The Role of the Church in Society

Society is rife with many issues that are given heed to at differing levels of interest by the church today. There are varying degrees of success – or failures. No matter the cause, opponents of the church will seek to undermine any positive influences and accentuate the negatives. In view of the current trend of secularism seemingly in control of popular opinion, what then is the role of the church in society?

In speaking of and about the church it is important to note that herein “the church” means the local church body made of regenerate members and not that of the universal church. The local church body is the point of contact of, and representative for the universal church. Local church bodies should be seen acting in concert with other local church bodies collectively and cooperatively. This is seen throughout Acts and in much of the other books of the New Testament as Paul sought the support of churches for each other and for the church in Jerusalem.

Luke’s account of the activity of the early church in Jerusalem gives the most succinct picture of the role of the church in society. Acts 4:32-37 shows 1) “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own…2) with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…3) there was not a needy person among them, for as…it was distributed to each as any had need.

First, the members of the church were as Acts 2:1 says “they were all with one accord” (KJV). As they gathered together they celebrated. As they celebrated they prayed. As they prayed they worshiped. They gave freely of what they had out of love for each other as they epitomized the greatest commandment according to Jesus (Matthew 22:37-39), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and carried through with the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Secondly, the preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) was important for the public proclamation all Christians are responsible for giving. The early church had the privilege of hearing first-hand from the people that were with Jesus every hour of every day for three years. Today, we are blessed with the Bible that tells the same stories and expounds upon the same doctrines (the main purpose for much of Paul’s writings). Strong exegetical and doctrinally sound proclamation of the gospel is paramount for the church today if wishes to regain a positive role in society.

Thirdly, none in the early church of Jerusalem had any need. This is not so in most churches today. Despite increasing financial burdens and lingering illnesses necessitating being home-bound the members of today’s local churches do not seek to meet the needs of its own membership. Yet, those same non-internally reaching members will lay out literally thousands of dollars to go half-way around the world to do the very thing they neglect in their own church. The hypocrisy of our missions shouts volumes to society today and causes loss of credibility.

The role of the church in society has been in large part abdicated and can only be viewed as a hollow facade of what used to be a respected and sought after leader in our culture. As a whole, forfeiture of an active role has become the norm from community to community though some corners do seem to be able to grab some form of media attention and point to that as proof of an active role. The local church as become less important due to its lack of love and compassion for its own membership (assuming regenerate membership). Instead of the gathering place to celebrate God’s work in their lives, it has become the social club for conscious-salving “mission projects” at best and dark-room-meeting places for the ego-driven power mongers at worst. Church has become more about what-someone-else-does-for-me rather than the assembly of God-worshiping, blood-bought, born again, Christians.

The church must revisit the oft repeated Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and its corollary of Acts 1:8. Matthew records that the church (implied) should teach all that Jesus had commanded. This carries the overt implication that the teachers would be obeying those very commands. Obeying Jesus’ words will strengthen the church in the rest of the commission to go and make disciples. The role of the church in society starts closest to home and moved outward (Acts 1:8).

Is there concern that the church’s voice is being drowned out by alternate influences? We can change that by hearing the voice of the needy in our own congregations. Is there concern that poor preaching and teaching is corrupting our congregations’ view of God? That can be changed by giving heed to those that only preach the gospel and teach the doctrines found there. Does the church’s lack of influence diminish its presence? Taking care of each other will strengthen the right to be heard in our society.

The role of the church is to start being the church again.

Lifestyle & Behavioral Choices and Organ Transplants

Tobacco

Lifestyle and behavioral choices lead to much pain and suffering in today’s society.  Below are some facts and figures to help highlight the destruction of two such behavioral choices – smoking and alcohol consumption.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20

  • Approximately 1 in 136 or more than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease.  27, 035 deaths from alcohol related chronic liver disease and cirrhosis occur each year in the US 2001 – www.cureresearch.com
  • …Percent of adults who drank alcohol in the past year:  62.5% — www.cdc.gov
  • …Currently, nearly 14 million Americans – 1 in every 13 adults – abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. – www.wrongdiagnosis.com
  • …430,000 people die each year form tobacco-related diseases making smoking the leading cause of preventable death – www.aarc.org
  • …Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is caused primarily by smoking.  Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 80 to 90 percent of all COPD cases.  COPD is 10 times more likely to kill a smoker than a nonsmoker. – www.texaslung.org
  • …COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U. S. and is projected to be the third leading cause of death for both males and females by the 2020. – www.copd-international.com
  • …COPD patients account for 60% of all single lung transplants. – www.lungusa.org

