The Pastor – Chapter 6, The Use of Titles

How men love titles! Does your “pastor” like to be called “doctor” or even “pastor”? Are such titles biblical for the gathered people of God? The Solaauthor gives this peek into today’s message:

Now to grasp another nettle. Titles. The New Testament never uses any title for any man in the church. What is more, it categorically forbids it. Nowadays, however, most Christians do use titles – or one in particular – and do so without turning a hair, even though it contradicts Christ’s plain command. Complaining of the scribes and Pharisees who loved ‘to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi”’, Christ said: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call any one on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:1-12). But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call any one on earth your father… And do not be called teachers… But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (NKJV).

Chapter 6 can be found here.

Chapter 5 is here.

The Pastor – Chapter 4, Attempted Recovery

From the author:

We take up the story at the start of the 16th century with Martin Luther. But before we do, let us remember that protest against the mutilation of Christ’s church was not unknown during the dark ages. Men and, no doubt, women – men like Claude of Turin (died 827), Tanchelm (died 1115), Peter of Bruy s (flourished c1117- c1131), Henry of Lausanne (flourished c1116-1148), Arnold of Brescia (1110-1155), John Tauler (c1300-1361), John Wycliffe (c1328-1384), John Hus(c1369-1415), the Lollards and their like, should never be forgotten.

They all made their protest against Rome, and in one way or another called for a return to the New Testament. I am not pretending that they had full gospel light. But, in their various way s, they all prepared the ground for the approaching Reformation.

This chapter is here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=116141234374

Chapter 3 is here: http://defendingcontending.com/2015/11/27/the-pastor-chapter-3-the-system-corrupted/

The Dangers of Drifting

A review by Stuart Brogden   Evangelicals-Adrift-94x150

We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1 (HCSB)

Matthew E. Ferris’ book, Evangelicals Adrift – Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism, is a fairly comprehensive examination of the differences between biblical Christianity and that which is based on sacramental rituals. He also provides examples of people who have crossed the Tiber River from both sides. For the evangelical who drifts into sacramentalism, the dangers are pointed out with the concern of one manning a lighthouse in treacherous waters, where sailing vessels are bound to be broken on the rocks if they drift away from the narrow channel.

In ten concise chapters, our author covers the theological crises in evangelicalism, the nature and authority of the church and Scripture, and the various departures from biblical truth posed by sacramentalism. In the first chapter, Ferris tells us, “My task is to the show that the definition of the bride of Christ put forth by sacramentalism is an erroneous one, and that Scripture is the only sure guide for the way forward in the Christian life. … I am not writing as “anti-Catholic” or “anti-Orthodox”, but rather as pro-Scripture.” (page 25) This is an important point that evangelicals need to keep in mind, as it is far too easy to drift into being against error instead of in favor of truth; and our mission is to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20).

In his discussion about the nature of the church, Ferris contrasts the Apostles’ teaching found in God’s Word with the progressively developed extra-biblical traditions of the sacramental church, concluding, “The final arbiter for sacramentalism returns once more, not to the Scriptures, but to the church.” (page 35), giving us quotes from Roman Catholics that explicitly confirm this. He then asks, “in what sense can the Church be apostolic if it runs counter to the model the apostles themselves left us?” (page 37) Ferris supports the plurality and equality of elders and the priesthood of all believers in the local church, pointing out the word “clergy” is applied in Scripture to the entire church, not only the elders (page 42). Anticipating the claim that there is unanimity amongst the Church Fathers, our author provides a few quotes to show they had as much variation on issues as do any group of Christians, observing that anyone who wants a clean and supporting historical record to support their view must pick and choose which bits of history to rest on, ignoring those which do not line up with their case. “The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth only in that she upholds and defends it; she does not originate truth.” (page 74)

