Why should we witness for Christ?
First, because Jesus Christ commanded us to, Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 20:21. In light of Christ’s command,
Evangelism requires taking the initiative–“go therefore and make disciples.” We cannot wait for the lost to come to us; we must make a concerted, determined, intensive, and aggressive effort to win the lost to Christ.
Evangelism results in making unbelievers into followers of Christ–“make disciples.” This involves instruction and persuasion from their present position to a radically different one. A disciple or follower of Christ believes, obeys, and promotes Jesus Christ.
Evangelism results in public profession–“baptizing them…” The only way a follower of Christ can be identified is if he/she has made a public profession of faith, and the first step of obedience that Jesus set forth for making that public profession is through baptism. If someone maintains that they are a disciple but will not be baptized, he/she is not following Christ!
Evangelism results in training–“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” The new convert must be taught how to live right, recalling the lifestyle they are coming out of (Col 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9). All training must be centered on the Bible and focused on Jesus Christ.
From Jesus’ commands in Luke 24:46-49 and Acts 1:8 we learn additionally the following about evangelism:
Evangelism involves a message–“repentance for forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47). We must inform unbelievers of their state before God and Jesus Christ as their only hope of deliverance.
Evangelism involves an activity–“proclaimed in His name” (Luke 24:47). This is the means that God has established by which the message is brought to sinners.
Evangelism involves a plan–“to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). This is the scope and object of executing the means of bringing the message to sinners. There are no exceptions, whether racial, social, political, economic, or geographic.
Evangelism requires empowerment–“clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). Apart from God’s enabling power it is a hopeless task. With God’s strength and enabling help you can have real confidence in evangelism.
Pastor Greenfield taught this lesson during the Wednesday Bible study, September 12, 2007
What does it mean to be a witness for Christ?
Why is defining evangelism important? After all, everyone who is a Christian knows the importance of it. But that is exactly the point: there is a great deal of difference between knowing that evangelism is important and knowing what evangelism is. Knowing the character and purpose of evangelism helps determine how it is to be done and whether or not one has been successful in it.
First, we need to consider some wrong ideas about what evangelism–what it isn’t.
Evangelism is not “getting someone saved.” This puts the emphasis on conversions rather than content (2 Cor 2:17; 1 Thess 2:3-4). It puts the focus on results instead of our responsibilities (Acts 18:5-6; 20:26-27). It puts our confidence in our persuasiveness instead of God’s power (1 Cor 2:1-5; 2 Cor 4:1-7).
Evangelism is not helping people be better people by “meeting their real needs.” This puts the emphasis on us transforming the culture rather than God transforming sinners. It requires the church to be involved in unequal yokes with unbelievers rather than holy separation to the Lord. It removes the need for repentance and faith and replaces it with moralism. Lastly, this is the social gospel that leads to apostasy, rather than the Savior’s gospel that leads to eternal life.
Evangelism is not “living a good life.” This puts the emphasis entirely on my lifestyle rather than telling others the gospel. This is a wrong application of a good passage such as 1 Peter 3:1.
What is evangelism, then?
Evangelism is an activity: a Christian tells the gospel to a sinner.
The activity is preaching, proclaiming, telling the good news (Acts 8:4, 12, 35).
The subject matter is the gospel; Jesus as the Christ; the Word; the good news; Jesus; resurrection; the faith (Rom 1:15; Acts 5:42; 8:4; 17:18; 1 Cor 1:23; Heb 4:6; Gal 1:23).
The objects are people; cities; villages (Acts 8:40; Luke 3:18; 4:43; Acts 8:25).
The aim is that those who hear would turn from paganism to God; to make disciples (Acts 14:15, 21).
The manner is plainly, not in cleverness of speech; without charge; truly (1 Cor 1:17; 2 Cor 4:1-2).
Here, then, is a proposed definition of evangelism: Earnestly proclaiming the gospel to sinners so they can turn to Christ and follow Him.
Biblical evangelism is God centered, not man centered. It trusts the message, not the messenger. It relies on God’s power, not persuasiveness. It seeks to save the lost, not transform the culture.
Thus, we must concentrate on knowing the content of the gospel. Believers already know it, but often lack an organized plan of communicating it. We must thus commit ourselves to speaking the truth, going through doors God opens, and seeking opportunities to speak the message.
Is it possible to know a lot about God, have a special ministry from God, experience the amazing grace of God and yet be angry with God?
Is it possible to believe that God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and sovereign, and yet imagine that you can actually keep God from doing something?
Is it possible to believe that God knows everything (is omniscient) and is perfectly wise, and yet think that God has made a mistake?
Is it possible to understand the difference and significance between material things and the human soul, and yet be more concerned about material things?
The book of Jonah answers all these potential scenarios with a definite “yes!” Jonah was a prophet who knew God, received but rejected God’s special commission, experienced God’s grace in the sea, and proclaimed the Lord’s message to Nineveh. It seems that Jonah has learned his lesson. Does he now recognize and welcome God’s sovereignty over all things?
How did Jonah respond to the sovereign mercy of God? Well…
Jonah Pitched a Fit, 4:1-4
In 4:1 Jonah demonstrates our own thick-headedness: he just refuses to get it. His attitude toward the repentant Ninevites is the complete opposite of God’s (cf. 3:10). Jonah took no joy in the outcome – he sank (“became angry”) into a selfish mind-set and missed the joy of serving the Lord.
