Elders and Deacons Part 3

The office of deacon is one of the most misunderstood and under utilized offices in the Church today. In many congregational churches the deacon functions as an elder and there is no deacon. In most Protestant churches where there are deacons they are in charge of the church picnic, or lawn care, or the finances. But are these things within the proper function of the deacon office? Let’s take a look at the creation of the office in Acts 6: 1-7 and let it be a guide to us in forming our understanding of this important leader in the New Testament Church.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[a] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers,[b] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 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. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

A problem arose in the early Church. Widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. This causes us to pause and ask, “Is the church suppose to take care of its widows?” The answer is yes. This is not something that is common only to the Church in Jerusalem or Judea. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, gives Timothy, in his first letter to him, the requirements a widow must meet in order for her to be added to the number of widows under the Church’s care. Timothy is in Ephesus, and Ephesus is the most important church in Asia Minor. Timothy was strategically placed there by Paul to establish the work and to properly organize it according to the Apostolic model. There are some who will say that the book of Acts is descriptive in nature but not prescriptive in order that they may wiggle out of the Church’s responsibility to care for widows. To this we answer, if that was the case why would Paul say this to his young protege’ left in the Ephesus.

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,[a] 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Paul is prescribing the function of the New Testament Church and the providing the specific requirements for enrollment of widows into the care of the Church. What does this have to do with deacons? Everything, as you can see from Acts 6:1-7, the purpose of the creation of the Deacon office was to administrate, under the Apostles, the care of the widows in the Church. These persons were not to set up chairs at church picnics, children and teenagers can do those good and necessary works. Deacons are to carry out the incarnational ministry (serve tables Acts 6:2) of the church to the legitimate poor. The legitimate poor are defined as widows, orphans, and strangers (refugees). These family-less, property-less, disconnected persons are referred to in countless Old Testament passages as being in need of inclusion and care in the wider community of believers. Below is a list of important passages that the reader can review. They demonstrate, beyond all doubt, that God’s desire is that His people care for the legitimate poor, widows, orphans, and refugees, in their midst.

In our next blog we will further explore the ramifications of rediscovering the proper role of the Deacon in the modern church.

Deuteronomy 10:18 God’s attitude toward the legitimate poor

Deuteronomy 14:22-29 Tithe Feast

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 Sabbatical Year

Deuteronomy 16:9-12 Feast of Weeks

Deuteronomy 24:19-22 Harvest Practices

Deuteronomy 26:1-15 First Fruits (Free Will Offering) & Tithe (Obligatory Offering)

Deuteronomy 27:19 Curse upon those who pervert justice for the legitimate poor in the believing community

As well as the following Old and New Testament passages

Psalm 68:5 Psalm 82:3 Psalm 146:9 Isaiah 1:16-19 Matthew 25:31-46  James 1:27

 

 

 

 

 

Elders and Deacons Part 2 Elders

Teaching and Ruling Elders

1 Timothy 5:17

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

As Solomon’s Porch elects our second elder, it is important that we all understand that there is one “office of elder” with two distinct functions. There are those who, as a principle function of their office, “direct the affairs of the church.” This type of elder is commonly referred to as a “ruling elder.” Then there are those who, as a principle function of their office are described as those “whose work is preaching and teaching.” This type of elder is commonly referred to as a “teaching elder.” One office of elder, with two distinct functions.

Does this mean that a “ruling elder” does not need to be able to preach and teach? No, if  you refer back to my last blog on this subject, all elders should be able to both teach privately (give counsel) and to preach and teach publicly. Does this mean that a “teaching elder” is not to “direct the affairs of the church?” No, a teaching elder is part of the overall body of elders that directs the affairs of the church. What we mean by making the distinction between the ruling elder and teaching elder is this. Though both govern and teach, the ruling elder’s primary function in the local body is to direct her affairs, and the teaching elders primary function in the local body is to teach and preach.

Teaching elders usually carry out their vocation within the church. Meaning, they are most often paid church staff members. I say “most often”, so as not to exclude the ruling elder as a possible paid staff member. When the Scripture tells us to count those who carry out their office well as, “worthy of double honor, it is not saying to give them two pats on the back. It means honor them well in the form of financial payment. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:3-12

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

We should count both ruling and teaching elders who carry out their respective functions well as worthy of “double honor.” The church may find herself in need of an elder who directs the affairs of the body as a vocation, while another teaches and preaches as a vocation. And so we should not think just in terms of teaching elders as paid vocational ministers.

