I was asked to introduce this part of the service by offering a brief explanation of the doctrine of ordination. And I’d like to do so by beginning with a little illustration that I hope will give you a sense of what is happening here today.
Let’s say you and I are driving down the road. You look over and see that I’m going too fast. So you say to me, “You know, you are speeding. You better slow down.” That would be a very true thing (and a very good thing) to say. And I should listen to you because what you just said is very important. However, it is quite a different thing to have a police officer pull you over and tell you that you were going too fast.
Now, what I want you to see is that both you and the officer said virtually the same thing. But at the same time they were vastly different, weren’t they? Your words might have been true, but they did not have the same weight as the Police officer’s. Why is that? It is because he is a police officer. He has authority that you do not. As a result, his words have a greater gravity to them.
Let me give you another illustration. If I go to Iran and I start talking about some new policies that America is going to be enacting, what I say may be true. It might be good if the Iranian people and the Iranian government to listen to me. But it is a whole different thing if the US ambassador to Iran gets on the Aljazeera TV network and makes a speech. Even though we might say the same thing, there is a huge difference in what is said because the US ambassador has a power and authority that I do not have because he is specifically sent by the United States.
What I want you to see is that these illustrations portray well the meaning and significance of the doctrine of ordination. Up until now, Joe has been going around doing his evangelism, and he has been doing a great job of it. He’s been calling people to repentance and faith, and he has had many opportunities to share the gospel.
But today things are going to change. Even though Joe is probably not going to be doing anything really different when he goes out to do his evangelism. He’s probably going to be saying virtually the same things he has done before. There is going to be a significant change because his words are going to carry a greater weight and power due to his being set apart by God to be an evangelist in this church.
The wonderful thing about this service is that we all have opportunity to participate in this tremendous event. In just a few moments we as elders will be laying our hands on Joe. This little act is a way of publicly testifying to the fact that God has called and equipped Joe for this work. In our doing this we are as a church body confirming to Joe, each other, and all the world that God has set Joe apart for the work of evangelism, and that he joins us in leadership for this purpose.
But this ceremony is certainly not limited to Joe and those of us who lay our hands on him. All of you who are members of this church have an active role to play. Each of you participates to some degree. As we lay our hands on Joe, you personally must agree to what is being done here today, and you must personally affirm Joe & his new role. As you sit here today, you must in your own heart pledge both your support of him and your submission to his authority as a minister of the gospel.
So as we enter into this part of the service, let us all remember the depth of what happens here today and praise God for it. The kingdom of Satan today shudders because God has raise up a gospel evangelist. May we be equally grateful as they are fearful, and may we all unite together in one heart to join God in the sending forth of Joe.
Today I started my first book. I've often been stimulated by the line in 2 Timothy 4 where Paul says, "Do the work of an evangelist." I'd like to unpack that statement and give a sound exposition on an evangelist's office, powers, and duties.
I don't want it to be a bunch of esoteric stuff (like debating whether or not the office of evangelist was to be perpetual or not). My intent is to provide something practical, perhaps aiming at the college age guy who might be interested in evangelistic work.
This is by no means something that will be hitting bookstores in the near future. I'm sure it will be a life work. The prospects are fun, nonetheless.
Oh, why do I say, "My first book"? Because I've had other topics tickle my fancy. For instance, I've always wanted to write a study guide for women on Proverbs 31. I might start on that one when my wife finally lets me lead the women's study.
I am preparing to speak at the local ministerial association meeting this Friday. I will be using 1 Tim. 1:6 as my text because it focuses on the act of preaching. I thought Calvin's comments were exceptionally eloquent and worth recording here.
"To stir up the gift of God which is in you. This exhortation is highly necessary; for it usually happens, and may be said to be natural, that the excellence of gifts produces carelessness, which is also accompanied by sloth; and Satan continually labors to extinguish all that is of God in us. We ought, therefore, on the other hand, to strive to bring to perfection everything that is good in us, and to kindle what is languid; for the metaphor, which Paul employs, is taken from a fire which was feeble, or that was in course of being gradually extinguished, if strength and flame were not added, by blowing upon it and by supplying new fuel. Let us therefore remember that we ought to apply to use the gifts of God, lest, being unemployed and concealed, they gather rust. Let us also remember that we should diligently profit by them, lest they be extinguished by our slothfulness."
