Earnestly Contending

During this afternoon’s service I reviewed the basic, essential purposes of a church thus:

A local church exists to glorify God by obeying Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. A local church glorifies God by obeying Christ’s commands, which are—

  1. Evangelize the lost through personal witnessing and public preaching of the gospel (Acts 1:8; 2:47)
  2. Edify believers through the systematic teaching of the Bible (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:2), public worship (Col 3:16; 1 Tim 2), ministry of believers (Eph 4:12), observance of the ordinances (Acts 2:42), and the administration of biblical discipline (Matt 18:15–16; Rom 15:14; Gal 6:1–2; 1 Thess 5:11, 14; Heb 3:13; 10:24–25; 12:12–13)
  3. Equip believers to do the work of the ministry for the unity, maturity, protection, and growth of the body (Eph 4:11–16)
  4. Exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in public worship (1 Cor 14:24–25; Col 3:16)
  5. Establish churches of like faith and practice at home and abroad (Acts 14:23, 27; 20:17, 28; Gal 1:2; Phil 1:1; et al)
  6. Earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (1 Tim 3:15; 6:12; 2 Tim 4:2; 2 Pet 2:1–3; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3)

I spent a bit of time on the last point as extremes can be easy to fall to on this (either not contending or being contentious). After the service one of our men (Dave Ring) came up to me and shared this excellent thought:

Another difference between earnestly contending and being contentious is that in the one you’re seeking to glorify God but in the other you’re glorifying yourself.

That’s a paraphrase, as I can’t remember the exact wording, but that was excellent, I thought. I’m thankful for godly men like Dave at our church!


I Am A Christian

Fellowship is the instituted way of making a public profession of the faith and hope of the gospel.

A man may hold the opinions and approve the practices of some voluntary, worldly society; but until he has united himself with it, he is not considered, either by its members or the public, as one of their number. His actually joining himself to them according to the established usage, is his profession. Thus a man may be a sincere believer of the gospel, and, so far as respects his own private conduct, an exemplary example of genuine piety; but until he has connected himself with a Christian church, he has not professed himself to be a Christian. It is by that act he declares to the world his faith and hope as a believer in Christ. It is thus he virtually says, “I receive the opinions, possess the dispositions, submit to the obligations, and observe the practices of the church of God with which I now connect myself.” Jesus Christ has made it our duty not only to receive his truth into our hearts, but to confess him before men; and it is a duty on which very considerable stress is laid. This is to be done, not in any ostentatious way, but by joining ourselves to his people: which is a confession, that both the church and the world clearly understand. Hence it is apparent, that church membership is no trifling matter, since it is calling heaven, earth, and hell, to witness our solemn declaration of submission to the authority of Christ. It is saying, in the hearing of more worlds than one, “I am a Christian.”

–J. A. James, The Church Member’s Guide, pp. 27-28.

What Do You Have In Common With Mormonism?

The National Association of Evangelicals (hereafter NAE) met today with a representative of the Mormon church for dialogue. In its press release, NAE president Leith Anderson said,

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Board of Directors, which includes the CEOs of 40 denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations and churches, will gather in Park City and Salt Lake City on March 10, 2011 for its semiannual board meeting.

This meeting is the first to be held in Utah, where the majority of its residents are Mormons. In addition to board business, the NAE leaders will meet with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at the Governor’s Mansion to discuss various issues of concern to evangelicals. The board will also meet with a leader from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

“We hope this time of dialogue with LDS leaders will deepen our understanding of the Mormon faith and contribute to the ongoing work of evangelicals in Utah,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “For the sake of Christ and his kingdom, we seek to represent biblical evangelicalism to those who wouldn’t hear or know. We also look for common ground on issues where we can work together.”

The NAE states its objective in meeting thus:

“We hope this time of dialogue with LDS leaders will deepen our understanding of the Mormon faith and contribute to the ongoing work of evangelicals in Utah,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “For the sake of Christ and his kingdom, we seek to represent biblical evangelicalism to those who wouldn’t hear or know. We also look for common ground on issues where we can work together.”

So let’s make some assessment here–

  • Evangelical leaders need to publicly meet with Mormons to better understand “the Mormon faith.” Do you think the evangelicals said, “Oh, I really understand you now. Your doctrine definitely is unbiblical and is leading millions away from Christ to hell.” I don’t.
  • Evangelical leaders need to publicly meet with Mormons to represent biblical evangelicalism. Do you think the evangelicals said, “Now, the only way of salvation is by fully believing that Jesus Christ is the eternal God in the flesh, not through any works, and genuine repentance from all Mormon doctrine?” I don’t.
  • Do you think these evangelical leaders found common ground to work together on? I hope not. Where in the Bible is there support for this kind of thing? Actually, the Bible does say something about attempting to find common ground with Mormons in order to work together–

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Cor 6:14-16)

  • IOW, the Bible says that there is no agreement between evangelicals and Mormons and there should be no working together with such.

