Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Is Everything We Do in Life “Worship”?

     In Paul’s letter to the saints at Rome, in the section that has been designated the 1st verse of the 12th chapter, we read: “Therefore I exhort you, brethren, by God’s mercies, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God …”1 The next expression (tēn logikēn latreían humōn) has been variously rendered (a) “your spiritual service” (ASV); (b) “your reasonable service” (NKJV); (c) “your spiritual worship” (ESV); (d) “your spiritual service of worship” (NASB); (e) “your spiritual act of worship” (NIV 1984); and (f) “your true and proper worship” (NIV 2011). Which rendering most accurately conveys the sense of the text?
     The Greek adjective logikós means “reasonable,” “rational,” or “spiritual.” The noun latreía is “service or worship” (BAGD 467), with emphasis on divine service (cf. Rom. 9:4; John 16:2; Heb. 12:28). The verbal form latreúō means to “serve,” especially the carrying out of religious duties (BAGD 467). This is not the same concept as what is communicated by the verb proskunéō, which means to “worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to …” (BAGD 716). Paul is not discussing or describing proskunéō (“worship”) in Rom. 12:1; in fact, this word does not appear anywhere in Romans.2
     Scriptural worship [proskunéō] is something that is done purposefully, involving concentration, consideration, and reverence (John 4:20-24; 12:20; Acts 8:27). The intentionality of worship is demonstrated in Acts 24:11, where Paul says he had traveled to Jerusalem “to worship” [proskunéō]. Obviously worship is something that is done on purpose; one cannot worship unintentionally or by accident.
     While we serve the Lord in all that we do (Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:17), not everything we do in life constitutes worship (e.g. reading the newspaper, sleeping, watching a movie, et al.). When we set aside time and attention for the express purpose of worshiping God, let us do so according to biblical guidelines (1 Cor. 11:17-29; 14:12-19; 16:1-2; etc.). In everything else, may we be God’s faithful servants.
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 The only biblical record of Paul’s use of the word proskunéō (“worship”) is Acts 24:11 and 1 Cor. 14:25.


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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Our Heavenly Citizenship

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).1
     The word “citizenship” [políteuma] is cognate with the imperative politeúesthe [lit. “live like a citizen”] in Phil. 1:27, where the Philippians have been exhorted to live “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Residing in a Roman colony like Philippi, there would be much pride in Roman citizenship (Acts 16:12, 21). While still living in the world, citizens of heaven are to conduct themselves with minds set on things above (Col. 3:2). Although the word translated “heaven” is plural [lit. “heavens”], the corresponding relative pronoun in the prepositional phrase “from it” is the singular hou [“which”].
     The natural world is not our permanent home (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-11; Rev. 20:11). God’s faithful ones are to live with him eternally in heaven (see Matt. 5:12, 16, 34; 6:19-21; 1 Thess. 1:10). There is a rest spoken of that is yet in the future—something promised that remains to be fully realized (Heb. 3:7–4:11). When Jesus journeyed ahead to prepare a place for his disciples (John 14:2-3), he went beyond the “veil” and penetrated the holiest place to dwell in the presence of God (Heb. 6:19-20; 9:12). This is none other than “heaven itself” (Heb. 9:24). Accordingly, we now have the confident expectation of entering the very same place (Heb. 6:18-19; 10:19-20, 34). It is heaven wherein our names are registered (Heb. 12:23) and in which we have reward (Matt. 5:12), hope (Col. 1:5), and an inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3-4). And unlike Israel’s inheritance of a temporal rest, ours is everlasting (Heb. 9:15).2
     It is from heaven “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; 2 Thess. 1:7–2:17). The verb apekdechómetha [“we await”] is a combination of apó [“away from”] + déchomai [“welcome”], describing an intense yearning for the coming of Christ.
     He will “transform our [plural] lowly body [singular]” – perhaps a subtle allusion to the unified collectivity of believers (Phil. 1:27; 2:2) – “to be like his glorious body …” The current physical body is a temporary shell, susceptible to weakness, sin, sickness, and death (2 Cor. 4:16–5:6). But it will be replaced one day with an incorruptible, glorious body (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 5:9-10). Whatever Jesus is now, we will be like him one day (1 John 3:2). This transformation is possible because of the divine “power” invested by the Father “that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (see 1 Cor. 15:24-28).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are form the ESV.
     2 See also 1 Cor. 15:23-24, 35-54; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:14-18.


