Elders

Meet my son.....Epaphras?

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)

            I have never met an Epaphras. I have met several men named Peter, Paul and Timothy. I know several Johns and even a few Judes, but I do not know an Epaphras. It may be that Epaphras is one of those names that is just too hard to pronounce or unbecoming of our American sensibilities or it could be that we do not really understand the impact of Epaphras’s life in the history of the church?

            Charles Bridges wrote an excellent book on the Christian Ministry. His reflection on Epaphras is a helpful reminder for pastors,

Probably the laborious fervency of Epaphras’ secret exercises were as fruitful as his public work; and who knoweth, but we shall find that our must successful efforts for our people were the hours---not when we were speaking to them from God, but when we were speaking for them to God?[1]

We may be remembered by this world because of our public work, but we may be most effective in our secret exercises in prayer alone with God.

            One day when we stand before God all our labors will be revealed. The world may not remember Epaphras, but his prayers and his life were remembered by God. Dear friends, let us struggle in prayer for our people so that they may stand mature and fully assured in the will of God. We may not name our son’s Epaphras, but let us model his prayerful life for our families, our churches and for the glory of God.

 

[1] Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry. Pg 149.

Where are all the "3 P" Men?

What is the greatest problem facing men today? In an article in the New Statesman, Edward Smith attempts to answer that question. While many are advocating an aggressive feminism as the root of man’s ills in society, Smith writes, “The real problem males face today is not, of course, a rise of women – it's a shrinking of men.[1]” Men are shrinking. They are shrinking in their morality. They are shrinking in their work ethic. They are shrinking in their spiritual development. They are shrinking into passivity and lured into entertainment and worldly lusts. The world needs better men. And this is not a new problem.

            Since Adam abdicated his role of leader and protector of his wife in the garden, men have struggled to lead well. They ever abuse their God-given role with force and power or abdicate their God-given responsibility into passivity. The first Adam was not a great role model. The loss of God given identity produces disastrous results. John Piper writes,

Confusion over the meaning of manhood and womanhood today is epidemic. The consequence of confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender-free persons…. The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that comes with the loss of God-given identity.[2]

Following in the footsteps of fallen Adam produces deadly result in society and in the church.

             Therefore, God sent a New Adam for the good of the world and the glory of the Father. Jesus Christ is the model of true manhood now. He calls to those men who are shrinking from and shirking their God given role, He calls to them to Himself. He calls them to follow him into true manhood. He calls them like Nehemiah did when the wall needed to be built, “Come let us build the wall…that we may no longer suffer derision.” (Nehemiah 2:17) It is time for men to rise up and build the wall so that the name of Christ will no longer suffer disgrace in the world, but the glory of His name would be manifested in our homes, our churches, our communities and our nation. God is looking for a few good men to rise and help build the church for the glory of God.  

            Paul writes to Timothy to encourage the men to represent their new identity in Christ well. Paul wants “3P” men. Men who are prayerful, pure and peaceful. The church is suffering because men are either not leading in prayer or they are leading in prayer while their lives are not pure or peaceful. We must look at 1 Timothy 2:8 in light of the historical context and the context of the letter. Paul has already addressed false teachers in the church and encourage specific kinds of prayers for all people because God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all who would trust in Him. And know Paul encourages men to obey the admonition to pray so that they will reflect Christ well and be able to serve as elders in the church. The section immediately following the instructions on men and women will address the leadership in the church.

Prayerful Men

            Paul begins his charge to men simply by directly stating that men are called to pray at all times and in all places, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray.” The reference to every place could refer the many homes that the Ephesians would gather for worship. There could be an extension that believers are called to prayer in all the gatherings throughout the world. Regardless of where, Paul wants men to pray. This is a constant encouragement throughout the Pauline Epistles.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing,

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

And those are just the exhortations to pray and not the example prayers that are placed throughout his corpus. Very simply men should lead the congregation through their prayers.

            As stated above, there may have been some men in the community who were shrinking from their responsibility to pray. Therefore, Paul encouraged the men to pray. Prayer being important to the Christian life and the life of the church is like bacon being important for a good breakfast; it is essential. So what keeps us from prayer?

Laziness – We do not discipline ourselves for godliness so we do not prioritize that which is most important.

