• Church,  New Testament

    Elder, Bishop, or Pastor?

    How do you refer to church leaders? Do you use the term elder, bishop, or pastor? If you are confused by these different denominational terms you are not alone. A bishop is typically equated with Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, although Anglican and a few Lutheran churches also use the term. The term elder is often associated with the Mormon church and the young men you meet in ties on your front porch, though more evangelical churches are utilizing the term elder now. For most people, the term pastor is an easily-recognizable term referring to the spiritual leader of a church. I grew up in a baptist church that had a pastor, and assistant pastor, and a deacon board. It was not until high school that I was introduced to the idea of elder. When I began to study what the Bible had to say about church leadership, what I…

  • Christian Living,  Church,  New Testament

    Church Discipline: The Forgotten Pillar

    Little known to most people, the 1561 Belgic Confession gives three marks by which the true church is known: (1) preaching the pure gospel, (2) observing the sacraments (i.e., baptism and communion), and (3) practicing church discipline. Throughout church history, church discipline has been an integral component of God-fearing churches. However, a recent survey of pastors revealed that 55% of churches have never formally disciplined a member. Another 21% stated that, although the church had practiced church discipline, it was three or more years ago. Clearly, church discipline has fallen on hard times and is hardly viewed as a pillar of the church. There are a variety of reasons churches do not practice church discipline. One reason, sadly, is ignorance. In order to alleviate the ignorance, my goal in this post is to provide a simple template for following church discipline as taught in Matthew 18:15–17. Church Discipline Step 1:…

  • Church,  Culture,  Old Testament

    Joy to the World! (Singing a “Non-Christmas Song” at Christmas)

    Music is such a big part of Christmas. There is always a little extra energy come Christmas time, due in part to the old Christmas songs that we sing. A classic example of those Christmas songs is Joy to the World. Joy to the World is one of Christianity’s most beloved Christmas songs. It is one of those songs that almost everyone can sing along with (even if they are not a Christian). Written by Isaac Watts, Joy to the World is based on Psalm 98 and was first published in 1719 in a collection entitled The Psalms of David: Imitated in the Language of the New Testament and Applied to the Christian State and Worship. Although I don’t normally blog about songs, given the fact many of us will be singing Joy to the World this Christmas season, I thought I would point out the biblical connections. The biblical…

  • Church,  Culture

    A Biblical View of Gender and Why it Matters

    LGBT and gender issues continue to be on the cultural forefront. Each day the headlines bring us arguments for gender-neutral bathrooms, news about transgender athletes, or a doctor who loses his job because he holds to a biblical view of gender. The biblical view of gender is antiquated according to some, labeled as outdated, non-essential, and a relic of a bygone patriarchal era. In a secular worldview, gender has no value and the differences must be minimized. Despite obvious physical differences between men and women, these distinctions are minimized or ignored. According to the secular worldview, if someone wants to behave with masculine or feminine gender characteristics that is their choice. For many today, gender is a social construct and not related to anything inherent in either sex. Sadly, many churches are embracing a secular worldview and rejecting the biblical view of gender. It is rather common for Christians to…

  • Christian Living,  Church,  Culture,  Ethics

    Slavery Reparations and the Christian

    Slavery reparations are all the rage right now. This week there was a House hearing on reparations, and there were a variety of celebrity testimonies, including Danny Glover and Burgess Owens arguing for or against reparations. This conversation has really ignited over the last year. When the culture takes aim at a topic, the Christian needs to be equipped to think through the issues from a biblical worldview. On the issue of whether slavery reparations are to be implemented, I think there are a couple issues to consider. First, slavery reparations would be a logistical nightmare. Although the issue is often painted as blacks needing to receive reparations and whites needing to pay reparations, that is a gross oversimplification. If the actual issue is slavery, one needs to consider the numerous black slaveholders. Should their black descendants be required to pay reparations? According to one black brother, he can actually…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Theology

    How Many Resurrections are there in Scripture?

    Easter weekend is upon us, and so we celebrate the most important part of Christianity–the fact that Jesus is alive! This is the essence of our hope as believers. Because of Christ’s resurrection we have hope of our own resurrection. I saw an online discussion recently about how many resurrections there are in Scripture, and a question was asked about when OT believers are resurrected. I think it is a worthwhile discussion to have, and I think we can accurately observe four resurrections in Scripture. (This is of course assuming that the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 and the saints in Matthew 27 are temporary and they die again). But, if you are interested, I have tried to compile a complete list of all the resurrections in the Bible. The Foundation for ALL Resurrection: Christ In 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul calls Christ the “first fruits” of those who have…

  • Church

    Are there Songs We Shouldn’t Sing in Church?

    I think most people would acknowledge there are some songs which are inappropriate for church worship. However, the real issue is where do we draw the line? To some, all “Christian songs” are appropriate for use in a church. To others, only a certain kind of music is allowed. How should we think through this issue? Are there any passages which talk about this issue directly? This is the first question to ask in working through any issue. Pertaining to this issue, Colossians 3:16 applies very appropriately (cf. Eph 5:19). Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Notice that the church is charged to teach and admonish one another WITH psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. In other words, these are the means by which the…

  • Church

    Who Should Baptize in the Church?

    Should anyone be allowed to baptize in the church? It is an important question for the church that has been asked by others as well. I recently read a provocative article entitled, “The (In)significance of the Baptizer in the Early Church: The Importance of Baptism and Unimportance of the One who Baptized.” As the title suggests, the author argues that the evidence of the Early Church is to downplay those who baptize in the church. I think there is wisdom in not making the baptizer more than he ought to be. However, at the same time, I think there is wisdom in thinking about this issue and attempting to apply biblical principles. First, Matt 28:18-20 does not seem to limit those who baptize to a special class. Most people are willing to concede that Matt 28:18-20 applies beyond the Apostles, and has an impact on the church today. Thus, part…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Prophets and Prophetic Revelation

    Since the beginning of time, God has communicated with His people through prophets. We can deduce from Genesis 3:8 that God likely communed with Adam and Eve at regular intervals. We are also told in Luke 11:51 that Abel was among the prophets, and thus received revelation from God. Prophets spoke for God. Perhaps better stated, prophets were God’s mouthpiece. Jeremiah 1:4-10 is quite instructive for the prophetic role. In v. 9, God specifically tells Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth.” That is the role of the prophet—he speaks God’s words. As a nation, Israel was given special instruction for prophets. Deuteronomy 13:1–5 lays down the important principle that prophets cannot contradict previous revelation. If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if…

  • Church

    A Man of Whom the World Was Not Worthy

    In life there are few men and women who exemplify what could be called true greatness. This kind of greatness often defies definition and is instead understood by seeing the character within the narrative which makes them special. Today I want to share with you the story of someone who exemplified this kind of character. His name is Eric Liddell. Liddell’s story may be known to some from the 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire. The movie relates Liddell’s story, how at the age of 22 he climbed the ranks of the world’s best 100m sprinters—one of the favorites to win the 1924 Olympics in Paris. However, Liddell learned that his heat of the 100m was set for a Sunday (Liddell was a Christian who refused to participate in athletics on Sundays). To shorten a story which ought not to be shortened, he switched events, giving himself 6 months to train…