The Planks of the Faith: Remembering for Re-Membering, Part 24

Welcome to the table my “fellow faithful runners of the good race” (2 Timothy 4:7)!

Have seat, unfurl the napkin, breathe deep… because we’re going to feast heavily today—with some “meaty warm-up ideas”, followed by some content that’s sort of challenging to chew on and ingest.

The Menu:
The Basis for Our Inspiration to Listen, Be Teachable, and Obey Out of Gratitude
Article 30: The Government of the Church
Article 31: The Officers of the Church
Article 32: The Order and Discipline of the Church

STOP! Before you mark this feast of the heart offering, “Red-Flagged, Read Later… or Not”, I know for many—even in the church—these menu items can range anywhere from “sidebar, secondary issues” to down-right aggravating authority structures that create lots of emotional ambivalence within one’s spirit.

Please consider that a disciple’s treatment of the institutional church is a direct reflection of the nature and maturity of our faith. “How we treat the institutional church” should not be treated as unimportant in any respect. On the contrary…

The Basis for Our Motivation to See and Listen, Be Teachable, and Obey Out of Gratitude

See and Listen: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2—James 1:1-27; 1 Timothy 6:12; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Be Teachable: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15—1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 10:17; John 17:17).

Obey Out of Gratitude: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep His commandments”; “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (John 2:3; Colossians 3:17—Isaiah 40: 1-31; Ephesians 6:1; Romans 6:16; Hebrews 12:1-29; Titus 3:1).

Please Chew and Ingest Your Spiritual Food Thoroughly, and with Thanksgiving!

The Planks of the Faith: Articles 30, 31, 32: More Foundations of the Institutional Church

Article 30: The Government of the Church
“We believe that this true church (RE: Article 29: The Marks of the True Church) ought to be governed according to the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in His Word.

There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the pastors, to make up the council of the church.

By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their need.

By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy. (1 Tim. 3)”

Article 31: The Officers of the Church
“We believe that ministers of the Word of God, elders, and deacons ought to be chosen to their offices by a legitimate election of the church, with prayer in the name of the Lord, and in good order, as the Word of God teaches.

So everyone must be careful not to push himself forward improperly, but he must wait for God’s call, so that he may be assured of his calling and be certain that he is chosen by the Lord.

As for the ministers of the Word, they all have the same power and authority, no matter where they may be, since they are all servants of Jesus Christ, the only universal bishop, and the only head of the church.

Moreover, to keep God’s holy order from being violated or despised, we say that everyone ought, as much as possible, to hold the ministers of the Word and elders of the church in special esteem, because of the work they do, and be at peace with them, without grumbling, quarreling, or fighting.”

Article 32: The Order and Discipline of the Church
“We also believe that although it is useful and good for those who govern the churches to establish and set up a certain order among themselves for maintaining the body of the church, they ought always to guard against deviating from what Christ, our only Master, has ordained for us.

Therefore we reject all human innovations and all laws imposed on us, in our worship of God, which bind and force our consciences in any way.

So we accept only what is proper to maintain harmony and unity and to keep all in obedience to God.

To that end excommunication, with all it involves, according to the Word of God, is required.” (Articles 30, 31, 32, The Belgic Confession of Faith, 1561—emphasis added)

Please—because it’s a matter of vital importance—closely consider that there is no inerrant institutional churches. All institutions are under the effects of The Fall—and vary in degrees of fallenness. There is nothing better than being a member of a great yet imperfect church!

But, with all the wisdom, respect, deference, self-awareness, gratitude, the giftedness and desire to serve, and love for God and neighbor we can muster… being a committed member of a Bible-based church is an absolutely crucial part of being a disciple and “co-redeemer” of, and with, Jesus Christ.

Respectfully speaking (Ephesians 4:15), it’s worth considering that, though the answers will vary about how popular non-denominational churches (many to most lack the sorts of “structures” we have been reviewing) have become in the past several decades, a major consideration is the “freedom” (RE: sometimes a short distance to the bondage of the world’s ways) to direct the ministry and teaching of the local church without interference or control from without.

The best beginning to finding the sort of church that glorifies God, blesses His people, and sets a course for transforming the world, is any given church’s treatment of the Bible—and how it walks the talk of honoring Holy Scripture for what it Truly is:

“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: Unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1… the beginning.)

It’s worth repeating, no church will treat every part of the Bible perfectly—because it’s being handled by imperfect people. Get over it… Get involved! (And seek to firmly yet gently understand if or when things might get off course.)

As referenced above, Godly, humble, and bold men and women of faith in the church first, regularly remind themselves they are sinners saved soley by grace; and also have authority structures and mechanisms in place to see, repent as needed, be the best stewards possible, correct the course, and march on in Christ, towards the glory as The Church… honoring and supporting the church.

‘Till we sup’ again (Article 33: The Sacraments), stay steadfast in the race!

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