Monthly Archives: August 2015

“Why is there Church Membership?”

ASK 2015 “Where in the Bible does it say anything about Church Membership? Why insist on it?
When it comes to what we do as believers…we desire…of course to be in line with the Scriptures. Not just to know how to be His people, but also how to be His Church. Principles/precepts that are just as current/relevant today as when first written.
There are some do not believe in Church membership. They do not see it as Biblical nor expected by God. But actually, when we take a close look at the Scripture we see that it is. Here at Fellowship we take membership very seriously. We do not demand it, but rather encourage it. I firmly believe it is one of the ways that God uses to grow us into maturity…and conforms us into His likeness. That of course is the end result/goal. To be like Jesus. And so this morning I want to share with you some of the Biblical evidence that supports Church membership. Each point serves as an individual strand of the the grand tapestry…church.
If you are a MEMBER…let this remind you of the value/purpose of your membership here at Fellowship…If you are NOT A MEMBER…let this encourage you to seriously consider membership in a local church. Now to be clear here…there is no explicit imperative that says “you must be a church member”. Yet when you think about these Scriptural facts they would really make no sense if there was no such thing as “church membership“.
1. JOINING & ADDING WAS PART OF THE EARLY CHURCH…Acts 5:12-14 “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were being done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly…And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.”
So here in the early church, a distinction is made…there are those in Solomon’s Porch (part of Herod’s Temple)…all together with one accord…and also those who are faced with the decision of whether or not they would join the church in Jerusalem. They chose not to join them. But esteemed them highly (great respect) Now this was not just an informal getting together of believers it was public and organized. Now before you think this is merely a vague reference let’s consider another.
2. CARING FOR WIDOWS…1 Timothy 5:9-12
Here Paul gives Timothy (pastor of the church in Ephesus) instructions on how to care for the widows in the church. To “be taken into the number” means “to be enrolled“. Enrolling widows on the list of those receiving support from the church. Then adds characteristics of these godly women. “…wife of one man, good works, lodged strangers, washed feet of, relieved the afflicted, followed every good work but refuse the younger ones…”
What roll…a list of who gets support…what listing of persons would this be if it wasn’t for the local church. Now I know this is not conclusive evidence for formal church membership…but you must admit it is hard to imagine any Church keeping a list of widows and not having a master list of who actually belongs to the church. At Fellowship we have a master list of people along with a list of members and those who are even inactive.
3. ACCOUNTABILITY…Matthew 18:15-17
In this passage Jesus is giving His disciples step by step instruction on how to resolve interpersonal conflicts between brethren. NOTE: It is very clear and a very important part of the fellowship of believers. Church membership is implied by the way the church is supposed to discipline its members.  Matthew 18:15-17the church” appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority as it relates to membership. If there is no church membership, then how can you define the group that will lovingly care for this matter? Who is the group who will come alongside an unrepentant person…and who will render the final judgment about his standing in the community.
Can you imagine if just anyone showed up claiming to be a Christian that they could be part of the group that mediates the problems? Here is another implication…“the church” must be a definable group to handle such a weighty matter. You know who you mean when you “take it to the church.”  There must be a formalized, definable, organized body that needs to be that group. Just any old bystander will not suffice especially when sin is probably involved.
4. INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE CHURCH EXISTS… 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul giving Corinthians instruction to deal with sexual immorality within the church. implies this where he deals with the necessity of putting someone out of the church. He says, “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside (the church)? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person.”
There are two implications here that we cannot escape here: First, there is an “in the church” group and an “outside the church” group. Both are definable. The other implication is that someone can be removed from being “in the church.” So how do you remove somebody from the church if no membership does not exist? Those inside the church are accountable to those inside the church.
5. THE EXAMPLE OF SUBMISSION TO LEADERSHIP…
Church membership is implied in the biblical requirement of Christians to be submitted to church leaders. The point here is that without membership, who is it that the NT is referring to who must submit to a specific group of leaders? There must be some kind of willingness on the part of committed group to be submitted to their leaders.  And the leaders must be willing to lead the group.Just like a basketball coach is responsible to teach and instruct his 12-13 player and they are required to submit to him as their coach…there is a willing commitment to the boundaries of that team. A player does not pick what team he plays for on game day. Nopr does the coach try top coach the other team. They are committed to the team.
Consider the way the New Testament talks about the relationship of the church to her leaders.