When we say we may need someone to direct the affairs of the church, we are not talking about ministry organization. We are talking about shepherding souls. We have to remember that the main function of elders, both ruling and teaching, is to pray, study, and oversee the lives of the people. And we need them to stay in their lane. Pastor and elder are synonymous terms. A ruling elder is a shepherd of the people the same as the teaching elder. A ruling elder does not primarily labor in public preaching and teaching, but he still labors among the people in regards to the care of souls. He is a shepherd, and shepherds are concerned with the care of sheep, not the maintenance of farming equipment. The machinery of organizing the service of the poor and distributing the necessary funds lies under the auspices of another office, that of deacon or deaconess, which we will survey in our next blog. But we need to understand upfront, that the church has a limited sphere of operation. She is to be concerned with the preaching of the Gospel, of which the care of souls is a part, and meeting the material needs of the legitimate poor (within the body first, without the body secondarily). This is her domain, and the extent of her authority. She has been authorized by Scripture with two offices, elder and deacon, to carry out her mission of making disciples of all nations. There are no offices outside of these two, nor is their legitimate “ministry” in Christ’s Church beyond the care of souls and meeting the material needs of the poor.

Solomon’s Porch believes, as a founding principle, that the sphere of the Church’s ministry is limited, and that she needs to remain focused on the two types of ministry that God has equipped her through her two offices to accomplish.   For clarity’s sake they are,

  • The Elder: The preaching of the Gospel which includes the care of souls, and
  • The Deacon: Ministering to the needs of the legitimate poor within the body first, with the over-flow of funds and energy being directed to the outside

 

Elders and Deacons Part 1

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

The election or appointment of officers in the local church is important to the ordinary life and the long term health of God’s visible people. The Apostle Paul placed two men, Timothy and Titus, in key places in the ancient world for two reasons. First, to provide models of what true shepherding should look like for those disciples to see. Second, after establishing the pattern of shepherding, they were to find, train, and ordain other men to take up the mantle of leadership in the local churches.

“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”  – 2 Timothy 2:2 –

They were not managers, they were shepherds. We have a hard time distinguishing between the two in the modern era. The church has become in many ways the domain of managers. As she has become increasingly program driven, and as she has become generally larger in number, she has become increasingly managed. Efficiency and smoothness of function are valued. Lead pastors often build well oiled machines with a series of departmental pastors beneath them. Churches of thousands of people are established through management techniques with hardly a soul known by any of the shepherds. Many names are known, of course, but how many souls? This is not the pastoral pattern established by the Apostle Paul, but rather a leadership pattern established and defined by American ideas of success. So what does a leader in the Pauline pattern look like?

The first thing he lists is someone who is “above reproach.” Someone with a high longterm pattern of integrity. This person does not have a line of people ready to publicly question his character. Even those who may not like him would not accuse him because of his widely established good character.

Second, he is a man who has kept his word in fidelity to his wife. Ordination generally is seen to involve the taking of vows. It is one of the few places in a man’s life that a vow maybe required of him. But how can one be trusted to take a ministerial vow if he has not kept his first vow inviolate. A man cannot be expected to remain faithful to a people for the longterm,  if he has not already remained faithful to his wife, which is the closest earthly picture we have of the relationship between Christ and his church. Marriage covenants must have remained intact and previous vows kept among the shepherds of Christ’s church.

Third, he must be sober-minded. A shepherd in Christ’s church takes the life that God has given him seriously. This leads him to take command of his bodily appetites and desires. In other words, he becomes a man known for his self-control.

Due to his sober-mindedness and his self control the believers of the congregation come to respect him, and desire to spend time with him in his home. He is hospitable and enjoys opening his home to others. He is able to teach in private situations (give counsel), and he can be called on to teach or preach the Word of God in a worship assembly if needed, though this may or may not turn out to be something he does for a vocation. He is not dominated by substance abuse (not given to wine), nor is he dominated by his emotions, like anger which may lead one to become violent. He sees the purpose of truth as being pastoral and seeks to lead others to that truth through a gentle spirit, avoiding prolonged heated debates (quarrelsome). His life is not steered by money (not a lover of money). He is impartial in monetary matters, seeing money more as a necessary evil in the church, rather than a primary driver of the decision-making processes in the church.

