Church Discipline

Jesus & Church Discipline

Jesus addresses the local church (Greek: ekklēsia) only 1 time in His entire earthly ministry: Matt. 18:17. The context is church discipline (see Matt. 18:15-20). 

Thus, a fundamental (and heartbreaking) job of the church is addressing and disciplining sin. The goal is removing sin at the source, using only as much “force” (i.e. other people) as the situation calls for, with the ultimate goal of “gaining your brother,” (Matt. 18:15).

When To Discipline

Church discipline applies to

  1. Unrepentantly bad doctrine (namely concerning Jesus/God, or the gospel):
    1. “Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” (Rom. 16:17; see also 2 Tim. 3:5)
    2. “Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…By rejecting this [the faith and good conscience], some have made shipwreck of their faith…whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme,” (1 Tim. 1:3-20)
    3. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1:10-11)
    4. See also Rev. 2:20
  2. Unrepentantly bad conduct:
    1. “hand this man over to Satan…you must not associate…do not even eat with such people,” (1 Cor. 5:5-11)
    2. “keep away from…have nothing to do with him…warn him as a brother,” (2 Thes. 3:6-15)
    3. “I have this against you, that you tolerate [someone who is leading others in sexual immorality and idolatry]…” (Rev. 2:20)
    4. Includes any form of active, ongoing disobedience (2 Thes. 3:14). Specifically naming things like: “sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 5:11; Rev. 2:21); “idleness” (2 Thes. 3:6); “drunkard” (1 Cor. 5:11); etc.
  3. Unrepentant divisiveness:
    1. “Avoid,” (Rom. 16:17)
    2. “after warning him…have nothing more to do with him,” (Titus 3:10)

How To Discipline

There is not a set formula for how to discipline. Matthew 18 talks of going with 1, then 2-3, then the whole church. 1 Cor. 5 is a call for the whole church to immediately expel the sexually immoral man. And Titus 3:10 speaks of warning 2 times, then breaking fellowship.

It’s best to keep in mind the goal: to gain (back) your brother/sister (Matt. 18:15). Similarly, 2 Thes. 3 says to not, “regard him [the offender] as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” This is not meant to be abusive, but truly loving to the person, with the ultimate goal of restoration (think of it like a loving father spanking his child for character development). We are not aiming to crush, but discipline the offenders unto repentance (cf. 2 Cor. 4:8).

Paul speaks in 2 places of discipline as, “delivering,” someone to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 2:20). This is, “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord,” (1 Cor. 5:5). Again, like a spanking, it must sting to be effective, but the goal is the saving of that person’s spirit.

More practically, we read later in 1 Cor. 5 that such discipline is a total break of fellowship: “not to associate…not even to eat with such a one,” (v. 11). Jesus tells the church that they should, “let him [the offender] be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector,” (Matt. 18:17). Thus, they do not stop all relations with them (since Jews still related with Gentiles and tax collectors), but they are treated as an outsider and not welcomed in during the disciplinary time.

Some regular principles of discipline:

  • There is a process to ensure that offense is truly happening (In Matt. 18 it talks of meeting with escalating amounts of people to help determine the case; in 1 Tim. 5:19 it tells them to not entertain charges unless there are 2-3 [independent] witnesses to establish the matter)
  • When the offense is clearly happening, there is typically a warning before the discipline happens, and space is given, to see if any change occurs.
  • Then, the church (likely through leadership) clearly communicates this to the person(s) under discipline and the rest of the church who is doing the discipline.
  • At that point, the church enacts a rigid break from communing with the offender (even to the point of sharing meals and associating as if they are a brother or sister).

But, again, it doesn’t always follow this clean formula. The point is to address sin quickly and clearly, and when there is clearly no repentance, enact discipline in love.

Discipline is meant to be temporary. 

In 2 Cor. 2, Paul tells the Corinthians, “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” (vv. 6-8).

I think of it like the father in the Prodigal Son story. He did not wait with arms crossed for the son to retrace every step. Instead, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him,” (Luke 15:20). In other words, he saw some signs of a changed heart, and met him with grace. Note that the father didn’t chase him down when his heart was turned away from him. But he does run to meet him when the heart is changed; when there are signs of the “fruit” of repentance (Matt. 3:8).

Why Discipline

The purposes of discipline are:

  1. To bring the offender to repentance, sparing his soul from eternal judgment (Matt. 18:15; 1 Cor. 5:5; etc.)
  2. To remove the infection of sin from spreading to others in the church (1 Cor. 5:6; Heb. 12:15)
  3. To honor the name and reputation of Christ by purifying His bride (1 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 5:26-27)

What if We Don’t Discipline?

