Looking for a New Church

churchBe blessed today and this weekend. So we made it through a 5-part series on The Church. I want to thank you for enduring what was essentially me laying out my understanding of what the Bible teaches regarding the Church and subsequently the church. I am really looking forward to moving on to different topics that have been placed on the back burner while I worked diligently to complete this series. However, I didn’t want to dive into anything new on a Friday, so I thought I might share some thoughts regarding the search for a new church body. I do not presume to be able to tell you exactly how to find a new church body for your family, but I would like to share some thoughts and some questions that I feel should be asked whenever the search for a church body is at hand.

Why are you looking for a new church body?

Aside from having to relocate due to work or family needs, this is perhaps the single most important question for which a Biblical answer must be found. Now, let me begin with the obvious and work toward the subtle. If the church you have been attending has wandered off into false doctrine, false teaching, or a different gospel then the “why” of the matter has been identified. We can then move on to the “how”. Are you leaving because of an individual? Personality Conflict? you were offended? These motivations are tougher to pin down, but they tend to be the vast majority of reasons that folks leave their local churches. I’ve made these categories quite broad because I don’t intend to give a panacea response for highly personal situations. I will say that personality conflicts exist everywhere, because each of us bears responsibility for our own conduct, speech, and personality. The Body of Christ is also composed of people, forgiven and adopted children of God who still walk in fleshly and sinful bodies. So, if your response to personality conflict is to leave the church, you will be leaving often. I’ve met a few church-hoppers who tend to only survive about a year or two before some drama “pops up out of nowhere” and they are “forced” to leave, usually creating as big a vacuum as possible either being on staff or in the worship team. Finally, there are those who want to leave because they (or their kids) just want to find something “cooler”, “more exciting”, or more “relevant”. This last group I can honestly say has the wrong “why”. They don’t understand the purpose for church and are instead looking to be entertained or have their itching ears scratched.

How did you leave the last church?

I have never been a fan of ultimatums. Anyone who demands the church bend to his or her will “or else I’m leaving and taking my money with me” is a carnal, fleshly, immature Christian at best. Similarly, causing a big scene to act out the fore-gone conclusion that you are leaving is equally infantile. So let us look at how the Scriptures tell us to address problems within the Church.

  • A problem of false teaching/doctrine/gospel. While I consider this to be the easiest “why”, it is perhaps the most heartbreaking, gut wrenching, and difficult “how” we will face. Depending on how long you’ve been a part of this congregation, how involved you and your family had become, and how your closest friends feel about the issue at hand, it can lead many to simply never say anything or to suddenly disappear without much explanation. Why? Because this is an issue of leadership in the church. Since we just finished examining 1 Timothy, we’ll start there and I am including old-testament foundation for these rules.
    • 1 Timothy 5:19-21 (ESV)
      19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

      • Deuteronomy 19:15 (ESV)
        15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
    • Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV)
      6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

      • Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (ESV)
        13 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.
        Note: this holds true even if the sign/wonder/miracle actually happens. The miracle alone does not serve as proof.
    • One note I’ll make on this is that if the structure of the local church is in error (not in keeping with Acts, Titus, Timothy) then this matter can be very difficult to resolve. Pray, search out the scriptures, and ask for Wisdom from God the Holy Spirit, and do what is right, leaving the outcome in God’s hands. Something that is prevalent in today’s Evangelical churches is a false notion of “unity under the visionary” instead of Unity in the Word of God. It generally comes with a Mosaic church structure where everyone is expected to follow (and abide by) the word of one or two leaders and they have the final word (often times, preemptively).
  • Personal Conflict. This is a very broad category, but the Bible does cover how we are to respond in these matters.
    • Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
    • 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 (ESV) 1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure and transparency, these things are rarely easy or clean. We recently stopped attending a local church over doctrinal concerns and church-structure. We were very involved in the church and didn’t realize there any problems until some major shifts in doctrinal focus and awkward disciplinary calls forced my wife and me to start searching the Scriptures for answers. That search revealed a great deal. Still, we did not purpose to leave the church because we were sure that God had led us to that church (even more so now that we’ve grown so much as a family through the whole experience). I spent 2 months discussing doctrinal issues with the Pastor (at the time I was on staff) regarding what I believed to be mishandling of Scripture in sermon material taught nearly verbatim from popular mega-church leaders. After two months, I stepped down off of staff. A month later, another family was given a false rationale for why we stepped down and not a single elder of the church approached us. It was then that we decided we could no longer attend that church, though we longed to maintain relationships with those who truly considered us their brother and sister. We are currently being fed in a church of a different denomination, and completely different style of service from what I grew up with, but we are being fed well. We are not in a rush to become members, but we thank God for His Grace and Mercy for our family.

