The Gospel and Forgiveness

Till sin is bitter, Christ will not be sweet.

— Thomas Watson

To know the gospel means to know the reality of sin and the understanding that sin is not merely “missing the mark,” but rather offending God’s holiness, and thus reveals a lack of holiness and the separation from God. When the Spirit convicts the true Christian of this, then and only then can they truly understand forgiveness.

If you understand the gospel and forgiveness, then you will see how the two are perfectly aligned with one another and go hand-in-glove.  For example, in Luke 7:36-50, Jesus tells a parable about forgiveness. The moral of the story is “those who are forgiven much, love much.”  What is the point?  The point is that ff you are a Christian, you have been forgiven more than you’ll ever know. You’ve been redeemed and forgiven all your sins, past and present, and you’ve been rescued from the wrath of God and an eternity in hell. How much more could you possibly be forgiven?

Given all this, then my question is this: “How are you doing with the ‘loving much’ part?” We ought love all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and forgive them, unconditionally. Why? Because we’re loved and forgiven unconditionally.

Something to ponder dear friends.

A Little Bit About The Church (Part 1)

What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one. What is the chief end of preaching? I like to think it is this. It is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.
— D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,  Preaching & Preachers (pg. 97)

Jesus Christ is the head and ruler of the church. God established it, Christ bought it, and the Holy Spirit lives in and works throughout it. But the age-old question still applies as to how a church is to be governed. Ultimately what matters most is what the Bible says of the matter, not what the current trends or best-selling church growth books might have to say (and trust me, there are plenty of those out there). Theology matters, my dear readers, as the quote above reminds so well.  Let us, then, examine a bit of biblical theology about the church, it’s leadership, and the roles and responsibilities thereof.

The Bible reveals that there are two leadership offices in the local church. They are Pastor/Elder(s) and Deacons, and they are to be men who are walking in accordance to the standards set for their God-given role by the Scriptures (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4). Deacons are the servants of the church. They are to be servants and work in behind-the-scenes sorts of ways that free up the ministry of the Pastor/Elder to do his role and work.  The role of the Pastor/Elder is primarily broken into the following categories:

  • Preaching and Teaching
  • Shepherding and Equipping
  • Evangelism and Outreach

It is this particular leadership role that we will be looking at today.

Of The Elder and His Preaching

The pastor’s regular, week-by-week preaching should be primarily expository. Only by explaining and applying the meaning of successive biblical texts can a preacher let God’s agenda lead the congregation, rather than his own. Further, preaching should be expository because God’s Word is what gives life to dead sinners and sanctifies struggling saints (1 Pet. 1:23; Jn. 17:17). By the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word convicts, converts, sanctifies, and builds up the church. A regular diet of anything other than expository preaching hinders the work of God’s Word because it fails to tell the church what God has said, all that he has said, and only what he has said.

In addition to this, the pastor’s regular preaching should be expository because only by preaching sermons in which the point of a biblical text is explained and applied can a pastor teach his flock how to read the Bible and profit from it themselves. A pastor’s regular preaching should be expository because a preacher will grow most in his knowledge of God and his Word by diligently studying God’s Word each week to understand it and apply it to his congregation. Other kinds of preaching will simply allow a preacher to preach what he already knows and pick Bible verses to back it up. Expository preaching, however, requires the preacher to wrestle with a different text every single week, which will sharpen and challenge him in ways that would never happen otherwise.

Of The Elder as Shepherd

The focus of pastoral ministry is not the people outside the church, and it’s not drawing unbelievers to the church. Evangelism is important, absolutely it is, but it is the job of the pastor to train the flock for these works. This is the idea behind the equipping for the work of the ministry part. The focus is to be shepherding as an under-shepherd, accountable to God. The focus is to be primarily on the people inside the church—the flock the Lord has sovereignly drawn together and entrusted into the care of a shepherd.

The pastor has been set apart, as the apostle Paul put it, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). Therefore, the pastor is to be considered the “under-shepherd,” and the role of the work of shepherding is so critical.

Shepherding is also crucial because it allows the leadership to speak directly with any individual member of the Body of Christ and give them clear and distinct spiritual counsel.  Whatever has been taught from the pulpit can be directly applied to any individual who has need.  This is no doubt why Paul links the two equipping means together with the title, “Pastor-Teacher” in Ephesians 4:11.  The “Pastor” of Pastor-Teacher is the distinct shepherding role he must fulfill, and the “Teacher” function of “Pastor-Teacher” is the impartation of that truth into their lives through preaching.

The Bible spells out for us in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-5 what this shepherding is to look like. These passages both give the command to “shepherd the flock.” Shepherding might be the more elastic term among preaching/teaching and shepherding, but it is nonetheless paramount for the elders of the church. It is true that shepherding is an aspect of the teaching role but shepherding primarily relates to meeting individually and regularly with the flock. It will also assuredly mean that the elders must warn/instruct/counsel believers of their sinful thoughts and actions, so that they will be more fully conformed to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Paul speaks of this ministry of shepherding/admonishing in many key passages (see Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Ephesians 6: 4; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

Conclusion and a Foretaste of What is to Come

Thus far we have seen what the role and responsibility is for those who are in leadership in the church. But one thing more remains: what exactly is the mission of the church, or what exactly is it that the church, both members and leaders, are to be doing during the course of their daily lives? We will be looking over the next few weeks at some of the primary things that make up a biblical church. We will examine the Great Commission, which involves both evangelism and discipleship. Then we will look a bit further at what discipleship is, and how it is to be done biblically. Family ministry falls under that category of discipleship, and so we will devote quite a lot of time in coming weeks to an examination of the family and the church and how they relate and what the Bible has to say about the relationship of the family to the church and vice versa.  For now, I hope this has been a blessing and an encouragement to you.

Consciences Ablaze

“We are not sent into the pulpit to shew our wit and eloquence but to set the consciences of men on fire.” –Solomon Stoddard

The above quote from Mr. Stoddard is the simplest way to begin and best captures my heart for this blog, and, indeed, the ministry that God has graciously given to me.  I am a minister of the Gospel who works in both the corporate marketplace of the world and as a pastor in a small, rural church.  However, I do not view this to be, as some may call it, “bi-vocational” ministry.

Ministry is to be an all-encompassing reality for the born-again follower of Jesus Christ.  Thus all Christians are, in some fashion or another, “vocational ministers” of the Gospel.  The Apostle Paul viewed his entire life as such, and urged all who claim to be in Christ to present every part of their lives and every fiber of their beings as a “living sacrifice,” to God.  This means that every single area of life for the Christian man or woman is to be viewed as ministry.  We are to do all that we find ourselves doing to the glory of God and for the furthering of His Kingdom.

Dear reader, I pray that you will find this site to be an encouragement to your soul and a challenge to the mind and heart.  It is my desire, by the grace of God, to light your consciences ablaze with a fire for the work and ministry of the Kingdom of God wherever the Lord has planted you.

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