Every Member a Bible Scholar

by David Alan Black

According to Eph. 4:11, the risen Christ has placed teachers in His church, and therefore we are to listen intently and eagerly to what they have to say.

However, it is unfortunately easy for us to distort the scriptural pattern by developing a passive learning-style that makes us dependent on others for our spiritual nourishment. As Paul reminds us in Phil 1:1, the saints are not “under” but “along with” their leaders. No Christian ever need go to God through an earthly mediator. As a kingdom of priests, we all have right of access through the torn veil into the Holiest Place (see Heb. 10:10).

This great New Testament truth is confirmed by the apostle John when he writes, “You all have an anointing from the Holy One… and have no need that any man should teach you” (1 John 2:20, 27). Of course, it was a man who taught us this truth. But his language is a reminder that the priesthood of all believers is an essential part of the biblical idea of the church.

Thus, while teaching is indeed a function required of elders (1 Tim. 3:2), and while the ministry of God’s Word is essential to their shepherding task (Eph. 4:11), this provides no excuse for the kind of pastor-dependence we are witnessing today.

Every member a Bible scholar” can and must become more than a Christian cliché. Insofar as pastor-teachers deepen our knowledge and understanding of the Word, they serve a good, indeed an indispensable, purpose. The purpose turns sour when being “under the ministry of Dr. So-and-So” is made to mean “living on someone else’s predigested food” and becomes an excuse for dismissing the need and importance of personal Bible study.

~ The Covenant News ~ April 29, 2006

The faith family

by Banks

…the comparison of the Christian community with a ‘family’ must be regarded as the most significant metaphorical usage of all…it reveals Paul’s thinking about community.

Paul’s Idea of Community

Spiritual growth occurs best in a caring community

by Howard Snyder

God does not use the Church as a lifeless object, for this would be contrary to all he wants to do within the Church. God’s will is that the Church and each member within it attain “the full measure of perfection found in Christ” (Eph. 4:13). God wants spiritual growth-to-maturity in the Church. As the Church thus grows, it will accomplish God’s plan to make known “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God… to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10). (pg 69)

Too often the Church has been seen more as a mere collection of saved souls than as a community of interacting personalities. Christian growth has been a matter of individual soul culture rather than the building of the community of the Spirit. (pg 74)

Spiritual growth occurs best in a caring community… The Holy Spirit ministers to us, in large measure, through each other. This is what Paul is talking about when he says “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:15-16). This interaction of the many members in one body is body life. (pg 75)

~ The Community of the King

“I am His”

by Thomas Brooks

I am His by purchase and I am His by conquest; I am His by donation and I am His by election; I am His by covenant and I am His by marriage; I am wholly His; I am peculiarly His; I am universally His; I am eternally His.

Once I was a slave but now I am a son; once I was dead but now I am alive; once I was darkness but now I am light in the Lord; once I was a child of wrath, an heir of hell, but now I am an heir of heaven; once I was Satan’s bond-servant but now I am God’s freeman; once I was under the spirit of bondage but now I am under the Spirit of adoption that seals up to me the remission of my sins, the justification of my person and the salvation of my soul.

~ Heaven on Earth

Lives Moulded by the Gospel

by Sinclair Ferguson

The doctrines of the gospel are meant to mould us so that our lives begin to ‘set’ in the likeness of Christ. We have made little or no impression upon the world, for the very reason that the gospel doctrine has made a correspondingly slight impression upon us. It cannot be overemphasized that men and women who have accomplished anything in God’s strength have always done so on the basis of their grasp of truth.

~ The Christian Life, 8-9.

Famous prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

– Reinhold Niebuhr

The wings of grace

by John Bunyan

Run, John, run. The law commands
But gives neither feet nor hands.
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

Christ, the clue to history

by Lesslie Newbigin

The true meaning of the human story has been disclosed. Because it is the truth, it must be shared universally. It cannot be private opinion. When we share it with all peoples, we give them the opportunity to know the truth about themselves, to know who they are because they can know the true story of which their lives are a part.

Wherever the gospel is preached the question of the meaning of the human story—the universal story and the personal story of each human being—is posed. Thereafter the situation can never be the same. It can never revert to the old harmonies, the old securities, the old static or cyclical patterns of the past. Now decisions have to be made for or against Christ, for Christ as the clue to history or for some other clue.

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 125-126

The local church is the hope of the world

by Tod Bolsinger

“The local church is the hope of the world.”  (Bill Hybels)

For most Christians, the local church is usually regarded as nothing more than a personally helpful but basically benign reality.  Oh, sure, we honor the Church the way we honor our Mother’s on Mother’s Day or Veteran’s on Veteran’s day—because we have some genuine affection and mostly because we think it is the right thing to do.  The more traditional of us, may even use exalted language in declaring it a “means of grace.”  But most often we think of the Church as nothing more than an optional “strategy” or a “system” for local evangelistic efforts, social change, or a dispenser of resources to help the individual on his or her Christian journey.  Churches are offered like different shops are offered at a mall. Indeed, the largest churches offer themselves as a kind of spiritual mall in itself, bidding the seeker: Come here and choose from our wide array of Christian classes, teachings, activities, that which you need to live out your individual Christian life.

In this model the church is a repository of spiritual goods that assist the individual Christian. It is a vendor of religious services.  It is The Home Depot for the spiritual do-it-yourselfer who wants to build a Christian home.

But that is not the Church of the first century.  The Church of the first century is “a people.”  And the transformed and transforming quality of “the people” serving as the flesh and blood witness to a life-transforming God is the point. As 1 Peter 2:9-10 says:

“You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful life.

Once you were not a people;
now you are the people of God.
Once you received none of God’s mercy;
now you have received mercy.”  (NLT)

This is what the Bible teaches: The Church is God’s incarnation today.  The Church is Jesus’ body on earth.  The Church is the temple of the Spirit. The Church is not a helpful thing for my individual spiritual journey.  The Church is the journey.  The Church is not a collection of “soul-winners” all seeking to tell unbelievers “the Way” to God.  The Church is the Way.  To be part of the Church is to be part of God—to be part of God’s Communion and to be part of God’s ministry.  To belong to the people of God is to enjoy relationship with God and live out the purposes of God.   This is why the Church is the only true means to be transformed into the likeness of God.

It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian

Looking unto Jesus

by Spurgeon

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.”

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

~ C.H. Spurgeon, Morning & Evening