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Musing About Baptism


As a life-long member of the Church of Christ, I have had a keen interest in the subject of baptism as long as I can remember. In 1976, I wrote my Master’s Thesis on the subject The Use of Baptism in Exhorting Christians in which I demonstrate that the apostolic use of baptism when addressing Christians (i.e., in the epistles) was to encourage them to unity in Christ, purity in life, and surety in their hope. More recently, I have been tossing another idea around in my head about baptism for the remission of sins, an idea that deepens my understanding of Acts 2:38 considerably. Continue reading

Tradition (2): Restoration Slogans


Much of the tradition of the churches of Christ is rooted in the 19th century Stone-Campbell movement. This is especially true of the “slogans” we use to describe our approach to Scripture.

Think of some of the famous slogans. I grew up with the following:

  • We speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.
  • Back to the Bible in faith and practice.
  • No creed but Christ; no book but the Bible.
  • In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things charity. Continue reading

JEWS, SAMARITANS, CHURCH, AND DENOMINATIONS


Debate? or Dialog?Here are some thoughts that might shed light on present circumstances and attitudes in Churches of Christ today. These thoughts are just that. They are thoughts – not settled conclusions. They point in a direction different from that walked by many brethren. That may make them suspect – and unworthy of adoption. But they do keep recurring to me.

Many in the Churches of Christ criticize attempts to have friendly dialog with “denominations.” Is this attitude similar to that of first century Jews toward the Samaritans? I realize that to ask this question is to Continue reading

SOUND DOCTRINE (5): Christ Came to Save Sinners


Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. – 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Elders are to hold firmly to the “trustworthy message” or pistis logos. Five times in Timothy & Titus, Paul introduces a “saying” with pistis ho logos. This is the first of them, and it is Continue reading

SOUND DOCTRINE: (4) Holding the Faithful Word


Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. – Titus 1:7-9

Two things in this passage relate specifically to sound doctrine and the overseer, or elder. The first is that the elder is to do God’s work. This is the work described in 1 Timothy 1:3-11 that is in keeping with sound doctrine. I will come back to this in a later post.

Encourage Others by Sound Doctrine

In this post, I want to discuss the other responsibility of the elder with regard to sound doctrine. This is in the last part of this passage: “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” The overseer-shepherd-elder must be able to use sound doctrine to encourage others, as well as to refute those opposing sound doctrine.

This means much more than seeing that the preacher does not present unsound teaching in his lessons. This is an individual responsibility of each elder. This is not something the eldership collectively must do. The “he” in Titus 1:9 who is to “encourage others by sound doctrine” is the same “he” who in v. 7 is to be “blameless – not overbearing” etc. This says nothing about public teaching, though that would be included. Much encouragement is one-on-one, but each elder has responsibility in this area.

Hold Firmly to the Trustworthy Message

Did you notice how he is empowered to do this? The first part of verse 9 tells us. “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught….” This will enable him to encourage others with sound doctrine and refute its opponents. This passage suggests three things:

  • This is the same thought that is in 2 Timothy 2:2. “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” The elder is, evidently, one of the “reliable men” whom Paul has in mind in this admonition to Timothy.
  • “Sound doctrine” is “the trustworthy message” that has been taught. This is what Timothy heard Paul say, which he was to teach others so they could in turn teach still others.
  • The “sound doctrine” in not merely a body of teaching to be handed down as instruction, but is teaching that encourages others and builds them up in faith and practice.

The Trustworthy Message

The expression “the trustworthy message” is an important term in the letters to Timothy and Titus. This expression appears only one time outside the Pastorals. That is in Revelation 22:6

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

The only difference in the usage here and in the Pastorals is that here it is plural, the word order of trustworthy and words is reversed, and true is added to trustworthy, and the pronoun These introduces the two words. The six times the words are together in the letters to Timothy & Titus they are singular.

Here in Revelation, you can see a solemn affirmation of the truth and trustworthiness of these words. In Timothy and Titus, five times Paul introduces an important statement with this formula. It is as if he is underlining them with a call to pay special attention to what follows.

I cannot stress the importance of these “Trustworthy Sayings” too much. They are not only at the center of the Christian message, the gospel, but also important statements of our faithful response to that message. These are not trivialities but are vital essentials of sound doctrine.

