Saturday, November 22, 2008

1 Peter 3:18-22 - The Rocky Gospel

For three straight weeks in our class we've been studying various forms of the meek, submissive, and suffering aspects of Christian living. If the story were to end there (candidly speaking) I'm not sure how much appeal the God of ages would have for me. The Apostle Paul, I dare say, would agree with me. He wrote, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Cor. 15:19).

The way Peter frames the passage we'll study this week, 1 Peter 3:18-22, reminds me of the dramatic set-up for all 5 of Rocky's great come-backs. Submit to authorities, Submit to one-another, even be prepared to suffer when you don't deserve it... and then WHAM... "put to death in the body but..." (drum roll please) "... made alive by the Spirit."

From there, we see some unique perspectives on salvation that have historically been de-emphasized in today's evangelical circles. First, a comparison of the New Covenant ordinance of baptism to the Old Testament flood. The suffering and submissive nature that Christ took on ultimately resulted in the death of His flesh, as it will also in ours. But, more than the inevitable physical death, we're called to put to death our own sinful flesh, which we symbolize with baptism. In Genesis 6, water destroyed the wickedness of creation. In Romans 5, we read that water symbolizes the destruction of sin in our own flesh.

Next, with that comparison in view, Peter then explains that our salvation is from Christ's resurrection. Where we as evangelicals typically emphasize the atoning death, we must be careful not to neglect the salvific significance of Christ's resurrection. Even though our bodies will die, we will be made alive in the spirit. The life that Christ's atonement makes possible was actually initiated in His resurrection, making Him the firstborn among many brothers. 1 Corinthians 15 expounds on this truth in detail, telling us that our new bodies will be like his in nature.

It is only with this understanding of death to our sinful bodies that we can understand the relationship of suffering to sinlessness made in 4:1. Once again, on this same basis, Peter encourages his readers in 4:6 that even those who have died awaiting Christ's return have died in the body according to judgment but will live, as He did, by the spirit.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Function, Order, & Ordinances of the Church

Why in the world would we want to combine these three topics, each of which could easily constitute a semester of study by themeselves, into one Sunday morning lesson? The order and ordinances (also called the Sacraments) of the Church are the topic of more controversy and debate between believers than any other doctrinal topics. So, not only do they seem disconnected one from another, but wouldn't it be madness to try and cover them both in one hour?

The focal point of all these issues, however, is the function of the Church. The topic of which ordinances to observe, how to observe them, and when to observe them hinges on what the Church is seeking to accomplish in the first place. Likewise, the topic of how to order the church, who should lead, who should teach, who should serve and how the group should be structured also revolve around the simple matter of the Church's function in this world.

Our ultimate purpose as the Church is to glorify Christ. Whether it be through evangelism, benevolence, mutual edification, or simply corporate worship—all of which we will discuss next week—the ultimate FUNCTION of the church is to glorify and exalt Christ on earth until His return and thereafter.

So, we will look at ordinances and order of the Church through a dramatically simplified lense: how does this doctrine glorify Christ? In so doing, other questions such as tradition, cultural contextualization, and spiritual experiences all disappear. Is that too much of a narrow view? Can we really ignore matters that appear so relevant to our culture today? A disciplined focus on Christ alone does indeed earn the label "narrow-minded" in today's culture. "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:14).

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Church

From 9:00 to Noon on Sunday mornings, an hour and half out to eat for lunch with the group, 2 hours Wednesday night, and 2 hours Monday night... we could spend up to 8.5 hours each week "at church" in one way or another. Add in meetings, caring for other members, one-on-one accountability, Bible studies, personal quiet time, and before you know it you've got a part-time job just being a church member. So, for something that consumes so much of our lives (ideally, all of it) I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at what "the Church" really is.

For the next 5 weeks, leading up to Kendra's and my departure to Southeast Asia, we will be going through a study of the Church. This Sunday, we'll start with the identiy of the church. What makes the church, why is it special, how did it come to be, and what does that mean to you?

To begin, we must start at the beginning. God's covenant with the Church is called a "new covenant," so what happened to the old one? What relation (if any) exists between Israel and the Church? How is the Church identified today... is it similar to Israel in it's identity, or not? How so?

In the weeks to come, we'll explore several major topics on the Church:

  1. Metaphors for the Church that are found in the New Testament
  2. The function, order, and ordinances of the Church
  3. The role of the Church in the world and your role in the Church

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