What is Baptism?

Put simply baptism is a picture of death and resurrection/new birth.  With that answer, another obvious question arises, why? Why would anyone want to be a picture of death and resurrection?  Here are the reasons given in the Bible. (These answers assume the one being baptized is a born again believer in Jesus).

  1. They have died and been raised.  Ephesians 2 says that we were dead in your trespasses and sins but God raised us (born again believers) up with Jesus and seated us in Christ Jesus. The one being baptized has been born again. They are now a new man or woman and Christ and their old self has been crucified with Christ. This is not something the christian does to themselves, it is something that the Holy Spirit does in his mighty power. When a Christian goes under the baptism water and comes back up, they are portraying a visible picture for everyone to see what happened in their life.   Upon conversion, the Christian’s old life died with Christ and they are now a new person who has been united with Jesus and given the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience with Jesus.  Has this happen in your life? If not, it can happen to you right not.  Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus, then you can experience what baptism pictures.
  2. They are identifying themselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus. In both Romans 6 and Colossians 2, the believer is described in baptism as dying with Christ and being raised with Christ.  The believer is united with Christ upon conversion and is now proclaiming to their new family, “I am Christ’s! I am willing to die with him, literally and figuratively, in order that I may also be raised with him”.
  3. They are receiving the sign of the new covenant. They are proclaiming to the whole community that they have given their entire life to Jesus, in order to be a child of God.
  4. They are walking in obedience to Jesus. Everyone who is born again is called by God to be baptized.  As a matter of fact, walking in obedience to God by being baptized is a sign of someone who is truly converted.  This is what we see in 2 Peter 3:21 “And that water [of the flood in Noah’s day] is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (NLT)
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Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, A Study of the Church in the Four Provinces

By: Roland Allen

Missionary Methods is an important book in the history of cross-cultural missions.  It has had an impact on the way overseas missions is done and thought about all the way into the 21st century.  As the title makes clear, the point of the book is to examine Paul’s missionary methods and ascertain if we should be using his methods, or our methods.  In the book he advocates for the former, pushing against the colonial missions ideas that were prevalent in his day.  Ronald Allen was an Anglican missionary to China from 1895-1903.  As a missionary, he saw the problems with the colonial missions methods that were being utilized and returned to Scotland.  He began pushing for indigenous missions practices that would be used to more effectively share the gospel in the unreached and begin church planting movements.  This book flows out of Allen’s experience and struggles as he sought to determine how missions was to be done in his day.  After writing Missionary Methods in 1912, he went on to write The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes Which Hindered It in 1927, both of which are still used by missionaries and assigned in seminary classes.

Allen makes his thesis clear from the very start.  Paul’s missionary methods, primarily recorded in Acts, informs us on how to do missions and missionaries need to conform to his methods.  He states, “It is impossible but that the account so carefully given by St. Luke of the planting of the churches in the Four Provinces should have something more than a mere archaeological and historical interest.  Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures it was ‘written for our learning’” (6).  The most important obstacle to this thesis that Allen focuses on proving wrong, is the claim that Paul’s situation was different than ours so his methods are not as effective as our modern methods.  He makes clear, that the real reason Paul’s methods in the four provinces is undermined is because, “St. Paul’s method is not in harmony with the modern Western spirit” (9).  After the introduction in chapter one, Allen continues with ten chapters dealing with individual aspects of missions and how we learn from Paul how they ought to be handled.  Each of these chapters has a similar format and goal.  They seek to show how Paul’s situation and circumstance did not give him anymore of an advantage than we have.  Allen highlights the negative effects of doing missions our own way to point the reader to consider Paul’s way.  For example, when addressing the issue of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he explains that when we try to select only a few people to do everything in a new Christian community, we end up running into several problems that Paul did not have when he trained leaders from within congregations to replace him (83-85). Furthermore, after explaining what Paul did in detail, he applies it to the modern missionary situation. His goal is the same throughout these sections; Paul’s method of doing missions must take presence over our own ideas and methodology. The book draws to a close with five rules for missionaries that he argues are essential to missions based off of Paul’s method explained in the preceding ten chapters.