Lifestyle and behavioral choices lead often to organ failure.  Below are some facts and figures that highlight the cost on society, the possible agony of waiting for a replacement donor organ, and the economic impact of lifestyle and behavioral choices

What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?  –Psalm 89:48

  • …In social and medical venues, debate continues to focus upon alcoholism…smoking…and other behaviors as diseases or character flaws.  Such behaviors are associated with disease processes in many adults.  The Ethics Committee (United Network for Organ Sharing) has historically supported the conclusion that past behavior that results in organ failure should not be considered a sole basis for excluding transplant candidates.  However, additional discussion of this issue in a societal context may be warranted.  – UNOS Ethics Committee General Considerations in Assessment for Transplant Candidacy (www.optn.org)
  • Nearly 21% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 were waiting for a liver (a 2% increase over the previous year).  Over 27% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 that were waiting for a liver died, representing close to a 10% mortality rate among those waiting for a liver transplant. – www.ustransplant.org
  • …Over 4.6% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 were waiting for a lung (a 3% increase over the previous year).  Over 11.6% of all persons waiting for an organ transplant in 2003 that were waiting for a lung died, representing over an 11.6% mortality rate among those waiting for a lung transplant. – www.ustransplant.org
  • …Average cost of a lung transplant in 2002, including evaluation, procurement hospital, physician, follow-up, and immunosuppressant pharmacological therapy — $343,000.  Average cost of a liver transplant in 2002 — $313,600.  — Milliman USA Research Report, July 2002

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD Than great treasure and turmoil with it. –Proverbs 15:16

Contemplation


Contemplation
Originally uploaded by Through the Veil

In life, the ebbs and flows are expected to come and go. Expectations of continual heightened spiritual awareness without dips into stagnation are not the norm.

Having experienced a season of elevated studies with goals set by academia I am now experiencing an interesting and troubling phenomenon — no direction.

While I have no real concern for the vocational calling God has for me, I do have concerns:

–How do I move from the years of mostly scholarly study back into a more devotional study?

–How do I move the Bible back into a perspective of God speaking to me instead of classroom textbook?

–What does a diploma on the wall really represent if I sense the distance between God and myself has increased instead of decreased?

–Will I ever get the excitement and energy back from when I first heard God’s vocational (1997) and salvation (1991) calls in my life?

These are the questions that haunt me.

Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.
–Psalms 5:1-2

Ooo! Aahh!

Christmas Fireworks at the Summit2007-11-16, originally uploaded by Through the Veil.

A local shopping center recently had a Christmas lights party where they invited the community to celebrate the official lighting of its Christmas decorations. They had fireworks (as seen above), free hot chocolate & apple cider, and a local church to come and “do the show.”

In fact, this local church was the centerpiece of the program. Their talented musicians provided ambiance (despite poor mike work and lousy sound set-ups) to the occasion playing and singing many magical Santa songs and one set of three or four Christmas carols. The “youth” group got in on the act as well.

When we arrived at the event we were expecting a secular presentation, free hot chocolate (as advertised), and a chance to be out and about after a week of work and school. Noticing the prominence of the church involvement, we thought that this might be a good outreach in which Jesus would be presented to many.

We were wrong. Jesus was only mentioned as a character in a few songs. He was not talked about as the nice people gave my children their hot chocolate. He was not there. We were even told to wish each other “Happy Holidays” thereby taking His name out of the celebration entirely.

