God’s Promise

After my conversion to Christianity, late in life, I wanted everyone to know the forgiveness, acceptance, and peace I experienced from God’s saving grace.  The Christian experience was not a fantasy.  I knew that my experience was grounded in reality.  What I did not know was whether or not God’s promises were applicable to me?  What about Joshua?  Did he know that God’s promises were applicable to him?   What about you?

Immediately following the transition from Moses to Joshua God made a promise to Joshua.  God said, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh. 1:5).  Wow!  You mean God said He would never leave or forsake Joshua.  Yes, not only Joshua, but God also makes that promise to you.  God’s children need to be constantly reminded of God’s presence.  As you face the transitions of life, the assurance of God’s presence and His promises will sustain you.

Think back through this past week or this past year.  Did you encounter some bumps in the road?  Maybe a death in the family, a serious illness, a financial setback or at the very least a flat tire which made you late for an appointment was a bump in the road for you.  Was God with you through the transition?  Sure He was, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.  Joshua was reminded of the previous faithfulness of God.  God was with Moses during some difficult transitions and Moses was aware of God’s presence.  How many times does Moses refer to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?”  Too many to mention, but the point is that God is not just the God of three generations.  He is the God of all generations.  It was a reminder to Moses that God was with all previous generations, because God is an eternal God.  The eternality of God is our benchmark to look back and see how God carried us through the transitions of life.

We live in a fast paced world, a technical world, and an image producing world.  These characteristics do not serve well to remind us of God’s presence.  So, you may ask, how can I be reminded of God’s past faithfulness.  More particularly how will God’s past faithfulness affect my present circumstances?

Make sure you have a favorable relationship with God. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “believe and you will be saved.”  Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to follow the ways of the Lord. Read the Word of God.  You cannot and will not ever understand God’s promises unless you read the Bible. Read church history and don’t think for one minute that you will not be as spiritual as the next person.  God’s promises to help us during the transitions of life are evident from reading church history. Two thousand years of church history reveals God keeping His promises and man breaking his promises.  The failure of the evangelical church to teach church history within the agenda of Christian Education robs Christianity of the great revivals and reformations.  To ignore nearly two thousand years of church history will create a vacuum in the demonstrated promises of God.  Don’t deprive yourself of the joy of seeing how God has provided for and protected His children throughout the history of the church. God’s faithfulness is evident every day.  And for sure, ponder those transitions you experienced and overcame by the grace of God!  Write the transitions in a journal, because next week, next month, or next year you will need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

Most of us make it through transitions and say, “thank goodness it’s over.”  During my undergraduate work at Columbia International University, I had the opportunity to become friends with many married students.  A married student with a couple of children taking a full load was likely to face financial difficulties at one time or another.  I remember one student telling me that he was thankful for God’s gracious hand as he went through some difficult times.  We are all thankful for God’s gracious promises, but most of us often face transitions with uncertainty about the future.  Do you sometimes have that feeling that the road up ahead has some big bumps?  Do you wonder how you will make it over those bumps?

God told Joshua, “I will be with you.”  The Hebrew verb translated “will be” refers to a future action as good as accomplished.  It’s like your favorite basketball team leading by thirty one points with only thirty seconds left in the game.  You could say “we’ve won the game.”   When God called Moses to the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God promised “to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land” (Exodus 3:8).  God’s plan did not change no matter how many transitions the Israelites faced or how difficult they may be.  For the Israelites in the Old Testament and the Christians in the New Testament, God’s great promise is His special and gracious presence.  During the teenage years there will be an outburst of transitions.  As teenagers become young adults new responsibilities bring more transitions.  When a single person becomes engaged and marriage takes place, then you have life transitions.  If your un-married daughter announces she is pregnant, your homosexual son comes out of the closet, or you lose your mate, then you are facing those transitions in life that you thought would happen to the other person.  When the transitions come, and they will, remember God’s past promises are also future promises.  Trust Him today for the rest of your life.  The words of the Psalmist are present tense as he says “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God” (Psalm 25:1,2).  The Psalmist also looks to the future with positive expectations as he says “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

 

Two Necessary Principles for Church Government

Contentious times prevail in our country and the various churches in the United States.  There is no order or harmony in civil government or church government. Both have a constitution but the state does not follow the secular constitution and particular churches do not follow the sacred constitution.  My primary concern is the malicious mistreatment of the sacred constitution, commonly known as the Bible.

