“What Scripture says, God says; for, in a manner comparable only to the deep mystery of the Incarnation, the Bible is both fully human and fully divine. So all its manifold contents — histories, prophecies, poems, songs, wisdom writings, sermons, statistics, letters, and whatever else — should be received as from God, and all that Bible writers teach should be revered as God’s authoritative instruction. Christians [indeed, all men] should be grateful to God for the gift of his written word, and conscientious in basing their faith and life entirely and exclusively on it. Otherwise we cannot ever honor or please him as he calls us to do.
~ J. I. Packer, Concise Theology (IVP 1993, p. 5; emphasis added)
Searching for a church to serve, grow, and prayerfully become a member of can be a stressful endeavor. I’ve been through that experience a couple of times since I’ve been a believer. It was even more of a challenge after I married and we had to look for a church in which we both felt connected. We started with a long list of things we “wanted,” but ended up narrowing down our list to what was very important. The question that guided our search was, “What are the essentials of a healthy Bible-believing church?” Once we looked at what was important to the apostles – prayer and attending to the Word – we knew that we had to look for a church that proclaimed and taught the Word of God. I thought our search would be easy after we arrived at that conclusion, but it was far from easy. We knew what the gospel was, but it didn’t seem as though the churches we visited preached the finality of the work of Jesus on the cross.
Once we found a church that taught the Scriptures we were relieved. We finally found a home – but we both felt uneasy. The leaders were preaching God’s Word, the music was God-centered, and the people were nice, so what was our problem? Maybe we were just too worldly and this church was spiritual. We could not pinpoint the problem, but we were so uneasy that we left before we made any significant relationships. It always bothered me that I could not articulate why we left.
This past week I started teaching through the book of 1 Thessalonians in our family devotions. Though I’ve read this book every year, I’ve never really studied it. The most eye-opening thing about this book so far is that it is a great manual for how healthy churches are suppose to function. I’ve always studied the Pastoral Epistles for my ecclesiology (the study of church doctrine), but I’ve discovered that 1 Thessalonians is also an excellent source for church doctrine. It was in chapter two where I found my answer to what made us feel so uneasy about that church we left three years ago.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, the apostle Paul stated that they (Paul, Silvanus and Timothy) proved to be gentle among them (The Thessalonians) as a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children. In 2:11, he also compared their leadership to a father, who exhorted, encouraged, and implored them to walk in a worthy manner of the God who called them. That was it! The church we left was preaching God’s Word, but the leadership was not gentle. They seemed overbearing and they gave the appearance of leaders who were “lording (their leadership) over the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). They were not gentle as a shepherd is with his sheep.
So is Bible-teaching and preaching the only criteria for a healthy church? No. A healthy Bible-believing church must preach the Word AND have gentle and caring elders who exhort, encourage and implore Christians to walk worthy of the God who calls us into His own kingdom and glory.
Brian L. Spivey… D.O.C.
I knew this was going to happen sooner or later…
C. M. Granger
Our thinking of God should begin with His name(s) as found in the Bible. Theology itself should begin here too. In his massive book, THE DOCTRINE OF GOD, Dr. John Frame writes on “Biblical Descriptions of God” beginning with a simple — yet profound — chapter on the ‘names’ of God. It’s a great chapter to study, and a model of doing clear, biblical thinking about God.
Here are two key paragraphs which ought to stir you and help you to know God better.
God’s name is his self-revelation. NAME, in the general sense, is a virtual synonym of word. And, like word, it is a way of referring to God himself. There is an identity between God and his name, as between God and his word. As we sing praise to God, we sing praise to his name (e.g., Pss. 7:17; 9:2; 18:49); we give to him the glory due his name (29:2); we exalt his name (34:3) and fear it (61:5). God’s name is an object of worship. Since in Scripture God alone is the proper object of worship, this language equates the Lord’s name and the Lord himself.
Similarly, the name of God defends us (Ps. 20:1) and saves us (54:1). We trust in him name for deliverance (33:21). His name endures forever (72:17; 135:13). It “reaches to the ends of the earth” (48:10). It is holy and awesome (111:9). god guides us “for his name sake” (23:3). In Isaiah 30:27, it is “the Name of the Lord” itself that comes to bring judgment on the nations and blessings on his people. So God’s name has divine attributes and performs divine acts. In short, Scripture says about the name of God virtually everything it says about God.
~ Dr John M Frame, The Doctrine of God, page 348.
“We will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Many Americans would recognize these inspiring words that were used to change the history of our country, but was MLK Jr. referring to the Biblical definition of “God’s children”?
Those who believe that the Bible teaches that all human beings are God’s children may say that God makes no distinction between people. They may point to Malachi 2:10 as their proof text. It states, “Don’t all of us have one Father? Didn’t one God create us?” To conclude that the Bible teaches all human beings are in God’s family from this verse would be to ignore other clear teachings on this subject, and to read our contemporary understanding into this verse. In Malachi, God is clearly addressing the nation of Judah. If they all have one Father, then why are they breaking the covenant of that One Father? This is the intended meaning.
To take this position is also to ignore the apostle John’s teaching that the one who does what is right (righteous in God’s sight) is a child of God and the one who does evil is a child of the Devil. Actually, this is how we can judge between the two (1 John 3:7-10).
Embracing this position would also ignore the apostle Paul’s clear teaching in Romans 8 – those who are led by the Spirit of God are God’s sons. The people who Paul makes reference to are those who have an inner witness by the Holy Spirit that we belong to God’s family. So we understand through the Scriptures that children of God are those who practice righteousness and are led by the Holy Spirit; but that is not all. Paul goes on to teach that those who are heirs with Christ also suffer with him. This suffering is not that which comes from waiting at a lunch counter, but suffering that comes from being identified with Jesus Christ. So are you a child of God? Have you been born of the Holy Spirit?
Repent of your sin today and receive the forgiveness of sins so that you can declare without a shadow of a doubt that you are a child of God according to the Scriptures.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13
Brian L. Spivey