20 November 2008

Thinking like a slave

by Dan Phillips

Offensive title, eh? What do you figure this post will be about? About racism? About how we shouldn't still see ourselves as slaves of sin, but as free men? About how slaves get into a slave-mindset that's hard to break, like men who've been in prison for decades?

Actually, it's about going to church — and many other things.

In Why you need to be in a church this Sunday, I laid out an inductive, cumulative case for why anyone and everyone who names Jesus as his Lord must involve himself, in person, in a "local assembly of believers where pastors lead, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and discipline is carried out."

Much of the response was positive, personal, heartfelt. Then there were scattered demurrals. Two had in common that they refused to interact with the Biblical content of the post — which is to say, with just about all of the post. Both hate Biblical teaching about authority and submission. As I showed, that means they hate the institution of God, and reject Him (Romans 13:1-7). Thus there really isn't much to discuss, beyond pleading with them either to repent or toss off the false name of "Christian."

I might summarize the other "But's" and critiques in that meta and elsewhere — many of which were doubtless well-meant — thus:
  • But I've had bad church-experiences (accompanied by many and varied details and stories)!
  • But it's hard to find a good church!
  • But it's hard for me to be with people!
  • But churches sometimes aren't friendly and welcoming!
  • But I've had really, really bad church-experiences (accompanied by many and varied details and stories)!
  • But I've known bad and abusive and lame and inept and unfit pastors!
  • But that's just barking out commands and duty, not explaining how it's really good for me!
  • But God just hasn't led me to a church; just to the internet!
  • But the churches around here aren't all that good!
Now, I'll be candid with you, shall I? At first scan, that looks like a fairly diverse list of eight or nine different reasons, doesn't it? And you're thinking, "Yikes, if he responds to every one, this is going to be a long, long post."

But no. I can roll them all together, and deal with them all in one. Every one of these excuses, though presented in great deal and with great conviction, shares the very same fatal flaw.
Every one of them views
the Christian life
as a process of
negotiation.

That is, among the demurrals, there wasn't one serious and honest attempt to counter the Biblical case. It was tacitly accepted by most that the Bible indeed does paint us into that corner: God says that He expects us to be involved, in-person, in a local assembly. God said it, yes... but!

Now this sort of thinking is perfectly appropriate, if God and we are peers.

But it is wholly inappropriate if God is our Lord, and we are His slaves.

What is the tenor of our relationship, as depicted in Scripture?

"If you love Me" — what? "If you love Me, you will give Me a shot at convincing you that My way is in your best interests?" Is that how you read? Or is it not, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15)?

"This is love for God that we" — what? Is it "that we wait until we feel led, and find it easy and stress-free and effortless, to give the nod to His suggestions"? Or is it not "that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3)?

Is the person called to Christ as a freeman Christ's peer, His debating opponent? Or is he not Christ's slave (1 Corinthians 7:22).

Are we to keep the parts of our body as our own, to use at our convenience and according to our preferences? Or are not rather we to present them all as "slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification" (Romans 6:19) — which would include getting them to church, whether it was convenient and easy or not?

And if it be countered that we are not merely slaves, but also sons, I'd have more questions. Is a son his father's peer? Or does a son not owe his father honor and obedience (Deuteronomy 21:18; Malachi 1:6; Colossians 3:20)? If so with our earthly fathers, is it not much more the case with our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9)?

Look, this is a crucial point, whether we're talking about church attendance, or doctrine, or marriage, or any other area of Christian living. When we respond to Divine commandments with a "But" or a series of excuses, we echo the Serpent, and treat God as our peer — or our inferior.

This is not thinking like a slave. And make no mistake: if we are not slaves of God, then we are slaves of sin (Romans 6:15-23). But we are slaves!

So here's where the rubber meets the road: what do you do when faced with a clear commandment, with clear teaching of Scripture, that crosses your will? Today, it just happens to be the fact that you need to be involved in church, learning and growing, serving and submitting and accountable.

Tomorrow it will be how you treat your spouse, or whether you keep your pants/dress on, or whether you keep your hand out of that guy's pocket, or whether you keep your fingers from around his throat, or whether you deny or fudge that unfashionable doctrine.

You see? It's all one. Jesus is Lord, or we are. If we are, He isn't; if He is, we aren't.

You and I need to think like a slave; and not only a slave, but a crucified slave, who has died to his old master, and come to life for another.

Then you and I take our truckload of excuses and rationales and dodges and rationalizations, we say "Yep, I'm going to need help," we take them and ourselves to the Cross, we count ourselves dead to them, we plead for the enabling grace of God...
...and we obey.

Here's the practical key, then: move the "but."
Until now, it has been: "God says to obey, but I have these excuses/challenges/difficulties." And so you don't start. The issue is still whether to obey. This thinking ill-befits a slave, much less a son.

From now on, it must be "I have these excuses/challenges/difficulties, but God says to obey." And then you start. Now, the issue is not whether, but how. This is thinking like a slave, and thinking like a son.

Move that "but."

Then move yours.

So whoever knows the right thing to do
and fails to do it,
for him it is sin
(James 4:17)


Dan Phillips's signature

134 comments:

Stan McCullars said...

Very encouraging message. Thanks for sharing it.

Jerry said...

Great post! (And a timely reminder for all of us.)

"It's not about you, stupid."

Frank Turk said...

It's posts like this one which make me proud to have established this internet church with Phil and Dan.

"move your but" indeed.

Lee Shelton IV said...

To be honest, when I saw the title I initially thought this was going to be a post about living under a socialist Obama regime. :)

Good post, Dan.

Ryan said...

Fantastic post, Dan. Full of light and heat.

JOYce ♥ said...

The following list seems to mirror reasons people give for not going to church. If you took the same excuses that people use for not going to church and apply them to other important areas of life, you'd realize how inconsistent we can be in our logic.

1. I was forced to wash as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites. They think they are cleaner than everyone else.
3. There are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one was right.
4. I used to wash, but it got boring, so I stopped.
5. I wash only on special occasions, like Easter and Christmas.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I'm still young. When I'm older and have gotten a bit dirtier, I might start washing.
8. I really don't have time to wash.
9. The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.
11. I get along very well without washing.
12. I work hard all week and am too tired to take a bath on the weekend.
13. The first bar of soap I ever used gave me a rash, so I haven't gone near soap since.
14. I don't understand the big words on the back of the soap package.
15. I don't feel dirty, and I'm offended that people tell me I am.
16. I don't have nice towels or a proper bathrobe.
17. I can just stand outside in the rain and get clean that way.
18. The bathroom that I have now is not as nice as my old one.
19. I'm just as clean as people who wash.
20. I washed once and didn't like it.
21. I like being dirty.
22. Washing is for rich people.
23. It has been so long since I have washed that the roof of the bathroom would cave in.
24. Nobody in my family has ever washed.
25. I don't believe in washing, and I'm sincere in believing that I am clean.

Unknown author

DJP said...

Joyce, two things:

1. The analogy is inexact — but I like it!
2. I'm thinking I may have to make a rule against comments that are funnier than any humor I try to put in a post.

(c:

JOYce ♥ said...

hehehe ~ Dan, I'll be watching for that rule. ☺ <-- smilie face

Chad V. said...

DJP
To pick up on a point you made in the post.

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. James 2:10-11

He who said do not murder also said, "Do not forsake the gathering of yourselves together as some are accustomed to doing." Heb 10:25, and Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb 13:17.

Doug Hibbard said...

Um, you mean that I don't just get a free ride? There are expectations?

Thank you for the reminder. And for the challenge that comes from your bluntness. I'm realizing as I read this that I tend to soften messages I preach because...'God says to preach obedience but....I have to (fill in excuse about not offending/running off/getting run off)'

I am truly challenge to make it 'I may offend, but God says to preach His Word, and in here we find....'

DJP said...

Thanks, Doug. Now, to give you a more ponderously substantial response than you probably want:

Your (and my!) ride to Heaven is free to us, but costly to Jesus; your (and my!) regeneration is free to us, but costly in its consequences.

I understand that it's much easier and relatively consequence-free for me to blaze away in this venue, than you in yours.

There isn't only one way to say something. Just because you're not as bare-knuckled as I just was, doesn't mean you're necessarily not preaching it straight. You're the better judge, there. "The tongue of the wise commends knowledge" (Proverbs 15:2a). "The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer" (v. 28a).

Hope you're not sorry you commented. God bless you.

(c;

Solameanie said...

Frank: "internet church . . . "

Boy, my mischievous side really wants to have some fun with that one. But I'll behave myself, or else Frank will hit me with his spank ray. Or was that Space Ghost that had the spank ray?

jeff said...