In 1 Cor. 11, Paul rebukes the Corinthian church: “In the following directives I have no praise for you,” (v. 17). The problem was that there were divisions and factions that were running unchecked. As a result, their meeting together and sharing communion while tolerating this sin was actually bringing judgment on themselves: “those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep,” (vv. 29-30).

Notice that here, in lieu of them not properly judging themselves and dealing with sin, God brings sickness and even death. If we look with temporal eyes, this might seem harsh of God. But consider the reason why God does this: “But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world,” (vv. 31-32). In other words, God is thinking of our soul. He commissions the church to do the disciplining, but where they fail, He disciplines directly. And even though it meant sickness and death in some, He had an eye on the entire Corinthian church, seeking to spare their souls from following in this same wickedness, to ultimate judgment where there will be no escape.

Similarly, in Revelation 2:20, Jesus says He is upset with the church in Thyatira because, “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” In other words, like Corinth, they tolerated sin and sinfulness in their midst. Jesus was unhappy about this, because they forsook their duty of church discipline.

Again, like Corinth, this meant that Jesus took up the discipline on His own: “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead,” (Rev. 2:21-23). And again, He brings sickness and death (after giving time to repent) to those who tolerate sin among His, “servants,” (Rev. 2:20).

At both Thyatira and Corinth, Jesus disciplined where the churches failed. This failure to discipline is itself sin on the part of the church (see 2 Thes. 3:6). But His ultimate goal is for the church to discipline (which, as you will recall, is the only time He uses the word, “church” in terms of a local church, in His entire recorded ministry, see Matt. 18:17).

God’s Love & 1 Corinthians 13

Audio of God’s Love & 1 Cor. 13 (21 min, 56 sec)

God’s Love & The Cross

I’ve been meditating lately on 1 Corinthians. For so many reasons I believe the church in the West needs to heed this book right now!

Not the least of which is that factions and divisiveness became the norm for the Corinthians (as they, sadly, seem to be becoming for the church in the West), and 1 Corinthians is a letter from God (written by Paul) to bring back a oneness centered around Christ and Him Crucified (see 1 Cor. 2:2).

The chief problem, it seems, for the Corinthians was that they lost sight and focus on the gospel. They assumed the gospel, and then majored on other non-gospel issues that true believers could disagree on. To remedy this, Paul elaborates on the gospel and why it is so contrary to worldly wisdom and ideas (the very kind of wisdom and ideas that the Corinthians were, sadly, immersed in).

In 1 Cor. 1, Paul writes:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Cor. 1:22-24

I’ve been thinking especially about why Christ’s crucifixion seemed, “folly,” and weak to non-believing Jews and Gentiles, but is “power” and “wisdom” to believers.

Then, a question emerged that seems to make all the difference:

Was Christ self-interested or “others-interested”?

If He was self-interested (which is the only thing the world understands), then the cross was:

  • foolish – because He was innocent of all charges against Him, and it was silly not to defend Himself and vindicate His name
  • weak – because He was ousted and beaten by Rome and the Jews; He claimed that legions of angels could fight on His behalf (Matt. 26:53), yet He died a criminal’s death

But if Christ was “others-interested” (which is God’s definition of love, see 1 John 3:16-17, for instance), then the cross was:

  • wise – because in it, God showed the one way He could be totally just and also, simultaneously, forgive sinners (see Rom. 3:26)
  • strong – because by His death He defeated sin and it’s penalty (death and judgment) for all, not just for Himself

In other words, one’s entire perspective of the cross hinges on whether Jesus should act out of self-interest or others-interest. Or, to use biblical language, whether Jesus should act in self-love or true love.

Seeing that the value of the cross completely changes depending on whether we view it with eyes of self-interest (like the world who couldn’t make sense of it) versus “others-interest” (like God who loved an unlovable world, see John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; etc.), we may now better appreciate the gravity of God’s love articulated in 1 Cor. 13–a love that, “is not self-seeking,” (1 Cor. 13:5). In fact, we might see how this concept of, “others-interested-love,” is woven throughout 1 Corinthians (for instance, at 1 Cor. 8-10, where they are told to live sacrificially for the sake of others’ consciences, or 1 Cor. 11, where they are chided for selfishly eating without waiting for others, etc.), all framed around, “Christ and him crucified,” (1 Cor. 2:2).

