Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Ephesians 5:15-20: Wisdom That Comes From Being Filled With the Spirit, the Source of Life

Napoleon, commenting on the first steamship said, “You would make a ship sail against the winds and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck…I have no time for such nonsense.” Lighting a fire under a deck to make ship sail surely sounded strange at first; I can understand Napoleon’s hesitance. It’s like igniting gasoline within your car to make it move. That confused me when I heard that the first time. You want to blow something up to make something move??? Sure…

But I want to convince you this morning that that is what the Spirit does within our lives. The Holy Spirit is likened to fire often in the Bible, John says that after him one will come who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, at Pentecost the Spirit came as tongues of fire and 1 Thes. 5.19 says do not put out the Spirit’s fire. You see, the Spirit works by lighting a fire. So before we move to our passage this morning, let’s have a quick look at Paul’s argument so far up to 5:15.

From chapter three in Ephesians Paul has been telling us how and why we should live a good life. He starts off by saying Christ dwells in us, and so we are unified in Christ. When we are in Christ, the source of light and truth, we can see light and truth, we are no longer in darkness. And so if we know the truth and live in the light that is Christ, then we must live the truth. We imitate Christ by living a life of love, removing immorality, greed and idolatry. We must learn what pleases God and live as children of God.

Ephesians 5: 15-20: 15Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is here teaching to seek wisdom that comes from being filled with the Spirit, who is the source of life, and live as wise people. And the way he says it is a beautiful arrangement. Did you notice that Paul mentions each person in the Godhead? What I mean is that he is speaking about this God who is a Trinity, a Triune God. He says know the will of the Lord so that you can know wisdom; be filled with the Spirit so that he you can avoid the things of darkness; give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything.

Know the will of the Lord

Knowing the will of Christ, who dwells in us is so vital. How can we live a life that pleases the Lord if we do not know how he wants us to live? So he is saying be wise and avoid foolishness.

MacArthur states: “To live morally is to live wisely. Biblically, a “fool” is not so named because of intellectual limits, but because of unbelief and the consequent abominable deeds. He lives apart from God and against God’s law, and can’t comprehend the truth or his true condition.”

I think this quote sums of the essence of v. 15 well: to live wisely is to know and live God’s will.

Part of this, Paul says, is to not waste time. The image of a candle is a good illustration; we have the light of Christ, we are children of the light, as he says in earlier chapters, and so we are to show that light as a candle shows its light. But a candle cannot burn forever. It will eventually run out of wax. So our lives will eventually run out. We will eventually die and the light will cease to shine. So we must make the most of our time right now.

He then says “do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” That is so important. How do we know what the Lord’s will is? He’s already told us! Right here in the Bible! The Bible is made up of books and letters written by lots of different people recording the inspiration God has given them, and the Gospels record Jesus’ words themselves. So how do you know his will? Read the Bible! Spend time reading the Bible, praying and meditating on what you learn regularly and you will learn God’s will.

I know a guy who can recite nearly every word from nearly every Muse song. I also know some people who know more about One Direction than they do about Jesus! Some people know more movie quotes than Bible verses.

Proverbs 2 says of wisdom, “The Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Knowing that wisdom and living that wisdom will result in victory.

Paul in Ephesians outlines what it means to live a wise life: live a life of love, and remove immorality, greed and idolatry. We are to speak truthfully, we must not steal, we must work, we must only speak what is useful for building others up, we must be kind, compassionate and forgiving. Jesus tells us to love as he loved. That is wisdom.

Be filled with the Spirit

V. 18 then tells us the source of wisdom. The Spirit is the source of wisdom. We are instructed to be filled with the Spirit to live as wise people.

The Greek asōtia is often translated ‘debauchery,’ as in ‘do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery,’ or as many translations say ‘for that leads to debauchery.’ Now, asōtia also means reckless living. In Titus 1.6 it is translated as ‘wild.’ It can mean debauchery, but Paul’s emphasis is not on a specific act, but on a lifestyle. He says be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise. Also, The Greek estin is used which means ‘is.’ So the sense of the Greek is actually ‘do not get drunk for this is reckless, it is wild.’