Thanks Dan,
This does apply to any transgression of the commandments of God. Different people struggle with different commandments, but we all have our battles. The war between the new man and the old man. God bless

Willem Bronkhorst said...

OK, OK! I'm moving, I'm moving! ...and loving it!

Thanks Dan

BrettR said...

That was on point with a recent battle. Thanks. I wish I could have stated my case as well.

chrish said...

Outstanding post, DJP. Makes me want to steal it and preach it later.

stratagem said...

I highly recommend the Karrass course on negotiation. If you're going to negotiate, you may as well be good at it.

DJP said...

Bad stratagem. And bad Stratagem.

Benjamin Nitu said...

Good post, Dan!

To add another analogy: Expecting a local church to be perfect is like expecting a hospital to be full of healthy people.

stratagem said...

yuck yuck!

Philip said...

Every Christian believes obedience is right and proper. However, what is the nature of that obedience is the question. Which in turn obviously depends on an understanding of the liberty werewith Christ has made us free,and how we are to walk by grace the same way we began,as the strength of genuine sanctification. Do we live under a letter ministry,or a ministry of the Spirit? If the former,then our obedience is not obedience. I really think that the proper grasp of our freedom in Christ-'law and grace'- is basic to understanding the dynamic of the new covenant service. We are slaves(a dynamic for a gospel sanctification surely exists),but is defined by our inheritance and privileges as sons. Now if persons in all conscience are tired of a behaviour modification sanctification that is not sanctification,and through a growing understanding of the issues involved and a sincere desire for a better walk in the promised abundant life-feel that they are better of staying clear of a letter ministry-or are at least honestly thinking through these things-that cannot be called disobedience on any level. Which brings us back(as it has in history)to what is this new covenant in Christ?

Strong Tower said...

But, what about Howie Evers...

For every rule there is an exception except for rules where there is no exception.

No coffee kiosk is probably the biggest reason people stay out of church (and no mirrors in the bathroom). How can anyone be expected to endure a fifteen minute sermon without a good expresso and not knowing what you look like?

Other buts:

they're not like me

I'm not like them

they're good people

I'm a bad person

they'll want to know who I am

I'll have to get to know them

I might meet someone who knows me

I won't know anyone

I know who goes there

Someone might know I go there

sea snakes are poisonous

I live in Wyoming where make it on your own is the way of life

DJP said...

Philip — For a great rarity (you keeping score at home, take note), I will overlook the fact that your comment completely ignores all the Biblical content of both posts and provides none of its own.

So you've developed a concept of obedience that doesn't actually involve nor require, you know, obedience?

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

What does that mean?

Stefan said...

Dan:

As you hinted in your post, this has so much application to whichever particular besetting sins each of us faces in our own lives. So while the direct message—join a church—doesn't apply to me, the indirect applications in other areas of my life most certainly do.

Re obedience: The only way I know how to do even a hundredth of what I ought to do as a bondservant of Christ (not to say that our obedience can in any way be quantified, since that is the way of works righteousness) is to turn to the Cross every day, repent, and seek God's grace for the day. The days when I don't make a conscious effort to do that are much more difficult than the days when I do.

DJP said...

Exactly, Stefan.

Steve Lamm said...

Dan,

Thanks for this post. It's sorely needed.

As a pastor, I've heard most of the excuses. My response used to be to present a plethora of biblical arguments why they ought to be a part of a local church fellowship.

My patience has gotten a bit thin when it comes to this issue, so I've shortened may response some. Now I quote John 14:15 and say: "Don't tell me you love Christ, and yet admit that you despise His Church for which He died. It's an insult to our Lord."

Blessings,
Steve Lamm

jk said...

Talk about waking up and smelling the coffee (gourmet)...Dan really enjoyed this and the other. From a pastor's perspective it's like getting fresh ground Kona...

Doug Hibbard said...

Sorry...I forget sarcasm doesn't text well...the 'free ride' part of the comment was the response I would expect from many people I preach to every Sunday. The rest was sharing the conviction your post brought.

Not sorry I posted---glad to get in on the conversation.

manuchon said...

I live in France, 0,5% of the population says they are evangelical. they are a number of area without any evangelical church or with only a "prosperity gospel" church in hours.
If I live in such an area, what can I do ? will I go in a catholic church which anathemized the gospel at trent ? Will I go in a church where not to be healthy is the prove of a sin and God is only a puppet who has to give you whatever you want ? Will I go in a church where to be fill with the "spirit" is to lose control ?
This is not a theoretical question, my family lives in such an area. I hope that one day they will repent and serve our God. What can I tell to them if it comes ?

(I beg my pardon if my english is bad, I'm french and have very few opportunities to speak and write in english)

Terry Rayburn said...

Dan,

Your argument is devastatingly air-tight.

However, as is often the case with exhortations to obedience, it could use a little addressing of the question, "What if one is NOT obeying?" As in, "The thing I desire to do I find I don't do." Is the "command", with its accompanying proofs, enough?

Or to put it another way, feed the sheep the rules, and they will wander far (even while "convicted", or even shouting, "Hear, hear!").

Feed the sheep the Shepherd, and they will follow Him, filled with His Spirit and the fruit of His Spirit, which is Love...and self-control. It's in their [new] nature.

Ducking for cover,
Terry

David said...

Philip, if you would just go ahead and let us know how the Spirit would lead us to obey less than the letter, especially with regards to clear New Testament teaching, that would be great.

chrish said...

Manuchon,

If you truly find it impossible to attend a church that teaches the Word of God, perhaps it is time to join with like-minded believers and slaves to start a new fellowship. I don't say that as though it was easy; it might be the hardest thing you do. But, if there are no churches that preach Christ and Him crucified, it might be worth looking into.

chrish said...

David,
I need to read earlier/type faster. Your sentiments are exactly what I was thinking.

Philip said...

No,Dan,that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that all that is called obedience -even when it looks externally like obedience to a precept-is not if that precept has become 'the letter'. Those who love Christ will indeed keep his commandments,but the faith of the new covenant that facilitates that-is the key to a natural heart expression under a ministry of the Spirit which gives life,rather than a mere self-righteous conformity under the letter that kills. Love is the fulfilling of the law-the doing of the law is not love. If we subject our hearts to a letter ministry,we cannot love with a genuine Spirit-produced love-and thus cannot bear the fruit that marks genuine grace-obedience-'the obedience of faith'. Of course this will bring hearts disposed to fellowship in local bodies-but I'm suggesting that it may bring people to leave letter ministries,too,in faithfulness to Gal5v1,for example. The issues that define this are obviously,what is the gospel,and how do we live the life?You may be interested in my thoughts on Terry Rayburn's latest post at graceforlife.com, David. The question is not 'are their precepts,right and wrong?',but 'where is the dynamic,the power?'. -Phil

JOYce ♥ said...

God says to obey, but I have these excuses/challenges/difficulties.
vs.
I have these excuses/challenges/difficulties, but God says to obey.

Perspective matters, Dan? I'm thinking on how Biblical your phrase transposition example genuinely is...

2 Timothy 1:7 contrasts the issue with the reality of shaking that off and walking after righteousness as a slave in Christ. Our focus oft be on elevating I, me, my, mine(thats can become a comfort zone) after casually recognizing what then becomes an optional request and God is good to set us straight. As in 2 Timothy 1:6 ~ you stirred it up!

Does that make sense?

David said...

I appreciate your explanation, Philip. There's this problem of Col. 3:12-17 which mandates a "one-another-ness" based on humility, forbearance, and love in submission to the indwelling word of Christ as those chosen by Him. That's what the letter says. But that passage has forced me, like a disobedient slave, to acknowledge that I completely lack in humility, forbearance, and love when I judge my pastor, elders, or other leadership within the church to be "letter-based" without some very explicit cause attested to by witnesses, etc. I have had to repent of this, knowing that my membership in the body of Christ is by God's choosing and not my own.

Chad V. said...

I'm sorry, are we talking about the nature of the New Covenant and Christian liberty or are we talking about the necessity of church membership?

witness said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
witness said...

"But it is wholly inappropriate if God is our Lord, and we are His slaves."

If you back people into the corner like that, it isn't going to give much wiggle room.

Thanks for this post! I struggled with this very thing this morning when I contemplated sleeping an hour longer after being up late last night. I was looking for excuses to skip my devotion time and then I remembered I am Someone's slave.

huauqui said...

Manuchon,

Thanks so much for your desire to obey. God will honor that desire. I spent a number of years as a missionary and went through the struggle of no local body to fellowship/minister with. It took time and effort but God gave us a body to fellowship with. In the mean time make sure you cover the spiritual disciplines in your life. Read the scripture, listen to it preached etc... As you are doing that ask God to bring other like minded individuals into your life so you can begin to fellowship.