This chapter reveals several different evidences of sin harbored in the heart, and here is the first one: festering anger.
The object of “pitching a fit” is to get your own way. While we often think of children as those who throw a fit, there are many adults who do a fine job of it! Jonah’s prayer expresses his presumption that God’s mind should match up with his own! We read in chapter two how Jonah was delivered from death; what does he ask for in 4:3? Death!
These two verses (4:2-3) reveal several more evidences of sin in the heart: disobedience to God, unreasonable desires, and selfish demands.
The Lord’s response to this prophet’s tantrum is a rhetorical question (4:4). Note that no answer from Jonah is recorded; we read instead of how…
Jonah Threw a Pity Party, 4:5-8
Think back to Jonah’s first response to the word of the Lord in 1:3—what did he do when God commanded him to go and preach? He went the opposite direction! Here Jonah refuses to answer God’s question in 4:4—he refuses to examine himself in light of the Lord’s question. Instead, Jonah goes outside Nineveh to see if God would come to His senses!
During the hottest time of day in that area, the temperature can average 110 degrees. If we were in God’s shoes, we’d probably let Jonah go his own way and suffer in the heat: “you deserve it buddy.” As God is holy, he does not respond as we do. Instead, he miraculously caused a tree with large leaves to grow 8-10 feet high—and Jonah is thrilled! The result: for the first time in the book we read that Jonah is happy!
Another evidence of sin in the heart: refusal to rejoice when others are blessed. Jonah refused to think that the Ninevites should experience any of God’s mercy.
God’s sovereign power and will is abundantly clear in this passage, and he exercises his power to set the stage to make his point. God appointed a plant to shelter Jonah from the heat (4:6). God appointed a worm to destroy the plant (4:7). God appointed a scorching wind to make Jonah miserable (4:8).
Amazingly, Jonah was displeased when something important to him was destroyed. Jonah’s sinful response was shown in his selfishness and refusal to love what God loves.
Thus far, we have seen how this “man of God” has responded to God’s sovereign display of mercy toward the Ninevites: he threw a fit because he didn’t get his own way. When he refused to answer God’s probing question, God sovereignly appointed events to make his point clear to Jonah.
God Makes His Point, 4:9-11
The last exchange between God and Jonah goes something like this: “So Jonah: you feel you’re justified in your response?” “Absolutely. In fact, it’s such a conviction to me that I’m willing to die for it.”
Jonah was upset when God removed his personal air conditioning unit because something good for him was taken away. In essence the prophet says “I had a right to that!” Jonah demonstrates one last evidence of sin in the heart: misplaced values.
How skewed were Jonah’s values? In practically the same breath Jonah called for the death of the Ninevites while demanding his own personal comfort: “I want them dead! Now, where’s my gourd???”
God makes his point in 4:10-11—“Jonah, your values are way out of line. You’re concerned about a thing, and absolutely unconcerned about people. You’re obsessed about something that’s here today and gone tomorrow, but dismiss those who will live for eternity. You’re passionate about material objects and completely indifferent about moral creatures made in my image.”
“Jonah, as God I have the right to show mercy to whomever I want to. You’re response—as one who has experienced that mercy—is to submit, get on board, and rejoice in my mercy.”
When God does something, you too must recognize and accept his sovereignty and rejoice in his mercy. When you elevate your plans and expectations to the level of “This is what God should do,” you are no longer humble before God.
Remember the marks of sin in the heart that Jonah demonstrated in this chapter:
- Festering anger
- Disobedience to God
- Unreasonable desires
- Selfish demands
- No joy when others are blessed
- No desire to love what God loves
- Misplaced values
Have you learned your lesson? What is your attitude toward God’s plan and purposes today? Where are your values and priorities?
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, September 9, 2007
True believers can get themselves involved in serious sin, and with such sin can come serious consequences. How should you respond then? In despondent self-resignation? In prideful excuse of personal responsibility? No! Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up! He did with Jonah!
True believers will trust in the Lord. How should you express your trust in the Lord in the most trying of circumstances?
You Must Pray To The Sovereign God For Mercy (2:2-7)
True believers will express their trust in the Lord in the most trying of circumstances through prayer for mercy in the difficult time. True prayer involves trust in the Lord. How must I show such trust in prayer?
Know That God Will Hear Me No Matter How Difficult The Situation (2:2). It seems as if Jonah has really “hit bottom”—he was not merely in the jaws of death, he was in its digestive tract. This great fish is not known; was a definite miracle—God “appointed” that the fish would be at just the right place at just the right time. No situation is too “hard” for God to be heard by his people because of his unlimited power and relationship with his people. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, show your trust in Him in difficult situations by praying to Him, knowing that He will hear you.
Recognize God’s Sovereign Hand In The Situation (2:3). Although the sailors physically cast Jonah into the sea, Jonah readily acknowledges that ultimate responsibility rests with God. Perhaps the most important aspect of v. 3 is Jonah’s testimony to God’s sovereignty. He saw God’s hand in being thrown into the sea and he saw the ‘waves and breakers’ that swept over him as tools in God’s hands.
