Sunday, February 19, 2012

On the True Method of Ministry and the Supremacy of God’s Word – Conclusion

What I was hoping to show in this series of posts is just how much even the apostles themselves taught only what Christ and the Old Testament taught and added nothing materially of their own. Paul was pleased with Bereans because they examined what he taught in light of the Scriptures rather than taking it based on his authority and teaching ability or even the miracles he had performed. The problem with a doctrine accepted on human authority is that a generation later it becomes a tradition, and a tradition if not based in Scripture is a binding chain. When Origen was questioned concerning the book of Susanna being in the canon since it contained a Greek pun and thus could not be part of the original Hebrew and Aramaic book of Daniel, he accepted the book because of tradition. Thus because he felt he could not move the boundary which the fathers had set up for several centuries the Church had manifestly fraudulent books mixed in with the Truth of God! With the Protestant reformers I say that the boundaries of the Fathers are those found in Scripture and no more or less. If I am to accept any tradition it must be one which shows clearly that it was handed down by the Apostles. The only tradition that I can think of that comes close to this in plausibility would be the exclusion of the unbaptized from the Lord’s supper and I am not sure I would fight and die for this one. Respect for a ministry that God has given is not enough to justify embracing everything taught. I greatly admire William Booth and his work in founding the Salvation Army was blessed by God, but I am not going to give up Christ’s ordinances of baptism and communion because he chose to. In the same way though I respect John Wesley of the Methodist revival and Frank Bartleman of Azuza street I do not follow them or Adam Clarke in their rejection of the use of musical instruments in worship, because the Psalms specifically teach praising God not only by song, but also by playing instruments. I do sympathize however with their motive which was to insure that the congregation did not become mere spectators in the time of song. While I see that God is restoring to the church the Tabernacle of David as promised with its use of instruments and singers the tendency to have spectators rather than worshippers must be guarded against. Clinging to all that was said by our forebearers is neither good nor bad, and is both commended and censured in Scripture depending on who the forebearer is and what they said. Jonadab’s descendants are commended for it (Jer. 35:18-19), but it is shown as a condemnation in Psalm 49:10-13, where men strive for earthly riches and glory and call places after their own names, yet the folly they teach is approved by their children. Sometimes even the mannerisms of a forebearer are idolized, Hillel the most revered of ancient Rabbis, sometimes referred to as the second Moses, is said to have mispronounced certain words, because his teacher who was a Babylonian Jew had done so. This is the attitude that Christ was addressing when He said, “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ” (Matt. 23:8-10). Christ here forbids any to be a father, in the sense of originator of an absolute pattern of life to be followed other than God the Father (Gen. 4:20-21; Eph. 5:1). He also forbids any to be an unquestionable or unimpeachable teacher other than Christ. In ending this post I would like to quote John Robinson the pastor in Leyden of the Mayflower Pilgrims in his farewell to them as printed in Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans when they left for America, He being too old to join the voyage: "Brethren, We are now quickly to part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your faces on earth any more, the God of heaven only knows; but whether the Lord has appointed that or no, I charge you before God and his blessed angels, that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveal anything to you, by any other instrument of His, be ye as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded, the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no farther than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of his will our God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented, for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God, but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace farther light as that which they first received. I beseech you remember, it is an article of your church covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God. Remember that, and every other article of your sacred covenant. But I must here withal exhort you to take heed what you receive as truth,— examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures of truth, before you receive it; for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once. "I must also advise you to abandon, avoid, and shake off, the name of Brownists; it is a mere nickname, and a brand for the making religion and the professors of it odious to the Christian world." Hear I say, “Amen!”

