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Discipleship and the Church: A new way for a new day (A guest-post by R.P. Amos)

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

While our Lord was on earth we read of “His disciples”. A disciple is one who learns from and follows his master’s ways. The 12 disciples had one teacher to disciple them: Jesus on earth. But the early Christians did not have Jesus on earth to teach them.

What they had was a plurality of men: the Lord’s chosen apostles. The apostles received the Lord Jesus’ continuing revelation of new mysteries from heaven (1 Cor.2:7,10,13). They transmitted it orally or in written form, called “the apostle’s doctrine”. In this way the chosen apostles fulfilled the risen Lord’s command to them: “teach [disciple] all nations …teaching them to observe all things…I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:16-20).

But the term “disciple” is never used again in God’s Word after Acts 21:16. The written instruction to the Christian church (the epistles) uses in its place terms such as“brethren” (family relationship), “saints” (holy ones indwelt by the Holy Spirit), “body” (a living organism connected to the Head). Now, by definition, our Lord Jesus Christ does what no other discipler of men could or can do! Christ is not merely with us at times teaching us. Christ is in us continually teaching us (“revealing” to us – giving us to understand) “the deep things of God” through His Spirit that is given to all believers (1Cor. 2, Eph. 4:20,21). Now we have the whole written Word taught by His Spirit.

The New way: the Church in Christ

Each member of this body has different manifestations of the Spirit. These are called gifts, (1Cor. 12:7). While no one individual possesses all the given gifts, the body as a whole does. No longer is it just one individual that is complete, like Christ or even an apostle. Now it is the body, joined together as one, that is both multi-gifted and complete. This unique group is Christ’s living extension. This is “the church”. For this reason the epistles put the emphasis on believers learning by assembling together “in the church” (a meeting). There, the different gifts given from the one Head “come together into one place” (1Cor. 14). In the New Testament church meeting, when this plurality of gift functions, the results are “that all may learn” (1 Cor. 14:31). In the Greek this word “learn” comes from the word “disciple” – it is what a disciple is meant to do.

The Shortcomings of the Old Way for Today

We all know how horses were once a great way to make progress in travel. But to ride a horse on a super highway today presents many dangers and would border on insanity.

To view discipleship as mainly one person teaching or mentoring another person (or persons) belonged to a past age before the creation of the Body of Christ. This is not to say that there is never liberty to teach others outside the “four walls” of a church meeting. (See Acts 18:26, 20:20 / Titus 2, etc.). But to fail to view God’s design of the New Testament church and its meeting, that uses a functioning plurality as His new and ordained way for learning, misses the new body dynamic – and can present the following dangers.

Danger 1 – Man is perceived as a master Discipling implies the one teaching is the master. There is only one master (teacher) and He is in heaven; “all ye are brethren” says the Lord (Matt. 23:8-10). We read in Acts 20:30 that from among even those who were elders some would speak perverse things to “draw away disciples after them”. All true ministry will therefore guide believers to dependence on the Head and to fellowship with His body.

Danger 2 – Bypassing God’s checks and balances Individual discipling can unwittingly bypass the accountability God has ordained in His church. A plurality of elders or overseers (who meet the qualifications) with the Holy Spirit’s enabling is to shepherd each local church (Acts 20:28). Correcting an erring believer will require the whole assembly when ‘one on one’ was insufficient to succeed (Matt. 18: 15-17/ 1Cor. 5:4). We are not to be accountable to just one person. Serious failings and sins are not to be kept secret or limited to the knowledge or judgment of only one person. The NT church meeting has a plurality of gift that function with accountability. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge”.

Danger 3 – Bypassing the plurality of gifts and elderly wisdom “Discipling” can lock a person into only one person’s style and abilities – with its limitations. By God’s intention, no one person has all the gifts. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing …” (Romans 12:4). Titus 2 teaches that the aged men and women, with their wisdom, experience and godly example, have a great role to play toward the younger ones. To bypass involvement in the body is but a partial diet that will stunt one’s growth.