I do want to clarify two things though. Firstly, alcohol is not bad. In fact, it’s good, it’s great in moderation. A glass of red wine a day can actually be good for you! I personally really like scotch. But getting drunk is not good. Secondly, parties are not bad either. Parties are fun! Paul is not saying, ‘don’t have parties, don’t drink, don’t have fun.’ But he is saying, ‘don’t be reckless.’

There was a party a week ago, it’s been in the news recently. It got onto Facebook that there was this party and anyone was invited. So about 500 15-22 year olds met at this shed on Warton road and caused a lot of trouble. There were fights, even a couple of people had to be rushed off to hospital. The police got called in, with riot gear, horses, helicopter, took hours for the people to disperse. That’s the sort of reckless living Paul is talking about.  We cannot live like that, because people get hurt, teenagers get fined $15,000 and it is a waste of Police resources.

Instead of recklessness, we must be filled with the Spirit. Because the Spirit brings Christ’s wisdom, brings Christ’s presence and helps and enables us to live according to the wisdom that we now know. When Christ dwells in us, as we continually seek to deepen our relationship with Christ and continually increase our understanding and knowledge of Christ, growing in wisdom, we bear the fruit of the Spirit.

I got us reflecting and praying on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, which is on your bookmark. The fruit of the Spirit are the things that we exhibit when Christ dwells in us. Living a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, that is the life that God wants us to live.

Give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus

But it is hard. In fact, it is impossible to live this life of wisdom because we will continually sin. So when I say we must live in step with God’s will, please don’t freak out. Because the truth is that Jesus has already taken the punishment for our foolishness. As Christians, being renewed in the image of Christ, we want to seek wisdom, because we recognize the truth of wisdom having experienced the spiritual blessings of being filled with the Spirit. So we want to live wise lives, but when we fail to live wise lives we shouldn’t beat ourselves up.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-5 that “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” So being filled with the Spirit enables us to know and to live wise lives, but our salvation is not dependent on whether or not we live perfect lives. We seek to live as wise people, but when we fail, Jesus picks us up again. God has made us alive with Christ.

So what should our correct response to this grace be?

We should rejoice! Paul says in v. 19 that we should “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” God has saved us, so what should we do? Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord! I like the phrase, “in your heart” so that for the rest of us who aren’t very good at singing we can still praise God. It’s encouraging!

We should also give thanks! What do we do when we receive a gift? Should we be like my cousin when I gave him a chocolate he simply asked for another, or should we say thankyou? Definitely say thankyou! Paul says in v. 20 that we should always give thanks to God the Father for everything.

At the beginning, I said I wanted to convince you that the Spirit works by igniting a fire in our lives. We must allow ourselves to be filled with this Spirit of fire so that we can move forward in Christ, knowing Christ’s will and living Christ’s will, giving thanks to God the Father for sending Christ and enabling us to be unified in Christ as he dwells in us.

I’m going to finish with 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10: “Since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”

May we be filled with the Holy Spirit through whom we see the light, the truth of Christ’s wisdom and whose fire enables us to live out this wisdom.

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“The Baptist Congregation” by Stanley Grenz

Introduction

The blurb to The Baptist Congregation[1] argues that the contemporary church exists in a period of upheaval and this book seeks to provide a clear foundation for the Baptist denomination to stand upon. The blurb is certainly not incorrect. Grenz has effectively provided a theological and practical tool to aid the Baptist denomination. He states that “the book seeks to build on the foundations of those emphases which have been significant throughout Baptist history, in order to provide a source book which may assist Baptist churches in their task.”[2] This essay provides an overview of the argument and structure of the book, followed by several critical reflections.[3]

The Baptist Congregation

Overview

Grenz begins with a discussion on the church. The word “Church” originates in the Hebrew qahal, connoting assembly, translated into the Greek ekklēsia and argues the Church is “neither a building nor an organization, but people.”[4] It is the “people” and “temple” of God, and the “Body of Christ;”[5] an assembly of people called out by God to reflect his nature to the world.[6] The purpose of the Church is to glorify God, as the created order was made to glorify him,[7] accomplished through worship, edification and outreach.[8] The Baptist church has generally rejected the high ecclesiology of apostolic succession and a heavy emphasis on word and sacrament, arguing instead that “the church is marked by believers standing in covenant with God and one another,”[9] leading to a congregationalism.

