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The Sufficiency of Scripture

Posted on 1 February, 2016 at 3:00 Comments comments (0)

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture lies at the heart of what it means to be a Protestant. Protestantism and Roman Catholicism share much in common in terms of basic theology, such as a commitment to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. When it comes to matters of authority, however, there are major divergences. One of these is on the matter of Scripture: is Scripture sufficient as an authority for the church or not?

 

Scriptural sufficiency is, of course, a doctrine that stands in positive connection to a number of other theological convictions, such as inerrancy, the extent of the canon, and the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture. All of these help to shape our understanding of sufficiency but are beyond the scope of this brief article. Thus, I will focus on the doctrine as generally understood by those who accept the Protestant confessional consensus on these matters, as reflected in the Second London Confession, the Three Forms of Unity, and the Westminster Standards.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT SCRIPTURE IS SUFFICIENT?

 

We do of course need to parse what we mean when we say that Scripture is sufficient. If my car breaks down or I am trying to work out who committed the crime in a particularly complex whodunit, I will not find the answer in the Bible. Nor will I find discussion of the human genome, the rules of cricket, or the wing markings of North American butterflies. In fact, the scope of Scripture’s sufficiency is neatly summarized in Question 3 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

 

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

 

In other words, the Scriptures are sufficient for a specific task: they reveal who God is, who man is in relation to him, and how that relationship is to be articulated in terms of worship.

 

Even with this definition, however, we need to be precise concerning the nature of this sufficiency. In some areas, the Scriptures are sufficient for teaching principles but not for providing specific details. For example, while they clearly teach that the church should gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, they do not specify precise times and locations. Neither my local congregation nor the time of our services are mentioned anywhere in the New Testament. Scriptural sufficiency is not jeopardized by this lack; Scripture was never intended to speak with precision to such local details.

 

The last observation is perhaps obvious. A more subtle point about scriptural sufficiency can be deduced from Paul’s pastoral epistles. When Paul writes these, he is laying out his blueprint for the post-apostolic church. It is thus significant that he does not simply tell Timothy and Titus to make sure there are copies of the Bible available to the church. If Scripture in and of itself were sufficient to maintaining the truth of the faith, surely that is all he would need to have done. Instead, he not only emphasizes the importance of Scripture but also says that there is a need for officers (elders and deacons) and for adherence to a form of sound words (a tradition of creedal teaching). So to say that Scripture is sufficient for the church is not to say that it is the only thing necessary. Officers and creeds/confessions/statements of faith (agreed forms of sound words) also seem to be a basic part of Paul’s vision for the post-apostolic church.

 

Given these factors, there is a sense in which we might say that Protestants believe in the insufficiency of Scripture: we acknowledge that Scripture is insufficient for many of the details of everyday life, such as motorcycle maintenance and cooking curries. It is even insufficient for the day-to-day running and good health of the church: we need elders, deacons and forms of sound words. What it is sufficient for, however, is for regulating the doctrinal content of the Christian faith and the life of the church at a principial level. That is Paul’s point in 2 Timothy 3:16. In other words, to speak of scriptural sufficiency is one way of speaking about the unique authority of Scripture in the life of the church and the believer as the authoritative and sufficient source for the principles of faith and practice.

 

WHAT IS SCRIPTURE SUFFICIENT FOR?

 

We can elaborate this. First, Scripture is sufficient as the noetic ground of knowledge of God. This means that all theological affirmations are to be consistent with the teaching of Scripture. The statement “God is Trinity” is found nowhere in the Bible; but its conceptual content is there; that is why it should be affirmed by all Christians. By contrast, “Mary was conceived without original sin” is not a concept found anywhere in Scripture. Roman Catholics who affirm the notion thereby reveal their view that Scripture is not sufficient as the noetic basis for theology, but needs to be supplemented by the teaching magisterium of the church.