Danger 4 – Bypassing the Lordship of Christ displayed in a church meeting We’ve learned why individual discipling is not the highest form of learning. It is “in the church” of God that believers not only learn the word, but they also learn the ways of God. Among other things this includes reverence, order, protocol, respect, and the authority of headship and submission. There is an authority and an experience of the way of the risen Lord that is uniquely demonstrated when in assembly (1Cor. 14:23-37). It is what Psalm 77:13 speaks of: “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary”. A body has only one head and needs authority and wisdom from that Head to function effectively

Danger 5 – Not providing an outlet for interactive growth Discipling is learning. But to learn all that there is to be learned we don’t just hear words. We also need to do according to what we heard. So for a body to grow and be healthy it not only needs to take in (eat), it must also exercise and give out to others. The NT church meeting is not just a place to sit and receive. It is also a place for the body members to function according to one’s heart, gifts and roles for the edification of all (1Cor. 14). The more a person grows from a baby into adulthood, the more that person increasingly develops the ability to give to others, which matures them in life.

When you’re involved in the NT church you are involved in the new way of discipleship!

The Heartbeat of Christian Assembling (A Guest-post by R.P. Amos)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

The Heartbeat of Christian Assembling

What a brain is to a body or a CPU processor to a computer so is the revolutionary truth of Hebrews 10:19-23 to the Christian church.  All worship and service flows from this.

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) … Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together … .  Hebrews 10:19-23, 25

How does one come into God’s presence?  Is there legal protocol?  (Could one just show up in the president’s oval office without any authority, clearance or protocol)?  The living God is in the throne-room of heaven with all His holy angels. There are mighty thunderings and lightnings sounding out, burning lamps, winged creatures covered with eyes proclaiming His holiness 24 hours a day, and elders clothed in clean white falling down low before Him.  Let’s consider 7 truths of the gospel way of coming to this God.

1. CONTEMPORARY (progressive)            “By a new and living way”

Remember the old way.  Only the consecrated holy priesthood could represent God’s people in the service of God at His house.  So no Gentile man or any woman (even if she were a Levite Jew) could ever eat from the table of bread in the holy sanctuary.  And further, after Moses died, only one man on one day in one way was ever permitted to enter the holiest where God’s glory and presence was.  That man was the high priest, the day was Yom Kippur, and the way was with perfect sacrificial blood.  A solid veil curtain with guardian cherubim woven on it acted as a closed door to keep even priests out of the holiest.  Where the awesome, mighty and holy Lord lived over the ark between the guardian golden cherubim was a forbidden city: the most exclusive area on planet earth.

Now as we will see things have changed; it’s new, progressive and now contemporary!

2. DIVERSITY                                   “Having therefore brethren

Not the professional or the ordained hierarchy or the trained or even the elders are told to enter but “brethren”: the “common” believer.  Now regardless of diversity in nationality, religious upbringing, social class, culture or gender, the door is open for all believers to equally draw near to God Himself – without man’s representation or mediation.

3. LIBERTY (for accessibility)          “boldness to enter into”

In the Bible, liberty is not my right to choose what I want, but being free of restraints so I can do what God desires.  Now the restraint of not being permitted to be in God’s presence and house has been eliminated. So now we have personal access to God Himself to hear His voice from His Word like Moses did.  We all also have access to be actively involved His way in His spiritual holy temple today, the church, in worship and service.

4. HEAVENLY                                   “the holiest”

The holiest in this context is not some holy city or cathedral on earth. The true sanctuary where the Lord Jesus is now serving as High Priest is God-built in heaven, not man-made on earth.  The old temple was just a model of the heavenly reality we operate in now.  We come to the heavenly Jerusalem and we are the church of the firstborn with our names written in the membership of heaven.  Whether a church of believers meets in a home or a cave, they are connected to this golden heavenly glory where Jesus is enthroned.

5. AUTHORITY                    “by the blood of Jesus – and having an high priest”

By what authority do we as God’s holy priesthood dare directly approach Him in communion?  By what authority do all believers now fellowship in partaking of the bread and cup at the Lord’s supper and being actively involved in offering Him praise in congregational singing in the church?  By what authority do we offer Him the worship of our heart (the women offering silently in the church and all the men having the calling to do so orally, as well as teaching according to their gifts)?

The authority has nothing to do with education or ordination but consecration (dedicated).  The Lord Jesus has “by a new and living way, … consecrated for us”.  Our authority in Christ that equally qualifies every believer is the blood of Christ (it has completely cleansed us).  We come through the veil now.  It is open and it opened in two the second the Lord Jesus died for our sins.  If a shut door says ‘stay out’ an open door says ‘come in’.  And we have a high priest in heaven (the risen Lord) now representing every believer before God Himself.  Our authority is nothing less than the gospel!  Don’t let any manmade rule sew the veil back up and steal your liberty in Christ’s gospel.

