I have been intrigued by some of the Anabaptists and how some of them seemed to see the gospel message and the practices of the early church so much more clearly than most of the well-known reformers did. I just finished reading about Knox and the struggles that went on in Scotland; showing a viciousness that we wouldn’t begin to tolerate today. Many of the reformers gave little support to the Anabaptists, often allowing or even condoning their torture and martyrdom.

Here is an blog by Alan Knox that takes up some similar thought on The Assembling of the Church blog.

Thanks to Dave Black, I read an article summarizing the history, practices, and beliefs of the Anabaptists in sixteenth century Europe. Interestingly, I was talking with my son recently about the Anabaptists. He’s taking a World Civilizations class at a local community college, and they recently started talking about sixteenth century Europe, the Reformation, and even Anabaptists. It’s amazing how much people are now learning about the Anabaptists by reading what THEY wrote instead of reading what others wrote about them.

The article that I’m referring to is called “Anabaptism: Re-monking the Church After Christendom.” The article is two years old, and primarily studies the connection between Anabaptism and monasticism. However, it begins with a great list of general practices and beliefs that were distinctive to Anabaptists:

  1. The need for conversion – challenging the notion of a Christian culture
  2. Baptism is for believers and implies accountability to the community
  3. Multi-voiced church life – challenging the dependence on the clergy
  4. Economic sharing – simple living and responsibility for others
  5. Non-violence and an active commitment to peaceful living
  6. Truth-telling and a rejection of oath-swearing
  7. The centrality of Jesus and his call to serious discipleship
  8. Acceptance that suffering and persecution were normal for Christians
  9. The freedom of churches from state control or interference
  10. A wholehearted rejection of the Christendom system

By the way, it seems it was primarily that last distinctive (“a wholehearted rejection of the Christendom system”) that earned Anabaptists the ire and condemnation of others who sought to continue Christendom and the church-state connection. (In the eyes of those who held to the church-state connection, many of the other “distinctives” indicated a rejection of Christendom.)

Interestingly, while “Anabaptism” seems to have “failed,” many of these distinctives (especially the rejection of the church-state connection) are now accepted broadly among Jesus’ followers.

Just wondering, among my readers, which of the distinctive practices and beliefs of Anabaptists mentioned above do you think are important for the church today? Which ones are not important? Feel free to give your reasoning if you’d like. (You can use the numbers if you don’t want to type it all out.)

Although some who fall under the Anabaptist umbrella seem more than a little “different” when one looks at their core beliefs, we find much to agree with. Check out

Dave Black on Philippians 2:12-13

by Brian Fulthorp

 

Aug 5th 2012, 9:11 AM I always enjoy and benefit from reading Roger Olson’s blog posts. Since we’re studying Philippians in our Greek 3 class this summer, I was especially glad to see his recent sermon called “Grace Works” Philippians 2:12-13. I partly agree, and partly disagree, with his exegesis. I agree that the term “salvation” (soteria) in 2:12 is not referring to forensic, juridical justification but rather to what Olson calls “life after conversion.” Where I might diverge a bit from Olson is in his definition of “life after conversion”: “maintaining a healthy relationship with God as a converted believer.” This interpretation, in my view, is short-sighted since it begs the question of context and the macrostructure of the book (see my Novum Testamentum essay, The Discourse Structure of Philippians).

What does Paul mean by “work out your own salvation”? As Olson correctly notes, there are too many contextual clues to conclude that Paul is referring to initial justification. The emphasis is on the life of a Christian. But let us take that thought one step further. There are two main imperatives in 2:12-16: “work out your salvation” and “do all things without grumbling and complaining.” Hence 2:12-16 may be analyzed as a continuation of the plea to unity begun in 2:1-4. The theme of 2:12-16 may be stated thus: “I plead for you to obey me and to work at bringing healing to your community. For God is already at work among you to foster mutual good will instead of ill will. Do this in order that one one will be able to find fault in you as you share with others the message of life.” As F. F. Bruce writes (Philippians, 56-57), “In this context Paul is not urging each member of the church to keep working at his or her personal salvation; he is thinking of the health and well-being of the church as a whole. Each of them, and all of them together, must pay attention to this.”