So, to help meditate on the aspects of God’s love in its proper context, I’ve found D. A. Carson’s, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14, to be eye-opening and convicting. Since it is a bit academic, I am recounting the pertinent section on 1 Cor. 13 (from chapter 2) in my own (simplified and modified) language. The rest of this post comes from

D.A. Carson on 1 Cor. 13 Love (pp. 51-66) – Simplified & Modified by Brian Holda

1 Corinthians 13 is between 12 and 14

1 Cor. 13 is a masterpiece even when read on its own. However, 1 Cor. 13 is an integral part of Paul’s argument in 1 Cor. 12-14, and thus we should read this chapter with the backdrop of 1 Cor. 12 and 14.

1 Cor. 12 closes with Paul writing: “Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way,” (vv. 30-31).

In other words, Paul is saying that not all prophesy, speak in tongues, etc., but you must earnestly desire the greater gifts. He hasn’t explained what those greater gifts are yet (that will be fleshed out more in 1 Cor. 14). But before taking up that point, he sees that the Corinthians think very highly of themselves, and their spiritual gifts are almost a badge of honor to them. So he must point out that the supreme fruit of the Spirit, love, could get left aside if he only addresses what the “greater spiritual gifts” are.

The More Excellent Way…Of Love

Thus, after commanding them to, “earnestly desire the higher gifts,” (1 Cor. 12:31a), he adds, “And I will show you a still more excellent way,” (1 Cor. 12:31b).

Notice that he calls love a, “way,” as opposed to a, “gift,” (1 Cor. 12:31). Paul’s point is that the love he is about to discuss can’t be categorized as one “gift” among many, but an entire “way” of life–an overarching, all-embracing style of life that is worlds more important than claims about this or that charismatic gift.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that Paul is saying the charismatic gifts aren’t important. Rather, he is showing that if too much attention is paid to them, believers may overlook the absolutely crucial importance of the entire way of life that ought to characterize every believer. So then, after the 1 Cor. 13 chapter on love, he will resume his discussion of which gifts are most important (in 1 Cor. 14).

Love, then, is not a charismatic/spiritual gift but an entire way of life. And without love, as 1 Cor. 13 will show, all spiritual gifts will be utterly worthless. It is this way of life that gives meaning and depth to any spiritual gift God gives. And, in Galatians 5:22-23, love heads the list of virtues that Paul calls, “the fruit of the Spirit”–that is, the harmony of 9 grace-attributes which form a mature Christian character and prove that the Spirit indwells someone.

1 Corinthians 13:1: Special Tongues Without Love

So now we turn to chapter 13.

In 1 Cor. 13:1-3, Paul writes in the first person. He empathizes with this, even as he later will tell us that he, too, speaks in tongues (see 14:18).

The way 1 Cor. 13:1 is written probably signals intensity near the end: “If I speak in the tongues of men and EVEN of angels…” It’s not clear if Paul is saying angelic tongues exist or whether it is hyperbole to prove a point. Regardless, that is not the important part. Instead, Paul/God’s point is simple: No matter how great my gift of tongues, without love I am nothing more than a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.

This value judgment is meant to be shocking. Notice that Paul doesn’t merely say that the tongues itself is a noisy gong or cymbal. Rather, “I, myself,” am this. In fact, the Greek literally rendered is, “I have become only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.” It’s as if my action of speaking in tongues without love has left a permanent, negative effect on who I am. That it makes me, at the least, empty, meaningless noise.

1 Corinthians 13:2: Special Faith Without Love

In verse 2, Paul goes on to highlight other spiritual gifts. The faith mentioned here is a spiritual gift of faith (as opposed to saving faith)–a special faith that can move mountains. Again, notice Paul’s conclusion: If he doesn’t couple love with these dramatic spiritual gifts, not only do the gifts lose value, but, “I am nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:3: Special Sacrifice Without Love

In verse 3, Paul goes on to consider incredible sacrifice: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned…” The result is the same as using miraculous gifts: “without love, I gain nothing.”

My charitable giving and willingness to be martyred while remaining loyal to the truth do not in themselves prove I have a higher spiritual position and the love of God in me.

Love is Indispensable

In all of this, if there is no love, I gain nothing. In this divine mathematics: 5 – 1 = 0. In other words 5 gifts done without love brings me to nothing.

