Thinking about Church

 

Since 2014, I’ve had ebbs and flows in my thoughts regarding the church.  When I lay aside these studies, they inevitably come back seeking further clarity and resolution until I grow weary and lay them down again.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

In that year, I was taking a seminary course called the Doctrine of the Church where we looked at every single use of “church” in the Scriptures.  Note that I didn’t simply say use of church in the New Testament.  That’s because the Greek word, ekklesia, translated church in our English Bibles (a poor translation by the way), is also in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) quite frequently.  It is a common translation of the Hebrew word qahal, which our English Bibles translate as assembly or congregation (hold on to that).

So the concept of ekklesia, or what we read translated as church, is not an entirely New Testament idea.  We must also allow the Old Testament to inform our understanding of how we define church.  Want a practical implication of this?—How often have you been taught that the church was formed at Pentecost?  Really?  Then we need to explain how the church was in the wilderness with Moses, as described by Stephen in Acts 7:38 as well as the more than 100 times ekklesia appears in the Greek Septuagint.  There is both continuity and discontinuity from Old to New Testaments regarding ekklesia.

I’ll hope to unpack all this in the future, but for now I simply want to lay out some thoughts or better, questions, much like I did in the post “Who or What determines how you worship?”  As there, so also here, the Scriptures must be our final authority.

  1. What is an ekklesia?
  2. What is the church? A building, event, identity, or other (denomination)?
  3. Does church require a building?
  4. Can we leave the church?
  5. Can you become a member of a church?
  6. Who runs the church?
  7. Is the church a 501c organization?
  8. Is the church universal?
  9. Is the church invisible?
  10. Is the church an institution?
  11. Is church history monolithic?
  12. Is Christ building His church eschatological?
  13. What does Christ intend to communicate to Peter (and us) by the statement, “Feed my sheep”?
  14. Is there a biblical distinction or hierarchy between clergy and laity?
  15. Are “pastors” the only preachers?
  16. What is preaching?
  17. What is teaching?
  18. Is pastoring a profession/vocation?
  19. Is a formal seminary education required to “pastor” or preach?
  20. Is church a worship service?
  21. Is church participatory or non-participatory?
  22. What are the implications of 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 on our churches?
  23. Where did our modern expression of church come from, Scripture or tradition?
  24. Can we build a church?
  25. Can we plant a church?

What about you?  What are you thoughts on church?  Have you thought about it with Scripture as your guide?  Have you wrestled with what you see versus what Scripture describes?  Have you ever stopped to ask, wait…now why are we doing this?

My goal is not to ask why as an end to itself.  My goal is to more conform my life to the Word of Almighty God and participate in His ekklesia as He has directed.

Final Objections to Original Sin and their Consequences

 

This is our final post addressing some of the more common objections brought against what is often called the Doctrine of Original Sin.

Objection #5 – The theory of evolution does not allow for an historic Adam, therefore there is no connection to a concept of original sin.

This is the appeal to science that the authors of Adam and the Genome attempt to make.  Some make the argument that Adam wasn’t an actual historical person, but it is instead simply a shorthand designation for all of mankind.  This however destroys the One to Many representation argument that Scripture develops in both Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 – Adam to many, Christ to many.  Just as Scripture states that there was a historical Jesus, so too does it state that there was a historical Adam and their relationship is clear.

Objection #6 – Real sin is only committed through an act of the will or volition.  Since we were not in the Garden with Adam, it was not our choice to sin and thereby we do not share in his guilt.

This is true, the actuality of sin is committed by an act of the will or volition, as we saw in the Ezekiel 18 objection.  However, that will has a natural bent towards sin.  It is not morally neutral and certainly not morally good.  It’s natural inclination towards sin is a direct result of the corrupting influence of Adam’s original sin in the Garden.  As was already mentioned, the case with Adam was unique in his representation of mankind.  In this respect, we were there with him.

Objection #7 – If Adam is the natural progenitor of all mankind, and Christ was born into mankind, wouldn’t this make Him guilty and polluted for being “in Adam”.

Christ is commonly understood to be the Second Adam.  By means of His divine, miraculous conception, He assumes the full human nature of mankind, but not the fallen nature of mankind, thus the importance of both the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth and the Doctrine of the Incarnation.  Additionally, we must remember the uniqueness of Christ, not merely human, but divine-human, distinguishing Himself from Adam and all other mere humans.

As to His humanity, in a sense, he was made human in a similar way as Adam, that by direct divine intervention (His divine nature is eternal and uncreated).  Adam was formed from the dust of the ground by the hand of God.  Similarly, Christ was formed, humanly speaking, by the power of the Holy Spirit and conceived in the womb of Mary.  Here too it is important to clarify that the Holy Spirit did not have intercourse with Mary, as some erroneously assert.  The purity of the conception of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit stops the corruption of human nature from passing on to Him.  Simply stop and wonder at the majesty of God and the sinlessness of Christ through His miraculous birth.

Consequences

Though the doctrine of original sin may be unpalatable to some people, it nevertheless must be wrestled with, as Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord.  We must not let go of Scripture til we have been blessed by it through a clearer understanding of this teaching.  Otherwise, there are grave consequences.

Though we have looked at the consequences for denying the resurrection as defined in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, let’s briefly expand on that for our subject of original sin.

Consequence 1 – Denying original sin denies the need for Christ’s obedience and death on the cross.  If people are born innocent, unstained by their relation to Adam, then we would do well to usher them to an isolated island ensuring their ultimate salvation apart from the corrupting influence of the world.  Christ’s death then would be for only those for whom Plan A, isolation, had failed.