Overall, Missionary Methods is a well written book that is greatly helpful for Christians seeking to understand how missions are to be done effectively and faithfully.  Though we live 2,000 years after Paul, Allen does a superb job in showing that his methods still work.  In fact, Paul’s methods are the only ones that are faithful.  The book’s thesis is biblically sound and argued practically.  Below, I explain that strength is primarily seen in its boldness, historical aptitude, sound overarching argument, insight into the barriers to missions and faithful use of the biblical text.

It is understandable why this book is still used and respected today.   As long as this book is read, it will continue to positively lead people away from faulty human based strategies to missions and towards the effective biblical pattern set forth by Paul.  No matter what someone’s background on missions, anyone who reads this book will have a hard time disagreeing with Allen.  He did a great job in showing how Paul’s missionary methods can work today as they worked in his day.  I would recommend this book to any Christian who is contemplating or doing cross-cultural missions.  The truths of the book had a large impact on me and the way I think about every aspect of missions from finances to authority.  Though the book is old, the truths are timeless and we should be thankful for the impact that Allen has had on the way people have thought about missions.

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy the book here.

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Freedom from Slavery

It is said that a flippant young man once remarked to a preacher in mocking fashion, “You say that unsaved people carry a great weight of sin. Frankly, I feel nothing. How heavy is sin? Ten pounds? Fifty pounds? Eighty pounds? A hundred pounds?” The preacher thought for a moment, then replied, “If you laid a four-hundred-pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?” The young man was quick to say, “Of course not; it’s dead” Driving home his point, the preacher said, “The person who doesn’t know Christ is equally dead. And though the load is great, he feels none of it”[1] This is the sad reality of what we see in John 8:31-38 as well as all around us.  The slavery to sin that all of us are under until we turn to Jesus is so powerful that we don’t even notice the shekels around our ankles and hands.  Before we are born again, we feel free yet we know something is missing.  We are pursuing happiness but we are confused why we can never attain it.  But that is where the beautiful words of Jesus come in, “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil and break the seemingly indestructible shekels of sin that kept us blind and dead.  We may now rejoice in the truth of Romans 6:22-23, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  Now dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in your freedom!  And while you are rejoicing in your freedom from sin, help others remove their chains by pointing them to what Jesus did on the cross, that way we may have more people to rejoice with.

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How Will Emporium be Fixed?

There is one message that is going to bring real change to our broken community and this message has to start with you.  The message is the Gospel.  What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that Jesus became flesh, fulfilled the law, died on the cross for us, and was raised to assure us that those who repent and believe in him have freedom from sin and eternal life.  Do you believe this message?  Have you experienced this message?  When I say “experienced”, I don’t mean have you said some prayer and asked Jesus for forgiveness.  What I mean is have you recognized you utter sinfulness to the point where you realize the only place you can go is to Jesus and when you get to him, you lay your entire life down before his feet and cry out “it is all yours Jesus!” This is what I mean by have you experienced the gospel.  If you have not experienced it, then you don’t understand it and you need to run you God’s word and cry out to him that he would open your eyes and help you see his beauty and your need for him (Start with Romans 3:21-31).

The gospel is the power of God that will change our community and it has to start with you.  You may be thinking, “why does this guy have so much confidence in this story about a man who lived over 2,000 years ago?”  My answer to you: It’s what the bible says, Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  Paul here says that this gospel, this good news, leads to salvation and is the power of God.  We can’t save people, we don’t have the power to.  We can only present the gospel to those in bondage to sin around us and pray that they believe, because if they do, they will be free from sin.

As you go about your day, think about the people in need in our community.  Think about those who are entrapped in sin blind to the reality of eternity (It may be you). Think about those who are trusting in their good works to save them yet inevitably, have no freedom from sin because they have not turned to Jesus (it may be you).  You have the answer that they need.  The gospel that you have is the only hope they or you have of a better day and an eternity with Jesus.   Freedom from sin in our community is not going to come merely through hard work and determination.  It is only going to come when the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes our focus, our song, and our message.