I believe in God!  I believe in Jesus Christ!  I believe the Bible teaches predestination! All these are familiar assertions frequently heard from the lips of Christians everywhere.  Muslims and Christians believe in God, but which God.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) and the Methodist Church believe in Jesus Christ, but which Jesus Christ.  Baptists and Presbyterians believe in predestination, but which view of predestination.

Theological liberals have accused theological conservatives with divisiveness because of doctrine.  In fact the war cry of the liberals during the middle of the 20th century was “doctrine divides, service unites.”  They were wrong.  However, I grant that the spirit of the postmodern age opens the door for a form of neo-ecumenism.  Doctrine no longer divides because the legitimacy and credibility of a creed has become personal relative among many creedal and confessional churches.  (Denial will not ease the pain of this truth.)  Every branch of the church has been touched by postmodern theory, to a greater or lesser degree.

What kind of church and confession are we passing on to our offspring?  If churches follow their current neo-ecumenical course, there will be no doctrinal distinctions.  Everyone will do what is right in his own eyes and loudly proclaim that “we must agree to disagree.”  It is not possible to agree to disagree. It will not stand the test  of logic and intelligent discourse.  It is possible to say that one or the other is wrong and maybe both are wrong.  To agree to disagree is to fan the fire of ecumenism.  It will destroy the church by deception.  We should all remember that Jesus called some churches “synagogues of Satan” because they had a false profession (Revelation 3:9).  The only protection the church has from “false professions” is the biblical form of church government. God designed the government of the church to protect it from false doctrine and promote order and harmony.

The reason that various denominations have so many different gospels and so many different doctrines can be found in the fact that although they may have one common creed, they have an unbiblical form of church government. Churches everywhere seem to have forgotten that God is the governor of the Universe.  The Word of God in the Book of Psalms declares,  “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).  God’s government must be the factor that determines church government.  Common law and humanly devised statute law is not sufficient to rule God’s kingdom.

This generation of God’s people is past due on their responsibility to call the entire church to task on the very issue that has divided the church.  What has divided the church?  Is it the doctrine of God’s saving grace?  Is it the doctrine of God’s holiness and man’s responsibility?  Is it over the consummation of all things?  No, the church is divided over the government of His church.

Since we believe the gospel and we believe that born again sinners need to hear the gospel, then it would seem normal and sensible for God to give us the means to preach and teach the gospel and for that matter preach and teach the whole counsel of God.  However, the condition necessary for the church to determine who has the right and authority to decide which gospel is the right gospel and which doctrine is the right doctrine is biblical church government.

The reason the church is divided and the reason there are so many denominations is they have not determined who has the right and who has the authority to settle a controversy in the church.

Paul faced the same dilemma in his day as we face today.  There were two different versions of the gospel.  In Acts 15 “some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue (Acts 15:1,2).  According to one gospel salvation is by grace through faith in Christ.  The other gospel taught salvation by grace through faith in Christ plus the necessity of circumcision according to the custom of Moses.  Please notice that Luke brings to our attention the fact that the brethren were the subjects placed under the duplicity of doctrine.

If they are brethren, they should have every desire to settle the controversy.   A brother implies kinship, a covenant relationship and therefore a unity of doctrine should be the norm.  Instead the church was divided over the question of keeping the law of God for the salvation of the soul.  Brethren are sinners and subject to disagree and find themselves on the opposite end of some doctrine, but the Bible makes it clear that Paul could not live with two different gospels.  Neither did Paul seek the advice of two church courts.  If they were brethren it would seem that they would be willing to discuss the controversy and come to unanimous decision (See Acts 15).