This “church” thinks it did a “community outreach.” They provided mediocre entertainment, hot chocolate, and a hot air balloon. They conducted a membership drive for a social club. When given the opportunity to “preach Christ crucified” they gave free photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The free travel mug was nice though. My wife scraped the name off it and decorated it.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 (ESV)

Why I am not a “Calvinist”

Building on a Building

The ideals embodied by Calvinism in general are well and good. The rebuttal to the 5-points of Jacob Arminus given by the Synod of Dort provides a good starting point in framing a Biblically founded personal theology. This has been conveniently turned into an acronym to summarize its tenants: Total Depravity of Man, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance. TULIP is more correctly known as the Doctrines of Grace. Were it enough to characterize Calvinism by the Doctrines of Grace alone there would be no problem in being identified as a Calvinist. The following short list contains views typically held by Calvinists with explanations. These views are “why I am not a Calvinist.”

  • Paedobaptism: This view of baptism holds that infants can be baptized and be considered Christians.

This is bad doctrine. Correct doctrine is the foundation for healthy assemblies of believers. Anything that promulgates bad doctrine should not be considered as valid. Paedobaptism actually becomes a non-issue when viewed in its correct setting as “bad doctrine” and “credo-baptism” (Believer’s Baptism”) is taught and practiced.When even a cursory review of the New Testament (NT) is taken the reader cannot help but to notice what causes divisions in the NT churches, particularly at Corinth. The one repeated ground for divisions in the NT is when someone is regarded as unregenerate.Believer’s Baptism is the only outward presentation a believer is commanded to make. If we cannot expect a potential member to do this one simple thing (or provide some kind of proof he has done so as a believer) then why build a “church” membership base on it? Modes of baptism not withstanding, the “whens and whys” have to becarefully observed. If someone refuses believer’s baptism, then what are we to conclude? We are to conclude they are unregenerate and hence SHOULD be excluded from the Lord’s Table and “church” membership.

  • Covenant theology view of salvation: This assumes that the covenants of God from the Old Testament (OT) are still in force and allow the covenanters to receive salvation in Christ and hence are part of Jesus’ church.

This view is the primary reason there is not a Puritan church alive and well today. It is actually quite ironic that many leading Calvinists push Puritan beliefs even though those beliefs led to the downfall of that belief system. Legacy church membership became a norm for the Puritan church and stagnation led to the downward spiral that would eventually become Unitarian/Universalism.This view holds that anyone in a home is granted salvation by the salvation granted to the head of that home. The Passover story in Exodus 12 is often used to substantiate such a position.With the initiation of the New Covenant (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-28) Jesus showed the salvation that is only possible by His blood. It was made at a specific point in time and applied to a specific group of people – the church (Matthew 16:18) which Christ said He will build.

    Eschatology: Generally speaking, Calvinists often believe an amillennial position. Some even go as far as to declare a preterist view point. Rarely will a Calvinist hold any form of a dispensational view.

Most typical Calvinist eschatology again comes from the Covenant theology view of salvation that believes the church embodies saints from the Old Testament as well as the New Covenant (word choice made on purpose). This is often wrapped up in the inclusive term of Kingdom of God to be understood synonymously with the Church.While a dispensational view of eschatology is far-fetched at times and often stretched to some unbiblical substantiated conclusions, the idea itself of dispensations is quite Biblical unless Paul is wrong (Ephesians 3:2 KJV and others). Some translations have stewardship, others have administration but the idea that there is some kind of division in God’s plan is evident.The Kingdom of God is simply the whole of God’s plan. It is comprised of three dispensations (or stewardships, administrations): OT saints, the Church, and Jews brought to salvation during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7).John the Baptist typifies the OT saints (John 3:28-30) as being separate from the bridegroom and yet friends of the bridegroom. Paul understands the church to be the wife of the bridegroom (Ephesians 5:22-33) while John provides apocalyptic imagery of the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:6-9). Therefore the Kingdom of God is composed of the three: OT saints, the Church, tribulation Jews and saints.

God has made Himself and His plans well known.  While we will never know nor understand everything about God and what He does, He involves us in His salvific purposes. God and God alone should hold our allegiance since we are members of His church and hence His kingdom. Therefore a better term for characterization is “sovereigntist” to show our fealty to our Sovereign.

That is “why I am not a Calvinist.”

What’s in a Name?

blue ladder

blue ladder, originally uploaded by Through the Veil.