In the next section, on ordinances, Grenz discusses the words “sacrament,” connoting faithful obedience, and “ordinance,” referring to that which has been ordained, or initiated, by Jesus.[10] Of these, Baptists hold to two – baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Neither mere symbols, nor simply “steps of obedience,” these are significant for several reasons, including affirmation or reaffirmation of faith and acting as visual sermons.[11] These ordinances must have evidence of being initiated by Jesus, evidence of their being practiced in the early church and must symbolically reveal the Gospel.[12] Baptism is “a public confession of personal faith on the part of the baptismal candidate,”[13] signifying three emphases: 1) entry into church, 2) union with Christ, and 3) the sealing of a covenant with God.[14] It impacts upon the individual, community and general public, requiring faith from the individual,[15] and pictures Jesus’ death and resurrection.[16] Where baptism is initiatory, the Lord’s Supper is repeated. It is Gospel proclamation, and recollection of Jesus’ death, a symbol of our faith in Christ and church unity, and a reminder of Christ’s return.[17] It acts as “the reaffirmation of personal faith in and loyalty to Jesus as Lord…Through participation in the Lord’s Supper the believer is strengthened by the Spirit as personal allegiance to Chris is reaffirmed.”[18] Rather than the Catholic transubstantiation, Lutheran consubstantiation and Calvin’s spiritual presence, Baptists have held to Zwingli’s memorialism, in which “Christ’s presence was not to be found in the elements at all, but rather in the believing community.”[19]

The third section discusses polity, beginning with membership. Only becoming a formal practice after the early church as a result of historical developments,[20] it recognizes the incorporation of an individual into the whole, requiring a profession of faith and baptism. This has a human, divine and corporate aspect, and is the final initiatory stage.[21] Church organization follows one of three structures: hierarchical, representative, or congregational. Baptists have generally followed the third.[22] Favoring congregationalism, Grenz states that “each local church is to be the church of Jesus Christ in miniature and as such is self-governing,”[23] following a democratic congregationalism in which the entire body is responsible in discerning God’s will.[24] Offices in the church are designated to provide organization; bishops, from the word episkopos, connoting supervision, and deacons, from diakonos, generally referring to someone who waits on, assists or ministers to another.[25] Other positions of authority include apostle, apostolic assistants and pastor/teachers.[26] Today, pastors and elders hold positions of authority, similar to these listed, plus church boards and committees.[27] Pastors are usually ordained in the Baptist church, a “recognition and confirmation by the corporate people of God of the presence of this special call to a particular individual.”[28] Ordination councils are formed to examine the candidate in terms of calling, doctrine and personal ministry. The ordination procedure includes leaders presenting a candidate to the congregation, a statement of faith from the candidate, receiving of committee recommendations, voting upon the ordination and, if successful, an ordination ceremony where the candidate receives a charge and prayer with the laying on of hands.[29]

The fourth section consists of an outline of the history of the Baptist denomination, particularly in America, and the progression of its distinctive emphases. Springing from the Puritans, the radical congregationalism saw John Smythe lead a separatist group in Amsterdam and in 1609 baptized himself and his followers as a renewal of their covenant. This is seen as the beginning of the Baptist church.[30] Another began on Rhode Island in America by Roger Williams.[31] The two major distinctive emphases are the primacy of scripture and individual competency. Regenerate church membership, congregational autonomy, the two ordinances, believer’s baptism, and separation of church and state, result from the two main emphases.[32] Of the 47 million members, the majority of Baptists reside in America (approximately 85%), but the Baptist World Alliance exists to link international Baptists.[33] Three main Baptist conventions exist in America: American Baptist Churches in the United States, Southern Baptist Convention, and National Baptist Convention. Though there are many other small conventions.[34] The book ends with an appendix consisting of a helpful sample constitution, organizational structure and selected dates in Baptist history.[35]

Critical Reflection

Though Grenz has written a good introduction to the Baptist church, there are some criticisms to be made. Firstly, he occasionally sidesteps major arguments. For example, while he is happy to go to great detail in outlining the procedure of ordination or attaining local congregation membership, little argument is provided against infant baptism or transubstantiation, consubstantiation or Calvin’s spiritual presence in his discussion of the two ordinances. Against paedobaptism; firstly, he simply argues that infants do not have the capability of professing faith, but has unsuccessfully argued for the need for a profession of faith from the individual in baptism.[36] Published eight years before this book, Bridge and Phypers published a book outlining arguments for paedobaptism,[37] arguments which are conveniently ignored by Grenz.[38]