In other words, what many commentators fail to consider is the corporate dimension of Paul’s exhortation in Phil. 2:12-13. Apparently his concern is that the Christians in Philippi, torn apart by dissension and strife, will work to complete the sanctification of the church (and each individual within it) lest the work of the Gospel be hindered. Believers are “co-souled” (2:2), inextricably linked together by the Spirit of God on the basis of their common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, who is in the process of creating a visible community of faith — a living, breathing organism that knows that its most credible form of witness to the world is its own unity and love. In this light, verse 14 now makes perfect sense: the Philippians must “do all things without grumbling and complaining.” To be saved is to enter into a faith community that grants all of its member the opportunity to experience the depth of Christ’s love. Thus Paul is addressing the matter of unity where it matters most — in the area of interpersonal relationships. Perhaps this explains why his love ethic is so thoroughly eschatological. It is an ethics bound up with the purpose of the church as the New People of God whose citizenship is in heaven and whose ethics are best seen in the virtues of self-abnegation and humility of mind (2:3-4).

From this point of view, “salvation” in 2:12 is not simply a matter of one’s relationship with God. The role of the saints is much broader and deeper. Salvation helps us to structure our congregational life in such a way that we have the greatest potential to be influential witnesses within our families and communities, among whom we shine as stars in the world as we offer them the life-giving message. Hence we must always be praying that our love for one another (and, of course, for God) “might abound yet more and more in knowledge and full discernment” (1:9), simply because lovelessness is one of the main reasons people say they do not want to accept the Christ of Christianity.

It is easy to talk about New Testament church life. It is much harder to practice it

by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church blog

This morning, I was minding my own business when I ran across a new post by Dave Black. Once again, in a few sentences, he directly expresses something that I’ve been trying to express for months – maybe years.

In my previous post, I wrote that life in Christ together as the church is not about being perfect. Instead, it’s about continually changing and maturing as we seek Christ together. Dave’s post is a great example of this:

Aren’t you amazed by the book of Acts? I am. Its principles for Christian ministry and church structure are so radically different from what is taught and practiced in so many of our churches today. (Can you really see Peter and his wife on a rooftop promoting their new book on sex?) Here’s the problem. It is easy to talk about New Testament church life. It is much harder to practice it. I am very grateful for pastors at Bethel Hill who have taught us the major themes of Acts, including biblical eldership. It gives me renewed hope that things can actually change. So what if we fail? It’s better to try and fail than to sit around and do nothing. Acts has so much to say about church planting, missions, evangelism, church polity, and so much more. No book is more relevant for our times. But with knowledge comes responsibility. Obedience to Christ must be wholehearted. Jesus cannot work through disobedient disciples. If we want to see a genuine Great Commission resurgence in our day, we must get serious about obeying our risen Lord. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin either by commission or omission and are not quick to repent. The first Christians sought not only to understand as much as they could the “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) but to obey it, whatever the cost. If they were here today, I imagine they would be watching Bethel Hill Baptist Church very closely. They would tell us not to be afraid of the Holy Spirit, of His sensitive touch, of His guidance and power, of His desire to empower the church so that we might believe and obey. Their example stands like a lighthouse to us in our drifting. They would remind us that obedience is not a luxury. It is a top priority if a church is to grow and prosper.

Will you agree with everything they are doing? Probably not. But, hopefully, you can be excited, like me, that they are seeking to follow their Lord, even when it means changing their practices. (I’d prefer they seek to follow Jesus than to follow anything that you or I might say, right?)

In fact, the point here is not about agreeing with the changes they are making even. I don’t even know what those changes are. But, it’s exciting whenever any group of believers recognizes that they are not perfect and that there is room to grow closer to patterns and practices that we see described in the New Testament.

Like I wrote at the end of my previous post: “There are no perfect churches. But, there should be no static churches either.”

We all build, but not in the same way

by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church blog

If you peruse the posts (old and new) on this blog, you’ll find that I write often on the subjects of church gatherings and mutual edification. Why? Well, for one thing, for my PhD dissertation I am studying mutual edification as the purpose of the church gathering together from the perspective of Scripture. For another thing, well, I think the church should all work together to build up one another in maturity in Jesus Christ whenever we meet together. (Which, of course, is why I’m studying that subject for my dissertation…)

Earlier this week, Dave Black wrote a short post that touches on this subject. This is part of his post from Monday, November 14, 2011 at 1:35 p.m.:

Paul made it clear that all of the Colossian believers were to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). The author of Hebrews makes the same point when he writes, “Exhort one another every day” (Heb. 3:13). The message is clear. All Christians are Body-builders (they are to “edify”), but we do not all build in the same way. The New Testament envisages that all Christian disciples will be involved in the “work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). According to Paul, every member ministry is the normal Christian life.