Recognizing God’s sovereign hand helps us to remember that nothing happens apart from God’s purpose—whether he is actively involved in the situation or permits events to occur.
Submit To God’s Sovereign Discipline (2:4). Having earlier attempted to flee to Tarshish from God’s presence, Jonah now finds himself destined for the grave (Sheol). Jonah knew his plight was the consequence of disobeying and provoking God; he realized how terrible a thing it is to be apart from the presence of the Lord. He expresses his trust in the Lord by stating that he will pray again to the Lord from Jerusalem (“your holy temple”).
Trust God No Matter How Dark The Situation (2:5-7) Picture Jonah being cast overboard, struggling in the water as described in vv. 5-6a. Verse 6b provides a harrowing perspective – trapped, unable to escape, bars surrounding every potential exit. Once in the grave, Jonah would be forever imprisoned. All hope is lost. The weight of the water gave Jonah the sense of being entombed by the sea. These verses speak of great despair and utter hopelessness. Yet, Jonah expresses praise of God’s sovereign power (v. 6b).
How should you respond when your sovereign God brings you face to face with your sin? Part of a right response is prayer. When you as a believer are caught up in the consequences of your sin, don’t despair or give up; trust in the Lord through prayer,
- Knowing that God hears you
- Recognizing God’s sovereign hand in the situation
- Having an attitude of submission to his discipline
- Trusting him no matter how dark it seems
You Must Praise Your Sovereign God For His Mercy (2:8-9)
True believers will express their trust in the Lord in the most trying of circumstances not only through prayer for mercy, but when the prayer is answered the true believer will praise his God for that mercy.
True praise has a single object—the Lord God. What is involved in true praise to God?
Trust In God Alone, For Only He Shows Mercy (2:8). To look to anyone or anything else is “vain” and idolatrous. People – including believers – look to money, work, things, and even their families for help. In Jonah’s day, for an Israelite to do such a thing was to “forsake their faithfulness,” the blessings that were theirs through the covenant the Lord made with them—God’s faithfulness, goodness, and graciousness, the one true help for human beings.
Worship God Alone, For Only He Is Worthy (2:9). Worship involves sacrificial giving, thanksgiving, and commitment. Only the true God should receive these, and believers who have prayed for God’s mercy must worship him for the mercy they have received. While we do not offer sacrifices as they did during Old Testament times, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ still offer sacrifices:
- Our lives, Rom 12:1-2
- Our finances, Phil 4:18
- Our praise in song and testimony, Heb 13:15
- Good works, Heb 13:16
Look To God Alone, For Only He Can Save (2:10). People today look for deliverance from any sphere other than God. True deliverance, safety, and salvation is found only through the Lord. Here the emphasis is on the Lord’s sole sovereignty in the area of salvation. Jonah recognized that he deserved death, not deliverance. He knew that no one deserves salvation; it is an act of mercy by a gracious God.
The Bible tells us that any believer can become wrapped up in sin (Gal 2; 6:1-2; 1 John 1:9). The response of the true believer to his sin is renewed trust in the Lord expressed through prayer for mercy and praise for such mercy.
Don’t despair Christian—God may have you going through a challenging time, but it may be to help you learn to lean on no one else but the Lord Jesus Christ.
In whom do you trust?
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, August 26, 2007
Is it unreasonable for an institution to require expectations of those individuals who would identify with it? Many businesses require their employees to dress a certain way as their employees are their “face” and they want a certain image portrayed.
Does the NT have expectations for those who profess to be believers in Jesus Christ? It sure does! Consider these two verses:
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
How believers live does matter, it is important, and the church covenant is essential in this regard.
What is a Church Covenant?
A church doctrinal statement summarizes what a church believes the Bible teaches. The church covenant summarizes its understanding of how a Christian should live. It does not take the place of the Bible; rather, it spells out the church’s understanding of what the Bible expects a church (a body of believers) to be and look like.
A covenant is a solemn promise. As a church covenant, believers make a solemn promise to God and the local church that they will live the way outlined in that document.
Who Can Enter the Church Covenant?
Membership in a local church – and therefore those who enter the church covenant – is restricted to those who have been born again and baptized by immersion.
Furthermore, one should only enter the covenant of a local church if they agree to be held accountable (responsible for) to that particular body of believers. They should additionally agree to hold that particular body of believers accountable for their entrance into the covenant.
We began looking at points that will characterize our church covenant, which you can access here.