One way that Christians fail to stay on the narrow road is to neglect church history and conclude that their traditions are biblical. Ferris bemoans the fact that many research or know church history only as far back as the Reformation (page 84), leaving them adrift in the historical influences left unexamined. In commenting on how tradition overshadows Scripture in sacramental churches, he sums up a good quote from Oscar Cullman by saying, “there is no need for a canon at all if the ultimate arbiter of truth is the Church and its magisterium.” (page 86) “Roman Catholic doctrine claims to affirm the inspiration of Scripture and that the Bible is authored by God, yet in practice it severely undermines both of these positions.” (page 102) The Roman Catholic Church demands its dogma be accepted as authoritative, while denying the self-attestation of Scripture. Rather than holding to a proper understanding of Sola Scriptura, the Roman Catholic Church is shown to truly hold to sola ecclesia (page 103). This is compounded by the long-standing position of Rome that only its select clergy can interpret the Scripture, which undermines the authority of the Bible. If the Bible is God’s Word to His people, all of whom are indwelt by His Spirit, does it make sense that only a small number of people selected by a small number of religious leaders would be able to rightly comprehend the essentials of the Christian faith? History records that these select leaders, charged with interpreting the Scriptures for the common folk often disagreed with one another and many changed their minds on topics over time. Heretics and false sons have been in the temporal church since the apostolic era and it flies in the face of history, human nature, and the Bible for Rome to claim immunity from the frailties that each son of Adam faces.

Ferris also discusses how the various sacraments within many churches claim to impart grace, robbing the gift YHWH gives of its meaning. Baptism is one of these, with infant “baptism” having its basis in the false belief that it is needed for salvation. “Sacramentalism practices infant baptism as both an entrance into the new covenant with God and as that which cleanses from sin.” (page 160). If this were true, why was the Apostle Paul’s priority on gospel proclamation (1 Cor 1:14 – 17 & 9:22)? Further, he asks, “If baptism is indeed effective in imparting new life, in washing away sin, in putting one into the church, how is it that so many people who have undergone infant baptism manifest no signs of divine life whatsoever?” (page 166)

Chapters 7 and 8 are excellent reviews of the unbiblical view that sacraments convey grace and that mystical doctrine of Mary worship and veneration. Chapter 9 explores the spurious notion that there is theological and doctrinal unity within the Roman Catholic Church – pointing out there is as much variety within that religion as they claim there is amongst evangelicals.

The final chapter asks, “To Whom Shall We Go?” – and points out that “By insisting on the mediation of the Church in every aspect of the believer’s interaction with God, sacramentalism replaces the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.” (page 223) Ferris gives the reader an excellent, concise review of the difference between the Roman view of infused grace and the biblical view of imputed grace as the means of saving sinners. The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church declares that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. Our author observes, “There is no experience of God, no conversion, and indeed no final salvation apart from engaging in the ritual acts defined by the Church. This is diametrically opposed to justification by faith in Christ alone. It is the system, rather than the Savior that assumes the importance in sacramentalism.” (page 225) In light of these dangers that we can drift into, to whom shall we go? As Peter rightly understood, we must flee to Christ Jesus – He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). And so our faithful author points us to the Word Himself. “Every problem, every shortcoming, every doctrinal aberration with evangelicalism, and indeed with any branch of the church, is solved only by an intentional and sustained engagement with scripture. … Embracing sacramentalism will only lead believers further away from the truth that a relationship, not a ritual, is the scripturally ordained way of growth in Christ. Those who drift away can only regain their moorings by once again submitting to the Bible for everything in their Christian live.” (pages 228 & 229)

This book is a most excellent encouragement to the saints of God and, I pray, a wakeup call to those who are drifting into dangerous waters in the Tiber River. To God alone be the glory and honor and dominion and power – now and forever!

The Pastor – Chapter 2

 

The New Testament Pattern of Church Life and Rule Sola

From the author:

Christ is the King of his church. He is her Master, Lawgiver, Ruler, Sovereign, Lord. He is her only Master, Lawgiver, Ruler, Sovereign, Lord. I deliberately use capitals to stress the point.
Christ is the Head of his church. He is the only Head of his church. No man is, no man ever was, no man ever can be, Head of the church – other than the God-Man Christ Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not think I could express my self more clearly. Christ is the Head of his church.