Where are you in France? I have friends in Southern Paris, Toulosue, and Bordeaux that are all church planting. If they are not close maybe they know of someone who is. Or maybe God is calling them to help you plant a local church.

You can reply here or e-mail me through my blogger account if you would like to. I hope this helps. Know we are praying for you and we understand your struggle.

Gary

DJP said...

manuchon — your English is better than my French! (And better than some native speakers' English.)

I wonder where you live in France, also. My daughter lived in Paris for a year. It was hard to find an evangelical church, but she found one. It was hard to get herself there, but she did.

So I'd look for ways to cast the net wide. There is no Christian bookstore to ask? Can you take out an ad, looking for fellow-evangelicals? Have you done Google searches, to see if there isn't some network you could use (Facebook, even?), to find someone to make you a recommendation?

HSAT, I say this: your situation is not the situation of 99.99% of my readers. Most of the people who might even imagine they're in your situation mainly only think so because their local evangelical pastors (all 75 of them) aren't Johns Piper nor MacArthur, nor Phil Johnson.

BTW, I'm not preaching anything I haven't had to practice.

The Doulos said...

Dan, you're talkin' my language. Slave = doulos. I was just teaching on this principle last Sunday. One aspect of our identity as a Christian is that of a slave. A slave of Christ, a slave to righteousness. As you noted, explicit in our referring to Christ as "the Lord" is the truth that He is our Master and we are His slaves, bought with a prices, dependent on Him, controlled and constrained by His will. So the real question for all of us when it comes to this issue of the church or a thousand others is this - Am I being an obedient slave, or a rebellious one? Those are the only two options. Everything else is excuses and bargaining and rationalization.

Mike L said...

DJP- Excellent post that certainly has me thinking about a few things. I know your post may have been pointed at those who are not currently part of a church, but it's left me with some questions.

My wife and I have been heavily involved at our church for a number of years. In preparation for our first child (due next month) we've started to scale back our involvement and have stopped attending on Wednesday nights. We still feel like we're a part of the church, but when I look at the reasons that we are no longer there on Wednesdays they all break down to convenience. Does this fall under disobedience?

To extend the question further- What about the various weekly studies (mens/womens/young adults/etc.) held at our church? How do we biblically discern between mere casual Sunday attendance and proper involvement in the local body of believers?

DJP said...

Mike, my too-short answer:

1. You're right, I'm addressing those not involved to a minimal threshold, period, of whom there are more than you'd imagine.

2. I see the minimal threshold to be involvement and participation to the point where the leadership knows you well enough to keep watch over your soul (Hebrews 13)

3. I think the degree of involvement is a matter of wisdom and stewardship, best worked out 'twixt you and the missus in conjunction with your elder(s) if you're in any doubt.

Doug Hibbard said...

On the whole issue of serving the letter of the law vs life in the Spirit, I've always understood that in light of the whole of what the Pharisees considered law. One of the examples I remembered vividly was that the law prohibited drying off by a fire on the Sabbath, because boiling water was work. This type of human add-on to God's directions is the type of 'law' that we are freed from.

For a modern example, I'm pastor of a very traditional church in the Bible Belt. We have Sunday Morning service at 11 AM. Since that is, and seems always to have been, the great 'holy hour,' I'd like to add-on to the Word of God, do not forsake assembling yourselves together, and state that we must assemble at 11 AM, and those of you who don't are not truly worshipping.

That sounds crazy, right? It is, because it's a human law added to God's Word. When we talk about being free, free from the law, free in the Spirit, we're still bound by God's directives (insert extended discussion about Old Testament in New Testament). For argument's sake, we'll just stick with the things explicit in the New Testament: assemble together, study the Word, preach the Word, worship Christ, take the Lord's Supper as a reminder and proclamation, don't just not murder, also don't hate, don't just avoid adultery, flee lust.

All of these things are still God's commands, God's directions for His people. These actions and attitudes are not for us to just consider and do as we 'feel led,' but to follow without question.

Slaves is one of the terms for us in Scripture, Paul also uses the illustration of being a soldier. Soldiers are expected to understand the basics of what constitutes a lawful order, and follow those orders without question. So should we. The Bible becomes our explicit direction about what constitutes a lawful order, and the only Commander-in-Chief we have is God. The difference in the analogy is that a soldier may refuse an unlawful order, while a believer would recognize that an unlawful order didn't come from the right source.

(Earlier I was asked if I was sorry I jumped in, you guys may be sorry you let me :-) )

Strong Tower said...

"How do we biblically discern between mere casual Sunday attendance and proper involvement in the local body of believers?"

Ask them to take aout the garbage after service every Sunday?

Seriously, Veith asks about the casual observer who floats from one congregation to the next without committment... It is kind of like internmentnet, a church of the living dead eating the flesh of the living whereever they find fresh meat.

You can go to church and not be there, and you can go to alot of churches and not even leave the farm. If you're a Christian voyeurger, then there are a lot of ways to look in the window; radio, TV, net, smorgasboard drive-by... But, fellowship like marriage requires a little bit more personally committed interaction if it is going to bear fruit that matures to "I take thee" rather than remaining putrescible adolescent infatuation.

Chris said...

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6,7

This is a pretty amazing scripture when taken in in all of its context. In a nutshell God cares for us through the local eldership. So the "humble yourselves" means that we submit to the God-appointed leadership. That is the means by which "God cares for you."

JTW said...

Last night (11-19-08) John MacArthur spoke extensively on this issue at the "Preach The Word Conference" at Harvest Christian Fellowship.

He began teaching on the Headship of Christ and ended with what it means to be a slave of Christ.

It was a powerful message well worth viewing. You can find it here
Harvest.Org under "Wednesdays - Previous Study 2008-11-19"

DJP said...

Whoa. Mac, getting into my Draft status posts.

Creepy. Stop stalking me!

Jeremy & Jennifer said...

I am a member of a Lutheran Church. I believe in TULIP. My pastor is withholding the Lord's Supper until or unless I proclaim that I no longer hold to the "P" specifically. It has been over a year now. Do I reject the teachings of Scripture in regard to TULIP so I can participate in communion, or do I hold onto the doctrines of grace knowing I will never take of the body and blood of Christ?
Submission to church discipline is one thing, but here is where the rubber meets the road and I really do not know what to do. I know I can't stop going to church, but submitting to discipline seems outrageous because I cannot partake in communion. It's like being married and foregoing intimacy.

Michael said...

I know I'll more than likely regret this, but hey...I might learn something.

Where in the Bible does it state that one can only observe the Lord's Supper in a Church building, or as officiated by an ordained minister?

DJP said...

First, who said anything about a building?

Then: where does the NT discuss communion? And where does it depict it taking place, and under what circumstances?

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Well, Jeremy, I'll go for the obvious question: why not go to another church? I ask that not lightly, as if I advocate leaving any church at the first difficulty; but because this pastor is exercising an unwarranted tyranny over your conscience.

DJP said...

And Michael, before you answer those questions or ask further ones, please do read both posts. Judging by the comment I just removed, you haven't, yet.

nic lazz said...

Thanks for Posting on this subject of Church. I run in a lot of Hyppie, Hardcore Music, Christian Subcultures and they all love to be Christians without actually obeying the Bible. I get so frustrated that if I saw Frank Viola or George Barna around i would most likely have words with them, because they think they know about church history and they dont, and possibly punch them in the face(I am fully aware that you do not approve of this). So, thanks. Its hard enough having forearm tattoo's and being a reformed Christian, let alone dealing with the subculture backlash of Finney.

The Breakdownigans said...

"we take them and ourselves to the Cross, we count ourselves dead to them, we plead for the enabling grace of God..."

You have no idea how much that one comment affected me today.

God Bless TeamPyro

Nicholas Z. Cardot said...

This is a good post. You know, I come across a lot of excuses for why people don't care to show up at the church house during meeting times, but this really nails it to the wall. Your summary is perfect. "I have these issues BUT God says to obey."

You have expanded my frame of mind in terms of how I can answer these excuses in the future. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together!

Michael said...

OK...I've read the posts (and all the comments...wow), and I'll attempt to answer the questions.

First, who said anything about a building?

No one I suppose...I "assumed" that the local body of believers met in a building.

Then: where does the NT discuss communion?

Among a body of believers.

And where does it depict it taking place, and under what circumstances?

In that assembled body of believers, in right relationship with God, and together.

It appears (on the surface) that this sacrament does not require "officiation" by a pastor or other elders, but I may not have read enough of the scriptures yet...I'll admit that up front.

So, it "seems" that group of believers, whose hearts are right with God, could partake of the Lord's supper together and be aligned with Biblical direction.