 

Second, Scripture is sufficient for Christian practice. At the level of behavior, Scripture offers principles which guide believers in their day to day lives. This can be a complicated area: the advent of Christ demands that the Old Testament law codes be read in the light of his person and work, and this issue is beyond the immediate scope of this short piece. But the principle of sufficiency is clear: given the redemptive-historical dynamic, Scripture provides fully adequate and sufficient general principles which can be applied in specific ethical situations. For example, the Bible may not reference stem cell research, but it contains principles that should shape our attitudes to such.

 

Third, at the level of the church as an institution, Scripture is again sufficient for the principles of both organization and public worship. In terms of organization, I have already noted the fact that Paul sees both office-bearers and creeds/confessions as vital to the ongoing health of the church. As to office-bearers, Scripture also describes the kind of men who are to be appointed. As to creeds, my first point above—that Scripture is sufficient as the norming norm of the content of doctrinal statement—is clearly relevant.

 

Fourth, in terms of public worship, Scripture is sufficient for establishing its elements: singing of praise, prayer, the reading and preaching of God’s Word, the giving of tithes and offerings for the work of the church, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. As with creeds, Scripture is also sufficient to regulate the agenda and content of sermons, worship songs, prayers, what the money is spent on, who is baptized, and who receives the Lord’s Supper.

 

In short, one can tell a lot about how a particular church understands scriptural sufficiency by looking at her form of government, the content and emphases of corporate worship, and the way in which the elders pastor the congregation.

Written by: Carl Trueman

Carl Trueman is a Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary, and the pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Ambler, Pennsylvania.


Happy Yoga Day?

Posted on 24 June, 2015 at 1:55 Comments comments (0)

The government of India declared Sunday the 21st June, “Yoga Day”. While many of us where celebrating the 21st of June as Father’s day, the Indian government decided to promote Yoga above Fathers. For many people who are unable to discern, this was just another day filled with communal exercise, but for those who know better, we have to question this agenda.

First we were told that Christmas is to be replaced by the ex-PM, Vajpayee’s birthday anniversary. Then we were told that we can no longer eat beef. Now we are being told we must practice Yoga. In 2014 the Ministry of AYUSH was set up to promote good health. In 2015 the Ministry of AYUSH pushes Yoga as the medium to good health. Proverbs says “The wise will inherit honour, but fools get disgrace (1Pro 3:35). The apostle Peter warns us “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pe 5:83).

 

Let’s be wise and not ignorant to the devils tactics to keep us from worshipping Jesus. What is wrong with Yoga? Should a Christian practice Yoga? Read below a reformed view of Yoga. This exerpt is taken from the article “Yoga and Christianity: Are they Compatible?” written by Christian Apologist, Michael Gleghorn.

 

Yoga and Christianity: Are They Compatible? Written by Michael Gleghorn

 

What is yoga? For many in the West, yoga is simply a system of physical exercise, a means of strengthening the body, improving flexibility, and even healing or preventing a variety of bodily ailments. But if we inquire into the history and philosophy of yoga we discover that “much more than a system of physical exercise for health, Yoga is . . . [an] ancient path to spiritual growth.” It is a path enshrined in much of the sacred literature of India.{1} Thus, if we truly want a better understanding of yoga, we must dig beneath the surface and examine the historical roots of the subject.

 

Before we begin digging, however, we must first understand what the term “yoga” actually means. “According to tradition, ‘yoga’ means ‘union,’ the union…of the finite ‘jiva’ (transitory self) with the infinite’…Brahman’ (eternal Self).”{2} “Brahman” is a term often used for the Hindu concept of “God,” or Ultimate Reality. It is an impersonal, divine substance that “pervades, envelops, and underlies everything.”{3} With this in mind, let’s briefly look at three key texts that will help us chart the origin and development of yoga within India.

