Teaching: Motives Matter Matthew 6:1-21

  • Summary Statment v. 1
    1. Giving to the needy v. 2-4
    2. Prayer v. 5-15       The Lord’s Prayer v. 9-15
    3. Fasting v. 16-18
  • Motivation v. 19-21

How do we Apply the Regulative Principle?

Since I have at length given the biblical support for the Regulative Principle in two other blogs: Part 1 What is the Regulative Principle of Worship? & Part 2 Is the Regulative Principle Biblical?, I now conclude with how we should apply this principle to church worship gatherings. I will first address what Jesus calls us to do and then specify those things the Lord does not command and therefore we should not do.

What a Faithful Church Does

When we gather together as a church, God has ordained, through direct commands as well as the positive example of the apostles and the NT church, that we set aside time for these main things:

  1. Prayer-

(Ac 1:14) – 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

(Ac 2:42) – 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

(Ac 6:6) – 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

(Col 4:2) – 2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

(Ro 12:12) – 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

(Eph 6:18) – 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

(1 Ti 2:1) – 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

(1 Pe 4:7) – 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

  1. Worshiping the Lord with songs of praise to Him-

(Jn 4:23–24) – 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 (Eph 5:19) – 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

(Col 3:16) – 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

(Jas 5:13) – 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

(Mk 14:25–26) – 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

(Heb 13:15) – 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

  1. Teaching & Preaching

(2 Ti 4:1–4) – 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

(1 Ti 4:13) – 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

 (1 Co 2:13) – 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

(1 Co 1:21) – 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

  1. Reading of Scripture

(1 Ti 4:13) – 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

(Ro 15:4) – 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

(2 Th 2:14–15) – 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

(1 Ti 3:14–15) – 14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

  1. Fellowship

(1 Th 5:11) – 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

(Heb 10:24–25) – 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

(Ga 6:2) – 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

 (1 Jn 1:7) – 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

(Ro 1:11–13) – 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.

(Ac 2:42) – 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

(Col 2:2) – 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,

(Ac 2:44) – 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

(Php 2:1–5) – 1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

(Ac 2:45–47) – 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

  1. Communion & Baptism

(1 Co 11:24–26) – 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

(Lk 22:19) – 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

(Ac 20:7) – 7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.

(Ac 2:42) – 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

  1. Setting apart/ordaining Elders, Deacons, and Missionaries

(Tt 1:5) – 5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

 (Ac 6:3–6) – 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

(Ac 13:1–3) – 1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

What a Faithful Church Leaves Out

I could easily end this article by saying, “anything that is not directly related to what God has commanded the church to do should not be done simply because God did not tell us to do it.”  This would be true, but I would like to conclude with several things that churches often do that God has not commanded.  These things get in the way and can distract us from actually doing what God has commanded.   This does not mean that a church that practices these things is necessarily in sin or that they cease to be a faithful church.  There are many faithful churches that do not follow the Regulative Principle, though I would argue that they would be more faithful to the word of God if they would replace what is below with the things I have stated above.  Before you continue reading, make sure you have read my previous article here, which will make my arguments below clearer.

  1. Patriotic or secular music- I wish this one was obvious to Christians, but sadly many churches, especially in the United States, use the worship services around Memorial Day and the 4th of July to sing songs about America. Some churches also have the kids who participate in Awana say the pledge of allegiance in front of a flag every time they gather. There is nothing wrong with a certain level of patriotism, but God has called us to gather and worship Him.  When we gather to worship God and then sing songs praising our “great nation,” we have drifted away from the Christian worship that God has commanded and have traveled into the realm of idolatry.  Singing songs about America is great before a ball game, political event, or in a school classroom, but never at a church worship gathering.  The point is, if God has not commanded the church to do something, we should not be doing it.
  2. Plays and skits– Plays and skits are lots of fun, very entertaining, and can even be edifying when they bring forth a biblical message. As a matter of fact, there is nothing wrong with Christians going to or being part of a play and there are many great Christian plays.   The problem comes when a play or skit, which God has not called us to do when we gather together as a church, takes time away from the things which God has commanded us to do.  Christian plays and skits should take place as a separate event so that it does not take away from worship to the Lord.
  3. Christmas trees and other decorations– Christians generally have a good heart when decorating a church for Christians, and feel that it is a way of honoring the Lord. The issue though is once again, God has not commanded this and God does not see this as a way of honoring Him.  If anything, Christmas decorations are often distractions when they are in a worship hall or church room.  It is one thing to lift up Christ’s incarnation in praise and adoration, it is another thing to fill the church with symbols and flashy decorations that God has not commanded.
  4. The display of flags– Once again, the issue is not with flags. Christians can proudly fly their American flag in their front yard in honor of our nation, the freedoms we have, and the brave men and women who have fought and died for us.  The issue is that God has not commanded us to honor our government or nation in the context of worship.  Placing a flag in the front of a sanctuary like most churches do creates a dangerous confusion similar to that of singing patriotic songs in church for an American holiday.  God alone is to be lifted up, honored, and worshiped, a flag in the service calls that commitment into question.  When it comes to praise and recognition during worship, we must “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:15-17 cf. Matthew 22:19-22).  God alone deserves our attention and praise in the context of a worship gathering.
  5. Ritualistic candle and incenses lighting- These two practices are interesting because they have OT sacrificial origins (Exodus 25:31, 27:20). The issue is that the OT sacrificial regulations regarding the lampstand were fulfilled in Christ along with the sacrifice of animals and therefore practicing them in the NT church would be failing to allow the sacrifice of Jesus transform our worship.  In other words, New Covenant worship centers on the person and work of Christ rather than the tabernacle/temple and an animal sacrifice.  To return to the Old Covenant sacrificial worship system is to reject Christ and His work for us.  There is nothing wrong with lighting candles, even in a church (considering that is how churches were lit before electricity).  The problem arises when we integrate candle lighting into the worship of God, something He has not commanded us to do.
  6. Displaying images of Jesus- It is a desire rooted in our human nature to worship what we can see.  We desire something tangible and visual when we worship.  But God made clear early on that worship to Him is different than worship to the false gods.   The Lord said in Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”  The Lord declared a prohibition: His people are not to worship anything made with human hands- even if they are meant to picture Him.  The people at one point tried to make an image of Yahweh and worship it, to which the Lord responded with great anger (Exodus 32).  If we truly believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and the second person of the trinity, would it no be wrong to create images of Him and place them in our home, around our necks, and in places of worship?  This is not even taking into consideration the inaccuracy of Jesus paintings and their often mystical origins.  I am not arguing that a church with a painting of Jesus should be considered a temple to Baal and that we need to burn every image of Jesus we find.  My point is that we should at the very least look at human innovation in worship with great caution and speculation.