As he points out, there are many exhortations, principles, and examples in Scripture that indicate that all believers should work together (“mutual”) to build or strengthen the church (“edification”). (By the way, Dave only lists a few of the many passages that point toward mutual edification.)

Similarly, and as he also points out, “we do not all build in the same way.” This is especially clear in the passage of Scripture in which the authors discuss spiritual gifts. But, there are other examples as well.

Think about these two points carefully. There is a reason that we do not all “build” in the same way. We all need to be “built” in different ways. Some may need more of one kind of construction and strengthen than another kind, but we all need many different kinds edification.

We need different kinds of “construction” so we also need different “construction workers.” One person cannot and must not attempt to do all of this work. The body of Christ is not designed to work in this way.

Imagine a dilapidated house… a shack perhaps… about to fall in on itself. It needs much work. It needs carpentry work, electrical work, plumbing work, roofing work, etc. A carpenter cannot do all of the work. An electrician – even a master electrician – cannot do all of the work.

In the same way, in order for the church to be built up (edified), it is necessary for every follower of Jesus to take part in the work of building up.

When you gather with the church, do those gathered understand that the goal is edification of the whole body? Who is expected to do the work of edification? Who is allowed to do the work of edification?

We know the love of God when we love others

by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church refers to a David Black blog. Both comments are worthy of careful thought.

Dave Black does not blog as much as he once did. Of course, at times like this when he’s in the middle of teaching at Southeastern, he’s on campus several days per week, and his “blogging platform” (if you can call something from the 1950′s a blogging platform) does not allow him to blog unless he’s at home.

But, when he does blog, his comments and thoughts are always compelling and challenging – academic and practical.

For example, last week, he said this (Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.):

Recently I was speaking with a friend who confessed to me that he felt lonely. This, despite the fact that he is happily married and has a family. (Yes, there is loneliness even when one is married, and even when one has children. How silly to think that another human being could ever satisfy our deepest need for companionship.) Referring to Phil. 2:5-11, I told him that I thought the answer to loneliness is love. It is not in our finding someone to love us, but in our finding in God someone who loves us perfectly. We then express our gratitude to Him by a happy and joyful pouring out of our lives in love to others, without expecting anything in return. Fortunately, I think my friend understood this. I’m glad he did, because I myself am still panting to catch up in my emotions to what I know to be true in my mind. In dying, we live. That’s the only way to experience true joy, writes Paul in Philippians. So let’s pour out God’s love on the undeserving, for this is the mind of Christ!

This seems backwards to our human intuition! If I understand what he is saying, then the way for us to “feel” the love of God is by expressing or demonstrating the love of God. Or, to put it another way, by dying to our self (and living for God and others), we find that we are truly living.

This reminds me of something that John wrote in his first letter:

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates (i.e., does not love) his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21 ESV)

By the way, when John writes about loving your brother or sister, he’s not talking about feelings or emotions; he’s talking about action! Don’t believe me? Check out 1 John 3:17-18.

Do you feel unloved? Then love others. Do you feel lonely? Then love others. Do you feel dissatisfied or unfulfilled? Then love others.

We know the love of God when we love others who do not deserve our love.

It’s about “being” and “going”

by David Black at daveblackonline.com

9:32 Wednesday June 29, 2011 entry:

Much is being written these days about the purpose of the church. Some (like Eric Carpenter) argue that the purpose of the church is to glorify God through mutual edification. I do not disagree with this perspective. But it seems to me that the emphasis in Reformed circles on the glory of God is rather nebulous. In my opinion, this definition is neither missiologically broad enough nor theologically deep enough.

As I understand Scripture, the church is to carry out the Missio Dei of the Triune God at both the micro (individual salvation) and macro (societal) levels, with a view to redemption, reconciliation, and social transformation. I recognize that many Christians today are starving for genuine koinonia and deeper relationships within the Body of Christ. Yet Jesus Christ defines His followers as those whom He has sent forth into the world. Thus, while it is good and proper to unpack the theological and ecclesiological significance of such texts as 1 Cor. 14:26, which speak of mutual edification as a goal whenever the church gathers, I think it is neither scriptural nor helpful to reduce our definition of “church” to the gathering. The ecclesiological challenge must drive us closer and closer to our original mission, not further away from it. An outward focus is critical, not optional.