Busyness – We may be very productive and efficient at work or even in ministry, but we do not invite God into our work. This busyness reveals our pride and our lack of dependency on the power and presence of God.

Worldliness– It is hard to pursue the Lord in prayer if our minds and hearts are being drawn away from God into conformity to the world.

Sin – Our hearts find more pleasure in sin than in prayer.

There is a myriad of reasons that keep us from praying, but we must pray. Prayer is the lifeblood of the church. If men are not leading in prayer, then they simply are not leading. Men, rise up and pray.            

Pure Men

            Paul does not only want men to pray, but to pray with pure hearts. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands.” Paul is not really concerned with men lifting their hands in prayer, but lifting their hearts in prayer. It is about purity over posture. David Platt points out two Psalms that show the importance of purity in our prayers,

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalm 24:3-4)

            I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar Lord. (Psalm 26:6)

Purity is essential to prayer. God wants us to come to him in prayer. God wants us to come to him in prayer even when we are in sin, but he wants us first to confess our sin before we bring our requests before him.

            Why should we expect God to answer our prayers if we have been hearts set against him? One of the most challenging verses on prayer for husbands should be 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” Do you see the implication? If you are not living in purity towards your wife than why would God want to honor your prayers? A husband’s prayers are hindered when he does not honor his wife.

            There were some in Ephesus who were praying before the Lord when they had sin in their lives. We know that Hymenaeus and Alexander drifted off into false teaching and most likely false living as they swerved from a clean conscience. Paul could have made this admonition specifically because of them, but either way it is a good reminder for all the men in the church. Alvin Reid shares this story in his evangelism textbook,

I have an evangelist friend with a great burden for awakening in our day. Year ago he studied in Edinburg, Scotland. He visited the tiny principality of Wales, which has been visited with mighty revival several times in the modern era. He discovered a lady who had been converted in the Welsh Revival of 1904-05 as a little girl, and who knew Evan Roberts personally. Roberts was a principal human agent in the Welsh Revival. My friend sat in the little cottage of the elderly woman.

“What was the secret of Evan Robert’s power?” he asked. She simply looked into her fireplace, and in her thick Welsh accent, replied, “Mr. Roberts was a very godly man.” “Yes I know that, but tell me more. Why did God use him?” The lady continued to look into the fire, “God used Mr. Roberts because he was a godly man.” She said.

 My friend was frustrated. Pressing further, he said, “Yes I know, but tell me specifics. How did he pray? What did he do?” The elderly lady turned and faced my friend. “Young man,” she said sternly, “The reason God used Mr. Evan Roberts was that he was a very, very godly man.” Finally, he got the point. You can be a gifted as a preacher, an organizer, a leader, but there is no substitute for godliness.[3]

Brothers, God desires us to pray in all places with pure hearts. Let us rise up and be pure hearted men.

Peaceful Men

            Last P of a “3P” man is to the calling to be peaceful. Men are called to pray, with pure hearts, who are at peace with the brethren. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands, without anger or quarreling.” Anger and arguing has no place among God’s leaders. Men should not be characterized by anger and arguing with one another. “All of us would be wiser if we would resolve never to put people down, except on our prayer lists.” D.A. Carson. Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:24-26,

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Patient. Gentle. It is not our job to force repentance, but model God’s loving and gracious kindness that may perhaps lead them to repentance.

            There were men in Ephesus who were angry and quarrelling with one another. Unity is not only important for joy and comfort within the church, but it is vital for the witness of the church in the world. Remember Paul just reminded the church that God desires all people to be saved. Anger and arguing in the church impacts the mission of God. Missionary Lesslie Newbigin writes,

The world does not believe, because it does not see the signs of an atonement so profound and complete that all mankind in all its infinite variety and contrariety can find there its lost unity. To say that the Church must be one in order that the world may believe is to summon one another to a return to the source of Christ’s being in Christ himself.[4]

Paul taught the people of the vast implications of a unified church. Paul cared about united in the church and expected godly men to pray while being at peace with one another.

