Archives For Theology

I recently did some study of elders, deacons, and church government. This was a topic I studied while in Seminary, 1 and  and I wanted to freshen up some of my beliefs about what the Bible says on these topics.

Below is a brief outline of my studies (with guidance Dr. Nathan Holsteen) and various views the different church denominations have. 

I.          ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH

A.        Elders

1.         Primary Texts are 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 5:17-21; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-5

2.         Qualifications of Elders

Elders are required to have certain character (1 Timothy 3:2-3; Titus 1:6-7), specific abilities (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:9), godly relationships (1 Tim 3:2, 4), experience (1 Tim 3:6), and a specific desire for service (1 Tim 3:1; 1 Peter 5:2-3).

3.         Responsibilities of Elders

Elders are supposed to shepherd (1 Peter 5:2) and teach (1 Tim 3:2).

4.         Plurality of Elders

There seems to be sufficient data in the New Testament to suggest that a plurality of elders was the custom and should be implemented. See Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2; 20:17, 28; 21:18; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 5:17; Tit 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-2

B.         Deacons

1.         Primary Texts Are 1 Timothy 3:8-16 and Acts 6:1-6.

2.         Qualifications of Deacons

A list of qualifications for deacons is given just after the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

3.         Responsibilities of Deacons

Acts 6:1-7 is the only location we see deacons doing ministry.

II.        GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH

A.        In the Bible

1.         In the Book of Acts

The church in the book of Acts was in a transitional state, but it had an organized structure. A careful reading of Acts reveals that the church had a doctrinal confession (Acts 2:42), practiced baptism (Acts 2:41), had the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42, 46), had some levels of membership (Acts 2:14, 41; 4:4), helped people in need (Acts 2:44-45), and appointed leaders for specific tasks (Acts 6:1-7).

2.         In the New Testament Letters

The church in the Pauline and general epistles showed more organization than the church in Acts. Church officers were in place (Titus 1:5) and there was an enforced order within the church (1 Corinthians 14:40).

B.         In the Modern Church

1.         Episcopalianism

a.         Description

Government by a hierarchy of bishops. There are three layers of leaders: bishops, presbyters (or priests), and deacons. Only the bishop can ordain priests and deacons. It has the strongest emphasis on clergy and laity distinction. The local church does not own its property.

b.         Examples

Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion (such as Episcopalian churches), Methodist Church

2.         Presbyterianism

a.         Description

Governed by “elders” (presbuteros) in the form of church courts. Congregation chooses it’s pastor and elects elders. Places power of local church in a group of elders, not in one minister who derives authority from a bishop. The local church does not own its property.

b.         Examples

Presbyterian churches, reformed churches

3.         Congregationalism

a.         Description

The local church is an autonomous unit. Christ in the only person above a congregational church. The ultimate authority of the church rests in the members of the church. Can be “elder” led or “deacon” led. Each church calls its own pastor, approves its own budget, purchases property, and has ownership of its own property.

b.         Examples

Baptist churches, Bible churches, Plymouth Brethren Churches, Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), Church of Christ (restoration movement churches)

 

Notes:

  1. Special thanks to Dr. Nathan Holsteen of Dallas Theological Seminary. Some of this blog post has been adapted from the notes from his “Ecclesiology” class I took under him.

A guy was wrestling with a question that had troubled him for years.

“Can a person lose his salvation?”

The question came up when I was recently visiting his men’s Bible study. He explained a scenario to me:

“Christopher, right now you are saved and you are a Christian. You serve the Lord faithfully and are a man of God. However, let’s say that something drastic happens in your life and you walk away from God and your faith. Furthermore, you not only walk away from God but you become an active worshipper of Satan. If you start to worship Satan and have walked away from God, are you still saved?

The men’s group shared that they often struggle with that same question. If I am saved can I lose my salvation? How do I know I’m saved?

And to be honest, as a pastor I also struggle with this question.

In this post I want to explain two main topics: eternal security and assurance. First, let’s define those terms briefly and then, second look at what Scripture says.

Soteriology - The Assurance of Eternal Security

Photo Credit: Finn Terman

SOTERIOLOGY
The Assurance of Eternal Security

I. DEFINITIONS OF “ETERNAL SECURITY” AND “ASSURANCE”

Eternal security is the biblical fact that once you are saved you cannot lose your salvation. Assurance is the feeling of comfort you experience because you are certain you cannot lose your salvation. 

II. WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ETERNAL SECURITY

Continue Reading…

As a Small Groups Pastor of a local church there are three topics that I encounter most when interacting with Christians: grace, faith, and justification. They are essential topics that every Christian learns about, wrestles with, and tries to live out. Growing as a Christian leads to improved understanding of these three topics and should result in living them out better and better. As I continue my series of soteriology blog posts, I hope to give you a biblical description of each of these topics and point you to some ways you can live out grace, faith, and justification in your life.

