Thursday, October 1, 2020

Holy Spirit Seminar - Lesson 23- "The Holy Spirit You Can Count On"


Mobilizing the Church

"He [Moses] chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people" (Exodus 18:25a).

In Ephesians 4:11–13, the Holy Spirit tells us the reason God has set up officers and leaders in the church: so that the entire population of the church can be built up to do the church’s work. There has been a tendency over the ages, however, to let the pastor or preacher do it all, and the result has been that after nearly 2,000 years, the church has still not carried out the Great Commission.

For centuries, worship consisted of the priest or pastor doing everything. Only recently has congregational participation in worship begun to be recovered. For centuries, evangelism was seen as the task of specialists. Only recently has a vision of mobilizing the laity for evangelism been recovered. We can say the same thing about counselling and other works of the church.

In Exodus 18, we see how God organized the church of the Old Testament. We find that Moses was spending all his time hearing the disputes of the people. His godly father-in-law, Jethro, advised him to set up captains over tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands who would serve as judges for the people and as an ascending series of courts of appeal, with Moses as supreme judge. With this system of elders in place, Moses was able to devote himself to teaching the Word of God to the people.

The passage implies that Moses taught the people by meeting with these elders and teaching them. They in turn communicated the information to their groups. After all, it was impossible for Moses to stand up and lecture a body of more than two million people.

In addition to being judges and teachers, these men were war captains. The organization was a military organization, and military terms were used. Also, the account of Jethro’s advice in Exodus 18 comes right after the battle against Amalek in Exodus 17. In that account, Moses was war chief, and he fought by holding up God’s staff. When his arms grew weary, Aaron and Hur supported him. Similarly, the captains over tens, fifties, etc. would support Moses. The primary form of warfare, as we see in Exodus 17, is prayer (lifting God up), and so the elders were to be prayer captains as well as battle chiefs.

The three tasks of the officer in Exodus 17–18 are to teach the people, to lead them in the holy war of prayer, and to judge disputes. This is the task of the elder. This is how the church is organized and the laity mobilized. As you look at this model, do you see improvements that could be made in your own situation?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Office of Teacher

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church are worthy of double honor" (1 Timothy 5:17a)

The word 'teacher' is used in the New Testament primarily with reference to Jesus, but it occurs elsewhere as well. One of the most revealing places is John 3:10, where Jesus calls Nicodemus a “teacher” and makes it clear that a teacher is someone who understands the Bible and theology and is professionally involved in teaching. The New Testament office of teacher is that of pastor-theologian.

In the Bible, the teacher and the rabbi are accorded a great deal of respect. The disciples of the teacher, and of the prophet in the Old Testament, waited on him and took care of all his needs. In ancient Israel, people rose up when a teacher entered the room or the synagogue. And in the Christian church (in most place outside of America), teachers and pastors even today are accorded such ceremonial respect.

1 Timothy 5:17 says that elders who direct the affairs of the church are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. This implies that some elders have a special task of teaching and others do not. This distinction in some branches of the church underlies the difference between “teaching elders” (pastors) and “ruling elders” (men who oversee the people and govern the work of the church). In addition, many branches of the church ordain men who are not functioning as elders in a local church to be teachers in Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, and other special ministries.

Ephesians 4:11 says that the ascended Christ gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor/teachers. This is a list of four types of men, the last of which is given two names (pastors and teachers). We know that the apostles were only for the period before the Bible was completed, and it is generally agreed that the same is true of the prophets, since the Bible is the completed prophetic Word of God. Some have held that the office of evangelist was also temporary, but it is more common to find that the office of evangelist is that of “church planter.” After the evangelist plants the church, the pastor-teacher comes to lead it, assisted by the elders, deacons, and deaconesses.

Showing respect for the teacher in the church is a way of showing respect for the teaching. It is the office, not the person, that is due such respect. Think how you can communicate that respect to the teachers that labor in your church. Encourage others in your fellowship to do the same.

Monday, September 28, 2020

God's Mercy

 The Lord is merciful (Jonah 4:2). God’s mercy is His kindness to a person in misery (Matt. 9:27). The apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). Notice the order. God is first the Father of Jesus Christ, and then our Father if we are in Christ. Christ has everything first, and we receive all from Him. He is the first Son, and we are sons. He is the first beloved of God, and we are beloved in Him. He is filled first with all grace, and we are filled from Him (John 1:16).

 God must first be the Father of Christ, and then our Father through faith in Christ, so that He may be “the Father of mercies” to us. God’s mercy must see God’s justice satisfied. One attribute must not devour another in God (Ps. 85:10). God cannot wrong His own justice, but it must be satisfied by Christ (Rom. 3:26). Christ took our nature to die for us (Heb. 2:14, 17), so that God could be our Father despite our sins, for He has punished our sins in Christ, our surety (Heb. 7:22). Thus God, out of His heart of mercy, found a way that He might do good to us and bring together His mercy and justice. God is holiness; we are a mass of sin and corruption. But Christ died for us, and God is the Father of mercies to all who are in Christ. Since God’s justice has been satisfied for sin, the obstacle is removed and the stream of God’s mercy runs freely.

 God is merciful by nature. The sea is not more naturally wet, the sun does not more naturally shine, fire does not more naturally burn, and gravity does not more naturally pull weights down, than God naturally shows mercy when His justice is satisfied. God’s attributes, such as His wisdom and power, would terrify us apart from His mercy. But if we know Him as the Father of mercies, then all His attributes becomes sweet to us. His wisdom will plan good things for us. His power will free us from our enemies. His justice will vindicate us against those who wrong us.

 God glorifies Himself in showing mercy. God is merciful before we are converted. He delays His wrath and does not punish the sinner immediately. God is merciful in forgiving all sin, punishment, and guilt when we trust in Christ. God is merciful in correcting some of the sins of His children (Heb. 12:6), while passing over many sins, and moderating His correction with gentleness and perfect timing. He is merciful in continuing our daily blessings. If we have comfort, it is mercy. If we have strength, it is mercy. His mercies do not fail but are new every morning (Lam. 3:22–23). Everything that comes from God to His children is dipped in mercy.

 When God is severe with sinners in His justice, it is their fault. His heart is merciful (Lam. 3:33). He is good in Himself. We provoke Him to be severe in justice. But in His own nature, “he delighteth in mercy” (Mic. 7:18). Therefore He will be merciful to all who repent of their sins and take hold of Christ by a true faith. This is the name by which God wants to be known, “merciful and gracious” (Ex. 34:6). The Psalms tells us the same thing, again and again (Ps. 86:15; 103:8, 13; 111:4; 116:5; 145:8–9).

 God’s promises are promises of mercy. Whenever a sinner repents, regardless of how many or how bad his sins may be, God will forgive them all (1 John 1:7). The Bible says to the guilty soul, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). We are vindictive, quick to be offended and seek revenge. Our thoughts of mercy are poor and narrow because we are so unmerciful. But God’s thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways above our ways (Isa. 55:7–8). God’s mercy is infinite!

Sunday Sermon: "Kindness" (Galatians 5:22-23; Luke 10:25-37)

Matthew Dowling, preaching minister at the Plymouth Church of Christ, delivered a sermon message titled "Patience" from Galatians 5:22-23 and Luke 10:25-37. The September-October sermon series is "The Fruit of Our Faith."