 

It appears that one can trace both the practice and goal of yoga all the way back to the Upanishads, probably written between 1000-500 B.C.{4} One Upanishad tells us: “Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman.”{5} Clearly, then, the goal of yoga (i.e. union with Brahman) is at least as old as the Upanishads. In addition, the word “yoga” often appears in the Bhagavad Gita, a classic Hindu text possibly written as early as the fifth century B.C.{6} In chapter 6, Krishna declares: “Thus joy supreme comes to the Yogi . . . who is one with Brahman, with God.”{7} Finally, in about A.D. 150, the yogi Patanjali systematized yoga into eight distinct “limbs” in his Yoga Sutras. These eight limbs are like a staircase, supposedly leading the yogi from ignorance to enlightenment. In order, the eight limbs are: yama (self-control), niyama (religious observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (deep contemplation), and samadhi (enlightenment).{8} It’s interesting to note that postures and breathing exercises, often considered to be the whole of yoga in the West, are steps three and four along Patanjali’s “royal” road to union with Brahman.

 

We see that yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in the religion of Hinduism. This being so, we may honestly wonder whether it’s really wise for a Christian to be involved in yoga practice. Next, we’ll continue our discussion by examining some of the important doctrinal differences between yoga and Christianity.

 

Yoga and Christianity: What are the Differences?

 

Many people today (including some Christians) are taking up yoga practice. We’ll later consider whether yoga philosophy can truly be separated from yoga practice, but we must first establish that there are crucial doctrinal differences between yoga and Christianity. Let’s briefly look at just a few of these.

 

First, yoga and Christianity have very different concepts of God. As previously stated, the goal of yoga is to experience union with “God.” But what do yogis mean when they speak of “God,” or Brahman? Exactly what are we being encouraged to “unite” with? Most yogis conceive of “God” as an impersonal, spiritual substance, coextensive with all of reality. This doctrine is called pantheism, the view that everything is “God.” It differs markedly from the theism of biblical Christianity. In the Bible, God reveals Himself as the personal Creator of the universe. God is the Creator; the universe, His creation. The Bible maintains a careful distinction between the two.{9}

 

A second difference between yoga and Christianity concerns their views of man. Since yoga philosophy teaches that everything is “God,” it necessarily follows that man, too, is “God.” Christianity, however, makes a clear distinction between God and man. God is the Creator; man is one of His creatures. Of course man is certainly unique, for unlike the animals he was created in the image of God.{10} Nevertheless, Christianity clearly differs from yoga in its unqualified insistence that God and man are distinct.

 

Finally, let’s briefly consider how yoga and Christianity differently conceive man’s fundamental problem, as well as its solution. Yoga conceives man’s problem primarily in terms of ignorance; man simply doesn’t realize that he is “God.” The solution is enlightenment, an experience of union with “God.” This solution (which is the goal of yoga) can only be reached through much personal striving and effort. Christianity, however, sees man’s primary problem as sin, a failure to conform to both the character and standards of a morally perfect God. Man is thus alienated from God and in need of reconciliation. The solution is Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”{11} Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God reconciled the world to Himself.{12} He now calls men to freely receive all the benefits of His salvation through faith in Christ alone. Unlike yoga, Christianity views salvation as a free gift. It can only be received; it can never be earned.

https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/yoga-and-christianity-are-they-compatible/" target="_blank">Read more at https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/2009/09/19/yoga-and-christianity-are-they-compatible/

 

Lies, Fear and the Great Commission

Posted on 12 May, 2015 at 1:25 Comments comments (0)

“When I left England, my hope of India’s conversion was very strong; but amongst so many obstacles, it would die, unless upheld by God. Well, I have God, and His Word is true. Though the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, and the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; though I were deserted by all and persecuted by all, yet my faith, fixed on the sure Word, would rise above all obstructions and overcome every trial. God’s cause will triumph.” ― William Carey

 

One of these obstacles to the gospel, that Carey mentions must no doubt be the sin of lying. Erik Raymond from The Gospel Coalition wrote “Gossip is the RPG that blasts holes in the fabric of the church”. This last week we have again been at the receiving end of this RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). Anti-Christian journalists had maliciously and intentionally smeared Emmanuel Gaikwad’s (Kolhapur Bible Church) name in a Mumbai newspaper in an attempt to sell more copies. Emmanuel, who is a director of AGAPE Total Medicare (an NGO helping HIV infected and effected persons), was directly accused by the media of trafficking children and indirectly accused of abusing them.