Secondly, Grenz simply argues that believer’s baptism “is built on various considerations, including biblical precedent and the dangers inherent in infant baptism,”[39] but does not provide scriptural support[40] or list what these dangers actually are. He correctly places Baptist emphasis in the Lord’s Supper upon Zwingli’s memorialism, but, again, provides little argument for the validity of this position and jumps to the conclusion that “it is probable that first-century Christians did view the Lord’s Supper as a memorial meal,”[41] with no scriptural or historical evidence. However, this small book is simply an introduction, and greater detail can be found in his Theology for the Community of God.

One other main criticism lies in his overemphasis on detailing Baptist movements in America. If his target audience was primarily American this would be fine, but it seems from his introduction that his purpose in writing the book is that it be a tool to all Baptists, not just American Baptists. However, considering that the vast majority of Baptists reside in America, it’s a fair assumption that the majority of his audience would be American, but it could have helped to outline in greater detail the movements of Baptist groups internationally.

Conclusion

Having discussed the essence and the ordinances of the church, focussing on the two that the Baptist denomination adheres to, the polity of the Baptist church, and its history and movement, Grenz has successfully provided a good introduction to the denomination. It is evident that the major distinctive element lies in organization and polity, and the major emphases flow out from these: the primacy of scripture and individual competency. Despite several criticisms, Grenz’ work is a valuable sourcebook for any Baptist minister or layperson.

Bibliography

D Bridge, D Phypers. “The Paedobaptist Approach.” In The Water That Divides. England: IVP, 1977.

Grenz, Stanley J. The Baptist Congregation. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1985.

Grenz, Stanley J. Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. 5 ed. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.


[1] Stanley J. Grenz, The Baptist Congregation (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1985).

[2] Ibid. 9.

[3] Grenz’ Theology for the Community of God (Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994).) follows a similar structure in its ecclesiological discussions, and provides greater detail in arguments. Hence, this essay utilizes Grenz’ arguments in Theology for the Community of God to further understand the themes discussed and Grenz’ general evangelical position, though it was published nine years later.

[4] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 15-16.

[5] Ibid. 16. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 463-67 – “The use of the term ekklesia in the New Testament indicates that the early believers conceived of the church as a covenanting people. This conclusion is confirmed by several of the metaphors used by the New Testament writers to provide insight into the nature of their fellowship. Three are especially important, each of which is related to a member of the Trinity,” (465-66).

[6] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 18. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 489 – “The church is the primary vehicle for mirroring the divine image.”

[7] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 19-20. Grenz cites Ps. 19:1-4, and Eph. 1:5-6, 11-14; 2:6-7 to argue that creation and salvation are to glorify God; “we are redeemed in order to glorify God and to be a showcase of the grace of the one who saved us in Christ,” (p. 20). Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 488-489 – “God’s glory is indeed the final goal of all God’s actions;” “God’s soteriological purposes arise out of the glorification of his own triune nature.”

[8] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 20-21.

[9] Ibid. 22.

[10] Ibid. 29-30. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 515 – “As his obedient disciples, we naturally desire to continue those practices which Christ ordained for us to follow. We practice the ordinances, therefore, as the primary divinely ordained means for us to declare our loyalty to Jesus as Lord.”

[11] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 30-32.

[12] Ibid. 32. For these three reasons, “both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are without question ordinances of the church,” (p. 32).

[13] Ibid. 33.

[14] Ibid. 34. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 522-523 – “Baptism symbolizes our spiritual union with Christ…the confirming of a covenant with God,” and “marks our initiation into the narrative of the Christian fellowship.”

[15] Hence, paedobaptism is to be rejected, based on “the meaning of the ordinance itself,” (Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 36).