  • Hebrews 13:17Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch over your souls, as those who must give an account.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 “And we urge you brethren, to recognize those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”
  • 1 Timothy 5:17 “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labor in the word (preaching) and doctrine (teaching).”

So a question to ask at this point is how does leadership lead and how is submission going to happen if there is no membership defining who has made the commitment to be led and who has been chosen as leaders? If we ignore membership, how do we take these commands to submit and to lead seriously and practically. If I am not a member of a local church why bother submitting to the the leaders.  If I am a leader who am I leading if the people do not want to be led?
6. THE EXAMPLE OF SHEPHERDS CARING FOR THEIR FLOCK…
Church membership is implied in the way the New Testament requires pastor/elders are to care for their flock. Of course elders should love anyone and everyone to the extent that they can. But the Bible tells elders/pastors/shepherds that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain group…as in a group of members.  For example, Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock. Acts 20:28 This verse does not say elders cannot care for unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular group the flock.
How are they to know who their flock is? Who are we as elders and pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?

Look at 1 Peter 5:2-3 The way Peter speaks to pastors here is even more to the point. “those entrusted to you/those in your charge” implies that the elders knew who they were responsible for.
This is just another way of talking about membership. If a person does not want to be held accountable by a group of elders …they will resist the idea of membership.  And they will resist God’s appointed way for them to live and be sustained in their faith.
7. THE METAPHOR OF THE BODY…
1 Corinthians 12:12-31 Church membership is pictured in the metaphor of the body. The original meaning of the word “member” is member of a body, like hand, foot, eye, ear. That’s the imagery behind the word “member” in v.12Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
So the question this imagery raises for the local church that Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12 is: there is a unity implied…the different parts (members) are part of a body…and each serves a particular function. You cannot simply be part of the body…if you are not attached to the body.  A binder on the head does not a mer of the body make. Silly as that may be.

So for these seven reasons and more we believe membership is a New Testament expectation for all believers.

  • If we desire to GROW in our faith and service…each of us should be a member of a local body of believers. Our purpose is to grow up into His likeness.
  • If we want to TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY in our own lives…sin brings reproach on the name of Christ….we will take seriously the commitment of our local church to help us.
  • We should SUBMIT ourselves to the body so if we happen to stray…we would be subject to loving corrective, restorative discipline.
  • We need to be UNDER CHURCH LEADERSHIP…the God given authority to spiritually care for us…
  • And we should FIND OUR PLACE IN THE WHOLE AS A BODY… as a member of a local body of Christ. Your gifts are an organic part of the ministering body!

That is God’s plan for us and for this church. That’s what we mean by church membership. All of these aspects of membership are rooted in the truth that the local church is an expression of the universal church. Part of what it means to belong to the body of Christ is to belong to a body.
The Church both LOCAL and UNIVERSAL are a blood-bought gift of God’s grace…

Let me close by urging you to pray and to think this through for your own life. I forget who it was who said: “There is no such thing as Lone-Ranger Christians” …It would really be a contradiction of terms because when we come to faith in Jesus Christ we become part (unified) of the body of Christ.  And when we are united with Christ we express that reality by being united with a local body of believers. This is why the issue of membership is so important.

Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. Being committed to a local body of believers is LIFE SUSTAINING…FAITH STRENGTHENING…and JOY PRESERVING

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Why does God allow evil?

ASK 2015 “Why Does God Allow Evil?”

