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September 14, 2015

Nine Important Functions of the Local Church

by Aaron Dunlop

1. The Christian’s worship center. The local church is the center of the Christian’s worship. This is where our sacrifice for sin—our altar—is presented and understood (Hebrews 13:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23). This is where our worship begins and flows out into the life. We damage the growth of Christian graces in the life if we neglect the assembling of the church (Ephesians 4:11–16; Hebrews 10:24–25).

2. The Christian’s schoolroom. Next to worship, teaching is the most prominent function of the church—they rise or fall together. The pastor and elders teach (2 Timothy 2:2), the people teach one another (Titus 2:4; 1 Timothy 5:1–2), and as a body we all teach the angels (Ephesians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 11:10) and the world (Colossians 4:5).

The learning experience of the church is not independent learning—sermons and lectures downloaded from the Internet do not serve this function of the church. The church as a schoolroom depends on the submissive integration and gracious interaction (Hebrews 13:17; Philippians 2:2–4) of Christians. They learn and teach at the same time as they interact with others in the church.

3. The Christian’s counselling room. The Spirit of God uses the preaching of the Word in a remarkable way to penetrate into the hearts and minds of the hearers (Acts 2:37). There is a mysterious element in the preaching of a single sermon. It can rebuke one and comfort another. One can be left in darkness and another illumined (Mark 4:11). “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him” (Psalm 25:14). He knows your heart—the trials, fears, and anxieties you struggle with. The Word of God“is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). He is then the greatest psychiatrist, the Great Physician.

4. The Christian’s home. The gathering of the saints should also be that place we where can feel at home without the fear of criticism, strife, and rivalry (Philippians 2:2–4). We are equals in the family. This is what Paul told Philemon regarding his former servant Onesimus (Philemon 1:16; Colossians 4:9). This is our “household of faith” (Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10).

5. The Christian’s workplace. The body cannot function without the members (1 Corinthians 12:14–27). The Lord has given “gifts” to the church but “every joint” and “part” of the body works together for the building up of the body (Ephesians 4:16). Many times throughout the epistle Paul thanked those otherwise unknown labourers who were the backbone of the church (e.g., Romans 16:12; Philippians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 3:9).

6. The Christian’s hospital ward. The gathering of the saints also functions as a place of refreshing and recovery and strengthening from spiritual maladies, falls, and injuries. The Lord tells Peter this function was one of the good things that He would bring out of Peter’s fall: strengthening of the brethren (Luke 22:32). Paul also viewed the gathered saints as a sort of infirmary for wounded Christians (Galatians 6:1–2).

7. The Christian’s woodshed. The Christian should also expect to be chastised under the preaching of the Word. In his epistles to young pastors, Paul reminds them that it is their duty to “rebuke … sharply” “with all authority” (1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2;Titus 1:13; 2:15). We ought not to fight spiritual chastisement, but expect it and accept it as from the Lord. When we feel that chastisement, we should thank Him, remembering that it is an evidence that we are His children whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6).

8. The Christian’s missionary activity. Another important function of the church is its missionary work. Missionary work includes both the evangelisation of the lost and the helping of other churches in less favourable circumstances. Every Christian is commanded to go out to the world with the gospel and it ought to be his desire to do so (Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 4:20; 8:4). The local church provides an opportunity to channel money to churches in other lands (1 Corinthians 16:1) and to help the church worldwide (Matthew 25:45; Galatians 6:10). But the local church should also send out young men and women to work in other places and to assist in the extension of the church of Christ across the world (Philippians 2:25).

9. The Christian’s soundtrack. If all of these functions are in their place in the local church—and we give them their place—is there not enough here to keep the mind active through the week as we ponder the Word preached and have the Psalms and hymns echoing in our hearts? Should we not be like Mary who “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart”? (Luke 2:19).

Should the “Songs of Ascent” not also be our soundtrack as we think of “going up” again to the house of the Lord? “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1; see also Psalm 42:4; 55:14; 63:1–3; 84:1–2; 84:10; 119:111).

September 8, 2015

The Church’s Most Dangerous Doctrine.

by Aaron Dunlop

Well written – this is what I was dealing with in the blog on fundamentalism’s greatest dangers…this danger, of course is seem beyond fundamentalism, Bonhoeffer wrote about it in his “The Cost of Discipleship”;

Roderick Cyr

If one of the Church’s primary purposes is to fulfill God’s plan by leading a fallen world into right relationship with Him, then any doctrine that undermines that objective poses a danger to not only the Church’s mission but also to the world that so desperately needs God’s love. And while any Church teaching that contravenes Scripture is both deceitful and heresy, the most dangerous are those that send adherents down a path that leads to eternal suffering and separation from God.

Applying that standard, the most dangerous doctrine taught by many churches is that of ‘Easy Believism’. It offers all the benefits of salvation without requiring any of the costs of discipleship, asserting that eternal salvation is available to anyone who recites a handful of words proclaiming Jesus as Lord and imploring God’s forgiveness. Especially popular in evangelical churches and referred to as ‘The Sinner’s Prayer’ in other circles…

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September 3, 2015

Fundamentalism’s Silent Moderate Majority

by Aaron Dunlop

The Spectrum of EvangelicalismSee Pt.1Pt.2Pt.3Pt.4 Pt.5 & Pt.6

In the first article in this series I spoke of the legacy that the early fundamentalist movement has left to the evangelical church and suggested that conservative evangelicals enjoy better days today because of the fundamentalist struggle. I still believe that, and in later articles I will show the benefits and blessings of fundamentalism in North America and around the world.

