Lesson 33: The Church and the Kingdom | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 33: The Church and the Kingdom

Why am I here? I am here to participate in the reign of Jesus Christ. Besides knowing that Christ will one day conquer His enemies, I also know that I will take part in His kingdom . Christ will establish a perfect and eternal kingdom, and every church-age believer will reign with Him in it.

Before proceeding any further, we must clarify the difference between two biblical kingdoms: God’s universal kingdom and His mediatorial kingdom. The universal kingdom is God’s absolute sovereignty over all His creation. The mediatorial kingdom is His personal rule of specific individuals through a mediator (or representative). This latter kingdom began in the Old Testament and is the ultimate goal of history (see Lesson Twenty Two). It is in this kingdom that believers will one day co reign with Christ their King.

[A mediator is a go-between or representative. A mediatorial kingdom is an earthly, political, kingdom in which God rules thru a mediator. God’s universal kingdom is the fact that God rules over the universe.]

The mediatorial kingdom is known by various names, such as “the kingdom of heaven,” “the kingdom of God,” or simply “the kingdom.” Generally, the context determines which of these two kingdoms (universal or mediatorial) the author has in mind. In this lesson, “the kingdom” refers to the mediatorial kingdom.

[The Schofield Reference Bible makes a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven, but the two are synonymous and used interchangeably. Most dispensationalists make no distinction between the two.]

One should not confuse the kingdom with salvation or the church. Though people often use these words interchangeably, the kingdom is a distinct idea.

[I.e., “Joe has entered the kingdom,” meaning “Joe got saved.” There are a couple of passages which teach that one enters the kingdom in some sense at the point of salvation. However, we’ll see that it’s best to keep the kingdom and salvation separate ideas. The kingdom will be a physical reality. The church does not fulfill all the kingdom promises.]

This lesson will explore the nature of the mediatorial kingdom, its history, and the church’s relationship to it.

[Remember that when we use the word “kingdom” in this lesson, we’re talking about the mediatorial kingdom, not God’s universal sovereignty or salvation.]

I. The Nature of the Kingdom

The Bible indicates that the kingdom of God includes three elements: (1) a divinely-chosen ruler , (2) a realm of subjects to be ruled, and (3) the actual act of reigning . Unless all three are present, there is no kingdom. David bears this out when he says:

Yet the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the house of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. Of all my sons–and the LORD has given me many–he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.   1 Chronicles 28:4 5

The prophet Daniel also stressed these three elements when he wrote of the Messiah’s future reign:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.   Daniel 7:13 14

[According to this definition, is Jesus Christ currently ruling over His kingdom? No. Some might say that He is ruling the church as its head, or that He rules the hearts of believers, but this is not in keeping with the kingdom idea Jesus and the apostles taught. They taught a literal, earthly kingdom, not an invisible, spiritual one.]

II. The History of God’s Kingdom

Throughout the Bible, God has consistently ruled through human representatives. Following are some of the men God has used or will use in this way.

A. Moses

This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, “Who made you ruler and judge?” He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.   Acts 7:35

Moses was God’s representative. God ruled Israel through him.

B. Saul and David

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.   1 Samuel 16:13 14

Saul was God’s representative king. However, because of his disobedience, God took away his right to rule (1 Samuel 15:23) and the special anointing of the Spirit that went along with it, the “ theocratic anointing .” [Review the idea of the theocratic anointing.] At this point, we should note two facts: (1) At the moment that the theocratic anointing was given to David, it was taken from Saul (David feared the same fate later in life according to Psalm 51:11.). (2) God began a dynasty with David through which He would rule His people. From that time on, every king over God’s kingdom had to be from David’s line.

C. Solomon

[God] said to [David]: “Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.”   1 Chronicles 28:6 7

D. Christ

As mentioned above, every mediatorial king since David had to be of Davidic descent. This included Christ (Isaiah 11, Matthew 1, and Luke 3).

1. Christ’s kingdom was foretold .

Because of Israel’s rebellion, God temporarily ended His kingdom arrangement with the nation. [This occurred in 586 BC with the Babylonian Captivity.] However, from that point on the prophets foretold that God would one day restore His kingdom in an eternal fashion.

The former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem.   Micah 4:8

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.   Isaiah 9:7

[Note that the same sort of kingdom that David had will be restored. Was David’s kingdom a spiritual one? No, it was literal, earthly, etc. So will be Christ’s.]

2. Christ’s kingdom was offered .

Both Christ and John the Baptist preached a kingdom message. Christ came to earth as the promised king, the Messiah . However, the Jews rejected His offer and brutally murdered Him.

John the Baptist preached:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” – Matthew 3:2

Christ likewise proclaimed:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”   Matthew 4:17 (See also Matthew 4:23 and Luke 11:19 20.)

The disciples were told to preach:

“The kingdom of heaven is near.”   Matthew 10:7

Note: The offer of the kingdom to Israel was a genuine offer. However, God’s plan included Israel’s rejection and Christ’s death . Thus, Christ came to earth for two reasons: First, He came to offer the kingdom to the Jews. Second, He came to make involvement in the future kingdom possible. By allowing Himself to be crucified, He provided the way of salvation so that men could know Him as King.

[There is some debate regarding what would have happened had the Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Some say that the Millennium would have begun right there. It’s a moot point because Israel did not accept Jesus as their Messiah at this time.]

3. Christ’s kingdom was postponed .

The kingdom of God has been postponed. It is not in existence today. After His resurrection, Christ gave His disciples further instruction concerning His coming kingdom (Acts 1:3). The disciples assumed He would immediately restore the kingdom to Israel and begin to reign. Christ, however, taught otherwise.

So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”   Acts 1:6 7

[This is a good text that shows that the disciples were expecting a literal, earthly kingdom. If the kingdom was a spiritual one (i.e., salvation), they wouldn’t have asked this question, because the kingdom would have been in effect.]

4. Christ’s kingdom will one day be established .

At His second coming, Christ will establish His earthly reign. It will be a literal, physical kingdom centered in Jerusalem.

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.   Revelation 22:3 (See also Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 7:13 14, and Luke 1:31 33.)

III. The Church and the Kingdom

God’s mediatorial kingdom actually involves three stages: the Old Testament theocracy , the millennial kingdom, and the eternal kingdom. As mentioned in Lesson Thirty Two, the Tribulation will culminate with the second coming of Christ. At that time, Christ will utterly destroy His enemies, temporarily bind Satan, and set up His millennial kingdom (“millennium” means 1,000 years). After the Millennium, Satan will be released from his temporary bondage, lead a final revolt, suffer defeat, and be condemned to eternal punishment (Revelation 20:1 10). God will then judge the unsaved of all ages at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11 15), destroy the present heavens and earth and create new ones (2 Peter 3:10 13 and Revelation 21:1), and establish His eternal kingdom (Revelation 21:2ff).

A. Church age believers are citizens of the kingdom.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.   Colossians 1:13

Our citizenship is in heaven.   Philippians 3:20

One must interpret these verses in terms of “positional” truth. Positional truth describes that which the believer possesses but does not experience. Thus, even though we still live in this sin-darkened world, and Christ’s kingdom has not yet been established, we are free from the power of sin and are citizens of Christ’s kingdom positionally.

B. Church age believers will reign in the kingdom.

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.   Revelation 3:21 (See also Revelation 20:6.)

In this verse, Christ is speaking to church-age believers. The word “overcomers” refers to those who have overcome Satan by faith in Christ (1 John 5:4 5). Therefore, all church-age believers will be part of the royal family. We will co reign with Christ in the eternal kingdom.

[This is true only of church-age saints. OT believers will have no part in the millennium.]

Learning to Live It

1. The trials of life are numerous. Jobs, family, ministry, and illness often cause difficulty. How might the material learned in this lesson affect the way one deals with the trials of life?

It should help us to cope with them better/persevere through them, knowing what awaits us at the end (Rom 8:18, Heb 11:10, 13-16, 24-26). We know that there is more to life than this life. Everything in history and in the universe is moving to its predetermined end. Our trials play their part in God’s plan for history. We know the end of the story. We’re on the winning team. Our trials are really quite temporary. We have an eternity to be free of them and to enjoy true happiness.

2. How might the knowledge of these facts affect the way one views the short time during which he lives upon this earth?

It is relatively insignificant when compared to eternity. Our eternal destiny, however, is determined in this life. A great time of joy is in store for us. Also, we don’t need to “go for the gusto” now, as if this is all there is. We can defer/put off some pleasurable things until later. We ought to live in light of eternity.

Lesson 32: The Church and the Tribulation | Biblical Foundations for Living

Introduction to the Destiny of the Church

Why am I here? I am here to participate in the reign of Jesus Christ.

In Lessons Twenty Two through Twenty Four, we learned that the purpose of the church is to glorify God through the ministry of His Word. In Lessons Twenty Five through Thirty One, we learned that the objectives of the church are edification, evangelism, and expansion and that each of these three can be accomplished by pursuing various activities. Among these are education, worship, fellowship, personal and corporate evangelism, and physical and organizational expansion.

In this final section on Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), we will discuss the church’s destiny. Why am I here? I am here to participate in the reign of Jesus Christ. As a believer living in this dispensation, I know that I am on the “winning team.” I will not face God’s judgment during the Tribulation. Instead, I can eagerly look forward to being a part of Christ’s triumph over His enemies and reigning with Him through all eternity.

Lesson 32: The Church and the Tribulation

What’s going to happen in the future, and what part does the church play in it? The Bible speaks of a seven-year period involving unparalleled judgment. It will be a time when one man, empowered by Satan, will arise to control the political, religious, and military resources of the entire world. It will be a time when God unleashes His wrath upon the earth and its inhabitants. This period is called the Tribulation . In this lesson, we will learn what the Tribulation will be like and when it will take place.

I. The Nature of the Tribulation

The Tribulation period will be a time of worldwide judgment lasting seven years. It will begin with the breaking of the first of seven seals of judgment (see chart below) following the Rapture of the church and will end with the second coming of Christ, at which time He will utterly destroy His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon and establish His kingdom.

A. The Tribulation will involve the continuous unleashing of God’s wrath .

From the opening of the first seal judgment in Revelation 6 to the pouring out of the last bowl judgment in Revelation 16 (which will conclude the Tribulation), God will be pouring out His wrath. The succession of the Tribulation judgments can be visualized as follows:

lesson32-judgments

Some believe that only the second half of the Tribulation will involve God’s wrath [This is the so-called mid-trib position.] . However, the first two seals, which begin the Tribulation, clearly demonstrate that the entire period is characterized by the outpouring of God’s wrath.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. When the Lamb opened the second seal . . . another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.   Revelation 6:1 4

B. The Tribulation will involve the prominence of one key satanic leader – the Antichrist.

During the Tribulation, Satan will empower the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the apostate church. Of these three, the Antichrist will be the primary figure with the other two being under his control. The Antichrist (1 John 2:22) is also referred to as the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), the wicked prince (Ezekiel 21:25), the little horn (Daniel 7:8), the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and the beast (Revelation 11:7).