A divided church will give a poor reflection of the oneness of the Triune God. On the other hand, a healthy, unified church displays the wisdom of God making the church, as Newbigin stated, a sign, a foretaste and an instrument of the kingdom of God. Unity is essential to make the gospel attractive to the world as it sees the resurrection power on display in a community. Jamie Dunlop and Mark Dever write in Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes the Church Attractive, “The gospel asserts that unity in Christ is stronger than worldly difference.[5]” The unity of the church is precious, but also very precarious so leaders must take notice of those things which cause division and lead the people to see the corporate responsibility of all members for the unity of the church as a display of the power of the Spirit.[6]  Unity within a specific congregation must be cultivated so that the world can see the beauty and power of the Gospel.

Jesus cares so much about our relationships with our brothers that he says this to those who are about to offer about a gift to God,

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

I have often thought of this verse before communion to analyze my own heart, but it would be helpful to analyze even before we pray. God cares about peace. How pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. Let us rise up and seek peace with the all the brethren.

            We do not have the power in and of ourselves to be prayerful, pure and peaceful men. We need God’s help. Wherever we are at along the process, we must always remember that Jesus Christ came in the world to save sinners. Jesus came as the perfect “3P” man. He was a man of prayer making time to get alone with the Father. He was pure and innocent of all evil. He had a heart that was perfectly set on God. And as the Prince of peace he came to make peace with man through his shed blood on the cross (Col. 1:20). He not only lived at peace, but is our peace.

Jesus Christ did not shrink from his God-given role, but chose to give himself for the sake of others. He died as our ransom and was raised for our hope. Beloved, we must follow Jesus and strive to be like him. Through repentance and faith, we are united with Him. The power that rose Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in us. Jesus was the embodied the “3P” man while we different kind of “3P” men under the power, penalty and price of sin. Thanks be to God that he gives us a new identity in him.

            So what kind of men are we going to be? Are we going to shrink from our responsibilities or are we going rise up and build a community on prayer with pure hearts and peace with another? The world needs godly men. Therefore, I say as for me and my brothers, “Let us rise up and build.”

 

[1] http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/05/real-problem-men-face-today-not-rise-women accessed 2.24.16 I would not recommend reading the entire article as it contains profanity, but the principle he puts forward I believe it correct. The shrinking of men is more important to a man’s demise then the rise of women.

[2] Piper, John (“Vision”) pg. 33 as quoted in Christ -Centered Exposition exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

[3] Alvin Reid, Introduction to Evangelism. Pg. 113.

[4] Lesslie Newbigin, The Light has Come: An Exposition of the 4th Gospel. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 1982 pg. 231

[5] Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop. Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes the Church Attractive. Crossway, Wheaton, 2015. Pg. 156

[6] Ibid (156-161).

A Reminder of Faith

"Did you do the coffee and lock up the house?" It is a question that my wife asks me every night before we go to bed. My evening job is to make sure that the coffee is set for the next day to go after promptly at 5:45 so that when my wife comes down at 6:05 the coffee is waiting for her. I also have to ensure that the house securely locked and the garage is shut. These are my chores that I am responsible for every night. And yet, my wife asks when I get into bed, “Did you do the coffee and lock up the house?” And there still days when I reply, “No, I forgot. Let me go do that.” It is good that I get reminders.

            We all forget things. My wife’s reminders are a blessing to me because of what is at stake. If I forget to lock up the house, I am potentially exposing my children to danger. The higher the stakes the more reminders can serve as a blessing. There are some in our congregations that work with tremendously large machines at a paper mill in town. One of the most important jobs is the safety instructor because if someone forgets the safety instructions the potential of danger is severe because of the heat produced by the machines. The greater the danger, the more beneficial the reminder. Peter is worried that the church is going to follow false teachers and miss the rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:11). If they do not receive a welcome, they will be cast out to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The stakes could not be any higher so Peter gives the church a reminder of faith.

Reminder of a Godly Life

            Peter informs the church that he will continue to remind them of the qualities of the godly life in accord with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:12, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” Peter was not going to stop reminding the church to grow in godliness. He wanted them to be effective in their knowledge of the Lord. Peter took his call serious as an elder and apostle. Elders care about people’s eternal state. Peter did not take their position with the Lord for granted. He says that they were firmly established in the truth. They did not need to learn the truth only to be reminded of it. Remember Hymenaeus and Alexander from 1 Timothy 1 who drifted from the truth that he had to put out of the church. Hebrews 2:1-2, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Drift away from the world is a very real possibility.