The Book of Acts consistently emphasizes “missional hermeneutics,” and is clear that the Gospel is the Holy Spirit’s instrument for the formation of faithful witnessing communities that enjoy corporate life both together and scattered in the world. This same Spirit now works through believers to enable them to be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. To be sure, “church” is broader than the missional church. But the focus of God is the world, not the church. Thus, while calls for mutual edification are valid (and sorely needed), it does not help to make the overcorrection of emphasizing corporate discipleship at the expense of Trinitarian mission.

The only way Christ is presently incarnated to a lost world is through believers as they carry on His presence, His Word, and His works to a new generation. We are no longer citizens of this world but Christ’s ambassadors, sent to this world from another kingdom, operating in His authority and power. If we’re rightly connected to the Head in this way, it would be hard to imagine making the focus of the church the gathering rather than the going.

Can you imagine . . .

As usual, the insights and challenges by Dave Black cause some deep thinking. His blog, like many I regularly read, should cause us all to stop, think , and seek God. As most of my material is reprints from blogs that people I try to reach out to never would see, I would encourage those who ant to read more by the author at least search his/her blog out for further research.

by Dave Black

I had been hearing about missionaries all of my life. And now I’m the GIF, the Guy In Africa, that eccentric person who can’t feel comfortable among opulence any more, who stays up half the night thinking about a sick child in Alaba or a suffering woman in Burji or a persecuted evangelist in Gondar. I don’t ever want to lose this feeling, this marveling at the world, this attraction to a country called Black-Faced (Ethiopia) filled with outcasts and dying people and babies suffering from malaria and women needing fistula surgery, this nation of 80 million people worshiping their trees or their saints or their false gods. I never want to forget how incredibly small you feel when you’re trying to bring medical supplies through customs or watching the heart-wrenching poverty or scooping up a half-naked infant or standing next to the graves of missionaries from past generations who went out to the field and never came back home (or was it ever “home” for them again?).

Can you imagine what would happen if Christians in America were to grasp the principle of sharing what they have to meet the needs of the Gospel around the world?
Can you imagine what the impact would be if we stopped spending 95 percent of our church budgets on ourselves?
Can you imagine the change it would make if we lived a lifestyle that matched our responsibility to a lost and dying world? Seven years ago my lifestyle was up from grabs. Every thought and every action was tested by the simple teachings of Scripture. I decided, along with Becky, that I would lay up no treasure for myself on this earth. Suddenly I was free — free from my bondage to material things, free to allow God to use me — a nobody — to be His hands and feet and arms in Africa.

Thinking about the “E” word

by David Black

  • The particular method of evangelism doesn’t matter that much. Anything is better than the “no” method approach.
  • I need to ask God to burden my heart for people. It doesn’t happen naturally.
  • To influence the masses, you must reach individuals.
  • Persuasive people live sacrificial lives.
  • There are millions of lost sheep out there. I’m sent to find them. Not all of them, but some of them.
  • • Every human soul is vulnerable to prayer.
  • A happily married person is a walking miracle.
  • Anticipate difficulty. Daily.
  • There is no favoritism with God. None!
  • I need to avoid professional weaker brothers and sisters in Christ. I will never conform to their lists, so why try?
  • Repeated demonstrations of concern and love build openings for the Gospel.
  • Don’t watch the clock. It may take years for someone to come to Christ.
  • If you have a conscience on some matter follow it, but don’t presume that your conviction is mandatory for everyone else.
  • Remain a citizen of heaven, but become a naturalized citizen of the world to reach it for Christ.
  • Travel light, as the Lord commanded. It is easy to carry too much excess baggage.
  • Can you bake a cake? Somebody might find Christ through just such a gesture.
  • Evangelism begins at home but can’t end there.

 

The Church No One Wanted to Join

by David Black, (Whoa, read his teaching vita): Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He has also taught courses at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Lancaster Bible College, Fuller Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, Simon Greenleaf University, Criswell College, Freie Hochschule für Mission (Germany), Tyndale Theological Seminary (Holland), Bibelschule Walzenhausen (Switzerland), IEM Bible College (India), Chong Shin Theological Seminary (Korea), Faith Theological Seminary (Korea), Cosin Theological Seminary (Korea), Evangelical Theological College (Ethiopia), Meserete Kristos College (Ethiopia), and at other institutions. In addition, he has lectured at the Complutensian University in Spain, the Areopagus in Timisoara, Romania, and the Universities of Oxford and Leeds in England. [He has been around and has several Greek texts out, so although I have a hard time figuring out how it will all work, unless one belongs to a house-type church, I have to take his words and ponder them.]

