Should the Lord’s Table be open to whomever is attendance in the Lord’s Day service? Some say no. An article by a brother and fellow pastor whom I respect says this:
“In contrast (to what the author calls “close communion”), open communion recognizes any baptism or no baptism, any church membership or no church membership, and makes membership and participation in its responsibilities optional and immaterial. Meaningful discipline is impossible in a church that practices open communion because the church cannot withdraw fellowship when it extends the privilege of communion to anyone who happens to be present. How can a church excommunicate when it has no requirements for communicants?”
My thoughts are these:
We can see the wisdom in this, especially for very large churches like Antioch or Rome. Passover was celebrated in each private home, but the Lord’s Table was to be celebrated altogether as an entire congregation. The father of one family would know who was whom for Passover, but for the ever-growing NT church the burden shifts completely over onto the individual.
For these reasons, I support the Evangelical Free Church’s policy of open communion.
God never causes people to sin. Human moral choices self-originate, except in cases of demon possession.
Even though God is sovereign, that doesn't mean there's only one will in the universe. If we human beings were divinely programmed robots, predetermined by God unto every choice we make, then there is no moral accountability. Accountability for wrong actions would fall back on the invincible programmer, none would fall on the robots. But the Bible is clear that there is such a thing as human moral accountability. Therefore, human beings are not programmed robots.
However we sort out the complicated, difficult relationship between God's sovereignty and man's will, it is clear that God has preserved a degree of free-will in the human race, and that, in the Bible, God speaks to people and deals with them as if their decisions originate with them.
We must avoid a positive, humanistic view of the human will, or else we will underestimate the need for prayer for people's hearts. Here is what I mean...
Don't let humanism influence your thinking. Prayer for non-Christian is a essential part of how we all come to Christ, because we don't have the natural capacity to understand the Gospel or break free from Satan's coils.
It is crucial to have a full view of God’s supreme authority and power, to have the faith to move a mountain.
Belief in ultimate human sovereignty will cause feelings of hopelessness and result in failed prayers. The Bible tells us that...
I have read several statements by various people recently claiming to "lose" their Christian faith. They say things like, "no one has been asking the hard questions for 2,000 years", or that science has refuted Christianity. Or that the problem of suffering, or the existence of Hell, are unsolvable issues that Christian leaders have avoided addressing.
I ask myself, what is going on here?
Did anyone in 25 years disciple them, at any point, ever, about the reasons why we believe in Christ? It sounds like no one did.
Could these apostasies and semi-apostasies be the fruit of mental laziness? In other words, they never exerted effort to seek out and find writers and thinkers like:
Corrie ten Boom,
J. Gresham Machen,
or Francis Schaeffer?
There is apologetics all over the Internet. If you Googler "Christian evidences", the selections spill all over you.
Do the apostates sincerely believe, in 2,000 years of Christianity, that literally no one has wrestled with, and answered, hard questions? It sounds insincere when they say this, considering how obviously untrue it is. It's a little like saying no one has ever seriously wrestled with the meaning of life.
In a few cases I have read, it seemed like someone was choosing a friend over Scripture. Like, they had a homosexual friend, so they decided the Bible doesn't say that homosexuality is sinful, or that it *does* say that and therefore isn't true. But that isn't valid thinking. The question of, "Is Christianity true?" isn't answered by whether my friend likes it.
My gut instinct is to think that
(a) there are some big ministries who do little or nothing to teach the fundamentals of the faith.
(b) Morality + music with a little Jesus thrown in isn't the Gospel, but there are churches where that's what's happening.
(c) We've been letting baby Christians, or false converts, get into positions of public worship & preaching.
People are fascinated by the phenomenon of tongues-speaking. It is important to consult the New Testament, in order to understand what tongues was, and what the miracles meant. Begin first in the book of Acts. Tongues-speaking is described happening three times, over approximately thirty years.
We learn that this miracle of tongues-speaking was predicted by the prophet Joel, in the second chapter of his book. Joel used the word "prophesy", but Peter applies it to the tongues miracle (Acts 2:14-17). This lets us know that these tongues were a direct product of God's prophetic power. These tongues did not originate from inside the speakers, just as the Old Testament prophets' predictions of the future did not originate from them. The Spirit was speaking through them.
