Theology: Ecclesiology

The Importance of the Church

I just recently began reading Mark Dever’s book: The Church – The gospel made visible. The following is based on an excerpt from the preface*

The church should be regarded as important because to Christians because of its importance to Christ

  • Christ founded the church – Matthew 16:18
  • Christ purchased it with His blood – Acts 20:28
  • Christ intimately identifies himself with it – Acts 9:4
  • The church is the body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:12,27;  Ephesians 1:22-23 et al
  • The church is the dwelling place of His Spirit – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Ephesians 2:18, 22, 4:4
  • The church is the chief instrument of glorifying God in the world (Ezekiel 36:22-38; Ephesians 3:10
  • The church is God’s instrument for bringing both the gospel to the nations and a great host of redeemed humanity to himself – Luke 24:46-48, Revelation 5:9

 

I trust that I bring you a few more tidbits from this book soon

 

*The Church, The gospel made visible; Dever, Mark (2012); B&H Publishing house; Page x-xi

How Not To Waste A Sermon

As you may know, the conference Together for the Gospel recently happened. You can visit their site here.

I have begun the pleasurable and challenging job of listening to the sermons, and I thought I would share a gem from C.J. Mahaney. The context of this advice is ‘How to not waste a conference’ I have adapted it slightly to be a benefit for us when listening to sermons generally. How not to waste them:

  • Purpose to lean in to every message.
  • Listen humbly not critically to every message
  • Use fellowship times to review each message what was helpful
  • Begin by reviewing evidences of grace that were obvious in each message
  • Communicate to others how the sermon  is helpful to my soul

By CJ Mahaney from T4G 2012

You can listen to the message here 

Five Reasons Why Expository Preaching Is Important

In the previous two posts on this subject I have described a personal testimony about how expository preaching has played a significant roll in my own life followed by a look at precisely what is expository preaching. I now want to turn my attention to why expository preaching is important. I have thought of five points for your consideration although surely there are more.

1. Because Of What Expository Preaching Is

I have look at this aspect extensively in the last post (I encourage you to read it here). In short, this form of preaching because of its systematic way of dealing with the text, it is the best way of representing accurately what the text actually says.

2. Because of What The Bible is

The bible is God’s word, written down for us, for grammar-confuses-the-nature-of-the-holy-spirit.jpg.crop_displayteaching, for reproof, correction, training in righteousness and so on (2 Timothy 3:16). However, as a piece of literature it is a fairly complex document. We would consider it an instruction manual. But it is not just a book of rules that sets out a “when this happens, do that” system. Instead it is a compilation of letters, songs & poems, proverbs, law, census material, history and apocalyptic literature. All this to say, it takes some effort to study and understand it well. Now I believe that anyone illuminated by the Holy Spirit can understand many of the precepts of the bible, certainly enough to get saved, and to grow in holiness. But to fully understand the depths of its treasure you are going to need such items as a Bible dictionary and a concordance, very much assisted by other books such as commentaries and if you really want to dig deep, study the original Hebrew and Greek. All this helps you understand the all important context. An easier way is to be under expository preaching, where a pastor has spend many years studying at a seminary to be able to do all of this for you.

Now, I’m not saying we should never study our bible, absolutely we should and must; but because of what expository preaching is, it allows the preacher to do all of the above for us. Expository preaching wades through the different forms of literature allowing us to get the meaning and application, one verse at a time. You could argue that topical preaching can have the same effect,  possibly so, but I would argue that expository preaching does a far better job because the preacher follows the flow of the passage because the subject is the next verse rather than the preacher’s latest random topic that he decided on. It also allows us to read what the bible actually says rather than using the bible to say what the preacher wants to say.