Still learning...

DJP said...

That's a good start, Michael. But you still didn't plug in all the rest. Paul saw it as absolutely imperative that every assembly be presided over by at least one pastor/elder (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5f.), whom they were to obey and who were to keep watch over their souls (Hebrews 13:7, 17). So the meetings in which they come together for communion are church meetings over which an elder or elders preside (1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33, 34).

eastendjim said...

Phillip,

Anything is only as complictated as I need to make it to justify
sinful behaviour.

Sisterlisa said...

Good article. And I enjoyed your comment section. It certainly is getting harder to find a good Bible believing church that preaches the gospel. I'm thankful to be a part of one that does. Yet I have friends who do not have a church, I grieve for them. Then there are some that can't get out of their homes due to disabilities. Would you suggest they find a church online that posts their services online to view and tithe to such church?

Sisterlisa said...

I have a question but can't find your 'contact us' link.

Grigs said...

I am becoming a member of my church this sunday. IT fit very well this post!

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

Dan,

I just want to say that I really enjoy the 'content' of your posts very much, but I have minor critique about your font and color choices of the text mixed with images. I often find the red and bold black text somewhat distracting and it actually makes some of your posts harder to read. It's already been proven that reading text on a computer screen is harder on the eyes than reading text on a paper, and mixing black bold text with red can feel overwhelming at times

I just wanted to share my opinion, just in case I'm not the only one.

Keep up the good work.

Susan said...

All right. I get it. I get it. I get it....

(First Dan, then Frank, then Dan again. Nag. Nag. Nag....) :P

It's not gonna be easy, just as Carol Jean said in yesterday's comments. Nope.

But the Lord will help, and I need to trust that He will.

I'll move my difficult "but" and the other one--one way or another....

atruefaith.com said...

Why can't we do our own thing again?

-Ananias & Saphira

CR said...

That Professor Yabut is a pretty popular professor in town.

CR said...

You know, I was thinking about this lady I use to know. She was Persian, stunningly beautiful (I can say that, since I'm single) and remember her telling about the story of her ancient ancestry on how Persians - actually she was also an Assyrian. And she reminded me of the story of Jonah.

You know, it's really fascinating if you think about it for a moment there are not too many ancient people left today. Babylonians - gone, Chaldeans - gone; Egyptians - those in Egypt today, they are not the original Egyptians, they are just Arabs. Very few ancient ethnic groups exist today and those would be e.g., Israel and Assyrians. Those are just two amazing examples of God's sovereignty over a peopele.

Well, anyway, this lady was a professing Christian but I learned she wasn't going much to church. Well, anyway, her father committed a murder-suicide. He killed a half or stepsister and then turned the gun on himself. And all she could remember were people from church looking down on her own family because of that and that left a bad taste. So, she goes periodically and she tries to find a Persian Christian church, but I have reminded her on a couple of occassions you can't indefinitely avoid going to church and continue to say you love Christ. Christ loved his church and died for her. And I just kept exhorting her about and well, of course, I haven't heard from her in a very long time, so with the holidays coming up it might be a good idea to give her a call.

But like what has already been said, no matter what the execuse is, and some of these are REAL good excuses, it comes to obeying. Well, first repentance for neglecting the assembly then obey.

Steve Scott said...

Dan wrote:

"So the meetings in which they come together for communion are church meetings over which an elder or elders preside"

Dan, in comparing this statement with the link to Acts 14:23 I find it interesting that you think a church must have elders. "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church..." These assemblies of believers were called "churches" before elders were appointed. Now, I'm not going to argue against elder or elders, but the biblical term for "church", (ekklesia) means "assembly", not "ruled by an elder." Just because a group of Christians who assemble doesn't have an elder, doesn't mean that it isn't a church.

Elderless churches should strive to have them. I've been part of single elder churches who believed in plurality, but it was quite some time before that happened.

Your advice to Jeremy was to consider leaving the unwarranted tyranny of his pastor. Is it so odd to realize that there might be many people out there who have never experienced otherwise?

DJP said...

Sisterlisa — I actually talked about such a situation over at my personal blog, where you'll also find an email link at the bottom of the page.

Steve Scott — I don't know how unusual it is and made no comment on that. It's just irrelevant to the point of the two posts.

There is no analogy between out situation here, today, and those of countries with no church whatever. It isn't really that hard to follow: the NT teaches that Christians must involve themselves in local assembles, the NT teaches that local assemblies are led by pastors, who watch over those Christians who involve themselves.

Philip said...

Dan,my apologies if I broke any blog rules and thus displayed a lack of courtesy with my posts...I just find that the more I think,the more I'm sure that the new covenant and God's more perfect way of gospel sanctification isn't understood. Respectfully,I think you folks have a notion of Lordship that often seems-as soon as you get off the gospel-to be defined by scripture that comes before the new covenant is ratified. Thus the exhortations in that vein. I no less than you believe in Christ's Lordship. But I honestly believe-especially in view of Rom6-8,Gal-that God has restored the member of the new creation to an obedience that is not a perpetual slaving to do one's duty-perhaps empowered by the message of forgiveness of sins-but the slavery of a marriage union in perfect liberty,which alone brings Spirit-born heart fruit. Rom6v14,Rom7v1-6, I believe,are the very essence of the gospel,and I think they are-admitting my limited experience-widely misunderstood or misappropriated. Rom6v14 is said to mean we are under law for a rule of life,but not its condemnation. I believe those two things held together are a contradiction. Sanctification cannot possibly come from a marriage of law and grace. I didn't enter into rest by seeking God's pleasure,favour and blessing by my performance,so how can I be sanctified that way?(Gal3v3). I think the fullness of the deliverance truly appropriated is the strength of genuine fruit bearing. If I don't do that,my obedience is a performance-based Pharisaical thing,wood,hay,stubble that is not of the works prepared beforehand that I should do in Christ,by Christ in me as a new creation. To Paul in Galatians,it's another gospel that is not another,because only in this deliverance is the dynamic for qualitative life-'what the law could not do'-what the law was weak and useless for- what the law was never designed to bring,etc. I think were we to get this,the commands for the one under grace become-not imperatives of a daily legal relationship-our Abba Father has given us the Spirit of adoption,not a slavish spirit of bondage-he is not our employer-he does not need us-he wants us as sons...the commands become indicatives of who we are in Christ as those new creations now complete in him,with everything we need for life and godliness,what we thus love to do in our heart of hearts,what we do as Christ works in and through us as we walk by the Spirit,by grace...as regards local churches,I think if this were the rule,there would be far more genuine fruit among genuine Christians-consciences free from bondage,elder who desire to see Christ formed in their fellow kings and priests,and not themselves after the flesh,far less cultic type behaviour modification,and much more of a Berean semper reformanda as opposed to defending the traditions of (even good)men-the expression of a Spirit of love,power and a sound mind...somebody said above -Chad I think-is this about the nature of the new covenant or church membership?As I say,I apologize for any lack of courtesy,but that really illustrates my point. Any discussion of the precept which is not explicitly Christocentric and Christological,is inherently legalistic and separate from its animation,who is Christ in us,the hope of glory. Thinking out loud. -Phil

DJP said...

Wow, Philip, what a mess.

So you ignore every last single Scripture in both posts, and contradict God's Word by concepts you've yanked from the Word and forced into your own paradigms, so that you make Scripture contradict Scripture. You take over 500 words to explain why 12 words in 1 John 5:3 (ESV) don't simply mean what they say.

Yet they still do.

That whole harmful process is dealt with, in part, here.

The problem isn't discourtesy on your part at all, Philip. It is your miserable, harmful mishandling of Scripture. You're wed to your notions, not God's Word. Mercy, I pray you're not influencing any poor souls with that mess.

I could go on all day about the ridiculousness of this concept. As if there's not obedience in marriage. As if there's not obedience in sonship. Gosh, I should have said something about that in the post. Oh, wait! I already did! To wit:

"And if it be countered that we are not merely slaves, but also sons, I'd have more questions. Is a son his father's peer? Or does a son not owe his father honor and obedience (Deuteronomy 21:18; Malachi 1:6; Colossians 3:20)? If so with our earthly fathers, is it not much more the case with our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9)?

"Look, this is a crucial point, whether we're talking about church attendance, or doctrine, or marriage, or any other area of Christian living. When we respond to Divine commandments with a "But" or a series of excuses, we echo the Serpent, and treat God as our peer — or our inferior."

Dude, take the Bible seriously. It means what it says. It's a revelation, not a codebook.

DJP said...

Terry Rayburn — didn't mean to ignore you, just had comments kind of slip past with the busyness of the day.

I'd simply say (A) it's not an either/or, and (B) every post doesn't (can't) say everything. This was Luther's complaint about James.