What should we be looking for in a church?

Who is being preached, Christ or man? First and foremost, you should be looking for a church that faithfully preaches the Word of God. This isn’t something you can determine in a single visit. If they post their sermons online, listen to them with an open bible and take notes. Pause the sermon, open to the scripture being referenced. Is the context being conveyed? Is it being used in context? Is it a full quote? Is the passage being defined by Scripture or by the speaker’s life experience? Are you being taught what the Word of God says or are you getting life advice loosely justified by a random scripture quoted out of context? Are you getting an anecdote to help understand what Scripture is teaching or is the anecdote being presented as proof that a life tip is valid? What is the scripture to pastor ratio?

Christian Denomination. This is NOT a denominational choice, because there isn’t a denomination that has a corner on the market. Denomination plays a major role in familiarity and a sense of commonality for many people, so if you are uncomfortable stepping outside of your denomination, then you must continue to focus on faithful preaching of the Word of God, you just might (depending on your geographical location and preferred denomination) be choosing from a very small pool of churches. When it comes to denominations, it is important to gauge each denomination’s doctrine against the Scriptures, not by what one denomination accuses the other denomination of believing. I find this particularly true of the “Reformed” (Calvinist) denominations who are very quick to call anyone who disagrees with TULIP a Pelagean. The best example of this is that despite the Catholic Church declaring Pelagianism heretical (Council of Trent) most Reformed Churches lump Catholics under the semi-Pelagean banner because of their emphasis on man’s response to the Gospel of Grace (Council of Trent also declared the doctrine of passive grace heretical, basically the U, I, P in TULIP). So yeah, take each doctrine and compare it to the Word of God, not to some other doctrine since not every point of each doctrine can be taught from Scripture because they attempt to explain in-depth what the Bible doesn’t explain. What the bible does explain, like the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they must agree upon (and for the most part Protestant denominations do agree on the Gospel). Now, among Protestants there are 2 major divisions, Monergists and Arminians. Monergism is a label that covers Lutheran and Calvinists (who disagree on double-predestination and sacraments). Calvinists are found in Baptist and Presbyterian traditions, though some Baptists lean more Arminian these days. Arminians disagree with TULIP in that they believe that Christ made the only way of salvation but did not preassign people to believe or not to believe; rather, they hold that in the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, man must choose whether to listen and accept the Word of God as the Only Way of Salvation, or reject it and be condemned my their lack of faith. This doctrine can generally be found in Wesleyan Methodist Churches, Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Free-Will Baptists. I’m still dealing with these categories in broad terms, but hopefully you can see that there are denominations you might actually find some common ground with you weren’t aware of before. Once again, the standard is the Word of God… not the denomination you grew up in.

Who is being praised and worshiped? Okay, so we haven’t spent a great deal of time on this one here at Faithful Stewardship. But who is being praised in the Praise and Worship at the church. Is it truly focused on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? Or is it focused more on who we are, what we are doing, and what we are going to get? Are we worshiping the Biblical Savior or are we just sort of singing love songs understood to be pointed at Jesus, but not clearly articulated as such? Is it about praising and worshiping God or is the focus more on entertaining non-believers?

Non-Denominational or Evangelical? While each of these labels has some meaning to those who wear them, they lack any solid definition that could serve as a filter for looking for a new church.