Friday, February 17, 2012

On the True Method of Ministry and the Supremacy of God’s Word – Part 3 –Peter

The Apostle Peter’s attitude toward the Scriptures cannot be better seen than in 2 Peter 1:16-21, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Notice how he points back to the Mount of Transfiguration, where they saw the glory of Christ which passed any mortal glory and heard a voice from heaven bearing witness, yet, and here is the amazing thing, he considered the Old Testament prophecies to be more true than even this experience and what he had seen with his own eyes and heard with his own ears! In these verses Peter has said the most that can ever be said for the submission of all spiritual experiences, revelations and doctrines to the Word of God. He did not believe in Christ merely because he saw him shining brightly with miraculously whitened clothes, or even because he saw Moses and Elijah with Him, and heard the Father thunder from heaven! No, he believed because it was all in line with Old Testament prophecy, so these outward manifestations were merely confirmations of what the Old Testament already had prophesied. The attitude of Peter seen here should serve as a lesson for us, since in many instances Christians accept things based solely upon a revelation or because it has been taught us. Peter instead looked into the Scriptures remembering even as Jesus promised there would be false prophets and wonder-workers. All things should be tested by the Scripture as we ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds to see what is in that Scripture. In regards to the necessity of all doctrine not resting solely on the authority of a revelation some might wonder concerning 1 Peter 3:18-20, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” What is taught here concerning Christ’s preaching to the spirits in prison is not clearly mentioned anywhere else. That is true, however Christ’s descent into hell is foretold and the scripture quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-31. Also it was understood by the Apostles that when Christ rose from the dead the righteous dead were led forth with Him, he led captivity captive (Eph. 4:8-10). Indeed some of the righteous dead physically rose up at this time and were seen in Jerusalem (Matt. 27:52-53). In light of this Peter wrote of a revelation he had of a certain group of those whom Christ led out of captivity. There is nothing wrong with revelations elucidating more clearly what God has said in Scripture, but they must be judged by Scripture. Also they should not be used as the only basis of establishing a doctrine. It would also be good to note here that this portion of Scripture is not a major point of doctrine, in practical terms these verses affect no one alive today and have reference only to those in Noah’s day, so whatever Peter’s source he did not make a major doctrine out of something mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. Most of his other exhortations are clearly based on other Scriptures, the most apparent one being 1 Peter 5:1-4, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Which bears a strong resemblance to Christ’s commission to Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:17) and His teaching in Mark 10:42-45, “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’" The similarity is more marked in Greek where the identical word is used for “lording it over” the brethren. In fact these verses in 1 Peter could well be considered a commentary and application of the command that Christ already gave rather than anything originating with Peter. As we partake of His Word may we grow more and more in His nature! Amen.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

On the True Method of Ministry and the Supremacy of God’s Word – Part 2 – Excerpts from the Epistles of Paul