 

Lies and gossip are not new threats that the church has had to face, but they are still just as damning and destructive if our hearts and eyes are not “fixed on the sure Word”. Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:44Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” I am convinced that the end goal of all lies is to make us afraid and to doubt and waver in our faith. Living in fear looks very much like believing lies. Fear can paralyse us, make us useless and cause us to sin, just like it did to Gideon hiding away in a winepress. What we believe inevitably is what we will act on. Our belief always affects our behaviour.

 

Roughly 2460 years ago Nehemiah faced the same strategy of Satan. The infamous Sanballat and Tobiah were spreading malicious gossip and lies in an attempt to stop the work of the Lord. Their threats against the Israelites to stop building the walls of Jerusalem backfired and instead motivated the children of God to work harder and faster. Nehemiah’s wise counsel to the Jews was simply “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome”. In spite of their threats, the good work had advanced. The enemy had tried mockery; and failed. Attempted force; but learned to their dismay, that the Israelites were ready to resist unto blood to complete the work of the Lord. So when these strategies failed, Sanballat and Tobiah turned to deception, lies and even gossip. The enemies of God called Nehemiah to a meeting in a village with intentions of killing him. But Nehemiah recognised the deceptive plot and answered them in this manner, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”

 

After four further invitations were denied, Sanballat sent an open letter to Nehemiah. Nehemiah 6 verse 5, tells us specifically this was an “open” letter. Official letters were normally sealed so the public could not read the contents. Obviously, Sanballat wanted people to read this letter while enroute, so that gossip would spread. This was the beginning of the smear campaign. Not much has changed in our modern age with “open letters” that are posted on facebook and other social media, with the same intentions and in Emmanuel’s case, an article that is posted in an e-paper. New technology, same strategy of Satan.

 

Sanballat’s intentions where to create fear and distrust among the Jews as all gossip and lies are designed to do. His accusations against Nehemiah were clearly false and malicious, accusing one of the godliest men alive at that time, of selfish ambition and rebellion. Nehemiah’s response is recorded in verse 8, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” We don’t have to imagine where some journalists get their information from!

 

The enemies of Nehemiah continued their malicious course. After realising they could not entice him to the village, they now hire a corrupt, false prophet to offer Nehemiah safety in the walls of the temple, so they can kill him in the sanctuary of Jehovah (so much could be said about that!). Nehemiah’s God given wisdom, teaches us an inspired lesson in verse 13 “For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin…”(cf. v14; v19).

 

Nehemiah makes the connection between lies, fear and sin. Fear causes us to behave in such a way, we forget the promises of God and rather than trusting His character, we sin. The Westminster Confession says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I think the chief end of Satan is to cause us to sin by being fearful because of his lies. The apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:7-8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” Paul explains the serious threat that fear is to the gospel itself.

 

Nehemiah refused to believe the lies that Satan was propagating and believed the promises of God. Instead of being fearful he became fruitful in his work for the Lord. Our job is not to build physical walls, but to be involved in the Great Commission by building the kingdom of God. Lies, and gossip are tools the devil uses to make us afraid so that we will “come down from the walls” and hinder the work of “making disciples”.

 

As one commentator said “shame is the child of doubt as well as the child of fear!” Fear will always keep us hiding away in the darkness of winepresses instead of shining our lights on a hill for the world to see the glory of God. Let’s never forget that Christ is not just a teacher, but the Saviour! How will lost sinners come to the Saviour unless someone tells them about Him? Our fears cripple us and shame us, as we live with regrets of not taking opportunities God has given us to share Christ with others at school, at work or home. But more than that, they rob God of all the glory that He deserves. Think about the last time you were too afraid to share the gospel of He who took you out of darkness into His marvellous light. If we believe lies and fear man and what they will think of us for declaring the praises of the living God, we hinder the work of the gospel!