An overseer must be one that has first already overseen his private life well. Whether single or married, his life should be in order. He must be one who has kept his own first responsibilities well to parents and family. If his wife and children do not honor him, how can others be expected to do so? The church is an institution based on voluntaryism. There is no coercion used. People must willingly surrender to the leadership of the local body of Christ. Therefore only men of high honor can come to the position of elder. If respect for the leadership of the church is lost, then those people who have voluntarily placed themselves under their leadership have every right to move their place of worship to a new body where fidelity to biblical shepherding is modeled and valued.

Finally, the position of elder should only be occupied by someone, (1) who is of sufficient age, and (2) not a recent convert. Longterm faithfulness needs to be exhibited before one can truly lead in the church. There is more to know than doctrinal definitions and technical rules of governance. The deep work of the Spirit of God where one comes to know their own soul generally only occurs over a long period of time. How can we remove splinters from the eyes of others without having first dealt with the logs in our own. Before one can lead they must learn to follow. Their metal needs to be sufficiently tested in submission to others. Their are some flaws of character that can only be repaired, and some lessons in life that can only be learned, through the slow work of waiting in humility.

As you nominate an elder in the coming weeks, look for men who match such characteristics.

 

 

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 6

Part 6 “Multiply and Fill the Earth: The Extraordinary Sense”

If the only way to obey the “Creation Mandate” to “multiply and fill the earth” is to marry, and then to have children, there would be several categories of disciples that would be unable to practically obey it. Children are not emotionally or sexually mature, and so cannot engage in marriage and procreation. Single persons may have a desire for both marriage and children, but may have not yet found a suitable person to enter into a covenant of such a magnitude as marriage. And without the covenant of marriage the practice of sex is referred to in the Bible as “sexual immorality”, and is prohibited as sinful. Then there are those who have chosen celibacy as a way of life in order to serve the King of Kings without earthly distraction or worldly obligation. Jesus calls these people “eunuchs… for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 19:12

12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

 In my experience as a reformed Protestant Christian in the U.S., we tend to be reactionary people. We are often not taking a Biblical action, but responding to past errors in Roman Catholicism or the excesses of American Evangelicalism. We are trying so hard “not to be something” that we don’t declare well who we really are and what we really believe. I could write several blogs on this subject. But a single denominational example will help.

I served in a Baptist church for many years as an associate pastor. I have seen myriads of children and adults baptized in the Baptist church. I in fact grew up Baptist, and became a Christian later, in a Baptist church. In all those years, and in all the baptisms I witnessed throughout the years, until I read the Reformers at least, I never once heard anyone coherently explain what baptism actually was. I only heard explained what it was not, and what it did not do. It was not the blood. Which is true, and is said in response to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. It does not save you. Which is also true, and is said in response to both Roman Catholicism (and other traditions too) and in the southern U.S. at least, to refute the indigenous members of the Churches of Christ. But what is baptism. What I found was that Baptists were generally anti-Catholic and reactionary, defining the very sacrament from which they take their name only in negative terms. They were virtually devoid of positive statements as to what baptism really is. I am not referring to their ancient doctrinal statements, which were generally clear. I am referring to the average church members experience. Compounding this problem was also the reactionary idea that there was “no creed but Christ.” This caused most Baptists to (again reacting to Roman Catholicism) not even know what their own church believed prior to the  1920s.

I came to understand, through my own experiencing of sharing Christ with a perishing world, that almost everyone knew what I, as a Christian was against, but almost no one knew what I, as Christian was for. I came to be convinced that many Protestants never moved beyond the act of protesting, and that it was time for me personally to do so. I encourage you as well to consider how to discuss the difficult subjects of the day in positive terms by starting with what God is for, rather than what He is against. It helps you to frame the actual reasons He is against a thing, rather than just blindly stating that this or that is sin. It helps us deepen our own knowledge of how to take positive action in life, rather than always sitting around trying NOT to do some sin or another. Again most Protestants nowadays are trying not to sin, but if you encourage them to do good works, they throw “justification by faith” apart from the works of the Law at you. Which is a Majestic Truth! Amen and Amen! But if the only truth you really understand is “Justification by Faith Alone”, it is like having a single tool that is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. Most people who are struggling in sin in the Protestant Church today, if you encourage them to commune with God more in prayer and fasting, and to consecrate themselves to the Lord, they will just retort that you are a “legalist” and go back to white-knuckling their way through life, attempting to believe more or harder. This is the contradiction that a reactionary Faith that is almost purely against things causes. The reactionary nature then of the Protestant church has caused us to neglect in meaningful ways categories of singleness and the infertile.