 

Matthew 16:19-23 (Mark 8:27-33)

Peter had arguably the most prestigious vantage point in history as he walked among the disciples as they accompanied Jesus on His journeys throughout first-century Palestine (modern Israel). After Jesus showed Peter and the others a lesson in faith (Walk to Faith) the disciples saw more wondrous things. They saw the sick healed. They heard Jesus teach rather forcefully to the Pharisees about traditions. They saw four thousand more miraculously fed. All this forms the background to the next step in Peter’s process.

Jesus removes Himself and the disciples out of Palestine to Caesarea Philippi (modern Syria) and engages in what we may term today as a debriefing. Many people had seen and heard Jesus along with the disciples. Jesus used this opportunity to teach them more about who He is by asking them what the people were saying about Him, “who do people say the Son of Man is?” In answer, several possibilities were brought out – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. All the answers given in Matthew 16:14 were dead people. None of the answers satisfied Jesus so, He asks another question, “But who do you say that I am?”

This question may have seemed odd to the disciples. After all, they have spent practically all their time with Him after being called BY Him to follow Him. Perhaps some possible answers to the question that ran through their mind might include master, teacher, prophet, or healer. They may have had agreement with the names put forth by the general populous. To the disciples then it must have seemed strange to hear the fisherman Simon Peter blurt out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). How did he come up with an answer like that?

In response to Peter’s answer Jesus blessed him and explained how Peter would know that answer. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). God revealed Himself to Peter to illustrate Who He is as a record for us to read, study, and meditate upon. This truth Peter blurted out was not a human thought but the result of the Sovereign God. Even in clarity, we still misunderstand even the simplest to comprehend revelations.

Jesus commends Simon Peter and reminds him of his nickname – Peter. “You are Peter.” Much has been written on about this phrase. In summation and review, Peter means “stone or pebble,” it is Petros in Greek; it is a male gendered noun. Jesus means to remind Peter to remain humble by reiterating the meaning of that auspicious nickname. Jesus then says that the answer Peter gave, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” is the rock Jesus will build his church. Rock here is petra in Greek, it means “bedrock”; it is a female gendered noun – in short, it is very different than Petros though it sounds alike. It is this foundation and revelation of the deity of Jesus Christ that Jesus says He will build His church and not the fisherman Peter. Peter echoes this in his first letter when he says to the readers that they are being used as living stones in the building of a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-6).

Peter must have been feeling good about giving the right answer. In fact, this might have been precipitous in his upcoming conversation with Jesus. Jesus started teaching them about His upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection (Matthew 16:21). For whatever reason, whether a personal connection akin to “teacher’s pet”, a need to schmooze after showing off, or just plain concern for Jesus’ well being, Peter thought it necessary to take Jesus aside from the rest of the group for a private conversation.

Remember that in Matthew 16:16 Peter identified Jesus as “the Son of the living God” thereby recognizing Jesus as sovereign deity. How odd then to read in verse 22, “Peter…began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’” Peter, in essence, just told God His plan must not be carried out. He first affirms Jesus in His sovereign deity and now he denies Jesus in His sovereign deity.

Jesus’ response was quick and revealing. He said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23). The contrast in nicknames for Simon leaps off the page. He is called Peter the stone (by inference from Peter’s letter, a building stone) and then a short time later identified with Satan (Job 1-2), which means “adversary.” The feelings of euphoria turning to despair must have been nearly crushing to Peter.

Jesus identified an action in Peter that is all too common in us today. We come to a newly understood revelation of who God is and how we interconnect with His plan in a way that could only be supernaturally revealed by Him. Instead of seeking to remain at His side for further instruction we then use our own ambitions to define and execute God’s designs and plans. Instead of then being a valuable building material chosen by Jesus Himself, we become like Satan and seek to thwart that which we most want to be a part of.

Jesus follows up by teaching the disciples further (this would include Peter as well). “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). May we learn Peter’s lesson through the Word of God.

We will find Peter next in the upper room on the night of Jesus betrayal.

Definitions

When defining terms in theology sometimes you need a program to figure out “who” is on first base. The following is a classic commentary on emergent church, word of faith, mormonism, and just about anything else contrary to orthodox Christianity.

(disclaimer:   not responsible for spewed beverages on computer screens.  Viewer assumes all responsibility for any perceived humor arising from viewing of following clip.)