  • Non-denominational. What it should mean is that they don’t point to any ideology of man and their aim is to stick with Biblically defined Christianity. In practice, what you will find is that they broke away from one of the denominations and still hold to most of that denomination’s doctrine except for a few key points. What makes them problematic is that you have no way of knowing up front what they do or do not believe/teach. You just have to talk it out, or attend their membership information classes (even then you still need to ask all of the questions that you can). Many take the road of dividing what they call “essentials” and “non-essentials” of the faith… but rarely are the “non essentials” clearly defined. I have also seen that most “non-denominational” churches are former Pentecostal or Charismatic churches looking to distance themselves from the label. Perhaps one of the most dangerous elements of non-denominational churches is that they are rarely held accountable by anyone. In the New Testament, the Church in Antioch looked to the Church in Jerusalem for encouragement, direction, and guidance. Paul strongly rebuked the Galatians for blindly accepting the false gospel of the Judaizers and exercised authority, correction, and instruction over them.
  • Evangelical. This is supposed to mean that the church’s focus is in Evangelism, or Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What has been taking root in modern Evangelical churches lately is a false social gospel, where the goal of the church is to entice non-believers to enter their doors and stay long enough to hear the Gospel. Much of the church-growth, seeker-sensitive, emergent theology expansion has been within evangelical churches. In order to achieve rapid growth and high attendance numbers, they’ve abandoned preaching Law in accordance with Gospel, therefore we get a half-picture of a Savior but we don’t get an understanding of our need for a savior. Prosperity and Word of Faith doctrines also thrive in non-Denominational/Evangelical circles.

Fathers, remember your role.

In closing, I want to remind fathers to remember your roles as heads of your house. You are the priest of your home. Whether you are members of a local church family, struggling through trials and tribulations, or searching for a new body of believers, your responsibility to feed, nurture, and instruct your family never goes away. Pray continuously, and dig into the Word of God and bury it in your heart and share it with your wife and kids. Church is not a means of offloading the responsibility of leading your family spiritually, church is where you get the training you need to better fulfill your responsibility. Plugging your family into church is essential for Christian living, so I’m not suggesting that a father can replace the church, he can’t. My point is that regardless of church membership, a father’s role remains the same.

Well, this ended up being longer than I anticipated. In trying to address a broad scope of issues, concerns, and categories of doctrines, it is possible that some may feel I misrepresented their denomination or church. That was not my intent, I’m just trying to give some broad-scope definitions for those who (like I was a year ago) might never have thought about what all of the denomination stuff really meant. I’m not interested in bolstering or attacking any denomination or doctrine of men here… my only focus, and sole purpose here is to point to the Word of God and what it teaches. As always, if you have additional or specific questions/concerns, feel free to comment or contact me directly.


Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Him,


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,

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

The Church | Part 4

churchAs we continue in 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.

Qualifications of Overseers (Elders)

Today, we will continue reading in 1 Timothy, beginning in chapter 3.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 (ESV)
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Paul goes into greater detail in his letter to Timothy than we saw in Titus, though we see no contradiction. I have highlighted here what I mentioned back in Part 2 of our series, that a man must manage his own household well. It makes no different how knowledgeable, charismatic, or affluent, if his house is not in order he is not fit to manage God’s church. His attention should be firmly fixed upon his household, as his first duty and responsibility to God. This doesn’t mean he is unfit to share the Gospel, or serve his brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, it means he is unfit to be an Elder or Overseer. I have also highlighted able to teach. You see, Paul will not be going into the qualifications of “teachers” or “pastors” because the role of pastor is to be performed by an Elder. How can one effectively “Shepherd the flock” if he is not qualified to serve as an Elder?

Qualifications of Deacons

1 Timothy 3:8-13 (ESV)
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The role of Deacon is one of service to the Body of Christ. This role began when the Early Church in Jerusalem had grown large and the widows of the Hellenist were being overlooked in the daily distribution (Acts 6). Now their task was to minister to the people so that the Elders would not be drawn away from their primary task of seeking the Lord in prayer and preaching the Word of God. That is not to say that these men did not minister or preach the Gospel themselves. Of the first 7 appointed as deacons of Christ’s Church, we Philip and Stephen being used mightily of God. They were servants in the Church, and they were Ambassadors of Jesus Christ outside the church (as are we regardless of our role within the church). While a deacon is not an overseer, he is still being entrusted with the task of ministering to the body of believers. The daily distribution was for the feeding of those in need, particularly the widows. The Church is to take care of its own. We are to serve one another in love and humility. Where did we get the idea that it was somehow wrong or out of the ordinary for Christians to seek help from the Church? May God have forgive us of our neglect.