Surrendering to a call to celibacy is an area of practice virtually unheard of in the modern Protestant Church…. but not in the early Church. Here is Justin Martyr (100 AD to 165 AD) born within a decade of the Apostle John’s death, writing in his “First Apology”, around 130 AD, which you can find here.

“”And, there are some who have been made eunuchs of men, and some who were born eunuchs, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but all cannot receive this saying.” Matthew 19:12 So that all who, by human law, are twice married, are in the eye of our Master sinners, and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. And many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men”( Justin Martyr’s First Apology Chapter 14 “Demons Misrepresent Christian Doctrine)

 Justin Martyr is clearly saying that wherever you find the church in his day, you also find some who have chosen to be “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” I could multiply this witness many times, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t. The point that I am making here is to demonstrate that both in Scripture and in early church history there is the idea that there are some who make a conscious choice to not engage in marriage in order to dedicate themselves to Christ and the churches service as a way of life.

One of my modern heroes in the faith, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), was such a person. She had the opportunity to marry in the early years of her mission work. I believe she was still in the Orient during that time, before she relocated to India, where the bulk of her work was done. Both her and the gentleman had obvious feelings and leanings towards one another, working closely together in mission. In the end they both declined to act on them, choosing the path of singleness, dying as Eunuch’s for Christ. Did Amy Carmichael not “multiply and fill the earth?” Of course she did. She saw women and children saved from temple slavery, gave them new names, and she taught them a pattern of life to follow. She still teaches us today if we will listen. For a good book on her life see Elizabeth Elliot’s “A Chance to Die.”

These same things can be said about children and married couple who are infertile. Sharing the Gospel and our whole way of life with others is also “multiplying and filling the earth” with the “seed” of God. Infertile couples who desire children are called to adoption as a way of extending the Kingdom of God. They in fact are mimicking God’s personal actions toward us, His elect people, who are his own adopted children. While “multiplying and filling the earth” has an ordinary sense, it also has an extraordinary one too. And in some ways children, the infertile, and the single can excel their married and fertile counterparts in “multiplying and filling the earth.”

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 3

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 4

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 5

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 5

Part 5 “Multiply and Fill the Earth: The Ordinary Sense”

Once someone crosses the thresh-hold of adulthood as a generous, self-sacrificial, and stable person, the ordinary means of multiplying and filling the earth is first marriage and then children. I am not going to say much about the order now as it will be elaborated on extensively in a later group of blogs about the “Stations of Life” that will occur in this series on “Discipleship and Christian Discipline.” But I do want to emphasize that “first marriage and then children” is the proper order. Yes, there is grace and forgiveness from God for breaking this order. We do not live in a perfectly moral world. Christians themselves are being progressively sanctified throughout this life, and so they are not perfectly moral people. But grace and forgiveness do not erase consequence. Violations of created order come with consequences, often massive ones that remain with us most or all of our lives. The order of “multiplying and filling the earth” is particularly susceptible to creating life-long personal and  financial consequences. But more on that later.

The ordinary sense of fulfilling the Creation Mandate of “multiplying and filling the earth” is marriage and family. Adam and Eve were to remain in the Garden of Eden. But one of their key tasks was to have children and to expand the Garden’s size until the earth was as “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.(Isaiah 11:9) Glorifying God is mimicking God, doing work as He has done it, thinking His thoughts after Him. The Garden was the pattern, and the earth was given to humans mostly unordered so that we could “subdue it” (as we will see) as God subdued the Garden when He created it. Through work, organization, creativity, and a love of truth and beauty man is to the expand his “dominion” and “glorify” God. Family is the first place children should observe fruitful people in a fruitful community. It is also the best place to learn about the subduing of the earth that has already been done my humans before them. We call the first marriage, and we call the second education.