Chapter 2 is here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=115141029110

Chapter 1 can be found here: http://defendingcontending.com/2015/11/14/the-pastor-an-audio-book/

The Trouble with Trivial Faith

A review by Stuart Brogden     Tinker

 

The title of Melvin Tinker’s book is designed to catch your attention: A Lost GOD in a LOST WORLD, subtitled From deception to deliverance; a plea for authentic Christianity. That lengthy title conveys the idea that something is terribly wrong and change is desperately needed. If we survey the current offering from professing Christians, we cannot but agree that something is not right. While not addressing everything one might want changed, Tinker’s book is a welcome work that should cause every child of God to examine his own church and life, seeking to be biblical and honorable in the sight of YHWH. Tinker says, “The modest aim of this book is to present those key truths about the lostless of man, the greatness of God and the glory of the future which will correct much wrong thinking and behavior within the church and so enable the church to effectively confront the world by holding out the Gospel.” (page 22) He explores these issues in good measure over nine very readable chapters.

In this short book our author examines the weightlessness of God in our culture and what happens when people turn to idols. In these first two chapters Tinker observes “the West is made up of believers alright, but not Christian believers. It is composed of what the Bible calls idolaters” (page 26), further noting idolatry as “the besetting sin of the human race” (page 27). He describes what he means by God being lost: “Not that God has been lost as when we misplace a set of keys, but rather that the truth about the real God is disappearing fast.” (page29) When professing Christians take God for granted, being thoughtless in how He is worshiped (is celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries worshipful?), with shallow prayers (are physical healing and income our most pressing needs?), and absent from our daily conversations He has lost weight in our lives. And something has filled that space, weighing heavily on our minds and our prayers. That something, no matter what it is or where it came from, is an idol. Two short paragraphs sum up the cause and danger of this condition (pages 51 & 52):

The predominate view abroad is that with the right knowledge, the right resources, and the right will, crime on our streets will be reduced, terrorists will be hunted down and brought to account, poverty will be abolished and our environment made safe.

Undoubtedly as human beings we have achieved so much. But herein lies the danger, namely, that of being seduced into thinking that it is by our achievements that we measure our self-worth and thus bolster our self-confidence.

It is the myth of self-achievement, self-sufficiency, and self-aggrandizement. The trap is that such thinking invariably excludes God because our focus is on self.

Do you find these thoughts dominating your mind? Christian – examine yourself to see if you be in the faith! “We cannot really understand why the world is in such a mess, together with the mess of our individual lives, unless we see it as part of the bigger and much more tragic picture of humankind’s devastating fall away from its Maker.” (page 61)

From examining the train-wreck of our natural condition, our author takes the rest of this short book explaining the necessity of various aspects of biblical Christianity (‘tis a pity one needs to use that adjective, but there are so many professing Christian who are not biblical) and how they impact our lives. Chapter 3 addresses The need for the grandeur of God, based on Isaiah 40:1 – 31. Christians know God, but often we hang around the milk cooler rather than spend time and effort at the grill for juicy meats (Hebrews 5:11 – 14). “The highest science, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.” (page 65) “And it is the smallness of man set against the grandeur of God which makes God’s tender kindness towards us all the more remarkable and moving.” (page 81) Chapter 4 brings us to The necessity of the Cross, based on Philippians 2:5 – 11. In becoming a man, creator God revealed part of His character; “this God, the true God, chooses not to exploit his divinity, but to display it differently … he exercise a different divine right – the right to be humble, the right to change his form whilst not ceasing to be God.” (page 86) Augustine wrote of this wonder:

He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, not losing the form of God. The form of a servant was added; the form of God did not pass away. He lies in a manger, but contains the world. He feeds at the breast, but also feeds the angels. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, but vests us with immortality. He found no place in the inn, but made for Himself a temple in the hearts of believers. In order that weakness might become strong, strength become weak. (page 90)

