September 2009

Monthly Archive

The Two Priesthoods: Believer and Ministerial

Posted by on 25 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Evangelical, John Stott, Priesthood

Evangelical Essentials (Part Ten)

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV)

From living lives of hostility and enmity towards God, Christians have been transformed by the Holy Spirit into ministers who bring the healing and grace of Christ to the least, lost, and the lonely of our world.

The ministerial priesthood is called to serve, nourish, sustain, and guide the priesthood of all believers. The believer’s priesthood is a call to be Christ in the secular workplaces of the world. Men are not ordained into the ministerial priesthood in order to remove the priesthood away from the people of God, but to encourage, empower, and equip the priestly people of God for their work in the world.

This doctrine of the priesthood of “all” believers is not the doctrine of the priesthood of “the” believer. In other words, every believer has a ministry, but that ministry is to be conducted in community while being accountable to church leadership and submitted to the direction and tradition of the historic church. This personal ministry of me and my Bible with God telling me, and me alone, the only correct interpretation of the meaning of Scripture is not the priesthood of all believers. Two priesthoods, ministerial and believers, serve the one Christ for the purpose of reaching the world for Christ.

The New Testament concept of the pastor is not of a person who jealously guards all ministry in his own hands, and successfully squashes all lay initiatives, but of one who helps and encourages all God’s people to discover, develop and exercise their gifts. His teaching and training are directed to this end, to enable the people of God to be a servant people, ministering actively but humbly according to their gifts in a world of alienation and pain. Thus, instead of monopolizing all ministry himself, he actually multiplies ministries.

John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today series: Leicester: IVP, 1979), 167.

When Can Women Teach?

Posted by on 24 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: My Sermons, Women in Ministry

Can Women Teach or Not?

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;

rather, she is to remain quiet.

1 Tim 2:12-13 (ESV)

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Prov 31:26 (ESV)

Today, I am preparing to preach for this Sunday, Proverbs 31: 10-31 on ‘The Wise Woman.  As I studied Proverbs 31:26, the statement about “teaching” seemed at first glance to contradict the Apostle Paul’s explicit instruction in 1 Timothy 2:12 about women not teaching men. I did some research and found an essay by John Piper and Wayne Grudem which directly addresses this subject with brevity and clarity.

Are You Saying That It Is All Right for Women to Teach Men Under Some Circumstances?

John Piper and Wayne Grudem (edited by David Kotter)

When Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent,” we do not understand him to mean an absolute prohibition of all teaching by women. Paul instructs the older women to “teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women” (Titus 2:3-4), and he commends the teaching that Eunice and Lois gave to their son and grandson Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14). Proverbs praises the ideal wife because “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26). Paul endorses women prophesying in church (1 Corinthians 11:5) and says that men “learn” by such prophesying (1 Corinthians 14:31) and that the members (presumably men and women) should “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). Then, of course, there is Priscilla at Aquila’s side correcting Apollos (Acts 18:26).

It is arbitrary to think that Paul had every form of teaching in mind in 1 Timothy 2:12. Teaching and learning are such broad terms that it is impossible that women not teach men and men not learn from women in some sense. There is a way that nature teaches (1 Corinthians 11:14) and a fig tree teaches (Matthew 24:32) and suffering teaches (Hebrews 5:8) and human behavior teaches (1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:1).

If Paul did not have every conceivable form of teaching and learning in mind, what did he mean? Along with the fact that the setting here is the church assembled for prayer and teaching (1 Timothy 2:8-10; 3:15), the best clue is the coupling of “teaching” with “having authority over men.” We would say that the teaching inappropriate for a woman is the teaching of men in settings or ways that dishonor the calling of men to bear the primary responsibility for teaching and leadership. This primary responsibility is to be carried by the pastors or elders. Therefore we think it is God’s will that only men bear the responsibility for this office.

“I Belong to My Brothers and Sisters”

Posted by on 22 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Church, J. I. Packer, Sanctification

The Case Against Individualism

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.

1 Cor. 12:12-14 (NKJV)

Individualism is a false conviction of the heart which says that I am not answerable, responsible, or obligated to anyone including friends, family, church leaders or even God. It is self-deception which masks itself as a “leading from God,” but portrays an attitude of rebellion toward God’s revealed will.