Marriage and families should be formed by two fruitful people. Community calls for massive amounts of public generosity and self-sacrifice. But both those can be seen and celebrated by others in their public capacity, and so they have a reward attached to them. Marriage, the source and building block of all culture and community require private generosity and self-sacrifice, and so they go largely unseen. It is the children of the virtuous woman that rise up and call her blessed. It is possible (highly probably in our society) for her to be thought of as an undesirable moral prude by her neighbors. Men and women of biblical integrity are not likely to move easily through a corporate business structure due to their unwillingness to live an unauthentic and pragmatic existence. Doing good often comes with a price hear on the earth.

1 Peter 3:13-17

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

 It is the private nature of being fruitful in your marriage and family that makes it such a compelling case for leadership in the Kingdom of God. How can a man rule or exercise “dominion” in the Church, the household of God, if he has not properly done it in his own household?

1 Timothy 3:1-5

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

 And so we see marriage and family become proving grounds for our fruitfulness. The foundry where the metal is heated and the dross removed. The forge where our fruitfulness is further hammered out by the difficult blows of endurance and repentance. The most authentic circumstances of our life are found there, and so, generally speaking, both our real virtue and our real capacity for spiritual leadership are found there as well.

I say “generally” speaking many times throughout this essay. Marriage and children are the “general” means by which fruitful expansion in the earth takes place, but they are not the only means. The American Church has given in to a commercialized and consumer-driven culture. It hires consultants and builds its “advertising” campaigns” around “youth and children’s ministries”, mainly in the suburbs, effectively targeting families and leaving the infertile and single out to dry. We have done a terrible, terrible job discussing the categories of singleness, and encouraging some to give their lives completely and fully to God as Jesus did, as Paul did, as John the Baptist did, and as many in the early church did as well, following the pattern of chosen singleness those first New Covenant examples. In our next blog or two, we will be discussing “multiplying and filling the earth” not in its ordinary sense, but in its extraordinary one.

Soli Deo Gloria,

JM

 

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 3

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 4

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 4

Part 4 “Fruitfulness Must Precede Multiplying and Filling the Earth”

Being fruitful in life must precede multiplying and filling the earth, as marriage and child rearing are the ordinary fulfillment of this creation mandate. They both require personal generosity, faithfulness, and stability in order to be a nourishing and meaningful part of life. Marriage has fallen on hard times because fruitfulness has fallen on hard times. As America has slipped further and further into a society of consumption personal generosity has been sacrificed. Consumers consume and use, they are by nature takers not givers. Words like duty and obligation are now by-words in our society. Vows are made lightly. Personal sacrifice, which is the giving of one’s self, is uniquely related to being a generous person. People are taught that it is happiness that brings them satisfaction, yet happiness is a fleeting feeling, so satisfaction in life is elusive. We become unhappy in our marriage, but since we believe happiness brings satisfaction, we end our marriage. Children, we believe will understand when they are older, and so we teach them the same malicious lie about happiness and satisfaction. And happiness is as elusive for them as it is for us. Popularity, the right clothes, the right friends, the newest tech products, and multiple sexual liaisons all bring fleeting pleasure and momentary happiness, but they do not result in satisfaction. They are taught the ethics of a consumer and grow to be takers too. Thus multiplying and filling the earth with consumers results in a destruction of the culture and society rather than a flourishing of them. This is what we are all experiencing in America today. Consumers consuming one another in pursuit of satisfaction. When there is nothing left to consume, the civilization perishes.

 

Fruitfulness must precede multiplying and filling the earth. God’s dominion is brought about by personal generosity and the sacrificing of self. It is the pattern of Jesus Christ, King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He has dominion, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to” (Matthew 28:18) Him by the Father because of His person generosity. Salvation was brought to the human race through his sacrifice of himself for us all. He is the pattern for all human persons. Husbands and wives are to emulate His Gospel to each other by giving themselves too each other and for each other, modeling their relationship after Christ’s relationship to His church.