3. Because of the Roll of the Preacher

It is the roll of the preacher is to proclaim what God has said, specifically in the bible. Let me say it again, his role is to proclaim, to preach, what God would have His children know, NOT what the preacher would have God’s children know. In a sense, this is how it works: The preacher steps back and simply allows the meaning of the text to hit the ears of the people. The preacher plays an important roll. He is the one who studies and now knows Greek and Hebrew. He has studied context, studied commentaries, studied the passage, parallel passages, cross referencing every which item the text contains, squeezing every last drop out of the text in a way that the average lay Christian could never do. He spends a week studying that one or two verses so that he can preach the passage. This is the expositor, the preacher who goes verse by verse, understanding the text in a way most people never could.

stevelawson-preaching-2And using all of that preparation, he allows the bible to speak for itself. If the next verse is on prayer, that’s what he preaches, but not just on prayer in general, but on the specific points that that particular text emphasises or teaches. Or if the next text is on (to pick a random subject) election, then he proclaims precisely what that passage teaches on election. Or sin, or judgement, or Christ’s atoning love for us, or spiritual gifts. or… and so on. Very often, topical preaching, especially in those churches where topical is the main form of preaching, the sermons deal with pleasant, uplifting subjects, very rarely if ever do they cover the hard, or worse, the scary passages in the bible.

Thus to sum up, its the preacher’s job to proclaim God’s word, not his own, even if his own lines up with scripture. That’s very much a bottom line statement.

4. Because the Bible Commands it

2 Timothy 3:16 – 4:1-2

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

2_timothy_titleThe statement I just made above, about the preacher’s job, that statement is based on the above verse (2 Tim 3:16,17 –  2 Tim 4:1-2). God commands his preachers, in light of the fact that all scripture is breathed out by Himself, to preach that scripture, preach the word. I could elaborate further, but frankly I don’t think I need to, the meaning of that text is pretty self evident and speaks for itself.

5. Because it Forces us to Confront Difficult Passages


lloyd-jones

Please click on the audio player above to listen to this point. I think I will let Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones say this one, he can do it infinitely better than I could. The context of what he is talking about in the following audio, is the Calvinism- Arminian debate and the various sides involved. The text he refers to is Ephesians 1:4

 

Another Favourite Video–Leonard Ravenhill

This video is also one of my favourites from times past. Its various clips of Leonard Ravenhill, a gospel preacher who died in 1994. Stand by for another scalding. It is titled:

The Worst Thing To Happen To A Preacher

Expository Preaching, A Personal Testimony Of God’s Grace

This issue is one that is very personal to me. About two and half years ago it was one of the central things in my mind at the time, I was think about it constantly. Why? because I was seeking a new church and the number one thing I was looking for was expository preaching. This is no small claim, bearing in mind that I was leaving my church, my church that I had been going to for more than 10 years, that I had gotten saved at, and done all of my most formative growing from and which I served and loved very much. This is not an easy thing to do. Why was I leaving? It had become necessary, as you see, it was a very left-leaning liberal Methodist church, and I was a conservative, bible believing Calvinist, not in the least a good combination. But for all that, my main reason wasn’t because of the issues that you expect. I was, for example, content to be a ‘silent’ Calvinist, within that congregation, because it was my church. It also wasn’t because of the baptism of children/ believers issue, although by that time I was a convinced ‘believers Baptist’ or even because of there being a woman preaching, although I have to say, this was probably the second most important problem I had. But the thing that drove me to resign membership and begin the hunt for a new place was expository preaching, or to be precise, lack thereof. You see, this church had long since given up any form of expository preaching, but instead opted for a form of seeker-sensitive topical, and they were bordering on emergent by the time I left. As a consequence, the gospel was never to be heard, neither from the pulpit, not from times of fellowship, except with a few of my friends who felt similarly to how I felt.

cluesoWhen I left, I knew what I was looking for. I attended one or two services at a popular Baptist church and at a charismatic mainline church (I know that sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t necessarily) at which a number of my friends attended but neither preached much different to what I was used to at the Methodist church. Sermons leant topical and there was minimal to no gospel being preached.

