."

I have found much on the World Wide Web written about sermons. A good bit of it claims that expository/exegetical/textual preaching is the kind of preaching most faithful to the Bible. This is usually supported by theological (such as Allen's above), logical and practical arguments (mostly these two). It is discouraging and disheartening that almost none of the discussions interact with the biblical "sermons" found in the New Testament. If they do, at least I have not found it.

On his heartcoreMethodist blog, Ted Campbell asks, “Is it possible that what the New Testament means by preaching is not quite the same phenomenon that goes by the name 'preaching' today?” This question is on the right track, but curiously, Campbell ran off the track pretty quickly. His thoughts centered on how brief were the "four verbatim sermons" by Peter and Paul. According to Campbell, he "timed the Greek text of Acts 2:14b-36, reading at a moderate pace." This experiment found the duration of Peter's sermon on Pentecost — "the longest recorded in the New Testament" — was "six minutes and fifteen seconds." He runs off the track when he chides those who think these texts only recorded summaries of these sermons with holding "the wickedest excuse for longer sermons." Campbell writes, "there’s nothing in the New Testament texts or in the ancient contexts to suggest that [these are not verbatim sermons but only summaries]." Surely Luke's statement (found in verse 40) that "with many other words did he [Peter] testify and exhort" at least suggest it! (And the timeline in Acts 3:1-4:3 suggests Peter's sermon and associated discussion in the temple area could have been up to three hours -- from the ninth hour until eventide, roughly 3 pm to 6 pm.)

The New Testament book of Acts records from possibly around 12 to 42 sermons – according to what you count as a sermon (e.g. is Acts 1:15-22 a sermon) and whether you count the mentions of sermons/preaching that do not record any of the content of the sermon. These must be engaged in any discussion of preaching and how sermons ought to function. It is perhaps that they do not fit well our preconceived ideas that we do not enter them into the testimony. (And this says nothing of the sermons of our supreme teacher and example, Jesus Christ.)

For those who demand expository sermons are "theologically mandated by Scripture" or are "most faithful to the Bible" we must ask the following questions.

1. What kinds of sermons are recorded in the New Testament? How many of them, if any, follow the pattern of the modern expository sermon?
2. Did Jesus preach topical sermons, textual sermons, none of the above, all or the above, or something else?
3. Is there any biblical record of Peter, Paul or any of the disciples preaching expository sermons (textually from a book or books of the Bible)?
4. Why does the command to "preach the word" mean expository sermons, especially if the one who laid down this mandate did not preach that way?
5. Is textual/expository preaching driven by a scriptural mandate, personal preference, education or something else?

But we should also consider:

6. To what extent do we follow the sermon examples of Jesus and the apostles, considering they spoke with a degree of inspiration and authority we do not have?
7. Were what we call sermons -- a single individual engaging in discourse or "lecture" to a crowd of people -- ever the basis of teaching and edification in the gathering of the church, or more for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to unevangelized peoples?

Lord willing, I hope to continue to engage this topic and these questions, first considering sermons of the book of Acts tomorrow.

[Note: such discussion is further impeded by the fact that phrases such as "expository preaching" and "topical preaching" do not always mean the same things to all people.]