SOTERIOLOGY
Grace, Faith, and Justification

Soteriology - Grace, Faith, and Justification

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”

I. GRACE

We have been given a gift we don’t deserve.

A. In Grace, God Punishes Jesus, Not Us

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he talks about grace in the third chapter saying,

Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight [literally “declares us righteous”]. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. (Romans 3:24–25, NLT) 1

Let’s take each part of this verse and examine grace.

1. God Takes Initiative

Paul tells us that God “in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight” (v. 24) and “God presented Jesus” (v. 25). It’s clear that God takes the initiative to provide grace to us. This is something he does for us, and it is not something we have caused.  Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translation, 2015 revision

For most of my life I have enjoyed playing golf. Golf courses often “aerate” their tee boxes, fairways, and greens. This is a process in which a machine punches holes in the ground and removes a small amount of dirt from those holes. The better quality golf courses aerate more often, while smaller less maintained golf courses do this less often. 1

The simple act of removing a small amount of dirt from the ground provides five benefits to the well traveled soil and grass that golfers use. One benefit is that it allows much needed nutrients (air, water, and fertilizer) to get to the root zone under the surface of the ground. Another benefit is that it reduces thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead grass that can prevent important nutrients from getting to the soil. An additional benefit of aeration is that it relieves soil compaction. Severely compacted soil prevents air, water, and fertilizer from reaching the grass’s root system. Another benefit of aeration is that it helps with over seeding. When you are trying to over seed (laying seed on existing grass) aeration allows for that seed to penetrate the soil and germinate. A final benefit of aeration is that it prepares grass for going dormant in the winter and/or a green spring. If your grass goes dormant in the winter you want it to be as strong as possible, and aerating helps strengthen it. Additionally, aerating gives grass a fertile environment to grow when spring comes. 2

You have probably heard pastors say that “Jesus died for your sins on the Cross.” My point in sharing about aeration above is that, yes, Jesus did die for your sins on the cross. But, he accomplished much more than that on the cross. Similar to how that one act of aeration provides five benefits to grass, Christ’s death on the cross accomplished five things for us. Let’s take a look at those. 

Soteriology - What Christ Did on the Cross

Photo Credit: “Christ Dies on the Cross” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804)

SOTERIOLOGY
Christ on the Cross

I. SUBSTITUTION

Christ died in our place and took the sinners’ just punishment.

A. Old Testament Backgrounds on Substitution

The idea of substitution is woven throughout the Old Testament. Here are some examples of substitution in the Old Testament.  Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. When I worked as a caddie at a very nice private golf course in Texas while in seminary it seemed like we were aerating something every month.
  2. 7 Benefits of Lawn Aeration” by TruGreen, https://www.trugreen.com/lawn-care-101/blog/aeration-service/7-benefits-of-lawn-aeration. Accessed October 1, 2019.

The Bible makes it clear that Christ died on cross (Matt 27:32-61; Mark 15:33-47; Luke 23:44-56; John 19:28-42) and three days later Jesus came back to life and left the tomb in which he was buried (Matt 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10; Acts 1:4-8; 9:1-9; 1 Cor 15:6-8). 

Historical Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Carl Heinrich Bloch, “The Resserection” (sic) from the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace in Copenhagen

I love the Bible and trust it as a reliable and credible witness to events that occurred in the first century. Yet, the Bible is not the only witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are five different categories of sources that contain at least thirteen different independent references to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

ANCIENT HISTORIANS

Continue Reading…

If there is one event that Christianity relies on more than others, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. John Stott once said, “We live and die; Christ died and lived!” And that “died” and then “lived” is what our Christian faith is about.

Soteriology: The Bodily Resurrection of Christ

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

As I study books of the Bible, one literary feature I look for is a “pivot.” A pivot is where you see the a significant theme shift or change in the book. One example of a pivot is in the book of Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that no wise man or magic astrologer could interpret. So Daniel is brought in front of the mighty powerful and high ruler of the known world, King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel says, “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or future tellers who can reveal the king’s secret. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future.” (Dan 2:27-28, emphasis added). 1 That’s a pivot: power from the earthly king to power to the heavenly king.

The pivot of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament predicted, the Gospels described it, and the book of Acts and New Testament letters explained what it meant. Let’s do a study of the resurrection. 

SOTERIOLOGY
The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ
(Acts 1:3)

I. BODY, NOT GHOST

First steps in studying the resurrection of Christ is to notice that the Bible describes him as having a real physical body. In other words, Jesus was not a “ghost.” Jesus’s interaction in the Gospel of Luke with two people walking to Emmaus tells us that Jesus had a “body” and was not a “ghost.” Jesus had appeared to these two people, was walking with them (Luke 24:15), talking with them (Luke 24:17-27), but they did not recognize him (Luke 24:16).

