The Church | Part 5

churchAs we close out our study series of the Biblical picture of the Church, I want to be absolutely clear that I am not trying to “call out” any specific churches, or fellowships, or pastors. I’m not trying to convince you to leave your church, or join mine. The purpose of this series is to clearly state my doctrine regarding church and to challenge individuals and heads of households to weigh everything they are taught in their church (down to the very structure of said church) against Scripture. I will endeavor to keep these discussions on prescriptive passages in God’s Word, plainly written for us to follow. If you take umbrage with any of my assessments or commentary, I ask that you take some time to share your thoughts or questions with me (either via comment below or personal message). If you take issue with what the Scriptures say… well, I leave that to you, your elders, and God the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s Closing Thoughts in 1 Timothy

Today, we will close out our reading in 1 Timothy, with a look at chapter 6.

1 Timothy 6 (ESV)
1 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.

Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

I really should have included the beginning of chapter 6 in yesterday’s post, since Paul is closing out those thoughts. The “these things” are pointing back to all that was discussed in the previous chapter. Notice how Paul again revisits the charge to resist false doctrine. I find it interesting how in our modern-day liberalism often accuse those who dare to exercise Biblical discernment as being puffed up with conceit, and even having an unhealthy craving for controversy. Paul is making clear that it is not those who hold Scripture who are guilty of such sin; rather, those who teach a different doctrine that does not agree with the Word of Jesus Christ. We also see Paul warning of the trap of riches. Notice also the wording toward the end of verse 5, “…imagining that godliness is a means of gain“. As heirs to the Kingdom of God, through the blood of Jesus by His Grace and Mercy, we do have an inheritance… in Heaven. Jesus did not promise worldly riches, in fact, He specifically taught in Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We live in a time where so many false teachers have become rich and living lavish lives preaching a false doctrine with false promises of earthly riches through living godly lives. Brothers and sisters in Christ… that is not the Gospel, and it is not our Promise. God blesses His children here on earth according to His Will and plan for us in this life, but the Promises laid out in Scripture primarily for the life that is to come, in the Great Day of Christ’s Return when we join Him in the Heavens.

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

It is not impossible for the rich in this present age to be faithful stewards of God’s resources, though it brings along its own temptations. Namely, that earthly riches tempt man to set their hopes on their riches and themselves rather than on God.

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.

Did you know that the Greek philosophers Plato, Socrates, Euclid, and Aristotle all pre-date the virgin-birth? By hundreds of years. The Roman Empire replaced that of the Greeks, and had philosophers of their own (Cicero and Ptolemy), all pursuing earthly “knowledge” via metaphysics and philosophy. Many of the early heretics pulled from these “ancients” for their Gnosticism, Pantheism (multiple gods), and Panentheism (god is in everything). In our present culture, the temptation is to believe that due to man’s vastly superior scientific accomplishments, we should now change how we read Scripture (particularly the Genesis accounts of Creation and the Flood) based on what the world falsely calls “knowledge”.

My Closing Thoughts for this Series

The Bible lays out very plainly how God intends for His Church (and churches) are to be structured, managed, and overseen. God has made it clear how the church is to be led, what its focus should be, and its purpose. The Church is to build up the Body of Christ into the fullness of Christ who is the Head of His Church, and we who comprise the body of Christ are to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as ministers of reconciliation. The smallest unit of the church is the family, God’s first institution for man to embrace as a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, the Church should first seek to raise up fathers, priests and leaders of their households who raise up the next generation in Christ. After showing themselves approved, they should likewise raise up other fathers. Those who wish to teach and become overseers should therefore be tested and appointed as Paul laid out clearly in Titus and 1 Timothy. Regardless of what you might have heard from a celebrity seeker-mergent “pastor”, the role of the Church IS to feed God’s sheep. In some cases literally. Christians need to step up their game in sharing the Gospel with the lost in the world, but the role of the Church Elder (pastor, teacher, overseer) is to serve the Body of Christ as one who will give account.

