Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Reviving of Religion

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:6-7).

From One Hundred Talks to Theological Students by A.H. Strong, in the entry entitled, "Church Discipline":
I remember reading about an old Scotchman who told another, 'We have had a great revival of religion in our church.' 'How many were brought in?' asked the other. 'Oh!' was the reply, 'we did not get any in, but we got a lot of them out.' The best evidence of revival-spirit in any church is the disposition to exclude members who will not walk in the way of the Lord.

This exclusion is absolutely necessary for the sake of those who are living true Christian lives. It is a terrible thing for young people to know that well-to-do and influential members hardly ever come to the Lord's Supper, and are rarely in attendance upon public worship. These young people cannot see such examples without being influenced by them. We need to watch over our membership, and to give them from time to time such tender admonitions as shall prevent their straying away.

... It is my firm conviction that our churches must be smaller if they would be larger.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ordinances: Marks of a True Church

Program note: Our deepest apologies for the neglect of this blog, turns out that pastoring and parenting can inhibit prostrate calvinism on-line. Back to our regularly scheduled programming...

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 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.' In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor 11:23-26).

We have been struck afresh by the glory of the Church in the re-reading of Dever's outline of Biblical ecclesiology in A Theology for the Church. So, we thought it prudent to share some of Dr. Dever's gems with you.

In his discussion on the ordinances of the Church, namely baptism and the Lord's Supper, he observes how their observance is not minor, but serves to distinguish Christians from the world:
When a church practices baptism and the Lord's Supper, it obeys Christ's teaching and example. In so doing, it portrays Christ's death and resurrection, the testimony of every believer's own spiritual rebirth, as well as the church's collective hope for the final resurrection. These two practices, in short, proclaim the gospel...

Conversely, a church fails to obey Christ's command when it neglects either of these two signs. Such failure removes that church from a submission to the larger teaching of Scripture. And it separates a congregation from the apostolic and universal practice of Christ's followers. Scripture acts as a counterweight against anyone - whether congregation or person - who decides to be a Christian and yet neglects baptism or the Lord's Supper. This neglect, or denial, separates those who truly follow Christ. While neither baptism or the Lord's Supper is salvific, a deliberate neglect of either puts a question mark on any profession of faith. In this sense, baptism and the Lord's Supper act as the marks of a true church. They are the outward signs, or visible boundaries, that distinguish a particular people from the world.

- A Theology for the Church, pp. 783-84 (emphasis added).
We are struck at how often the programs of the contemporary church are tenaciously protected while the "programs" (read, ordinances) the Lord Himself has given us are subtly defiled through apathy. Our separation from the world in Christ is a spiritual reality to be sure, but we are commanded to give it regular visibility in our congregations through the practice of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Not the "optional extra," the center of our life together is proclaiming His death until He comes by word and sign.