Tag Archives: Church

One Body, One Church

Ephesians 2:11-22 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

In the late 1800s to early 1900s a unique system of theological thought emerged on the scene primary birthed by John Darby, Louis Sperry Chafer, and C.I. Scofield and was brought into the mainstream by Charles Ryrie and others.  This “dispensational” system of biblical interpretation is summarized by Ryrie in 3 main points:

  1. A clear distinction between Israel and the Church
  2. A literal interpretation of Scripture
  3. The glory of God as the primary goal of history

Without question, any Christian holding strongly to a biblical worldview would agree wholeheartedly with point #3.  The glory of God is the supreme chief end of all that God does and as is stated in 1 Corinthians 10:31 should be the primary goal of all that we Christians do as well.  Point #2, while on the surface would get a rousing ‘Amen’, should be analyzed more closely as to what exactly is meant and then understood that the context of a passage dictates the interpretation and not vice versa.  For instance, in Psalm 50:10 the Lord says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”  If read “literally” apart from context, then we are left with the cattle on hill 1001 belonging to someone else.  That’s not the case here, as this reference was to simply prove a point that the magnitude of God’s “ownership” over His creation is immense.  Similarly, much of the prophetic passages in the Bible use imagery, visions, and other language to describe future events.  An example would be Revelation 13:1-3 “And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.  And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.  And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.”  Taken in a strict literal sense apart from context, the end times would be marked by a beast that resembles something out of a science fiction movie, rather than having prophetic meaning behind the imagery that is used here which lends itself to a better understanding of who this individual Antichrist might be.  The classic dispensationalist, ala Ryrie, is then forced to decide, are they to stick with a wooden literal interpretation from Genesis to Revelation and force a meaning into Scripture, or are they to let context and the author’s original intent, i.e. literary genre, determine how the passage of Scripture is to be read.  This of course is not to deny that the Bible is the literal Word of God, nor does it mean that when Jonah describes being in the belly of a fish he actually is using imagery.  No, it was a literal fish and again, context must reign.  Allegorizing God’s Word is a dangerous error and as has been pointed out even though multiple writing styles (poetry, prophesy, parables, etc.) are utilized it must be understood that the Bible is to be interpreted literally within its context.  For a discussion on dispensational use of “literal interpretation” see the article by Vern Poythress, “What is Literal Interpretation?” found here: Monergism – Dispensationalism.

This aside, the classic dispensational system has its greatest challenge in their first point, “a clear distinction between Israel and the Church”.  It  is this point that forces a division to be read into Scripture rather than understanding biblical theology from Genesis to Revelation maintains a central thread of the redemption of God’s people from all times through His Son Jesus Christ leading to the consummation of Christ and His bride for the very purpose of the glory of God.  To this system of dispensational theology, Charles Spurgeon wrote the following admonition:

“Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ so not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed at one time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about. These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body. Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way—they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.” (From his sermon “Jesus Christ Immuntable” [emphasis from here http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/eschat2.htm ].

For a system that so greatly relies on a supposed literal interpretation, great damage is done not only to biblical theology, but to innumerable passages that highlight the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in Christ.  The passage above from Ephesians is one such passage.

Just prior to it, in Ephesians 1:1 – 2:10, the Apostle Paul had just outlined God’s plan of redemption “before the foundation of the world” which includes both Jew and Gentile, as Paul, being a Jew, is writing to a Church of Christians, which was likely comprised of both Jew and Gentile.  Therefore, his use of “we” and “us” is inclusive of all believers in Christ.  However, in Ephesians 2:11 he makes a new distinction and now shifts his focus specifically to the Gentiles.  His purpose for doing so seems to be what is missed in the classic dispensational system, primarily a lack of understanding that although national Israel, meaning those born of the flesh of Abraham, were a people chosen by God (Deut. 7:6-7), through whom Christ would come (Galatians 3:16), salvation is not inclusive of them, nor is it exclusive of non-Jews, but rather it is “children of the promise” (Romans 9:8), namely God’s elect, who will be saved.

The Apostle Paul wrote of God’s plan of redemption in great detail in his Roman epistle and Romans 9-11 specifically addresses the misconception that somehow race or ethnicity was a determining factor of salvation.  Let us not be guilty of this same error, but let us realize that God’s purpose of election throughout history is through His sovereign grace alone and that it is He that chooses to show mercy to whom He wills.  Without the fulfillment of His plan in this manner, through predestination and election, salvation would have never come to the Gentiles.  All those who repent and bow the knee to Jesus in faith and declare Him as their Lord and Savior will be saved joining the saints of old, the saints of present, and those soon to come into the fold as one body in Christ Jesus, His Bride – The Church.