Reading 1 Cor. 13 in the context of 1 Cor. 12-14 makes Paul’s point clear: you who think you are superior because of your spiritual gifts, have overlooked the most important thing. Your spiritual gifts in themselves don’t say anything spiritual about you. Similarly, you who claim you are “extra spiritual” because of your great charity and sacrifice, have nothing apart from Christian love. You remain a spiritual nothing if love doesn’t characterize your grace-gifts.

If Paul were addressing the modern church, perhaps he would extrapolate further: You Christians who prove your spirituality by the amount of Bible knowledge you have, understand nothing. And you who think the evidence of the Spirit is your style of worship, are spiritually bankrupt. And you who insist that speaking in tongues attests a second work of the spirit, if love doesn’t characterize your life, there is not evidence even of a 1st work of the Spirit!

In none of this does Paul devalue spiritual gifts. Instead, he sees little value of the gifts if love is not behind them. In other words, love is a needed foundation for any accurate assessment of gifts (“spiritual” or otherwise). Any gift is dispensable without love. But love is indispensable.

1 Cor. 13:4-7: Characteristics of Love

In these verses, love is not so much defined as described. And this description is practical more than theoretical. Not one element in this list is sentimental. Everything is behavioral. Paul shifts between what love is and what love isn’t.

Throughout, love is personified: it is love itself that is kind, doesn’t boast, etc. Paul doesn’t say the person who displays love does these things. Rather, love itself does these things. Thus, love powerfully takes over here.

When love is absent, notice what happens. It breeds all sorts of inferiority and superiority complexes. Verses 4-5 seem to respond directly to such traits.

“Love is patient and kind;” (1 Cor. 13:4a)

Patient suggests not merely willingness to wait a long time, or enduring suffering without giving in, but also enduring injuries done to you without trying to retaliate (compare Prov. 19:11 – “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.”).

Love is kind–not merely patient or enduring wrong, but quick to pay back with kindness what it received in hurt.

“Love does not envy or boast;” (1 Cor. 13:4b)

Now we read things love DOESN’T do. For starters, love doesn’t envy: people without certain spiritual gifts must learn that lesson (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:30). Nor does it boast: those with certain spiritual gifts must learn that lesson.

“Love…is not arrogant,” (1 Cor 13:4c)

More broadly, love is not arrogant or proud (literally, “puffed up,” a word Paul has already applied to the Corinthians: 1 Cor. 4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1).

“Or rude;” (1 Cor. 13:5a)

Love isn’t rude: that is, it doesn’t behave improperly toward others (like 1 Cor. 7:36, where the same word is used about a man who improperly provokes a young woman’s affections and then refuses to marry her). It is well said that you can spot a gentleman not by the way he addresses his king but by the way he addresses his servants. You may address a king in a way that seems courteous, but is really just enlightened self-interest.

“It does not insist on its own way;” (1 Cor. 13:5b)

More foundational, love is not self-seeking. Not only does love not seek what doesn’t belong to it, but love is willing to give up for the sake of others even what it is entitled to. Again, look to the love of Christ shown at the cross.

“It is not easily angered,” (1 Cor. 13:5c)

In personal relationships, love isn’t easily angered. “It is not touchy, with a blistering temper barely hidden beneath the surface of a respectable facade, just waiting for an offense, real or imagined, at which to take umbrage,” (p. 62).

“It keeps no record of wrongs,” (1 Cor. 13:5d)

But what if actual hurt is done against you? Well, love, “keeps no record of wrongs.” Love doesn’t have, “a private file of personal grievances that can be consulted and nursed whenever there is possibility of some new slight,” (p. 62).

“Love does not delight in evil,” (1 Cor. 13:6a)

When love is in the presence of real evil, instead of, “keeping a record of wrongs,” it chooses not to linger there. Love isn’t a fake self-righteousness that pretends to be morally grieved with juicy gossip, while secretly enjoying the crudeness and vulgarity. God forbid! Nor does love enjoy endless discussions about what is wrong with churches and institutions we serve. Instead, love takes on such subjects only when righteousness demands it needs to be talked about, and no longer than that.

“Love…rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor. 13:6b)

But, if there is any report of something right or truthful happening, love will quickly rejoice over that. Love isn’t looking to track down what is wrong. Instead, it gladly focuses less on self, and chooses to rejoice with others about what is right, instead.

“It always endures, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” (1 Cor. 13:7)

Verse 7 sums it up. The keyword is, “always.” This word is used 8 times in 1 Cor. 13:1-7 (translated as, “all,” or, “always,”), and 4 times in verse 7 alone. It may purposefully contrast a view of the Corinthians that, “all things are permitted,” (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). That is, that God’s grace and Spirit has given them full liberty to always do as they please.