Having by God’s grace trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior,1 we desire that Christ would be pleased and preeminent in all things,2 that he would bless and use this church so that all praise and glory would be his,3 and that we would be complete in him.4 Therefore, we do now, in the presence of God, his angels, and this assembly, solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.5
We will by God’s grace seek to grow in our faith through the daily study of the Word and prayer.6 We will be separated unto God in our thoughts, desires, appearance, and activities, guarding ourselves against those things that are sinful, could tempt us to sin, or that do not promote or are not consistent with holiness.7 We will be witnesses for Jesus Christ by spreading the gospel and possessing a testimony that supports the gospel.8 We will make church attendance a priority, striving to attend as many of its services as possible.9 We will fulfill our family responsibilities, each doing his part to please Christ in our homes and promote godliness.10 We will live godly lives among unbelievers and be good neighbors and citizens.11
Furthermore, we will endeavor by the Spirit’s help to uphold and promote the doctrines of this church, the public ministry of the Word, observe its ordinances, and follow our leaders.12 We will serve the Lord faithfully, using the gifts and abilities he has given for the growth, edification, maturity, and protection of this body.13 We will pray daily for the members and ministry of this church14 and faithfully, cheerfully, and proportionally give of our income to the Lord for the support of this church and the Cause of Christ.15
At all times we will demonstrate toward each member Christian love, humility, patience, and concern in our attitudes, speech, and actions.16 We will partake of our mutual joys and sorrows, lovingly giving of our material substance for pressing needs.17 We will pursue those things that encourage believers to be faithful rather than trouble their consciences, disturb their faith, or cause them to sin.18 We will exercise a Christian care and watchfulness over each other, frequently exhort one another, and as the case may require faithfully warn, rebuke, and admonish one another with kindness and wisdom.19 When we receive correction from a brother in Christ, we will not reject or resent such but receive it with humility, careful self-examination, and necessary confession and repentance.20 We will jealously guard the Spirit-given unity of this body, refusing to participate in or condone gossip, strife or dissension.21 In any personal disagreements or offenses, we will seek resolution and readily forgive each other rather than hold a grudge.22
We will diligently learn God’s will through his Word and our leaders’ counsel in matters of doctrine and practice,23 seeking their guidance if doubts arise regarding the ability to uphold this church’s doctrines and covenant.24 In the event we must move from this place, we will seek to unite with a church of like faith and practice, and if such a church does not exist we will strive to begin such a work.25
1 Acts 13:48; Rom 10:9-10
2 2 Cor 5:9; Eph 5:10; Col 1:10, 18
3 Eph 3:21
4 Col 1:28
5 Gal 6:1-5; Phil 1:27; Heb 3:12-13
6 Col 1:9-10a; 2 Tim 3:16-17; Heb 5:11-14; 1 Pet 2:2; Jude 20-21
7 Rom 12:1-2; 13:14; Phil 4:8; 2 Tim 2:19; 1 Pet 1:14-16; 2:9-12
8 Acts 1:8; 2 Cor 5:11-21; Phil 2:14-16
9 Acts 2:42; Heb 10:25
10 Eph 5:22-6:4; Col 3:18-21
11 Rom 13:1; Gal 6:10; Col 4:5; 1 Thess 4:11-12; 1 Tim 3:7
12 Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:23-26; 16:16; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:1-5; Heb 13:17; Jude 3
13 Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:7; Eph 4:11-16; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 4:11
14 Eph 6:18-20
15 2 Cor 9:6-15; 3 John 5-8
16 Rom 12:15-16; 1 Cor 13:5-7; Phil 2:1-7; 1 John 2:9-11
17 Acts 2:44-45; 1 Cor 12:26; Jas 2:14-17; 1 John 3:13-18
18 Rom 14:13, 19-20; 1 Cor 8:7-9, 12-13; 9:12; 10:23-33; Phil 2:1-4
19 Matt 18:15-16; Rom 15:14; Gal 6:1-2; 1 Thess 5:11, 14; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25; 12:12-13; James 5:19-20
20 Psa 32:3-5; Prov 3:11-12; 6:23; 12:1; 13:18; 15:5, 10, 12, 31-32; 25:12; 27:6; 28:13; 29:23; 1 Jn 1:9; Rev 2-3
21 Eph 4:1-6; Prov 11:13; 20:19; 2 Cor 12:20; Titus 2:3; Eph 4:29-32
22 Matt 5:23-24; 18:15; Rom 12:17-19; 1 Cor 6:1-8; 2 Cor 2:10-11; Eph 4:32; Jas 5:9
23 Prov 11:14; 19:20; Col 1:18; 2 Pet 1:3
24 Amos 3:3; Acts 15:37-41
25 Heb 10:25; Acts 11:19-26
There are three essential ingredients of effective evangelism (cf. John 17:13-20).
- The World is our Mission Field. As believers who are in the world but not of the world, our need is to contact sinners. C. H. Spurgeon said, “Those men who keep themselves to themselves, like hermits, and live a supposed sanctified life of self-absorption, are not likely to have any influence in the world, or to do good to their fellow-creatures. You must love the people, and mix with them, if you are to be of service to them.” The danger we face is contamination by the world.
- The Word is our Message. Our need then is for clarity and accuracy in speaking the message, and the danger is confusion or corruption of the message.
- The Witness is the Messenger. Believers need character or integrity in order to avoid the danger of contradicting the gospel message.
There are many different obstacles to evangelism, but consider these four:
- Intimidation: we fear evangelism (cf. 1 Cor 2:3)
- Ignorance: we lack organized knowledge
- Inability: we don’t know how to witness
- Indifference: we lack motivation to tell others
Consider these six requirements for effective evangelism:
- The Gospel Message, Rom 1:16; 10:17
- A life of Integrity, 2 Cor 4:1-6; Phil 2:14-16; 2 Tim 2:20-26
- Boldness, Eph 6:19-20
- A Clear Presentation, Col 4:2-4
- Dependence Upon God’s Power (2 Tim 2:25), sought through prayer (Acts 4:23-31) and brought by the Spirit (Acts 4:31)
- A Compassion for the Lost, Matt 9:36-38; Jude 24-25
Is church membership optional? Can’t I just wander around from church to church as I please and enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ? This is a very common belief and practice, especially among many who have no church to which they are responsible for their actions.
