Archive for the ‘Thoughts on the Church’ Category

Thoughts on the Church 4

September 12, 2017

If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. (Augustine)

Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

The churches (even the gospel churches) are worldly in spirit, morally anemic, on the defensive, imitating instead of initiating and in a wretched state generally because for two full generations they have been told that justification is no more than a “not guilty” verdict pronounced by the Heavenly Father upon a sinner who can present the magic coin faith with the wondrous “open sesame” engraved upon it. (A.W. Tozer)

“Justification is the article by which the church stands and falls.” (Martin Luther)

If it is the case that justification is the article by which the church stands or falls, then each church does in fact stand or fall by how they hold to and preach it. Clearly it is not enough to simply agree that this is true, but in fact a person must truly have true faith and truly be justified. It is not enough to think that one has true faith and that one is truly justified, but one must be truly justified. In like manner to be a true church the true teachings of Christ and His apostles must be taught concerning justification and those in the church must truly be justified. It is not enough for the professing church to have a creed and for the people to assent to it.

The Church is the body of Christ and nothing less. How does one become a member of the body of Christ? One must be put in there by the sovereign grace of God. God does not just put a person in a building or an organization, but He actually joins a person to Christ Himself. A person is not a member of Christ because of some choice s/he made, but because of what God has done and done by grace alone. My hand did not join my body by a decision, but my hand is part of my body because I was born with it. In the same way a person becomes a member of Christ (body of Christ) when God regenerates the soul and unites it to Christ. In other words, a person becomes a member of the body of Christ in a way that corresponds with the biblical teaching on justification. Justification is by grace alone through faith. Only those that God calls to Himself are justified and it is not the man who runs or the man who wills who is justified.

The essence of what the Church is should determine what it means to be a member of a church and what membership truly is. One cannot simply join the Church, one must be born into the Church and one cannot do this by self-effort and promises. The work of joining the Church is the work of God. This should never be let go of. The way people join churches today is opposite of the Gospel itself. A person becomes a member of Christ by the grace of God, yet local churches require a lot of the person to join their organization. If Christ died for His people to become members of His body, then does a local church have the biblical warrant for denying membership to those who are part of Christ? In the body of Christ people are members of Christ and members of each other. So, on what basis do local churches have in demanding things of people that Christ does not? All true believers are members of Christ and each other, so it would appear that local churches should recognize that all true believers are members of Christ and of those in the local church and that they are members.

The great doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone should establish a biblical church membership. No one can join a professing church in reality unless it preaches the Gospel as it is not a church. No believer should try to join a professing church apart from a clear Gospel preaching. It does not matter what the creed of that local group is, unless the Gospel is being preached there it is deceiving people regarding the Gospel and of salvation. If Luther was correct, and I am not sure how he could be wrong at this point, Rome was not a Church because it did not preach the true Gospel. But that sword cuts both ways. Protestants must take that to heart as well. Rome preached things about Christ. Rome preached that people must have Christ. Rome preached grace. Rome preached faith. Rome denied that it preached works for salvation. Rome preached that a person must be a member of the right church. But Rome did not preach the Gospel and it was not a true Church. When Protestants do not preach the true Gospel, they are not churches either and one should not try to join a professing church like that.

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Thoughts on the Church 3

September 9, 2017

If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. (Augustine)

Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

The churches (even the gospel churches) are worldly in spirit, morally anemic, on the defensive, imitating instead of initiating and in a wretched state generally because for two full generations they have been told that justification is no more than a “not guilty” verdict pronounced by the Heavenly Father upon a sinner who can present the magic coin faith with the wondrous “open sesame” engraved upon it. (A.W. Tozer)

“Justification is the article by which the church stands or falls.” (Martin Luther)

The concept of the local church in our day is far removed from the teaching of the New Testament and perhaps has been for a long time. It is not just important for people to show up on Sunday mornings at a place that has the word “church” on the door and/or sign. It is not just important to sign up and be on the roll of a local “church.” It is not just important to be busy in the local “church.” It is not just important to subscribe to a creed of a “church”. It is not enough just to be a part of or on the roll of a conservative professing church.

If we look at the three quotes and one Scripture from above, one can see that it is utterly vital to be careful in this area. Professing churches preach a so-called gospel that is what the people want rather than what is biblical. That can range from liberal views to conservative thinking on moral issues and theological issues as well. As seen from the quotes above, one can go so far as to think that one is holding to justification by faith alone and be terribly deceived about it. The old self will go far in denying what it wants to deny and “believing” what it wants to believe. It is not simply accepting as true what certain statements say and attaching to them what we want them to mean. We must bow to what Scripture says and what Scripture means in what we believe.

The doctrine of justification is vitally important to the very idea of the Church. If the Church stands or falls depending on its views and treatment of justification, then this is not something that can be minor or not stressed. If the Gospel is not preached, then how can a professing local church be considered to be part of the Church? Luther thought that this was so important that without it there could be no Church. Roman Catholicism denied justification by grace alone through faith alone and by that was considered a non-Church by the Reformers. But again, it is not just any view of justification by grace alone through faith alone that was acceptable and is acceptable. The glorious Gospel cannot just be readily accepted by the human will as if it is free to apply grace to itself. It is not enough to say the word “Gospel” during the sermon as if that is preaching the Gospel, but one must preach the Gospel that is in accordance with Scripture if that person is going to preach the Gospel at all. If the Reformers were right about the Gospel, then one must preach what they preached. We must be careful.

This is no idle thought. How can one be a “member” of a professing church that is not a true church because it does not preach the true Gospel? If the Reformers were right, then it may be that the vast majority of members of professing churches are not members of a true church at all. In our day there are many who profess to be Reformed and they press church membership on others, a focus on the Gospel itself would be more helpful. A person must be a member of Christ to be in the true Church and not just “join” a local professing church. It could be that ministers can be adding many members to a local church and they are doing nothing but making those who join twice the sons of hell that they are.

