Monday 23 June 2008

The Importance of the Local Church (Part 3)

The Importance of the Local Church (part 3)
The plan: Biblical theology without leading people along a certain track.
Ac 2:40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 ¶ And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
44 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;
45 and they [began] selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47 praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

What happened to the 3000 converts?

Background and context of the new church in Jerusalem

Tense and hostile
Pioneering and feeling their way forward
Added to the church
Struggles with legalism, the law, Judaism, circumcision, the temple, feasts and the issue synagogue versus church, Jewish Sabbath versus The Lord’s day.
Primarily Jewish unlike Antioch with centuries of tradition and baggage.
The importance of the book of Hebrews

Verse 41, received Peter’s word, the gospel
Were baptised as adults
Added to the church, about 3000 + 120 = a large group in a small city by today’s standards. Population in Jerusalem was about 60,000 people therefore this was not done in a corner.
Verse 42, continually devoting themselves;
i. Apostles doctrine/teaching
ii. Fellowship (koinonia)
iii. Breaking of bread. This is used in two ways in the NT. Firstly as eating food (Luke 24: 30) as on the road to Emmaus and secondly as the Lord’s Supper as in Acts 20:7. It is likely that as Calvin suggests that in Acts 2: 42 that it refers to the Lord’s Supper and in verse 46 to eating meals together. Either way it is not explicitly stated so caution is needed.
iv. Prayer
Verse 43, a sense of awe (fear of God) and signs and wonders were done through the apostles.
What is an apostle?
i. A personal commission from Jesus (John 20: 21)
ii. Have seen the risen Christ to witness the resurrection (Acts 1: 21. 1 Cor. 9:1, 15: 8)
iii. Signs, wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12, 12).
Can there be apostles today? No, the apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2: 20 refers to the old and New Testament ministries fulfilled through Christ.

Verse 44, had all things in common= not a form of Christian communism living in community. Community is an over-used word in post-modern expressions of the church. Verse 45 sharing with those in need, selling possessions etc.
This diaconal ministry continued throughout the NT to help support the poor saints in Judea under occupation and persecution.
Verse 46 Temple and house: eating meals together.
V 46-47. Gladness, sincerity of heart, praising God, having favour with all the people (except the religious hierarchy)
V 47, the Lord was adding to their number daily!! This is the Sovereignty of God.

Is the Jerusalem Church an Ideal Model?

Yes or no?

Yes, because it is clear that this held a unique place as the home of the ‘apostles and elders’ as in Acts 15 and as a mother church for the Jewish and gentile world as new congregations were established and as a centre of doctrinal authority (Galatians 2: 1-10).

No, because the church in Acts chapter 2 is embryonic and is only a snapshot of early church life in Jerusalem. For a complete model we need the whole of the NT with all of the information pieced together. In church history the church in Geneva has become a valuable prototype for many movements since the sixteenth century and continues to be today in the twenty-first century.

What is the Apostles Doctrine?

C. H. Spurgeon states in 1855 upon reprinting the 1689 Baptist Confession.

This ancient document is the most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us. It is not issued as an authoritative rule or code of faith, whereby you may be fettered, but as a means of edification in righteousness. It is an excellent, though not inspired, expression of the teaching of those Holy Scriptures by which all confessions are to be measured. We hold to the humbling truths of God's sovereign grace in the salvation of lost sinners. Salvation is through Christ alone and by faith alone."
What is the apostles’ doctrine?

An interconnecting body of truth that is consistent, systematic (ordered) and faithful to the Bible. An understanding of this body of truth enables sound exegesis and is commonly known around the world as ‘reformed teaching’. The headings of the confessions include about 32 articles that relate to:

God and Creation
The Trinity
God’s decree, providence
The fall of man

God’s Covenant
Free will
Effectual calling
Saving Faith
Repentance, faith, good works
Perseverance of the saints
Assurance, the law of God and the gospel’s extent

Church, the fellowship of the saints
Baptism, the Lord’s supper
Civil Governement

The Future
Resurrection of the dead and the last judgment

A Summary for handling the scriptures:

C= Context
I= Intended meaning of the passage
A = Apostles’ doctrine

Let us close in prayer together.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

The Importance of the Local Church (Part 2)

Part 2: The Importance of the Local Church
Mathew 18:15 ¶ "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
16 "But if he does not listen [to you,] take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
17 "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.
18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst."
21 ¶ Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus *said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Review of Matthew 16
The example of Upper Chapel and Hanover Methodist are warnings.

