As mentioned in my previous article on Jacob and Esau (Rom 9:10–13), Calvinists use Romans chapters 9–11 as the undeniable evidence of Calvinistic soteriology, defending both unconditional election and reprobation. Regarding chapter 9, B.B. Warfield says, “It is safe to say that language cannot be chosen better adapted to teach Predestination at its height.” As I demonstrated, while the passage regarding Jacob and Esau does show God’s sovereignty, it has nothing to do with salvific election and reprobation, Calvinism’s doctrine of unconditional election. The same is true with regard to Pharaoh. Continue reading →
I have led churches to practice church discipline for over thirty years now, and I do not see the need for church discipline to be any less today than in years past. If anything, the need has increased.
Church discipline can be understood as the biblical attitude and actions of the local church that enable her to preserve her submission to the head of the church in holiness, fellowship, testimony, mission, and doctrinal purity, with the purpose of maintaining a conducive atmosphere for following Christ and experiencing His presence and power. Church discipline includes the following purposes: redemption, correction, protection, purification, and justice. On a practical level, I would further distinguish between non-formal and formal discipline. Non-formal includes all aspects of the biblical teaching and practical application of church discipline up to public involvement of the full church body in either seeking repentance of the sinning brother or sister or removal from fellowship. Continue reading →
A biblical attitude is crucial to the whole process of church discipline. If the attitude of those implementing discipline is not right, then what God designed to be a beautiful act of selfless love is transformed into an ugly act of power, even if all the other instructions are followed to the letter. The offspring of that evil may shortly surface as a disuniting and judgmental spirit in the fellowship, or it may lay dormant until the next attempt to lead the church in discipline and then surface with a vengeance. Continue reading →
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)
The church in the New Testament has replaced the sacred Old Testament temple. The New Testament says that Christ’s body is a temple (John 2:19–21), the universal church is a temple (Eph 2:20–21), the individual Christian’s body is a temple (1 Cor 6:19), and in this verse the local church is a temple of God. The you is plural in this passage, signifying the corporate local body of believers. Consequently, every local New Testament church is a temple of God. Continue reading →
Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5:44). We all know this verse but actually doing this or even knowing someone who regularly prays for their enemies is quite another matter.
Several years ago I was experiencing one of the most difficult times of my ministry. Some people were causing great harm to the church I pastored. As the pastor, my hurt was deep. Most pastors know the pain that comes from watching people we love turn and begin to attack us and do things that harm or even destroy the flock. It can cause anger, bitterness, depression, and even cynicism in the heart of the most dedicated of shepherds.
As I was leaving a meeting during this time, Dr. Patterson approached me. I was not aware he knew of my painful situation. His words helped me immensely. Not by psychologizing my plight or a pep talk of clichés, but rather he spoke directly from the Scripture. How he advised me to handle this situation were some of the most difficult words I could have heard.
He told me to pray for my enemies. He encouraged me to get down on my knees and pray for them before our heavenly Father. He said God might work in their lives and bless them. He told me this was his practice. He said there is a level of intimacy with our Lord Jesus one experiences while on his knees praying for his enemies, persecutors, and those who want to destroy him, an intimacy that cannot be experienced without following Jesus and praying for the very ones who seek our destruction.
Though I well knew the Scripture Dr. Patterson was referencing, his admonition helped me see it more practically and personally. For I knew, as leader of the resurgence, Dr. Patterson had many enemies. I knew he personally felt the human emotions that come with even contemplating such an act, and how one must die to self to seriously enter into such communion with our Lord. Knowing he had done this many times helped me have the faith and humility I needed to pray for people who hated me, for those who hurt my family and the church I love.
I am so grateful for his counsel and example of praying for those who seek to destroy us. I have experienced this intimacy with Christ on many occasions, and I have counseled others to handle their detractors in the same manner. I desire to be faithful in praying for loved ones and those with whom I have fellowship, but none so much as those who seek to harm me. Even as I write this article, God has brought some to mind who have done me harm; thankfully, by only his grace, I prayed for them.
Jesus commanded us to pray for them, and he practiced what he taught when he prayed for the lost (John 17:21) and his enemies at the cross. “‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” (Luke 23:34).
May our Lord give you the strength to do the right thing in the right spirit. May he lead you to your knees to pray for the very ones who seek to hurt you, fire you, or malign your character. May you know Jesus in this dying-to-self-act. May this experience be repeated in your life and leave you forever changed as it has changed me.
This passage gives insight into the very nature of the gospel encounter. We see the genuine offer of the gospel, and the need and urgency to accept it, which the listeners can do; or they can reject it with full knowledge and remain in their sin.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.’ These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them” (John 12:35–36). Continue reading →
I remember the first time we implemented church discipline in my former church. It was the greatest spiritual challenge the church had faced. The process took over a year, and it ended with a young lady having to be removed and others leaving because of her removal.
But that was not to be the end of the story. Sometime later, I received a call from the young lady. She said she needed to come and repent before the church. She came and shared her story. She told how she had been saved subsequent to being disciplined by our church, and that it was the discipline of the church that God used to bring her to that salvation. She said she had always gotten away with everything she wanted—a pattern developed because of a lack of parental and self-discipline. The church had made her really examine her life and through that, she came to realize that she was not a true Christian. Correspondingly, she bowed her heart before our wonderful Lord, and He gloriously saved her. We welcomed her back to the Lord’s Table and the fellowship of the body. Continue reading →
I have practiced church discipline for over thirty years, and here are some of the practical reasons often posed to me against the practice of church discipline.
It was abused in the past
When the subject of church discipline surfaces, someone will inevitably point to the abuses of the past as reason enough to squelch the whole conversation and move on to something more palatable. It is an undeniable fact that there have been abuses in the past. George Davis writes, “A perusal of old church minutes would tend to justify the claim that in the past church discipline was often wrongly motivated and sometimes concerned with petty matters.” A classic example of abuse is when Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) forced Henry IV to stand as a penitent in the snow outside the castle at Canossa begging the Pope to cancel his excommunication. Continue reading →
The term discipline, both in the Bible and in everyday usage, displays various nuances depending on the particular biblical or life context. The ideas communicated by discipline are that of chastening, instruction, nurturing, training, correction, reproof, and punishment. In the negative sense, the idea of punishment is most prominent. In the positive sense, things like nurturing, training, and instruction come to mind. However, since all discipline is based on the perfect character of God, all discipline is actually positive even though it is not always immediately apparent. Just as the Scripture says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). The reality is that discipline and discipleship are so closely connected that to minimize discipline is to minimize discipleship. Lynn Buzzard notes, “To separate discipling from discipline is not only to tear words from their etymologically common roots, but also from their organic relationship.” Continue reading →
The imagery of a “wall of separation” was actually in use prior to Thomas Jefferson’s famous use of the phrase, and so it is wise to find out how it had been used in the context of religious freedom in America. This is particularly important in light of the fact that Jefferson used it while corresponding to Baptists, who had felt the brunt of government persecution in America. The phrase had a theological genesis as opposed to the modern supposed deistic, constitutional, or secular genesis. Continue reading →