Friends, this action on the part of the NAE shouldn’t surprise you. It’s in their DNA. From their inception they repudiated the idea of separating from disobedient brethren, have championed dialogue  with theological liberals and apostates, and have openly fraternized with such.

It’s sad that the NAE’s home page has a message from its president with the subtitle, “Cooperation without compromise.”

The NAE is disobeying the Scriptural command to be separate from unbelievers, and believers should in turn Scripturally respond to these disobedient brethren by having no working relationship (i.e. separation) from them as well (2 Thess 3:6, 14).

Here’s the official press release from the National Association of Evangelicals.

Here’s a general report from the Mormon Times.

Here’s an article I wrote several years ago on some of these very leaders speaking at the Mormon Tabernacle. I answer questions such as, “Is Mormonism Christian?” “Are there strings attached with meeting with Mormons like this?” “What happens in dialogue?” and “What is the end result of this?”

Strong Words About Church Membership

It is high time for every Christian to consider well his relation to the church, and the duties which it involves. No covenant is more sacred or binding, than that which unites a member to this body.

The matrimonial covenant has upon it the seal of God; to prove faithless to it, is a sin of deep die. But this is, in some respects, even more solemn and sacred. It is a union to Christ, publicly solemnized; a union of imperishable minds in interests of infinite moment. The matrimonial relation is dissolved at death; this endures forever.

In this age of numerous and imposing associations, making strong and bold claims upon us, we need to be doubly guarded lest any of them be suffered to divide our affections with the church. Better, a thousand times, that all other associations should be scattered to the winds, than that they should be allowed to divide churches and alienate its members, secularize and profane religion, and scatter the seeds of iniquity in the very garden of the Lord.

–John Angell James, in The Church Member’s Guide (1838), pp. xv-xvi.

Social Gospel Again

“Again,” referencing an earlier post I made about social efforts by churches.

Today’s is from the National Council of Churches’ letter to President Obama, urging him to cut poverty in half–

There is no greater concern among the churches of Christ than for those in this nation who live in poverty. This could hardly be otherwise because Jesus himself lived among the poor: loving them, eating and drinking with them, healing them, and speaking words of justice and assurance that God’s own love for the poor is unsurpassed.

Really? No greater concern?

I suppose this does become a church’s greatest concern when they deny the gospel and a host of doctrines fundamental to Christianity. But I’ve addressed this week already too. 🙂

A Great Question and a Great Answer

Once in awhile we’ll take our Wednesday Bible study for an “Ask the Pastor” session. It’s usually a lot of fun, in addition to being helpful. Occasionally someone will ask a real tough question that I have to answer with “Uh, I have no idea. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”

In a jail in Philippi, there were two men who were asked a great question:

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

An answer was readily and confidently given:

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.

Let’s pray that that great question is asked more often, and we’ll have the opportunity to give the great answer!

A Social Mandate?

What role should the Christian church have in helping the poor and downtrodden?

This pastor says that it is a “biblical mandate” to spend our lives helping the poor, regardless of their response, for these reasons:

  • The OT clearly expects it, Deut 15:7-8
  • “The sin of Sodom was their lack of concern for the unrighteous poor, and the result of this sin was God’s judgment on both the rich and poor alike”, Ezek 16:49
  • Jesus expects His followers to serve “even the least of these,” Matt 25:40
  • Doing so is the best way of reminding yourself of the gospel

Thus, helping the unrighteous poor is something that should be done for its own sake, not even with the pretext of establishing a “bridge” for evangelism. This is what many evangelical churches, schools, leaders, books, websites, and radio stations hold to and promote.

However, I believe that there is no “social mandate” as described above, for the following reasons:

  • Social action for “pre-evangelism” is unbiblical for it ignores the depravity of the human heart and denigrates the power of the gospel
  • Appeals to the OT for explicit commands to social action ignore the dispensational differences between Israel, the Church, and the Kingdom of God
  • The Bible never commands the church to be involved in social issues
  • The Bible only commands the church to be involved in “social action” toward fellow believers

Go to Mark Perry’s article here for more detailed discussion on this matter.

This is yet one more reason why ministry fellowship with “conservative evangelicals” should not be pursued. I’m not calling their salvation, commitment to moral purity, devotion to missions, or anything like that into question (so don’t start that, please). I am saying, “how can we have working fellowship with those with whom we have fundamental disagreements over essential beliefs of Christian life and ministry?”