 

As William Carey reminds us, we have God, and His Word is true. Satan does not care what we believe as long as it is not the Truth. Let’s resolve to fear God, worship Him alone who is Truth, and to not believe the lies of the devil and sin against God. Let’s not be distracted from the task the Lord has given us, by believing lies. As John Piper says “Don’t Waste Your Life!” For the sake of the gospel, let us “fix on the sure Word, rise above all obstructions and overcome every trial. God’s cause [Great Commission] will triumph.”

 

Romans 1:16Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

The Ugliness of Sin & the Beauty of Christ

Posted on 30 April, 2015 at 10:15 Comments comments (0)

One of the most dangerous things to our spiritual lives must surely be self-deception. The very nature of the gospel clearly defines that we are sinners. If we deny that fact, we foolishly deceive ourselves. J.C. Ryle said “I am convinced that the first step towards attaining a higher standard of holiness is to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin.” There are so many people who attempt, to justify their sinful behavior saying that they “do not need a Saviour” and claim that they have a right to do what they please. And there are those who pretend to be perfectly sanctified, and maintain that they live without sin.

 

The apostle John says in 1 John 1v8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” John clarifies . . .the claim of sinlessness is simply self deception. Instead of denying our sinfulness, we should confess that it is real and ugly. Verse 9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

In Verse 10, John emphasizes this truth: “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” In other words the claim of sinlessness is not only self-deception; it is also blasphemy.

 

The Puritan, Thomas Watson said “Till sin is bitter, Christ will not be sweet.” I often wonder how many professing Christians hate their sin. The bible teaches that it is impossible to delight in God if we are walking in the darkness. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” 1 John1:5Open in Logos Bible Software (if available).

 

John Piper says “Darkness is the threat of despair and misery.” Perhaps this is the reason why so many professing Christians live with so many troubles and tensions. Perhaps this is the reason why so many “Christians” are addicted to alcohol, pornography and other vises. Perhaps this is why there are so many bad “Christian” marriages, broken homes and affairs going on. Perhaps this is why so many Christians have no joy and no hope in their lives – because they love their sin, and are content walking in darkness.

 

I remember confronting a friend of mine (who professed to be a believer) about blatant sin in his life. He had disobeyed the Holy Scriptures and had “married” another wife while he was still married to his first wife. His response was astonishing “Well” he said “Christ has allowed this to happen, and has not judged me, so it must be God’s will.” I remember confronting another man about his drunkenness and his excuse was “Christ made wine, so therefore I can drink”, he continued to justify his sin by saying “I am a sinner, therefore I must sin.”

 

Obviously these men and others like them, love their sin more than they profess to love Christ. They have no understanding of the wrath of God, the gospel, or of the truth that Christ came to save sinners from their sins (Matthew 1:21Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). According to 1 John 3:8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” The reason Christ came into the world and suffered was to destroy sin. The Apostle Paul said that Christ died to purify for himself a bride (Ephesians 5:25–27). “He gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). How can anyone call them self a Christian “..while they walk in darkness?”. John answers that question- “we lie and do not live according to the truth.” (1John1:6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available))

 

Whenever we sin, we join those who call the cross foolishness, and insult the suffering and death of Christ. The aim of the cross is victory over our sin and the purity of the Church. Sin says to Christ, “I do not regard your suffering as sufficient motivation to keep me back from this act. You may have died to prevent me from doing this, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

 

Dear reader, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Do you delight in God?” Do you have genuine fellowship with God the Father through the incarnate son of God, Jesus Christ, who came to save you from your sins? Or are you walking in darkness, unaware or even unconcerned about your sin?