Modern professing churches in our day are little different than Roman Catholicism in the time before the Reformation. Rome said that one must be a member of Rome in order to be saved. However, being a member of Christ is not the same as being a member of Rome. In our day people are saying that if one is not a member of a local professing church that person is either in sin or is not saved. Of course there is no biblical evidence for this, but that does not stop them at all. The true Church preaches the true Gospel. That is an issue more important than all the talk on membership. If people who focus so much on local church membership would focus on the Gospel instead, they would be far more biblical.

Thoughts on the Church 2

September 3, 2017

Matthew 22:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB ‘? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.

If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. (Augustine)

Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

It may cause the question to arise as to why the verses above are listed regarding when the discussion is on the Church. The reason for that is that when people are mistaken about God and suppress the truth about God, they are mistaken about the nature of the Church and the churches as well. It took centuries for Roman Catholicism to arise from the traditions of men and then for that to be perpetuated. Could it be that the Reformers did not reform the Church enough regarding what the nature of the Church really is? Could it be that the Reformers were not perfect in all aspects of the Reformation? The point is that we must look to Scripture for the nature of the Church and not just the history of the Church. Selfish men are selfish men when they are religious as well as when they are not.

“If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” The previous quote is from Augustine and the context is clearly the Gospel, but it can also be applied in the same way to the Church. “If you believe what you like regarding the Church, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel that you believe, but yourself.” This is a devastating comment when applied to any doctrine or theological teachings. The foundation for belief must come from Scripture and not self. When we have self as the basis for what we believe, even if we have many verses to quote to support us, it is self that we lean on.

There have been many posts on how selfish “Christianity” is not true Christianity at all. Surely when this is applied to the doctrines on the Church and churches, we can see that selfish “churches” are not true churches at all. Jesus Christ is Lord of the Church in all things or He is not Lord of the Church or churches at all. The Church is the very body of Christ and must not be made to be anything less. The Church, as the body of Christ, has members and those members are actual parts of the body of Christ. A hand is a member of the body, but the hand never joined the body but it was made to be part of the body when God created it. As such a person is born into the Church and is a member of Christ. A true believer is part of Christ Himself, that is, must be considered to be a member of Christ Himself.

When a person reflects on that, it should change what a person thinks regarding church membership and what a church should be. The local church should reflect something of the true nature of what true membership in Christ is. The local church should point people to a true membership in Christ Himself rather than on what it means to join the local church and all the duties in that. The local church should point people to the lordship of Christ and His grace. The local church is not the Church, it consists of sinners that Christ has saved for His purposes and not for the purposes of ministers or others. Christ saves sinners for His own purposes and glory. Christ is the chief Shepherd and all others are not only under that, but way under that. The local church must not be blown up and out of proportion. It must be a means of seeking and glorifying Christ who is the Head.

Thoughts on the Church 1

September 1, 2017

Matthew 22:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB ‘? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.

If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. (Augustine)

Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

In reading the words above I am struck again at how different the Bible is than modern Churchianity. While the Bible speaks of sin and false religion with great seriousness, it is not that way in our day. The Bible speaks of sin as against God, but men in our day speak of sin as something that harms people. The Bible speaks of all things as if God is the center and purpose of all things, but men in our day speak of men as the center and purpose of all things. The local church becomes the focus of all things as if it is through the church that grace is given.

The Bible speaks of the Church as the very body of Christ. It does not speak of the church as an institution that has a tax-exempt status. The Bible speaks of the Church as the very body of Christ, but it does not speak of the church as being the very body of Christ. The Bible speaks of the Church as having saved sinners as the very members of the body much the same way as a hand is a member of a body, but it does not speak of the church as being made of a membership. The Bible speaks of the Church as being a pillar of the Truth, but it does not speak of the church as having men or creeds as the standard of Truth.

The Bible speaks of God electing sinners to being part of the Body of Christ, but it does not speak of men electing themselves to be in a membership of a church. The Bible speaks of all in the body of Christ as believers, but it does not make that assertion about those who have membership in a church. If the Pharisees could travel on land and sea to make a proselyte, yet in doing so that proselyte became twice the son of hell as themselves, then perhaps we should be far more careful regarding what it means to be part of the true Church.

There are books that have been published today about church membership. That may or may not be fine, but the issue should be just how biblical is it? We find no biblical testimony that people must become members of a local church. We do find clear biblical teaching that regeneration is the sovereign work of God and it is not according to the will (choice) of any man. One would think that the fact that regeneration is a sovereign work of God would weigh on how membership is viewed. One would think that the fact that the Gospel is a Gospel of grace alone would weigh in on how membership is viewed. However, it appears that membership is viewed along Arminian lines and is more in line with free-will than sovereign grace.

People are now told that they are sinning when they will not join a local church. Really? Where do we find that in the Bible? Where is anything at all like that in the Bible? Is it a sign of unbelief that a person will not join (in the modern sense) a local “church” in our day? Surely people are confusing the body of Christ with the local church when they make such statements. This is closer to Roman Catholicism than it is with the Bible. Roman Catholicism used to teach that one had to be in communion with Rome to be a Christian at all. In modern America we have Protestant “churches” teaching that one must be part of them to be thought of as a Christian. All this time I thought a person had to be part of Christ to be a Christian. It is understandable (sort of) for Rome to say that, but it is not understandable for a Protestant to say that. Being on the membership role of a local professing church can be more of a sign of unbelief than true faith. If a local church does not preach the true Gospel, how can it be a church at all? Is it sin not to join a place that does not preach the Gospel of grace alone? No, it is a good thing.