6. UNITY                                           “Let us draw near”

Notice the words “us” and “our” in our text.  While we are made from diversity, we function as a unity.  The Lord desires not some special group of Christians enjoying this but all together.  Consider the Old Testament tabernacle tent curtain where God first lived on earth.  It was a plurality of pieces (10) and diversity of colors (4).  But each piece was to be cut in an equal measure so they would be exactly the same. Then the 10 equal pieces were first joined together into 2 separate equal sections.  Then the 2 large sections were joined together by 50 golden clasps through 50 blue loops to form 1,“and it shall be one tabernacle”.  God lived and lives in a unity from a plurality and diversity.

Now the church, His spiritual temple, is from a diversity of four: “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation”.  Also a plurality of 10 groupings of people: Greek, Jew, circumcision, uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, male and female – all comprising the two great sections of Jew and Gentiles (nations) now made equally one in Christ by His Spirit which was sent from heaven on the Jewish feast of weeks (50 days – Pentecost).

7. STABILITY                                   “hold fast … without wavering.

This gospel is built on the promises of God in Jesus Christ, for “He is faithful that promised”.  While governments change and people fall out of favor with power, our High Priest lives forever for us and is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever”.  So we have access and nearness to God forever through the living Lord Jesus Christ: stability!

This is what Christian assembling is about and should freely express with reverence and joy.  May we progress with God and not be old fashioned going backwards to legalism.

{Some Scriptures for the seven truths.  CONTEMPORARY – (old way) Heb. 9:1-9 / Exo. 25:21, 22, Lev. 6:18, 24:9 / Num. 18: 1-10.  DIVERSITY – 1Cor. 12:13 / Col. 3:11, Matt. 23:8 / 1Tim. 2:5.  LIBERTY – Exo. 8:1 / Rom. 6:18 / Heb. 4:16, 9:8 / Eph. 2:17 / Rom. 5:2 / 1Cor. 11:26, chapter 14.   HEAVENLY – Acts 7:48 / Heb. 8:1-5, 9:11, 24, 12:22, 23 / Rev. 4, 15:5.  AUTHORITY – 1Pet. 2:5, 9 / Rev. 1:5, 6, 5:9 / Eph. 5:18,19 / 1Cor 11:23-26, 14:23-37 / Matt. 27:50, 51.  UNITY – Eph. 4:13 / Exo. 26: 1-6 / Rev. 5:9 / Col. 3:11, Gal. 3:28 / Eph. 2:13-16 / Lev. 23: 15-17 /Acts 2:1, 33.  STABILITY – Heb. 4:14, 7:25, 13:8}

Guest Post: How Should The Church React To Sinners? by R.P. Amos

Friday, February 14th, 2014

HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH REACT TO SINNERS?

If you would observe a child who says a defiant “no” to their parents, what would you do? There is no one answer. It would depend upon the context of circumstances. There could be at least four different actions that could be best or right.

1. Nothing. If the child were a stranger’s child in a store – while not approving, you would do nothing. This is because you have no authority.

2. Concerned Advice. If it were a child of a relative or close friend – you would take no direct action, but you might feel free to share some training advice to help your friend.

3. Verbal Protest and Promises of Judgment. If it was your child in a public store – you might correct him verbally there and promise consequences when at home in your house.

4. Discipline. If it were your child in your home, you would react quite differently. You would carry out discipline right there for you have full authority in caring for the welfare of your child and family.

This leads us to the subject of people who commit sins of a weighty nature. Sins such as stealing, drunkenness, substance abuse, sexual immorality (including homosexuality according to the Lord’s Word), marital infidelity, unbiblical remarriage, blasphemy against God in word or doctrine, cheating in business (dishonesty) and reviling another’s character with one’s tongue, etc. How are we to react in ways that represent our Lord to those who are doing such? As you search the Scriptures you will see it can be differently. It will require wisdom that understands the circumstances of context.

Four Areas a Christian Might Find Himself in With Those Sinning

1. THE UNSAVED WORLD

Here we learn Christians are not to carry out judgment upon those outside the church. God will do that. We are told that if we couldn’t keep company with the sinners of this world, we would have to go out of this world. What we do bring to the sinful world is a gospel of non-condemnation. Since they are “condemned already” we share the gospel that they can be saved. Saved from their judgment and their sinfulness and so not be condemned forever. This salvation happens by faith in the Savior (God’s Son, Jesus the Christ) who took their judgment for them on the cross and lives as Lord of all.