The mystery of God in Christ – who gave Himself to save sinners. How can a mere mortal truly comprehend this? The cross, an inhumane tool for the torture of humans, stands as the narrow gate to the path that leads to eternal life. Contrary to men pleasers who care not for the Gospel, we who have been bought with the blood of Christ must line up with Paul, whose “primary concern is not with the niceties of literature (or fancy words, my addition) but with the wonder of the Gospel.” (page 91) One of the wonders that Philippians presses on us is the truth that the eternal and divine Son of God put on flesh and became a human. He kept this form of a human (one of His created beings) after His resurrection, forever identifying with those ransomed sinners. Tinker tells us, “it would be a mistake to so emphasize the divinity of Jesus at this point that we neglect his humanity. In ascending back to the Father he did not shed his human flash as a butterfly might shed its chrysalis. The person of the Son of God is forever united to our human nature.” (page 98) Our high priest intercedes for us in this age, the God-man who reconciled sinful men to holy God. Jesus will walk among us in the age to come, His body then perfected as the eternal temple in which He is pleased to dwell. Brothers and sister – do you wonder at Christ? Is He not marvelous beyond words?

Buy the book and read about the work of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of the Gospel, the need for effective grace, the necessity of the second coming, and the need to be heavenly minded. It’s less than 200 pages and, aside from unqualified quotes from some questionable men, a solid work that will cause the child of God to humble himself before his Savior and King. And that’s about all we can expect from a book – a reminder of who YHWH is and who we are.

“The Pastor” – an audio book

From the author:      Sola

In this book, I draw attention to an aspect of church life which, I admit, at first glance seems small. Many would say I am try ing to ‘strain out a gnat’ (Matt. 23:24). I disagree. Appearances can be deceiving. ‘A great work’, as Andrew Fuller rightly said, ‘may be hindered and stopped by little things. Little follies will spoil the whole (Eccles. 10:1)’

If we are honest, all of us would have to admit we believe and practice things in our churches that cannot be found commanded or recommended to us in the Word of God. This book aims to provoke us Christians to consider myriad issues and see if they be of man or God.

There are 8 chapters in this book – I will post one per week. I highly encourage those who name Christ to listen with an eager mind to be drawn closer to YHWH. Have your Bible at the ready.

The first chapter can be found here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=11514104433

Titus – a Fresh Look at an Old Letter

A review by Stuart Brogden

Aldred Genade has written a very thought provoking guide to Titus (The Letter To Titus: TitusBecoming a Persuasive Leader and Preacher), with the aim of showing how the Apostle intended Christian leaders to be persuasive. Which preacher does not want to be persuasive? The first chapter provides us a review of the various ways pastoral epistles and Titus in particular have been addressed by theologians and gives us this author’s thesis: “This book is an attempt to advance the dialogue concerning the macrostructural coherence of Titus in a meaningful way. The instrument that will be employed toward this end is a modified rhetorical critical method.” 1 He explains that rhetorical reading entails seeking to truly understand the meaning intended by the author by exploring the bits of the letter and the letter as a whole. This intentional endeavor to grab hold of the author’s intended meaning is a wonderful alternative to the inherent post-modernist view so pervasive and unexamined in our world.

In discussing the salutation found in Titus, Genade observes it is meant “to emphasize the divine basis of legitimate ministry.” 2 (emphasis in original) We see in several places in his letters how Paul emphasized his appointment as Christ’s Apostle as a means of impressing on Christians the truth of his message (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; and 2 Timothy 1:1). I think this is an example of being unashamed of the calling; something we could all learn from. Staking our identity in Christ (not as an Apostle, but as an ambassador of the gospel – 2 Corinthians 5:20) is the proper way for every one of us to establish authority; not our own, which every man can claim, but that which comes from the Creator and Judge of all people. This is the basis of Paul’s authority and that’s what makes his – and ours – legitimate ministry. False teachers and false converts have no such solid foundation (Matthew 7:24 – 27). Our author points out the focus of Paul’s ministry (and, by extension, that of the local church) is with the elect of God: Titus, his true son in the faith in Christ they have in common. As we will see later in this book, much of Paul’s message to Titus is meant for the entire church located in Crete.