Whereas many of our churches will do practically anything to draw unbelievers to their services, the earliest Christians were so committed and so radical that few if any unbelievers dared join them. In New Testament times the early disciples came together not for evangelism or even for worship but for teaching, for fellowship, for the Breaking of Bread, and for times of prayer (Acts 2:42). The Lord’s Supper was not an addendum celebrated quarterly or monthly but the main reason the church assembled on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7). Jesus was front-and-center, not a pulpit.

~  The Church No One Wanted to Join

Then this other challenging article (excerpted): What I learned from the Anabaptists:

It seems from history that the Anabaptists tried to restore biblical Christianity. The reformers and traditionalists persecuted them for that.

Although they shared many theological concepts with the Protestant Reformers, the Dissenters parted company on several crucial points including the separation of church and state (the church must reject all ties with princes and magistrate), believers’ baptism (the church consists solely of voluntary members), and restoration rather than reformation (the only valid model of church life is the early church as revealed in the New Testament).”…

At their gatherings great care was taken that all things were done decently and in order and that all the members had an opportunity to exercise their gifts for the edification of all. Congregations were small enough so that all the members knew each other and could offer any assistance that was necessary.” A classic case in point: today we find congregational participation in our gatherings squelched by an unbiblical emphasis on the “clergy” and a corresponding passivity among the “laypeople.” The motivation behind limiting congregational participation is undoubtedly noble (to ensure “quality,” to protect against heresies, to maintain order, etc.). Still, such motivations seem biblically unsustainable. For example, quality can be just as low in a church that practices monological preaching as in one that encourages mutual participation. Besides, the worst heresies in the Christian church have not been promulgated by laypeople but rather by professionally trained theologians.

Finally, only a form of corporate ministry in which all believers are free to exercise their gifts and share their insights would seem to comport with the New Testament. Along with Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 14 teaches that the church is a Body comprised of many members, each of which has something important to contribute to the whole. Apparently Paul believed that God may speak or act through any member of the church for the benefit of the entire community. The result must have been a richness and diversity scarcely known today in many of our churches that every member ministry entails either the participation of all believers in every gathering or the abolishing of leadership. Rather, it involves a wide participation by those who are Spirit-led.

A communal approach to ministry would seem, then, to be a core value of the church and should be encouraged by the leadership, whose role is more facilitative than dominant. Common dangers must be recognized and avoided (e.g., over-participation by some, fear of being criticized by the group, passivity). When it is felt that the conventional monologue is appropriate, it will be helpful to stop for questions and interaction with one’s hearers, if not in the middle then at least at the end. Jesus’ own teaching was frequently characterized by verbal interaction, while the apostle Paul clearly engaged in dialogue with his Christian audiences (dialegomai). Even the famous Christian orator Chysostrom interrupted his discourses frequently to ask questions in order to make sure he was understood. Every believer is a priest, and although congregations certainly benefit from the theological expertise of some, the New Testament knows no cult of the expert who ignores the gifts of the people.

~  What I learned from the Anabaptists

Every disciple need to be involved

by David Black

Everyone is gifted somehow to help in the church. We need to be willing to seek those people out and use their gifts and talents. When all are working together (as God planned it) His work gets done the way He intended it. It is the leaders’ job to facilitate that and then step back and let it happen.

I think if we applied common sense household principles to the church it would enormously strengthen the concept of every-member ministry within our congregations. How silly to try to do something for which you’re not gifted! Especially when someone is there who has the know-how. The greatest difficulty is normally to get a church to think “edificationally” and actually desire the participation of all members of the Body.

The early Christians found that there was no joy like the joy of serving one another according to each person’s talents. Alas, we have become dependent on the clergy to the degree that we would rather hire a “professional” to do the work than use a “layman” with the same gift set. But if we are to see a revolution of “lay” participation there has to be a revolution in our attitudes. The early church was open enough to the Holy Spirit to allow its members to exercise their gifts. Each of us is but a limb on the tree, a stone in the building, a sheep in the flock. We need the strength and abilities of each other if for no other reason than none of us can “do it all.”

This may well be the biggest difference between the New Testament church and our own. Their responsibility to care for each other rested squarely on the shoulder of every single member. The early church grew rapidly without the aid of some of our most cherished assets – large staffs, expensive programs, complicated strategies and methods – simply because they opened their homes, their hearts, and their hands to each other.

Each of us may have a role — some of us are best supporting and encouraging others.