Why Is This Something Important To Consider?
To have a better understanding of what the local church is to look like and how it is to function. The biblical form of “church government” recognizes ultimate authority as residing with the congregation, not one or a handful of individuals. Who makes up the congregation? Anyone who happens to be there at that time, or individuals who have previously committed themselves with others to a common cause?
There are churches and believers who do not consider church membership biblical. Consider, for example, the Church of God denomination that exists in several strains: the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God of Prophecy, the Church of God: Cleveland, TN, and the Church of God, Anderson, IN. The last one listed rejects all forms of church organization, including formal church membership.
Those who trust Christ must recognize the necessity of church membership. Church membership is in a sense voluntary—it is not something forced upon individuals. But it is not optional or a matter of indifference. Christians are under moral obligation to become members of a local church for their and the church’s benefit. Refusing to become a member of a church is disobedience. Every believer is under the law of Christ and is sacredly obliged to follow Him. Christ has ordained that his disciples so unite together.
There is a distinct difference between church fellowship and Christian fellowship. The former includes the latter, but not vice-versa.
Church fellowship involves those united in covenant in one church; is not given unless requested and granted (churches have the right to grant, withhold, and remove fellowship); involves special/specific duties (particularly Lord’s Supper, baptism, receiving new members, care of members, participation in meetings, collections, support of and participation in worship, prayer, and ministry); and involves the honor and welfare of the church.
Christian fellowship exists wherever Christians are found; exists whether requested or not; involves general duties; and involves only the honor and welfare of individuals.
The character of our church depends on the members which constitute it, just as the character of a building depends very much on the materials of which it is constructed.
A church’s internal life, order, and ability to accomplish its God-given task are affected and controlled by the people who compose it. Imagine a building made up of bricks without any mortar holding them together!
The Biblical Basis for Church Membership
“The necessity of membership in the local church is never questioned in the New Testament. It is taken for granted. Had we asked the believers of the Apostolic period whether it was essential to join a church, they would not have known what we were talking about. Every believer became a member of a church. It was involved in the very profession he made in Christ. . . There is no authority for abandoning the local church altogether for a purely individualistic Christian existence. The very Christian profession involves fellowship with other Christians” (Alva J. McClain).
Five lines of evidence from the churches mentioned in the New Testament establish church membership as biblical and expected of every believer:
1. The Pattern of the First Local Church.
In the very first church the pattern is clearly demonstrated: “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Sinners trusted Christ, testified of their faith through baptism, and were added to the disciples who already made up the church in Jerusalem.
2. The Church Knew How Many Were Identified With It.
In the same verse they knew how many were added to their number (three thousand). Acts 4:4 relates the same – “but many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”
3. Officers Were Chosen From Among Their Members.
At this same local church the believers were to select “from among” themselves certain men for appointment to the position (Acts 6:2-5). The “whole congregation” (vv. 2, 5) knew who among their number were qualified for this office and chose men from among themselves.
4. The Practice of Church Discipline Assumes a Known “List.”
The three main passages that address the subject of church discipline are Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.
The situation at Corinth was a difficult one: one of their own number was involved in immorality (1 Cor 5:1). Paul instructed this group of believers that when they assembled (v. 4) they were to “remove the wicked man from among” themselves (v. 13). These three verses demonstrate a definite knowledge of who belonged to the Corinthian church.
Also, the final aspect of church discipline – putting one out of the church – cannot happen unless that individual had at some point been taken in! Individual Christians were taken in, identified with a local church.
5. The Church Kept Special Rolls for Other Purposes.
The epistle of 1 Timothy deals with the subject of proper church order (“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the…church,” 3:15). In 5:9-10 Paul states the necessary qualifying requirements for widows “to be put on the list” (v. 9). The fact that they had lists for such a purpose shows that the concept and practice of formal lists or rolls identifying individuals was not unknown among the early churches.
The Importance of Church Membership
For many American Christians today, the church as an actual body of confessing believers is simply a matter of convenience. Whether or not one joins – not to mention participate – is considered a personal matter. If someone in the church is offended, the pastor hits too close to home from the pulpit, or a pet program or agenda is rejected, the individual simply pulls up the stakes and moves to the next church. The fact and importance of the local body of believers as essential to Christianity and the Christian life has been lost, not to mention the concepts of commitment, obligation, responsibility, and dedication.
Being a member of a local church is essential to the individual Christian and the entire body. It is assumed and expected of true believers of Jesus Christ. The local church is the God-ordained vehicle for carrying out His program in this age. Membership is essential to the body of the local church, so that all may profit from their Christ-given spiritual gifts (Eph 4:11-16), fellowship (Acts 2:42, 47), and admonition (Heb 3:13).
The Bible provides several passages that give the truth of the “rapture” of the church. Here are five, with the important phrase italicized:
John 14:2-3 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
1 Cor 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Phil 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
1 Thess 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
2 Thess 2:1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him
These passages only tell us of the fact of the rapture; they say nothing of the timing or when in God’s prophetic plan or calendar it will occur. While this requires more study than proving the deity of Christ (for example), with a little time and study you can have a biblical understanding for when Christ will return for church age saints.