So as not write a book about this book, I will highlight a few points that I think will serve the reader best. Genade’s book is heavily end-noted; this is good news as a careful writer will always let his readers know his sources. He also uses Greek words “in the open” as part of his dialogue with the reader. If you are like me, ignorant of Greek, the letters and words will make no sense; but the paragraphs in which these appear give us excellent context and explanation so as not to left in the dark. Our author also provides a brief summary and some excellent questions at the end of each chapter. If you have ever tried to formulate questions that require some thought and more than a one-word answer, you will recognize hard work here; and it pays off for those who pay attention.

Each of the twelve chapters covers a different aspect of persuasion, as Genade works through the epistle. Chapter 4 is Persuade by Exposing the Opposition, 5 is by Affirming the ministry of Others. Chapter 7 is Knowing Why You Obey, and is where we will dig in a bit before I sum up. In the previous chapter the lesson was on right behavior, based on Titus 2:5 & 10. This brings us to chapter 7 (Titus 2:11 – 15) and the importance of knowing why we obey. To do good one must have the right goal, the right method, and the right motive. Saints want to do good and we know obedience is better than sacrifice, so know our motives is critical! Genade claims, “Paul is now arguing that God is the one teaching the doctrine, making the doctrine and the behavior inseparable. The teaching as well as the Teacher are transcendent and must therefore be obeyed because they are not of human origin. This line of reasoning stresses the obligatory nature of sound doctrine upon the minds of the Cretans. In other words, sound doctrine must be obeyed because it is the exact opposite of “the commandments of men” (1: 14). Not to obey the doctrine and therefore not to manifest these particular behavioral characteristics is tantamount to disobedience to God.”3 The Christian who cares not about obeying God is testing God: a double bad place to be.

We are further instructed, “Obedience to the instruction becomes obedience to “someone,” rather than something. This is a very persuasive angle. Grace offers the complete opposite of what the false teachers have to offer. By formulating the proposition in this way, the appeal of sound doctrine is highlighted, making the argument for compliance to it even more persuasive. Furthermore, the personification of grace reinforces the notion of accountability.”4 This builds on the same foundation as noted in the opening chapter – Christ Jesus is our righteousness and if one has been made a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), he will be humbled to be so clothed, knowing how filthy his own righteousness is apart from Christ (Isaiah 64:6) and this makes each of us who have been born again willing and able to obey our Lord. Again, the false teachers have no foundation and the false convert has no clothes (Matthew 22:11 – 14). As our author tells us a bit later,

They have become in Jesus Christ the objects of divine interest, when he gave himself for them (ὃς ἔδωκεν ἐαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν). The inclusive language in this part is also emphatic. They are no longer mere Cretans, but the people of God— God’s own peculiar people (ἑαυτῷ λαός περιούσιος). Their identity and consequently their natures have been changed. They have been made God’s own “unique people.” This expression reinforces the communal sense prevalent in this section. Thus, when Cretan believers perform good deeds, in other words, when they obey the instructions of divine grace, they are acting consistently with their new character.5

So it ought to be in each local church, this sense of unity in Christ and the desire to honor Him and encourage one another to do so. A church that does not embrace this “communal sense” nor recognize their identity as God’s “peculiar people” is adrift in humanism and the Lord Jesus bids them to return to their first love.

While this book is mostly academic in style and content, it is engaging and provocative, a book I intend to return to time and again when the Lord brings this epistle to mind. We need such books if we are to renew our minds and test what we believe to see if these things be so. For the child of God will seek to be aligned with Holy Writ, not content with the mere words of men. Our brother has written a book that will help us examine our thoughts and God’s Word, and submit the former to the latter.

Footnotes:

1 Genade, Aldred (2015-09-21). The Letter To Titus: Becoming a Persuasive Leader and Preacher (Rhetorical Bible Commentary Book 1) (Kindle Locations 126-128). Africa Scholars Press. Kindle Edition.

2 ibid; Kindle Locations 267-268

3 ibid; Kindle Locations 1057-1061

4 ibid; Kindle Locations 1106-1109

5 ibid; Kindle Locations 1205-1210