What a Weird Church–Doctrinally
The Church Being Salt and Light in Doctrine
We did a little upgrade at the Mueller casa awhile back, and had extra lights installed in various rooms, and we had the choice–regular or bright. Maybe it is our age, maybe it is because Jean and I are beach people and like sunshine. Maybe it is because we love the outdoors, but we wanted our lights to be mega bright. Possibly a better word is blinding, or welcome to the surface of the sun. We like light. Bright light leaves an impression–it is noticeable, it is cheery, it is attractive. You can see!
On another front, we have never been hot sauce people, but with our current diet, Fast Metabolism, we found ourselves big fans of Cholula—so-o-o-o good! I often eat my chicken and rice with so much Cholula, my mouth burns and my nose runs. But we like our food to be tasty–it leaves an impression. It is noticeable. It is memorable. What’s the point? Bright light and tasty food is what the Lord has called our church to be.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5:13 to 14, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are to be bright and tasty–attractive and flavorful, not dull and tasteless. We are to be unique, distinct, and attractive, not like everyone else.
The Church is not to imitate the world, but to be the bright and tasty answer for the world. Instead of hooking up as singles or committing adultery like the world, the Church demonstrates how singles can live in joyful, undistracted devotion to Christ and how marriages can be filled with faithful, joyful love for Christ and each other. In fact, in the midst of communities tearing each other apart with cancel culture, hate speech, racial division, isolation and fear, the Church can be a community of sinners, a group of broken toys, a gathering of imperfect people who massively love, sacrifice, and have compassion for each other–bright and tasty.
Instead of pursuing wealth, material things, events, and self-serving experiences the Church can demonstrate a community of giving, serving, and selflessness, which is bright and tasty to the watching world. In the midst of a world which views each person’s opinion just as valuable as anyone else’s, the church values the teaching of someone far greater–Christ above everyone. In a world that threatens to drop, ban, cancel, shun or attack you if you don’t agree with them, the Church displays a massive, one-hearted agreement of vastly different people over the person and work of Christ and His truth, making us attractive.
For the next five weeks, we will study the bride of Christ, the Church and how we can be salt and light, bright and tasty–even in a woke world. There are truths we embrace that are radically different than the world, sometimes making us hated by the world, but also causing us to be bright and tasty. What are those crazy commitments, uncommon practices that make the Church far different than our culture, yet attractive to the watching world? What makes the bride of Christ, the local church exceptionally unique?
In the next five weeks, we’ll focus on the non-negotiable convictions of the Church in five key areas–doctrine, priorities, relationships, processes and morals. A commitment to these truths will turn the Church from gray to colorful, from dim to bright, from depressed to hopeful, and from dull to tasty.
Then how does the Church become bright and tasty concerning doctrine? In the midst of an information-based society, where everyone carries a computer in their pocket, how does a church arrive at proper beliefs concerning doctrine, truth, Christ, end times, the CHURCH–even salvation? The world tells us salvation is about being nice–not about Christ’s death. Or salvation is what you conceive salvation to be in your mind–not the revealed Word of God. Or everyone is right about salvation—it’s not exclusive through Christ alone, they say. Or salvation is what you feel, or the answer is within you, instead of objective truth.
Most of us easily dismiss those approaches to doctrine. But we might not really understand how we arrive at embracing the truths we believe. In order for us to be bright and tasty, we need to have answers to why we believe what we believe. Soon people are going to ask us, “Why do you believe homosexuality is sin? Or that there are only two genders, that God alone chooses gender, that Christ is coming back, that He will rule this planet for 1,000 years, that God alone created this planet in six literal 24-hour days, that God elects those He will save, that Christ alone is to be followed as Lord and King over any ruler, president, governor, or government, or law? How did we arrive at such beliefs?”
Most of you know, at least in part, what we believe. But not as many know why we believe what we believe. How do we decide on what truths, what doctrines, to follow? There are many wrong approaches to determining what we believe. Sadly these errant approaches are found everywhere, maybe even here with you.
First The Theology Smorgasbord approach
This is the all you can believe buffet, which lays out all the potential beliefs and systems and we select what is most appealing. I’ll pick a little covenant theology, along with a taste of dispensationalism. No tongues, but I like demons–no healing, but I like baptizing babies. The Theology Smorgasbord.
Second The Confessions and Creeds approach
These are theological documents, many written after the Reformation, manifesting the struggle men went through to arrive at the truth. Most were sincere efforts to be accurate, and many creeds gave birth to denominations and systems of belief. There are Baptist creeds, Reform Baptist confessions, Presbyterian creeds and more–all who embrace creeds and confessions as a way to sort out what to believe. Many of them are later expressed in systematic theologies and church denominations, which guide readers and followers on what to believe–just pick a creed.