 

Do you have an increasing hatred for your sin, and a desire to please God with your life? If the answer is yes, then you need to be walking in the light (the spirit) and not in the flesh, confessing your sins-daily, because “he is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” Paul said it better in Galatians 5:16-17Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), “But I say to you walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, for the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh for these are opposed to each other.”

 

If the answer is no, and you have no desire to leave the lusts of your flesh and follow Christ, then you need to be born again. You are lost in your sin, living a lie and blind in your darkness. Beg God for mercy, repent and turn to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of your sins that Christ your advocate, who suffered and died for the payment of your sins, may forgive you your sins and give you a new heart.

Why Church Matters

Posted on 30 April, 2015 at 10:15 Comments comments (0)

Philip Yancey a well known Christian author wrote a book called “Church, Why Bother?” In this book he asks the difficult questions, ‘Why are there so many more professing Christians than churchgoing Christians? Is it because something is wrong with the church?” Hard but good questions. Sadly this picture may be true of many churches today in India. Just recently I called a plumber to my house for some work, and after realizing I was a pastor he responded with “Praise the Lord”. I was surprised to hear this Christian greeting from this man and asked him what church he belongs to. He was quick to tell me the name of the church, and when I asked if he went last week, he told me “No, I only go for Christmas, Easter, and some other functions.”

 

Sadly church has lost its meaning for many, and is no longer a necessity for people anymore, as many Christian’s priorities have changed – but God’s priority has not. The Church of Jesus Christ has always been God’s priority. God’s design and plan for the church was to restore a people back to himself who would reflect his Grace, mercy and love to a world lost in the darkness of their sins. God’s purpose for the church was always the same, that his bride would influence the culture for the glory of Christ – not the other way around.

 

Ephesians 5:25Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. This sacrificial love is the strongest type of love that can ever be demonstrated, and it is this love that Christ has shown for His Church. It was for His Church, not for an organization, or the family or even the government that Christ died – it was for his Church. God’s plan for Christians can only be experienced and fulfilled when connected with the local church. It is the local church which has been commissioned by God to carry out His purpose in reaching the lost and perfecting the saved. Although there are so many “para”church organizations trying to attempt Gods mission, it is only through the local church that Christians will successfully fulfill His command. Remember what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)? “ And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock (his confession of faith in Christ) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

If the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, why then do so many churches feel like hell itself, and why do so many church goers act like the devil? And why is the church in India, largely so ineffective and weak? In order to answer this question we need to ask another question first – what is a biblical church?

 

· A Biblical Definition of “Church”

 

First we need to make some observations about a biblical definition of the church. The word “church” in the NT never refers to a building or a place. It always refers to a people. In the NT the word “church” also is used to refer to the group of believers in a particular city and in a particular house. For example, Acts 11:22Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) refers to the “church in Jerusalem,” 1 Corinthians 1:2Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) refers to the “church of God which is at Corinth,” 1 Thessalonians is addressed (in 1:1) “to the church of the Thessalonians,” and so on. 1 Corinthians 16:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) says, “The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Priscilla, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.” In Colossians 4:15Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) Paul sends greetings “to Nympha and the church in his house.” And Paul’s letter to Philemon is also addressed to “the church in your house.”

 

John Piper defines a local church like this: “a local church is a group of baptized believers who meet regularly to worship God through Jesus Christ, to be exhorted from the Word of God, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper under the guidance of duly appointed leaders.”

 

According to his own definition, John Piper lists seven qualifications if a group wants to be a church in the New Testament sense.

 

1) The people must give evidence that they are believers—that they trust Jesus as Savior and Lord. The NT makes it clear that we are adopted into the family of God through faith (John 1:12Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 13Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Perhaps this is the key to answering the questions above. How does a group of people call themselves a church and they do not even know or belong to Christ? Jesus said in John 4:24Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” So many professing Christians, worship God just like our Hindu friends –“ in substance and lies.” Satan easily deceives us into believing if we go to a church building with beautiful windows and a pretty garden then surely God is there. Our faith must be in Christ alone, not anything else if we are to claim to be a church of Jesus Christ.