While an exhaustive study is more than can be accomplished here, a basic survey of the Scripture’s teaching can be given, focusing on four basic lines of truth:
The Purpose of the Tribulation
1) During this period God will render judgment on the exceeding and unrepentant sinfulness of the wicked (Rev 9:20-21; 14:14-19).
2) Israel will be chastened for her millennia of unbelief (“Jacob’s trouble,” Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1) but because of this judgment, the nation will turn to God and be born again (Dan 12:1; Zech 12:10; Rom 11:26).
3) In addition to God’s salvation of individual Israelites, a large number of Gentiles will also be saved (Zeph 3:9; Rev 7:9-17).
4) The church is never identified as present during this period of judgment.
God’s Promises to the Church
5) God has promised to protect the church by removing it from the time of world-wide judgment during the Tribulation (Rev 3:10).
6) God has promised that He will not allow the church to go through the period of His wrath in the end times (1 Thess 1:10; on “rescued” cf. 2 Pet 2:5, 7 – neither Noah nor Lot went through God’s judgment on the ungodly but were delivered from such).
7) God has promised that through Jesus Christ Christians will have no part in the coming day of judgment (1 Thess 5:9).
The Place of the Church in the Book of Revelation
8 ) An honest, simple reading of this epistle has to recognize that while the church is often mentioned in chapters 2-3, it is never mentioned in chapters 4-19.
9) These sixteen chapters describe the time of wrath (6:15-17; 14:10; 15:1; 19:15) from which God has promised to deliver the church.
10) Where is the church during the Tribulation? From 13:6 (“his tabernacle, those who dwell in heaven”) and 19:1-10 (“the marriage of the Lamb…his wife has made herself ready”) church age saints are in heaven and they will follow Christ when he returns to the earth at His Second Coming (19:14).
Christ Can Come at Any Moment
11) In passages that clearly talk about the rapture, no mention is made of any event that must happen before Christ’s return for the saints.
12) When Paul spoke of the rapture he included himself as a potential participant (1 Cor 15:51-53; 1 Thess 1:10; 4:15-17).
13) Christ’s coming is described as being “at hand” (Rom 13:12; Jas 5:8-9; Rev 22:7, 12, 20) and Christians are exhorted to look for Christ’s return (1 Cor 1:7-8; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:13).
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday evening, July 22, 2007
The subject of Christ’s Second Coming was dear to the heart of the early church and had a prominent part in the apostles’ teaching and preaching. In the history of the church, this subject has been like a clock’s pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the other.
- After first centuries to the extreme of being forgotten
- Revived shortly after the Reformation
- To other extreme of setting dates for Christ’s return
- Has come back to a balanced, biblical view, though both extremes are still present today
Perhaps because of these “pendulum swings” and/or the challenge of understanding prophecy this doctrine of the Second Coming often is not given the “air time” it deserves. Is it fair, though, to ignore a doctrine because of the actions of fanatics? There have been fanatical responses to almost every major doctrine of Scripture. Does that keep us from preaching about Jesus Christ, the unity of God, justification, or sanctification? No!
As the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), it is the church’s responsibility to pull such doctrines out of the muck in which they’ve been degraded and lift them back to the exalted place the Scripture gives them.
Note the place that Paul gives it here! In Titus 2:11-14 he provides the basis – why – Christians should live godly lives. Part and parcel of the grace that saves and sanctifies is constantly, continually, and eagerly looking for Christ’s return. You must live a godly life while looking for Christ’s return.
Jesus Christ is God and Savior, 2:13b-14
This is one of the clearest verses in the English Bible of the deity of Christ – “our great God…Christ Jesus.” Because Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, he could provide a sacrifice for sins that was 100% satisfactory to God. No sinner can ever – in this life or eternity – make a final satisfaction for sin. Only Jesus Christ the God-man accomplished that!
In addition to redeeming believers from sin, he reclaims them for his service – “to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” No longer serving self and Satan, believers are saved by Christ to zealously live for Christ.
Jesus Christ is Coming Again, 2:13a
Christ’s Coming is the “Blessed Hope”
The Second Coming of Christ is clearly taught throughout the Bible by the prophets (Zech 14:3-4), Jesus Christ (John 14:2-3), the angels (Acts 1:11), and the apostles (Acts 3:19).
“so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Heb 9:28)
Christ’s Return has Two “Stages”
In the first “stage” of Christ’s return Jesus will come in the air for church age saints. This is called the rapture (Latin for “snatch”), and is taught, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Church age saints will be “caught up…to meet the Lord in the air.”
In the second “stage” of Christ’s return Jesus will come to the earth with his saints. This is called the revelation, and is taught in Revelation 19:11-16. If you compare these two passages you will see an obvious difference between them! The Second Coming of Christ will be:
- Visible – seen by the church at the rapture, by the world at the revelation
- Sudden – “I am coming quickly” (Rev 22:7, 12, 20)
- Imminent – at any moment, no predicted events requiring fulfillment (1 Thess 1:9-10; Titus 2:13; Heb 9:28)
Christ’s Coming is Anxiously Awaited by Christians – “looking”
There is a vast difference between looking ahead and looking over your shoulder!
