Archive for the ‘ecclesiology’ Category

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Peter describes the members of the church as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God.” Election, to Peter (and Paul and Jesus) is never left exclusively in the realm of decree. It is the choice of God based upon His foreknowledge (His gracious covenant lovingkindness) manifested in His calling out a people to be His own. Scottish preacher and expositor, John Brown, says this commenting on the term election as it is used here in the first chapter of Peter’s epistle: “I apprehend the word ‘elect’ here, and in a number of other places in the New Testament, does not refer directly to what has been termed the electing decree, but to the manifestation of it in the actually selecting certain individuals from amidst a world lying in wickedness, that they may be set apart to God, and become his peculiar people.”

He then quotes the puritan commentator, Robert Leighton, “Election here means the selecting them out of the world and joining them to the fellowship of the people of God.” This is the election of which our Lord speaks when he says, “Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen [elected] you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:19) (more…)

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Randy Booth nails one of the common failings of the church in a recent post. After talking about how people in the church get on your nerves, he says:

Soon the gripping, complaining, criticizing, gossiping, impatience, avoidance, and isolation set in and church becomes a place where we simply “do our duty,” but we’re not so happy about it. A thousand petty things are stored away against this or that person or their kids. We justify ourselves because they don’t act right. And while we’re waiting on them to straighten up we busy ourselves with our own concerns and drift further and further away from our friends—the very people God saved and put in His Church.

Now, since we’re all tempted to these things from time-to-time, allow me to shepherd you back to the fold. Stop it! Straighten up! Fervently love the brethren and pursue peace. You’re not so great yourself. People have to put up with you all the time; and aren’t you glad they do? It is a lot of trouble, but we need each other; God said we do. Allow me to zero in on this Holy Spirit-inspired admonition from the Apostle Paul:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. –Ephesians 4:1-3

Now then, say something nice about them; pray for them, encourage them, love them, and serve them—right now.

And just to make sure we get the point, Randy closes by saying “Yes, I am talking about you!”

now that’s real pastoral sensitivity . . . and true love . . . and I’m not kidding.

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v. 12 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ”

“The connection between the last verse [v. 11] and this one is this: The formation of the Church and its inherence in Christ as the Body of which He is the Head, is the work of the Holy Spirit, Who, when He baptizes any one into Christ, assigns to him a position in the mystical body as one of its members, and afterwards endows him with the grace by which he will be enabled to fulfill his function, as a member of that body.

Thus, it is in the Body of Christ, i.e., His Church, as it is in the natural human body. The body is one, and yet this very oneness of the human body postulates a variety of members, and the multiplicity of members does not imply a multiplicity of separate organisms or bodies, but one organism only, and as it is with our human mortal bodies, so it is with Christ as the Head of His Body, the Church, with which He is one, so that instead of the Apostle saying the Body of Christ, he actually says “Christ,” Christ and His Body in the Apostle’s eyes forming, as it were, one Personality.

v. 13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”

This means that by the operation of the Spirit in Holy Baptism we are all baptized into, that is, are all made members of, the One Mystical Body. It may be well to consider for a moment the question, Does this refer to the visible Sacrament whereby we are made members of Christ, or does it refer to an invisible baptism by the Spirit, altogether distinct form the outward sacrament, and very seldom simultaneous with it? Now it may be sufficient to answer that the Holy Apostle knows nothing of such a baptism introducing us into an inner body or church apart from the outer. On the contrary, such an idea neutralizes the greater part of his teaching, which is, that all the professing members of the Church should consider themselves as having a real connection with Christ. There is but one Church from his point of view, an outward visible body endowed all of with invisible graces and powers: so that each baptized person, instead of doubting that his baptism brought him into connection with Christ, should have no manner of doubt about it, but be assured that if he does not live as a member of Christ so much the worse for him, and that if he does realize his union with Christ so much the more power has he against sin and on the side of holiness.”

(M. F. Sadler, The First and Second Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 205-206)

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I finally read John Barry’s truly horrific account of the great Mississippi flood of 1927, Rising Tide. It is one of the most frightening books I have read in a long time — not because of the power of the Mississippi in flood stage (which was really scary), and not because of the suffering and devastation that resulted from this terrible disaster (heartcrushing), but primarily because of the appalling record of wickedness, demagoguery, deceitfulness, arrogance, and cruel heartlessness left behind by the civic and political leadership, national and local, statewide and county-wide.

The account of the treatment of the black population of the Delta region is nightmarish and infuriating. The cold deceit of the rich and powerful of New Orleans is chilling. The hypocrisy of the Federal administration is astonishing. The callousness of the aristocracy of the Delta is stunning. The ineffectiveness and abject failure of the efforts made to bring about something approaching justice for the victims of this disaster is bone-jarring. But that which is the most terrifying of all is something Barry doesn’t address (though it hangs over the entire account as palpably as the odor of a dead skunk in the road) — the sad testimony this story gives to the the monumental failure of the Church, North, South, East, and West, in the early part of the 20th century.

Barry subtitles his book, “The great Mississippi flood of 1927 and how it changed America” — but this misses the big story. The flood was not the instrument that changed America, it was merely the occasion to expose the real cause for the change that occurred. Few books have displayed more clearly the ramifications for a society when the Church becomes uncaring, indifferent, distracted, and consequently irrelevant. Horrifying.

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