  1. The Antichrist’s abilities

The Antichrist will surpass all other human leaders and thus attract a universal following.

a. He will be a capable politician (Daniel 8:23-25).

b. He will be a military genius (Revelation 13:4).

c. He will be considered worthy of worship (Revelation 13:4, 8).

2. The Antichrist’s career

The Antichrist will initially appear as a little-known political leader, a “little horn” (Daniel 7:8). However, within a short time he will become the world’s greatest dictator . The high points of his career are as follows:

a. The Tribulation will begin when he makes a treaty with Israel, allowing her to rebuild the temple and renew sacrificial worship (Daniel 9:27).

b. At the midpoint of the Tribulation (after 3 1/2 years), he will break the treaty with Israel, demand self worship (Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4), kill the Lord’s two witnesses (Revelation 11:1 14), begin to actively persecute Israel (Revelation 12:1 6), and destroy the apostate church, which he no longer needs (Revelation 17:16).

c. At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return, destroy His enemies, and cast the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11 21).

C. The Tribulation will result in the salvation of many people.

Although God will punish the earth’s inhabitants by sending devastating catastrophes and by allowing the Antichrist and his forces to do their worst, His punishment will be a means of bringing many Jews and Gentiles to Himself (Zechariah 13:1 and Revelation 7:9 17).

II. The Time of the Tribulation

A. The Tribulation will take place after the Rapture of the church.

[Many evangelicals agree with all we’ve said up to this point. The exact timing of the tribulation is a debated point. Recently the “Pre-Wrath” rapture theory has gained popularity. This theory suggests that Christians will go thru the first part of the Tribulation, before God begins pouring out his wrath (thus “Pre-wrath”). We believe such a position is in error.]

The church will experience no part of the Tribulation because it will be caught up (“raptured”) just prior to it. According to Scripture, Christ will come down from heaven and “ catch up ” both dead and living church age believers to meet Him in the clouds. He will then take them to heaven, where they will remain during the Tribulation.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.   1 Thessalonians 4:16 17

[The dead “in Christ” refer to church-age saints, not OT believers. To be “in Christ” is to be saved.

The word “rapture” is used nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the Latin translation of “to catch up.”]

A number of passages imply that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation. The passages below clearly state that believers will not be subject to God’s wrath. Since the Tribulation involves the outpouring of God’s wrath, believers will not go through it.

And to wait for his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead  Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.   1 Thessalonians 1:10

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.   1 Thessalonians 5:9

Note: The context of 1 Thessalonians 5:1 11 is speaking of the end times. Therefore, the wrath being referred to is not hell, but the wrath which will occur during the Tribulation.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.   Revelation 3:10

Two things should be noted about this promise to the Church at Philadelphia:

1. It applies to all New Testament churches.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.   Revelation 3:13

2. It promises that all churches will avoid the Tribulation.

The Greek words translated “keep you from” in Revelation 3:10 indicate the one action of separating church-age saints from the Tribulation, not the continual protection of believers during the Tribulation.

B. The Tribulation will take place before Christ returns to earth to establish His kingdom .

The kingdom of Christ will be that time when Christ personally reigns as king and all creation submits to His rule. This will occur immediately after the Tribulation.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.   Luke 21:10 11, 22 23, 25-26, 31

The Tribulation will culminate with the second coming of Christ to the earth with all church age saints to destroy His enemies.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf . . . . The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.   Revelation 19:11, 14, 19-21

[Don’t confuse the rapture with the Second Coming. They are two distinct events separated by 7 years. ]

Below is a timeline (developed by Rolland McCune, ThD) indicating some of the more significant end-time events.

lesson32-end-times-chart-by-Rolland-McCune

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. The Tribulation is the future, seven-year period during which God’s wrath is unleashed, the Antichrist rises to power, and multitudes are saved.

2. The Tribulation will take place after the Rapture of the church and before the establishment of Christ’s kingdom at His second coming.

Learning to Live It

1. While in a local Christian bookstore, you notice a new book on Bible prophecy. After buying it, you take it home and begin reading it. The author states that the Rapture will take place sometime around the middle of the Tribulation because the first half of the Tribulation does not involve God’s wrath. Why is this position wrong?

All of the Tribulation involves the outpouring of God’s wrath, not just the last half. The last half will be more severe, however (sometimes called “the Great Tribulation” in Scripture). Since believers are kept from this wrath, they will go through no part of the tribulation.

2. A Christian friend of yours is worried that he will go through the Tribulation. What can you tell him to ease his anxiety?

God has promised that believers will not go through the Tribulation (1 Thess 1:10, 5:9, and Rev 3:10).

Lesson 31: Stewardship & Expansion of the Church | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 31: Stewardship & Expansion of the Church

Ministry growth, or expansion , takes place as local churches engage in edification and evangelism. Such growth requires the management of the church’s physical and human resources. Another word for such management is “ stewardship .” In this lesson, we will examine:

1. The foundation of stewardship

2. The profile of a steward

3. An example of stewardship

4. The importance of stewardship

I. The Foundation of Stewardship

Stewardship is based on two foundational principles:

A. God is the Creator and Owner of all things.

Since God created the universe, He owns it and everything in it. This is not only true of rocks, trees, and animals, but also of human beings.

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.   Psalm 24:1 2

B. Mankind does not truly own anything.

When people speak of their “possessions,” they are really speaking inaccurately. Everything that a person “owns” will be left behind for someone else. All that a person “possesses” has been loaned to him by God.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?   1 Corinthians 4:7

II. The Profile of a Steward

A. A steward is given a trust (responsibility) by another.

Stewards were common in biblical times. A steward was expected to oversee the affairs of someone else. The word “steward” literally means “one who

manages a household .” A stewardship is that which has been entrusted to the care of a manager. A good synonym for stewardship is administration . The New Testament often compares believers with stewards. God has given believers tasks to accomplish and the resources needed to accomplish them. Christ illustrated this truth in many parables.

Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?   Luke 12:42

B. A steward is to administrate (oversee) that trust.

Believers are to use all the resources entrusted to them by God to accomplish their appointed tasks.

It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.   Luke 12:43 44

[In other words, believers are to manage/administrate/oversee everything God has entrusted to them. E.g., Joseph.]

C. A steward is accountable for the performance of his task.

A time is coming [at the Judgment Seat of Christ] when God will demand an accounting for how His affairs have been managed. This accounting will be based on the following principle: the greater the privilege , the greater the responsibility .

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.   Luke 12:48

D. The resources of the steward

Many believers incorrectly think that they must give God a portion of their resources. However, true stewardship is based upon the realization that all one has belongs to God.

1. Believers are stewards of their time .

How we use our time is a reflection of our priorities. Every second of every day must be used wisely.

Be very careful, then, how you live  not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Ephesians 5:15 16

[Obviously this does not mean that we can’t spend time resting, relaxing, and just plain goofing off. But it does mean that we are accountable for how we spend such time. We should not simply “waste” large chunks of time doing nothing profitable, e.g. watching 3-4 videos, playing video games, “vegging out,” etc. We are to “redeem the time.”]

2. Believers are stewards of their talents .

Every believer has abilities which God wants to use to accomplish His purposes. God expects every believer to use his talents to enhance the ministry of his local church.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.   Romans 12:6 8

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.   1 Peter 4:10

[How has God “wired” you? Where are your talents, abilities, gifts? This is where God wants you to serve in the church.]

3. Believers are stewards of their treasures .

The New Testament strongly emphasizes the proper use of possessions by believers. Many passages warn about their improper use.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.   1 Timothy 6:6 10

James 5:1 6 identifies several of the sins associated with the love of money:

a. Placing one’s trust in that which is temporal (5:1 3)

b. Hoarding wealth rather than using it for good (5:3)

c. Using dishonest means to gain wealth (5:4)

d. Living in luxury (5:5)

e. Practicing self indulgence (5:5)

[Notice that a luxurious, self-indulgent life-style is wrong for the Christian. Why do you think we say this? Because from God’s perspective, there are more important uses of money than luxury and comfort. The hard part is determining the proper standard of living. Most people increase their standard as their income increases (if it does). Instead, one should determine what he needs and use the extra to support various ministries, programs, charities, etc. Few actually do this.]

4. Believers are stewards of a message .

Paul considered the message that he preached to be his greatest responsibility.

I have become [the church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.   Colossians 1:25

2 Timothy 2:1 2 indicates that the stewardship of this trust is the task of every generation of believers.

III. An Example of Stewardship

One of God’s requirements for stewards in this dispensation is the support of the local church. In 1 Corinthians 16:1 4 and 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul discusses an offering that was being taken for famine relief for churches in Palestine. These passages give us important instructions concerning giving.

A. The time of giving

Offerings were to be collected on Sunday .

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.   1 Corinthians 16:2

The significance of this fact is two fold: First, money given for ministry was to be channeled through the local church , which assembled on Sunday. Second, since giving was to be done while the church was assembled, it should be viewed as part of worship .

B. The place of giving

As noted above, offerings were to be taken to the local church, which was responsible for the administration of the funds. It was local churches that managed the funds collected by Paul. Paul took great pains to ensure the wise use of those funds, both in reality and in perception . In other words, Paul was careful to work under the authority of local churches to avoid the perception or accusation of misusing funds.

And we are sending along with [Titus] the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.   2 Corinthians 8:18 21

[Be very cautious about supporting parachurch organizations. Strictly speaking, they are not biblically based (God’s program is the church, not the parachurch), and they may not use the money they receive wisely, as evidenced by the recent TV evangelist scandals.]

C. The attitude of giving

1. Stewardship giving is voluntary .

New Testament giving is not a matter of law . Rather, it flows from a heart which recognizes that all that we have and are belongs to God.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.   2 Corinthians 9:7

[Interesting note: The Greek word for “cheerful” comes from the root “hilarion,” as in “hilarious.” ]

2. Stewardship giving is a privilege .

Paul originally did not ask the churches in Macedonia to give to the offering for the Palestinian churches because he knew that the Macedonians were extremely poor. However, when they heard of the need, they pleaded with Paul to be included. Even though in great need themselves, they considered giving to be a privilege.

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.   2 Corinthians 8:1-4

3. Stewardship giving should be done cheerfully .

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.   2 Corinthians 9:7

D. The amount of giving

1. Stewards should give according to their income .

God wants believers to worship Him with the wealth and talents that they currently possess, no matter how great or small. The widow with her small copper coins (Mark 12:41 44) is a prime example of giving that pleases the Lord.