When you’re looking ahead, you see what’s coming, do all you can to move “faster” toward the objective, and have a positive, anticipating attitude. When you’re looking over your shoulder, you have an attitude of fear, move along slowly because you’re not watching where you’re going, and are more concerned with evading than anticipating.
In this context, believers are reminded that God’s grace not only brings salvation, it teaches them what not to do and how they should live. Can you honestly say you are eagerly anticipating Christ’s return while indulging sensual fleshly desires? Are you striving to be sensible, righteous, and godly? Continually looking for Christ is a helpful perspective on living life in this world (cf. Col 3:1-4).
What would you think of a bride who on the day and time of her wedding was
- Dating another man?
- Rummaging through a dumpster or garbage can?
We would say the first and third activities are definitely wrong and out of place. But is there anything sinful about sleeping or sewing? No, but they are not things that the bride should be doing at that point in time! she has a more important thing to attend to!
In like manner, the church is called the Bride of Christ (cf. Rev 19:7-8). There are things that Christians should never involve themselves with as such are not appropriate of Christ’s Bride. There are also activities or pursuits that – while not evil in and of themselves – should not occupy our time. There are more important things to do!
What’s going on in your life? Is your life characterized by a real desire to see Christ? How are you spending your time? What are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing? What are you not doing that you should be doing?
Are you looking and ready for Christ’s return? He is coming!
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 22, 2007
Consider this list of situations you could experience in life:
- A situation that you have failed to solve or correct
- An incurable illness or physical ailment
- Personal relationships that have been permanently frayed
- Genuine possibility of losing your job because of evil motives
Now, how will having a nice new home, the latest model vehicle, or money in the bank really help you with and through any of those situations? They won’t!
At the time Paul wrote the Corinthians this epistle, the church there was divided and troubled. He testified of experiencing an “incurable” physical ailment. The pressures of other churches were constantly weighing on his mind. Wherever he went to preach the gospel hostile Jews harried and hounded him.
Yet, in roughly 10 years from the writing of this letter he will be on the gallows and exclaim, “I have fought the good fight…to Him be the glory forever and ever…grace be with you.”
How in the world can anyone be content in such situations? Only through grace can you be glad on the gallows. How can God’s grace help you in the worst situations and thus any situation?
Rely Solely on God’s Grace, 12:9a
You need to see two essential characteristics of God’s grace from Paul’s testimony here. First, Christ’s grace is supernatural help. Paul relates the predicament he experienced in 12:7 – a thorn in the flesh – and his prayer that received this answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
God’s help appeared to Paul in his circumstances and situation. Grace is God’s kindness to mankind and it is supernatural, above and beyond this sphere of existence.
Second, you must rely on God’s grace because it is sufficient help. How many of us would have wanted to hear the answer to Paul’s prayer that he did? What would your response really have been? It is a sad fact that many evangelicals deny in practice the sufficiency of God’s grace. The idea is that grace is good enough for surface issues, but for really tough problems you need psychology, therapy, or something else. Have we forgotten that we’re talking about God here???
God’s grace is sufficient to help you through any situation or experience. The problem, more often than not, is not with the grace, but with us! In addition to relying solely on Christ’s grace, you must
Rejoice in Trials through God’s Grace, 12:9b
This is a tough one. Rejoice in trials??? There are two reasons why you should. First, rejoicing in trials is the right thing to do. Probably one of the last things you would think of doing is “boasting” about life-threatening or disturbing problems. This doesn’t mean that you find difficult circumstances enjoyable in and of themselves. Rather, you see them as an opportunity for God’s grace to be shown, displayed, and magnified.
Remember James’ words: “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (1:2-3). Do you rejoice in trials? It is the right thing to do, because this is one of God’s means of making you stronger in Him and more dependent on Him.
Second, rejoicing in trials brings Christ’s power. Christ said to Paul, “power is perfected in weakness.” The weaker – less dependent on self – that Christ’s people are, the more conspicuous is His strength in sustaining them.
The idea of Christ’s power dwelling in you is that of taking up residence. This indwelling power is the result of the Spirit strengthening you in your inner man, giving you the needed strength to patiently endure any circumstance and joyfully thank God for that circumstance because it resulted in the magnification of His grace and glory.
Christian, this is a hard lesson to learn, but it is one that brings rich blessings: it is when you are out of answers, confidence, and strength, with nowhere else to turn but to God that you are in a position to be strengthened by the Lord.
No one in Christ’s body is too weak to experience God’s power, but many are too confident in their own strength. Lastly, for God’s grace to help you, you must
Recognize the Truth of God’s Grace, 12:10
Christ’s grace exists in any circumstance. What would you think of the list of troubles in this verse?? Having a right view of trials and suffering is essential for Christian living. Focusing all your efforts on removing difficulties is not the answer.
You must embrace the trials God allows you to undergo, knowing that it is through them that God helps you see your character, humbles you, draws you closer to Him, and shows His grace and power in your life.
Christ’s grace enables contentment in any circumstance. There really is no human explanation for Paul saying “I am well content” in any of these situations. It is important to note that Paul’s attitude and actions were not controlled by the situation – he was controlled by Christ.