 

2) The people must be baptized. Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) that the way to make disciples was by “baptizing them . . . and teaching them.” This was the uniform practice in the early church.

 

3) There must be a regular assembling. A group of people who only came together say once a year could not rightly be called a local church because there are essential activities of the church which lose their meaning when not done corporately. Therefore Hebrews 10:25Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) commands us not to neglect to meet together.

 

4) Among these meetings there must be gatherings for worship. This follows inevitably from the ultimate value placed on Jesus Christ who calls us together and from our relation to God through him. The church is destined to live to the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 12Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 14Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)); therefore, it would contradict our new nature, not to assemble for worship (Acts 2:47Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Romans 15:6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

 

5) Our meetings must include exhortation from the Word of God. We were born anew through the living and abiding Word of God (1 Peter 1:23Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)); and our life in Christ is preserved not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). The shepherds of the church are the provision God has made for feeding his sheep, and are not to neglect the teaching of the Word of God. Acts 2:42Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), tell us the early church continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine. In order to be a biblical church we must never forsake the word of God. A church that neglects the scripture, the gospel, the very teachings of the bible, disqualifies them self from being a New Testament church. (Sadly there are too many like that!)

 

6) Along with worship and exhortation we must celebrate the Lord’s Supper in order to be the church. We are commanded to “do this in remembrance” of Christ (Luke 22:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); 1 Corinthians 11:24Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Neglecting this ordinance might seem inconsequential at first, but I think a church will bleed to death through that amputation.

 

7) Finally, all of this must take place with the guidance of duly appointed leaders. Paul appointed elders in all the churches (Acts 14:23Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)), he gave instruction about the qualifications of deacons and elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and he said that Christ had given pastor-teachers to the church to equip the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:1Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 12Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

 

This definition is useful to help us determine what groups are and are not churches. For example, Christian student meetings, Social work groups, Prayer Meeting groups, Bible Study Fellowships, Benevolent societies, Christian youth clubs, Mission hospitals etc —are not local churches. They have tremendous value while working alongside and in harmony with the churches, but they can never replace the local church. This is important to distinguish because no Christian should participate in any of these groups (or others like them) while neglecting the regular life of the local church.

 

· The Ultimate Goal of the Church.

 

The ultimate goal of the church is to live in such a way that God’s wisdom (and all the other aspects of his glory) will be displayed to the world. Jesus himself says in John 15:8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) that we glorify God by making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church’s job is to live so that people can see that God is real, and turn to the church in order to find Christ, the world’s only hope.

 

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:16Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) to his disciples, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Are there any deeds that you and your church have done or planned that should people look at would conclude that God deserves their praise? Or is the life of your church made up only of deeds which point all the praise to themselves? Ephesians 1:6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) says that we exists “for the praise of God’s glory”.

 

Churches are dying today because their preaching and preachers are unable to motivate and inspire the congregation to do anything that the lost world could look at and see Jesus Christ. Can your community look at your church and say “There is evidence that God is real and that he is glorious”? Many churches have forgotten why they exist; and when a church forgets that it exists for the glory of God, it becomes in-grown and self-satisfied and can go on year after year like a social club with a religious veneer.

 

Is your church able to sincerely pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Let us always remember the head of the church is Christ, we are His possession, we have been saved for His glory – He does not exist for our benefit, like some type of mystical Aladdin’s lamp that we rub when we want something from Him. 1 Peter 2:9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) says “But ye are a elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”

 

The Church is God’s priority; it is what Christ shed his precious blood for. If this is so precious to Christ, surely it needs to be precious to us. Let us give her the love and devotion that she deserves. For that will bring all glory to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Christ is victorious, and He has promised victory to His Church. Let us quit living as if the church has already been defeated. Rather, let the true Church of Jesus Christ shine. May she declare the excellencies (gospel) of Jesus Christ to a world lost in the darkness of their sin, and bring glory to His wonderful name.


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