I highlighted an interesting comment in verse 9, “They must hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience”. Well, what does that mean? Thankfully, that is Paul’s next point in the chapter.

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (ESV)
The Mystery of Godliness
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ. That Jesus, the Son of God, the Word of God was made flesh, vindicated (proven right, pure, justified) by the Spirit of God, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations and believed on in the world ascended into heaven. So Paul has defined what he was referring to in verse 9 and notice how he continues in that thought at the start of chapter 4 (remember, these letters weren’t written in chapters and verses).

1 Timothy 4 (ESV)
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Within the context of appointing deacons, those who look after the needs of the brethren, Paul reminds Timothy that the Holy Spirit has warned that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. Other things are included in this list, but Paul hits the biggest ones first. Timothy is to make sure that he is not placing into the role of deacon any who would fall into this category of apostasy (falling away). Notice that aberrant food myths will also play a role in the departure from the faith. We cannot simply dismiss these deviations from the faith as merely “nonessential” since Paul is warning of a departure from the faith by such devotions. While the brothers and sisters within the congregation will undoubtedly be at various stages in their walk and growing in the faith, and we are to extend grace to those whose faith is still weak, we are NOT to place such individuals into positions of leadership within the church. Paul then encourages Timothy directly to set for the brothers a role model. He is being charged with authority to lead the appointed Elders and Deacons in the way that they must go. He will undoubtedly be placing men who are older than he is as Overseers, and they will be expected to follow Timothy’s example. Paul encourages Timothy, and charges him to let no one despise you for your youth. I fear we have allowed this passage to serve as a proof text that age is irrelevant completely and that all one needs is a “calling” and “gifting” to preach, or at least a college degree (seminary) and you are good-to-go to lead a church body. Don’t get me wrong, I think a seminary degree is a good thing… but it isn’t a Scriptural requirement, it’s a fairly modern one. Leaders need to be discipled into leadership, tested and proved to be blameless. They must manage their households well, and be above reproach.

General Instructions for Church

1 Timothy 5  (ESV)
1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35 (ESV) “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We must honor the older men and women as we would honor our own mothers and fathers. Open rebuke is not acceptable; rather, we must encourage them in the Word as we would our own parents. Younger men and women are to be regarded as brothers and sisters, in all purity. Sexual immorality is not to be tolerated in this sense, we do not allow a wolf in sheep’s clothing to pose as a brother only to defile younger women for his own pleasure (or vice versa).

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

I find this to be extremely poignant and out-of-step with the present culture. We now see that the upholding of family as the smallest unit of the Church working in the other direction. We have clearly established that a man’s qualifications for leadership in the church are demonstrated by his management of the household. Here, we see that true widows are to be honored by the Church. True widows not having any remaining family are to be cared for by the Body of Christ. Notice, however, that Paul looks to the children or grandchildren of widows to demonstrate godliness in their household by taking care and honoring the widows, even compelling some to return to live with their mother. Can you imagine giving that sermon on “Mother’s Day”? We then see Paul warn against true widows taking the “retirement” mentality and becoming self-indulgent, for such a person is dead even while she lives. We are to care for and meet the needs of the true widows in the Body of Christ, but our young women need proper instruction, example, and encouragement from the older women.