2. GOVERNMENT AND THEIR LAWS

Here we learn we are to submit to the ordinances of man unless they tell us to personally disobey our Lord. It is possible that something might be right legally but wrong morally. But that legal law that permits sin (such as same sex marriage for example) does not force you to commit such. If it did force you to personally disobey God, you could disobey it like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel did. But by not personally participating in the sinful acts that government might condone and rebuking such acts, we can keep a measure of light before the world. But we are given no authority as the church to punish or force government to conform (though one might appeal). Government broke many laws in the crucifixion of Christ, yet “he opened not His mouth”.

3. PROFESSING CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD AT LARGE

Here we see if one is overtaken in a fault we are to share his burden by attempting in meekness to restore him back to God’s ways. We might share insight from Scripture with him. If they still continue in such where it disgraces the testimony of Christ we are to “have no company with him, that he might be ashamed”. But even as we admonish him, we must not treat him as an enemy.

4. CHRISTIANS IN FELLOWSHIP IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH

Here the action takes on a more direct form. We are to “earnestly contend for the faith”. Here you have people publically naming the Name of the Lord Jesus and under the authority of God in His assembly of believers of which they claim fellowship. Here there are elders to guide the assembly in the holiness of God. While we are not to judge those “without” the church, we are taught to “judge them that are within”. The person might have to be excommunicated from the church fellowship and not even to socially eat together until the stained testimony is corrected. We see the Lord Jesus presently correcting, not the world, but the churches (Rev. 2&3) while the saving gospel from future judgment is given to the world. This is the difference of in-house and out-of-house issues. May we know the Lord’s wisdom in His Word so we will know the arena where to be a pacifist and where to be an activist for the Lord.

{Some Scriptures for the truth of reacting differently in the four areas.

AREA 1 – Mark 16:15 / John

3:17,18 / 1Cor. 5:9, 10.

AREA 2 – Rom. 13:1-4 / Exo. 1:15-17 / Daniel 3 & 6 / Acts 5:29 / Eph. 5:7-12 /

1Cor. 5:12a.

AREA 3 – Gal. 6:1, 2 / 2Thess. 3:11-15.

AREA 4 – Jude :3 / 1Cor. 5 /}

Faith Of Our Fathers: Unity Produced By Christian Doctrine

Friday, April 15th, 2011

TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF., CLICK HERE: Faith Of Our Fathers

Originally published in Uplook magazine, Jan.-Feb. 2011.

Western nations celebrate different belief systems in order to accommodate the disparate races, cultures, and people-types that coexist within their borders. In everyday life, politically correct speech and philosophical relativism combine to make people studiously avoid discussing subjects that are the most important to them, thereby averting controversy. Likewise, conventional wisdom advises one to steer clear of discussions on politics, religion, or worldviews, for they almost certainly result in unpleasantness. By abstaining from discussions of strongly held views, the tenuous admixture of divergent groups mostly holds, at least providing the veneer of peace.

Christianity, on the other hand, demands confrontation and engagement in the rough and tumble issues of life. To become a Christian one must deal with the most depressing reality about oneself: one’s personal sin and guilt in the eyes of a holy God. Unity is achieved by leveling the field of human distinction. That is, all have sinned, all need the Saviour (Rom. 3:23.) People of every kindred, tribe, and tongue are redeemed by the same blood. They place their confidence in the same Lord. Unity comes not by looking to oneself and one’s personal characteristics; rather it stems from adherence to the same body of teachings, known in the New Testament as “the faith” (Eph. 4:5; for other usages of “faith” in this sense see Acts 6:7; 1 Tim. 1:2; 4:1, etc.) These doctrines are the substance of Christian belief, linking the saints to Christ their Head, as well as to one another (Eph. 4:13-15.)

Defining Faith

Of course, faith is a common word, occurring 244 times in the Greek New Testament.[i] Often it refers to belief, such as in God the Father or the Lord Jesus (e.g. Mt. 8:10; Rom. 3:28.) Other times it is used of “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness” (e.g. Rom. 3:3, NKJV.) While some expositors hold that it refers to the first type of faith, in the context of Ephesians 4 it makes more sense to take it in the second sense.[ii] As Ironside puts it: “This is not the faith by which we are saved, but the faith of the Christian Church, the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is the one standard of truth that God has given to be proclaimed in the world, it is that which the apostle calls the faith. Faith in Christ is confidence in Jesus, but the faith is the body of the Christian doctrine.”[iii] It is used in the New Testament approximately 28 times in this manner (some of the references are debatable as to which of the meanings of “faith” are in view.)