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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Church of CHRIST

     What is the church of Christ? What do we mean when we talk about the church of Christ? What should we mean? It seems like many, even within the church itself, don’t have a clear understanding of what the church is, evidenced by the phraseology commonly used.
     Maybe you’ve heard something like, “He’s Baptist, she’s Methodist, I’m Church of Christ.” This gives the impression that the church of Christ is just a denominational sect among many others. Or, “John is a Church of Christ preacher, Freed-Hardeman is a Church of Christ university, and weekly communion is a Church of Christ doctrine.” But the expression “Church of Christ” is not an adjective. It would be more proper to speak of gospel preachers, Christian schools, and biblical doctrines. I’m a member of the church of Christ, but I’m not “Church of Christ.” The word “church” applies to a collectivity of believers, not to an individual. The designation “Church of Christ” is not a denominational label. It is not an adjective. It is a descriptive phrase for the church belonging to Christ.
     Sometimes the question is asked, “Will only the church of Christ be saved?” This is a valid question and deserves a biblical answer. When people derogatorily say, “The Church of Christ think they’re the only ones going to heaven,” they usually have in mind a denominational sect wearing the name “Church of Christ” who believe their denomination is better than all others. This misguided perspective has led to considerable misunderstanding and prejudice. Heres a good response: “You know, I’ve heard that rumor too. Would you like to see what the Bible says?”

A Biblical Response to Common Misconceptions

     The Bible teaches that salvation is in Christ (2 Tim. 2:10). In fact, salvation is only in Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). How, then, does one get into Christ where salvation is available? There are only two verses in the Bible that specifically state at what point in our response to God we enter Christ, namely Rom. 6:3 and Gal. 3:27. Both of these passages say the same thing: as penitent believers we are “baptized into Christ.”1 Yet elsewhere Paul says, “we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). Which is it? Are we baptized into Christ or into Christ’s body? If I swallow a coin, is the coin in me or in my body? Yes it is. To be in Christ is to be in the body of Christ.
     Does this mean that one must be in Christ’s body to be saved? Again Paul writes, “… Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). Those outside the body of Christ are not and cannot be saved. And what is the emblematic body of Christ? “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22-23). The body of Christ is the church of Christ.
     The church of Christ is not a physical building or denominational sect. All penitent believers who have obeyed the gospel, having been baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, are added by the Lord to the church/the community of the saved (Acts 2:38-47; 1 Cor. 12:13), and by remaining faithful to Christ’s teachings, comprise the church of Christ. It’s not a matter of joining the church of your choice; it’s a matter of obeying the word of God and being the church of Christ’s choice.
     Will only the church of Christ be saved? The only biblical answer is affirmative. To give any other answer is to misunderstand what the church of Christ is. Someone might ask, “Do you think your church is the only right one?” This is an easy question to answer, because I don’t have a church. If I did, it wouldn’t be any better or worse than any other man-made religious group. But Jesus Christ does have a church. His church is the only right one. This is the only church I want to be part of.

Attempts to Justify Denominationalism

     In an attempt to justify the current state of the religious world, many try to define the church as a universal brotherhood of various (all, some, most?) denominational bodies, all wearing different names and adhering to different doctrines. But this concept is foreign to the Bible. When Jesus employed the imagery of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-18), there was no such thing as a denominational sect. In fact, the Lord’s own church had not been established yet. Jesus is the vine and individual disciples are the branches.
     Christ promised to build only one church (Matt. 16:18). By the time Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, there was just “one body” (Eph. 4:4a), just as there is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God the Father (vv. 4b-6). As much as I’d like to rationalize the current condition of the religious world and affirm that everybody and everything is okay, this can’t be done if the Bible is to be taken seriously (cf. Matt. 7:13-14).

Whose church? Whose name?

     To be the church of Christ, the teachings of Christ must be respected and followed. If a group meets in a building with a sign that reads “Church of Christ” but are not abiding by Christ’s teachings, they are not the church of Christ. If a group meets in a building with no sign, or in a schoolroom, or in a living room, or in a cardboard shack, and the teachings of Christ are faithfully obeyed, they are the church of Christ.
     The church of the New Testament does not have a single, proper name – just descriptive designations (e.g. Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 11:16; 14:33; etc.). Nevertheless, there was only one church in the New Testament era, so irrespective of which biblical expression was used, there would be no confusion. In modern times, however, the religious environment is very different. There are hundreds of churches claiming allegiance to Christ, wearing different names, worshiping in different ways, and teaching conflicting doctrines. It can be very confusing. Therefore, it is surely expedient to have a designation that helps identify and unify those of like-precious-faith, while distinguishing from those on a different path.
     If Christ is the builder of his church (Matt. 16:18), the foundation of his church (1 Cor. 3:11), the purchaser of his church (Acts 20:28), and the head of his church (Col. 1:18), why shouldn’t we wear his name? When we speak of the church of Christ, it ought to be for the purpose of honoring Christ and identifying ourselves with him. Any other usage is unbiblical.

Putting it in Perspective

     If the Lord says there is only one true church (Matt. 16:18), am I narrow-minded if I say the same thing? If Jesus promises, “you shall know the truth” (John 8:32), is it arrogant to say that I know the truth? If the name of Christ has been exalted above all other names (Phil. 2:9), am I sectarian if I only want to wear the name of Christ? If God condemns religious division (1 Cor. 1:10), how can I justify denominationalism? If Jesus is the savior of all who obey him (Heb. 5:9), am I legalistic if I emphasize the importance of obedience? If God specifies the kind of worship that is acceptable to him (John 4:24), who am I to prescribe something different? If human innovations in worship are unacceptable to God (Matt. 15:8-9), am I judgmental when I object to human innovations in worship? If we speak where the Bible speaks (1 Pet. 4:11), why are we ridiculed for trying to follow the revealed will of God?