We also learn that tongues-speaking was the miraculous, Spirit-inspired ability to pray or sing in a real language foreign to the speaker. Luke says that the 120 prayed and spoke in "languages" (Acts 2:4), which is the meaning of the Greek word glossa. The 120 spoke actual languages, which the crowd understood (Acts 2:7-11). In this instance, no spiritual gift of interpretation was needed. The various members of the crowd simply understood whatever language or dialect was being uttered.
Peter said this miracle was a sign of Christ's ascension (Acts 2:33). Christ on His throne intended to reach out to all language-groups of the world, using all their languages. There is no one language by which every Bible must be translated, or in which the Gospel must be preached. So, Peter tied the miracle as a sign one part of Christ's redeeming work.
It is important to notice that Peter does not promise the crowd the ability to pray in tongues. If they receive Jesus as Savior, God will give them all the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). But the Giver isn't the same thing as His gifts. If any in that crowd of 3,000 who believed ever did pray in tongues, we have no record of it. (In the same way, there is no record of the Samaritan Christians from Acts 8 praying in tongues). Maybe they did, but we don't know because Luke is silent about it.
God gives tongues as a sign a second time, to show the apostles that God accepted Gentiles through Christ. This was how Peter interpreted the miracle God gave Cornelius and his family (Acts 10:44-46, 11:15-18). This was an important sign, to break down the hesitancy Jewish believers in Jesus felt toward Gentile converts.
The third and last case of tongues as a sign happens in Acts 19. Paul meets twelve former followers of John the Baptist. We don't know where they had been all those years, but they were uninformed about Christ. Paul brought them up to date on the person and work of Christ Jesus. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, but they were unfamiliar with this idea. After baptizing them in Christ's name, Paul laid his hands on them and they were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues (19:5-6).
This was a sign of Paul's true apostleship. Years before, a Samaritan named Simon noticed that apostles had the authority to confer the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18), and tried to buy it. Peter rebuked him sharply. This was not something that just anyone could do, let alone buy! Paul's ability to do this was another proof that he was a true apostle of Christ. Paul's apostleship was often attacked, but this incident supported his God-given authority.
So: the three recorded instances of tongues-speaking in Acts were three signs. The first, a sign of Christ's ascension. The second, a sign of Gentile acceptability to God. The third, a sign of special apostolic authority.
Each of these signs were tied to three specific, unchanging historical facts in God's plan of redemption. For this reason, we should not teach these Acts incidents as timeless, universal examples. These are not examples of what all Christians everywhere should experience. That would be a misunderstanding of the miracles' purposes.
These were the signs of tongues. There is more to be learned about the spiritual gift of tongues (which, based on details of the chapter, might be a different phenomenon) from 1st Corinthians 14. Those principles would be more directly applicable to all Christians.
In Acts 22, the apostle Paul recounted the story of his Christian conversion. He told how the risen Christ sent a devout Jewish believer, Ananaias, who laid hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, Get up and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (v. 16).
What did Ananias mean?
Baptism symbolizes God in His mercy washing away our sins, based on Christ's redeeming death. The key to unlock Ananias' words is in the four word phrase, "Calling on His name." That phrase explains the preceding phrase, "washing away your sins."
According to Romans chapter 10, we call on Christ's name by putting our trust in Him. Romans 10:11-13 says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”"
Paul says in this same paragraph that faith alone is sufficient for justification -- "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified" (v.10). Justification is when God not only forgives us of our sins, but credits us with Christ's perfect righteousness in place of our sin-spotted, totally-inadequate righteousness.
Christ, in Matthew 10, said that any who confess Him before others, He will confess that person before the Father (Matthew 10:32). Paul in Romans 10 is repeating Christ's confession promise.
Confession of Christ with the mouth is the result of justifying faith in the heart, because "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:44-45).
Justifying faith in the heart and saving confession of Christ with the mouth are two sides of one coin. The first (sincere heart-faith in Christ) always causes the second (verbal confession of Christ). Their relationship is that of cause and effect. We should be careful not to sever the connection between these two things. Also, confession is not the same thing as prayer.
Baptism is the Christian ceremony of verbal faith confession, and it was the ancient church's custom (unlike today) to baptize immediately, so that a person's baptism happened as near in time to their faith as possible. So, we can understand why the Bible associates baptism with salvation.