(c:

DJP said...

JOYce ♥ — no, it's probably me, but I didn't follow your second comment. Sorry.

)c:

Chad V. said...

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matt7:21-23

Strong Tower said...

Sanctification cannot possibly come from a marriage of law and grace.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them...For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth...If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love...

We know that Jesus was the Servant of the OT. We also know that he took on the form of a doulos, a slave, Philippians 2.7.

I am having a hard time finding how it is that there is some disconnect between the OT and the NT, and the newman the second Adam, into whose image we are being transformed and how it is that we are not to be more and more slaves to the Law of righteousness? Just "seems" that this submission thing as sons to the Father, likes slaves who do his will, is the image of Christ that he "seems" to be commanding we be comformed to.

not a codebook

Right, but some treat it like a bookcooked. At a high enough temperature, with a little watering down, it becomes a moldable mass. When that is achieved, simply pour it into of form made after your own image.

Mike Riccardi said...

Now,

I actually agree with the principle of what I think Philip is trying to say. We must be sanctified by grace, and not a legalistic system, whether it be the Law of Moses or any other law. God doesn't present us with a list of things to do and not to do as the means (or motivation) for our sanctification. He presents to us Christ Himself, and by beholding Him, we are transformed (2Cor 3:18).

And so, what Philip is trying to say, is that it's not obedience at all if we grit our teeth and clench our fists and struggle and say, "Allllll riiiiight. Off to church, I guess." That's not the second half of 1 John 5:3. That would be demonstrating in action that His commandments are indeed burdensome. Again, what I think Philip is trying to say -- and at least what I'm trying to say -- is that God gives us the grace in Christ to obey Him with joy. Piper often says, "Christ doesn't save us to make much of us; He saves us to enjoy making much of Him forever." And so the person who goes to church against His will, but does it because "it's just the right thing to do," dishonors God. Because it's as if that person is saying, "I know You tell me, God, that going to church is good for me, and I know You reveal Yourself to those people in obedience (sanctification = being transformed into His image), but I don't think you're satisfying enough, pleasing enough, beautiful enough, to have me enjoy obeying you. Sure, I can muscle it down, but it's not enjoyable."

That's not obedience that glorifies God. That's moralism, and anyone can do that. Anyone -- saved or unsaved -- can do things they don't want to do if they're really pricked in their conscience that they should do. But that's not grace. That's law. And so that dishonors not only the finished work of Christ on the cross, but also the beauty and pleasantness of Christ Himself.

HSAT...

The issue, though, Philip, with pitting all that against the thrust of what Dan is saying here, is that if you're not going to church, you're sinning. You can't say, "I'm not going to church because that would be lawkeeping and we're sanctified by grace," because in avoiding whatever principle of law, you're also avoiding any sanctification itself! So the principle of glorifying the grace of Christ by not seeking to be sanctified by law can never lead one to do something expressly forbidden in Scripture, or not do something expressly commanded in Scripture.

So you're saying that we shouldn't go to church because we feel like we have to. We should go to church because Christ has commanded it, and it's a joy to obey our Savior.

But nowhere in there can we ever use that principle of grace to say that we shouldn't go to church. It is bound upon all believers to be involved in a local church. That commandment isn't burdensome, and so it shouldn't be followed as if it was burdensome. But equally, it shouldn't ever not be followed.

DJP said...

But Mike, even given all that, I recoil from labored attempts to explain something that is presented in Scripture as being just as simple as pouring a glass of milk.

What if, instead of all that, we simply said:

If you're not a Christian, you're doomed, and must repent and believe in Christ.

If you're a Christian, do what God tells you.

Isn't that just John 14:15, 1 John 5:3, and all the others? Why make it so infernally complicated?

chrish said...

DJP,

We make it infernally complicated because when truth is simple, we have no excuse but to choose: obey or disobey. When it's complicated, we get to hide within the shades of grey we create.

"Did God really say...?"

Mike Riccardi said...

I think, Dan, it's because we've gotten really good at being Pharisees. We've gotten really good and doing things "just because."

In John 14 and in 1 John 5:3, the idea of sanctification by grace... and the idea of enjoying God in Christ as the basis of the Christian life... is there. I just think that we've largely ignored it. I'm thinking of the catechism, right? We all affirm that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And we affirm that because we believe Scripture teaches that clearly.

We also believe that God does everything to glorify Himself to the utmost. And if that's so, that means it's His desire for His children (those to whom He reveals Himself) enjoy Him. And so He's not honored by someone obeying Him just because they know it's the right thing to do as much as He's honored by someone who knows Him, and has tasted the satisfaction and the fullness (that Strong Tower referred to recently) that is in Christ, and given that -- that I know my God -- I love to obey. At that point, we exclaim: OF COURSE His commandments are not burdensome! And it's a delight to keep those commandments.

That's the love that He's talking about in John 14. I don't think He's saying, "Prove you love me by keeping my commandments." I think He's saying that those who truly love God, who delight in Him, who know Him and enjoy Him, will, out of that love, keep His commandments.

And so, again, for the record, you've gotta know that I don't disagree with a word you've said here. Like I said above, the principle of grace in sanctification, and obeying Christ out of delight and not duty, never translates somehow into not obeying Him.

And so when you ask, can't we just say:

If you're not a Christian, you're doomed, and must repent and believe in Christ.

If you're a Christian, do what God tells you.


I say, absolutely!

But in that second sentence, unless you implicitly affirm and understand the principle of grace, that God makes it a delight for me to do what He tells me to do (simply by making me able to see Him as He really is), you miss out on His glory.

And like I said at the beginning of my post, I think many Christians (speaking generally of course, and not trying to refer to you in a backhanded way at all) don't implicitly affirm or understand that principle of grace in sanctification. So I think in those instances in which that even might be the case, that's why it has to be so complicated.

Mike Riccardi said...

Let me just add one more thing for good measure...

Though I believe that truly God-honoring obedience comes in delighting in Him, I also do know that there are times when we don't always feel like He's delightful. That's obviously because we've still got the presence of sin in our flesh.

So then, given all I've said, do I say that unless we feel all warm and fuzzy about it, we should never obey God? μὴ γένοιτο!

If faced with the opportunity to obey God, and you survey your soul and see your sin and it says to you that you're not delighting in Him, and that would be burdensome, I say do it anyway. Because what will happen -- invariably -- is that God will be gracious, and just by the beauty of Himself will win your affections... sometimes even in the process of doing what you didn't feel like doing.

And Chris H, not sure if you were referring to me, but I most certainly don't fall into the camp of "Did God really say..." Just thought I'd clear that up.

DJP said...

OK Mike, and I doubt we disagree with much. But here's the deal:

Again and again when I get all that noise, it is just a sophisticated-sounding dodge. The translation is, "Here's how I distract myself from feeling bad for rebelling against God."

I had a man leave a church I pastored because I preached that NT commands are commands, and he was a gutless-gracer. I asked him once, "So if you, a married man, were sorely tempted to commit adultery against your wife, you wouldn't just remember Paul's command to 'Flee immorality,' and run for it?"

No, he said; he'd just realize that the flow of the life of the Spirit of Christ within him blah blah blah blah blah.

Every NT author doesn't feel obliged to say everything every time he says anything. We shouldn't either.

I tell Josiah, "Please take out the trash." Then he needs to do it. If he doesn't, he's disobeying, period. PERIOD.

I'm not obliged to sit down EVERY TIME I TELL HIM SOMETHING, take him in my arms, and say, "Josiah, you know that I love you, and I'll always love you, and even if you disobey, you'll always be my son, and I delight in you, and blah blah blah blah."

He just needs to do what I say.

Because he's my son, and I'm his dad.

The NT is JUST that SIMPLE.

DJP said...

MIKE: "Noise" not meaning to be dismissive of you, but alluding to Philip, and the use of concepts as noise and distraction and evasion.

Mike Riccardi said...

The translation is, "Here's how I distract myself from feeling bad for rebelling against God."

I'm sorry, Dan. That's not what I'm saying at all. I don't think it's ever legitimate to rebel against God, and if anyone ever uses what I'm saying to say differently, I would take issue with that.

Every NT author doesn't feel obliged to say everything every time he says anything. We shouldn't either.

I agree with that too. And Christians don't need that every time, because we know our God. And it's from that knowledge of Him that we obey delightfully.

He just needs to do what I say. Because he's my son, and I'm his dad.

Again, agreed as before. I'm not saying at all that if he doesn't feel like obeying that it's any excuse for his disobedience. I'm saying that he can obey on the outside and hate it. And I'm saying that that's not how the NT presents Christ or the Christian life to us. I'm saying it says, "You're His son; He's you're Dad. You know Him. Based on that relationship, obey joyfully."