Conclusion

     I only want to be a member of the church I read about in the New Testament: nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. If, for whatever reason, I’m not a member of that church, the greatest service anyone could do for me is to open the Bible and point me in the right direction. At the same time, I sincerely want others to be in heaven. If that means I have to step out of my comfort zone and lovingly confront those who are in error, am I not doing what the Lord expects? And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnote:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV.


Related articles: Wayne Jackson's The Indestructible Church of Christ

Image credit: Photo taken by Lynne Moore of the sign on the building where the church of Christ in Nazareth meets.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A Christian’s Need For Repentance

      Simon was a newly baptized believer. Unfortunately, even though he had been forgiven of his past sins, he retained some of his worldly tendencies. After succumbing to the temptation to think and act contrary to what is expected of a follower of Jesus, he is divinely instructed: “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22, NASB). While Christians are forgiven people, we are still imperfect people who sometimes stumble in our walk with God (1 John 1:10). Repentance, therefore, is not only a requisite for our initial salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19), it continues to be an important part of our spiritual journey.


What is Repentance?

     The sinful attitudes and behavior of the disciples at Corinth prompted Paul to write the document we now call First Corinthians. Throughout the letter he seeks to turn the situation around with exhortations, rebukes, and corrective instructions. In the follow-up correspondence he continues to emphasize reformation of life, including the admonition: “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). This implies personal responsibility. The noun “holiness” is derived from the adjective “holy,” essentially meaning “different” or “set apart.” The Corinthians are repeatedly reminded to leave behind their old sinful ways and worldly mindsets.
     In the verses that follow, Paul informs his readers that despite difficult and discouraging circumstances, he is comforted by the positive report he has received concerning their response to his exhortations. He did not regret having written the previous letter, but he did regret, at least initially, the temporary sorrow it generated. Nevertheless, the outcome caused him to rejoice because the Corinthians were led to repentance.
     Note that repentance is not merely an internal feeling of sadness, although this is the necessary spark leading to repentance (v. 9a). Biblical repentance begins in the heart with a sorrow “according to the will of God,” i.e., “godly grief” (ESV), “as God intended” (NIV), “in a godly manner” (NKJV) (v. 9b). The statement, “so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us” (v. 9c), indicates that the Corinthians would have suffered great spiritual harm had Paul not had the love and courage to take on the unpleasant task of writing the aforementioned letter (cf. 2:4; 7:12) that had such a transformative impact.
     The “sorrow of the world” is essentially a selfish concern when facing consequences but no real remorse for disobedience, which ultimately leads to spiritual death (v. 10b). Conversely, “the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (v. 10a). Having begun in the heart with sincere conviction, repentance involves a simultaneous turning in two opposite directions: away from sin and back to God. This is demonstrated by an observable change of life, as the following verse affirms. These disciples (for the most part) had exhibited genuine repentance and are no longer guilty of wrongdoing (v. 11), particularly in the matter of allowing and condoning immorality in the church (cf. 2:5-9; 1 Cor. 5:1-2). See also Matthew 21:28-31; Luke 22:32; Colossians 3:5-10; James 5:19, 20; 1 Peter 2:25.

A Recurring Need

     Surely the aim of every child of God is to avoid sinning (Romans 6:1-2; 12:1-2). Regrettably, however, we are not always successful, so the Lord has made provision for these sporadic lapses of weakness (1 John 1:7–2:6). Those who comprised the first-century church at Ephesus were reminded “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4, NKJV). But years later they are told, “you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4b). How was this dismal state of affairs to be corrected? “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (v. 5). Both the stern warning and the opportunity to make things right represent the ongoing concern of our heavenly Father with constant love, mercy, and grace. May we, therefore, live our lives accordingly.
--Kevin L. Moore

Questions to Consider

1. Why do Christians sin?

2. What provision has God made for Christians who sin?

3. What should be the Christian’s attitude toward sin?

4. What is the difference between “the sorrow of the world” and “the sorrow that is according to the will of God” (2 Corinthians 7:10)?

5. What does biblical repentance entail?

6. What key component of biblical repentance is highlighted in the following passages? Matthew 13:15; Acts 3:19, 26; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18-20; 2 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9

7. What do the following passages share in common about how repentance is actuated? Jonah 3:10; Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; John 8:10-11; Acts 26:20; Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:28

8. What is the danger of not repenting? Luke 13:3, 5; Revelation 2:5, 16, 21-23

9. How is God’s expectation of holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 1:4) to be achieved in the Christian life?

10. How does the biblical doctrine of repentance apply to your walk with the Lord?

*Originally prepared for the Make Disciples Training Program <Link>.

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