However, we must also take into account the total testimony of Scripture about salvation, to understand that baptism doesn't cause salvation, and is not its own separate condition of salvation.
The Bible gives testimony of thousands of years of sinners saved by grace, either without baptism or prior to it. People during the Old Testament times were saved the same way people today are -- as a free gift of God, received simply by trusting in the Lord's Gospel promise, apart from the sacraments. The standard of this was Abraham, in Genesis 15. Paul, in the first few verses of Romans 4, said that Abraham's salvation is our timeless example of how anyone is saved.
The thief on the cross, who confessed Christ to Christ, was saved without being baptized (Luke 23:42-43). God gave Cornelius the centurion the blessed Holy Spirit before Cornelius was baptized (Acts 10). Examples like these show God saving people without or before baptism.
The Bible closely links baptism with salvation, but not in a cause-and-effect sense. True faith comes out in the form of confession, and baptism is the ordained ordinance of confession. But verbal confessions can be false. We assume Judas Iscariot made a verbal confession of faith in Christ at some point in his life. But we know he was a child of the devil. A baptism can present a false picture. We know people who were baptized, sometimes when they were children, but then they truly came to Christ later in life.
Faith in Christ alone is sufficient to save. The Bible links baptism to salvation because baptism is the ceremony of confession. But baptism only saves, not from water coming on the body, but in the sense of it being a method of confession by which a believing person responds back to God, springing out of their grace-cleansed conscience, through Christ's resurrection (1 Peter 3:21).
Ultra-dispensationalism is a heretical teaching among dispensational circles. Although out-of-date, it still pops up. It teaches that the Christian Church only began through the work of the Apostle Paul. As a result of this idea, it says that the believers who lived and ministered during Acts 1-8, or a later time, were not part of the Christian Church, but they were part of some Jewish entity.
Ultra-dispensationalists reject the four Gospels as irrelevant for Christians, since they're about the time before Paul. Hyper-dispensationalism usually rejects Christian baptism, calling it a "Jewish" ordinance not fit for the Gentile church.
Here are some simple reasons why this chopping-up of the Church and the Gospel into severed parts (pre-Paul, post-Paul), and this idolatrous exaltation of Paul above all others, is seriously wrong.
Christ prayed that all His people would be one in Him (John 17). He would be in them, and they would be in Him, as they received the promised Holy Spirit. This was not the experience of OT believers, but it is of the Christian Church.
Jesus Christ is the person in whom the entire Church comes together and is what she is. Hyper-dispensationalism demeans Jesus Christ, and attacks Christian unity, by denying that the Church is what she is in Christ.
Christ instituted Christian baptism before Paul was converted. Baptism is the visible ceremony of entrance into the Christian church, which is comprised of disciples of Christ. Matthew 28:18-20. Paul in his ministry administered the very same baptism to new converts that Jesus Christ instituted. There are not two different baptisms in the Church age (one for Jews and one for Gentiles). Paul's baptisms were the same as the baptisms applied in Acts 1-8.
The apostles were the foundation of the Church, according to Ephesians 2:20. They were already re-authorized by Christ after His resurrection, and fully constituted in Acts 1. Those twelve apostles' names will appear on the foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21).
There wasn't a Jewish church founded on the twelve apostles in Acts 1-9, and then a new, Gentile "mystery" church founded on Paul's teachings from Acts 9 on. The twelve apostles were the foundation of the Church in its entirety throughout time., with just one cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit integrates people into the Church, which is the same thing as the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The first baptism of the Spirit happened in Acts 2, not through Paul. The Spirit-baptism that fell upon the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 was the same as that which fell upon the Jewish disciples in Acts 2.
Christ's death, not Paul's ministry, is when God eliminated all Jew/Gentile distinctions, and created the "new man" which is the Church, according to Ephesians 2:14-16. God assigned Paul a special ministry of learning and teaching about this new Jew-Gentile reality, but the reality itself began at the cross, not in Paul's ministry. God had eliminated the OT Jew-Gentile distinction all through Acts 1-8, but the apostles and disciples needed to learn about it.