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Is God anti-gay? And other questions about homosexuality, the Bible and same-sex attraction

By: Sam Allberry

As people living in the 21st century, the issue of homosexuality is most definitely a head turner.  Christians often want to avoid the issue and when it is talked about, there is often much confusion.  Honestly, the church needs help.  Many Christians have taken the easy road out and have affirmed homosexuality as something that is ok.  Others have taken the other way and have only cast shame and judgment without considering how the gospel brings hope.  This problem  makes this book important.  Sam Allberry provides help, truth, and love in a way that no other book on this issue does or can. Allberry knows what he is talking about.  Not merely because he is a Christian, but because same sex attraction (SSA) has affected his life, so he is able to share his story about it.  In other words, this book is not your average Christian telling other Christians how to deal with an issue that has never affected him.  No, this is a man that struggled with this issue biblically because it had a real impact on his life.  This is why Sam Allberry is qualified to give guidance and help to Christians thinking thorough this issue that has affected our generation more than any other.

As a matter of fact, every Christian in our day should read Is God anti-gay.  The issue of homosexuality and SSA is too important to ignore.  There are people in churches all over who struggle with SSA but are afraid to share their struggles.  They end up buried with guilt without anyone to help them think through the topic of sexuality biblically.  Our churches need help.  Churches need to be open about this issue, providing grace always pointing to the gospel.  Sam Allberry is that loving hand and clear voice that says, I’ve been there, let me help you.  Whether you experience same-sex attraction or not, this book will equip you so that you can think biblically on the issue and help yourself, and/or others in need.  I would say that the book is worth its weight in gold, but that would not be saying too much considering that it is so short and small.  The benefit of its short length though, is that is accessible to everyone, including you.

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy the book here.

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Why I didn’t Preach John 7:53-8:11; The Woman Caught in Adultery

If you look at your Bible right before 7:53, you should see something in brackets that says something like [The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53-8:11] (ESV) or [The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11] (HCSB). The reason that some KJV Bibles do not write this in brackets is because the KJV was translated from Greek & Hebrew in 1611 when they only had a small number of ancient manuscripts many of which were less reliable. It is now extremely clear that John did not write this section of the book because it was added much later by a scribe. This means that this section of John is not scripture and the author was not “carried along by the holy spirit” (2 Peter 2:21). The events in this section very well may have happened, but they were not recorded by the apostle John. There are two types of evidence that point to this reality. There is external manuscript evidence, and internal evidence in the context.

  1. Evidence in Manuscripts – a manuscript is a handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Bible. When we look at all of the many manuscripts that we have of the book of John dating back to the 2nd century and following, we see that this section of John is not recorded at all in the manuscripts that date back near when John wrote it. The story of the woman caught in adultery does not appear in any documents prior to the 5th century and it often appears in other places in John and even in Luke. Several early Christians also recorded the end of John 7 and the start of John 8 but skipped right over the story of the woman caught in adultery because this section was not added until later.
  2. Evidence in the Context- John always refers those in Jerusalem as “the Jews” and never calls them “scribes”, yet in this section he calls them scribes. In fact there are 14 words in John 7:53–8:11 that occur nowhere else in John’s Gospel. Also, if you look at the context, John 8:12 and following fit right onto John 7 while the story of the woman caught in adultery does not fit but breaks up what happened at the Feast of Booths.

Can we still trust the Bible? Yes! The fact that we have enough manuscripts to tell when a portion of scripture is trustworthy, gives us confidence in God’s word. Our modern translations are based off of over 25,000 manuscripts of the Bible, some of them with only short portions of the biblical text and some with much longer portions. Scholars study these manuscripts and compare them so that we can have confidence that our English Bibles are God’s word for us to read and enjoy with trust.

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Should Dangerous Places be Off-limits for Christians?

