The trouble with Pastors are
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Archive for the ‘Church Discipline’ Category
I found this blog the other day, The Assembling of the Church (which, by the way, is a cool name), and it seems like a pretty good one. At the link there, you will find an article on Church Unity and discipline:
When I put these thoughts together, something occurs to me. Unity is necessary if discipline is going to be a deterrent from divisiveness (or any other unrepentant sin). Think about that for a moment. In order for discipline to be effective, there must be unity. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that we rarely see discipline today: discipline doesn’t work because there is no unity to begin with. Of course, this is just one reason that the church should live in unity. There are many, many more reasons.
There does come a time for separation, indeed, but there are times that separation can lead to Unity. Anyway, enjoy the link.
First, let me say that the author of the blog, Church Discipline, is a well reasoned, and balanced individual who has some biblical insights into this controversial subject. I thought that I might give a few thoughts myself. You might also want to check out this site as well.
The Church is a Community, a nation, a people, and each congregation is a subset of the larger Community. We have our leaders, our own financial system, our own by-laws, and our own culture. We also have our own justice system, so to speak. We are called to constantly exceed the righteousness (even self-righteousness) of the religious world around us. Further, we are called to be the first to apologized, whether we are wrong or the wronged. Further, the leader/congregant model is often seen as shepherd/flock; indeed, ‘pastor’ is better translated as shepherd.
Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. (1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV)
I measure everything doctrinal by what has been written by the Apostles and Prophets. For me, there are two categories of doctrine, biblical and unbiblical, or orthodox and unorthodox, true and false. We are told several times to hold to the doctrine of the Church as taught by the Apostles, and I can find no ability in those words to expand or develop doctrine beyond that which was found in the 1st century Church.
However, the practices – orthopraxy – of the Church fall into three categories:
We are commanded two sacraments in the New Testament, baptism and the Eucharist, but beyond that and the use of psalms and hymns in worshiping God (Ephesians 5.19; Colossians 3.16; James 5.13) and the fact that the first day of the week was the meeting day (Acts 20.7; 1st Corinthians 16.2), there is very little to nothing else to guide the Christian in daily or weekly ritual life.
A few decades after John had written Revelation, Pliny the Younger wrote,
They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.
We know that the Church had a certain and fixed day to meet together, and that they had somewhat of a normal routine, at least those under the persecution of Pliny the Younger. Somehow, they had developed practices not found in the bible.
Recently, I have heard that the idea of an ‘altar call’ ‘cannot be found in the bible.’ Technically that is true, and I will not devote myself to defending the ‘altar call’ usually given at the end of a service in which the sinners, the wayward, or needy are invited to come to the altar; yet, I will post the biblically example that I have seen of what we might call an altar call:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:36-41 NKJV)
Peter finished his sermon, and the question was asked – what do we do now? Peter answered, and those that had received his word, came forward. Granted, it may not be a ‘traditional’ altar call, but in the end, it has all the hallmarks of one.
But the question is, is the Church allowed to practice something godly that is not in the bible. We return to those three concepts. Biblical are those things, such as the sacraments, which are mandated in the bible, yet for baptism, we do not find the prohibition against baptismal founts or the need for only running water. We just see the command. The same is said for the Eucharist. We do not know the exact ceremony but we know that it is commanded. Extrabiblical are those things that we develop to carry on those commands, such as baptismal founts for baptism. Unbiblical might be a different formula or requirements of the baptismal candidate that is not found in Scripture which would prevent the baptism from being carried out.
I have been thinking, of course, of those other things that we do which are not exactly found in the bible, but are either used or practiced in our congregations today. Here is a short list:
- Revival, tent or otherwise
- Musical Instruments
- King James Only, or even English Translations
- Sunday School classes
- Youth leaders, ministers, or any other ‘ministers’ not found in Eph. 4.11
- Many forms of Church Government employed today
- Special Songs
- Youth Camps
Granted, that is a short list of things not found in the bible – yet we do these things on a regular and traditional basis. If we can do these things, surely, we can understand that an altar call is not unbiblical but extrabiblical, and that it is a practise developed over time and culture.
As a rejoinder to this, let me state first, that the altar call is not the point of the service, nor should people be expected to wait until the end of the service to pray to or to seek God. There are times when saints need to be shaken away from their extrabiblical concepts, but we must remember, extrabiblical is not unbiblical.
“For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16 NKJV)
“Furthermore it has been said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32 NKJV)
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,’ and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-9 NKJV)
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:10-16 NKJV)
As part of the by-laws in our Church organization, the ministers that are licensed with our organization cannot have been a member of the church, divorce, remarry and then seek minister’s credentials. Recently, I have seen those that purport to hold to our particular faith accept ministers who have been twice, or three times, married into the ministerial fold. Is it acceptable?
Divorce is an ugly thing, however, it is at times very needful. Would any pastor in his right mind actually counsel a spouse to stay in an abusive marriage? Or would you counsel a couple to stay together for the sake of the children? God lines out acceptable divorce procedures. Sexual Immorality is at the top of the list, and frankly, I am pretty liberal concerning what is sexual immorality and unfaithfulness in marriage.
If you read the passages above, you will get the general idea that God hates divorce, but he allows for remarriage if that divorce is predicated under an adulterous relationship. Remember, although divorce is allowed, remarriage is only allowed for sexual immorality on the part of the other spouse.
So, to what level do you allow those that do such things, willingly, back into the leadership fold? I do not believe you can restrict access to the altar or to Communion. Although you should allow a man or a woman who is remarried back into the congregation, no one should allow them to hold a leadership position in the Church, especially that of pastor.
Let me also direct you to this site.