I tell Josiah, "Please take out the trash." Then he needs to do it. If he doesn't, he's disobeying, period. PERIOD.

100% agreed. But here's the question: If he does it every time you ask him, but as he does it is grumbling, and thinking to himself about how you're such a slave driver, and how it's really annoying how you ask him to do things he doesn't wanna do all the time... is he obeying then? And if he is, are you honored by such obedience?

Mike Riccardi said...

Dan,

Didn't see your addendum. Makes more sense. That's kinda what my first point was addressing there. You can disregard that.

For the record, I do see the complications of what Philip was saying. That's why I kept referring to "what he was trying to say."

DJP said...

No no no, Mike, sorry, that's what I was trying to clarify. I don't take you that way. I don't think I entirely agree with you, but no, I don't take you that way.

I do take Philip that way, and hear it WAY TOO MUCH.

~Mark said...

Well speaking as a man whose people were once despised and enslaved in this country let me just tell you that these portions of Scripture are HARD on my ears and HARD on my mind and...


...food for my soul. this stuff ain't easy, but it's God's and it's good. Thanks djp.

DJP said...

Thanks, Mark. One of the improvements of the CSB translation is that they've stepped away from the "softer" terms like servant and bondslave, and simply (and corretly) translate doulos as "slave."

We ALL are - of someone/something.

chrish said...

Mike Riccardi,

Nope, that was in response to DJP's question, "Why do we make things so infernally complicated." I meant nothing personally to you.

Michael Y said...

I love this! We have to ask the question of who's in charge of Christianity, Christ or us? I would hope the answer is obvious, but unfortunately it doesn't always seem to be.

Respectabiggle said...

There was a time when being a good Christian husband was a burden to me. It was like walking on broken glass and I only kept at it because of the commands of Scripture.

It wasn't burdensome because there was something wrong with obedience, but because there was something wrong with my heart.

Michael said...

Thanks for the scripture references Dan. By reading Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 I understand why you believe that Paul felt it was imperative that every assembly have at least one elder appointed.

By reading Hebrews 13:7 & 17, I see why you believe that the congregation should defer to and obey centralized leadership.

Finally, by reading 1 Corinthians 11, and taking those concepts from the previously mentioned sources and marrying them to this scripture (since it doesn't mention or even allude to anyone officiating or presiding over the observance of this sacrament) I can see why you believe than an elder(s) should accomplish this.

Which spawns a related question. Since baptism is also a sacrament, would you consider only pastors or elders appropriate to perform this function, or do you believe that this sacrament is available to be performed by ANY believer.

While I have heard that Matthew 28:19 applies to all believers from the perspective of making disciples of all nations, I haven't heard many state that the command to baptize also applied to all believers.

Does this fall into the category of "...all things should be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40)

DJP said...

Michael, perfectly good question. I don't have an answer I'm absolutely convinced of (like deity of Christ), but here's my answer:

The "Great Commission" was given specifically to the apostles (Matthew 28:16) who were, by virtue of their office, also pastors (cf. 1 Peter 5:1f.). They represented the church, and specifically the leadership of the church.

I'd say, other things being equal, baptism should be done in a church context, by a pastor. But Philip, the deacon, baptized the Ethiopian eunuch right after his conversion (Acts 8). Now, a story isn't the same as a straight-up apostolic command; but it makes me hesitant to say that baptism can only be done by pastors, in churches.

HSAT, in our day and age, I can't easily conceive of a good reason for not doing it as part of a local church meeting. Baptists tend to have the pastor do it. Grace Brethren, IIRC, don't, necessarily.

Live As If said...

it's the daily walk of obedience to Christ, those moments where i have a choice to either follow him or follow me, that can be easy if i rely on Jesus' grace, or difficult if i rely on myself. that "moment of choice" is an awfully hard moment to get through sometimes. but because Jesus saved me, ugly wretch that i am, that moment is bearable now.

Jeremy & Jennifer said...

Why not leave and attend another church? Because we made a vow to become members at the WELS and take that vow seriously. On one hand, I hear you say we should submit to church authority. WELS practices close communion. On the other hand, I cannot lie and say I do not believe in the doctrines of grace simply to take communion. My conscience wouldn't allow me to be that deceptive. Now I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. If my spouse was not allowing me intimacy, that isn't an excuse to leave the marriage. If my church is not allowing me to take communion, I don't see how I can justify leaving either. So, do I submit to authority and forego communion? We looked for another church for over a year but felt out-of-place. Home is with WELS. We tried not going to church at all and that definitely wasn't the answer.
I am confused how to reconcile submission to authority when doing so means foregoing communion.
It makes the command to go to church 100x more difficult.

-Jennifer

DJP said...

I admire your commitment to your convictions, but I think you're in a dilemma of your own making. In this way:

The marriage analogy is inexact. Scripture expressly says that we may not leave a marriage, except under certain circumstances. But God allows divorce under those narrow circumstances.

There is no comparable teaching that a person cannot leave a church that has become abusive. In my judgment (which you solicited), it is abusive to deny you communion for the reason stated. Denial of communion should only happen at the end of church discipline, and that hasn't taken place. It appears he's being capricious and lording it over your conscience.

If you continue to subject yourself to that abuse, though Scripture does not require it of you, you have indeed put yourself in a rough spot.

No leadership in any sphere has the right to command you to do what God forbids, nor forbid you to do what God commands.

God commands you to partake of communion; your pastor forbids it. He has overstepped his bounds.

Mark B. Hanson said...

One more word on the discussion of law and grace. The reformers spoke about the three "uses" of the law after Christ had fulfilled it:

1. To restrain evil.
2. To drive the sinner to the cross.
3. As a mirror for the Christian.

It's the third use of the law that is raising the controversy here. We are not under the law, but we "look into" it to see ourselves. As the Spirit shapes us to conform us to Christ, we look into the law and see the reflection of ourselves obeying it. When we see ourselves disobeying it, we repent and seek the Spirit's help to conform ourselves again.

This may involve "just doing it" - but we should pray not just for the ability to do it, but for joy in so doing.

It is never wrong (and never hypocrisy) to obey God despite our not feeling like it. But we should never allow ourselves to remain in that state; instead, we need to seek for God to restore the joy of salvation.

HSAT - one of the most convicting posts yet by TeamPyro. Thanks!

DJP said...

RiccardiIf he does it every time you ask him, but as he does it is grumbling, and thinking to himself about how you're such a slave driver, and how it's really annoying how you ask him to do things he doesn't wanna do all the time... is he obeying then? And if he is, are you honored by such obedience?

Then, I'd have to kick his "but." (c;

But seriously, no. Who's arguing for a cruddy attitude? What I'm hearing in the noise I'm addressing — and, again to be clear, NOT YOU! — is not, "Of course we must obey; and at the same time, we should seek God's grace to make sure we do it with a trusting, grateful, Godward heart." Because, again, who's arguing against that?

What I'm hearing is, "Oh, yeah... obedience. Yeah, yeah... about that. Here's fourteen gallons of muddy water on that nasty concept; and when I'm done, I don't really have to do what God says if I don't feel like it."

The whole point of the post was, if you're a Christian, it's not a negotiation. We're slaves — crucified slaves. God says A, the issue isn't whether, but how. The whether part is settled, when God speaks. Now it's just a question of logistics.

Phil said...

I wrote a long reply but it won't take via my phone yet...basically,the reformer's mathematical unity of scripture(that became CT)defined use of law that way. I'm NCT. I'm not denying the usefulness of the precept for instruction,but I do deny the 3rd use that implies demand on the conscience is proper and the way to sanctification. Law cannot justify, sanctify,lead someone to Christ-it always causes the offence to increase...the bible's own unity is redemptive-historical,promise-fulfilment.

DJP said...

Sure, whatever, Phil-not-Johnson; and if you don't end up with John 14:15 and James 4:17 and 1 John 5:1-3 simply meaning exactly what they say, and Christians being obliged to obey God's word by definition and by virtue of the nature and tenor of the relationship, your whole package is wrong.

It's like knowing the answer before you start your essay-question. If you don't end up there, you're wrong. Period.

(BTW, CT/NCT/dispensationalism have differing answers and rationales as to what is law for the Christian [i.e. some subdivision of the Mosaic law + Christ + apostles, or Christ + apostles]. That's a necessary question. There should be, however, no division as to the fact that, whatever it is that God addresses to Christians, He expects us to believe, accept, embrace, and obey.]

Dan-not-Kimball

Chad V. said...
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Chad V. said...
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Chad V. said...

My previous two comments would have likely dragged the discussion off topic so I'll just say AMEN to DJP and leave it at that.

christianlady said...