            Elders should be reminders of people. There are some weeks that you come to church and you may not “learn” anything knew, but you may be reminded about the great things of the faith. One of the blessings of singing songs is that we right those words on our heart. While I was coming back from lunch today someone turned on 90s music. I hadn’t heard those songs in about 10 years and I could sing almost all of the lyrics. Imagine if instead of the 90s music of SWV and the Spin Doctors, I wrote the great hymns of the faith on my heart. Listen to good, godly music and write it upon your heart. I am going to start to introduce new songs to our church so we can write the deep truths of God onto our heart. We all need reminders. Sometimes those reminders can come through hearing the same truths in a new way. Remember all reminders of God’s truth are a blessing.

            Pastors have been given the ministry of reminders. It is no trouble for us to remind you again and again of the gospel that there is salvation through faith Jesus. The gospel is not only something we believe, but something that should change our lives. Peter wanted to remind them of the life that characterized the Christian faith. Do you need any reminders? Who do you need to give a reminder?

Reminder of a Coming Death

            Peter was about to die. He knew by revelation from Jesus Christ that his time on earth was short. He was about to depart the tent of the body. The original Greek only has the word in this tent and does not have body. It is a clear reference to the body as a temporary home. He knew that his earthly body was going to perish and he would enter into the present of Jesus in a spiritual state. We know that one-day God is going to raise our bodies to be imperishable, but here Peter is reminder of how short and temporary life in this world truly can be. We are a mist, a vapor. We are here for a moment and then we pass on to glory.

            As we approach death, we get a sharper focus. We know what really matters. We focus our time and energy that things that are of the utmost importance. Peter thought that it was right to stir them up by way of reminder. Peter wanted the church’s affections and desires to be kindled to follow after Christ. We know there are seasons when the fire for the Lord wanes. When those seasons happened, we sometimes need someone to come and poke and stir up the kindling. We may need a word of encouragement or a rebuke or exhortation, but we occasionally need to be stirred.

            I met with someone this week who gave me a challenging word. It made me analyze my leadership and teaching. It stirred me up to continue to press on in the deep things of God. Did I enjoy being challenged? Of course I didn’t at the moment, but I am thankful for the fruit it bore and will bear in my life and ministry. Let us be those who stir one another up to love and good deeds. This is one of the purposes of our gatherings every Sunday. We gather to stir one another up by reminding each other of the sweetness and beauty of the gospel of Christ. Hebrews 10:24-5, “Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We often focus on the negative aspect of not meeting together rather than on the positive aspect of stirring one another up to love and good works.

            When was the last time you came to church with the thought, “How can I stir up so and so to love God more today?” Or maybe, “How can I be a blessing to one of our windows today and stir them up to continue to press on towards Jesus?” When one of our widowers left the church today, I realized that I hadn’t even consider how they must feel on Valentine’s Day. If I gave them more thought today, I may have helped to stir them up in the faith.

            Peter was facing the end of his life, but he did not quit. He continued to give himself for the people of God. I have been so encouraged with many in this church who have not sailed off away from the church in your later years, but have given themselves to the church. As the Day is drawing near, let us continue to fight for the faith of our brothers and sisters by stirring them up in Christ.

Reminder of a Lasting Legacy

            Peter knew that he was going to be held accountable before God for how he cared for the church, but he cared even more that the church would not drift after he was gone. “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” Peter did not want the church to die after he was gone. He was not building the church around him, but around the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He said he was going to make every effort. He already has told the body to make every effort to press on in Jesus and now he makes the same commitment back to the church.

            Peter does not ask the people anything that he himself is not willing to do. When I was in college I was responsible for moving the entire gymnastic apparatuses for the Ivy League Championship Meet. It was one of the worse days of my jobs in college. We had to move the floor which was comprised on springs and the carpet, the balance beam, the vault, and the uneven parallel bars. It was brutal to move. At the end of the move, we were rewarded with Papa John’s pizza. I remember getting so mad when I saw the gymnastic coach eating the pizza. While we moved the entire equipment and then set it all up barely knowing what we were doing, the leader of the team just sat and watched. He was not willing to help us when we need it, but wanted to share in our reward. I vowed then that I would never be that kind of leader. We never want to be leaders who are not willing to lead by example. We must be willing to lead with our lives.