On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.   1 Corinthians 16:2

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.   2 Corinthians 8:12

2. Stewards should give as much as possible .

The New Testament does not teach that a specific percentage of one’s income is to be given to the Lord. The Old Testament tithe (ten percent) can only serve as a starting point. The sacrificial Macedonians are once again an excellent example:

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.   2 Corinthians 8:3

[Actually, the Law required that OT believers give considerably more than just 10% (they were required to give almost 25%). Besides what was required, they gave their sacrifices and often free-will offerings too. Nevertheless, 10% is a good place for the believer to start. One should give at least that much.]

IV. The Importance of Stewardship

Stewardship is important for at least two reasons:

A. Stewardship brings glory to God.

1. Stewardship is an act of faithfulness .

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.   1 Corinthians 4:2

2. Stewardship is an expression of Christ likeness .

Paul urged the Corinthians to give liberally in order to imitate the supreme act of giving, the self-sacrifice of Christ.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.   2 Corinthians 8:9

B. Stewardship accomplishes the work of the ministry.

God has determined to accomplish His will in this dispensation by entrusting His work to believers. Apart from the commitment of God’s people to be faithful stewards, the work of the ministry cannot take place.

1. Stewardship of time and talents provides human resources for the ministry.

Believers must be willing to dedicate their lives to the work of the ministry. This is one of the many reasons why God has saved us.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:10

2. Stewardship of treasures provides physical resources for the ministry.

The New Testament gives specific directions concerning the use of the financial resources of the church. They should be used:

a. To meet the needs of pastors and their families

Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.   1 Corinthians 9:13 14

[The Bible also says that those who labor in the Word are worthy of “double honor,” very likely a reference to their pay.]

b. To meet the needs of missionaries

For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.   Philippians 4:16 18

c. To meet the needs of others , especially other believers

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.   Galatians 6:10

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. Stewardship is based upon the fact that God is the Creator and Owner of all things.

2. A steward is one who is responsible to manage a trust given by another. Believers are responsible to properly manage the time, talents, treasures, and message they have been given by God.

3. Believers should voluntarily and cheerfully give as much as they are able to their local church each Sunday.

4. Stewardship brings glory to God and accomplishes the work of the ministry.

Learning to Live It

1. A man in your church has a job that pays extremely well. He can easily afford to drive a Mercedes and live in a $1,000,000 home. Would it be right for him to have such a car and home? Why or why not?

no; He does not need them–they are luxuries. As Christians we should not live in posh luxury. Instead, we should provide for what we need and then for the needs of the ministry and the needs of others.

2. A church in town makes a big deal over the number of missionaries it supports. The pastoral staff, however, is struggling to make ends meet and the church facilities are in desperate need of repair. Yet, the church continues to take on new missionaries. What scriptural responsibilities has this church overlooked?

its responsibility to meet the needs of its pastors and to make its building presentable; Only after meeting these obligations should this church consider taking on more missionaries. Perhaps if they did this, the pastor would work harder or better, and better facilities would help the church grow, so the church could support even more missionaries. A solid mission program is based on a solid home church.

Lesson 30: Structure & Expansion of the Church | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 30: Structure and Expansion of the Church

So far, we have learned that the first two objectives of the church are the edification of the saved and the evangelization of the lost. Whereas edification produces evangelism, evangelism requires expansion .

The following lessons do not use the word “expansion” to describe numerical growth; that is accomplished through evangelism. Expansion refers to the development of new ministries within the church and the organization needed to carry them out. Sunday Schools, junior churches, choirs, Vacation Bible Schools, and youth groups are examples of ministries which may be started to meet congregational needs. Although not found in Scripture, these ministries are legitimate in that they help local churches accomplish the objectives of edification and evangelism.

[We must strive to make sure that everything we are doing fits into the overall purpose and goals of the church. Whatever doesn’t fit should be eliminated. Also, there’s a difference between extra-biblical things and unbiblical things. E.g., Sunday school is extra-biblical, i.e., there is no direct biblical support for it. Infant baptism is unbiblical, i.e., it goes against the Bible.]

We can learn several principles of expansion from the early church:

1. Expansion requires fidelity . [loyalty, faithfulness]

2. Expansion requires planning .

3. Expansion requires creativity .

4. Expansion requires cooperation .

5. Expansion requires accountability .

I. Expansion Requires Fidelity.

The early church expanded in a way that was true to the Word of God.

A. The early church was true to the commands of the Word of God.

When the church began on the Day of Pentecost, there were no New Testament Scriptures in existence to govern their ministry. The early believers sought to consistently apply the teachings of Christ concerning the church. Then, as God provided more revelation through the apostles, they faithfully applied those truths as well.

1. They proclaimed a God given message .

The early church understood that a pure message was essential. The truths of Scripture, with the person and work of Christ as the focal point, was the message of the early church. Deviation from this was not tolerated.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!   Galatians 1:8

2. They practiced God given methods .

Some methods used by the early church are universal , that is, they apply to all churches of every era. These methods are standard, not only because the early church practiced them (in the book of Acts), but also because they are commanded in the Epistles . For example, the church is to authoritatively proclaim the truth (2 Timothy 4:2), organize converts into local assemblies (see Lesson Twenty Nine), and discipline its members (1 Corinthians 5).

[It is sometimes difficult to tell whether a certain practice was universal or temporary. A passage may be descriptive or normative. For example, we say that tongues was a temporary sign-gift. Others claim speaking in tongues was normal and that the church should do it today.]

B. The early church was true to the principles of the Word of God.

There were times when the early church encountered situations that were not directly addressed in Scripture. If there was no specific command concerning a particular issue, they dealt with it in a manner consistent with the truth that they already knew. For example, a controversy arose in Acts 6 concerning the care of widows. The apostles had no biblical instructions concerning this issue at that time. Thus, they began with what they did know (their own responsibilities) and devised a plan which was true to Scripture and met the need at hand.

[This is exactly how many ministries start: someone senses a need and fills it by applying biblical principles.]

II. Expansion Requires Planning.

Lesson Twenty Four pointed out that the organizational expansion of the early church did not just happen. Rather, it was the result of careful planning. For example, a controversy arose in Acts 15 concerning saved Gentiles. The problem had to do with the inclusion of Gentiles into the church along with Jews. Should the Gentiles be required to obey the Law of Moses? Did they have to be circumcised? After much debate, the issue was resolved, and a letter was written to the Gentile churches explaining the resolution.

Another example is found in Acts 16:6-10, where Paul’s plans to go to Asia and Bithynia were changed by the Holy Spirit. Paul apparently had a planned itinerary for each of his missionary journeys.

A church properly expands as a result of careful planning, not haphazardly.

[Unless you’re involved in planning an event, you probably don’t realize how much work goes into it. Even a morning service is planned out for ahead of time. The point is that we should plan and organize, not “do ministry” haphazardly.]

III. Expansion Requires Creativity.

The ministry of a church must respond to changes in society . In other words, a church must apply the unchanging Word of God to an ever changing culture. This means that as new needs and issues arise, local churches need to respond with relevant and timely applications of eternal truth. Such creative expansion prepares the way for further edification and evangelism, as the following two examples show.

[Principles stay the same; methods may change. Evangelism is a universal command. How we do it may vary depending on time, place, culture, etc. This is why we should not be method-oriented.]

The distribution of the letter explaining the decisions of the Jerusalem Council had the following effect:

As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.   Acts 16:4 5

The selection of the first deacons in Acts 6 had the same effect:

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.   Acts 6:7

[The problem here is determining how and if culture/society should change how we do things. Some churches adapt their services totally to the popular culture. They include rock or country music, skits, humor, short, needs-centered messages, etc. As separatists, we want to speak to modern man without advocating what we see as sinful elements of culture.]

IV. Expansion Requires Cooperation.

Churches often make the mistake of isolating themselves, even from other congregations of like faith and practice. Isolationism is detrimental to the body of Christ. Pastors and their congregations need the encouragement and assistance of like minded churches.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is a good example of cooperation between local assemblies. Several congregations were represented at the Council. Together, they discussed various options and decided on a biblical solution to the problem.

Churches of like faith and practice can and should cooperate in a variety of ways, such as:

A. Missions support

B. Educational institutions

C. Ordination councils [explain what an ordination is all about.]

D. Church planting

Many opportunities exist for cooperative efforts. Such cooperation is especially beneficial when churches work together on projects that are beyond their individual means.

[For example, churches may cooperate for evangelistic meetings or service projects. But these churches would be of similar faith and practice. We are against ecumenism, which is the cooperation of churches not of like faith and/or practice.]

V. Expansion Requires Accountability.

Accountability is a crucial aspect of biblical ministry and functions on two levels:

A. Accountability within the local church

As mentioned previously, expansion adds to the administrative structure of a local church. Leaders within that structure (such as Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, etc.) are accountable to the local church.

1. Leaders are accountable for what they teach .

If a leader willfully begins teaching something that is contrary to the church’s published doctrinal statement, he should immediately be asked to resign.

2. Leaders are accountable for what they do .

If a leader willfully begins doing something that is contrary to the church’s published standards of conduct for leadership, he should immediately be asked to resign.

[Most churches have a higher set of standards for leaders.]

B. Accountability between local churches

Accountability is a valuable benefit of cooperation between churches. Every ministry occasionally needs to have its weaknesses identified and priorities clarified through interaction with other churches.

Note: Because every church is independent, accountability between churches is voluntary .

[Often such accountability takes the form of an association or fellowship organization. These often become more of a liability than a benefit. Part of the problem with various parachurch organizations is that they have no or little accountability outside the organization. This is one reason we insist that ministry should be done under the auspices of a church.]

Learning to Live It

1. A friend of yours comes to a youth activity and afterwards comments, “Why do you have youth activities? You can’t find them in the Bible.” How should you respond?

True, you can’t find youth activities in the Bible. Other things not mentioned in the Bible: Sunday schools, carpet, electricity, light bulbs, pianos, pulpits, auditoriums, etc. Though extrabiblical, they are acceptable because they help youth ministries accomplish the objectives of the church. Thus, something is not wrong just because the Bible doesn’t mention it.

2. After visiting a church for a few Sundays with your family, you realize that the pastor has very little knowledge of the Bible and cannot adequately communicate what he does know. There is little doubt that this man does not belong in the ministry. Who was responsible for placing this man in the pastorate?

The man himself; one or several local churches; perhaps a mentor, teacher, parent, etc.

How could this error have been avoided?

the convening of an ordination council to examine his fitness for the ministry

Lesson 29: The Church and Corporate Mission | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 29: The Church and Corporate Mission

We learned in Lesson Twenty Eight that the second objective of the local church is evangelism. The Great Commission describes this objective as “disciple making.” [“Make disciples” is the main verb in the great commission.] Evangelism takes place on two levels: personal witness and corporate mission . These should not be viewed as separate activities, for the former [personal] is necessary to accomplish the latter [corporate].

Corporate mission is evangelism pursued through the united efforts of the members of a local church, using their combined resources.

[So when we talk about “corporate mission,” we mean evangelism that a congregation as a unit pursues.]