Whereas, in contrast, Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 13 that Christian love always endures, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. This shows the voluntary relinquishing of personal freedom demanded by love (see 1 Cor. 8-10 where Paul talks in depth of this).

Christian love always endures and always trusts. This doesn’t mean it’s gullible (cf. Prov. 14:15). Instead, it means that love gives the benefit of the doubt, instead of being suspicious or cynical.

Love also hopes for the best, even when disappointed by repeated personal abuse. It hopes against hope and is eager to give offenders second chances and “seventy times seven” forgiveness (Matt. 18:22).

Love perseveres: “When the evidence is adverse, [love] hopes for the best. And when hopes are repeatedly disappointed, it still courageously waits.” (Robertson and Plummer, as qtd in Carson, p. 63).

What’s Different About 1 Cor. 13 Love?

God’s love is unique from all other love because it is “self-originating.” God loves what is unlovely. When a man tells a woman, “I love you!” at least in part he means that he finds the woman lovely.

Whereas, John 3:16 says that God loves the world, but the world described there is not lovely at all: it is completely under judgment. God loves the world only because of who He is. And this is how Christians learn to love. We don’t do this perfectly, of course, but we make strides toward this love when grace changes our character. As this happens, how we treat another person becomes less and less dependent on how lovely they are being or acting.

Love and Spiritual Gifts

So why is an exposition on God’s love (1 Cor. 13) in between 2 chapters on spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12 & 14)?

  1. God’s love is shown as the, “more excellent way,” (1 Cor. 12:31) in contrast to arguments and demonstrations around spiritual gifts.
  2. The presence of this love is an infallible test of the Spirit’s presence.

The various spiritual gifts, while very important and valued by Paul/God, can be duplicated by pagans. Even in the Bible, false prophets (Deut. 13:1-3), a donkey (Num. 22:28), a blood-thirsty murderer (1 Sam. 19:24), and a demon-possessed girl (Acts 16:16-18) can all exhibit true prophecies.

But God’s love cannot be manufactured or duplicated. It only comes from God’s indwelling Spirit. This is why Jesus himself says God’s love is THE EVIDENCE of being his disciple: “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another,” (John 13:35). And similarly Paul writes elsewhere that “love” is the preeminent evidence of having God’s Spirit inside you through faith in Christ (Gal. 5:22).

Whatever differences exist between charismatics and non-charismatics (in Corinth or current-day), no one can afford to ignore what is central, characteristic, and irreplaceable in biblical Christianity: God’s love (as seen in 1 Cor. 13)…a supernatural change in the Christian to seek what is actually best for others over self.

On 1 Timothy…

1 Timothy Big Picture

Paul charges Timothy to set the Ephesian church in order.

1 Timothy By Chapters

  • ch. 1 & 4 – Paul tells Timothy to put in order the church in Ephesus (focus on life and doctrine)
  • ch. 2 – Church needs to first be a praying people; men especially need to focus on prayer and teaching, and wives/mothers especially focus on raising up their families
  • ch. 3 – Elders and deacons should be appointed to continue providing leadership (especially when Paul and Timothy leave)
  • ch. 5 – How/when/why the church helps those who are truly needy
  • ch. 6 – how groups within the church should be faithful within different social/economic classes

Be a Praying People

Jesus’ Ministry

Jesus’s ministry began with prayer at His baptism (Luke 3:21), then fasted for 40 days before His public ministry (Matt. 4:1-2). During His public ministry, He would frequently draw away to pray, even when throngs of people wanted His time (e.g. Luke 5:15-16). And shortly before his death, He prayed earnestly for His coming crucifixion (Luke 22:39-46), then prayed moments before His death (Luke 23:46).

In fact, Jesus’ time of prayer was so moving to his disciples that it prompted them to ask Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1).

He answered this, teaching “the Lord’s prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).

Throughout His ministry He taught them further how to pray, “that they should always pray and not give up,” (Luke 18:1).

The Early Church

Then, after Jesus left, his followers, “all joined together constantly in prayer,” (Acts 1:14).

In fact, prayer was so important to the early church that the leaders prioritized it over their serving of the poor and needy, wanting to, “give our attention to prayer,” (along with ministering the word, see Acts 6:4).

This theme marks the early church at many other turns throughout Acts: when persecution begins to break out (Acts 4), when Peter is imprisoned (Acts 11), and all the way to the end when Paul is at a strange island (Acts 28:8).