Before I get to that, I want to address one of the most complicated aspects of fundamentalism— the negative, oppressive atmosphere in the movement—and to determine whether that negativity and oppressiveness is real or perceived. It is certainly real to some if the “neo-fundamentalist defection” is a reliable barometer.

I know many moderate men in the movement and from their actions and attitudes it would be impossible to perceive that there was anything wrong in the movement such as I have discussed in these papers. And yet the general opinion of many on the outside of the movement is not good, and if many people feel that way there must be some foundation for it. Why is that so? Why is fundamentalism viewed so negatively while many within the movement are actually moderate and mild-tempered?

Dr. Kevin Bauder is one of those moderates and perhaps the most prolific writer within fundamentalism today. He is Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. In his contribution to the Counterpoints Series, The Spectrum of Evangelicalism, Bauder gives a candid description of where he feels fundamentalism is today. Towards the end of his presentation Bauder identifies eight incriminatory characteristics of what he called “hyper-fundamentalism”:

  1. Loyalty to an organization, movement or leader. Anyone who criticizes the organization, or contradicts a leader is subject to censure or separation.
  2. A militant stance on some extra-biblical or anti-biblical teaching; for example, those who teach that the King James Bible is the only acceptable English version.
  3. Understanding separation in terms of guilt by association: “To associate with someone who holds any error constitutes an endorsement of that error.”
  4. “Hyper-fundamentalism is characterized by an inability to receive criticism,… by an extreme defensiveness.” To the hyper-fundamentalist any criticism constitutes an attack.
  5. An anti-intellectualism; “some hyper-fundamentalists view education to be detrimental to spiritual growth.”
  6. Non-essentials are turned into tests of fundamentalism; “one’s fundamentalist standing may be judged by such criteria as hair length, music preferences, and whether one allows women to wear trousers.”
  7. Hyper-fundamentalists often treat militant political involvement as a necessary obligation to the Christian faith. In the 1960s and 70s it was anti-communism but now many hold anti-abortion and anti-homosexual activism to be a necessary obligation to their faith.
  8. Hyper-fundamentalists sometimes hold a double standard for personal ethics. Some things are permissible in their ecclesiastical warfare that would not be permissible in ordinary life. They may employ name-calling, half-truths, and innuendo as legitimate weapons.

I don’t want to critique Dr. Bauder’s assessment of fundamentalism—at least not yet—but after presenting a more moderate position as, what we might call “received fundamentalism,” and after calling the hyper variety a “parasite on the fundamentalist movement,” he continues by saying this:

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August 23, 2015

Daily Devotionals: (23rd Aug.) Life & Liberty out of Death & Despair

by Aaron Dunlop

Reading: Genesis 3:20

The woman was originally called Ishah because she was taken out of man, Ish. Eve, the name that she has now, is a name that has not so much to do with who she is but with the hope that she holds. The emphasis of the name is not universality but quality, not biological life but spiritual and eternal life. She is the mother of the “living one” or the “one who gives life”: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

“Eve” is a statement of devotion, of a living and active faith in the face of unrelenting hardship. It presents us with a stunning response to the problems of life. After all the predicted pain and struggle, the groaning of life on earth, and after hearing God declare that the climax of all this is going to be physical death (“unto dust shalt thou return”), Adam’s state of mind is in remarkable condition while his body is subjected to hard labour and the thorns and thistles of life.

It seems that Adam hears all this regarding himself, but the message of gospel grace and hope in verse 15 so impressed his heart that there is no room for doubt, no place for despair. So relieved is he of the promise of life out of the death he had pursued that the “sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.”

The declaration of Eve’s name  also presents us with insight into the renewed Christian marriage. The relationship had been damaged in the fall and they played a little of the blame game. But now, with a little sanctified imagination, we see Adam taking Eve by the hand and saying, “Don’t worry dear. There is hope in the promise of God. Though thorns and thistles might scratch us and make us bleed through life, yet by the grace of our creator there is a life above and beyond this. We know that our Redeemer lives, and because He lives, we will live also!” Lord, help me understand with Adam that the life of the gospel is not so much a quantity but a quality; it is “life more abundant.”

“Life is an excellency added to being. Thomas Goodwin

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August 17, 2015

Daily Devotionals: (17th Aug.) The Church Preserved

by Aaron Dunlop

Reading: Genesis 3:15

The conflict between Satan and humanity is on three levels: individual (serpent and the woman), universal (seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman), and ultimate (Christ the God-Man, the specific seed of the woman through whom the victory is gained). This is the conflict described in Revelation 12. Christ is the child with whom the woman (the church) travails in birth and Satan (the red dragon) is waiting at the birth “to devour her child as soon as it was born” (12:4). The victory over Satan then is not only individual, as noted earlier, but universal; it is the cosmic conflict of good and evil. The church of Christ struggles against the powers and principalities of hell.

There are two great periods of struggle for the church identified in Revelation 12. The woman is afflicted as the dragon waits for the delivery of the child. After that child is delivered and brought to safety, the women flees into the wilderness where she is afflicted again. But between these two periods of struggle we see Satan in another conflict; it is a conflict not between Satan and the saints, but between Satan and their Saviour. Verse 11 says that they (the saints) overcame him (Satan), by the blood of the Lamb (the Christ).

Take courage Christian, the church is secure because the saint is secure. C. H. Spurgeon said, “Never think of the Church of God as if she were in danger.” There were times throughout the ages when the church was so beaten down that it was thought to be non-existent. God will always have His people to preserve truth on earth. He will not leave Himself without a witness.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.    Samuel J. Stone

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