I've come across two good articles dealing with Presbyterian polity in the last couple of days. They are excellent resources for understanding the Biblical underpinnings of a connectional church and the offices of minister & elder.
Why You Should Be Presbyterian: This article is appreciated because it emphasizes how the church should be connectional in nature. The author has as one of his goals the realization that churches that are independent and congregational lack proper accountabilty and fail to utilize the counsel of the broader church.
Do Minister & Elder Hold the Same Office: This article was written by one of my former seminary professors. Dr. Strange explains well the history surrounding the debate, as well as getting into many of the texts involved. One will note that this view is deeply embedded in the roots of the OT. The hermenutic we use in all of our interpretation as Reformed and Covenantal types does not neglect the continuity of Scripture.
It should be noted that I currently serve in a church that is more two office in its polity (I am three office). It should be understood then that I do respect this long tradition and enjoy working beside my fellow elders very much.
I recently came across a good article on "Why the Missional Movement Will Fail." It is good in that it focuses the real intent of the church's mission. The church was commissioned to "make disciples" and the missional movement, while very zealous & full of "missional" hullabaloo fails without real cultivation of Bible study.
I admit that I am rather adverse from calling myself "Misisonal" and refrain from using the word missional at all. Part of that is my personality (I don't jump on bandwagons very easily and am something of a fad curmudgeon).
Another reason is because I think the word is rather postmodern. It was coined not too many years ago and many people seem to make it mean whatever they want. Some are just using it because it sounds so cool ("I'm missional" sounds so much better than "I like to do evangelism.") But some seem to use it in almost completely contradictory ways! For instance, you have your die hard evangelical using it as well as your flaked out emergent church guys throwing around the term.
But part of the reason I don't use it is because I fail to see a lot of those who call themselves missional doing any really having to do with the mission of the church. It often appears to be just a nice title for a guy who is planting a church or writing a blog somewhere.
[If that is the case, I guess I am missional! (Although, playing Twitter seems to be a real missional thing too. Us fuddy duddies seem to prefer Facebook.)]
What I mean is this: I don't see a lot of the old school forms of evangelism being promoted or implemented by missional guys. It doesn't seem to be hip to pass out tracts or preach in the open air. I do not want to presume to say that this does not happen at all. But it seems that sitting in a coffee shop or having a home group is the focus of most missional guys.
For instance, the article that I mentioned at the very beginning of this post offered a free ebook on practical ways to be missional. Here are a few of the practical suggestions they gave for getting the gospel out:
Um, okay. I get it. You are trying to be available and friendly. But this is not as practical as, "Pass out tracts at a fair booth. Make CD's of your pastor's best evangelistic sermon and distribute them after a college football game."
Not downplaying walking the dog, by any means. But my wife and I have been walking the dog for 15 years now, and there hasn't been any missional activity occur (or, maybe I was being missional and didn't know it because I really don't know what it means to be missional--see discussion above). The only godly thing that happened as a result of the 2-5 miles a day we put in is that we've gotten one happy dog and kept that snickers bar from catching up with us.
I understand that we want to develop relationships and seek to facilitate gospel conversations in our communities. I also have the goal of getting people into my home for dinner and discipleship. But it seems that the old school means of accomplishing the church's mission (dare I use an outdated word like "evangelism"?) have fallen by the wayside.
If this is the case, then I am happy to say that I am not missional. I'm just a guy who believes in preaching, old school evangelism, and doing some old fashioned Bible study.
"No, you can’t split rotten wood."