Third Pick your favorite approach
This approach falls into two categories.
One Pick your favorite Reformer. Since the Reformers were the ones who rescued the truth from the false system of Catholic belief, then some conclude they must be right about everything else they taught. The Reformation was crucial in our clarification of salvation, the Word of God and the Church. Because people today want to be right about truth, they pick a Reformer like Luther or Calvin and determine–they can’t be wrong because they did such right. Let’s embrace everything they taught.
Two Pick your favorite author (pastor, blogger, speaker, radio personality). You hear Sproul, Mohler, Piper, Swindoll, Washer, MacArthur or even Mueller–and you like what you hear, so you determine to embrace all they believe. Or even more common, you embrace a group of these modern authors you prefer, like Piper and MacArthur. But over the issues they disagree on, you determine, “Well, you can’t know truth on those issues, because those great men can’t agree.” But you don’t know what else to do, so you pick a favorite and stick with what they believe.
Fourth Majority rules approach
You determine your beliefs by whatever is trendy. Popular books, articles, blogs, podcasts, Mp3s, radio broadcasts all determine what you believe. And since so many people listen to Driscoll, Osteen, Evans, Jeremiah–they must be right. Here’s the problem–even though many sound doctrine believers embrace a form of these four, they are all terrible determiners for truth. Why? Because each of them is manmade, sourced in man’s ideas, man’s interpretation, and human processes.
With smorgasbord, you pick what you want. Creeds and confessions were written by uninspired men locked in history. Favorites are you picking what you like and majority is determining truth by you voting instead of God. We want our beliefs and doctrine to be God-made, God-determined, sourced in His Word. So what is the correct process for determining what we believe as a church?
#1 Rely on the Authority of the Word Proven in EXEGESIS
The correct answer is exegesis–authorial intent exposition. Where do we get our doctrine from? Letting the Bible speak for itself–using a normal, literal, historical, grammatical, contextual, synthetic hermeneutic. Let our doctrine truly come from the Bible and not any manmade source. If the text teaches it, then that is God’s will–that is the correct interpretation. Why? Because the Bible alone is the authority, over doctrinal choices or statements. Because God’s Word is where doctrine comes from, and is proven. Because God’s Word is God’s character, Gods voice, God’s will–always right.
When people ask, “What do you believe?” Or, “What do you believe about the end times, about gender, about election, about homosexuality?” The best answer is to point them to a clear passage of Scripture. Don’t say, “This is what covenant theology believes” . . . not, “this is what agrees with Luther” . . . nor, “this is what Sproul teaches.” And not because a view fits Southern Seminary. No, you answer, “This is what this specific passage teaches.”
Each of you need to become the simple Christian–let the Bible speak for itself. Let the authority rest on the Scripture, not a creed, your favorite preacher, or a system. The answer you should say is, “This passage teaches that specific doctrine. This text teaches that truth, clearly and plainly, so we seek no other answer.” If the Bible clearly teaches a doctrine in one clear passage, then it teaches that truth in the entire Scripture, since the Bible has one author who doesn’t disagree with Himself.
But how can you and I identify accurate teaching? Second Timothy 2:15 tells us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as workman who does not heed to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of truth.” In order to interpret the Bible correctly, you’ll have to work hard (be diligent). Teachers who interpret the Bible correctly don’t pray teaching down on Saturday night–they dig them up all week (lifelong).
And to interpret correctly, you will have to handle the Word accurately—“accurately” means cut it straight. It is like a pattern used to make a dress. You have to cut the material with precision in order for the pieces to fit together to make the dress. That’s the word Paul the tentmaker uses to describe
the need for accurate interpretation. But how do you get the accurate, correct, intended interpretation. How do you get the interpretation that God intended, the author’s intended meaning? Not . . .
1 From superficial study
Many sermons these days are secular issues laced with verses, but not biblical teaching.
2 By making the Bible say what you want
Like Joshua walked around Jericho and the walls fell down, so if you walk around your gal seven times and the walls of her heart fall down, then that’s the one to marry. This was actually taught by a church just down the street from my old church.
3 By finding secret meanings no one else can see
Like the king’s pool in Nehemiah is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4 By taking verses out of context
Such as 1 Timothy 2:15, women shall be saved in childbearing doesn’t mean each woman must have children to be saved. Or Matthew 18:20, “two or three gathered in my name” is not a guarantee of answered prayer, but of God’s presence in church discipline.