 

Ephesians 5:22-27

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

 

If ever a passage of Scripture called for the Gospel obedience of personal generosity and self- sacrifice it is this one. For a wife to surrender herself to an extremely flawed husband is impossible and senseless if she is a consumer married to happiness more than her Lord or her husband. For a husband, who is himself a consumer, to be willing to die for his extremely flawed wife is as equally impossible and senseless. This is how marriage and family have really been destroyed among us. Two unfruitful consumers marry and have children in a search for personal happiness, and find both difficult, with periods of deep unhappiness. So they end the one and begrudgingly continue the other because it can’t be easily dissolved. Children grow to adulthood with a resolve to not endure the unhappiness of their parents, which they believe marriage contributed to, and so they cease to see marriage as a desirable arrangement for life. Some come to believe that marriage as an arrangement for life is still desirable, just not with someone of the opposite sex. It was the abusing male or the conniving female that was the issue. Sexual satisfaction can be gained in other ways. Men don’t need women. Women don’t need men. Homosexuality, Misogyny, and Feminism all find their root in consumption and the pursuit of happiness. I can’t say it too often or emphasize it too much, Biblical fruitfulness is being personally generous and living a life of self-sacrifice. It must precede multiplying and filling the earth.

 

Soli Deo Gloria,

JM

 

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 3

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 3

Part 3 “A Fruitful Life”

Being “fruitful” is often mashed together with “mutltiply and fill the earth”, but they are not the same thing. As I will write about in a later post, marriage and children do not necessarily make one fruitful. There are categories of singleness that allow for an even more fruitful life in the Kingdom than marriage. Jesus and Paul both mention them. (Matthew 19:12, 1 Corinthians 7) Protestants, due to our general reactionary bent, in an attempt to not be Roman Catholic, do not often write about or think about these subjects very well. What of those who cannot bear children? What of those who choose to live the life of a “Eunuch” for the Kingdom? I’ll leave these questions for another post, but suffice it to say that marriage and children, or “multiply and fill the earth”, are not the same as fruitfulness.

What is fruitfulness then? We are take dominion on the earth by doing the good, not by simply trying to do no harm to others. We are to seek the good of others. We are to be givers and not takers. This means personal self-sufficiency and the care for one’s own life is paramount. If there is no physical impediment, we are to provide abundance for ourselves and for others, since there are those who cannot care for themselves. Children, the elderly, those with special-needs, or those relocating due to famine, war, or disaster are in need of subsistence. Self-sufficiency is not something to be done out of pride. I am not calling others to pursue individualism. Fruitfulness is to live a life that considers how we may best do the good and provide for ourselves and those that are in need.

We are not to live in our parent’s basement. We were not put here to take up space like a mushroom on a rotting log. Being fruitful means bearing fruit. A tree that bears fruit has endured much. Storms and withering heat have tested it and caused it to put down deep roots. Fruitfulness involves being faithful, stable, and dependable. It is to grow, endure, and ultimately to mature into a person capable of reproducing our life in others. When God mandates that humans be fruitful as part of carrying out dominion in Genesis 1:28, the very next verse he reminds them that

Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.(Genesis 1:29)

 A tree that is fruitful is a tree that can reproduce its life and provide abundance., For humans, who are not like inanimate trees, this has as much to do with our spiritual life as our physical life.

Fruitful people build a legacy of loving relationships and good works. I have been to many funerals where only a few people came to pay their respects. And those few came out of obligation not devotion. The person who had passed was bitter and unforgiving. They were takers who sucked the life out of the few healthy relationships they had once had. All that was left in their wake was a fragmented family and an even more bitter, in many cases, next generation. I have buried people in my own family who, upon their death, simply vanished. No spouse, children, career, real friends, possessions, or any other sign that they had once been among us.

We are to be fruitful. This is the first of four “Creation Mandates.” It is key to understanding what the Bible means when it says we were given “dominion” on the earth, and the rest of the “Creation Mandates” follow from it. Go forth in repentance and give yourself to being a fruitful person, faithful, stable, and dependable. Provide stability and a pattern of good works that others can follow. Build a legacy of truth, beauty, and goodness. Do good in every way in which God has gifted and called you. And above all, “do not grow weary” in doing it, “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Soli Deo Gloria,

JM

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2

Part 2 “Dominion: The Purpose for the Creation Mandates”

What makes man different from all the animals? Why don’t dogs wrestle with the meaning of life? Why don’t animals develop justice systems, or debate morality, or develop language for that matter? Why don’t they develop systems of governance, or thoughtfully improve the world around them? Why don’t they write songs or poetry? Why don’t they engage in monogamous romantic relationships? Why don’t they invent or create? Stated very simply, humans are not advanced or highly evolved animals. We are not now, nor have we ever been, primates. While we may have similar physiologies to animals, the comparison really ends there. Humans were given a gift that the animals were not. Humans were created in the image of God.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…. So God created man in his own image,  in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26a;27)

 God stamped into the human nature an image of himself. Intelligent, emotional, creative, with an internal sense of justice, a desire for order, and a desire to take their surroundings and improve them. They, male and female, are a royal-creatures. They are vice-regents who serve under God as caretakers of the earth.