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

Here we see Paul addressing what might be considered “welfare”. This good work should be handled by the Church, not the State. We should be setting the standard for taking care of those in need, those without family. Having already set the standard for how the true widows should continue in godliness, he also warns against allowing younger widows to be enrolled without responsibilities. Paul’s concern is for their faith. While many will find such generalization insulting, do we not see such behavior now among the newly divorced? Sure, in our culture women are taking jobs and careers outside the home but don’t we see newly single women turning away from the faith chasing after carnality? We also see men failing (woefully) in this regard, but men are not provided the kind of enrollment being offered to widows here in scripture. Paul encourages young widows to remarry and lead godly faithful lives as wives and as mothers, thereby safeguarding themselves from many a temptation that is natural to fleshly man/woman. (Edit: As a point of clarification, I am in no way equivocating divorce and widowhood. Divorce is a sin that requires repentance and forgiveness)

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

Finally, we see here that Elders are to be the pastors and teachers, and those who labor in such capacities are worthy of double honor. It is fitting to pay those who oversee the church well. Should they become affluent? I think not. Double portion… not 100 fold. Besides, affluence is a snare unto itself. But we will cover that tomorrow when we close out our study of 1 Timothy.

We gather together as a church body to encourage one another in the Spirit of Truth and Love. Christ have to the Church Apostles and prophets (foundations), and pastors, teachers, evangelists (elders), and deacons to minister to the body of Christ, teaching the Word, bearing one anothers burdens, honoring one another, confessing our sins and forgiving each other. One does not seek out or accept a position of authority to serve himself, rather, it is to serve others. In closing, I want to share some strong warnings regarding church leadership.

James 3:1 (ESV)
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

James 3:13-18 (ESV)
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
17 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.

When was the last time you honored your Elders? I recommend taking some time this week to send them a letter, or a phone call, maybe invite them to lunch. They have accepted a noble task, one that can be quite a burden at times. In the meantime, our series on the Church is drawing to a close. In tomorrow’s post we will close out 1 Timothy, and then I will try to address some of the special cases I’ve witnessed and to which I’ve been made privy.

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

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


The Church | Part 3

churchAs we continue in 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 Instructs Timothy

Now that we have some idea of who Timothy was (no need to accept my speculation), let us dive right into Paul’s first letter to Timothy.

1 Timothy 1  (ESV)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

We see here Paul regarding Timothy as a father regards his son. Remember how he spoke to Titus? I believe that an earnest discipleship relationship follows one of adoption. To the fatherless, even more so (I believe Timothy’s father was a non-believing Greek, but that is purely speculation on my part).  Right at the beginning of the letter, we see Paul reminding Timothy of the reason he asked him to remain at Ephesus. Remember yesterday we saw that the role of Elder required the ability to give instruction in sound doctrine and to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). We see here that Timothy is first performing the role of disciplinarian. We have some indication of the types of problems he must confront, devotion to myths, speculations and a swerving from the charge of love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Also notice that certain persons have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the Law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. False teachers.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Paul then provides a defense for the rightful teaching of the Law, and leads directly into a reminder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So we see then that the first order of business for Timothy is in the discipline of certain men who seek to teach that which they do not understand, or who have made shipwreck of their faith by rejecting faith and a good conscience. If ever there is a people who need solid leadership, it is these here at Ephesus. Things are a mess, and it falls to Timothy to set the house in order by Paul’s instruction. Likewise, we too, must take heed to Paul’s instruction to Timothy. Let us continue to chapter 2.

1 Timothy 2 (ESV)
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Now that the review/reminder of the disciplinary business Timothy needed to address is complete, Paul begins addressing the instructive portion of his duties. Please notice that he begins with Prayer. You might remember we discussed yesterday that the primary role of the Church leadership addressed in Acts 5 was for the elders to devote themselves to prayer and preaching of the Word of God. Here, we see Paul clearly defining that as the “first of all”. That supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. We also see plainly written that there is but ONE mediator between God and men, and that is Christ Jesus. As stewards of God’s grace, we must guard ourselves against the temptation of thinking that we fill that role in any way. We are administers of reconciliation, in that we preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the ONe and only mediator between God and men. We are the body, and He is the Head. With this firm reminder to pray for all people and to preach and teach in faith and in truth, Paul then transitions to the matter of the gathering of the saints, the assembling of the church.

8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Women in Authority over Men?