The Governor of the universe gave two principles so His people could establish the biblical form of church government.  The first principle is the Word of Truth.  This principle calls for constitutional government.   John Calvin recognized this principle in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Under the heading “necessity of church constitutions Calvin said, “many unlettered persons, when they are told that men’s consciences are impiously bound by human traditions, and God is worshipped in vain, apply the same erasure to all the laws by which the order of the church is shaped” (Institutes 4.10.27).  He is right because man-centered worship tends to replace God-centered worship.  The same principle applies to the government of the church.  Calvin continues:  “Yet since such diversity exists in the customs of men, such variety in their minds, such conflicts in their judgments and dispositions, no organization, is sufficiently strong unless constituted with definite laws…Therefore…when churches are deprived of them, their very sinews disintegrate and they are wholly deformed and scattered” (Institutes 4.10.27).

God regulates the manner in which the church must be governed.  When the church is deprived of God’s regulation and God’s constitution of church government, then the church is deprived of God’s government. At the present time the evangelical church has not agreed on the doctrine of God’s government.  The prophet Amos left a masterpiece for the New Testament church.  “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

God’s government is constitutional.  However, the contemporary church has heard little if any about God’s plan for constitutional church government.  There is a tendency to ignore the principles of God’s government as unimportant to the congregation.

The government of the church is under the supreme headship of Jesus Christ. It is well known that there must proceed from the headship of Christ a particular form of church government. The government of the church is not merely an optional stand in for modernity’s managerialism.   The principles of church government must be founded upon the Word of God. Jonathan Edwards, although a Congregationalist, said to the Scottish Presbyterian minister, Ebenezer Erskine, that “as to the Presbyterian government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of church government in this land; and the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the Word of God, and the reason and nature of things” (The Works of J. Edwards, Hickman ed., vol. 1, page cxxi). It is true that many in the history of the church understood that the guiding principles in Scripture demand a representative form of church government.  Edwards like so many more seemed content with what they viewed as an acceptable form of church government, thus denying the ultimate authority given to the elders by the Lord Jesus Christ.  The spiritual government of the church is not merely pragmatic or utilitarian. The government of the church is the source of order and authority for the church to carry out its mission.  The church cannot carry out its mission of making disciples without sound biblical God appointed church government.

The second principle God gave His people to establish a biblical form of church government is “rule by order.”  The elders in the Old Testament ruled by order, according to God’s law (See Exodus 18).  The elders made binding decisions.  The fashionable “thou shalt not judge” is not God’s plan to settle matters of doctrine and practice.  In the Old Testament judgment was the work of the elders at the gate.  In the New Testament judgment is the work of elders who come together as representatives of the church.  The immediate thought and words of any Christian is “what about the sinfulness of all men, including the elders.”  True, but the elders were men who had been set aside according to God’s constitution.  In the Old Testament the qualifications for the elders was not merely old age.  God’s constitution says they must be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, [and] hating covetousness.”  In the New Testament the qualifications are more specific than the general qualifications found in the Old Testament.  The elders make vows thus calling them to account for the purpose of judicious adjudication of all matters pertaining to doctrine and practice.  Therefore care must be taken in the selection and ordination of elders.  If the elders are ungodly, unruly, and ill equipped, then their decisions will be ungodly, unruly, and deficient of God’s constitutional government.  A number of ungodly men making ungodly decisions are not the biblical form of church government found in Scripture.

The most prominent example of biblical church government previously referred to is found in Acts chapter fifteen.  The decision of the court was in agreement with the Word of God.  Since the representatives of the court were under constraint to judge justly, they could not possibly disagree with the Word of God.  When a decision is contradictory to the Word of God, then the constitutional principle was abused or ignored.   An ungodly decision does not come from a godly church court.  Furthermore godly people must not obey an ungodly decision.  Until local particular churches decide to obey the biblical principles, there will be no peace and harmony in the visible universal church. Start a reformation in your local church.

New Book Release – Death: Reflections on the End of Life and What Comes After

New book release:  Death: Reflections on the End of Life and What  Comes After, by Max Malikow, ISBN 9780986405570, 103 pages, $16.95

– AUTHOR PONDERS THE END OF LIFE, DEATH AND WHAT COMES AFTER –

In a word, this is a book about death. However, a one-word characterization of any book is likely to be too general to be helpfully descriptive. The subtitle, Reflections on the End of Life and What Comes After, provides a more meaningful representation.