The Content Of The Faith

The teaching that comprises “the faith” is multifaceted and covers every aspect of life for time and eternity. Its doctrines begin with the truth that there is one God (1 Tim. 2:5), existing in three co-equally divine persons (Jn. 14-17, etc.) He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Mt. 22:32), who inspired the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the New Testament writings (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21; 3:15-16; Jn. 14:25; 16:12-14.) Jesus is God the Son, as well as the only impeccable and perfect man (1 Tim. 3:16.) The Father and the Spirit are also God (Jn. 14:16-17, 23; Mt. 28:19.)

The triune God works in complete harmony to work out His purposes in this age and in the one to come (Eph. 1:1-14.) For example, each member of the Trinity played an integral role in the saving work of the cross: the Father sent (Rom. 8:31-32), the Son shed His blood (Eph. 1:7), and was offered up by “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14.) The Father and the Spirit marked out Jesus as the Son at His baptism (Mt. 3:16-17.) Similarly, each member of the Trinity is associated with the resurrection of Christ (Jn. 10:18; Acts 2:32; Rom. 1:4.)

In Christ Alone

The faith also includes the message of salvation by faith in Christ alone (Jn. 3:16; 5:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 15:1-10; Rom 3; Eph. 2:8-9, etc.) This saving work includes justification (being declared right by God), sanctification (being made holy by God, positionally and practically), and glorification with Christ in resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15:51-57; Rom. 8:11, 17-25.) It frees the believer from the tyranny of sin and the doom of future eternal punishment in the lake of fire. It also assures him of the return of Christ to receive His own people unto Himself (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Thes. 4) and eventually, to inaugurate His thousand year reign on earth (Rev. 19.) Finally, the faith teaches the ultimate triumph and manifestation of God in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Rev. 21-22.)

The faith assures the saints that they are part of the Church, the one body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23.) He is their head, and they are members together, having received spiritual gifts for the edification of the body and the glory of God (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Eph. 4.) The church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and a lampstand (Rev. 2-3) for testimony; “a spiritual temple” for worship (Eph. 2:21-22), “a vine” (Jn. 15) for bearing fruit unto God. In short, the church is designed by God to function for His glory primarily and the saints’ good secondarily.

On an individual level, Christians are saved for the purpose of knowing, serving, and pleasing God (Jn. 17:3; Php. 2:13-14.) They are to be witnesses to the lost (Mk. 16:15; 1 Pet. 3:15.) They are also taught to be diligent and trustworthy workers (Eph. 6:5-6.) What is more, believers are instructed to live by a holy ethic (e.g. Col. 3:5-21.) In the Christian life, God’s approval is what is sought above all else (2 Tim. 2:15.) The truths revealed in the faith demand that saints become living sacrifices for the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2.)

Unity Based On Truth

The unity of God’s people is centered in the Almighty’s person and will as revealed in the faith. It gives many practical instructions for believers in this age. The substance of the doctrines of the faith is perfectly revealed in the Old and New Testaments; therefore, the saints are to be “people of the Book.” Their sole manual for belief and practice must be the Bible. To add human traditions as authoritative is to jeopardize the practical cohesion of the Lord’s people.

Because the faith is constantly under attack by the world, the flesh, and the devil, Jude 3 exhorts Christians to “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” It is only as the church defends, loves, and obeys God’s truth that they will maintain true unity. False doctrine is a rapid highway to disunity (e.g. 1 Cor. 1.) The world has long sought a way to unite different races, cultures, and nations. However, only the unadulterated word of God will bind people with different histories and demographics together. As they are transformed by God’s powerful Word, individuals of varying backgrounds find oneness in their mutual identity in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 


[i]Maurice Robinson, Elzevir Textus Receptus (1624): With Morphology. Electronic ed. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002.

[ii] It is true that there is only one type of faith that saves: confidence in God’s provision in Christ alone; that is a subjective usage of faith. The objective sense seems to fit better with the “one Lord” and “one baptism.” Many commentators, such as William Kelly agree; see Kelly, Lectures On The Epistle Of Paul, The Apostle, To The Ephesians; pp. 155-156; electronic ed. Galaxie Software, 2004 (Logos.)

[iii] H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies : Practical Expository Addresses on the Epistle to the Ephesians. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1937, p. 178; electronic ed. (Logos.)