Wow...so basically, unless they kick YOU out, even in a remote area with only one option, and the preaching is heretical...you still go with the hopes that being obedient to the Lord will produce fruit or at the very least being obedient is better than not...

Is there a time in scripture where it's okay not to be in church? For example, if the church is a cult then we are not to be yolked with unbelievers? Am I using this corretly? Many people I've read about now have home church with their families rather than meet in a church with problems heretical.

christianlady said...

Also,
Since I have many options where we live, I can leave the church with emergent leanings following the P.E.A.C.E. plan and find a new one. We did just this, left and decided to find something that is hopefully healthy and at least teaching from the Bible. However, sticking it out was a possiblity, and trying to change things where we were. I know there were letters written to churches and they were living in some major sin. People were not encouraged to leave, but were encouraged to change behavior.

Again, I would say if it's a cult or completely filled with heresy and the Koolaid is coming soon, they are not believers and a new church can be formed...am I unbiblical in this?

DJP said...

Did you read the original post, Christianlady? I think it answers all your questions.

Phil said...

Dan,of course those verses mean exactly what they say. But if we don't distinguish a slavish conformity from the obedience of a son,by being clear on the issues involved in gospel sanctification,at best,we are going to vacillate between walking by the flesh,and walking by the Spirit. The Pharisees perpetual cry was 'just obey'-they zealously approved of the command and it's rightness to come to them as demand,but couldn't distinguish letter and Spirit. Their obedience was not obedience to God,but rags.

Phil said...

It's a qualitative,heart thing I'm driving at. Not the fact that sanctification will work in accordance with the righteousness described in the command. But how to genuinely find the power,and I'm saying that's not from demand and a sin-consciousness,but from grace and a consciousness of our perfection in Christ(Heb10v14). Have a listen to Terry Rayburn's 'repentance isn't turning from your sins'(bear with the title a mo). Or to back up a bit,John Reisinger's dvd'the doctrine of law and grace'.

DJP said...

Does it bother you, Phil, that what bothers you clearly didn't bother any of the apostles, who described both themselves and us as "slaves"?

Folks of your mindset seem so worried that some Christian might actually obey God, but not have the precise right attitude about it. You see that reflected in the apostles? I don't. You see the church's problem today as being too many people doing what God says to do even if they don't feel like it? I dono't.

Phil said...

I see the teaching power belonging to grace,a la the tenor of the best of Spurgeon. It very much seems fundamental to the Apostles. Galatians -possibly the most fundamnental book in the NT-seems to be an indictment of performance-based Christianity and all that goes with it,likewise Rom6-8, 2Cor3. Likewise Hebrews,which right through compares and contrasts the Old and New Covenants. One of the letter,with no power. One of the Spirit. One work. One rest-believe. One 'do',one 'done'.One fruit. One death.

DJP said...

Phil, this is going nowhere. You haven't yet dealt straight-on with anything in the post, or any response to you. You have a lot of gauzy concepts that leave you uncomfortable with the granite specifics of the Word. I can easily see the Lord or His apostles given you an order, and you objecting that they're out of line.

As I've demonstrated, specifically and repeatedly, not a one of them shows the least discomfort with what bothers you so much.

That in itself should trouble you,and change your thinking.

Phil said...

That is the Old had no power for life and righteousness,but plenty of power as a ministry of death and condemnation. But the ministry of the Spirit is a ministry of a righteousness,and one apart from the Law,is thus a ministry of grace for life,is far more glorious and brings joy and peace in believing. So says the head. Best wishes,Dan.

DJP said...

Great. So since this entire pair of posts and discussion is built on the entire written revelation of God in general, and the New Testament in particular, you must have no problem with it. Beauty!

Phil said...

It was the wider fundamental issue I was raising,which in some cases affects the narrower issue. Gospel sanctification brings with it local church attendance,normally. Heb 10v25. So does works sanctification. But different reasons,motivations,churches.Some with life,others not. Some to be attended,others best not. The question beholden 'what is the gospel and the church that preaches that gospel for life and righteousness'. Seems like a crucial consideration. Was after interaction,not smug contention.

DJP said...

So, your plan was to begin interacting at some point? With the posts? And with all the responses you've gotten?

Because that would be great.

Phil said...

...a question which affects you're obedience to a fundamental command which clearly is logically prior to not forsaking meeting together-'stand fast in the liberty werewith Christ has made us free,and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage'.Gal5v1. That may necessitate not sitting under a letter ministry with all it entails...my point was fundamental. Response caricatured me as arguing against obedience rather than for a genuine one. So what was to be done,but attempt an apologetic? -Phil

Chad V. said...
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christianlady said...

Thanks, I am sorry I didn't check out the original post. I will.

Christianlady

Kirby L. Wallace said...

Revelation 1:12,13,20 is a bit scant in support for your point.

Sure, we both agree tht the "son of man" is refering to Jesus. But I think it highly debatable that the "angel of the church" is a reference to it's pastor.

And asde from that, it's very unlikely that I can find a church to attend, because apparently, there are only seven of them. The odds that there's one of them near me is pretty slim. Then again, i do live in Tulsa. ;-)

Where is Jesus? Why tend to a spotty reference? Why not let Him speak directly, in person, specifically on the point.

"Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them."

Doesn't get more clear than that.

I'd like to comment further, but it is getting a bit late. I think I will try to come back later and revisit this.

Keep in mind that I DO agree with you. It is important to be in a local body, just not for the reason you seem to be giving (in that opening salvo, I mean). I haven't had time to read the rest yet.

Kirby L. Wallace said...

A quick read in the mean time. This covers a lot of what I'm going to say later. And definately follow the link to "The Martian Chronicles". It fleshes it out further.

http://www.uniuslibri.com/UniusLibriIndex.asp?action=&articleid=70


And WOW. Check out my word verification for this comment: "greek".

Woot! ;-)

(on the other hand, maybe it's a nasty prophetic omen that's gonna haunt me later... Maybe I ought to reconsider what I was going to say.... Nah! ;-)

Andy Hayner said...

Interesting article. Good for the most part with one glaring exception... You'll never find a pastor led church in the New Testament. In fact, you'll never find a pastor (as we use the word) in the New Testament. The word pastor is used a grand total of 1 time in the New Testament... certainly not a prominant part of church life like it's become in our modern "churchianity". Yes, participation in a local church is an essential part of the Christian life, but not the institutional form its become today. You're reading today's institutional form of church back into the New Testament and unwittingly fulfilling the role of a modern day "Judiaser" by using faith in the gospel of Christ as a crook to drag people into a man-made form of false religion. The title is ironic.

The New Testament came to the gentiles by Paul. In the word of God, Paul is established as the apostle we are to follow as an example. He planted churches, left them without appointed leaders, without buildings, without rituals, and with a revelation of the living Lord Jesus. As brothers and sisters, under the headship of Christ they carried on their ministry. After some time the apostle would return to identify "elders" who would continue to allow the church to function under the headship of Christ and watch over the fellowship to help guard the flock from anyone ever "rising up and drawing the flock of God after themselves". In other words, they would protect the flock from anyone assuming the role of a "pastor" (in the modern sense of the word). The modern day concept of pastor, one man (or in a mega-church a group of men) who make the practical decisions and preach sermons to the "layity", is antitheitcal to the New Testement scriptures and the funtional headship of Jesus Christ. Paul never had such a thing in the churches he planted. It's not part of his concept of church life, nor part of his gospel. Think on it lest ye be propetuating "thinking like a slave".

DJP said...

Completely wrong, as already demonstrated both in the previous post and in this meta. Also, the verb from which "pastor" is derived is used in 1 Peter 5:2, where elders are urged to pastor/shepherd the church.

Honestly, this was tried and abandoned in the 60s. It's pretty tired, anti-authoritarian stuff. The Bible pulverizes it. As this post and the previous showed.

Andy Hayner said...

What did I miss here? To say the elders are encourages to "pastor" the church and think that by that you can "rest your case" that the role of the modern pastor upon which institutional christianity depends upon for its very breath is thereby established in Scripture is less than convincing. I'm not denying that you can string verses together to justify the modern idea of the role of the pastor. I'm just saying that you'll never find him in the New Testament. What you'll find is either itinerate preachers, or local "elders" who protected the functioning of the church and would not dominate the flock. They didn't lead meetings or determine the order of worship or administer a sunday school program. They were examples, teachers, and those who watched over the church... a functioning church that was free from clerical heirarchy living as a community of priest under the headship of Christ... receiving a regular dose of preaching from itinerate church planters.

So, you're not willing to agree that the New Testament depicts and the Gospel of our Lord would allow that a faithful christian could be involved in a network of home churches in a city, which are practicing the ordinaces, preaching the word and practicing discipline... without a modern pastor running the show?