Arguably, humankind’s two most enduring questions are: What is the meaning of life? and, Is there an afterlife? Noteworthy is both questions are unanswerable if definitive, irrefutable answers are being sought. The endurance of these essentially unanswerable questions imply a feature unique to human beings. To be human is to be curious about our place in the creation and if we have a place somewhere after we die. Both curiosities involve our existence and whether it comes to an end. Moreover, there is a curiosity about whether our earthly conduct has consequences for what, if anything, awaits us after our death.

Presented as questions, the issues addressed in this meditation are:

  1. Why is death a live topic?
  1. Is death an asset or a liability?
  1. Is there an afterlife?

4. What constitutes a heroic death?

  1. Would a life of 450 years be a blessing or a curse?
  1. Is it a bad thing to die?

Max Malikow is on the faculty of the Renee Crown Honors Program of Syracuse University and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy at LeMoyne College. He earned his M.A. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Th.D. from Boston University.  He is the author or editor of twelve previous books and is a practicing psychotherapist in Syracuse, New York.

Available on Amazon or order through local bookstore

https://www.amazon.com/Death-Reflections-Life-Comes-After/dp/0986405574/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470851452&sr=1-2&keywords=theocentric+publishing+group

Galileo’s Trio: Sense, Reason, and Intellect

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25

Behavior that produces that kind of mass confusion is senseless.  It was present in the day of the Judges and remains with us until this day. Western culture is a hotbed of various worldviews like individualism, egalitarianism, statism, pragmatism, secularism, and many more. The state is a necessary component for social and political life.  However, adding “ism” to the word, “state,” may indicate that the state provides the means to save the individual belonging to the state.  To put it another way, statism becomes a god to worship and the way of salvation for secular life. There was a time when self-evident truths were held in high esteem in the American culture.  At the same time, the church believed and taught that the Bible was absolute truth.  General revelation to culture and special revelation to the church are the common threads that hold the fabric of life together.  The denial of self-evident truths inclines the culture to do what is right in their own eyes.  It is the denial of the inspired infallible truth of God’s Word that inclines the church to agree with the culture.

This blog is an analysis of the downgrade for western civilization in general, particularly the United States.  Galileo wisely observed, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Muse that quote from Galileo about “sense, reason, and intellect.” Then ponder the misuse, abuse, and absconding of those three disciplines to discover the reason this country is in such a mess.  The scholar (one schooled or taught a particular doctrine) has replaced the intellect (one who uses the rational powers naturally endowed and applies rationality by the use of a tool known as logic).  For example Barak Obama is said to be a scholar and he may be, but he is no intellect.  The scholars who argued against Galileo’s heliocentric views were so blind in the field of astronomy, but so schooled in theology, failed to use there natural “sense, reason, and intellect.”

Now I’ll make two comments about the current political problems.  The two comments may be summarized within two political philosophies: Statism and sophism.

Statism is the political worldview of the liberal political machine.  Statism basically says the state is the Savior of its subjects.  Or to put it another way the government will solve all your problems.  Just turn over your mind and the minds of your children to me (big brother) and turn over your money and your children’s money to the state and they will solve all your problems.  The goal of the liberal political machine is a national lobotomy.

Sophism is the art and use of empty words in the context of a subtle false argument to convince someone that what is false is true.  Let me quote Clement of Alexandria on the subject of sophistry.  “In one his writings he said, “ the art of sophistry, which the Greeks cultivated, is a fantastic power, which makes false opinions like true by means of words. For it produces rhetoric in order to persuasion, and disputation for wrangling. These arts, therefore, if not conjoined with philosophy, will be injurious to every one. For Plato openly called sophistry “an evil art.” And Aristotle, following him, demonstrates it to be a dishonest art, which abstracts in a specious manner the whole business of wisdom, and professes a wisdom which it has not studied.” (CofA, Stromata, chap. 8)

Sophistry drives statism or any other false worldview by means of the belligerent person using the tools to win his or her agenda.

Obama used these sophisticated tactics throughout his campaign demeaning logic, reason, sense and intellect.  The segments of society that have abandoned those God given sources are the ones that elected Obama. He hoodwinked more than half of the voting democracy.  Hillary Clinton will employ the power of sophism and the charm of statism to gain power and wealth. We and the generations that follow will suffer unless we rediscover the root of the problem and address it publicly

The root of the problem is “we” (collectively) have to admit that we’ve been duped by the various political powers at each level of government during each administration.    Slowly but surely each generation was trapped by the idea that the State could better manage the affairs of life than private citizens.  Once we (collectively) admit our complacency we must act collectively to restore our nation incrementally to a level of constitutional integrity.