In desperation I turned to the internet, and here God showed me kindness beyond what words can describe. I searched Google for the following words: “expository, Durban”, (Durban is the city in which I live)  There were two sites on the list, at least at that time, a Baptist church in Morningside, a bit too far away, and another in Hillcrest, somewhat closer. And the Hillcrest site there was the following phrase. “We are committed to expository preaching…”, That was what I was looking for. I took the next opportunity to attend the church (the following Sunday) and was blown away. I had only heard such things on podcasts and believe me, being their in person was a thousand times better than any podcast. What follows is a note I wrote, recording my first impressions of this church:

Tonight 09 August 09 marks the first time I’ve visited a completely new church, the Hillcrest Baptist Church (HBC). This place is unlike any church I’ve been in, even the odd Baptist churches around. The service is small in number, although it seems that morning services are bigger. I am going to begin by laying out a few observations:

  1. For better or worse, the congregation was entirely white.
  2. There was absolutely no gimmicks.
  3. There is no cross that I saw, but the pulpit is the main focus of the sanctuary.
  4. Before the service there was little talking, and a fair bit of bible reading, praying and silence (not total) before God.
  5. The songs were hymns (most modern, one or two old), rich in theology and meaning and not 7/11.
    The people in worship was interesting. The service was uncluttered and it was hard to tell how passionate people are, during the singing. From the perspective of listening, it was great, everyone sung along lustily and with great vigour, but nobody raised their hands at all or moved about much except during the chorus of one song, where two people did.
  6. No one seemed to greet me in the beginning, but I am partly to blame. I came in early, before any door stewards arrived. I raise my hand when asked if there are any visitors, and received a card containing info about a name and address type questionnaire.
  7. After the service a large number of people, mostly young, pinned me down, introduced themselves, and in one case, asked me my testimony, which I was happy to share. This kind of response has never happened before ever and anywhere, someone asking me if I am saved, then for my testimony. All the people who I talked to were in earnest about the things of God and eager to share fellowship with me, going so far as to invite me to mugg.
  8. The sermon was longer than I’m used to, about 45 mins, but that wasn’t a problem, in fact I really enjoyed the preaching (Pastor Clint Archer) and I know God was entirely glorified through it. The man is a bold character with an unusual accent. I would call it Afrikaans mixed with a little American; if that makes sense. The Text was Micah 1 vs 1 – 9 and it was what you could call a full blown expository sermon. To that end, its the best I’ve heard anywhere in the area. The man is not seeker sensitive (hallelujah) and does not water down subjects like sin, or judgment, neither does he misuse grace or mercy. First time in ages I didn’t walk out feeling depressed.
  9. The congregation is intelligent theological, the sermon was not dumbed down, so the pastor talked about doctrines such as substitutionary atonement and justification and the people followed.
  10. The passage did not appear on the screen and EVERYONE had an open bible on their lap. Virtually everyone kept it open during the sermon also.

hbc

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to join, settle down and become a part of the family. I praise God particularly because this was the first and only church I tried that was unknown to me (I had been to the other Baptist church and the Anglican church before) and He led me straight to it. I have heard and read stories of people searching and agonising for months, trying to find a gospel preaching church, and I got one without missing a single Sunday or sitting through a slough of preaching good, bad or otherwise. He truly deserves all the glory for this, and I am amazed, even today when I think back, seeing God answer that prayer (I certainly had been praying for a new church) immediately and so powerfully.

Tomorrow I plan to post more about expository preaching, answering the question, “What is Expository preaching?” I invite you to subscribe via email (on the right-hand sidebar) to get this post delivered to your inbox. Also, have you experienced anything similar to what I have, let me know, feel free to drop a comment below.

Soli Deo Gloria

Even Charles Spurgeon Took Shots For Facial Hair

"What, think you, had I said or done to deprive me of the good opinion of so excellent a Hollander? I will relieve your mind by saying that he considered that I preached exceedingly well, and he did not charge me with any extravagances of action, but it was my personal appearance which shocked him.

I wore a beard, which was bad enough, but worse than this, he observed upon my lip a moustache! Now this guilty thing is really so insignificant an affair that he might have overlooked such an unobtrusive offender. But no, he said that I wore a moustache like a carnal, worldly-minded man!"

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The Church’s One Foundation

Church[5]I though I’d start the week by quoting one of my favourite hymns in its entirety for your consideration. There are one or two verses in here that we don’t normally sing, probably cause it’ll make the song go on for ages (not that that’s a bad thing in my estimation). Nevertheless this is a most excellent summary of ecclesiology, that is, the theology of the church. It’s first two lines that have the biggest bang. If you get these two lines only you will have gotten an excellent nugget of truth about the church. The picture on the left is actually a little inaccurate in depicting the church, as you will find out as you read the hymn.

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!