The Apostle Paul is an interesting study in his doctrine in that he was never a hearer of Christ or a follower of the disciples. However he was taught by the resurrected Christ and received his gospel by revelation. As his epistles are studied they are seen to be consonant with the teachings of Christ in the gospel. How much was revealed supernaturally to him and how much he learned of the life of Christ from sources that Luke also availed himself of is impossible to pinpoint. In addition to his use of the gospels, Paul made great use of the Old Testament, as all the apostolic writers did. So much so that even many passages that are not direct quotes from the Old Testament should be understood in light of those Scriptures since these writers lived and breathed the Old Testament Scriptures from childhood. Thus Colossians 2:19, Ephesians 1:22-23, and Ephesians 4:15-16 should be understood in light of Psalm 133, where it is from the anointed head (Christ) that the anointing flows down to every part and where unity of the brethren is. I would now like to look at a few passages from the writings of Paul to show kindred thoughts and expressions with the teachings of Jesus. This comparison is not exhaustive by any means. Being accepted in the Beloved Eph 1:5-6 having predestined us to the adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Joh 15:7-9 If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. In this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you shall be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; continue in My love. Concerning Marriage 1Co 7:1-11 Now concerning what you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, because of the fornications, let each have his own wife, and let each have her own husband. Let the husband give to the wife proper kindness, and likewise the wife also to the husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband. And likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive one another, unless it is with consent for a time, so that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer. And come together again so that Satan does not tempt you for your incontinence. But I speak this according to permission, not according to commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself am. But each has his proper gift from God, one according to this manner and another according to that. I say therefore to the unmarried and the widows, It is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn. And to the married I command (not I, but the Lord), a woman not to be separated from her husband. But if she is indeed separated, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to leave his wife. Mat 19:3-11 And the Pharisees came to Him, tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said to them, Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning "made them male and female", and said, For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh? Therefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. They said to Him, Why did Moses then command to give a bill of divorce and to put her away? He said to them, Because of your hard-heartedness Moses allowed you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, Whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery. His disciples said to Him, If this is the case of the man with his wife, it is not good to marry. But He said to them, Not all receive this word, except those to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs who were born so from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it. Paul continues with giving his judgment concerning those married to unbelieving idolaters, something Christ had never specifically addressed because of His Jewish audience (1 Cor. 7:12-17). In this he does not allude directly to the Words of Christ, but instead lays down rules of conduct in agreement with God’s original institution of marriage and Christ’s teaching. In this he gives a pattern for handling similar situations where there is no exact Scriptural parallel, that is drawing out principles from what is taught and applying them. He did not lay down a rule of conduct on his own authority without reference to what Christ taught. It should be mentioned as a side note for those who noticed that Paul though clearly alluding to Matthew 19 (note the parallel between celibacy as a gift and Christ saying it is given) he does not mention the exception clause. This means that either he was unaware of it, or he did not interpret it in the way most commonly received today. It is highly unlikely that he would have been unaware of it, and yet been aware of the words that follow immediately afterwards concerning celibacy being given, so it follows that he must not have interpreted it in the way it commonly is interpreted. Were that clause the main part of Christian teaching concerning divorce it would be mentioned several times and omitted in an instance or two rather than the reverse. Obedience to Secular Authority Rom 13:1-8 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Mat 22:15-22 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Mar 12:28-34 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. On the true source of defilement Rom 14:14-23 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Col 2:20-23 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Mar 7:14-23 And he called the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." [If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.] And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." On Unity 1Co 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. Joh 17:9-11 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. Undoubtedly Paul had heard something of Christ’s High Priestly prayer found in John 17, though it was not yet put down in a Gospel nor would be until after Paul’s death. Not only was the need for unity greatly emphasized by the apostle in other places as well but here in 1 Cor. 1:8-9 he refers to the keeping power of God immediately before mentioning the need for unity, almost as if he is thinking of John 17, which contains both themes interwoven. This casts an interesting possibility on how much of John’s material was available to the other Apostles and early disciples and perhaps the reason why he never wrote it earlier when there were more living witnesses and second-hand reporters of it. Exhortation to Desire the Gifts of the Spirit 1Co 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1Co 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. Luk 11:5-13 And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Our Heavenly Tabernacle prepared for us 2Co 5:1-8 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Joh 14:1-4 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Necessity of Being Born Again Gal 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Joh 3:3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." One Fold One Shepherd Eph 2:14-18 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Joh 10:14-16 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Conclusion In this post I desired to show just how much Paul relied upon Christ for his own teaching and conduct. I hope I was successful in that. It should also be noted that if I had included all the Old Testament Scriptures quoted or alluded to we would have the majority of his doctrinal teaching. Anything he brought out that was not specifically found either in the Words of Christ or the Old Testament was drawn forth from these by deduction. To show how He viewed his charge in this way and how he would not state things merely on his own authority, we look now at 1 Corinthians 4:6-7, “Now these things, brothers, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, in order that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? And if you did indeed receive what you have, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” Here Paul makes the source of parties in the Church to consist in going beyond the Scripture, and this is very true. It is amazing but no one ever contends with as much earnestness as when they are trying to force something not in Scripture on someone else. Often people can say any old thing without upsetting someone, but if you touch their pet doctrine, which often is not in Scripture, they are up in arms. When we stay in Scripture and bind our thoughts to it, we have no room for parties, because all that we see is what God has put there and if we see more than another it is only because He has opened our eyes to understand what we read. He could do the same for any one else, so what can we boast of. May God help us all to rightly divide His Word! Amen.