The “Tea Party” concept was one way to prevent the devolution of our sad estate unto the coming generation.  Individuals and groups collectively should organize to educate the public that contemporary scholarship is an anti-intellectual educational philosophy and restore Galileo’s trio: sense, reason, and intellect. The church should seek reformation so it may be a cultural change agent to the glory of God.

Feminism in the American Culture

The prevalent feminism in the American culture has produced two undesirable effects.

  1. Satan used a sinful secular doctrine (Jacobin egalitarianism – the political party during the French Revolution positing absolute/perfect equality) so the biblical doctrine of familial and marital covenants appear to be old fashioned. Since the fall of the human race, the female desires to rule over the male. A woman may desire to serve as a preacher in the church or a president of a nation, but it is a sinful desire. “To the woman he [God] said, ‘I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you'” (Genesis 3:16). God’s plan was for order and harmony, not equality and strife.
  2. It creates a dysfunctional family. It opens Pandora’s Box for the woman to vote for her candidate of choice and the man to vote for the candidate of his choice. It leaves the children with an example of ungodly and unbiblical leadership in the home.

The state should follow a simple biblical principle. Christians have an ultimate authority that will prevent these undesirable effects of feminization. “Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).  This verse is not a reference to blind and blanket submission. However, no submission leads to anarchy and absolute submission lead to tyranny. Although anarchy and tyranny are present, to a greater or lesser degree in many marriages, the doctrine of submission usually falls under one of three categories.

Patriarchy refers to the husband is the head of the family.

Matriarchy refers to the wife is head of the family.

Democracy refers to no rule of the family, therefore anarchy prevails in the family.

The enemies of submission are:

1)  Self-centeredness – A person who is governed by the thought that everything revolves around him or her.

2)  Dictatorial arrogance – Another aspect of the self by lording it over others.  The dictator wants absolute control.

3)  Individualism – The world view that displaces the confederation concept. The Bible describes individualism in terms of, “I am and there is no one else besides me” (Isaiah 47:10). Individualism literally says, “My opinions are the ones that count and if I can’t have it my way I will not play in the game.”

4)  Thoughtlessness –  One who is unconcerned with respect to the needs, desires and welfare of others.

5)  Self-seeking – One who is interested in the outcome only for the benefit of self.

The Southern Presbyterian theologian, Dr. Robert L. Dabney put it in these terms and I shall quote so as not to add or take away from these most profound words. Dabney said:  “the wife must obey the husband in the sense  of conceding to him the final decision of joint domestic questions, within the bound of her higher duty to God and conscience or the husband must obey the wife, or the marriage is virtually annulled” (Practical Philosophy p. 367).”

Please notice two important points:

1)  Obey the husband within the bounds of her higher duty to God and conscience.  (Obey God rather than man)

2)  If she does not obey her husband (unless he has told her to think or act in a way that is unbiblical or ungodly) the marriage is virtually annulled.

If there is no submission there is no marriage. One word will sum up the role of the wife in marriage – submit.

Likewise, one word will sum up the role of the husband in marriage –  love.

A marriage does not exist if the husband does not love his wife just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.

The husband must be willing to sacrifice everything for his wife. It is the duty of the husband to love his wife so he may be the instrument for the sanctification of his wife.

The word love is not merely a reference to sensual and friendly love. The husband has a distinctive love for his wife. It’s called Christian love.  It is the kind of love that is sacrificial, so that whether it is a love in confrontation or a love in encouragement, it is a godly love.

Since the church is in a state of disorder and lacks a proper understanding of God’s prescribed order for submission and love in the marriage, the culture and political life follows suit.

The mandate for Christians is simple.  Submit yourself to the Word of God and pray for the Spirit of God to enlighten your mind, to incline your will and motivate your emotions so you will find harmony and order in your marriage relationship.  It will have a positive and meaningful effect on the political life of the nation.