Individualism in the Christian life is a destructive force. Individualism says that I can live the Christian life without the joy of fellowship, without accountability, without encouragement, without guidance, and without the sacraments. An individualistic mindset shuns authority, responsibility, and community. It says that I can live the Christian life without you, the body of Christ. I don’t want to be challenged. I don’t want my blind spots exposed. I don’t want to minister to needy people and serve others. I want to do my own thing  just me, my Bible, and God.

Individualism fails to understand that the day I was baptized, I was brought into the Body of Christ and placed in covenant relationship with other believers. Individualism refuses to acknowledge the biblical truth that I cannot grow in my relationship with Jesus without the help and assistance of other believers (Eph. 4:11-13).

The Christian life is a “new community: a new family, a new pattern of human togetherness which results from the unity of the Lord’s people in the Lord, henceforth to function under the one Father as a family and a fellowship” (J.I. Packer).

By becoming a Christian, I belong to God and I belong to my brothers and sisters. It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a local church. My being in Christ means being in Christ with those others who are in Christ. This is my identity. This is our identity. . . . If the church is the body of Christ, then we should not live as disembodied Christians.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (Wheaton, Ill, Crossway Books, 2008), 41.

HT: Of First Importance

What of the Apocrypha?

Posted by on 19 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Apocrypha, Bible

The Septuagint and the Apocrypha

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 (NKJV)

The Apocrypha includes those books contained in the Greek Old Testament but not found in the Hebrew Bible, yet Earle E. Ellis notes: “No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocrypha, and no uniform Septuagint ‘Bible’ was ever the subject of discussion in the patristic church. In view of these facts the Septuagint codices appear to have been originally intended more as service books than as a defined and normative canon of Scripture.”

[The Old Testament in Early Christianity [WUNT 1.54; Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991), 34-35.]

HT: Michael Bird

Faith Works and Grace Works, Too.

Posted by on 17 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Evangelical, Faith, God's Grace, Good Works, John Piper, John Stott, Major Ian Thomas, Sanctification

Evangelical Essentials (Part Nine)

Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

Titus 2:13-14 (NLT)

Although good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow on after justification, can never atone for our sins or face the strict justice of God’s judgment, they are nevertheless pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ and necessarily spring from a true and living faith. Thus a living faith is as plainly known by its good works as a tree is known by its fruit.

Article Twelve,“A Contemporary Version of the 39 Articles of Religion,” available from; www.stjohnsanglican.org/39.doc.

Good Works as the Fruit of Salvation

No works can produce salvation. However, a faith-filled salvation will produce many good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not its cause or basis.

It seems that ‘good works’ is a general expression to cover everything a Christian says and does because he is a Christian, every outward and visible manifestation of his Christian faith . . . Rather we are to be ourselves, our true Christian selves, openly living the life described in the beatitudes, and not ashamed of Christ. Then people will see us and our good works, and seeing us will glorify God. For they will inevitably recognize that it is by the grace of God we are, what we are, that ‘our’ light is ‘his’ light, and that our works are his works done in us and through us.

[John Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, John Stott Daily Bible Study Email, August 14th, 2007 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1985).]

Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Good works can be described as the fruit of faith. An expectation of redemption is living in a godly manner. There is no place in the Christian life for claiming a “born from above” experience while giving no evidence of a changed life. A changed life is life that allows Christ to live His life in and through the believer (1 John 4:9).

This is the rest of faith. You relax, almost like a spectator, except that it is your hands with which He is at work, your lips with which He is speaking, your eyes with which He sees the need, your ears with which He hears the cry, and your heart with which He loves the lost.”

[Major Ian Thomas, The Indwelling Life of Christ: All of Him in All of Me (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2006). 99.]

Good works are not produced by the Christian, but good works are borne in the life of  the Christian by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We are fruit-bearers not fruit-producers. Grace works out the life of Christ in us.

Saving faith has intrinsic power to produce fruit.

[John Piper, The Pleasures of God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1991), 244.]

Good works or deeds display to the world the changed heart that Christ has created (Matt. 7:15-20). Faith in the finished work of Christ expresses itself in deeds done for God and others.

Although we cannot be saved by works, we also cannot be saved without them. Good works are not the way of salvation, but its proper and necessary evidence. A faith which does not express itself in works is dead.

[John Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1970), 127.]