1. Central House Church: Review in the Post-founder Era

A. Summary of where the church is at after almost 40 years (personal fellowship with Peter since 1995).
i. Calvinistic in doctrine; explain the TULIP confession.
ii. Baptist in government and immersion of adult believers
iii. Independent and autonomous, but not averse to an association of churches
iv. Non-charismatic following the cleavage after Toronto, that places it in an Evangelical position that adheres to:
· The sufficiency and final authority of Scripture
· The primacy of preaching for the church and evangelism
· Proper caution of manifestations
· Placing doctrine before experience
· Maintaining a desire for the power of the Holy Spirit in our midst of conversion of sinners, a desire for righteousness among Christians and genuine godly living.
· The definition of prophesy to be explored: Preaching and public praying.
The church is Calvinistic, Baptist and evangelical.
An encouraging lineage includes:
John Bunyan
William Carey
Andrew Fuller
Charles Spurgeon
They would trace their doctrine and church model to Calvin and Geneva and claim continuity with the early church, the apostles and Christ Himself.
Note: No room for any form of pride.

2. Discipline in the Local Church
Discipline is;
a. Moral as in 1 Corinthians 5 and the sexual immorality
b. Doctrinal as Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Timothy 4: 15) who strongly opposed apostolic doctrine and preaching. Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2: 16-19), note God’s firm foundation stands.
Step 1: V 15 Brother = the church
‘in private’ and the aim is to ‘win your brother’ not a blazing row. Note ‘if he listens to you’. The art of good listening ‘he that has ears’.

Step 2: V16 Take one or two more: the basis for this is Deuteronomy 19: 15-21 and there is a clear OT blueprint for ‘judges’ that being spiritual leaders.
Note: ‘that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses’. We are dealing with evidence by witnesses, not speculation, gossip or opinions.

Step 3: V 17 ‘Tell it to the church’ but must go via the elders. (Congregational versus elders)
Step 4: Excommunication and treating them as a non-Christian.

If people do not follow these steps then they are subject to discipline themselves.

· Quote and explain the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith, section 26 on the Church, point 12 and 13.
12.____ As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15 )
13.____ No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church. ( Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2, 3 )
There are only three reasons why someone does not partake of the Lord’s supper;
a. They are not a Christian, or unsure of their salvation.
b. Under church discipline and it is withheld
c. They are proclaiming that they are in wilful disobedience and unrepentant sin.
3. Confessions of Faith
Who wrote them?

Calvin and the French confession
Luther and Melancthon and the Augsburg confession
The English Puritans and the Westminister Confession
John Owen and Thomas Goodwin and the Savoy Declaration used by Independent churches
1689 and the Baptist Confession for Calvinistic Baptists.
Belgic, second Helvetic, Scots, Welsh Calvinistic Methodists confessions etc.

Are they Biblical?
Acts 2: 42, the order is the apostles doctrine first and to be devoted to it

They Provide an open document ‘in the light’ for churches to believe and practice

Are they above the Bible?
Absolutely not, but they are a marvellous summary of the apostles doctrine.

Why have one? Or Why not have one?

Illustration: Train tracks and the train

To not have one is to depart from historic Christianity, leaves the door open to subjective private interpretations and provides little basis for the unity of the faith.

Who am I to depart from Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, Calvin, John Knox, John Owen etc.
· For the up building of the church (the truth sets one free)
· For a well ordered church practice (Lord’s supper)
· Guard rails for preaching and putting someone into office
· Defending against heresy and bringing doctrinal correction
· Helping Christians find their identity
· Connected to church history

Why reinvent the wheel?


Tuesday 10 June 2008

The Importance of the Local Church (Part 1)

The Importance of the Local Church

1. Some Principles for Biblical Interpretation

In an age where there is an explosion of ‘private interpretations’ it is necessary to lay down some ground rules for this important subject. There are two terms that require a definition to aid our understanding:

Exegesis= the intended meaning of Scripture
Eisogesis= reading into Scripture something that is not there.

As can be deduced from these two terms, our aim must always be to investigate the intended meaning of Scripture, while desperately avoiding the superimposition of our thoughts, opinions and traditions (some traditions can be as new as post 1970) upon the inspired writings.

Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation and this subject considers the rules that are applied for interpretation. Here are three rules that were recovered by the Reformers following much mystical handling of Scripture during of the Middle Ages.
1. The analogy of faith (Sacred Scripture is its own interpreter, we should compare Scripture with Scripture because it does not contradict itself as one united mind of God). Confessions of faith have attempted historically to summarise the key biblical themes.
2. Determine its literal sense (one interpretation, many applications). This involves determining the literary genre: Is a book history, wisdom, an epistle etc? Different rules apply at different times; for example Jesus ‘I am the door’ (John 10: 9) but this is metaphorically, not literally).
3. Grammatical-historical analysis; this considers the historical context in which the inspired words, verbs, nouns etc. were given in Hebrew and Greek language settings.
A method that was commonly used by Martyn Lloyd Jones in his preaching was something he learned from the world of physicians, namely the ‘skittle method’. This involves the identification of all the different views on a passage and then by the process of elimination using biblical analysis, the one remaining is the correct one.
2. The Teaching of Jesus on the Church
Wayne Mack states that ‘there is nothing outside the Trinity itself that God loves more than the church for which He died.’
Our starting point must always be to turn firstly to our Lord Jesus Christ and there are two direct references to the church in two passages in Matthew’s gospel. This gospel was written primarily for the Jewish Christians and contains a lot of OT references to give continuity with the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.
Matthew 16: 13-28
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He [began] asking His disciples, saying, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
14 And they said, "Some [say] John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."
15 He *said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal [this] to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.
19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

This marks a different season in the ministry of our Lord at the end of the Galilean ministry and Christ interestingly uses the word church or ekklesia for the first time. Two key points that impact our doctrine of the church are our understanding of the word church and the rock upon which the church is to be built.

A. What is the meaning of the word ‘Church’?
Ekklesia is the Greek word that the NT uses for church and it means a ‘called out assembly or congregation’. In contemporary Greek culture it was used for a governing assembly in a city but there is an OT usage. The OT was translated into Greek to produce the Septuagint (LXX) and therefore key Greek terms can be traced more easily. The concept of church as an assembly or congregation is not a new concept in biblical thinking; a congregation in the name of Jesus, the messiah however was new. This was to be God’s new congregation and fulfilment of all the law and prophets.
OT usage means ‘to meet or come together at an appointed place’ (qahal) and was rendered church or synagogue in the Greek translation. An example is Deuteronomy 4: 10
"[Remember] the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Assemble the people (qahal is used here) to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.'
Some contemporary Misunderstandings of Church

I. An individual states that ‘I am the church and I do not need to go to a church.’ This is foolish, just as any individual British citizen who may claim that, ‘I am the United Kingdom’. This is a corporate term.
II. Again rampant individualism rears its ugly head when it is asserted that someone does not need to go to ‘church’ because three or four people meet for Bible study in someone’s front room. The church is an organised, public assembly. The dividing line between a group of disciples and a church appears to be the ordination of elders
Acts 14: 21-23 And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and [saying,] "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.)
Watching Christian TV or going to a Christian conference does not represent the church in pure biblical terms.
III. Sometimes people imagine wrongly that the church here refers to the universal church. Christ refers to each individual local assembly, together constituting a part of the whole church that gathers in the name of Jesus. It is an unbiblical myth to claim to be a Christian who belongs to the universal church, who refuses to join oneself to be rooted in a local congregation. This is an unbiblical licence for doing ‘your own thing’ and it represents an ignorant and blatant rejection of the call to NT discipleship.