Dabney on Women’s Rights: Was he Right?

When the vox populi (voice of the people) resounds with rebellion and ignorance I find strength in the Word of God. “Let my cry come before You O Lord; Give me understanding according to Your word” (Psalm119:169). I also find encouragement from my dead theologian’s library. Many of their predicted insights are working out in history. One I particularly enjoy reading is Robert L. Dabney.  I recently realized that the vox populi will determine the political path of this country. If a woman is elected president by the majority of people of this country, the feminization of this country will be evident. The tragedy is that many people, men and women, will vote for a woman just because she is a woman.

When the women’s rights movement accelerated at the end of the 19th century, orthodox evangelicalism was declining and evolution opened the floodgates for atheism.  During the rise of modern influences, Robert L. Dabney wrote an article entitled “Women’s Rights Women.”  Dabney respected the Word of God as the final authority in life, unlike the majority of modern evangelicalism. However, he wrote with an eye on the logic of language.  Dabney observed that the wife could not give up her relation to the family without consequences.  “If she enters the marriage relation refusing all subordination and insisting upon full equality, then she must take her chance of finding the union a temporary copartnership, terminable at any time by the suit of either party. She has her Jacobin freedom, but she has sunk herself from the wife to the concubine” (The Practical Philosophy, p. 369). [Jacobin was the political party during the French Revolution positing absolute/perfect equality.]

The closing words of Dabney’s article published in 1871 were prophetic since after only five generations, his words are resoundingly coming to haunt the American culture.

Thus will be consummated that destiny to which so many gloomy prognostics point as the allotment of the North American continent: to be the accursed field for the final illustration of the harvest of perdition, grown from the seeding of the dragon’s teeth of infidel Radicalism. God gave the people of this land great and magnificent blessings, and opportunities and responsibilities. They might and should have made it the glory of all lands. But they have betrayed their trust: they have abused every gift: above all have they insulted him flaunting in his face an impudent, atheistic, God-defying theory of pretended human rights and human perfectibility which attempts to deny man’s subordination, his dependence, his fall and native depravity, his need of divine grace.  In invites mankind to adopt material civilization and sensual advantage as their divinity. It assumes to be able to perfect man’s condition by its political, literary, and mechanical skill, despising that Gospel of Christ which is man’s only adequate remedy. It crowns its impiety by laying its defiling hands upon the very forms of that Christianity, while with the mock affection of a Judas it attempts to make it a captive to the sordid ends of Mammon and sense. Must not God be avenged on such a nation as this? His vengeance will be to give them the fruit of their own hands, and let them be filled with their own devices. He will set apart this fair land by a sort of dread consecration to the purpose of giving a lesson concerning this godless philosophy, so impressive as to instruct and warn all future generations. As the dull and pestilential waves of the Dead Sea have been to every subsequent age the memento of the sin of Sodom, so the dreary tides of anarchy and barbarism, which will overwhelm the boastful devices of infidel democracy, will be the caution of all future legislators. And thus “women’s rights” will assist America “to fulfill her great mission,” that of being the “scarecrow” of the nations.

Dabney’s article expresses  rational, logical, and intellectual insight into the following passages of Scripture:  Ephesians 5:22ff; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:11-14; Titus 2:5. These are great verses for the “but theologians” to ponder and reply with this response: “I know what the Bible teaches, but I believe………..

Has the United States become a scarecrow among the nations? Have the brains of the general public been absconded by ungodly political and religious leaders. The scarecrow in the “Wizard of Oz” affirmed that notion in his culture. “Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don’t they?

Demythologize the Church

Jesus mentioned the church a few times in the New Testament, but He didn’t devote a chapter to define the nature, purpose, mission, and ministry of the church.  However, Jesus left the church this promise:   “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The word church found in the New Testament has been misused and misinterpreted throughout the history of the church.  It is my purpose to share some thoughts on the nature of the church.  The great challenge is to demythologize the church. This brief list will help:

The church is not someplace you go to

The church is not a building

The church is not an institution

The church is not owned by anyone on this planet

The church is not graded by ethnicity, importance, or social status

The church is not divided by doctrine

What is the church? Hold on to your hat because the answer is simple, but it will blow you away. The church is the people of God. Christians living in a specific geographical area gather together as the church to fulfill the purpose, mission, and ministry of the church. Specifically, but not limited to: collective worship according to the Word of God, preaching, teaching, fellowship, and prayer.