            This is what Peter was doing. Peter called the church to make every effort to give themselves to the knowledge of Christ and he committed to make every effort to give himself fully to the call of God for their sakes. This is the heart of a pastor. A pastor does not want to be served, but to serve others. We follow Jesus’ example who did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus is our Savior and our example. We only need to look to Jesus if we know what kind of people we are called to be. Jesus called us to be holy because he was holy. Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for others because he laid down his life for us. Jesus calls us to live for the glory of the Father because he lived for the glory of the father. Peter was merely following the example of Jesus.

            Beloved, we are all forgetful and could us a reminder from time to time about the amazing Savior we have in Jesus. He died for us. He rose for us. He is coming again for us. Remind yourself every day of the gospel for the stakes are too high to neglect it. Remind others every day of the gospel for the stakes are too high to neglect it. Remind others every day of the gospel so that when you are gone you know you are leaving a gospel legacy to fill your place.

Wage the Good Warfare

            On evening of November 13, 2015, Isobel Bowdery went to a concert with her friends for fun, but her evening quickly turned to a nightmare. Isobel harrowing tale of survival was recounted the day after the coordinated Isis in Paris. She writes,

You never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right infront of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry - not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn't…Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil.[1]

Isobel first words are stunning, “You never think it will happen to you.” Isobel went to a concert that Friday night as she had done many nights before and her peaceful life was forever changed. She became utterly aware that she was part of a war. Warfare is bloody and brutal. It is an awful reality.

            ISIS is at war with the west. We may not feel the effects of war, but that does not change the reality of war. We have an enemy. America must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. And like Americans, Christians must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. Christians are in a war. There are enemies of the cross of Christ. We may not always feel its effects, but there are moments like the ones on November 13th that remind us that we are at war. Paul charges Timothy to fight for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul charges Timothy to fight for the Gospel, I prayer that you will pick up your army and contend for the gospel.

The Reality of the War

            First, let us briefly establish the reality of the war. The Christian life is viewed as a battle. Listen to the Scriptures in reference to the warfare against sin,

1 Peter 2:24, “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Romans 6:62, “We have been united with him in a death like his. . . .Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. . . . How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Galatians 2:205:24, “I have been crucified with Christ. . . .Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Colossians 3:3, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Romans 7:4, “You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another…Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you kill the deeds of the body, you will live.” Colossians 3:5, “Put to death what is earthly in you.” 1 Corinthians 9: 27, “I pommel my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” * 1 Corinthians 15:31, I die every day!”[2]

The believer battle with sin is clearly pictured as warfare. We are at war with the world, our flesh and the devil to root out and kill sin our life. John Owen writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.

The Soldiers in the War

            Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to lead the army against sin. Timothy was charged to lead God’s people, 1 Tim 1:18-19a, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.” Timothy was set apart by the council of the elders to serve as the Elder of the church at Ephesus. He was charged to fight by holding onto faith and a good conscience. First, we wage the good warfare by fighting for sound doctrine. Timothy had to teach the people the true faith. The false teachers in Ephesus were leading people from purity of doctrine. We always will have to fight for true faith. The true faith that Jesus Christ alone saves. Jesus is the only name under heaven which man must be saved. There is no other way. There is one mediator between man and God, and that is the man Christ Jesus. There is no other. We must fight for the exclusivity of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Everyone is welcome at the cross, but everyone must come through the cross to get to God. We come to Jesus by faith. We turn from our sin and turn to Jesus for salvation believing in his death and resurrection.

            Secondly, we fight with a good conscience. We fight to believe and we fight to live out our beliefs. The church had a saying, “Coram Deo.” It means before the face of God. We live our lives fighting for holy lives. We confess sin. We protect what we watch on T.V. We put internet filters on our computers. We invite people into our lives to ask us tough questions. We commit ourselves to a local church. As Peter encourages the church to make their calling and election sure. We fight to believe God’s Word and we also fight to live by God’s Word. We trust God’s Word to live God’s Way for God’s Glory.