In our current culture, there is a lot of animosity toward this prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men. The conditioned response (by worldly feminism) to this passage of scripture often takes the straw-man position of “so you’re saying a woman shouldn’t never speak?” or “that’s misogynist”. If that is your response, I can only ask that you continue reading with an open Bible. Those of the Protestant or Reformed tradition generally have no problem with this passage (though our culture seems to be gaining ground in those churches lately). It is usually within the Pentecostal, Charismatic, or otherwise non-cessassionist Christian traditions that we see this instruction to Timothy dismissed. Since such traditions generally hold 1 Corinthians 14 in high esteem, I think it is interesting where we find Paul discussing the matter of orderly worship.

1 Corinthians 14:26-40 (ESV)
26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Paul writes the same instruction in his letter to the Corinthians, another church predominantly composed of non-Jews. He makes mention of the Law, but does not go into detail here. The larger issue in this letter to the Corinthians is the chaotic “manifestations run amock” taking place in the church. Paul has instructed at length the gifts of the Holy Spirit, love, speaking and praying in tongues, and prophesying. Now, he is instructing them to be self-controlled (…and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets) and orderly. Why is it shameful for a woman to speak in church? Let’s go back Paul’s explanation in 1 Timothy, where he goes all the back to Creation. I wrote on the topic of Delegated Authority  earlier this year. God gave Adam authority over creation and the commandment of the one tree whose fruit he was forbidden to eat before God created Eve. The serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit, and she was tempted by his words and did eat. Yet, in his letter to the Romans, Paul points out that it was by Adam’s sin that death entered the world ( he did not mention Eve). That is because it was Adam’s responsibility to ensure that the Word of God be taught and observed. While the text (Genesis 3) does not explicitly say so, the fact that Eve adds to the commandment concerning the fruit of the forbidden tree indicates that Adam had failed in his responsibility to teach Eve the Word of God.

As I clearly stated in that January Bible Study, I will say again, this is NOT about Equality. The case I made in that study was that if woman were not equal with man, then Christ couldn’t have been “fully man” for He did not have an earthly father, only an earthly mother.  Let’s also look to 1 Corinthians 11.

1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV) 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Remember that we serve One God in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. There is a hierarchy, yet they are equal. Husband and wife are equals in substance, yet there is a clear line of authority that was set at Creation in the Garden of Eden, and persists to this day in the Body of Christ. The equality of man and wife are demonstrated and enjoyed in their union and the forming of one flesh.

1 Corinthians 11:11-12 (ESV) 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Paul is not negating himself in this chapter. I encourage each of you to read it as a whole chapter. Paul is simply demonstrating the distinction between authority and equality.

Women Be Silent in the church?

First, in the interest of intellectual honesty, when was the last time you sat in a church service where anyone (male or female) asked a question or challenged a portion of a sermon or reading of the Scriptures? We don’t do church the way it was done in the synagogues and early Church services of the New Testament. I believe that is a problem, I am NOT praising this current mode of unchallenged, unquestioned, unengaged lecturing that passes as preaching these days. However, we find ourselves in this state because so few spend time studying the Word of God and we’ve bought into the very worldly notion that we just hire the “professionals” to teach the law and sit quietly and listen. But, if we are indeed modeling the church after the early Church, then we have a system designed around the family. The man is the head of his family, and bears the responsibility for teaching and discipline. If he has shown himself faithful in this regard, then he is qualified to be an elder (according to Titus 1, we’ll get to it in Timothy a little later). Therefore, given the family as the basic unit of the church, a woman who asks questions or challenges the Word as taught in the middle of the gathering of believers demonstrates to all that her husband has failed his duty first to teach and second that he was unwilling to speak up and ask a question for himself. The same dynamic is understood regarding single women, as their primary covering is their father. A young woman is supposed to be taught by her father and (as we’ll see in a bit) by the Older women in the church.

So Women don’t do anything?

This is a common rhetorical question that needs to be addressed. Women are prohibited (in Scripture) from teaching or having authority over men. That means serving as Elders, Deacons, and Pastors. They cannot teach men from a position of authority. That is not to say they cannot teach, nor does it mean there is no room for women to minister in the church.