The list above is by no means exhaustive, many things could be added, but I pray this article was helpful for you.  I would love to hear from you so feel free to drop a comment or question below.

The Church Part 6: Gospel Community as a Means of Grace

“Means of grace” are the things in which God uses to grow us in grace and sanctify us together with the rest of the church.  The means of grace within gospel community (the church) are vast and vital to the Christian life.  Many in the past have seen baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and sometimes prayer as the only official means of grace within the church, but there are several others that should also be considered.  These include the teaching of the Word, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer for one another, worship, church discipline, giving, spiritual gifts, fellowship, evangelism, and personal ministry to individuals.  Many of these things can be done alone, but when they are done in the context of a local church they come with increased blessing and benefits.

The teaching of the Word builds up the body and draws the members deeper in their walk with the Lord.  Baptism is the public sign of the gospel and how it has transformed the new believer’s life and often results in substantial spiritual growth and encouragement in the church.  The Lord’s Supper is similar in that it pictures the gospel and the nourishment that the gospel brings to the one with saving faith.  Prayer for one another not only builds up those who are participating, but it also accomplishes powerful things in the body.  Worship brings much glory to God and like the preaching of the Word brings about sanctification in the believers who worships in spirit and in truth.  Church discipline, though it can seem like the opposite of a means of grace, when it is done properly can unify the church, protect it from impurity, and lead to the repentance of a straying brother or a false convert.   The financial giving of the church body also blesses the church and brings God’s blessing on those who are cheerful givers.  Spiritual gifts by their very nature build up the body along with the fellowship of the church.  Evangelism brings about the blessing of adding more worshipers bringing the church to see God’s power and grace better.  Finally, as members care for one another in personal ministry while using their spiritual gifts, the church will be built up in love leading to added blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Poor Church Receives Power

In the midst of the “decline” of the American church, and the drastic shift of the culture away from Biblical morality, many are tempted to be discouraged and wonder, “What can we do?” The answer to what we need to do is this: Pray.  Let me give you three examples from recent history that backs up the Biblical truth that God acts in powerful ways when his people pray for him to act.

  1. The First Great Awakening began largely in North Hamptons MA in 1730s with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield and the renewed commitment to pray.
  2. The Great Prayer Revival began on Sep. 23, 1857 in New York City when a man named Jeremy Lanphier begins to pray and then invites thousands to pray in a rented tent on Fulton Street to pray.  Sadly, only six people show up the first day.  But those six people begin to pray and three weeks later those six people become 40. After 5 months over 10,000 gathered there every day to pray. Over the next three months, revival swept the nations and over 1,000,000 people put their faith in Jesus.
  3. The Jesus movement began in the early 1970s. In this movement of God, like the others, the prayer of God’s people was central. Thousands of young people were coming to Christ through the preaching of God’s word and the prayers of his people. Over 400,000 people were baptized in a single year by Southern Baptist Churches.

If we want to see God move in our community, in our culture, and in our world, we need to start with prayer.  Though God is sovereign, he is pleased to work through the prayers of his people.  So when we pray, God is please to answer our prayers.  So let’s join the saints around the world right now who are praying for awakening and revival.