-B.B. Warfeild, speaking to Machen about Machen's desire to see a split in the PCUSA in 1921
I believe in believer's baptism. Whenever someone enters the covenant for the first time, through repentance and profession of faith, they must be baptized. Once they enter, the promises of God extend to their children. As such, these children ought to be marked out as belonging to the Lord's through baptism.
Similarly, in the OT, when a Gentile became a follower of YHWH, he had to be circumcised. Once that was done, all of his household (children and slaves), became covenantally united to the Lord. All were members of God's church (Israel), and liable to either blessings or curses.
In the book of Acts, we see a transition stage. The covenant sign had changed from circumcision to baptism, as Col. 2 and Matt. 28 indicate. Thus, all those who profess faith in the book of Acts must be baptized. Yet Peter expresses the continuity of God's dealing with families when he says that "the promise is to you and to your children." He echoes the words of God in Genesis 12 and 17 purposefully.
Peter's testimony is not alone. Paul backs him when he indicates that the children of believer's are "holy." That is, they have been distinguished from the children of unbelievers. They are "set apart to God," and, being so, ought to have the sign that marks them as such.
But prior to the Apostle's, we have the words and deeds of Jesus himself. Jesus recognized the little children (infants) as members of his kingdom when he told his disciples to "Let the babies come to me, and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of heaven." He went on to express that this kingdom membership cannot remain solely one of physical birth or parental heritage. True membership must also be accompanied by faith, for "one must become like a little child." In sum, Christ spoke of both the external and internal covenants in virtually the same breath.
This phenomena has a crude parallel in our American citizenship. Upon birth we are acknowledged as members of this nation/state by means of an official birth certificate. We are to be raised to be faithful patriots, and at the proper time we must express our adherence to this kingdom publicly (through voting, for example).
Prior to his ascension to the Father's right hand, Jesus also gave the apostles the charge go and make disciples. How does one "make a disciple?" It is through the dual works of teaching them all that Christ has commanded and assigning to them the name of the Triune God in baptism. Since we still have the command to "impress these things upon our children, talk about them as we lie down and get up and walk along the way," we must recognize these children as disciples through baptism.
Covenant baptism, like it's Old Testament counterpart of circumcision, is a sign and seal to the child. It is the visible manifestation of God's promise "I will be your God, you will be my people." This baptism does not save a child, but it does contain a lively and true promise. So the child always carries with him this reminder and he should recognize that he must respond with faith and obedience all his days.
His greater privilege also implies greater responsibility. If he rebels, he is judged with stricter judgment--for he enjoyed more light and more proximity to God & His blessing.
The people over at American Vision have written a little piece criitcing some of the "transformational" hype that is common in Reformed circles. I didn't appreciate the amillennial slap or the post-mill jibber-jabber. Nevertheless, it was a good article overall.
I've often found that being "transformational" means being artsy and all gung-ho about engaging the beat nick scene. But it doesn't ever seem to go much farther--as if the arts were the whole extent of culture.
I'm all for taking a Francis Schaeffer attitude towards the arts. Let's engage it, but let's also have a balanced view. I mean, what kind of impact are we going to have on culture if all we do is stare at some paintings, pretty up our churches with nicer decorations, and say, "Dude, Jesus would have Bob Dylan on his iPod."
True transformation means attacking the gods of the age, and the biggest god of our era. That means that the most necessary place of cultural transformation today is the life sucking monster we call the state.
But most don't go there. To do so would violate some "spiritual" duty of the church and would be to "forget the real calling of the church."
This overlaps a lot with the erroneous view of "preaching the gospel." I find that many want to talk about "the gospel" but neglect the rest of God's word (i.e. law). Or, they will say things like, "We need to bring the gospel to bear on the arts." That would be ok if they would also seek to bring the gospel to bear on the realm of economics or civil magistrate.
A question was asked about the second commandment and the making of pictures of Jesus. To which I responded,
The Lord reveals himself through his word and sacrament. Those are his appointed means. We should be wary of going beyond them to "help" kids. We may even belittle the simplicity of his means when we demand pictures.
You will often find too, that wherever pictures have increased in the history of the church, piety has decreased.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.