Titus 2 (ESV)
1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

We are to be examples and mentors to the younger generation. Older women are to teach the younger women. Older men are to teach younger men. Only a godly woman can teach a young lady how to be a godly woman. Only a godly man can teach a young man to be a godly man. Parents must raise, teach, and discipline their kids; they are the only ones who can. Fathers are the heads of their households, and bear the responsibility of authority. That isn’t a “personality trait” or “special gift or calling” it’s part of God’s design. Sure, some men need to work harder at fulfilling their responsibility, just as some women need to work harder at submitting to the leadership of their husbands. This isn’t an area where the Scripture takes a back seat to modern psychology. God remains Sovereign over His Creation, and the Scriptures are God-breathed.

Tomorrow, we will look at Paul’s specific instructions for Elders and Deacons, and then we will discuss Paul’s instructions to the members of the church. If this seems new to you, please feel free to ask questions. I’m willing to discuss or even address major questions in their own bible studies once this series draws to a close. I will limit my discussion to what we find in Scriptures. If you’d like to discuss from a church tradition or orthodoxy point of view, then I strongly recommend setting up a meeting with your pastor.

In Him,

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


The Church | Part 2

churchAs we continue in 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.

Christ is the Head of His Church

By way of reminder, let us review Ephesians 4:1-16, where the Apostle Paul makes absolutely clear that Jesus is the Head of His Church.

Ephesians 4:1-16 (ESV)
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The reason we are starting here is because we are going to be moving into the Biblical model for church leadership within the Body of Christ (I will be using a lower-case “church” to denote the local body of believers or congregation and an upper-case “Church” for the Body of Christ). In Part 1 of this series, we saw that when Paul was using the analogy of the Church as a building, that its foundation was upon that of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone. I want to begin the discussion of what Biblical church leadership looks like by addressing what some call a Mosaic model of church leadership. The idea that the church should have a single leader who is expected to hear the Word of God for the church and then relay what God has said to the congregation. Many such leaders take up their own Aarons as assistant pastor and then promote small group leaders patterned after Moses choosing leaders of the tribes manage the many needs of the multitudes. Some of the more modern churches might not realize they are employing a Mosaic architecture, they think it is all from corporate America, where the Moses of the organization is the CEO of the church.  The first major problem with this setup is that Moses already recorded the Law of God and we have that now in written form. Christ came to fulfill the Law (and the Prophets) and we who now believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ are no longer under the Law (we Gentiles never had access to the Promises of the Law anyway) but we have been adopted into a New Covenant by the blood of Jesus Christ (The book of Galatians and Hebrews lays this out well). So how is the Church (and subsequently, each church within it) supposed to be set up?

The Foundation of the Apostles

When our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conducted His earthly ministry, He selected 12 disciples and appointed them Apostles. One (Judas) betrayed Him. In the first chapter of Acts, we see the Apostles gathered together with other believers (approximately 120 in total) in prayer. They were waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit, given to them by Jesus. They also looked to appoint another witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be counted among the leaders.

Acts 1:21-26 (ESV)
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

There are some who point to Peter as the head of the Apostles, and others who point to James. Notice that they didn’t make this decision on their own, they prayed together and asked the Lord, the Head of His Church, to show them who should be appointed the ministry and apostleship that Judas despised. Please note that after the Holy Spirit is poured out from heaven, we no longer see a casting of lots to seek guidance from God. The Holy Spirit was the promised reminder of all that Jesus had said to His disciples, and inspired the writing of the New Testament. We who are in Christ now benefit from the written Word of God & the indwelling presence of the Promised Holy Spirit of God as well. When Peter was sent to the house of Cornelius (Acts 10) for God to show him that the Gospel was indeed for the Gentiles just as it was for the Jews, he went back to the brothers and gave an account to the Apostles. However, Peter didn’t command a change in policy at that point. He offered up his testimony of what God had done for the Gentiles during the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) and the Council also listened to the testimony of Paul and Barnabas. At the conclusion of the council, we see James sharing the council’s final decision. What we see demonstrated throughout the book of Acts, is not a Mosaic framework; rather, we see a plurality of elders leading the Church and giving council for the churches with Christ as the Head of His Church.