New Testament Letters

This powerful thrust to be a praying people is seen in virtually all of the rest of the New Testament:

  • “Be…faithful in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12)
  • “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding;” (1 Cor. 14:15)
  • “You help us by your prayers,” (2 Cor. 1:11)
  • “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Eph. 6:18)
  • “In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)
  • “Devote yourselves to prayer,” (Col. 4:2)
  • “Pray continually,” (1 Thes. 5:17)
  • “We constantly pray for you,” (2 Thes. 1:11)
  • “I urge, then first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people,” (1 Tim. 2:1)
  • “I constantly remember you in my prayers.” (2 Tim. 1:3)
  • “I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.” (Philemon 1:22)
  • “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
  • “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray….The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:13-16)
  • Husbands are told to conduct themselves with their wives in a certain way, “so that nothing will hinder your prayers,” (1 Pet. 3:7)
  • “If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life.” (1 John 5:16)
  • “Building yourselves up in the most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 1:20).
  • In unfolding the events of the future of God’s people, everything is weighed with, “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people,” (Rev. 5:8).

Foundational Doctrine for 2020 (And Anytime)

Orthodoxy – “Right Beliefs”

  1. God is 1 (Mark 12:32; James 2:19) = 
    1. Father (Gen. 1:1) + 
    2. Son (John 1:1, 14; 10:30) + 
    3. Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4) (Matt 28:19)
  2. Jesus is
    1. Fully God (John 8:23-24, 58) and 
    2. Fully Man (1 John 4:1-3)
  3. The True Gospel (Gal. 1:6-10)
  4. The Bible is God’s Inerrant, Ultimate Authority (Matt. 4:4; 5:17-18; 22:29-32; Luke 6:46-49; John 12:47-50; 17:17; Rev. 19:11-16)
  5. Love of the Truth (Mark 4:13 & “Parable of the Sower”; Jer. 17:5-10; 2 Thes 2:10-12 with Gen. 1:2-3; Acts 17:11; 1 Thes. 5:19-22)
  6. See Statement of Faith

Watch Video (1h 46m)

3 Tones of Instruction (Within Discipleship)

Audio of “3 Tones of Instruction (Within Discipleship)” (3 min, 50 sec). Read by Brian Holda.

Guest Writer: Jereme VanderWoude

When looking at the apostle Paul’s ministry and letters to the various churches, there are 3 typical tones of instruction. A tone refers to a certain inflection in sound that creates variance in meaning. A person could say a word or use a phrase changing nothing of the substance but changing the pitch or tone which could convey something different than simply the words themselves. A dear brother pointed out the necessity for “3 tones” in our discipling and was encouraged by the clarity. Then I really saw it in Paul’s life and ministry as well.

First Tone of Instruction

Paul’s first tone of instruction was to teach “how/what”. For example, in the book of Galatians, Paul is instructing them about sound doctrine, which in this case, was the importance of salvation by faith alone, no works included! The “how/what” that he is teaching is sound doctrine in regards to faith and works. Many of us are familiar with this tone, it is the baseline tone of all teaching and instruction.

Second Tone of Instruction

The second tone of instruction is teaching someone how to teach “how/what”. For example, Paul tells Timothy in chapter 4 of his first letter to Timothy, “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…” Paul is teaching Timothy to teach sound doctrine. He is not teaching Timothy sound doctrine in the tone that he did with the Galatians, instead telling Timothy to teach sound doctrine.

Third Tone of Instruction

The third tone of instruction is one that is not always easily recognized or taken into account yet nearly as crucial to a gospel movement as the rest. In this tone Paul is teaching how to teach others how to teach “how/what”. A good example is in the letter to Titus. Titus was in Crete and Paul says he left him there “so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed.” In Crete, there were men who were teaching things that did not align with sound doctrine, they were “insubordinate, empty talkers, and deceivers..” In order to solve this disorder, Paul does not write a letter of instruction to those false teachers to tell them of sound doctrine like he did for the Galatians. Paul doesn’t even tell Titus to teach sound doctrine like he instructed Timothy to do. Instead, he taught Titus, to teach and raise up leaders/teachers (elders) to teach and correct these false teachers, and provide right instruction to the people. Amongst other reasons, many “revival”-like movements come and they go because the leaders and the pioneers do not grasp the importance of this 3rd tone of instruction and lack the willingness to embrace the intentional tactfulness of instructing in the 3rd tone. One person was never meant to bear the burden of teaching and discipling the many. In other words, tone one teaching by itself, lacks the capacity to see the longevity of depth and width in a gospel movement. Instead, the call is to pour deeply into a few faithful people, teach them the Word, then teach them to teach the Word to a faithful few, then teach them to teach others to teach others the Word.