Specific concerns and special cases

  • The Church was not granted the authority to determine itself, its doctrine, its structure, or its purpose. Christ is the Head of His Church, and the Apostles and the Prophets are its foundation, with Christ as the cornerstone. The Reformation was a move to return to Biblical doctrine, not a reinvention of the church. The Catholic church refused to repent, so the Protestant Church was born. The role of Elder is to preach the Word of God and to correct all false teaching. Elders do not have the authority to change Biblical doctrine. They have the authority to correct, rebuke, and training in righteousness according to the God-breathed Scriptures (2 Timothy 3). There is nothing in Scripture that leaves room for the Catholic doctrine of the Pope or Papal authority to pronounce unchangeable doctrine (ex cathedra). Such authority was not given to the Church. Additionally, there is no reason to believe that God would be raising up new Apostles to lay new foundations for the church. The foundation has long been laid in Scripture. I do believe that 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 remain as valid and instructive of the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, but God is not changing the Body of Christ or Scriptures. We have been given the Word of God by which we are to test every spirit and every teaching to know if it is from God or from a spirit of error.
  • Churches with women pastors/elders/deacons.  As we saw in 1 Timothy 2 and in 1 Corinthians 14, having women in a position of authority over men is prohibited. When we see a church with a female pastor, we know that something is wrong. Either the church is completely lacking in godly men, or the church has simply decided to disregard Paul’s instructions to Timothy, Titus, and the Corinthians. I do believe Grace can be given to those in transitional periods, or newly formed churches planted within strongly matriarchal societies (such as in various African tribes); however, the Word of God is sufficient for all instruction and correction. God’s plan for mankind is for man to bear the mantle of leadership an its responsibility. Men cannot be expected to step up and perform their Scriptural role as men, when the church has willfully placed women into positions of leadership. A woman cannot Biblically disciple a man into his rightful place of leadership. In 2 Timothy 1, Paul praised Timothy’s mother and grandmother for planting the seed of God’s Word in his heart, and Timothy was charged to guard the gift given him. Paul took Timothy as a disciple, an adopted son, and trained him in the Word and the Ministry before setting him as an Elder.
  • Youth Ministries. This series was sparked by my post on How We Do Church. We don’t see anywhere in Scripture where the youth are separated from their parents and taught their own things. Throughout Scripture, the expectation is for fathers to raise their sons and daughters in the ways of God until the time comes when they leave their fathers and their mothers and cleave to their spouses, becoming one flesh and starting their own families. So, our modern “youth groups” present a problem of usurped authority (although often with permission). We’ve embraced the worldly messaging that says that parents just don’t understand their own kids, therefore we need a young pastor who can “speak their language” to reach them with the Gospel. How can we assess how a man manages his household when we’ve inserted others into the role of discipling his kids? How can we command the fathers to turn their hearts toward their children, and the children to honor their fathers, when in church we encourage them to look to a “youth pastor” for guidance, love, and instruction? Is there truly a way of “doing it right” if the Bible doesn’t provide us with a guideline or parameters for such a ministry? I think we should have outreach programs for lost youth, but we need to reach their fathers and mothers. We need to focus on equipping the fathers and mothers in our congregation to be the leaders, role models, teachers, and counselors for their children. That is what youth ministry should be focused on. Do I expect all churches to abandon their Sunday school and youth group models immediately? No. But we should return to Biblical standards of family and church guided by the power and wisdom of God the Holy Spirit.
  • What about the fatherless families? The young men in the congregation who do not have fathers at home are starving for mentors and discipleship more than anyone else. The answer is for the Elders and the other Fathers in the church to disciple them, and for the older women and mothers to gather around their mother to strengthen and nurture her. Divorce is more prevalent in our day than widow/widower. It is outside of God’s plan for us, and is far more difficult and treacherous as a result. We are the Body of Christ, and when one member of the body hurts, we all hurt; therefore, we are supposed to come together to help those caught in sin (guarding ourselves from sin) to restore one another into right standing with Christ. That doesn’t always mean the marriage gets restored, but repentance and the forgiveness of sin is available at the foot of the Cross.
  • Praise and Worship. Well, nothing has been addressed thus far by Paul in his letters regarding a “worship pastor”. The Elders are overseers of the church, and they are to teach the Word of God and discipline those who step outside of it. What we sing is more important than what instruments are involved in the accompaniment. What we do in church must always Glorify God and edify the Body of Christ. It must be orderly (1 Corinthians 14). I will say that since the Church is indeed for the believers, any attempt to manipulate the purpose of Praise and Worship so that the unbeliever can be entertained is foolishness and should be rebuked sharply. Christ must be our focus, now and forever, in our praise, in our worship, and in how we live our lives. To the unbeliever, we preach Law (repentance from sin) and Gospel (forgiveness by the blood of Christ). I care more about the conduct/focus/heart/content of worship than I do the method or technology employed.

Thank you for taking the time to read these posts and share your thoughts, questions, and comments. I pray that this has helped or challenged some to read the Word of God to test all that I’ve said here. As I hear from those at Stand Up for the Truth and from Chris Rosebrough, don’t ever read what I’m writing with an open mind; rather, do so with an open Bible. Test everything I share against the Word of God. Where I am found faulty or deficient, please point me to the proper Scripture.

I’d like to close with Paul’s charge to Timothy at the end of the second epistle:

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
In Him,
Jorge

Series: The Church | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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