For Your Edification (5.17.12)

For Your Edification is a bi-weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.  

BIBLE

Is the Bible Really Living and Active?  Imagine a conversation at the end of Sunday service:

Pastor:  Fred, did you spend time in the word this week?

Fred: Oh, yes.  I spent hours in the word this week.  It was refreshing.  God says that he gives rest to those who ask, and when I was in the word this week, I felt the comfort of resting in the word.

Wilma, Fred’s wife (driving home later): Honey, I didn’t know that you spent so much time in the Word this week.  With your busy schedule, how did you do that?

Husband: Well, what I failed to mention was the fact that I named my Lazy Boy “the word,” so that whether I am watching TV, reading the paper, or reading my Bible, I can “be in the word.”

Wilma: Huh . . . that’s a good idea.  Maybe, I’ll try that.

Of course, no one would really say that.  Right?  But the point is made: The time we spend in the word is as effective as the way we spend it.  Jen Wilkin, mother of four, writes about why so many Christians get so little out of the word.  She nails down the fact that those who read the Bible, need to use effective means of Bible study, or they will just reinforce unbiblical ideas, and remain unchanged.  This is how she begins,

Why, with so many study options available, do many professing Christians remain unschooled and unchanged? Scripture teaches clearly that the living and active Word matures ustransforms usaccomplishes what it intends, increases our wisdom, and bears the fruit of right actions. There is no deficit in the ministry of the Word. If our exposure to it fails to result in transformation, particularly over the course of years, there are surely only two possible reasons why: either our Bible studies lack true converts, or our converts lack true Bible study.

Jen goes on to explain a number of common ways Christians “lack true Bible study.” Read the rest of her helpful article: Why Bible Study Doesn’t Transform Us?

Summer Bible Reading Plan.  Here is a 100 day Bible reading plan that would be great to use this summer if you do not currently have a reading schedule, or you have fallen off the wagon since January.  It is called E100, which stands for Essential 100 Scripture passages, and it designed to help Bible readers get through the whole of the Bible in a manageable amount of time.  It is published by Scripture Union and is designed to help young Bible readers or discouraged Bible readers make their way through the most important parts of the Bible.  The E100 website has more details; here is an easy access print-out.

THEOLOGY

Lessons in Ecclesiology.  Jonathan Leeman answers a couple important questions about the doctrine of the church.  First, he defines what the characteristics of a local church are.  Most importantly, in his article, What Is the Local Church?, he defines the difference between a ‘group of Christians’ and a ‘church’ (Hint: They are not the same thing!)  Then, he follows up by considering church membership.  In his article, What Is Church Membership?, he points out that a church is more than just a ‘voluntary organization.’ For those who want their church reflect the priorities of Christ, these are important questions, and Leeman gives biblical answers.

Additionally, Leeman is finishing his doctoral research on ecclesiology (i. e. the doctrine of the church) and has written a number of helpful resources on the subject, most recently: Church Membership and Church Discipline.  His larger work, The Church and the Surprising Offense of the Love of God: Reintroducing Church Membership and Discipline, goes even deeper into the biblical case for reclaiming a knowledge and practice of church health.

Carl Trueman on John Owen. John Owen has been described as the “Redwood of the Puritans” by J. I. Packer, and indeed his exegetical theology stands tall centuries after he has passed into glory.  Trueman, a church historian and gifted writer, introduces Owen in this ten minute biographical sketch that is worth watching to know better this great pastor-theologian.  For more on Owen, see John Piper’s biographical sermon: The Chief Design of My Life: Mortification and Universal Holiness.

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

What Should We Say About Gay Marriage?  A few weeks before President Obama made his public declaration to endorse Gay Marriage, Southern Baptist Pastor, Mark Dever, sat down with seminary president, Albert Mohler, to discuss the subject of marriage according to the Bible and in our culture.  This discussion recorded at Together For the Gospel, will give you a good handle on a number of the key points in the gay marriage debate, and how Christians can defend God’s design in marriage–one man, one woman, united by law, until death.

Don’t Be a Passive Reader.  N. D. Wilson, author of Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl and a handful of other well-regarded fiction books, gives his critical review of The Hunger Games.  His review is spot-on and shows that Christians who enjoy the book/movie are in need of reading the book with much greater sensitivity to the world in which we live.  His review reminds us that when we read, watch, or listen to any sort of entertainment, we are imbibing a worldview (that is probably not inspired by the Holy Spirit) and thus we need to read pro-actively.  Beware of being a passive reader.  It may be more dangerous than the hunger games themselves.


May God use these resources to grow you in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

P.T. O’Brien, W.E. Vine, and the Heavenly Assembly

Peter O’Brien in his commentaries on Ephesians and Colossians, in his article on the church in the IVP Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, and in his extensive chapter on the heavenly assembly in The Church in the Bible and the World  (edited by D.A. Carson) has argued for the eschatological orientation of the NT term “ekklesia.”  His arguments are persuasive and worthy of consideration for understanding the NT language of church and churches–though not all agree.  (I look forward to Gregg Allison’s book on ecclesiology and his interaction with O’Brien). 

Nevertheless, one person who does agree with O’Brien is W.E. Vine, the early twentieth-century philogist who is most well-known for his Expository Dictionary of OT and NT Words.  Reading W.E. Vine’s commentary on “the church” in Colossians 1:18 (in Volume 2 of The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine), I found a helpful discussion on the subject.  In it Vine makes an appeal for the plain reading of the Bible and concludes that the New Testament conception of the universal church is a heavenly concept.  He writes:

The word ‘church,’ as used in this and similar passages [Col. 1:18, 24; cf. Eph. 1], contemplates the entire company as it will be seen when the Lord comes to receive it to Himself.  it is nowhere in Scripture viewed as an earthly organization established in the world, it is heavenly in its design, establishment and destiny.  Its individual members are incorporated into it as each one is born of God through faith in Christ.  At no period can all the bleivers living in the world have constituted the church.  They could not at that particular time be spoke of the body of Christ.  Most of the church had not come into existence in the early part of the  present era.  At the present time most of those who form part of it are in Heaven (they are not ceased to be members because they are there [cf. Heb. 12:23]).  By some the term “the church” is applied to all the believers living in the world at any time, but such a view is not borne out by the teaching of the New Testament.  Belivers are formed into local churches, each of which is called a ‘body’ (1 Cor. 12:27).  But nowhere are the churches in any district or country or in the world organized into an entity or body.

Local churches, Scripturally formed, are visible communities, professing the same faith, governed by the same Lord, but this has never afforded any found for their external amalgation of for their being considered a church.  There is no such phrase in Scripture as “The Church on earth,” nor is the whole number of believers on earth viewed as, or spoke of, the church of God.  The idea is a pure inference and conveys a false impression, being a contravention of the teaching of Christ and the apostles (Comments on Colossians 1:18, p. 341-342).

May the Lord Jesus Christ give a greater love for his church as we understand it in its local and heavenly expressions.  

Sola Deo Gloria, dss