Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Church's Task

Having been asked by a colleague to expand on my previous post about how the church lives out its being, it occurred to me that this would require a book-length post! There are, however, several points I would like to make on this subject.

1. An emphasis on expository preaching is a good place to start. So many sermons today are little more than narrative drivel - brief strings of pithy stories and illustrations which have no connection to the text read. The great need of every age is the opening up of God's Word and applying it to the lives of God's people.

2. An emphasis in the church's teaching ministry on the absolute authority of Holy Scripture. The Bible must be held up as the only infallible guide for the life and faith of the church.

3. An emphasis on experiential Christianity is surely needed. Liberals decry the phrase "personal Lord and Savior," as unbiblical, but Christ and the apostles clearly taught the need for an individual to make his or her peace with God. Whole chapters of Scripture are devoted to this very theme (e.g., John 3; Psalm 51; Romans 6, 8, etc.). Salvation is an inherently individualistic thing. Each of us must stand before God's judgment seat alone, unless we are in personal union with Christ.

4. An emphasis on evangelism and holy living would naturally follow these points. The Holy Spirit's empowering of us to share the Gospel is a mark of the true church. The Heidelberg Catechism beautifully articulates this in the answer to Q.86., "Because just as Christ has redeemed us with his blood he also renews us through his Holy Spirit according to his own image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and that he may be glorified through us; and further, so that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits and by our reverent behavior may win our neighbors to Christ."

Other marks of the church, for example discipline and the proper administration of the sacraments, should be noted. But to summarize, we should be looking toward the ancient church, which set a high bar for membership in the body of Christ, and expected its members to live lives of sacrificial holiness. Countless believers were condemned to death because they followed Christ and his Word, and would not compromise their faith by mixing it with the leaven of worldliness. The Reformed Christian looks not to the world for solutions, but to the Word and like the primitive church, continues "steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).


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