In this lesson, we will examine:

1. The goal of corporate mission

2. The extent of corporate mission

3. The priority of corporate mission

I. The Goal of Corporate Mission

The corporate mission of a local church includes the work of personal witness, but it includes such witness into a larger goal or “bigger picture.”

A. The corporate mission of the church is to reproduce congregations .

Whereas personal witness seeks to produce converts , corporate mission seeks to produce congregations by organizing such converts into local churches. The bulk of the New Testament (from Acts to Jude) deals primarily with the starting and strengthening of local churches.

Paul’s first two missionary journeys resulted in the reproduction of churches.

1. Paul’s first missionary journey

During Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13 14), he and Barnabas followed a clear plan: after being commissioned by their home church in Antioch of Syria, they established a new church in Antioch of Pisidia, from which they evangelized neighboring cities, establishing other churches.

[This is the same pattern we desire to see in mission work today. A primary mission of the church is to establish more churches. Lots of churches support many different “mission” works: hospitals, schools, food services, etc. But the primary mission work should be starting more churches.]

lesson29-church-antioch

2. Paul’s second missionary journey

Paul followed the same pattern during his next missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22).

lesson29-church-ephesus

On this occasion, Paul established the “mother church” in Ephesus, which commissioned Epaphras (Colossians 1:7) to establish churches in these other cities.

In both of these cases, Paul or a fellow worker communicated the gospel , organized congregations , taught them doctrine , helped them appoint pastors, and checked back on their progress . The end result was always an independent local church.

[This is the same pattern which should be followed by modern missionaries. A true missionary is a church-planter.]

B. The corporate mission of the church is to reproduce in kind .

1. Churches should reproduce doctrinally .

Even a casual reading of Paul’s epistles reveals that he was determined to see sound doctrine established in the churches he started. To Timothy, Paul’s representative in the Church at Ephesus, he declared:

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you. – 2 Timothy 1:13-14

[If we sent out some people to start another church, we would want it to teach the same doctrine that we believe.]

2. Churches should reproduce philosophically .

Paul was not only concerned about reproducing a doctrinal system in the churches that he established, but also about making sure those churches followed his application of doctrine.

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.   1 Timothy 3:14 15

[Even in churches that share the same doctrine, there may be much difference in philosophy of ministry. We would plant a church that goes about its business in the same way we do and emphasizes the same things we do. The same doctrine doesn’t always result in the same philosophy.]

II. The Extent of Corporate Mission

The corporate mission of the church should be marked by extension . Christ’s last recorded message before His Ascension was:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.   Acts 1:8

[By “extension” we mean that the church is responsible to extend the message of the gospel and the ministry of the church to the local community, to neighboring communities, and world-wide.]

This can be visualized:

lesson29-endsofearth

The principle of extension means that:

A. Corporate mission takes place within the community.

When most people hear the word “missions,” they usually think of ministry that takes place on foreign soil. The corporate mission of the church, however, includes the reproduction of congregations in one’s own community, provided the community is large enough to sustain multiple congregations.

[It’s very likely that within Jerusalem and other cities in the times of the apostles, there were many “house” churches which met in peoples’ homes. Thus, there were probably many such churches in large cities. Churches should support “home” missions within their own communities.]

Reproduction of congregations tends to promote service . The early church multiplied via many small house churches due to the lack of facilities large enough to house all of the believers in a particular community. Although larger facilities are available today, it may be wise to limit the size of a church in order to promote service. As a church grows, it may reach the point where it starts producing

spectators rather than servants . At that point, a new congregation should be started to provide more opportunities for service among its members.

[Studies have shown that no matter how big a church gets, a maximum of about 150-200 people are actively involved in the ministry of the church. Thus, once the church gets far above that number, people become more spectators than involved in service. Some feel that 300-400 is as large as a church should get before spinning off another church.]

B. Corporate mission takes place beyond the community.

The church that was established in Jerusalem was expected to minister beyond its own community. Its goal was to reproduce itself worldwide . Whenever Paul started a church and strengthened it to the point where it could function on its own, he left to start churches in other areas.

Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you.   2 Corinthians 10:15 16

[Church planting is God’s plan for reaching the world. Part of the problem with many evangelistic efforts is that they win converts but do not channel them into good churches, or any churches. The biblical pattern is winning someone to Christ and seeing them baptized and added to the membership of a church.]

III. The Priority of Corporate Mission

A. Corporate mission should be a priority for the congregation .

The Great Commission was given to the church. This is seen from the fact that Acts 1:8 links the Great Commission to the Day of Pentecost, the birth of the church.

1. Corporate mission is not an option for the local church.

“Make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) is a command, not a suggestion. Reproduction of churches is the primary way in which a local church obeys this command. Therefore, there should never be a missionless church or a churchless mission.

2. Corporate mission cannot be separated from the other objectives of the Great Commission.

Evangelistic outreach should not be a local church’s only concern. The objectives of the Great Commission are interrelated. Their relationship is seen in the following diagram:

lesson29-edification-expansion-evangelism

B. Corporate mission should be a priority for the individual believer .

Because the Great Commission was given to local churches and the New Testament expects all believers to minister through local churches, the corporate mission of the church should be a priority in the life of every believer. When individuals become Christians, they are not to be independent in their outreach. They are part of a community of believers whose goal is to reproduce congregations.

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. The goal of corporate mission is to reproduce congregations similar in doctrine and philosophy.

2. The extent of corporate mission includes the reproducing of congregations both within and beyond one’s community.

3. Corporate mission should be a priority for the congregation as a whole and for the individual believer.

Learning to Live It

1. Many worthy and needy causes receive money from churches: hospitals, schools, famine relief, etc. Should a local church support any of these causes? Why or why not?

normally not; because they usually are not trying to accomplish the same objectives as the local church. If one can win souls and channel them into churches or start churches thru these means, then OK. In some countries, the above means are the only ways available to have any gospel influence at all. But none of these are ends in themselves. Obviously, a church can support whatever it deems worthy of support. But Biblically speaking, those ministries whose primary goal is evangelizing the lost and starting churches are central.

The church is not commissioned to feed the hungry, educate the ignorant, or cure the ill. It is commissioned to preach the gospel and start churches.

Under what circumstances could such causes be worthy of local church support?

if they are accomplishing the objectives of the local church and are submissive to the leadership of the church

2. A comment frequently made from the pulpit is that there are enough churches here in America and that we must, therefore, spend all our missions money on foreign missions. Is this a valid comment? Why or why not?

no; Corporate mission starts at home (i.e., within one’s own community). Home missions is legit. Also, who says there are enough churches in America? There are many communities without a solid church. Further, more American churches means more missions support.

3. A rapidly-growing church in your area has decided to build a multi-million dollar addition to their current facility in order to make room for more people. What might be a better option, and why?

to start a sister church in the area with several families who now attend the big church; to give more opportunities for service and it extends the ministry of the big church.

Lesson 28: The Church and Personal Witness | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 28: The Church and Personal Witness

As we’ve learned, the primary objective of the local church is the edification of believers. The second objective of the local church is evangelism . Evangelism takes place on two levels: personal witness and corporate mission. This lesson deals with personal witness.

[Personal witness is what you do on your own when at home, school, work, etc. Corporate witness is what the church does as a group, like visitation or evangelistic services. ]

Evangelism is the effort to see people saved , baptized , and become active members of a local church. Evangelism should be a natural result of edification. The more a believer is edified, the more effective he should be in his personal witness.

[Note the extended definition of evangelism. It’s not just winning people to Christ or getting a profession of faith from someone. ]

In this lesson, we will examine:

1. The role of the local church in personal witness

2. The method of personal witness

3. The message of personal witness

4. The results of personal witness

[A very good book on personal evangelism is Tell the Truth by Will Metzger. ]

I. The Role of the Local Church in Personal Witness

Many people view evangelism as a personal activity that has no connection to the local church. The Bible, however, indicates that all ministry in this dispensation is inseparable from the local church.

[This dispensation is the church age. “Para-church” organizations are those that are not part of the ministry of a particular local church. They attempt to minister either to all Christians or to a group of churches. E.g. colleges. Because the church is God’s organization for this age, all ministry should be done in conjunction with/under the auspices of a church or group of churches.]

A. The local church is the source of personal witness.

1. The local church has been given the authority to witness.

Just prior to His Ascension, Christ indicated that the authority to evangelize would be given when the baptism of the Holy Spirit took place.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.   Acts 1:8

This occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the day upon which the church was established.

2. The local church provides the witnesses .

The local church is the training ground for evangelism (Acts 2:46-47). Those who are saved join a local church, where they learn to become effective witnesses.

B. The local church is the means of personal witness.

An individual’s personal witness is enhanced by the preparation and support provided by his local church.

1. The local church provides specialized training .

Witnessing is a learned activity . It is the educational ministry of the local church which prepares believers to witness more effectively.

It was [Christ] who gave some to be . . . pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service.   Ephesians 4:11 12

2. The local church provides personal accountability .

Personal witness involves communicating the truth of the gospel with one’s words (doctrine) and actions (lifestyle). The local church has been given the responsibility to assure that its members remain pure in both of these areas so that their personal witness will accurately and genuinely communicate the gospel (Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5).

3. The local church provides encouragement .

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another  and all the more as you see the Day approaching   Hebrews 10:24 25

Church members should encourage one another to tell others about Christ.

4. The local church provides strength through prayer .

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.   2 Thessalonians 3:1

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. – Colossians 4:2-4

Church members should pray for each other’s personal witness and that those to whom they witness get saved.

C. The local church is the end of personal witness.

Personal witness which only produces professions of faith is incomplete. The Great Commission calls for evangelism which not only produces converts, but which also sees them baptized and united in membership with a local church.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. – Acts 2:41

[Evangelism does not end when a person makes a profession of faith. I.e. getting saved does not end the evangelism process. ]

II. The Method of Personal Witness

A. Personal witness should be relational .

By this we mean that personal evangelism should focus on building relationships prior to presenting the gospel. An unbeliever is much more likely to seriously think about the gospel if it is explained by a friend he knows and trusts than by a stranger.

[The vast majority of those who visit a church or eventually get saved do so because they have a friend who talked to them. Thus it is important to work within the web/network of friends we have. ]

1. Personal witness should be accompanied by an exemplary life .

One’s life has to support one’s message. One cannot expect an unbeliever to accept the Christian message from someone who does not act like a Christian. Peter stressed this important concept in his instructions to Christian wives with unsaved husbands.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.   1 Peter 3:1 2

[In some respects, we win a person to what we display in our own lives. That is, a person will formulate a view of Christians and Christianity by what he sees from an example of someone claiming to be a Christian– you. C.f. also Matt 5:14-16; 1 Pet 2:11-12.]