The Role of Elders

I want to first take a historical look at role of Elders by looking at the introduction of the Deacon in Acts. From there, we will move on to more prescriptive texts.

Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

The Church at this time was already large, and while they pooled all they had for the ministry of the brethren, some were being overlooked. Therefore, the Elders (at this time they were the Apostles) realized that for them to personally ensure that the daily distribution reached all, they’d have to reduce the time they spent in prayer and in ministering of the Word of God (teaching and preaching). Therefore, the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples. This isn’t Paul or James making a decree… the twelve Apostles, Elders of the Church, summoned the full congregation and told them to nominate seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Once chosen, the Apostles laid their hands on the 7 men in prayer. We see these men to indeed be filled with the Holy Spirit and even preaching the Word of God with miracles and wonders, but their office is that of deacon, serving the disciples, and the body of Christ.

Qualifications of Elders

In the interest of time, let us look at Paul’s instructions to Titus regarding Elders. I had planned to walk through Paul’s instructions to Timothy, but I think it best to postpone that discussion to tomorrow (I’m trying to keep these studies to a loose 3,000 word limit). Who is Titus? Well, we first see Titus mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Titus is a Greek convert who Paul and Barnabas brought along as testimony of God’s work among the Gentiles, when Paul presented their ministry to the Apostles in Jerusalem.

Galatians 2:1-10 (ESV)
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

So then, Titus is a disciple of Paul since the early missionary trip with Barnabas (before teaming up with Silas). We see his name pop up occasionally as Paul closes his letters giving a quick update on how the state of the Church. Now that we have a good idea of who Titus was, let us begin reading Paul’s instructions to him.

Titus 1  (ESV)
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Notice the adoptive tone of his regard for Titus “my true child in the common faith“.  Titus spent a great deal of time laboring with Paul in the ministry. He is now being charged to do a great deal of work in Crete, putting into order what remained. His primary charge is to appoint elders in every town. If you’ll remember our last discussion, we closed with the idea that the smallest unit of the Church is the family. That it falls to fathers to be the leaders and priests of their households. If the first thought in your mind is “but what about those families without fathers or where the father is not a believer?”, I ask you to hold onto that thought for the final post of this series. We will address the “what if” and the special cases later. We must resist the desire to formulate the rules based on exceptions by focusing on the Word of God that gives the rules, and then search the Scriptures for how to address the “special cases”.

Okay, so if we look at the qualifications for an elder, we find that an elder should be above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children should be believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. Why is that so important? Because an elder isn’t just “a guy with leadership potential”, or a politician to be elected into a temporary office… he is an overseer, God’s steward of the church. As such, he must be above reproach. Paul explains what it means to be above reproach as an individual now (He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined). Look at that final sentence, though. In addition to these character traits, he must hold firmly to the trustworthy word as taught so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. That last part, is best exemplified by examining the fruit of his instruction and ability to discipline… his wife and children. Does he love his wife as Christ loves the Church? Does his wife submit to, respect, and honor him? Has he taught his children the Word of God? Are they believers? Are they disciplined? We’ll see tomorrow in Paul’s letter to Timothy that a man who cannot manage his household cannot be trusted to manage the church. You don’t hire a bankrupt accountant to manage your finances, and you don’t appoint an elder whose family is in disarray to be God’s steward over the church. If the man is a new believer, or newly married, or his children are still infants then his first ministry is to his family. Remember, while the question of salvation is on an individual level (for God looks on the heart of a man), but the smallest unit of the Church is the family. If an elder’s children become insubordinate or open to the charge of debauchery, there is a problem within his household that needs his attention. For his family is his first responsibility.

Tomorrow, we will begin working through 1 Timothy to fully examine how Paul instructs Timothy regarding the church. In closing today’s discussion, I’d like to read from the closing of the letter to the Romans.

Romans 16:25-27 (ESV)
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

In Him,

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