5 By having experience give you your interpretation
Like Dr. Eby, who hit his head and said he went to Heaven, saying the tie he wore on his trip still smells like Heaven. Really? I have to confess, I do have some socks that smell like Hell.
6 By justifying one’s lifestyle with the Bible
Like having three friends over on Saturday night–you share verses and pray, which means you have had church?
No, none of those are the normal, literal process used to interpret the Bible. In order to teach the Word accurately, there are crucial principles that must be used in diligent study. You know what they are–these basic hermeneutics how to interpret. The Bible is literal–it means what it says, and it says what it means. It is contextual–it is connected to other thoughts in context. Historical–it meant one thing to one people in a point of history, in another culture with a different geography, such as Paul to the 1st century Corinthians.
Grammatical–it was written mostly in Greek and Hebrew and can be best interpreted by translating those languages in the original manuscripts. And synthetic–it was written by one author, God, through prophets and apostles, thus all parts will agree with all other parts and not contradict each other. Let the Bible speak for itself. What did the original author mean by what He said.
Yes, you embrace allegories and symbolism–in a normal way. When the Bible says honey drips from her lips, we know it is not literal honey, but a saying to communicate seductive speech. But in order to interpret the Bible accurately–with each word in every verse, and each paragraph within each individual book of the Bible, seek to understand the author’s intended meaning . . . authorial intent using a normal hermeneutic.
This is crucial for you now, and especially in the days to come–when you are questioned about your beliefs, it is important that others know your beliefs are not random choices you made. It’s not because of a favorite preacher you listen to. It is not an ancient creed you follow. It is not a system you are embracing, nor is it a denomination, or coming from a popular blog. You must say, interpreted normally, seeking only the author’s intended message, this is what the Bible teaches. The Bible is your authority. The Bible is God’s Word. The Bible is Christ’s will, therefore this passage teaches that truth–therefore I follow that truth as God’s Word for my life.
At FBC, the normal interpretation of the Bible, seeking only the author’s intended message, making sure we are honoring the grammar and meaning of the original language, considering the culture and history when it was written, making sure our interpretation is consistent with its immediate context and with the rest of the entire Scripture–all of that has more authority than our doctrinal statement.
Everything we believe as a church comes from the proper exposition of Scripture. And if a clear passage of Scripture is interpreted accurately, but differs from our doctrinal statement, then we will change our doctrinal statement to fit a proper interpretation of Scripture–because the Bible is over our doctrinal statement. The Bible is the authority, not our doctrinal statement.
For us to be unified, for us to be light and salt, bright and tasty, we must all be on the same page when it comes to where we get our truth from. How do we arrive at what we believe? When issues of hate speech arise, when your beliefs are challenged . . . Calvin or Sproul . . . Owen or Piper do not have more authority than the Word of God. Everything we believe comes from a clear text in the Scriptures. So when people ask us about election or tongues, we don’t point them to our doctrinal statement, we point them to one or two or three clear passages. We become attractive, bright and tasty when the lost or poorly taught see us unified because we follow only the Scripture.
#2 Depend on the Authority of the Word, through Biblical EXAMPLES
First Why should you believe in election?
Some people say, “I don’t like your church because they believe in election.” You should say, “No we don’t, we actually believe Ephesians 1 and Romans 9. Would you look at them with me? These passages teach the doctrine of election–that God chose us to be His children before the foundation of the world. And because we believe the Bible is God’s never wrong Word, therefore we fully embrace what those passages teach. And they happen to teach that God elects. Come on, look at them with me.”
Look at Ephesians 1:4 and 5, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”
Then turn to Romans 9:11,14-16, “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 14What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ 16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
What can you say to your biblically challenged and challenging friends? “My good friends, if those passages don’t teach God’s election, show me, tell me, explain to me what you think they teach?” It doesn’t matter who believes this or not–all that matters is that God’s Word clearly teaches it. When people ask me about election, I ask them to read Ephesians 1 and Romans 9. And then allowing the Bible to speak for itself, explain to me what they think it means?
As a church, as a preacher, as a Christian, I believe in election not because the Reformers did, not because Calvinism teaches it, not because Sproul taught it or MacArthur teaches it–but because God clearly, plainly teaches it everywhere in His Word. It is clear, it is certain, it is obvious because God’s Word explains it. And because God’s Word says it, that settles it–regardless of who believes it.
Second Why should you believe in a literal, earthly THOUSAND YEAR KINGDOM?