I'm pressing the point because of the close association that was made with the gospel (a faithful Christian "must"... was how the article began). To insist that today's institutional church is found in the New Testament is far fetched. It's permissible perhaps. But to insist that being a faithful christian requires a pastor led version of church-life, that is becoming a modern day "Judiaser" with the gospel, don't you think?

DJP said...

Right: as I've shown, the New Testament itself teaches that churches were under the oversight, leadership, direction, care and management of at least one pastor, to whom all the members were obliged by God to yield love, respect, submission and obedience in that context, and whom they were to support financially. That's just NT teaching. Rebels hate it, Christians are enjoined by God to embrace it. Not really rocket science.

And BTW, stringing together verses that, in context, relate to a topic? That's how Christians do theology.

Andy Hayner said...

I guess I'd say it's what you've stated... not what you've shown. I'm not at all convinced. Maybe you can help me though.

Here's what I see. Starting at the 1st missionary journey of Paul, which is recorded in Acts, here's what we see. He won converts, preached Christ for several months and was beaten or left town (he did leave of his own volition a few times). He left the churches he started without appointed leadership on the. After about 2 years he returned to "appoint elders". That's just a fact.

Now in those two years, the church were real churches functioning under the headship of Jesus Christ in the context of mutual submission as brothers and sisters. Elders were appointed after 2 years. They were "older brothers" whose main ministry was to protect and support the healthy functioning of the church as it had been... NOT to replace it, which is what we have inherited in the modern pastor.

At the end of his ministry, Paul has to send Timothy and Titus back to all his churches to "appoint elders". Apparently many of Paul's churches planted in subsequent ministry were still functioning without elders. Apparently elders were so "prominant" in Paul's view of church life that he had to write a letter to explain to his long time co-workers Timothy and Titus what an elder even was. I believe that the crisis of the Jerusalem church fleeing Israel and integrating into the Gentile churches, coupled with local needs, prompted Paul to send his co-workers back to the appoint elders, to protect the churches from being Judiazed by people who wanted to teach the law, geneologies, etc. Elders were appointed who could protect the church to leave her free to function by being examples, watching over, teaching, etc.

The problem with stringing verses about elders together to invent a pastor is that these verses can't tell you what elders do unless you understand how the churches started, functioned and grew. Those verses are part of a story. The elders did what they did in the context of a group of christians who functioned free from clerical heirarchy in mutual submission to one another and Jesus Christ. They were submissive in their attitudes towards all believers, especially elders and itinerate church planters because of their stature in the Lord. No rebellion in that.

DJP said...

Leave speculation aside, and what you have is the categorical imperative that an elder appoint elders in every church (Titus 1:5), that they lead decisively and uncircumnavigatably (Titus 2:15), controlling order and teaching within the fellowship (Titus 3:9-11), and that church members love, honor, subordinate themselves to and obey the church leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17). There is no insane reverse command, ordering leaders to obey non-leaders.

There's no rational sense in trying to obviate such normative passages by appealing to what happened in newborn churches on the mission field a few decades after Pentecost.

Unless you just have issues with the Bible's teaching on authority. But that's not "rational sense," either. Not Christian rational sense. And definitely rebellion.

Andy Hayner said...

First, we don't have to speculate. The story is there for us to read so we can interpret the verses in the context of the historical events. Right?

Second, you seem to be confusing Paul's exortation of Paul to his itinerate co-workers to press the authority of the gospel on the church with the idea that Paul is setting people up as the permenant pre-eminant leaders of a local group of believers. Nope. Never happened.

Forth, "Do not be called leaders, Call no man Rabbi, Call no man Father, etc." Jesus said it. We should obey that. Right? Can't do that with your understanding of pastor.

"The leaders of the Gentiles rule based on hierarchy. It will not be so among you. You'll have as much "role based authority" as slave or a child."- Jesus said it. Elders and pastors should obey that too. Right?


It's mutual submission to Christ and one another and elders lead the way, even in submission.

DJP said...

Clearly not. But then, I already answered that, didn't I?

So, in sum:
* Paul ordered that pastor/elders be established in every church (Titus 1:5)
* These elders were to lead decisively and uncircumnavigatably (Titus 2:15)
* These elders were to control order order and teaching within the fellowship (Titus 3:9-11)
* Church members were to love, honor, subordinate themselves to and obey the church leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17), with no insane reverse command, ordering leaders to obey non-leaders.

Deny that, and you deny the command of the Lord through His apostles. Then what you're doing is not Christianity, but Andyanity.

In that case, please call it that.

Andy Hayner said...

Answered? Really? Where?Saying "clearly not" "completely wrong" etc. is not an answer. I read the verses you mentioned and put them in context of the entire New Testment to demonstrate why I believe your understanding of those verses is flawed. I believe and practice the verses. I'm not denying anything in the Word, just what I believe to be your misunderstanding of it. Thanks for taking time to respond and tell me I'm "completely wrong". Okay. Your blog. You win.

DJP said...

Yep. Your attempt to use story to trump direct commands was answered; your attempt to shift attention of (echo echo echo) direct commands was answered. We're left with the Lord's direction to the NT church.

Sum: you are involved in a local assembly led by gifted, qualified elder(s) (as further described in the post), to whom you yield honor and submission, or you are in direct disobedience to the Lord. All the "buts" and "Look! A comet!" in the world won't change that.

Nothing left out.

trogdor said...

Andy, I have a question here. Your claim is that Paul preached the gospel some places, left the converts on their own, then returned after two years, and only then appointed elders. Where do you find this? Specific references, please. I've read Acts a few times and never seen that before, and a search for "elder" and other terms doesn't yield anything like that. What am I missing?

Also, your claim that Paul sent Timothy and Titus around to these leaderless churches, scrambling to appoint elders for them - again, where do you get this? The command to Titus sure sounds like directions for how to appoint them at the church he was already at, not "Hey, hurry up and run over to Crete and appoint some elders. It kinda slipped my mind there, can you cover for me? Thanks."

Because if you're going to attempt to justify disobedience to clear, direct commands based on stories - which is a horrible idea anyway - I'd like to think the story actually says what you're claiming. But I just don't see it in there. Some help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Andy Hayner said...

No attempt to trump direct commands on my part. Just to understand them in their context. You're being a bit presumptuous. I love the word of God, obey it with all my heart. I just think you're wrong.

Let's try it in bites sized pieces:

Direct commands from the Lord...
"Do not be called leaders, call no man Rabbi, call no man Father."

"The Gentiles lord it over (lead by hierarchy, chain of command). It will not be so among you. The greatest will be as a slave."

I understand the Lord to be forbidding special religious titles and eliminating clerical chain of command obedience in the church. No heirarchy in the church... period.

In my view, in today's institutional church, the title and role of Pastor is the very thing that the Lord forbids. He's a functions largely as local Pope. You have a different view obviously.

How do you harmonize your understanding of pastor/elder with those commands? I've shared my views. I'd like to hear your views on those verses.

Eventually I hope to respond to trogdor, but I'll hold off for now.

trogdor said...

Why hold off? It should be incredibly simple to answer. Just one verse reference should do it. Here's how it goes: Acts xx:yy. That's all it would take. As it is, I suspect you're "holding off" because you have nothing to go on. That is, you're attempting to justify defying direct authoritative commands because of the supposed example of Paul, but you can't cite a verse that shows that example.

As to the supposed counter-commands you offer, I'll see if I can save DJP the effort and say: I interpret them to mean exactly what they say. Don't lord it over each other. If you can't imagine how one can properly exercise authority without it becoming Pharisaical self-exaltation, that's entirely your problem.

"I understand the Lord to be forbidding special religious titles and eliminating clerical chain of command obedience in the church. No heirarchy in the church... period."

Except that Jesus appoints us to different roles (Eph 4:11), and commands us repeatedly through his apostles in the scriptures referenced ad nauseam here to obey the leaders, etc. You know, the same way your (incoherent) argument has been refuted repeatedly.

So if there is "No heirarchy in the church... period", what do you do with 1 Tim 5:17? "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." You basically have three options.

(1) Set Jesus against Paul. I'll give you enough benefit of the doubt to assume you're not fool enough to choose this one.
(2) Continue insisting that Jesus' commands mean "no authority or hierarchy of any kind". Then you have to explain how elders can rule without either being leaders or having authority. The obfuscation necessary to pull that off must be spectacular to behold.
(3) Accept Paul's command and see if Jesus' commands harmonize. Let's see.... yep! This would seem to be the right option then.

Of course, choosing (3) would mean submitting to authority. Which, I suspect, is exactly why you won't.