2. Personal witness should treat people as people .

Many method oriented evangelistic programs depersonalize those being witnessed to. One must remember that those to whom he is witnessing are not just objects. They are created in the image of God and should be treated with respect. This means that the evangelist will seek to show genuine interest in the unsaved and witness to them from that context. Both Christ and Paul evangelized this way (John 4:4 42 and 1 Thessalonians 2:8 12).

B. Personal witness should be message centered .

Though relationships with unbelievers are necessary, such relationships alone do not constitute evangelism. One must confront the unbeliever with the gospel message.

[Few if any ever get saved just by looking at a Christian’s exemplary lifestyle.]

1. Personal witness should value the message more than the method.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.   1 Corinthians 2:1 2, 4 5

While the Bible presents no single method of evangelism, it does present a single message. Methods change; the content of the message does not. Whatever the method, it must be consistent with God’s character.

[Beware of any evangelism that stresses a step-by-step method. We don’t want to get locked in to any certain technique. Also, not all methods are equally good or appropriate. Remember, evangelism is a major goal, but not the highest goal. To glorify/honor/please God is the most important. Thus we must evangelize in a God-honoring way.]

2. Personal witness should avoid methods that detract from the message.

Methods which appeal primarily to the emotions or are characterized by high-pressure “sales techniques” often cause people to make uninformed, hasty decisions. True saving faith can take place only if one understands the content of the gospel.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.   Romans 10:17

[This obviously takes some time. Evangelism usually does not take place in 5 or 10 minutes.]

III. The Message of Personal Witness

It is extremely important that one understands the gospel message before he tries to explain it to someone else.

A. The focus of personal witness

1. Personal witness should not be man centered .

The tendency of many evangelistic methods is to make the gospel appealing in order to get more decisions. In so doing, however, the message is often corrupted. The following are common emphases of a man centered approach to evangelism:

a. Man centered witness views God primarily as a friend. This tends to minimize His authority.

b. Man centered witness views the lost from the standpoint of their needs. That is, one starts a gospel presentation by addressing an unsaved person’s felt needs, such as love, acceptance, etc. This tends to minimize his sinfulness.

c. Man centered witness views Christ primarily as the Savior. This tends to minimize His lordship; He is viewed as existing for mankind’s benefit.

d. Man centered witness stresses the idea that man seeks God, not vice versa. This tends to minimize God’s grace and sovereignty.

2. Personal witness should be God centered .

In contrast to the characteristics of a man centered approach, the following are emphases of a God centered approach to evangelism:

a. God centered witness views God primarily as the Creator and sovereign Lord.

When Paul evangelized in Athens, he began by explaining these very truths.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.   Acts 17:24 25

b. God centered witness views the lost as totally sinful.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” – Romans 3:10-11

c. God centered witness emphasizes the lordship of Christ.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter concluded his sermon by highlighting this truth.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.   Acts 2:36

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Romans 10:9

d. God centered witness stresses the need for repentance.

I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.   Acts 20:21

B. The content of personal witness

One’s presentation of the gospel should be built around the following truths:

1. The character of God

a. He is our Creator; we are responsible to Him.

b. He is sovereign; He may do with us as He pleases.

c. He is holy; He will not overlook sin.

d. He is gracious and loving; He has provided a way for man to be forgiven of sin.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section One of this curriculum.

[It’s important to start with God, because people need to know that their primary problem is a hostile relationship with God. ]

2. The character of man

a. Man became sinful by rebelling against God.

b. Man is incapable of doing anything to please God; he is totally sinful.

c. Man stands condemned before God; this condemnation results in both physical and spiritual death.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section Three of this curriculum.

3. The person and work of Christ

a. Christ is the God man; because He is God, He is perfect; because He is a man, He can save mankind.

b. Christ lived a perfect life; He satisfied God’s demands for mankind.

c. Christ died a substitutionary death; He was punished for man’s sin.

d. Christ rose from the dead; He is Lord of the universe and can grant forgiveness to mankind.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section Four of this curriculum.

4. The proper response to the message: repentance and faith

a. Man must acknowledge his complete sinfulness; he is unable to please God.

b. Man must repent of his sin; he must change his mind about his sinful way of life and turn from it.

c. Man must believe that Christ paid the penalty for his sin; he must acknowledge that Christ died in his place, was buried, and rose again.

d. Man must submit to the lordship of Christ; he must recognize that there is a cost to being a believer in Christ.

For more information on these truths, see Part One, Section Five of this curriculum.

[Note that the correct response is not simply a profession of faith. Repentance and commitment are also necessary. ]

IV. The Results of Personal Witness

A. God is responsible for the results of personal witness.

The abuses often associated with method centered evangelism are usually due to a misunderstanding of who is responsible for the results of evangelism. If someone’s salvation is solely in the hands of the evangelist, then one can understand the tendency of some toward high pressure methods. However, the Bible makes it clear that God is the One who is ultimately responsible for the salvation of the lost.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe  as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.   1 Corinthians 3:5 7

B. A genuine profession of faith will result in a changed life .

1. The initial response

A true believer will demonstrate his commitment to Christ in three ways:

a. Baptism by immersion

b. Local church membership

c. Spiritual growth

These do not guarantee the genuineness of one’s salvation, but their absence does call one’s conversion into question.

2. The continuing evidence

Lesson Twenty Seven pointed out that the book of 1 John was written to describe the marks of a genuine believer. They are:

a. Belief in fundamental doctrines (deity of Christ, inerrancy of Scripture, etc.)

b. A righteous lifestyle

c. Love for other Christians

[If this evidence does not exist, one can have no confidence that he is saved.]

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. The local church is the source, means, and end of personal witness.

2. Personal witness should be relational and message-centered.

3. The focus of personal witness should be God-centered, not man-centered. One’s presentation of the gospel should include the character of God, the character of man, the person and work of Christ, and the proper response.

4. God is the One responsible for the results of personal witness. A true profession of faith will result in a changed life.

Learning to Live It

1. A popular “how to” book on evangelism states that when you visit someone whom you want to lead to Christ, you should begin by complimenting him on his home, children, etc. Why do you suppose the book suggests that you do this?

in order to make him more receptive to the gospel. Note the emphasis on method–“first do this, then this, then this, ….”

Is such an approach message centered or method centered?

method-centered

Is it man-centered or God-centered?

man-centered. Remember that methods change but the content does not. We should not be tied to a certain method/system of evangelism.

2. This same book says that it is the evangelist’s responsibility to make sure that everyone who hears the gospel is brought to a point of decision; the hearer must either say yes or no to the gospel. If he says no, the evangelist must press him to change his mind. According to this method, who is responsible for the results?

the evangelist

Does an unbeliever need to decide to reject the gospel? Why or why not?

no; he already has been rejecting it. John 3:18 states that an unbeliever is “condemned already.”

Lesson 27: The Horizontal Expression of Edification – Fellowship | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 27: The Horizontal Expression of Edification – Fellowship

We have learned that the primary task of the local church is to educate its membership. The truths a believer is taught are expressed toward God ( worship ) and toward fellow believers ( fellowship ). Technically, the word “fellowship” is also used to describe the believer’s relationship with God. The major emphasis of this lesson, however, will be the believer’s relationship with other believers.

The New Testament word for fellowship means “to share something in common with someone else.” It is a word that stresses unity and refers to three relationships that the believer has:

1. Believers have fellowship with God .

2. Believers have fellowship in the faith .

3. Believers have fellowship with one another .

I. Believers Have Fellowship with God.

A. Fellowship with God is synonymous with salvation .

People often use the phrase “fellowship with God” to describe the quality of their relationship with God. Obedient, faithful believers are said to be “in fellowship,” whereas backslidden believers are “out of fellowship.” However, this is an improper use of the phrase. Paul clearly viewed “fellowship with God” as a description of salvation.

He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.   1 Corinthians 1:8 9

B. Fellowship with God is evidenced by conformity to His character .

Spiritual growth is not optional for the believer; it is the natural result of salvation. First John was written to give some of the tests of salvation. They are:

1. The test of righteousness

The true believer will strive to be righteous as God is righteous.

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.   1 John 2:29

[The idea here is doing right as a way of life, not sinless perfection. ]

2. The test of sound doctrine

The true believer will embrace the truth as revealed by the God who is the Truth.

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true  even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.   1 John 5:20

3. The test of love for other believers

The true believer will love other believers because God is love.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.   1 John 4:7-8

II. Believers Have Fellowship in the Faith.

Unity among believers is based upon belief in a common set of doctrines–“the faith” (Jude 3). Apart from such, fellowship is impossible.

[Common doctrine is the proper basis of unity. Since we believe this, we will never cooperate with those who disagree with us about major doctrinal matters. Those who stress ecumenism (the unity of various faiths in a common goal) downplay doctrine and seek to build unity thru other means, such as experience (e.g., tongues).]

A. Believers share the responsibility to proclaim the Word of God.

God has commissioned the local church to proclaim the Word of God. One way this can be done is through the support of missionaries. Paul was joyful over the support he received from the Philippian Church.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.   Philippians 1:4 5

Support of missionaries, however, does not fulfill the believer’s responsibility to proclaim the Word of God; there must also be personal involvement. To Philemon, Paul wrote:

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith.   Philemon 6

B. Believers share the responsibility to defend the Word of God.

Fellowship in the Word of God involves more than proclaiming it; there must also be a commitment to maintaining purity of doctrine. This can be done in two ways:

1. Believers must not cooperate with those who teach error.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.   2 John 10 11

[“This teaching” here refers to apostolic doctrine regarding Christ. ]

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?   2 Corinthians 6:14

2. Believers must refute error.

[A pastor] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.   Titus 1:9

All believers, not just pastors, should expose false teaching.

[C.f. also Titus 2:15. Refute means to challenge, expose or speak out against something. Some people accuse fundamentalists of being too negative and critical. This criticism is a reaction to the fundamentalist’s desire to refute and expose error. Refuting error is necessarily negative, although it does not have to be done in a negative or caustic way.]

III. Believers Have Fellowship with One Another.

Fellowship, or unity among the members of a church, is one of the distinguishing marks of genuine believers.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.   1 John 1:7

The Bible places great emphasis on this unity. It is described by a word that is translated “one another” or “each other.” This word appears over 100 times in the New Testament. Since unity is so important, believers should encourage and support it.

[Not unity at any cost. Unity is a good goal, but not the highest one. Unity should primarily be focussed on the local church. It’s good to have fellowship with many other Christians not from your church, but it is especially important to be in fellowship with those in your church.]

A. Believers strengthen their unity with one another through proper attitudes .

1. Believers should avoid the following attitudes toward one another:

a. Pride

Pride is the tendency to think more highly of oneself than one ought to (Romans 12:3).

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.   Romans 12:16

[C.f. also Prov 13:10 “Only by pride comes contention.” ]

b. Criticism

The Bible forbids a judgmental, condemning attitude toward other believers.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.   Romans 14:13

c. Envy

Envy is the improper desire to possess that which rightfully belongs to another.