Kevin DeYoung: ‘Rethinking the Mission of the Church”

The link below is for the audio version of a message Kevin DeYoung gave at the recent Pastor’s Conference for Sovereign Grace Ministries.  In his talk, Pastor DeYoung provides a biblically balanced look at the Church’s primary role and how the “Great Commission” shapes that role and provides her direction.  He also shares concerns with language such as “social justice” and “missional”.  Likewise, he mentions Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice, which I discussed earlier this week.  Please consider listening to this message.  He gives a thorough analysis.

Rethinking the Mission of the Church

His conclusion:

So what is the mission of the church?

The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father.

In other words, the mission of the church is not equal to everything God is doing in the world, nor is it everything we do in obedience to Christ. The mission of the church is the Great Commission. As Andreas Köstenberger says, “The church ought to be focused in the understanding of its mission. Its activities should be constrained by what helps others to come to believe that the Messiah, the Son of God, is Jesus.”*

Christ, the Perfect Bridegroom: The Guidelines

In the previous post  we established that Jesus is the perfect Bridegroom and has created an ideal model for each of us to follow and pattern in our own marital relationships.  If you haven’t read it, please take the time to do so, because it’s so foundational to marriages.  Not only has the marriage model been provided, but the Bible has established guidelines for us to adhere.  The first guideline is provided by Jesus in the Gospels and the second two are found in chapter 5 of Ephesians.  While the Bible is the ultimate authority on marriage with numerous guidelines to help us, today we will focus on 1) The marriage bond 2) Husbandry love 3) Bridal submission.  Each of these is core to the marriage vows that are taken at the altar, but their implementation comes straight from the Word of God.

Our first point comes from Mark 10:7-8 ESV, Jesus is in a dialogue with religious leaders regarding the rules of marriage.  These overly zealous men know the Scriptures and that is exactly what Jesus quotes to them in this passage as He states, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'”  In this passage, Jesus is quoting Genesis 2:24 and not only do we see that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we get an intimate picture of what this is supposed to look like, “two shall become one flesh.”  How many times have we heard that marriage is 50/50 relationship?  Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact, it’s not even Biblical.  It’s 100/100, all of you joined with all of your spouse, together in one accord, one mind, one body, yet two souls joined in Christ.  And this last part is so critical.  If your life is not Christ-centered, or your spouse’s life is not Christ-centered, then your marriage will not be Christ-centered.  This, not finances, infidelity, incompatibility, nor falling out of love, is the number one cause of divorce.  The two shall become one flesh, with Christ as their center.    

Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Men, the bar is raised high on this truth.  If you truly think about this passage, about what it means, then there is no need for books, classes, or counseling for how to be a better husband.  Don’t complicate it, simplify it, love your wife as Christ loved the church.  Give yourself completely to your wife in everything.  If Jesus had one single selfish motive in stepping down from heaven, becoming flesh, taking on our sins, and dying on the cross, then His mission would have been an abject failure.  He gave all of Himself, willingly, for His bride because that’s how much He loves and cares for her, unconditionally.  Should we be any different with our wives?  The Bible says no.  Lay down your life symbolically for your wife as Jesus laid down His physically for the church.  Put your selfish desires and wants to death and love your bride as Christ loved the church.   

In the same regard women have been given the following directive, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV  I realize this is often a point of contention in marriage vows because as soon as someone hears the word “submit” they immediately become defensive, taking the position of, “No man is going to tell me what to do.”  Really?  How much did Christ love you?  Enough to die on the cross for your sins?  Do you have a problem submitting to Him?  We’ve already discussed how the husband is to love his wife, and when you receive this kind of love, how can you not submit?  Now obviously we are not talking about an abusive submission, we are truly saying submitting to the love of Christ that is being shown by your husband.  That is what you have been called to do and it is your role in the marriage in the same regard as it is the Church’s role in its covenant with Jesus.

“Marriage is God’s showcase of covenant keeping grace.  In marriage, you live moment by moment in grace, the grace extended from Jesus Christ.  All of the Christian life is meant to display covenant grace, but marriage is a unique display.” (John Piper)  This unique display of grace is found when marital relationships are rooted in Christ.  This means Godly sorrow and repentance when wrongs are committed and the Grace of God extended in forgiveness, no matter what.  Every marital problem, every divorce, every blowup, every issue, argument and fight comes back to Jesus Christ.  If we are not centered in our own relationship with Christ, our marriages will be out of line.  If we are centered personally on Christ, yet not centered on Christ together, our marriages will be out of line.  Marriage is a Covenant Love, it’s covenant keeping, just as between Jesus and His bride.  Christ’s covenant is never broken and therefore neither should ours be.  Pastor John Piper points out that, “God patterned marriage after His Son and the relationship to His redeemed people.”  In this respect, marriage reflects the Gospel and neither should be mocked, dissolved, or entered into lightly.

*Given the alliance of Piper and Rick Warren, please see the warning post here: Red Skies In the Morning