Cons. 2 – Denying the relationship of Adam, his original sin, and his posterity, undercuts the necessity for Christ’s virgin birth.  Consequently, Christ would have no need to be the product of divine conception, because the corrupting influence of Adam would be non-existent.  The doctrine of original sin explains the necessity for Christ to be born of the Spirit through the vessel of Mary, apart from the seminal influence, i.e. Adam, of Joseph.

Cons. 3 – Denying the relationship of Adam to his posterity undermines the parallel relationship between Christ and His posterity.  In other words, if there is no “in Adam” then there is no “in Christ”.

Cons. 4 – Simply stated, if there is no “in Christ” then we are doomed.

Cons. 5 – Denying the relationship of all mankind “in Adam” leads to a logical conclusion of evolution and the denial of a historical Adam.  This consequence works from both directions, either starting with a denial of the historical Adam and working forward or a denial of original sin and working backwards.  In any event, the consequence is grave and one would not be surprised if the next shoe to fall is the doctrine of inerrancy.

Summary

The concept of union with Adam, as a result of our birth, places all men under condemnation and God’s wrath, worthy of eternal punishment.  Likewise, it explains our need for a Savior and  the necessity of Christ’s virgin birth, thereby establishing Him alone as sinless and apart from the original sin of Adam, i.e. outside Adam’s seminal line and federal headship.  Additionally, original sin magnifies God’s grace.  Truly Christ is our only hope and the only name under heaven by which man may be saved.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul brings union with Adam and original sin into his argument of Christ’s resurrection and it’s benefits for the specific purpose of introducing the concept of death, namely that all men die as a result of being in Adam.  The reason for this is to assert the supremacy of Christ over death and the glorious resurrection for all those who are in Him.  But that is a subject we’ll take up yet another future post.

RE: Lions at War

lions at war

4/28/2017 Continuing with the blog theme of Retractions and Edits that I introduced a few weeks ago, in this reexamination, I must confess it was a misapplication of passages, a sort of one passage vs. another and neither in their appropriate context.

(Original publication 11/17/2009) It’s not difficult to follow the patterns of my life by simply reading the blog posts that I write.  Recently, with a few exceptions, the focus has been on spiritual warfare and the fact that we are embroiled in the middle of a battle that seeks daily to destroy us, to not only impede our walk with Christ, but an attempt, albeit futile, to severe our relationship.  In those posts we’ve discussed how this war isn’t one of the flesh, but of the spirit, that we are equipped with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), and that non-participators in this battle are quickly seized by the enemy. This is an accurate assessment of the war in which Christians are engaged.

The Bible doesn’t under-emphasize this war, but instead is full of references and analogies to describe just how powerful this struggle really is.  Perhaps there is no better verse in the Bible that describes our enemy as well as I Peter 5:8 ESV, “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  This description is so profound; a lion, massive and powerful, just like in the picture above, capable of literally ripping flesh from the bone and devouring it, just like Peter alludes.  The text tells us to “be sober-minded; be watchful”, a call for us to be alert at all times with our defenses ready, that at the slightest movement or sound we are prepared for battle.  Again, helpful.  Sometimes it seems we underestimate the influence and power of our enemy, that old serpent the Devil.  However the imagery of a lion helps put this in a proper perspective.

I’m sure we’ve all seen movies where the frantic, scared, and helpless person is trapped inside a house or cabin, while the adversary is outside looking for any possible entrance inside.  This is the same principle with a lion, they stalk their prey, looking to exploit any weakness they can find and so it is with the devil, searching for a foothold into our lives in order to attack and destroy us.  But this scene needs to be different; we’re not the scared helpless victim.  Don’t let the devil paralyze you with his stalking, because that’s exactly what he wants to do.  Again helpful.  This analogy of a lion, particularly as it has its victim in his sights is appropriate.  Instead of fearing, we are called to resist him, as our Lord did in His wilderness temptation.

No, instead Christians we need to turn the tables on our adversary because surprise, surprise, we’re lions too!  Proverbs 28:1b says, “but the righteous are bold as a lion.”  This certainly changes the game doesn’t it?  Lions aren’t cowardly (despite what the Wizard of Oz might portray) they’re predatory, aggressive, and relentless in their pursuit.  This should be our approach toward sin, don’t sit back defensively while it stalks you, attack it with the boldness of a lion!   “ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7  The analogy of believer’s as lions, capable of equally battling the Devil is not helpful and in fact may be harmful.  I do not think that believers should seek to actively engage the Devil.  However, we are called to resist him.  How or in what way?  In the strength of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wielding the Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word.  We are to be ready, vigilant, sober-minded because our enemy prowls around like a lion, but we are indeed weak in our flesh and experience to think that we can resist him on our own.  

There’s one additional point we need to look at in this fight and it’s critically essential.  In our verse from Proverbs we are told that the righteous are bold as the lion.  This righteousness isn’t something we develop or are taught, but it comes through Jesus Christ when we accept Him as Savior (Romans 6:18, II Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9).  He is the source of our boldness; He is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  As we learned yesterday in the post from Charles Spurgeon, we need to recognize that without Jesus, our weaknesses are exposed and will be exploited by the enemy.  Alone we have no power to battle sin, but with Him leading the way we have sovereign power.  As the enemy begins stepping up his assault on Christians of the world, it’s time that we stand up and fight back against sin with the boldness of the lion that we were made to be in Christ.  Stand up, be bold, be aggressive, be fearless as the lion, for “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31b ESV  This is a helpful, clarifying summary, if albeit unrelated to the subject of lion vs. lion.  If the righteous are to be as bold as a lion, as Proverbs states, it should be in our willingness to proclaim the Gospel, confront sin in our own lives, and live holy lives in a wicked and adulterous generation.

*Featured image credit – Atif Saeed Fine Art Photography

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"