With the new attention fixated on the dangers in the Middle East over the last several months,  most would see it as unwise to go anywhere near that area of the world.  What would be so important, that we would be willing to go there?  ISIS is rounding up journalists, aid workers, and Christians so that they can imprison them for months, and then take them in front of a camera to cut their head off.   Why would we ever go to that area of the world?  What if they took us? Moreover, what about the Western Christians who are in Muslim areas right now who are in danger as well?  What about the local Christians? Shouldn’t we evacuate them to safety so that the radical Muslim groups can’t hurt them?  This is what my first reaction looked like;  with sadness, I think about all the suffering that they are going through, and think, we need to get them out.  I think about my dear Christian brothers and sisters in seminary who are training to be missionaries and I think in my head “don’t go, you may be next in line”. Though these reactions appear to make sense to our worldly western minds, they are actually quite non-Christian (in the biblical sense of the word).  Listen to the Words of Jesus:“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:16–18) Let these words become personal and real.  Jesus is telling you “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves”.   As Christians, the question should naturally arise in our heads; how are we intentionally being among wolves?  More than this, we need to think, should we be discouraging Christians from going overseas where they could be killed because they are sharing the gospel? No, we need to be encouraging them to go and preach the gospel!  Is that not what Jesus commanded them, and you to go and do?  We dare not discourage Christians from being obedient while we huddle at home failing to evangelize our local communities out of fear or harsh words and mean looks.  We as Christians are called to be missionaries.  There are only three options for the Christian no matter what the level of persecution.  Go overseas yourself, send and support missionaries overseas while you do evangelism and discipleship in your local context, or be disobedient.  For the sake of the kingdom of God and the eternal salvation of the nations, we as the church must choose the first two.

What is the Content of Faithful Proclamation?

As we think about preaching and evangelism, we want to have a biblical perspective of the content of the proclamation.  Whether you are a Mega-Church Pastor preaching to 3,000 people or a mother telling your neighbors about Jesus at a playground, you need to know what the content of your “proclamation” must be so that the words you speak can be more fruitful for God’s kingdom.

When we survey what the bible says about proclamation, one particular thing sticks out more than anything else.  That is the word euangelizō which means to proclaim the gospel.  It’s like a special word created to describe a certain type of proclamation.   A proclamation who’s content is the good news of Jesus.  This word is used 54 times in the New Testament!  So when we talk about the content of preaching we need to remember that the heart of the New Testament authors was to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Whether it was the apostles preaching in the temple and from house to house in Acts 5:42 or Paul desiring to preach to the Roman Believers in Romans 1:15, the heart of the content was the good news of Jesus.  The Gospel is the content of proclamation in evangelistic encounters and the content of faithful preaching in the local church.  A pastor is not being faithful to his task if he teaches about how to make life easier or how to reduce conflict without relating it directly to what Jesus did on the cross.  A well meaning christian is not being faithful in his task if he is telling people to go to church or to trust that God is real, if he does not clearly explain that there is forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ when the lost turn from their sins and trust in Jesus.   The gospel is the primary content of faithful proclamation.

Now that we have it established that the primary content of biblical proclamation, We need to consider how the authors of scripture give us more detail. The content of preaching is identified as the gospel of the grace of God, the kingdom, he whole counsel of God (Acts 20:24-27), Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1–5), the word (2 Timothy 4:2), repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3), repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:47), the Christ is Jesus (Acts 5:42), good news of peace through Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36), not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5), not man’s gospel (Galatians 1:11), the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8), the word of God (Colossians 1:25), Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David (2 Timothy 2:8).  Their are many other passages that speak about the content of preaching but I think this list is a good starting point.  What sticks out to you here?  What sticks out to me is the riches of the gospel of Jesus!  What an amazing task that we have been given by God!  May we be faithful in the content of our proclamation!

Let us go out and Proclaim the Gospel!  To our neighbors, our friends, our grocery store clerk, our coworkers, our spouse, our kids, and everyone else we come in contact with. Read these two passages to yourself out loud and may God help you see the mission that he has called you to do.

1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Romans 10:13–15 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

This is blog two is a series on Biblical Proclamation.  Check part one: The All Day Sermon About the Law: The Example of Ezra for Preaching 

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The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places

By: Nik Ripken

The Insanity of Obedience is a book, that when read by a Christian cover to cover, is likely to change his life.  The reason that this book is so powerful and insightful, is that God clearly prepared Nik to write it.  He has been involved in foreign missions for over twenty-five years mainly in Africa and the Middle East.  After leaving Somalia, where he witnessed the loss of over 100 believers, Nik was devastated and embarked on a mission to learn about the persecuted church.  In The Insanity of Obedience we can see the fruit of Nik’s journey of interviewing over 600 believers who live in environments of persecution in over 70 countries.  This book is a priceless resource that will have an impact on missions for years to come.