Here is the “trustworthy message” the elder-bishop-pastor must hold firmly:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. – 1 Timothy 1:15

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. – 1 Timothy 3:1

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:9-10

Here is a trustworthy saying: if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself. – 2 Timothy 2:11-13

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. – Titus 3:8

The similarity of these five verses in their format is even more striking in the Greek than it is in English. The English structure varies in the NIV between “Here is a trustworthy saying” and “This is a trustworthy saying.” In Greek, each of these begins with pistos ho logos, which could be literally translated, “Faithful [or Reliable or Trustworthy] the word [or Saying or Message].

The structure is a little different in Titus 1:9, which does not introduce a specific trustworthy message; it includes the entire message proclaimed. The same words are there, however, except for the article, which makes the charge in Titus more generic. Each of the five passages above speaks of a specific trustworthy saying, but together they make up the key points of the message that has been taught, which the bishop is to hold firmly.

I plan to discuss each of these five times Paul says this is a trustworthy saying (the KJV translation of the expression is faithful saying) over the next several posts.

In the meantime, consider what a difference it would make if each leader in God’s family would take these to heart and let these be the center of our proclamation of the gospel.

NEXT: Sound Doctrine (5) – Christ Came to Save Sinners

PREVIOUS: Sound Doctrine (3) – Conforms to the Gospel

QUESTION: Re Paying the Preacher


Red Question Mark

[I received the following question on our church web site. I am not sure if it came from a preacher resentful that his church is not supporting him as he thinks it should or from a church member who resents supporting the preacher. I suspect it is from a preacher. I also suspect the questioner uses the term “pastor” as the equivalent of “preacher,” not in what I consider to be the Biblical sense of the shepherd-overseer-elder. Since Paul addresses supporting elders who teach and preach, I did not make a distinction as I answered this question. – JS]

Is it the responsibility of the church to pay and take care of the pastor or does the pastor have to get a job and provide for himself and his family with a little help from the church?

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18

These verses follow a section that discuss which widows should be supported (5:3-16). It speaks of support by the church for elders who “direct the affairs of the church well, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” Paul quotes two Scriptures to support this: Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7. The first of these is from the Law of Moses; the second is a statement by Jesus.

There is ample Biblical support for a church paying its preacher or its elders when appropriate – as, for example, when he is working full-time in teaching and preaching. There is no Biblical directive, however, that this MUST be done.

Sometimes, the church is not capable of paying its ministers. What will a true servant of God do in that case? Will he refuse to minister because the church cannot pay him? Or will he do the best he can to support himself – remembering that at times even the great apostle and missionary, Paul of Tarsus, made tents to support himself and others who were with him.

One place he did this was in Corinth (see Acts 18:3) where he worked with Aquila and Priscilla who were also tent makers.

He wrote to the Corinthians about this later in 1 Corinthians 9:3-18. This is a lengthy text, but since it is so appropriate to your question, I give it in full.

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 must work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? 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? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the home of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all be more?

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. [Emphasis added – JS]

Paul claimed the “right” to support from the church. Yet, he did not exercise that right at Corinth. He preferred to provide the gospel free of charge. He had the servant heart of our Lord who gave Himself freely for us.

He had to return to this theme in his second epistle to the Corinthians.

Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. – 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 [Emphasis added – JS]

The brothers who came from Macedonia” were Silas and Timothy (Acts 18:5). Before they came, Paul was supporting himself by making tents (v. 3). After they came, he “devoted himself exclusively to preaching” (v. 5). He was able to do this because Silas and Timothy brought support for Paul from the churches of Macedonia. Paul spoke of this in a letter to a Macedonian church in Philippians 4:15-17.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.

Too many churches and preachers have entered into business arrangements where the preacher or elder becomes a “hireling” of the church instead of its servant. One of the qualities Paul told Timothy an elder (or bishop or pastor) should have is that he not be a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:3; see also vv. 1-7). Similarly, he instructed Titus that the elder must not be one who pursues dishonest gain (Titus 1:7; see also vv. 5-9). Peter also described the shepherds (pastors) of God’s flock. He said, among other things, that they must “not be greedy for money, but eager to serve” (1 Peter 5:2; see also vv. 1-4).

When the pastor watches over the sheep as a hireling, he comes far short of the Good Shepherd. Jesus, as He spoke of Himself as the Good Shepherd, said:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. – John 10:11-13

Does the pastor have a right to support? Paul quoted Jesus to say that he does. Yet, Paul declined “support” from those he served so he could make the gospel free of charge for them. Did he always do this? No, he accepted support from those who were able to give it to be able to serve those who could not provide support for him themselves. If he had no “outside” support and the church he was with was unable to support him, he worked to support himself and continued to preach free of charge.