[16] Ibid. 34-37. Due to its symbolic links with Jesus’ death and resurrection, baptism should be practiced as full immersion, rather than to sprinkle. This is further supported by the Greek baptizō (“to immerse”) as opposed to hrantizō (“to sprinkle”) and Acts 8:39 and Matt. 3:16, both implying going down into and coming up out of the water, (ibid. 37). Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 530-531 – “Sprinkling dominates among most Protestants and in the Roman Catholic Church, although immersion is often allowed. Certain Anabaptist groups use pouring. Although the Eastern Orthodox Church immerses babies, the Baptist tradition has been the strongest advocate of immersion…We may derive [immersion’s] superiority not only from New Testament evidence but also from the value of the rite as a sign of gospel truth. Immersion most clearly depicts what the ordinance of baptism is meant to signify, namely the death and resurrection of Jesus and the believer’s union with Christ.”

[17] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 39-41.

[18] Ibid. 41. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 531 – “Our participation in the second act of commitment constitutes a repeated reaffirmation of what we initially declared in baptism – namely, our new identity in Christ.”

[19] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 43. Further, Grenz states that “it is probable that first-century Christians did view the Lord’s Supper as a memorial meal, although one which is similar in intent to the Jewish Passover. As the Jewish Passover depicted the Exodus, so this ordinance depicts the great act of God in Christ. This act is symbolically reenacted so that the community may not only recall God’s action in the past but also be reminded of God’s continuing presence and God’s promises for the future,” (p. 44).

[20] Though letters of commendation, carried between groups were used, (ibid. 47).

[21] Ibid. 47-51. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 546-47 – “Uniting with a local congregation (which is the visible expression of Christ’s church) forms the final step in the process of initiation into the company of the people of God. This process begins with personal faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord, is publicly expressed in water baptism, and culminates in formal church membership…The process of initiation into the church of Christ…comes about through the triad of inward faith, its outward expression in baptism, and formal membership in a local congregation. Faith marks our acceptance of the story of Jesus for us. Baptism symbolizes our transfer of loyalties. And church membership marks the public meshing of our personal story with the story of God’s people.”

[22] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 53-54.

[23] Ibid. 55. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 550-51 – “According to the independent model…Christ’s authority functions immediately in each local fellowship (hence, the designation “congregational.”) Each church is directly accountable to its Lord and in this sense is autonomous (that is, responsible under Christ for its own affairs.)”

[24] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 57.

[25] Ibid. 61-62.

[26] Ibid. 63. According to Grenz, “In the first century apostles were responsible for the articulation, proclamation, and maintenance of foundational doctrine. Prophets and evangelists were carried on itinerant work, using churches established by apostles as a basis of ministry. Pastors and teachers, it appears, were those who worked within a specific locale for an extended period of time in order to edify the congregation by their ministry,” (p. 63).

[27] Ibid. 64-65.

[28] Ibid. 68. Cf. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. 567 – “To enter into pastoral ministry a person must meet two conditions: a personal call from the Lord of the church through his Spirit and the confirmation of that call by the faith community…It is, as Luther suggested, an ecclesiastical ceremony through which the community ratifies the call and election of the minister.”

[29] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 69-72.

[30] Ibid. 75-77.

[31] Ibid. 78. Grenz argues that Williams’ “study of the New Testament solidified his rejection of that baptism, not just because it was performed by a false church, but also because it was performed on infants, in contrast to the believer’s baptism of the early church,” (p. 78).

[32] Ibid. 82-90. Grenz notes the acrostic of the seven convictions, forming BAPTIST: Believer’s baptism, Autonomy of local congregation, Primacy of scripture, True believers only, Individual competency, Separation of church and state, Two ordinances (p. 82).

[33] Ibid. 91-94.

[34] Ibid. 98-105.

[35] Ibid. 109-120.

[36] Ibid. 35-36.

[37] D. Bridge, D. Phypers, “The Paedobaptist Approach,” in The Water That Divides (England: IVP, 1977).

[38] It would be unfair to expect Grenz to have read every publication on the issue, but it is obvious that there were many arguments at the time of the publication of this book which Grenz did not elaborate upon. Cf. Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 5 ed. (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). 411-423. McGrath provides brief, yet thorough, overviews of each sacramental position and arguments for each, arguments which Grenz could have profited from.

[39] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 36.

[40] There has been scriptural argument prior to this point, but most referring to either the need for baptism or the public ministry of baptism, not necessarily to the requirement of a profession of faith from the individual.

[41] Grenz, The Baptist Congregation. 44.

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