A. Held Bread and Broke It

Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translation

While attending Dallas Theological Seminary one of the richest classes that I took was the class on salvation, also known as “Soteriology.” For an entire semester we talked about elements of salvation, biblical views on what it means to be saved, historical interpretations of salvation, as well as people that have tried to make salvation something other than what the Bible describes it as.

Soteriology - What Christ Did on the Cross

Photo Credit: “Christ Dies on the Cross” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804)

In this post I want to talk about salvation. More specifically, five things Christ did on the cross. 1

I. SUBSTITUTIONChrist died in our place and took the sinners’ just punishment.

A. Substitution in the Old Testament Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. These five things are adapted and simplified from a teaching given by J. Scott Horrell at Dallas Theological Seminary.

If there is one difficult thing to talk about it our culture today, it’s the topic of hell. No one wants to hear about “right and wrong” or moral absolutes. And when a God-fearing pastor that wants to share the biblical view of hell people refuse to listen. Instead, they say he “only focuses on punishment” and he’s “unloving.”

Photo Credit: John Martin (1789-1854)

I once was facilitating a small group that was doing a verse-by-verse study of the book of Revelation. It was difficult for one lady because she did not believe in the idea of a literal hell. I am not sure if she thought everyone goes to heaven regardless of their faith or if people just get “destroyed,” but she did not believe there is “hell” that people go to. Yet, she did not really have a solid biblical reason that she didn’t believe in hell, she just did not like the idea of people going to a place to “suffer for eternity.” And let me tell you, doing a verse-by-verse study of the book of Revelation is difficult if you don’t believe in hell.

With that said, let’s take a look at the home of those who reject Christ: hell.

HAMARTIOLOGY
The Home of Those Who Reject Christ

Continue Reading…

When I was thirteen or fourteen years old we lived on the La Contenta Golf Course in Valley Springs, California. I loved it because I loved golf and I could walk to the golf course and play anytime that I wanted. At that time I was being home-schooled which meant I could do my schoolwork in the morning, then go golf all afternoon.

One day in the kitchen of our home my mom gave me the news: we were moving from the “city” house on the golf course out to the country area about fifteen minutes away. I couldn’t believe it! How could we move? How was I going to golf? I did not want to move and told me mom that I didn’t want to move. But, her response was, “Dad and I have already decided to move and we are moving.” I didn’t have a say in the matter.

Hamartiology - Sinners by Nature and by Choice

Photo Credit: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872)

I’m sure that you’ve had if not one but many examples were you were merely a bystander to a situation or circumstance and didn’t have a say in the matter. When it comes to the sin nature that we as humans have, we don’t have a choice in the matter. We are sinners by nature, and we even sin by choice as well. As the theologian John Walvoord once said, “The testimony of the Scriptures is clear that men are sinners by imputation, by nature, and by choice.” 1 Let’s look at the human nature.

I. THE HUMAN CONDITION Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. John Walvoord, “Is Moral Progress Possible?” an article in Bibliotheca Sacra in 1944, republished in BibSac 175 (July-September 2018), p. 261

While a kid I was a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was one of my favorite movies and toys. As powerful and amazing as these adult-sized turtles were, there was always one thing that could prevent them from protecting themselves or others. If they happened to fall on their backs, there was no way for them to get up. The sometimes quipped, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” rings true for a turtle that falls on his back. He truly can’t get up.

Within the topic of sin, every single person is figuratively a turtle: I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. We are sinners 1 headed for hell and we can’t do nothing about it without Christ’s intervention. Let’s look at how all of humanity is fallen, lost, and dead.

 Hamartiology - Fallen, Lost, and Dead

Photo Credit: The Bible Revival

HAMARTIOLOGY
Fallen, Lost, and Dead

I. MAN’S LOSTNESS

The fact that man is lost can be seen in man’s mind, his heart, death, and Satan.

A. The Mind

The apostle Paul discusses how man’s mind is lost in his letter to the believers in Ephesus,

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, (Eph 4:17–18a, NASB, emphasis added)

The “Gentiles” that Paul is talking about here are those that live in whatever way they want. They have no set of religious values that they follow and attempt to use to live a Godly lifestyle. In essence, they are confused. Their minds are full of darkness. Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. “Every sinner is totally destitute of that love to God which is the fundamental requirement of the low (Deut. 6:4f; Matt. 22:37); that he is supremely given to a preference of himself to God (2 Tim. 3:2-4); that he has an aversion to God which on occasion becomes active enmity to him (Rom. 8:7)); that his every faculty is disordered and corrupted (Eph. 4:18); that he has not thought, feeling, or deed of which God can fully approve (Rom. 7:18); and that he has entered upon a line of constant progress in depravity from which he can in no wise turn away in his own strength (Rom. 7:18). Depravity has infected the whole man-mind, emotions, and will.” (Henry Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, pp. 191-192)