            We are all soldiers in the Lord’s army. We have been set apart to wage the good warfare. Like in an Army, we have leaders. Elders and deacons who are on the front lines in the battle of sin, but we all are part of the royal priesthood. We are all called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We all have responsible to fight for the purity of our doctrine and our lives. Jonathan Leeman writes 7 responsibilities of church members in his new book, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: A Case for Congregationalism: Attend Regularly, Help Preserve the Gospel, Help Affirm Gospel Citizens, Attend Members Meetings, Disciple Other Church Members, Share the Gospel with Outsiders, and Follow Your Leaders. These responsibilities help the church wage war against sin and fight for God’s glory. He adds,

The Bible gives final authority and therefore responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

·         You are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.

·         You are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.

·         You are responsible for Sister Sue’s discipleship to Christ, and that she’s being cared for and nurtured toward Christlikeness.

·         You are responsible to ensure Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.

Who trains you for all this work? Your elders. Add your responsibilities together with theirs and you have Jesus’s discipleship program.[3]

Joining a church is enlisting in the war for sound faith and sound living. Before people join the church people should understand the magnitude of their responsibility,

Friend, by joining this church, you will become jointly responsible for whether or not this congregation continues to faithfully proclaim the gospel. That means you will become jointly responsible both for what this church teaches, as well as whether or not its members’ lives remain faithful. And one day you will stand before God and give an account for how you used this authority. Will you sit back and stay anonymous, doing little more than passively showing up for 75 minutes on Sundays? Or will you jump in with the hard and rewarding work of studying the gospel, building relationships, and making disciples? We need more hands for the harvest, so we hope you’ll join us in that work.[4]

Or put it simply, “Are you ready to join the war for God’s glory? Are you ready to fight?”

The Causalities in the War

            And in every war there will always be causalities. We learn of two individuals who did not fight the good fight, but fell to the evil one. Paul continues, “holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander.” These two men rejected the true faith and gave themselves after the world. Most scholars believe that Hymenaeus and Alexander were elders of the church. The reason that Timothy needed to come to Ephesus was that the leaders drifted from the truth both in their teaching and in their way of life. The leaders in the church. Let that settle in. I believe that Paul mentioned their name as a warning to the people that we all must continue to fight the good fight.

 No one is exempt from the dangers of the war. We all must fight. There have been many leaders in Christ’s church that have fallen in their teaching and in their way of life. Solomon was the wisest king of Israel and ended up bowing before foreign gods. Hymenaeus and Alexander once gave powerful sermons and led prayer revivals only to turn their back on Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:19-20, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Do not underestimate the power of the adversary. And even Timothy was warned. He was charged here to press on into the warfare and again in 1 Tim 4:16, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16). Do not be a causality of the war. There are serious consequences in this war.

The Goal of the War

            Remember the goal of the war is to win. We know that we have already won the war because Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil. He brought us the victory over the grave. He has risen. The goal of this life is enter safely into the next one. We must never presume on His grace, but avail ourselves to take hold of the upward prize of God in Christ Jesus. We forget what is behind and press on towards what is ahead. We do not trust our ability to wage the good warfare, but we trust in the war who has already won the war. We trust in the finished work of Christ.

Beloved, there is always hope. Even these men who rejected the faith could still turn back and be forgiven. Paul ends this chapter by saying, “among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” He gave them over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme. They needed to learn. They were removed from the fellowship so that their false faith and false living would be corrected. It was not a final sentence, but an act of grace so that they would repent. Paul wanted them to receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.

            Church discipline is not a final judgment, but a warning to avoid the coming greater judgment. Paul gave up Hymenaeus and Alexander as an act of grace. It would have done them no good to continue in a path that only brought them death. Church discipline was for their good. If our goal is to find our happy rest in God on our last day, then we should thank God for the precious gift of discipline. Paul and Timothy’s ministry had the aim of love. They loved these men, but love does not always look the same. Paul loved Hymenaeus and Alexander enough to care more about their eternal happiness than earthly contentment. Thomas Watson writes, “What fools are they who for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath.” Paul warned these men in love.

            Beloved, we are at war. We must not think, “It could never happen to me.” Let us understand our frailty and learn on the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ. Jesus is mighty to save. No one is ever beyond hope for God has given us eternal hope in His Son. Our job is to hold fast to the hope of Christ as we contend for the faith once and for all delivered to saints. I charge you to wage the good warfare, holding faith and a clear conscience.

 

 

[1] https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893 accessed 2.10.16

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/make-war-the-pastor-and-his-people-in-the-battle-against-sin accessed 2.10.16

[3] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member

[4] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member