“And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26b)

 Humans were given by God what the Bible calls, “dominion” in the earth. That does not mean that we are to be petty dictators. We are to reflect the power, beauty, and glory of our creator. We are to rule as He rules, graciously and mercifully, always seeking the good of others, and the good of the world in which we live. We are to think God’s thoughts after Him and to do the actions that He himself would do. This is what it means to glorify God. It is to mimic Him, to imitate Him. It is also the essence of what it means to be human.

But, what specifically does it mean to glorify God? The above is true, but vague. People have different notions of good, truth, and beauty. They understand purpose and meaning differently. The Scriptures solve this issue of disunity by providing for all of mankind four basic mandates that we are all to fulfill. These are the ways we extend a gracious dominion in the earth, taking the decision from out of our hands. These are the “Creation Mandates”… (1) Fruitfulness, (2) Marriage and family, (3) Learning and Laboring, and (4) Resting and worshiping the Triune God.

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth…. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 1:28;2:3)

Soli Deo Gloria!

JM

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1 “The Creation Mandates”

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 1

Part 1 “Introduction to the Creation Mandates”

Christianity has several words that begin with the prefix, “re”. Regeneration and Redemption being two of the more important ones. Regeneration etymologically means basically “to bring life again.” Redemption of course, thinking back (if you are old enough) to the time when grocery stores used to “purchase back” the glass bottles from our favorite soft drink after we had emptied them of their sweet content, means to “buy again.” The point being that the prefix “re” means to do something again. Jesus in the Gospel is regenerating the human race, redeeming them from sin, and thus restoring them to their former created estate as righteous in the just eyes of God. The wonderful work of the Gospel is not just that we are restored to our former created estate, but that we will be brought eventually to a new estate, “glorification”, which is an unflawed and un-failable eternal state of being.

But for now, if you are reading this, you are still yet dwelling in the restored estate (justification) here in the old creation, and are awaiting the new estate (glorification) that is to come. But when we say, as Christians, that we are now enjoying the restoration of the created estate, what does that mean for us in our lives as they are now? How does it contribute to our understanding of human purpose? How does it contribute to our understanding of what it means to live a meaningful life on the earth?

If you understand yourself by faith to be restored to the created order in Christ, then you should also be renewing your participation in the original “Creation Mandates”. It is there that finding satisfaction and purpose begin for the whole human race in its original estate, and it is also there that those who are restored to that former estate should begin their discipleship to the second Adam, Christ himself. Man’s purpose has not changed on the earth. He is still, as the old catechism states, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  The meaningful life that the disciples of Jesus are to live are not at cross purposes with creation. They are at cross purposes to the world, which is a corrupt spiritual system fathered by a corrupt spiritual entity, Satan. But the created order remains unchanged and is still “very good.”

So what are the “Creation Mandates” and where are they found. The Creation Mandates are, (1) Fruitfulness, (2) Marriage and family, (3) Learning and Laboring, and (4) Resting and worshiping the Triune God. They are found in Genesis 1:26-28; 2:1-3.

Genesis 1:26-2:3

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image,  in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Over the next few blogs we are going to take some time to unpack each “Creation Mandate” at least a little. The blogs will not be anywhere near comprehensive, but they should give a disciple of Jesus a starting point to begin to explore the four main branches of human purpose. I hope also that they will help Christian’s see the rich meaning that they are capable of providing for the whole human race. The recovery of purpose and meaning within the church, I believe, is absolutely necessary for the discipleship of new (and many older) believers. But it is also paramount for evangelism and broad engagement with a hostile culture that is bent on destroying the church and itself in one fatal swoop…. By destroying forever (in the West at least) both the purpose and the meaning of life for all of our children.

Soli Deo Gloria!

JM

Discipleship and Christian Discipline Part 2 “Dominion: The Purpose for the Creation Mandates”