Marriage is a key factor in understanding the relationship of Christ and His Church. It is something to be honoured an protected. In this world, divorce, or even the cohabitation, is common, and the true idea of marriage is almost gone. Before any religious precepts were given to Man and Life, God gave them the covenant of Marriage. It was a mystical union, and one that must be preserved in sancity.
The same is said of the Church. If adulterers are allowed to hold posts, then their idea of ministry remains under sin. If they could not honor their wife, then how can they honor God?
These are incomplete thoughts – what are yours?
I know, the title is a little bit odd, but, I have been toying with this idea for a while and last Sunday morning, we were near the verse in 2nd Peter where it says that we can hasten the Day of the Lord. Now, I have long fought against the idea that we can hasten the Day of the Lord with physical violence, such as destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, I always thought we played no part in the hastening. I take Vincent’s part, in that we become instruments, not in speeding up the clock, but in completing the works for the Day of the Lord.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)
Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians is without a doubt one of the single most important letters from the Apostle on the Nature and Unity of the Church. (1.22; 2.19-22; 3.9-10, 14-15; 21, 4.4-16; 5.22-32). In this we find that Paul gives us at once the mystery and the revelation of the New Man, the Body of Christ, and the Bride of Christ, all which is the Church by Jesus Christ. He gives the doctrine of unity among Jew and Gentile, showing that God has bestowed the promises of Israel upon the Church. We may easily learn of the head of the Church and the immediate goal of the Church, but in a small phrase, I find that Paul gives us, at least seemingly a shadow of what the goal of doctrine is – the Unity, or oneness, of the Faith, and in doing so presents the idea of the final consummation of the Church.
It is implied that the offices of the Church will cease when all come into the unity of the Faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God. If these offices cease, then the instruction of doctrine will as well; if instruction cease, then perfection will exist. Perfect is the consummation of the Church at the marriage banquet of the Lord and His bride.
The Apostle Peter, in his second Epistle, tells us
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 2 Peter 3:11-12 NKJV)
Vincent, for this phrase, says,
I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., “causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer” (Trench, on “The Authorized Version of the New Testament”).
Let us examine Peter’s intentions in writing this letter.
For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12-15 NKJV)
‘These things’ does not refer to the attributes of the Christian in v5-7, but the knowledge of v8. By building those things upon our faith, we receive knowledge, and with this knowledge we are not cast into blindness and denied our entrance to heaven.
Doctrine in the Second Epistle from Peter is clearly on the writer’s mind as something that is important to the life of the Christian. In v16, Peter demands that we put away false doctrines, these cunningly devised fables of Man, and instead focuses on one thing - the Son of God, and the words of not only prophecy, open and public, but the very words of confirmation which Peter, James, and John heard upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Return to Paul and notice that he too echoes Peter when he hearkens to the knowledge of the Son of God. Peter moves then against false prophets and heresies that bring about destruction and disunity. This is not new nor long dead, but something that the Church has experienced from the very first. We fool ourselves if we think that the Church is impervious to false doctrines today. Chapter 2 of 2nd Peter deals not only with these false prophets, but those that leave the Church to go after them. The Apostle tells us that he writes to stir up our minds to the words spoke by the Apostles and the Prophets, the doctrines that dripped from their mouths. He tells us of scoffers and of the reason for delay in the returning of Christ – that all should come to repentance.
Returning to Paul’s view, the offices of the Church are to guide the Church into the perfection of Unity. This is not the perfection of the individual Saint in holiness, but the perfection of Doctrine that we all believe the same thing.
John Chrysostom says,
“To the unity,” saith he, “of the faith.”That is, until we shall be shown to have all one faith: for this is unity of faith, when we all are one, when we shall all alike acknowledge the common bond. Till then thou must labor to this end.
Now when we shall all believe alike then shall there be unity; for that this is what he calls “a perfect man,” is plain. And yet he elsewhere calls us “babes” (1Co 13,11), even when we are of mature age; but he is there looking to another comparison, for there it is in comparison with our future knowledge that he there calls us babes. For having said, “We know in part” (1Co 13,9 13,12), he adds also the word “darkly,” and the like: whereas here he speaks with reference to another thing, with reference to changeableness, as he saith also elsewhere, “But solid food is for full-grown men.” (He 5,14). Do you see then also in what sense he there calls them full-grown? Observe also in what sense he calls men “perfect” here, by the words next added, where he says, “that we may be no longer children.” That we keep, he means to say, that little measure, which we may have received, with all diligence, with firmness and steadfastness. – (Chrysostom on Ephesians)
This does not give itself to the idea of doctrinal development by the Church, but the development of the Church by the Doctrine. Paul saw the life of the Church as maturing to the ‘new man’, not the new child, but an adult, and with Paul seeing that the Church is not the individual saint, but the corporate body of Christ, it becomes apparent that the Church – all the Saints – must believe the same thing. This calls for us to strip away those traditions that have become doctrine, and thereby strip away the walls of separation. We seek the doctrine of the Church, as true unity depends on corporate Faith in, and knowledge of, the Son of God. This is not a mere acknowledgment, but a knowledge through revelatory doctrine. It is not enough to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, or that He was virgin born, but to know Him and His Church by His Doctrine.
It is high time for those leaders in the Church to begin feeding meat, to push for unity, not by lowering standards and erasing essential doctrines, but by coming to the central doctrines of the Church. We must strip away those things, those traditions of men, that have become doctrines which take away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Peter says that we actually hasten the Day of the Lord; Paul says that these offices of the Church exist until we come to the unity of the Faith. To Hasten that Day, we must strive for a Doctrine common to all and have all common to the Doctrine. In Acts 2, we read that when the Apostles were in one place, in one mind, and in one accord, the Spirit of God descended upon them. We find the end of the Church as the beginning was, requiring that we are all in one place, in one mind, and in one accord.