Summary

Nik starts with an introductory chapter laying out the reality that Christians are called to be “sheep among wolves” (2), and then splits it up into five parts.  In part one, God’s Command to Go to the Nations, the author goes into detail about God’s calling on each and every Christian as a worker for the kingdom.  This part of the book explains how the reader ought to think about missions, while defining terms and tearing down any false ideas about persecution and the Christian’s mission.

In part two, The Birth of Faith in Persecution Environment, Nik seeks to explain how God has worked in the unreached persecuted setting to bring about a church much like he did on the day of Pentecost (118). The reader is able to learn individually about the conversions of Muslim Background Believers (MMB) and Hindu Background Believers (HBB) in this section.  This part is not focused on technique but is simply an observation of how God works to bring lost people to himself.

Part three, Reaching Grandma and the Rest of the Family, focuses on the continuing birth of the gospel among the unreached.  Nik gives special attention to common barriers to the spread of the gospel, circumstances that get in the way of the gospel including betrayal, as well as decisions of overseas workers that can end up destroying a believing community and increase persecution unnecessarily.  He then wraps up the section with case study comparing the situation and results in China and the USSR, and two chapters dealing with the dynamics and roles of baptism.

After the many chapters on barriers to the Gospel in part three, Nik jumps into practical help and wisdom in part four, Practical Matters.  This section deals with the many things that the overseas worker needs to watch out and things they need to consider such as matters relating to support for locals financially, training leaders, and staying focused on evangelism even when a group of believers begins to form. The book comes to a worshipful ending in part five, A Victorious Faith with an inspiring story of a persecuted Christian in Russia and a list of important truths to wrap up the book.

Evaluation

It is nearly impossible to describe what Nik Ripken has provided for God’s people in this book.  In parts of the book, the reader is full of joy as he reads about the way challenges overseas can be overcome through practical guidance and real life examples.  Other times, he is led to repentance and sorrow while reading about the tragic fruit of fear and unfaithfulness both overseas and in the West.  With the different feelings and thoughts that this book stirs in the readers mind, tears are practically unavoidable.  Yet through all of these emotions, the thoughts, and the tears, come a better understanding of  how Christians are to have victorious faith, both in the relatively safe Western countries, and in the harsh areas of the unreached and unengaged.  The result of this understanding is that God’s mission may go forth in the darkest areas of our world with less failure and more victory.  This is Nik’s aim in the book.  His goal in this book is to equip Christians and Churches with the tools they need to not just survive in difficult places, but to thrive.  Every single section in this book succeeded in this mission.

The biggest strength of this book is the way it is applicable to all Christian readers.  Most would expect a book like this to be for overseas missionaries, not ordinary American Christians but this is not so.  Every single chapter can be life changing even for those who are not overseas missionaries.  Nik makes clear early on that all Christians are called to missions and the book is mainly about overseas missions but has an almost equal application for non-persecuted Christians.  This reality becomes clear in his subtle statements about the western church.  For example, when talking about a Pentecostal Environment in Persecuted people-groups, Nik says, “God desires for such movements for every unengaged and unreached people group globally.  Does He not also desire such a movement in the West?” (126).  Also, while talking about the causes and effects of persecution, Nik points out that when Christians fail to share their faith,  they are choosing to identify themselves with persecutors of Christians and the lack of obedience brings the same result of persecution: “people are denied access to Jesus” (29).  These kinds of motivating statements are spread through the book and each chapter even ends with a set of questions that helps the reader to ponder and think about the material in their context and situation. This strength is what makes the book convicting and life changing.

Conclusion

This book is for every Christian, and every Christian should read it.  I completely agree with what Brother Andrew says in the forward, “Warning: this is a difficult book.  Not because it is hard to read, but because it makes me uncomfortable.  Radically uncomfortable!” (xix). I do not know about Brother Andrew, but the reason this book made me uncomfortable is because it opened my eyes to see challenges and barriers involved in reaching people for Jesus in difficult places while I was failing share Jesus with people I know.  Nik opened my eyes to help me see how most of us in the west are failing.  Our perspectives are off.  Our zeal for the mission of God is often waning.  For many churches, boldness in the faith is almost nonexistent.  Our un-willingness to give up what we want is causing us to be unfaithful in our mission to lead hell bound people to Jesus for life both in the states and overseas.