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.   Galatians 5:26

2. Believers should develop the following attitudes toward one another:

a. Humility

The opposite of pride, humility was despised by the society in which the first century church ministered, as it often is by our culture. God, however, greatly values humility.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   1 Peter 5:5

b. Deference [to defer, to let another have his way]

The believer should possess an attitude which willingly yields his own rights and interests to the desires and needs of others.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.   Philippians 2:3-4

c. Patience

Patience is the willingness to bear with the shortcomings and quirks of others.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.   Ephesians 4:2

B. Believers strengthen their unity with one another through proper speech .

Words have great potential to be harmful or helpful. Accordingly, the New Testament greatly emphasizes the constructive use of speech.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.   Ephesians 4:29

[C.f. also James 3:5-8 ]

1. Believers should avoid the following kinds of speech toward one another:

a. Lying

Lying is deliberately misrepresenting the truth either in whole or in part.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.   Colossians 3:9

[Notice the “whole or in part” bit. Half of the truth is a whole lie. Misrepresentation is lying.]

b. Slander

Slander is speech that is intended to injure . The word literally means “to talk down.” What is said may or may not be true; however, it is the motive and/or effect that is the issue. In other words, why are you saying it and what harm might it cause? A good rule to follow when discussing someone else’s problems is: Don’t say it unless you and your listener are part of the problem or part of the solution .

Brothers, do not slander one another.   James 4:11

c. Complaining

Complaining is a cancer that grows rapidly and has the potential of destroying a local church. Believers should practice constructive criticism rather than complaining. The difference between the two can be determined by asking the following questions: Is my comment addressed to the right person , is it being said with the right spirit, and does it include a biblical suggestion for change?

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.   James 5:9

[If a person has a problem with something, he should deal with it the right way: go to the source. Most often, people just complain without approaching the person who can do something about it.]

2. Believers should develop the following kinds of speech toward one another:

a. Truth

The opposite of lying, truth is correctly representing the facts.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.   Ephesians 4:25

b. Encouragement

Biblical encouragement is more than a pat on the back along with a promise that everything will be all right. In the Church at Thessalonica, there was a problem that caused the congregation great concern. Paul addressed the problem by explaining to them appropriate doctrine . He then added:

Therefore encourage each other with these words.   1 Thessalonians 4:18

Therefore, encouragement is speech that provides comfort by focusing on the teachings of the Word of God.

c. Counsel

Paul challenged the members of the Church at Rome to counsel one another. Such counsel is biblical instruction intended to correct

sinful behavior .

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to [counsel] one another.   Romans 15:14

[Counseling should be of the kind that points out the problem and then gives the biblical remedy for it (“nouthetic”). All Christians should be capable of giving good counsel.]

C. Believers strengthen their unity with one another through proper actions .

1. Believers should avoid the following kinds of actions toward one another:

a. Partiality

A nineteenth century preacher once said that the gospel is the “great leveler,” meaning that there are no class distinctions within the church. The church is made up of one group of people:

sinners saved by grace .

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. – James 2:1

b. Retaliation

While few church members would consider hitting someone who offends them, some may retaliate in more subtle ways. Such retaliation can be anything from gossip to the “cold shoulder.”

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.   1 Thessalonians 5:15

c. Hostility

Believers should not be unfriendly or antagonistic toward one another.

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.   Galatians 5:15

2. Believers should develop the following kinds of actions toward one another:

a. Service

God expects every believer to use the abilities He has given him to serve other believers within his local church.

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.   Galatians 5:13

b. Benevolence

Benevolence may be defined as acts of kindness , or doing good to others. Believers should continually practice benevolence toward all men, especially toward other believers.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.   Galatians 6:10

c. Hospitality

Believers should use their homes and possessions as means of being a blessing to others.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.   1 Peter 4:9

Note: There are occasions when believers must break fellowship with other believers.

[Note that this is with believers. Each of these is grounds for church discipline. Those who practice these things are the most dangerous and troublesome people in the church because they destroy fellowship/unity.]

These include:

1. Doctrinal deviation

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. – 2 Timothy 2:16-18

[There is room for some doctrinal differences, but not on the major tenets of the faith. Teaching wrong doctrine is especially dangerous. ]

2. Divisive spirit

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. – Romans 16:17

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. – Titus 3:10

[C.f. Prov 6:16-19. The Lord hates those who sow discord among the brethren.]

3. Disorderly conduct

Keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. – 2 Thessalonians 3:6

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. – 2 Thessalonians 3:14

[Note that the discipline/dis-fellowshipping of an individual is to bring him to repentance. If he will not repent, one should treat him as an unsaved person and avoid him. Note also that this is why church membership is so important—if one is not a member, the church has no right to discipline the person.]

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. Believers have fellowship with God. Fellowship with God is synonymous with salvation and is evidenced by conformity to God’s character.

2. Believers have fellowship in the faith. As such, they share the responsibility to both proclaim and defend the Word of God.

3. Believers have fellowship with one another. Such fellowship is dependent upon proper attitudes, speech, and actions.

Learning to Live It

1. A nationally-known evangelist comes to town to conduct a crusade and asks your church to participate. This evangelist is known for including Catholics, liberal Protestants, and charismatics in his crusades. Should your church participate? Why or why not?

no; to do so would be wrong for two reasons: 1) You would be associating in spiritual matters with unbelievers (contra 2 Cor 6:14-7:1) and 2) You would be associating with disobedient believers (contra 2 Thes 3:6, 14). We are not to cooperate with those who deny the faith. Instead, we should rebuke and expose those who cooperate in such ways with unbelievers. (E.g. “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” Billy Graham)

2. You often hear a friend of yours making the following statements:

• “I don’t mean to gossip, but have you ever noticed that

he . . . ?”

• “Is it just me or does so and so . . . ?”

• “Well, I think that she . . . and I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

• “Why don’t they . . . ?”

• “When are they . . . ?”

What is wrong with such comments?

They are not constructive, edifying, etc.; rather, they are gossipy, critical, adversarial, accusatory, etc.

How should you respond when your friend begins to make such comments?

Cut him off before he gets started. Tell him to address his comments to someone who can resolve the problem. Rebuke him for his wrong attitudes and actions.

Lesson 26: The Vertical Expression of Edification – Worship | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 26: The Vertical Expression of Edification

In the previous lesson, we learned that the primary activity of the local church is the education of its members and that education is the foundation of their edification. Edification is expressed in two ways: toward God ( worship ) and toward other believers (fellowship ). This lesson will deal with worship.

[The relationship with God is sometimes called “vertical” while that with other believers is sometimes called “horizontal.”]

Many years ago, the English word “worship” was spelled worthship .” Originally, the word was associated with the concept of worthiness. It referred to the act of displaying the worth or value of a person or object. Worship is any activity whereby believers display the worth or value of God .

[Note that it’s not just what goes on at church during the “worship” service. One can worship God in many ways and at many times. So were not just talking about a church service.]

In this lesson, we will study the following aspects of worship:

1. The object of worship [who we worship]

2. The means of worship [how we worship]

3. The outgrowth of worship [the result of worship]

4. Improper worship

I. The Object of Worship

The sole object of the believer’s worship is God .

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. – Exodus 34:14

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” – Luke 4:8

A. True worship is based upon the character of God.

Because of His character, God alone is worthy of worship.

[The character of God is who he is. Psm 150:2 “Praise him for his surpassing greatness.”]

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”   Revelation 5:11 12

The first section of this curriculum described several of God’s attributes which make Him worthy of our worship.

1. God is to be worshiped because He is great .

David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” – 1 Chronicles 29:10-13

[Verses like this tell us of the awesome majesty of God. This is why we need to be reverent and serious about God and worship. We don’t play fast and loose with God, God’s name, God’s church, etc. ]

2. God is to be worshiped because He is good .

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5

When a believer reflects upon God’s character, it should cause him to worship God all the more.

[Remember that God’s attributes/characteristics can be separated into these two categories: greatness (power) and goodness (moral perfections). We worship God because of Who He is.]

B. True worship is a response to the works of God.

[That is, we worship God because of what He has done/does. Psm 150:2 “Praise him for his acts of power.” ]

1. God is to be worshiped because He is the Creator and Sustainer .

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” – Revelation 4:11

2. God is to be worshiped because He is the Savior .

You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:20

When a believer reflects upon God’s work, it should cause him to worship God all the more.

C. True worship is inseparably linked to the Word of God .

People often think of worship merely as an emotional experience. While worship does affect one’s emotions, it primarily depends upon the believer’s knowledge of the Word of God. Apart from understanding the content of the Bible, true worship is impossible, for it is only in the Bible that the character and works of God are thoroughly explained.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   Colossians 3:16 17

II. The Means of Worship

[That is, how we worship. These are the ways we worship God. These activities emphasize or highlight God’s character and thus display His worth/value.]

A. The believer worships God by confessing his sin .

Confession is the believer’s acknowledgment of his sinfulness and God’s holiness.

Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel.” – Joshua 7:19-20

Besides displaying God’s holiness, confession of sin also displays God’s grace.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.   1 John 1:9

B. The believer worships God by living a godly life .

Believers should always be reflecting the character of God in the way they live.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.   Matthew 5:18

[C.f. also 1 Pet 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. ]

C. The believer worships God by praying .

A significant part of the believer’s prayer life should include praising God.

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”   Matthew 6:9

[“Hallowed” mean “to be made holy.” Thus, “may your name be recognized as being holy.” ]

Prayer is the believer’s way of communicating with God. Besides praise, prayer includes confession, thanksgiving, and petition. Every aspect of prayer ultimately depends upon the believer’s understanding of God’s character. For example, confession of sin recognizes that God is both holy and gracious; praise recognizes God’s greatness; thanksgiving recognizes God’s goodness; and petition recognizes God’s omnipotence and sovereignty.

D. The believer worships God by singing .

Singing has always been an important part of worship. The Bible contains a book of songs (the Psalms) which ascribe glory to God.

It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.   Psalm 92:1 3

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.   Psalm 100:1 3

III. The Outgrowth of Worship

The natural result of worship is service . One of the Greek words for worship in the New Testament is often translated “service.” It was Paul’s favorite word for worship because it emphasized its practical nature.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God  this is your spiritual act of worship.   Romans 12:1

IV. Improper Worship

God is interested in the form worship takes. There are many forms of worship that God finds unacceptable. Sincerity and fervor do not “sanctify” an incorrect form of worship.

[It’s amazing what passes for worship these days. Worship practices should be strictly limited by biblical principle. That is, what the Bible presents as worship should be our guide. Don’t add or subtract from that standard.

From the Westminster Confession of Faith: The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.]

A. Idolatrous worship

[Aaron] took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” – Exodus 32:4

Some people use statues, pictures, etc. as aids in their worship. Such a practice is forbidden in Scripture.