B. What is this Rock (Matt. 16: 18)?
Four potential interpretations:
1. Peter was the first Pope
This has to be rejected immediately because there is no evidence that the Roman Catholic church is the direct spiritual lineage of Peter or indeed that is what is being taught by Christ here.
2. The Church is built on the individual’s revelation from the Father and the subsequent confession ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’
This confession is to be accepted as a foundational part of the church but not as the intended meaning of Rock here.
3. The rock is Christ.
There has been much made of the difference between Peter (Petros meaning stone) and Petra meaning ‘rock’ in reference to Christ. However this is not the natural sense of the teaching of Christ here.
4. The rock is Peter.
This is the natural force of the teaching of Christ here that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built, that being that Peter is the God ordained instrument of God for the founding of the church. This harmonises with grammatical use applied to Peter in this passage: I will give you the keys; whatever you bind etc.
C. How do we apply this teaching of Christ?
The first twelve chapters mostly involve Peter’s leadership, preaching and pasturing as a God-given gift to establish the church. Here are some aspects of Peter to consider;
· He was renamed Peter from Simon by Christ in John 1: 42. We should expect leaders in the church to be ‘rocklike’.
· Peter was called, trained and equipped as a lively preacher of the gospel (Acts chapters 2-12). The church grows with the primary means of the preaching of the apostolic gospel.
· Peter was an evangelistic preacher (Acts 2: 38 ff); the keys open and close the doors of the kingdom through gospel preaching and discipline to close the doors (1 Cor. 5: 1-5, 2 Cor. 2: 8).
· Binding and loosing represents spiritual authority not spiritual warfare: Hendriksen explains that this refers to forbidding and permitting and relates to delegated authority to get the job done.
· Peter was more than a preacher; he was a leader sent to the church by Christ. We must pray for these workers to be sent into the church (Matthew 9: 38) and the church is founded on this foundation (Ephesians 2:20) and it is Christ who sends men to the church as pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4: 11 ff).
· Preaching elders with leadership gifts and the grace to shepherd the flock is the rock upon which the church is built in every generation. Calvin stated that ‘the chief sinew by which the whole church is knit together is the office of pastor.’
Next time, the Lord willing, we will look at Matthew 18 and our Lord’s next use of the word church in the New Testament.

Sunday 1 June 2008

A Sermon Outline Preached Recently

A King’s Invitation

Mark 1:14 ¶ And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,

15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

  • The language of invitation by a king.

    1. The Gospel of God and preaching
    2. The time is fulfilled
    3. Man’s Duty: Repent and Believe the Gospel
    4. God’s Mercy

  1. The Gospel of God and Preaching

William Tyndale: the gospel is glad tidings.

‘The Gospel signifies good, merry, glad and joyful tidings that makes the heart of man glad and makes him dance and leap for joy.’

The gospel is a message of good news that is preached.

  1. The Time is Fulfilled

Personal testimony and Revelation 3:20 and the reality of God’s punishment and hell.

Now is the day of Salvation.

The biblical imperative of Today: Today if you hear God’s voice do not harden your heart.

Do not worry about tomorrow.

Deo Volente

Builder’s dream: Wayne Jacobs.

3. Repent and Believe the Gospel

Calvin “The gospel contains nothing else but repentance and faith.” (Ezek: II: 174.)

Change of mind; illustrate Gordon Brown with biblical repentance.

Mind is the entrance to the heart, ‘hearts and minds.’

Acts 20;21 solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Aim is toward God not sin but we need the work of the Holy Spirit.

Assurance; explain Romans 10:9, maybe there are people who are saints but feel the need for a dramatic experience before assured of salvation. Ask yourself questions from Romans 10:9.

Ac 5:31 "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Saviour, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Comment on ‘You must be born again!’ This is not a gospel imperative; explain.

Thomas Watson, explaining repentance:

  1. The sight of sin
  2. Sorrow for sin
  3. Confession of sin
  4. Shame for sin
  5. hatred for sin
  6. Turning from sin

Calvin; “Repentance throws men downwards and faith raises them up.”

    1. The Mercy of God

Gifts of God: Repentance, Acts 11:18, 5:31.

Faith: Ephesians 2: 8-10

Romans 9: 14-18

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!


16 So then it [does] not [depend] on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.


18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

God does not have to accept you, need to be broken in repentance and cry out for mercy in desperation. Childbirth is not generally painless.


This is a charter for personal evangelism.

Repent and believe the gospel.

Tyndale’s description

The Danger of delaying repentance:

  • The time is fulfilled the kingdom of God is at hand.
  • Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Do not deceive yourself by delaying, cf. Sales offers.
  • Thomas Manton “Whoever delays his repentance does in effect pawn his own soul with the devil.”
  • Thomas Watson “by delay of repentance, sin strengthens, and the heart hardens. The longer the ice freezes, the harder it is to be broken.”
  • Thomas Fuller “You cannot repent too soon, because you do not know how soon it may be too late.”

There is nothing better than being a Christian.