Kevin DeYoung’s Thinking Theologically About Racial Tensions (Series)

In my humble opinion, Kevin DeYoung (board chairman of The Gospel Coalition, and Hope College alum–go Hope!) hit it out of the park in his Thinking Theologically About Racial Tensions (Series).

It is balanced, compassionate, and I believe will convict anyone who reads (it did me). Most importantly, it is thoroughly biblical (and trying to bring us back to Scripture), Christ-centered, and gospel-centered in its approach to these very raw, painful, and difficult issues.

I believe all who can work through the 21 pages, with some large words (Google is only a click away ;), will be greatly built up in the Lord on this matter.


God’s Foundation for Race, Revelation, & Repentance

Audio of “God’s Foundation for Race, Revelation, & Repentance” (9 min, 32 sec)

Edited 11/15/20.

Though a lot more could be said here, what is stated below speaks to foundational elements. Without which, any continued building on these matters will be on sinking sand.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, tragically died with a white policeman kneeling on his neck.

This heartbreaking and awful scene (which, sadly, seemed all-too-familiar of heart-wrenching mistreatment of the black population through the centuries) mixed with existing tensions. The combination catalyzed outrage, protests, and riots.

Further, it deepened the polarization of an already divided country and church, this time on the extent of existing racial injustices and how the church should respond.

Thankfully, our God isn’t a, “mute idol,” (1 Cor. 12:2). He speaks on this to all with ears to hear.

God Sides With No One

First, let’s begin with Joshua 5. 

Israel is about to fight Jericho to begin their long promised Canaan conquest (see Deut. 7:1-2). 

Up to this point, Israel: wandered in the desert 40 years following God through a cloud and fire; endured 400 years of slavery in Egypt; were, “the fewest of all peoples,” (Deut. 7:7); had God’s special love (Deut. 7:8); and God promised they’d conquer the land (Lev. 20:24; Deut. 7:8; etc.).

In contrast, the Canaanites about to be attacked: lived 400 years in sin and wickedness (Gen. 15:12-16); sacrificed their children to idols (Lev. 20:2, 22-23); consulted evil spirits (Lev. 20:6, 22-23); committed perverted sexuality (Lev. 20:11-17, 22-23); and more (Lev 20; 25; etc.).

Surely God chose Israel, right?…Well, shortly before Israel began battling, Joshua (leader of Israel) met God’s armed angel. Joshua asked: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Josh. 5:13).

“‘Neither,’ he replied…Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence…” (Josh. 5:14).

God took no sides here, and, “shows no favoritism,” anywhere (Acts 10:34). He takes no sides with the police or the marginalized. God stands alone on His side, seeing who will join Him.

A Marginalized, Innocent Man Murdered By The Authorities

Next, consider the only absolutely innocent man in history: Jesus. He led a marginalized community. Then the authorities gruesomely executed him.

2 from his community tried to understand this, when the resurrected Jesus clandestinely joined them. He asked, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” (Luke 24:17a).

They were still and sad (Luke 24:17b), but replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18).

Pause…They didn’t recognize Jesus among them. They didn’t understand the events properly themselves. And they had the audacity to presume that Jesus was the one who didn’t know.

Then, 2 things changed everything:

  1. Jesus rebukes them for not looking to Scripture to understand their experiences. He then teaches what the Bible says on the matter (Luke 24:25-27, 32).
  2. They pleaded that Jesus would stay with them (Luke 24:28-29). So He did, and, “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him,” (24:31).

From there they left with a completely hope-filled understanding of Jesus’ sad and unjust death.

Following this pattern, we also must:

  1. Humbly look to Scripture to best understand, discern, and respond to our experiences.
  2. Plead with Jesus to come near us and reveal Himself to us.

Job’s Revelation & Repentance

Next, consider God’s revelation through the book of Job.

Though the reader of Job understands why Job suffered terribly (Job 1-2), Job and his friends don’t. 70% of the book (by chapter count) is a debate on the “why” behind Job’s experiences:

  • Job interprets his own experiences 1 way (he assumed he was faultless).
  • The 3 friends interpret his experience a different way (they assumed he deserved this).