[For example, Catholics use lots of statues, Greek Orthodox use icons (pictures, engravings). It is likely that the Israelites were doing the same sort of thing: attempting to worship the true God thru this calf. C.f. verse 5: “Tomorrow shall be a feast unto the LORD.” Aaron was employing an illegitimate means of worshipping the true God. ]

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. – Exodus 20:4-5

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. – John 4:24

[Note that worship must be “in truth.” It doesn’t matter how sincere worship is if it’s not the right form or the right way.]

B. Disobedient worship

God does not accept worship that is not in keeping with the teaching of Scripture.

[The priests] confronted [Uzziah] and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.” – 2 Chronicles 26:18

[This is an example of a king who attempted to do something good –burn incense to God– which was unacceptable to God. The king had no right to burn incense; it was the priest’s job. This tells us that even if one is trying to do a good thing, if he disobeys God’s word in the process, it’s wrong. How would this idea affect something like baptism? communion? evangelism? God does care about how we approach and serve him. We can’t just do as we please. ]

C. Rebellious worship

God does not accept worship from rebellious people.

When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! – Isaiah 1:15-17

[He’s not talking here about sinful people, but about rebels. No Christian is perfect. If you are rebelling against God, it does no good to attend church, pray, give money, etc. “Worship” from rebellious people is worse than worthless; God hates it. Cf. Isa 1.11, 13-14: Your New Moons and festivals “my soul hates.”]

D. Disorderly worship

God does not accept worship that is chaotic.

Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. – 1 Corinthians 14:40

[Organization and decorum should characterize a worship service. Many are anything but that. E.g., the “laughing revival,” much of Charismaticism, even some fundamental churches lack orderliness. This is important because we serve a God of order. ]

Note: The context of the preceding verse finds Paul reprimanding the Corinthian Church for their improper worship practices.

Learning to Live It

1. A friend of yours often talks about worshiping God. Yet, he has clear areas of disobedience to the Word of God in his life. What impact does disobedience have upon one’s ability to truly worship?

It greatly hinders one’s ability to worship. God does not accept the worship of disobedient or rebellious people. One may as well not bother.

What should you tell him?

He needs to get right with God before worrying about worship. He’s being a hypocrite. Furthermore, part of worship is living a godly life.

2. You hear of a church where during the service some of the people mumble incoherently, some get up and dance around, and others lay on the floor laughing uncontrollably. Could this be called true worship? Why or why not?

no; True worship is orderly, not chaotic (1 Cor 14:40).

Lesson 25: The Foundation of Edification – Education | Biblical Foundations for Living

Why am I here? I am here to worship God, serve His children, and reach the lost.

Introduction to the Objectives of the Church

We learned in Lessons Twenty Two through Twenty Four that the believer is part of the body of Christ, that this body is composed of local assemblies, and that the purpose of these local assemblies is to bring glory to God through the ministry of His Word.

Having determined the purpose of the church, we can now move on to address its objectives and how to accomplish them. In other words, having answered the “why” question, we are ready to answer the “what” and the “how” questions. What should a local church be doing and how should it be doing it? The Great Commission answers the “what” question by giving three objectives for the church: edification, evangelism, and expansion. The New Testament epistles answer the “how” question by giving detailed descriptions of how to meet each of these objectives. This second section on the doctrine of the church will focus on the objectives of the local church.

Lesson 25: The Foundation of Edification — Education

In previous lessons, we have learned that the three objectives of the local church are the spiritual growth of its members ( edification ), the salvation of the lost ( evangelization ), and the growth and management of its physical and human resources ( expansion ). Of these three, edification is primary. In order for edification to take place, there are three activities the local church should pursue. These are education , worship , and fellowship .

[Follow the flow: The purpose of the church is to glorify God through the ministry of the Word. We accomplish this purpose by means of edification, evangelism, and expansion. Edification is produced through education, worship and fellowship.]

The first of these [education] is the foundation of edification, while the other two are expressions of it. The fact that education is the foundation of edification is seen in Paul’s statement that the teaching ministry of the pastor is

to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [edified] until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.   Ephesians 4:12 13

In this lesson, we will examine the following aspects of education in the local church:

1. Its nature [what it’s like]

2. Its goals [or purposes]

3. Its means [how it’s purposes are to be fulfilled]

4. Its students [who is to be educated]

I. The Nature of Education in the Local Church [i.e., what ed. is like]

The educational ministry of the local church involves teaching both the content and practice of biblical doctrine to successive generations.

[That is, the goal of education is to teach what the Bible says (content) and what should be done about it and how (practice).]

A. Education is the local church’s first priority .

Since the edification of believers is the primary objective of the local church, and education is the foundation of edification, one must conclude that education is the most important activity of the local church.

[Obviously, one cannot fulfill the objectives of the church until one is educated about what they are, how to fulfill them, etc. In other words, education must precede everything else. C.f. 1 Tim 2:2.]

B. Education in the local church should be Bible centered .

1. Bible centered education is comprehensive .

A local church that focuses only on selected teachings of the Bible while ignoring others is unbalanced and vulnerable to doctrinal error.

For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.   Acts 20:27

2. Bible centered education is theological .

Education is more than the memorization of facts. Though the knowledge of facts is valuable, a Bible centered education is not intended to produce Bible trivia buffs. Rather, it is intended to produce believers who can correlate biblical truths and properly apply them.

[Correlation of biblical truth is the goal of systematic theology. It seeks to discern what the overall teaching of the Bible is concerning various topics. ]

C. Education in the local church should be practical .

Many believe that doctrine is impractical. However, Paul believed just the opposite.

All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16 17

Because what one believes affects what one does, doctrine is extremely important. Correct doctrine more often than not leads to correct practice.

[Someone once said, “Ideas have consequences.” This is true. Most actions stem from beliefs. In order to act right/correctly, one must understand correctly. Improper belief leads to improper practice. E.g. tongues/healing/health-and-wealth, etc.]

II. The Goals of Education in the Local Church

A. Education in the local church is designed to produce theological stability .

In Ephesians 4:13, Paul describes pastors as educators whose teaching results in the edification of the church. In the next verse, he shows that edification results in stability.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.   Ephesians 4:14

[If you understand correct doctrine, you’ll be able to spot false doctrine, and are much less likely to accept it. We should develop biblical discernment, the ability to evaluate an idea to determine whether or not it is truly biblical. ]

B. Education in the local church is designed to produce transformed thinking .

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.   Ephesians 4:22 24

When a believer is properly taught the Word of God, his thinking will be transformed [Rom 12:1-2] . As a result, he will have a discriminating mind. “Discrimination” means to make an evaluation or assessment about something. Although the word has a negative connotation in our society, appropriate discrimination is a mark of spiritual growth. It is the ability to evaluate all things in light of God’s Word.

The spiritual man makes judgments about all things.   1 Corinthians 2:15

[What have we called this kind of discrimination? A Bible-soaked logic or a biblical mindset. That is, making evaluations and decisions based on biblical principles.]

C. Education in the local church is designed to equip believers .

The teaching/learning process is not intended to be an end in itself. It ought to be the means whereby believers are prepared to serve the Lord.

It was he who gave some to be . . . pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service.   Ephesians 4:11 12

III. The Means of Education in the Local Church

A. Education in the local church is accomplished through formal instruction.

1. Formal instruction involves the authoritative presentation of biblical truth.

The teaching of the early church was authoritative. That is, the apostles’ preaching was strong, direct, and uncompromising. This style of preaching is unpopular in our society. However, the Word of God must be authoritatively preached, even if doing so is unpopular.

[Titus 2:15 – “Encourage and rebuke with all authority.”]

2. Formal instruction takes place in the assembly .

As learned previously, the word “church” means “assembly” or “congregation.” The church assembles to hear the Word of God preached, among other things.

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. – Acts 20:7

[This is one of the primary things church is all about. Since the preaching/teaching aspect of church is so important, it is vital that you attend a church where the pastor teaches the Bible correctly.]

B. Education in the local church is accomplished through informal instruction.

1. Informal instruction takes place through personal relationships.

Part of the reason that local church members are to assemble regularly is to develop relationships. Believers learn from one another by exhortation and example .

[Exhortation is verbal (preaching, classes, testimonies, etc.), example is non-verbal (others see and are influenced by your behavior). ]

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another  and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   Hebrews 10:24 25

[Most of us learn much by example. Remember that as adults are examples to you, you are examples to those younger than you.]

2. Informal instruction takes place through familial [or family] relationships.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Deuteronomy 6:6 7

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.   Ephesians 6:4

The educational ministry of the local church equips parents to accomplish this task.

[Strong families are the basis of strong churches. Thus it is in the church’s best interests to promote strong families.]

IV. The Students of Education in the Local Church

A. All local church members are students.

One of the synonyms for a believer in the New Testament is “disciple,” which means a learner . Learning, therefore, should be a pursuit of every believer.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.   1 Peter 2:2

[“All” includes teens. You should be serious about learning biblical truth at church. You may be indifferent/apathetic about other subjects, but you should be an avid, serious student when it comes to biblical instruction. ]

B. Suggestions for pupils

1. Attend church faithfully.

2. Read and study the Bible daily.

3. Take notes during sermons.

4. Discuss what you are learning with others.

5. Read biblically-sound literature.

6. Take advantage of teaching opportunities.

7. Take part in other biblically-sound learning opportunities, such as Bible Institute classes.

Learn to Live It

1. A fellow youth group member says, “I don’t study by myself. My youth leader is such a wonderful teacher that he gives me all I need.” Is this a healthy attitude? no

What would be some of the dangers of such an attitude?

What if the youth leader leaves? What if the youth leader is wrong? You follow him/her into error. You become dependant upon someone else to “feed” you. You cannot “feed” yourself.

What should you tell him?

that he needs to become a “self-feeder.” He shouldn’t be overly dependent upon leaders.

2. You hear a fellow youth group member say that he wishes the class would quickly finish a doctrinal study in order to move on to more “practical” issues. What false conclusion has he made?

that doctrine is not practical or that it’s unimportant

What might you tell him about the relationship between doctrine and practice?

They are inseparable–Doctrine determines practice. Incorrect practice is the result of incorrect belief. Mind (belief) directs the will (behavior). He should be concerned as much about doctrine as he is about practice.

Lesson 24: The Role of the Church as a Local Assembly | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 24: The Role of the Church as a Local Assembly

In Lesson Twenty-Three, we learned that the body of Christ is made up of all believers in this dispensation, the church age, and was established to bring glory to God through the ministry of His Word. This “invisible” body is visible through local assemblies. Of the 114 occurrences of the Greek word ekklesia in the New Testament, 99 refer to the local church. These assemblies are organizations designed to carry out the objectives of the body of Christ. Apart from the local church, these objectives cannot be accomplished properly . This lesson will focus on the organization of the local church, which includes:

[This lesson has to do with the local church, not the universal. ]

1. Administrative responsibilities

2. Leadership offices

3. Specific ordinances

4. Membership requirements

5. Biblical limitations

I. The Local Church is an Organization with Administrative Responsibilities.

The church of the first century is often viewed as being free from administrative details. This, however, was not the case.