Christ instituted the Lord's Table as a perpetual ordinance, for everyone whose sins are remitted through His blood, not just for Jewish disciples. That means the Lord's Table ceremony was for the same universal category of person (everyone whose sins had been remitted through faith in Christ's blood), and it carried the same spiritual meaning pre-Paul and post-Paul.
The ceremony and meaning of the Lord's Table was identical in Acts 1-8 as in Acts 9 and forward. The ordinance symbolically binds the entirety of the Church Age together into one.
Paul said the gospel God had entrusted to him for the Gentiles was the same gospel God had entrusted to Peter, James, and John for the Jews. Galatians 2:7-9. There were not two different gospels, one for the Jews in Acts 1-8 and then a different one through Paul after Acts 9.
God gave us the entire Bible for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, and the entire Bible is necessary to be spiritually complete and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So this bizarre teaching that says the four Gospels or the book of Revelation are exclusively for the Jews and not for us, comes from Satan, and is designed by Satan to make us spiritually sick.
A Christian belongs in the camp of liberalism like Lot belonged in Sodom -- that is, not at all. However, because we're reactionary beings, we can react against liberalism and fall backward into the errors of secular, worldly conservatism. Also, because Christians often find common-ground with secular conservatives on social issues, we can be dull to the ethical and attitudinal dangers in secular conservatism.
1. Experience, natural human reasoning, and tradition should never override the Scripture.
The Scriptures are God's authority on everything they say, including politics, economics, and the military. Secular conservatism builds its cases on traditions or practical experience, or both. There's nothing wrong with learning from tradition. Sometimes the people of the past had very good reasons for doing what they did. It's arrogant to think we have nothing to learn from the past. The same goes for practicality. Science is better than magical thinking. In many situations we should do what works.
However, these are not the Christian's highest authority for faith and action. God's Word, the Bible, overrules experience and tradition, at all points. What's "practical" might not be moral. What's traditional could be evil, or just plain foolish in the light of Scripture. Man-stealing and human trafficking was the American tradition for centuries, and it was both evil and foolish. We should take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), including our political and economic thoughts. Secular conservatism does not respect the Bible.
2. Money and Military are not more important than Faith and Morality.
Isaiah wrote," Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!" Isaiah 31:1.
Secular conservatives don't have their priorities in the right order. A nation's greatness lies in its faith in the true God, not in its treasury or its armed forces. Wise economic and military policies are needed, but wisdom comes to those who fear the Lord. Proverbs 9:10. Secular conservatism is preoccupied with worldly concerns. It's proper to pay attention to the condition of your herds and flocks (Proverbs 27:23-24), but blessing comes from the Lord to those who fear Him. Many is the rich nation that has gone down in flames because God unleashed His wrath against it.
3. Christian patriotism is good but secular nationalism is not.
Christians should thank God for every good gift, including the gifts He gives them through their nation. Every Christian from every nation can do this. The old patriotic song, "America! America!" credits God for our amber waves of grain and purple mountains' majesty, and it's right that we do so. This is a positive and healthy patriotism.
Extreme liberalism sees the United States as the focus and origin of evil in the world, and this reflects a warped, one-sided mentality. But the U.S. is also a fallen and sinful nation, laden down with sin. We are by no means a Christian nation (the Christian Church around the world is God's nation, 1 Peter 2:9). When Christ said, "Do not have any god before the Lord", that means we don't worship our nation.
To paraphrase the old Gospel song, "This country's not my home, I'm just a 'passin' through." God put us Christians here to bless and salt the U.S., just as He told the Jews to bless Babylon while they lived there. But worldly national pride is just as bad as worldly globalism.
I was listening to Charles Stanley this morning preaching about the spiritual; gift of organization, and want to give a shout-out to Christian ministry administrators. Preachers and teachers get all the attention, but our work would collapse without organizers. I have a theory that churches (and other Christian organizations) rise or fall to their internal level of organizational ability. There are some ministries who couldn't organize a three-car parade, and they suffer for it. Other ministries do a good job up to a point, but if they grow they need to upgrade to a higher skill-level of administrator, or they slip backward. I'm aware of Christian organizations that have talented, good-hearted workers, but they are dragged down by bungling boards. I'm thankful for the hard work that our many deacons and organizing women have done over the years. The gift of administration is the unsung hero of the Great Commission.