Too many preachers look at their ministry as a professional career instead of as a mission and an act of service (ministry). Should the church support its preacher? Yes – if it is able to do so. But the preacher who will not preach unless he is paid is a poor excuse for a preacher. In those circumstances, Paul supported himself while continuing to preach. When support was available, he accepted it so he could devote himself exclusively to preaching and teaching. We need to be as he was. The preacher who will “jump” from one church to another just because the second church offered him more money is not acting for the benefit of the church, but for himself.

On the other hand, if a church refuses to support its preacher adequately when it is able to do so because it is miserly and resentful of the need to support the preacher in his work, they are to be blamed. If they are unable to support him fully, they need to be understanding and not make unnecessary demands on him if he has to work to support himself and his family while he continues to preach for them and serve them to the best of his ability.

I hope these thoughts will help you find an answer to your question.

Leadership (12a) More on the Home: Developing Boys Into Men Who Lead


Andy n OpieWay back in the late 1970’s I wrote an article for our church bulletin called, “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?” This was one of a series of articles I wrote analysing the results of a survey we had done on congregational attitudes toward our Bible School program. The survey was passed out in morning worship, done on the spot anonymously, and handed in.

As I began examining the results, I divided them by demographics (sex and age group). In the group of 25 – 45 year-olds, there were very few men. Women were present in good numbers, but there were few men. Hence, the question: “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?”

In the late 1980’s, I read a book on Leadership by Ian Fair, then the Dean of Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Religion. He made the observation that our nation had never had a president from my generation – whose fathers went off to WWII. He also said that we probably never would. John McCain was the last great opportunity for someone from this generation to win the presidency. Ian’s prediction is holding true.

I had also noticed previously that most congregations, during the period from 1975 – 1995 had difficulty finding men to serve as elders. The elders in that period were mostly those who were of age during WWII, and few men were willing to serve other than these until the “baby boomer” generation moved into church leadership.

In other words, we missed a generation of leaders, both in the nation and in the church.

Why?

I have developed a theory (technically, probably only a hypothesis) about this.

When boys do not have a strong male influence in their early formative years, they do not develop the qualities of leadership needed in Christian men.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Biblically we might think of Timothy. Yet, even Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith” – and Paul’s admonition to him that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity,” (2 Timothy 1:7) might suggest Timothy tended toward shyness.

Some boys, in the absence of a father in the home, find some other man to fill that void. In my young boyhood (preschool, from 3-5 years), my father was away (1943-1945), but we lived near my grandfather. I still believe there were some things I missed during those early childhood years, but there was a fairly strong male influence in my life.

Looking Ahead

With all of that said, what does this portend for the future – in the nation and in the church – if my hypothesis is correct, which I hope it is not?

Today there are more single family homes led by women than at any time in our history as a nation. This is also true in the church.

Where there are fathers in the home, many times they are effectively “absent” due to work or being absorbed in their sports or hobbies. Sometime, they are able to involve their sons in these things as well, but many times they do not. As a result the young men miss out on the potential leadership training they should be getting from their fathers.

In the past, there were many avenues for boys to have strong male influence. Their school was more than likely led by a male principal who had influence with the students, who was not just an administrator whom they barely knew. If they were in sports, there was a coach who more than likely was more interested in his team than he was at “winning” at any cost. There were neighbors who would take an interest in boys for their good, not as someone to exploit for their own selfish, unholy purposes.

Where is a young boy without a father in his life to find these things today? His school principal is likely a woman, and there may not be any men at all working in his school. If there are, the principal is likely an administrator whom the students barely know because the schools are so large, AND many schools are by their policies trying to teach boys to act like little girls. The most likely close contact with a man in the school context is with a coach. Again, the size of the schools means that sports are available only for those talented – and the pressure to win is enormous, even at the high school and junior high school level. Also, parents are understandably skeptical of any neighbors who take an interest in their young boys!

Replacing What Is Missing

What all of this means is that churches need to pay special attention to their boys and young men if they want to have effective leadership in the future. Church-based scout troops, men in Sunday school classes for children, and Lads to Leader programs are some of the formal ways churches can address this issue.

However, nothing will beat a dedicated Christian family with both mother and father taking a single Mom under their wing to help her in giving healthy male leadership to her sons. When this can be sustained over a period of time, the results, I believe, will prove to be impressive.

NEXT (13) Discipline: The Basis of Leadership
PREVIOUS (12) Christian Leadership in the Home

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