On top of this, I am much more equipped to reach Muslims and Hindus for Jesus and to work, through the spirit to bring about church Planting Movements in the hardest to reach areas of the world.  I understand with more clarity how to thrive in a place with intense persecution.  Equipped with the insight of this book, we as Christians can be smarter and more effective in bring the unreached to the gospel so that they may be saved.  What an amazing book this is!

Book Review by Pastor Jonathan Ahlgren

You can buy this book here.

You can buy his book, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected here.

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Restorative Church Discipline: The Reasons for the Biblical Mandate

Why are churches biblically required to exercise restorative discipline in some situations?

1. For the Purity of the Church.  1 Corinthians 5:6-8 says “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  Paul here is making an illustration using the Passover feast.  At this feast, leaven was not to be present but was to be “cast out”.  The church, just like the Passover feast, must be free from that which defiles it, in this case it is the unrepentant sinner.  When a Church allows those in it’s fold to continue in sin without addressing it, there is shame and defilement.  

2.  For the Salvation and Restoration of the Unrepentant Sinner.  1 Corinthians 5:5 says, “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”  It is clear in the text that the reason the sexually immoral person in the church of Corinth is to be “handed over to Satan (referring to the realm outside the church) for the destruction of his flesh (referring to the consequences of no longer being part of the church)”, is so that “his spirit may be saved”.  The goal of excluding an individual is for the sake of their eternal salvation so that they can be included in the worship of Jesus when he returns.  This reality is clear in every step laid out in Matthew 18:15-18.  The goal of each step is that we would “gain our brother” through their repentance. These two reasons I gave are not the only two but they are the main concerns given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5.  Mark Dever, in his book What is a Healthy Church, gives five biblical reasons for practicing discipline. “1. the good of the discipline individual, 2. other Christians as they see the danger of sin; 3. the health of the church as a whole; 4. the corporate witness of the church and, therefore, non-Christians in the community; 5. and the glory of God.”¹

But let’s now ask why do churches fail to watch over the congregation through Restorative Discipline? Here is Dr. Gregory Wills answer,

“There are powerful trends running counter to all that discipline entails. Our [Southern Baptist] local church ecclesiology [the structure and organization of the Church primarily in the Leadership] is weak in theory and practice—that is, we can not find a scriptural ecclesiology, so we substitute whatever seems to promote conversion and denominational loyalty. We lack spirituality—we fear humans more than God. We are worldly. We surely have a large percentage of unregenerate church members. We do not trust God to accomplish his will in his way. We refuse to insist upon a scripture teaching that affects anyone other than ourselves. We do not have that confidence in interpretation that is willing to take responsibility for it.”²

I think that Dr. Wills is right on in his assessment.  The topic of church discipline is one that historically has been avoided in many churches (including Southern Baptists) yet is essential to the health and perseverance of the church.  I am thankfull for the renewed concern by many Southern Baptists pastors and professors made evident by the wealth of books, articles, and blogs that have been published over the last ten years. We must understand clearly what the Bible says on this issue and ensure that we are actively and lovingly holding each other accountable.  Speaking of Biblical authority, listen to what Victor Masters, a southern Baptist Editor in the early 1900’s says about Sentimentality getting in the way of obedience.  His words are as true today as they were when he wrote them in 1902:

“Sentimentality is an enemy of church discipline. Sentimentality is the love of man divorced from the love of truth. Under the specious guise of broadened sympathies it cloaks a big lot of hypocrisy and moral decay. The church sentimentalist is so kind to his fellow church member that he is willing to ignore the plain instructions of the Book of his faith rather than bring him to account for unchristian conduct. ‘Judge not that ye be not judged,’ he quotes, but he forgets to quote (1 Cor. 5:12, 13) ‘Do not ye judge them that are within, whereas them that are without God judgeth.’”³

May God give us his grace to pursue love and faithfulness in watching over each-other.

¹Dever, Mark. What Is a Healthy Church? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. 106. Print. ²Wills, Gregory A. “Southern Baptists and Church Discipline.” (2000). Southern Seminary Publications.  Read it here. ³Victor Masters, “Church Discipline,” Baptist Courier, 21 Aug. 1902, 1-2.

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