Therefore, good works are the fruit of faith, they follow after justification, they are evidence of a changed heart, and therefore will flow from a life changed by the Cross.

Sex, Lies & Abortion

Posted by on 15 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Pro-Life

Dinesh D’Souza posted an excellent essay on the Christianity Today magazine website regarding the weakness of a pro-life argument that only addresses the humanity of the fetus. He points out the inherent weakness of arguing for the humanity of the fetus without addressing the sexual morality of the sixties sexual revolution and its corresponding result, the procreation of children. D’Souza establishes the connection between fornication and the feminist desire to have a lifestyle of sexual promiscuity without consequences.

Why then, in the face of its bad arguments, does the pro-choice movement continue to prevail legally and politically?

I think it’s because abortion is the debris of the sexual revolution. . . .

In order to have a sexual revolution, women must have the same sexual autonomy as man. But the laws of biology contradict this ideology, so feminists who have championed the sexual revolution . . . have found it necessary to denounce pregnancy as an invasion of the female body. . .

No one in the pro-choice camp, of course, wants to admit any of this. It’s not only politically embarrassing, it’s also painful to one’s self-image to acknowledge a willingness to sustain permissive sexual values by killing the unborn.

If I’m on the right track, pro-life arguments are not likely to succeed by simply continuing to stress the humanity of the fetus. The opposition already knows this, as probably do most women who have an abortion. Rather, the pro-life movement must take into account the larger cultural context of the sexual revolution that invisibly but surely sustains the triumphant advocates of abortion.

It won’t be easy but somehow the case against abortion must include a case against sexual libertinism.

It seems to me that pro-life churches have been pointing out the link between sexual immorality and the disregard for human life, but possibly pro-life organizations have not.

On Having a Missional Mindset

Posted by on 11 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Church, Missions

Missional is an attitude and an approach which recognizes that whether I am home or away my resident culture needs to be reached for Christ. A missional mindset recognizes that the North American culture is just as much in the need of the gospel as the deepest, darkest parts of Africa. In short, missional means being a missionary where you are from your church to your culture and in your context.

Missional implies taking the approach of a missionary—being indigenous to the culture, seeking to understand and learn, adapting methods to the mission field—but winding up in the biblical form of a church.

[Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2006), xii.]

Death by Discipleship

Posted by on 03 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Dallas Willard, Discipleship, Early Church Father

A Follower, Lover, and Learner of Jesus

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. . . . So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26-27,33 (ESV)

Discipleship means to walk with Jesus where he walks, go with him wherever he goes, study the words that he says, obey the instructions he gives, imitating his life as he lived it–even if it means certain death. Discipleship requires that Jesus be given primary allegiance: full and wholehearted devotion with special focus on obedience to his commands is required (Matt. 16: 24-26). Discipleship is a result and consequence of a genuine and living faith in Jesus’ sinless life, his shed blood, and glorious resurrection.

I gave as an offering my all to Him Who had won me and saved me, my property, my fame, my health, my very words… In considering all these things, I preferred Christ. And the words of God were made sweet as honeycombs to me, and I cried after knowledge and lifted up my voice for wisdom. There was moreover the moderation of anger, the curbing of the tongue, the restraint of the eyes, the discipline of the belly, and the trampling under foot of the glory which clings to the earth.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

Ambivalence in the life of a disciple toward Jesus’ lordship means no peace that passes all understanding, no full and complete experience of God’s unconditional love, no faith that trusts God’s eternal goodness, no hope in the midst of disappointing circumstances, no ability and power to do the right thing at the right time, and no strength to stand against Satan’s wiles and temptations (James 1:6-7). If he or she is double-minded, they will lack that abundance of life that Jesus spoke of and promised for every believer (John 10:10).

As a disciple of Jesus I am with him, by choice and by grace, learning from him how to live in the kingdom of God. This is the crucial idea. That means, we recall, how to live within the range of God’s effective will, his life flowing through mine. Another important way of putting this is to say that I am learning from Jesus to live my life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything that he did, but I am learning how to do everything that I do in the manner that he did all that he did.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997), 283.