The church is not singularly identified.  It is embodied within two dimensions commonly known as the visible church and the invisible church

The church visible is mixed with wheat and tares.  One prominent church creed describes the visible church as the whole “number of professing Christians, with their children, associated together for divine worship and godly living, agreeable to the Scriptures and submitting to the lawful government of Christ’s kingdom.”

The church invisible is the church in heaven.  The invisible church is the true church or to put it another way the saved church.  The invisible church is infallible, indestructible, indivisible, and universal.

The Bible does not have a specific proof text to prove the nature of the church.  The full counsel of God must be consulted to discover the nature of the church.  The Bible does use metaphors that describe the nature of the church. A metaphor is a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two things.   The comparison is not literally expressed and may be understood by implication.  Although space does not permit inquiry into all the biblical metaphors a few of them will suffice.

The first metaphor I bring to your attention is the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46; John 15:1-8).  The nature of the vineyard is such that it is productive.  Likewise the church is productive when it fulfills the responsibilities given to the church according to the Word of God.  The preaching of the Word of God has been given to the church. When the church insures the sound preaching of the Word of God, it is productive.

The field is another metaphor that will help us understand the nature of the church. The field belongs to God; the church is the field, therefore God’s people belong to Him (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

The Bible also uses another agricultural metaphor to describe the nature of the church.  That metaphor found often in the gospel of John is a flock (John 10:1-16).  Raising sheep was common in all ancient Near Eastern cultures.  Sheep provided food, clothing, and sacrifices for religious worship.  Sheep need a shepherd to feed them and protect them.  The shepherd in the local church is the pastor/elder. The sheep/shepherd metaphor was a favorite of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Obviously the sheep/shepherd aspect ultimately has the invisible church in mind.

One of my favorite metaphors used to describe the nature of the church is the family of God (Luke 11:13; Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:5-7).  The nature of the church is such that order, harmony, and unity are necessary for each local congregation.  The modern notion that families function best when the various parties are disaffected, is one reason that local congregations feud, fight, and divide.  If children in the family can’t get along, neither can siblings in the family of God.

The Bible also describes the church as a bride (Ephesians 5:22-29).  The biblical bride is supposed to be pure, and so it is with the church.  The biblical bride submits to, honors, and obeys the groom.  The nature of the church found in the biblical bride should show us the inseparable connection of God to his bride the church.

Given the biblical teachings on the nature of the church what does Jesus mean when he said, “I will build my church.”  Does the Lord mean that he would build a building?  Many professing Christians think of the church in terms of a physical piece of architecture.  The physical structures where professing Christians meet for worship, Bible study, and fellowship have become a synonym for the church. The result is a misunderstanding of the nature of the church.

The church is God’s building according to the Word of God.  One verse from the Bible will make the point: “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God and they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians. 6:16).  The church in biblical terms is not a building made by men, but rather a building created in the image of God.  Notice the rhetorical question asked by the inspired apostle:  “What agreement has the temple of God with idols?”  None of course! God is true! An idol is false!  Only truth is acceptable in God’s building.  Falsehood and lies are un-acceptable.

God’s building consists of the souls of Christians filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  If Christians would come to grips with the nature of the church maybe the seeds of revival will germinate into beautiful plants. Many Christians do not understand the nature of the church.  Several generations grew up under a subjective set of rules that did not include a proper understanding of the fundamental principles that would have taken them down a different road.

The church in the south more than any part of the country has traditionally served as the center of social and cultural functions, thus associating the church with a building.  It was the building that provided entertainment to the body rather than enrichment to the soul.  The church in the Bible belt has been treated like a social club, civic club, country club, men’s club, and women’s club.

Christians must set aside the baggage from previous generations.  I know it is hard to set aside old habits, but Christians should reconsider the nature of the church and re-examine what the Bible says about the nature of the church.  The church has been abused, used, and amused through the centuries.   Set aside the traditional views of the church and adopt the dynamic views as you find them in the Word of God. Set your goal to demythologize the church for coming generations.