Monday, May 25, 2020

Obey God Rather than Men

"We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29)

"I am the Lord your shall have no other gods before me"  (Exodus 20:1-3)

"...not forsaking our own assembling together..." (Hebrews 10:25)

This is a peculiar time for the church, and a difficult time for pastors attempting to lead and feed the flock as faithful shepherds. I want to share some thoughts on why I believe we should make every effort to continue (or resume) bringing God's people together corporately in spite of conflicting governmental directives.

Biblical considerations:

-The first commandment positively commands the faithful worship of the true and living God.  This command is not obeyed individually unless it is obeyed corporately.

-Scripture expresses God's will to be glorified through the worship of His redeemed people by way of the command to assemble together corporately on the Lord's Day under the appointed means of grace (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:19-25).

-Scripture gives us neither provision nor precedent for doing otherwise, and compels the church to overcome whatever threats may hinder us from doing so (The book of Acts esp. chapters 4 and 12).

-Scripture prescribes the offices of elder and deacon to lead and serve the church under ordinary circumstances as well as extraordinary times requiring unforeseen accommodation (Heb. 13:17; Acts 6:1-6)

Theological considerations:

-Assembled worship defines the church as a people no longer belonging to this present evil age but the age to come, which is only known to us by faith through hearing the word of Christ, partaking of the Lord's Supper, and observing the baptism of new believers (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-34).

-Assembled worship demonstrates the church's living hope in the risen Christ and a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:18-29).

-Assembled worship recognizes and submits to the spiritual authority of that kingdom above all earthly authorities (Heb. 13:17; 2 Tim. 4).

Practical considerations:

-Assembled worship strengthens our faith as the Holy Spirit solidifies the assurance of our true identity as children of God (Romans 8:14-17).

-Assembled worship (corporate prayer) helps us give our attention to the spiritual realities and blessings that earthly anxieties so easily distract us from (Philippians 4:6-7).

-Assembled worship helps believers maintain a right perspective and a good conscience in seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (1 Tim. 1:5; Matt. 6;25-34).

Of course much more could be added, but these things are at the core of God's purpose for the assembled worship of His people.

  Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Living in Exile

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (Hebrews 11:13).

   It seems an odd way to think of ourselves, but living in exile is exactly how Scripture depicts the Lord's redeemed people in this world.  It reminds us, first of all, of who we are - "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession..." (1 Peter 2:9).  This is, in fact, why Peter goes on to urge believers "as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).  We once were strangers to God and entirely at home in this present evil age.  Now, having been purchased with the precious blood of Christ, we belong to the Lord and increasingly find ourselves out of place and ill at ease in a world that "does not know God" or "obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:8).  True believers are holy people in an unholy place.

   It reminds us, secondly, of where we belong.  Estranged from the life we knew and the course of sin we previously followed, the world we loved so much is no longer our home.  Having given us the Father's Word, Jesus declares in His High Priestly Prayer that "they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14-16).  Yet we have never been more at home than we are through faith in Christ when we hear Him assure His church that "just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom..." (Luke 22:29).   According to Paul, then, there is nothing left for us to conclude but that "our citizenship is in Heaven" (Philip. 3:20).  This is what defines us here and now - who we are and where we belong - and why our lives are no longer about settling in and conforming to our surroundings, but watching and eagerly waiting for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21).  Amen.