[The following is an excerpt of a sermon presented to Fellowship Baptist Church, Burford on Sunday, August 23, 2015]
Most people ask “Why?” From our youngest years where we are beginning to use the mind God gave us, there is a desire to understand cause and effect. Why something does or doesn’t happen, why something is the way it is. We have inquisitive minds…is a God designed and a very beautiful thing. But the challenge is for mankind to use that inquisitive mind to desire truth, not just good ideas, not just some prevailing ideology or popular opinion…but actual truth…(i.e. just because Oprah say so does not make it truth! This is what Ravi Zacharias terms“…mass marketed spirituality” (R. Zacharias)
So when we are confronted with the reality of terrible things currently happening or maybe in the past…we ask “Why?”

  • Why does this happen? Why does God allow terrible things to occur? Why does He allow suffering?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people? (the problem with that is that there is no such thing as a good person)
  • Why is there hunger in the world? Why are there children starving in various parts of the world?
  • Why is there evil? Why is there ISIS?
  • Why are there natural disasters that cause great carnage and devastation and unimaginable loss of life?

If you have ever asked these questions…you are not alone…they are good questions to ask. I believe firmly that just by asking these kinds of questions, (follower of Christ or not)…you know in your heart that something is just not right…that is a God given awareness!

By the way…those who do not believe in the existence of God ask these same questions. They know something is just not right. For the ATHEIST…nothing can answer these questions. Why are children starving? Their answer… “why would there not be?” Why is there evil? “why not? For the professing atheist, with no higher authority to answer to…we are just a matter of chance, and if children are suffering…“C’est la vie!”…that’s life! In other words, we would have no reason to think that they shouldn’t be hungry. For the CHRISTIAN…on the other hand, many are afraid of these questions. Or we think we must limit God or try to defend God to explain why bad things happen. Sadly, many people use this as an excuse to reject or walk away from God because they do not like His answers. Others use these question to limit God or diminish God.

The question before us really is…a question about God’s character. It pre-supposes a belief in God…and that He is aware of mankind. And so if there is suffering God must be allowing it. If there is evil, then God is allowing that evil to happen. If bad things happen…then God must have a say in what happens. So the next question naturally becomes: Why does God allow human suffering? Why does God, who is a God of love…allow young children to starve to death or die of disease due to malnutrition? And finally, why does He not do something about it?
How could a loving God allow it?
Many books have been written to try to explain what seems on the surface to be an irreconcilable problem… The Christian believer claims that God remains a God of love in the face of the evil, death, suffering and disease in this world. But if God is good and God is love…then why won’t He do something?…so He must not be as powerful as we think He is. Or maybe if God is truly all-powerful…and He chooses not to do anything…then how can He be a God of love and mercy?
Someone has said: that the major argument levelled against Christians goes something like this:
‘How can there be an all-powerful loving God when we see children dying, people suffering, and bad things happening to good people? Surely such suffering and evil means that either He is not powerful enough to prevent it or He doesn’t want to, so He is not totally good.”
First off let me say…(and not that God needs defending in the slightest) God could eliminate hunger/evil if He so chose. Without a blink, He could. Jesus fed the 5000 and He healed diseases and even the most wicked demoniac. But why did He not obliterate hunger/evil/ when He walked on the earth? At one point in John 11 Judas criticized Mary for using an expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been used to feed the poor/hungry…Jesus said “…the poor you will always have with you…” In order to answer this question…we must go back to the root of it all and understand some foundational facts.
1.THE REALITY OF EVIL…
We often refer to evil as the bad things we see or read about in the news. Yet Theologians identify there is NATURAL EVIL…these are the destructive forces of nature.disasters, viruses, tornadoes, disease, earthquakes and famines…
We are also very blessed to be living at this point in history when many of the diseases have been cured.
There is also MORAL EVIL…this is often times man’s personal choice of selfishness, pride, sin…and this of course dominates the heart of man and is universal of the human race.
It is in every human heart. There is none righteous no not one. Man is born for trouble as sparks fly upward.
We could also add the SUPERNATURAL EVIL…Satan himself along with all of his evil demons, and all the spiritual realities that are perversely corrupt and lying and deceiving.

2. WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF EVIL/DISEASE/SICKNESS/HUNGER?
We must go back to creation…original design. In Genesis we have the first man, Adam, he represents the entire human race. When God created Adam, He gave Adam the entire Garden of Eden to live. God created everything in perfect working order. And He told Adam you got the Garden but do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But then Adam chose to sin…when he ate of the tree to which God had clearly stated “Do not eat of that tree…” Adam rebelled against God, by disobeying His clear Word of instruction…in essence…Adam told God that he wanted life without God. He (and thus we) wanted autonomy…to be independent of God. By the way, man is still doing this today…rejecting God’s authority for his own autonomy/independence.

It is a sobering thought…that if God gave us what we really asked for in Adam…total independence…and God completely leaves the picture. We couldn’t even exist… as He is before all things and in Him all things consist … and that He “…holds all things together by the power of His Word…”.

As a righteous God, He had to judge rebellion…He judged sin with death (spiritual and physical). God cursed the ground…every weed you pull from your garden is a reminder of the curse…every natural disaster, malnourished child, every sickness, disease and death, every bee sting, every evil that has ever been committed… and as a result the entirety, the whole of creation now groans because of sin…

And by the way…God had every right to completely destroy Adam and Eve for their rebellion. He could have easily wiped them out and started again. But why didn’t He? Grace, God’s amazing grace! Now everything groans…things get old, bodies wear out and tend to get run down or fall apart. We actually live in a world where we have a taste of what life is like without God…every time we watch or read the news we are reminded of what life is like without God…the death, suffering, evil, etc. But here is some good news.

3. GOD IS SOVEREIGN…OVER EVIL…GOD IS IN CHARGE…ABSOLUTELY!
Just consider some of these passages as you slowly read over them. And ask yourself who is in control of evil?

  • 1 Chronicles 29:11 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all.”
  • Lamentations 3:37-38 “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well being proceed?”
  • Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”
  • Daniel 4:35 “all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth no on can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
  • Deuteronomy 32:39 “Now see that I, even I, am He and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.”
  • Exodus 4:11 “So the Lord said to Moses, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?”
  • Psalm 105:16 “Moreover He (God) called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread.”
  • 2 Kings 17:25 “And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not d=fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them.”
  • 1 Samuel 2:6-8 “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lots up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.”
  • Amos 3:6 “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?”
  • Ephesians 1:11 “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…”
    God is governing history in all the minute details! Nothing happens in all creation without passing through His hands.
    God is SOVEREIGN He is in charge…absolutely! That includes all famine, all the atrocities of ISIS, of the new Ontario sex education curriculum, all abortion, war, disease, and cancer…etc)
    Just maybe…God has a purpose for the evil in this world.

4. GOD ALLOWS ALL EVIL TO EXIST!
God takes full responsibility for the evil in this world…He did not create evil, but He allows it to point mankind to Himself. To a wicked king of Babylon whom God used to fulfill His purposes God said: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me….I form the light and create the darkness, I make peace and creat calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”

WE PRAISE HIM FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE TO CONQUER EVIL! The cross! If there was no evil to conquer there would be no cross, and no Saviour! In Romans 3:5 we read that “…our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God…” The evil that we do, the evil that happens, the natural, the moral and the supernatural evil points us to the righteousness of God.

The GOOD NEWS is that God has defeated all sin and death when He died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the grave on the 3rd day! It was His righteousness that sent Him to the cross to pay for my unrighteousness. To once again redeem not just man to Himself, but all of creation that has been under the curse since the fall of man. Though there is strife/evil/sickness decay and death in all of creation today…it is not for forever. “For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us…”(Romans 8:18ff)

Though God did not create evil…He nevertheless allows it to happen. MAN HAS SINNED…but GOD IS SOVEREIGN…evil does not dictate to God what to do…GOD is the One who ALLOWS EVIL…natural…moral…supernatural Why? For His own glory! Our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God. One day He will redeem all things to Himself….creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption…and all evil will be done away with when He returns. There will be no more famine, child hunger…all evil done away!