A. The early church engaged in ministry planning .

Meetings were a necessary part of the ministry of first century churches. The book of Acts indicates that administrative meetings were held to address the following issues:

1. Acts 6 – The problem of service to widows

2. Acts 11 – The question of whether or not to accept Gentiles into the church

3. Acts 13 – The commissioning of the first missionaries

4. Acts 15 – The question of what requirements should be placed on Gentile converts

B. The early church developed procedures for implementing its plans.

The early church not only discussed what needed to be done, but also determined how to accomplish, or implement, its plans. For example, when they met to address the problem of service to the widows in the church, they solved the problem by creating the office of deacon .

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.   Acts 6:2 3 (See also Acts 15:22 30.)

C. The early church engaged in evaluation . [I.e., checking to see how everything is working and trying to make it work better.]

At the close of Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13 14), he and Barnabas returned to the Church at Antioch [the commissioning church, Acts 13:1-3] and presented the details of their ministry among the Gentiles.

On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.   Acts 14:27

The meeting of the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15 was designed to further evaluate the information presented to the Church at Antioch.

The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.   Acts 15:12

[Thus we should evaluate ourselves and our ministries periodically to see if we are hitting what we are aiming at.]

II. The Local Church is an Organization with Leadership Offices.

A. The office of pastor

1. The titles of the office

The office of pastor is described with a variety of titles, each emphasizing a different aspect of the one office.

a. He is called the pastor . [comes from “shepherd”]

This title refers to the pastor’s responsibility to care for the spiritual needs of the congregation, a responsibility he fulfills primarily through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

b. He is called the overseer . [Gk episkopos = bishop = the boss]

This title refers to the administrative oversight that the pastor is to exercise. He is to set the agenda for the church’s ministry and lead the church in accomplishing its objectives.

[God holds the pastor especially responsible for what goes on at the church he pastors. Oversight means management. The pastor is in charge, not the deacons, the secretary, etc. That does not mean that he is free to be a tyrant, tho.]

c. He is called the elder . [Gk = presbuteros]

This title refers to the wisdom and experience of the pastor and the respect that the office should be given.

[We ought to respect the pastor. That’s one of the reasons we don’t call him by his first name. 1 Thes 5:12-13 tell us to avoid young, inexperienced pastors. ]

Paul’s address to the pastors at Ephesus contains all three ideas.

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them, “. . . Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.   Acts 20:17-28 (See also 1 Peter 5:1-2.)

[The three terms, pastor, elder, and overseer, are synonymous, referring to the same office. The episcopal form of church government sets up a bishop over local pastors. ]

2. The qualifications for the office

The qualifications for the pastor are listed in 1 Timothy 3. This list gives both personal and professional qualifications.

[Personal — inner qualities, characteristics, “character.” Professional — abilities pertaining to the duties of pastor.]

Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.   1 Timothy 3:2 7

[Note that there’s nothing here about being funny, a dynamic speaker, a “people person,” etc. Those qualities are nice but not primary and really not necessary.]

3. The responsibilities of the office

a. The pastor is responsible to teach and preach the Word of God.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.   1 Timothy 4:13

[The public reading was important because many couldn’t read and most did not own a copy of the Bible. Often the pastor was the most educated person in the community. ]

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage  with great patience and careful instruction.   2 Timothy 4:2

[This is the primary task of the preacher. This is so because the rest of his duties depend on this one.]

b. The pastor is responsible to equip the congregation for ministry.

It was [Christ] who gave some to be . . . pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.   Ephesians 4:11 12

c. The pastor is responsible to govern the congregation.

Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who [govern] you in the Lord and who admonish you.   1 Thessalonians 5:12

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor.   1 Timothy 5:17

[Because of these responsibilities, the pastor has a great deal of authority. He’s the one in charge. The deacons don’t run the church; the pastor(s) does.]

B. The office of deacon

1. The title of the office

The word “deacon” simply means servant . The Scriptures use the word in a general sense for anyone who serves another and in a specific sense for the local church office of deacon.

2. The qualifications for the office

1 Timothy 3 lists qualifications for the office of deacon similar to those given for the office of pastor.

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.   1 Timothy 3:8 10, 12

Note: The personal qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 are not special qualities found only in pastors and deacons. They are marks of mature believers. Therefore, all believers should be striving after them.

3. The responsibilities of the office

Unlike the office of pastor, the Bible does not clearly spell out the responsibilities of the deacon. Therefore, they must be derived from the title of the office and the example of the first deacons. In Acts 6, the first deacons were selected to minister to the congregation in order to free the pastoral staff to focus on more important matters.

We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.   Acts 6:3 4

[Biblically, deacons are not in a position of authority; however, authority may be delegated to them. The primary task of deacons is to serve.]

III. The Local Church is an Organization with Specific Ordinances.

A. The nature of an ordinance

1. An ordinance is not a sacrament .

Sacraments are intended to provide saving grace. However, if grace was linked to any work or ritual, it would cease to be grace. [C.f. Rom 11:6]

[An ordinance is a rite or ritual that the church is responsible to administrate. Such ordinances are important and meaningful, but they have no saving value. The word “sacrament” suggests a means of grace or a work that saves. Since we are not saved by works, we avoid sacramental language.]

2. An ordinance is a symbol .

When Christ gave the ordinances, He intended them to serve as reminders of the spiritual truths which they portray.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”   1 Corinthians 11:23 25

[A symbol is representative, designed to bring to memory the thing represented. ]

B. The ordinances of the local church

1. The ordinance of baptism

a. The method of baptism is immersion .

The Greek word which is translated “baptize” literally means “to immerse” or “to submerge.” Every instance of baptism in Scripture is by immersion.

Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, . . . .   Acts 8:38 39

[So when a baby is “baptized” by sprinkling, he is really not baptized.]

b. The purpose of baptism is identification .

Baptism is to be carried out in the “name” of the triune God. The significance of the “name” is that of identification. The one being baptized is visibly picturing his identification with the triune God through Christ.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.   Matthew 28:19

[Baptism publicly identifies one as a follower of Christ. It says of the one baptized, “I am a disciple of Christ.”]

2. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper

a. It is a reminder of the cross work of Christ.

[By “cross work,” we mean all that Christ accomplished by his death on the cross for us.]

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.   1 Corinthians 11:26

b. It is a time of self examination .

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.   1 Corinthians 11:28

C. The authority for the ordinances

The authority for the carrying out of the ordinances lies with the local church .

[That is, not just anybody can legitimately go out and start baptizing people or serving the Lord’s Supper. E.g., baptisms at camp, Lord’s supper of potato chips and pop, serving communion in a hospital, etc. are not valid. They have to be done in the right way and in the context of the church.]

1. The command to observe the ordinances was given to the apostles (Matthew 26:26-29 and 28:16-20).

The apostles were given the task of laying the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

2. The ordinances were practiced in the context of the local church.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.   Acts 2:41-42

[Christ ? apostles ? church ]

3. The early church was responsible to correct improper observance of the ordinances (1 Corinthians 11:17 34).

IV. The Local Church is an Organization with Membership Requirements.

The early church believed in the importance of church membership. The New Testament knows nothing of believers who are not members of a local church. The book of Acts speaks of believers being added to the church through baptism. Even more clearly, there are examples of people being removed from the church by action of the local assembly (Matthew 18:15 17 and 1 Corinthians 5). One cannot be removed from a church unless he is a member of that church.

Requirements for church membership include the following:

A. Church members are saved .

Only those who are saved may become members of a local church. This was the practice of the church from the beginning.

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.   Acts 2:47

B. Church members are baptized by immersion .

On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people responded in faith to the message preached by Peter. All three thousand were baptized shortly thereafter.

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.   Acts 2:41

Therefore, church membership and believer’s baptism should not be separated. One becomes a member of a local church through baptism.

[The biblical pattern is always being saved, then baptized and added to the church. Believers who refuse baptism are out of order. ]

C. Church members are living obediently .

The early church practiced church discipline. Those members who persisted in sin were to be dismissed from the assembly. Thus, in order to remain a member of a local church, one must live obediently.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? “Expel the wicked man from among you.” – 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 13

V. The Local Church is an Organization with Biblical Limitations.

Local churches are engaged in a great variety of activities. Some are appropriate and some are not. What limitations can be applied to help identify appropriate activities for the church? An understanding of why the church exists and what it is to do will help determine how it should minister.

A. The local church is limited to the objectives of the Great Commission .

Lesson Twenty Three identified the objectives of the church as presented in the Great Commission. They are:

1. Edification

Edification is the process of building up the believer’s life on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

2. Evangelism

Evangelism is the effort to see people saved, baptized, and become active members of a local church.

[Evangelism does not stop short at one’s profession of faith. It extends to baptism and spiritual growth. The church should strive to win people to Christ, baptize them, and encourage them to grow as Christians. ]

3. Expansion

Expansion is the growth and management of the church’s physical and human resources. This is necessary for ongoing edification and evangelism.

Note: All the activities of the local church must be consistent with these objectives. Any activity, however beneficial, which is not consistent with these objectives should be avoided.

B. The local church is limited by the purpose of the body of Christ.

We learned in Lesson Twenty Two that the purpose of the body of Christ is to glorify God through the ministry of His Word. The application of this purpose will limit the activities of the church in two ways.

1. The activities of the church must reflect the character of God.

To “glorify” God means to demonstrate or make known His character. When this purpose is consciously pursued, the methods of church ministry will be evaluated in light of God’s holy character. Consequently, church is no place for frivolous or worldly activities.

[The church building may be used for lots of different events. But when it comes to the worship service, it should be characterized by holiness and reverence and awe. ]

2. The activities of the church will center around the Word of God .

Every function of the church must provide either a means to proclaim the Word or a means to obey the Word.

Learning to Live It

1. A friend of yours tells you that there are three churches that he really likes and that he has decided to attend one on Sunday morning, the second on Sunday evening, and the third on Wednesday evening. How does your friend view the concept of church membership?

not very seriously. If he sees it as optional, he misunderstands.

What might you tell your friend to convince him that he needs to be faithful to one church?

The New Testament underscores the need to become a member of a local church, and membership implies commitment.

2. One Sunday afternoon, your little brother wonders why the family has to go to the business meeting at church that night. What “words of wisdom” might you give him?

Business meetings are a necessary part of local church ministry and help a church function more effectively and efficiently. All members should attend. All members should be concerned about how the church is spending money, what they plan to do, who they support, etc. You could say that those 4 meetings in Acts discussed earlier were business meetings. NOTE: Even teens who are members should stay for business meetings.