Someone comes to you and says, “Christ is returning, but there is no Kingdom–He will merely return and end all of history. We are in the Kingdom now,” they say. “In fact, we now are the new Israel; circumcision today is replaced by infant baptism. There is no rapture; there is no thousand-year rule of Christ, just His return, then Heaven.” Then they hit you with, “What I believe is what Luther believed. It’s what Calvin taught, and if the Reformers taught it, it must be correct.” How do you respond to that?
Don’t say, “My church teaches that there is a literal thousand-year Kingdom.” Don’t say, “That’s what James Boice taught,” or “That is what Master’s Seminary teaches.” What do you do? You open your Bible to Revelation 20 and say, “Can you simply explain to me what this chapter means?” This chapter states that Christ will rule for a thousand years. In fact, six times in these verses–six times in six verses it says one thousand years. So would you interpret this passage for me literally, normally–what did John mean by what God wrote here?
Turn there with me now–tell me what John meant. Show me from the text of Scripture as we read it. You tell me what you think John meant by what he says here. Revelation 20:2 to 7, “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. 4Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. 7When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison.” Doesn’t it seem pretty obvious to you that a normal, literal understanding of this passage–there will be a literal thousand-year Kingdom–yes or no?
Then after looking at Revelation 20, you could take them to a plethora of New Testament and Old Testament passages which describe and promise a literal physical coming Kingdom. A time when Israel is back in the land–Ezekiel 36:24, “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.” A time very unique that has never happened before–Isaiah 11:6, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb.”
A time of holiness on Earth–Isaiah 40:5, “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.” A time of justice on Earth–Isaiah 9:7, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.” A time of no sickness on the earth–Isaiah 33:24, “No resident will say, ‘I am sick.’” The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity—Isaiah 35:5 and 6, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.”
A time of long lifespans, but not Heaven–Isaiah 65:20, “No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days; for the youth will die at the age of one hundred. And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed.” Doesn’t it seem obvious that both the Old and New Testament promises a future coming literal Kingdom where Christ will physically rule this planet for a thousand years?
My brothers and sisters–our church can be light and salt, bright and tasty–if we submit to the Bible, let it speak for itself. Depend on the Lord to guide you (as a Christian and a church) by His perfect Word, seeking only His intended meaning.
A bright and tasty church community is one that follows the Head of the Church. It is the church which does Christ’s will which will be attractive in the way He intends. Therefore . . .
A Don’t drift into the ERROR of young men
The big mistake young men make is to study alternate views without a commitment to the best and clearest texts, the obvious ones. Instead of the Bible driving their positions, they allow a system, an author, a book, a blog, a different hermeneutic, a historical position or creed to drive their conclusions and not the Scripture. Don’t study error without first studying the Scripture. Don’t allow a system or an interpretation outside of a normal hermeneutic (normal/literal, context, language, history/culture, synthetic cross-reference). Be the simple Christian and stand on the authority of Scripture with your doctrine.
B Prepare to STAND on truth through sound exegesis
Be prepared–there is coming a day when you will be asked why you believe that homosexuality, immorality and abortion are sin, and that there are only two genders. And when that day comes, you must be ready. Do not say, “Because my church teaches it, our pastor teacher believes it, Master’s preaches it, or Calvin and Luther hated it”–no! You must say, “Because the Bible clearly teaches this position,” then quote the passage and say, “This is where I stand.” Not what others say, but what God alone says—period.
As a church and as a Christian, rely on biblical texts to defend your positions and not a person, school, system or historical position. And appreciate the 6,000 who’ve not bowed to tickling ears–those who are paying the price of exegesis and those who are still willing to do the work of exegesis, resulting in sound doctrine that comes from simple exegesis. Esteem those who seek to give you the author’s intended meaning without messing it up. Pray for those men, my friends.
C Correct interpretation is the path to INTIMACY with Christ
When truth starts to matter in the life of a Christian or a church, the feelings-first crowd begins to get nervous. They’ll say, “If I go here, I’ll lose Jesus. My heart will dry up. I just want Jesus. I just want to love Christ.” And what you must say is, “Which one?” It’s only the Scripture that reveals Christ. It is only God’s Word that defines who Christ really is. We don’t make up or worship a Jesus we want. We worship a Christ who revealed Himself in the Word. The Bible is your window to look into the true face of Christ.
Jesus warned the Pharisees in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.” Remember, my friends, you can only see Jesus through the window of His Word. For you to truly know Christ, you must first turn to Christ in salvation. Then pursue Christ in sanctification–and both of those are dependent upon God’s Word. “Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ,” Romans 10:17. “Sanctify them in truth, thy word is truth,” John 17:17. Let’s pray.