Christian, when you rely on Christ’s grace, rejoice in Christ’s grace, and then reckon Christ’s grace to your circumstance, He enables you to have contentment in any circumstance.
It is only through grace that you can be glad on the gallows!
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 8, 2007
If a farmer wants to see a good crop, it won’t happen just because he has good intentions. The same is true of an athlete who wants to run a 15k marathon!
Paul wrote to Timothy because of false teaching and living that were being spread in the Ephesian churches (1:3). The instructions in this epistle are important because of the essential role of the church, God’s people in this day and age: it is “the pillar and support of the truth” (3:15)
Beginning in chapter 4, Paul warns that local churches can expect to see the spread of demonically taught doctrines. How can churches deal with this? What can be done for protection? God’s people must live godly lives.
Protecting yourself and your church from apostasy requires three essential activities:
Definite Teaching, 4:6-7a
In order for you to be protected from apostasy you need to listen to definite teaching. Timothy is called “a good servant of Christ Jesus” (4:6). The difference between a good and a bad servant is what one does with the truth of God. Good servants of Jesus Christ teach “these things” of Scripture, not man’s ideas.
This definite teaching must be doctrinally based. Christians must be taught and learn “the words of the faith and of sound doctrine.” This refers to the gospel and all the doctrines that result from the gospel, which is simply biblical Christianity. The only other source of teaching is identified in 4:1 as “doctrines of demons.”
What must you do with this doctrinally based definite teaching? You must be “continually nourished” by it. Living a godly life involves more than just possessing good doctrine-you must be constantly nourished, continually trained by it. This isn’t something that just happened once in the past or occurs periodically-it must be your day-to-day habit. You must daily feed on the Word (1 Pet 2:1) and devote yourself to the public teaching of Scripture with God’s people, the church (Acts 2:42).
The continual growth and training that comes from attention to doctrinally based teaching necessarily requires separation from false teaching. There can be no tolerance of unbiblical teaching in your or the church’s life. Too many have a “smorgasbord approach,” picking and choosing whatever looks or sounds good (cf. 2 Tim 4:2-4). “Worldly fables” refers to teaching that is radically opposed to God’s truth-there is nothing sacred about it. In order to live a godly life you must “have nothing to do” with such teaching!
A second essential activity you must give yourself to in order to live a godly life is
Disciplined Living, 4:7b-9
False teaching and living is always a danger. God has provided you with the means of protecting yourself, so you must use them! You should not expect to merrily go along and expect to grow in Christ, just as the farmer shouldn’t expect a good crop to automatically pop up!
Protection from apostasy requires disciplined living. What will a farm look like if the farmer sleeps in until 9:00 a.m. everyday? The Christian life is no different-you must discipline yourself. The Ephesian and Roman cultures placed a premium on physical exercise and appearance, what Paul here calls “bodily discipline.” The idea is vigorous training.
As a believer, you must look at every aspect of your life and work to make them all consistent with, supportive of, and working toward God’s intentions. It’s not enough to just “believe” good doctrine or “belong” to a good church. What should you rigorously discipline your life for?
A disciplined life strives for godly living (4:7b). Godliness is a life that is consistent with and a result of God’s truth – a God-reverent life that is not merely one of form and appearances but of active obedience. You want to live this way and you’re doing all you can to live a life totally set apart, dedicated, and consecrated for God (1 Cor 6:19-20; 10:31). How can you have such a disciplined life?
Living a godly life requires prioritized living (4:8). Living a disciplined life involves saying “no” to things that might not be bad in and of themselves. You must do this so that you can give more attention to things that are of greater importance – “bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
This isn’t a slam against physical exercise – the point is one of contrast. The good that physical discipline accomplishes is limited to this life-the good that spiritual discipline accomplishes is unlimited! Maybe you’re not big on physical exercise so this contrast doesn’t hit home as hard. Consider these things that may apply, areas that you do discipline yourself to accomplish:
- Make it to work on time every day
- Keep a tidy home
- Pay your taxes and bills
- Buy Christmas and birthday gifts and cards for your 85 children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews
- Remember when a certain video is out
- Not miss your favorite TV show
- Cook or bake an intricate recipe
- Keep thousands of tools cleaned and organized
- Take care of dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, gerbils, spiders, fish, and birds
- Plan for a big family event or vacation
- Care for your body, hair, clothes, or nails
- Have a beautifully landscaped home
- Effectively fulfill your responsibilities at work or school
These things in and of themselves are not evil! But Christian-will you be occupied with them 100 years from now? What priority do the things of God have in your life that will help you be godly, such as Scripture, prayer, public worship, and service?
A last essential activity that you need to be actively involved in to live a godly life is
Diligent Service, 4:10
Protection from apostasy requires diligent service. The idea here is one of hard, exhausting work. There is more than enough to do in spiritual service. The Christian who says “there’s no place or program for me to serve in” probably isn’t looking or trying hard enough.
Diligent service is fueled by confidence in God. When you have a real knowledge of Who you’re serving and what He holds out for you, that gives you the motivation to train hard to be like Christ in your life.
What are you training yourself with-God’s truth or worldly truth? Is your life disciplined to serve God now? 100 years from now what will you be doing?
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, July 1, 2007