Timothy George on the Lord’s Supper

Posted by on 01 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Timothy George

Holy Eucharist in the Thought of the Reformers

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

1 Cor. 10:16-17 (ESV)

I attended Beeson Divinity School at Samford University from the years 1998 to 2002 earning an M. Div. degree. I throughly enjoyed my time studying there: the teaching, relationships, and spiritual formation have proved invaluable to me as a presbyter in the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.) and as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

During my time at BDS, I had the opportunity of being Dean George’s Teaching Assistant. Dr. George is one of the foremost scholars on the Reformation Period in the English speaking world. I was privileged to watch him work and teach on a constant basis, his passion for church history and scholarly care were evident. His catholic spirit, gracious presence, and gifted teaching abilities exemplify the best in Evangelical scholarship and godly character. I am most grateful to Dr. George for his Dean’s Scholarship financed my way through my first two years at Beeson.

Recently, Dr. George wrote an insightful letter to the blog, Internet Monk, on the Reformers understanding of the Lord’s Supper. I post the entire piece here:

Question: How can Baptists respond to Catholic and Orthodox Christians who challenge our view of the Lord’s Supper as having no deeper historical/Biblical roots than Zwingli?

Answer: Among many Baptist Christians there is a growing awareness that the Supper of the Lord should have a more prominent (and frequent) place in the life of worship, as it certainly did in the early church. There is also the realization that a more robust doctrine of (what Calvin called) the real spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper is called for by the participationist language of the New Testament itself and is in keeping with the best traditions of Baptist life. No less a figure than Charles Haddon Spurgeon portrayed the Lord’s Supper as nothing less than an encounter with the living Christ himself: “At all times when you come to the communion table, count it to have been no ordinance of grace to you unless you have gone right through the veil into Christ’s own arms, or at least have touched his garment, feeling that the first object, the life and soul of the means of grace, is to touch Jesus Christ himself.”

For most of our history, Baptists have been more concerned with the externals of the Table—grape juice or real wine, who may preside, who may partake—rather than with the question of what actually goes on at this sacred meal. It is well known that Luther and Zwingli differed strongly, and actually broke fellowship with one another, over the meaning of the words of institution, “This is my body.” Historically, Baptists have belonged more to the Reformed (whether Zwinglian or Calvinist) side of that debate, but it is important to realize that all of the mainline reformers reacted against the displacement of the Lord’s Supper as the central focus of Christian worship in medieval Catholicism. They criticized the fact that the Eucharist had become clericalized (the service in Latin and only bread for the laity), commercialized (votive masses used as a fundraising scheme in much of the church), and scholasticized (the dogma of transubstantiation and the view of the mass as a sacrifice).

The reformers harked back to the teaching of the New Testament, the practice of the early church, and especially to the theology of St. Augustine. Augustine argued that in the sacrament the sign must be identified as a sign by a word spoken about it, thus making the sacrament itself a “visible word.” In commenting on John 6:50, Augustine wrote: “ ‘He who eats of this bread will not die.’ But that means the one who eats what belongs to the power of the sacrament, not simply to the visible sacrament; the one who eats inwardly, not merely outwardly; the one who eats the sacrament in the heart not just the one who crushes it with his teeth” (In Ev. Joh. Tract. 26.12). While Luther could speak of the manducatio impiorum, “the eating of the ungodly,” the Reformed tradition picked up Augustine’s distinction and emphasized the cruciality of faith for the proper reception of the beneficium of grace in the Supper. This same theology they found echoed in other pre-reformation figures including Ratramnus, Wycliffe, and Hus. What they rejected, in keeping with Luther, was an understanding of the sacrifice of the mass as an expression of works-righteousness, a theology which seemed to them to undermine the all-sufficiency of Jesus’s once-and-for-all death on the cross—where, as Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer put it, he offered “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

Since the sixteenth century, and especially in the liturgical renewal stemming from Vatican II, many of the changes called for by the reformers have been accepted in the practice of the Catholic Church. Yet important, church-dividing differences still remain and I think the Church of Rome is right to resist the kind of easy-going ecumenism that would ignore such differences in order to achieve a false unity. In our discussions with our Catholic brothers and sisters, we Baptists and evangelicals must learn to distinguish the unity we are called to affirm and the divisions we must still sustain. But this we should do in the spirit of Jesus’s high priestly prayer for his disciples in John 17—“that they may be one, Father, as you and I are one so that world may believe.”

Sources:

Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers

Steve Harmon, Towards Baptist Catholicity

Geoffrey Wainwright, Eucharist and Eschatology