Monday 22 February 2016

Christianity and the danger of compromise

At one of the very first Banner of Truth ministers conferences in Leicester (I think in the 1970's), England a sermon was preached called "Preaching and the danger of compromise". It was delivered by Rev Kenneth McRae and I have listened to it on CD many times. However, it is not only preachers who compromise, Christians also compromise and it causes much harm in the body of Christ. Compromising Christians may support para-church ministries that may support their own unbalanced emphases or support churches that have long since compromised sound doctrine. Sometimes excuses are made, such as the "people are lovely", but all the while compromised patterns of worship are practiced. We need to be discerning and also we must all avoid the danger of compromise. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals' ".

In the Book of Revelation there are seven letters to seven churches and it is clear that compromise had entered some of those congregations. The dictionary definition of compromise is: "an agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions". Now we need to be flexible and not stubborn, but there are certain matters that can never be traded off through compromise. Sadly, much pragmatism prevails in many parts of the professing church, instead of sound doctrinal principles. Pragmatism asserts that "if something works, then the end justifies the means". However, this was never the principle established by the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles and the prophets on the Old Covenant.

In the church at Pergamum, compromised teaching was being tolerated by Christians. In Revelation 2:14-16, Jesus Christ tells the church: "But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth". This is very serious. To tolerate false teaching regularly means that if people do not repent then Jesus will fight against that church. This should fill us all with a sense of the fear of God.

In the church at Sardis, the Lord Jesus Christ gives a penetrating critique and he tells them: “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you" Revelation 3:1-3.

This is written to the whole church and we need to ask ourselves some searching questions. Have we compromised the plain truth of the Bible? Have we wilfully turned a blind eye to biblical truth for the sake of a life of comfort? Are we tolerating false teaching when we should be running to find a place where sound doctrine is upheld?

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Should the women's Bible study movement be evaluated in the light of the teaching of Scripture?

This blog question is deliberately construed by me, so that we can only answer "yes". Indeed all things should be rightly evaluated in the light of Scripture. However, it appears that in the UK and even more so in the USA, that there is a growing movement of women's Bible studies (usually in the daytime). These are only for women and they are led by women and often with the use of Bible teaching aids and books. It may seem harmless. Surely studying the Bible together is a wholesome thing. The answer to my blog title question needs careful and sensitive evaluation.

Here are some considerations.

1). Our understanding of Titus 2:3-5 will probably direct much of our behaviour. Here Paul writes:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

If we give attention and note two words, which are "to teach what is good" and "so train young women" this will help us. "To teach" is not in a doctrinal sense in its widest sense, because we know that doctrinal and biblical instruction is upon the shoulders of elders (Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3). Elders are men who are godly, able, competent in the Scriptures and appointed by other elders for the task. The teaching curriculum then in Titus 2 for women is a narrow one and it is for older women to be modelling by example, precept and with reference to Scripture, to be a godly wife and mother. Likewise to "train" means to "encourage of advise". Therefore, such a passage does not support women leading regular Bible studies to women.

Regular Bible studies led by women, could mean that some women receive more doctrinal instruction through women, than through ordained elders. This is something to ponder, evaluate and pray about.

2). The teaching of the church is to be primarily through the office of men who are trained and ordained for the task. The church (and not just a single congregation) have to train, test and evaluate a man, hands have to be laid upon him, so that he can give himself to the task of Titus 1:9: "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it".

3. There can be the danger of dividing up the body, something the Apostles' did not permit.

The whole of 1 Corinthians handles this matter. Division must not take place along lines of age, gender, culture, language and so on. Paul insisted that worship must be in Koine Greek in Corinth, so that all peoples could understand what was being said. This is why culture directed congregations are biblically flawed, in my view. We should not splinter off into Chinese, Korean, Nigerian, Syrian, American or British churches when these people groups are living in a different land. Yes, it may help for a season, but all peoples must be integrated together to represent the Triune God in a local church.

Similarly, regular women's Bible studies has the danger of dividing up the body. My wife is not a big fan of them on different grounds. She has found over the years that women together and with a woman teaching, has lacked the spiritual quality which she desires.

I am very happy for blog comments so that we can think through this important matter.

Yours for the good of the church,

Kevin Bidwell

Tuesday 2 February 2016

The Trinity and Justification

It is interesting how little is often said and written about baptism or indeed justification in reference to the Three Persons of the Trinity. In baptism, the centrepiece is not us, but the name of "the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). In justification, in the Westminster Confession of Faith a Trinitarian doctrine is presented for this cornerstone truth which we should learn from.

Look with me at this statement in Chapter 11:4 (Of Justification) in the Confession:

God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,245 and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:246 nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.

Can you see that this is a Trinitarian statement on justification? How and in what way you may ask?

1. God the Father decreed to justify the elect in eternity.
2. God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of the elect and rose from the dead for their justification.
3. The Holy Spirit in due time applies Christ to them.

To God be the glory for this work of redemption accomplished and applied by the Triune God.

Here are three Bible verses to undergird this truth.

1. The work of God the Father.

1 Peter 1:20 "He [the Lamb of God] was foreknown [by God the Father] before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.

2. The work of God the Son

Romans 4:24-25 "It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification".

3. The work of God the Holy Spirit

Titus 3:4-7 "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life".

My desire is that all sections of the church would think in far more Trinitarian terms than they currently do. After all this is the One True, Living and Only God, Amen.