Sound similar to the systemic racism debates over the decades?…After the arguments, a young man wisely rebukes Job and his 3 friends (Job 32-37). Then God:

  1. Corrects Job (Job 38-41).
  2. Rebukes Job’s 3 friends for speaking wrongly (Job 42:7-9).
  3. Never explains “the why” behind Job’s experience.
  4. Begins by asking things like, “Who is this…Who determined its measurements…who shut in the sea…?” (Job 38:2-8). This contrasts Job’s, “Why?” (cf. Job 3). In other words, God wants focus on Himself (the, “Who,”), rather than the “Why?” we naturally debate.

Like Luke 24, once Job sees God, all changes: “Now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent,” (Job 42:5). Then Job prays for his friends, and is truly restored.

Biblical Unity

So far, we see that we struggle to discern God’s ways and justice, our hope is revelation of Jesus/God (leading to repentance), and this comes clearest from Scripture and prayer.

These principles are magnified even further when considering true biblical unity.

Long before race divisions in the U.S., Jews segregated from (Gal. 2:11-13), showed hostility toward (Luke 9:54), and excluded from salvation (Acts 15:1) the Gentiles.

In contrast, the gospel reveals great unity between Jews and Gentiles in 3 important areas:

  1. We are one human race, equally created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27; Acts 17:26)
  2. We are equally condemned as sinners before a holy God (Rom 2:9)
  3. We are equally forgiven through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom. 3:22)

In fact, in Romans, Paul spells out that both Jew and Gentile equally share sin and redemption through Christ.

As such: “He himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility,” (Eph. 2:14)

Such groups that were culturally at war are now one in Christ (Col. 3:11), told to greet each other with kisses (1 Cor. 16:20) and chastised by the Lord for not uniting in heart and body to celebrate communion as one church (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

Outside a revelation of God and His Gospel, all efforts to unify will be shallow at best. And they will be unified around someone/something other than Christ and Him crucified!

Pray Against Satanic Division

Lastly: “the Lord hates…one who sows discord among brothers,” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

And: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the spiritual forces of evil,” (Ephesians 6:12).

The church must know that we fight satanic efforts of division and discord (over skin color and a million other things), as well as efforts of false unity not centered on Christ and His gospel.

Jesus prayed directly about this (John 17). And He tells us to pray desperately against our enemy, like a widow with only an unjust judge to help us (Luke 18:1-8). Our life depends on it.

In conclusion, all of this is not to minimize or trivialize the very real and raw and sad and tragic death of George Floyd and other events that have catalyzed this maelstrom of racial tensions.

No. Instead, I pray this gives a proper foundation to tackle this in God’s way, seeing with God’s eyes, for God’s glory, all the way through.

Why our Bible doesn’t have 1 Enoch

More than 400 years elapsed between the writing of the Old Testament and New Testament. During this time, various books were written about God and the Bible, including 1 Enoch. But none of these have been (or should be) included as part of the Bible, including 1 Enoch.

The tricky part of 1 Enoch (also called The Book of Enoch) is that Jude (a book of the New Testament) seems to quote from it:

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all…’

Jude 1:14-15

So if Jude is part of our Bible, as some argue, why shouldn’t 1 Enoch also be in our Bible?

Here are my quick and dirty reasons why Christians can confidently exclude 1 Enoch as part of our Bible, and happily use the same 66 books the church has used for about 2,000 years (considered the Protestant Canon of today):

  1. Jesus references a fixed collection of books (we now call the Old Testament) as God’s Scripture, which excluded 1 Enoch. This is seen in Luke 24:44 where Jesus speaks of “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” To this day, those are the 3 sections of the Old Testament Bible, commonly called the Tanakh (which itself is an acronym for these 3 sections: Ta/Torah [Law of Moses] + Na/Nevi’im [the Prophets] + Kh/Ketuvim [Writings]). Each section was a fixed unit and we know exactly which books comprised it in the time of Jesus (and 1 Enoch wasn’t there). Similarly, in Luke 11:51 (and Matt. 23:35), Jesus references “bookends” of martyrs. Namely, He speaks of Abel as the first martyr and Zechariah as the last matyr. Why did He choose these 2 martyrs as starting and ending points? The death of Abel is recorded in Genesis 4, whereas the Zechariah Jesus refers to is found in 2 Chron. 24. Though there were other martyrs that died after Zechariah in 2 Chron. 24, he is the very last martyr listed in 2 Chronicles. This is significant because the fixed Jewish Bible of Jesus’ time began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles (as it does today). Thus, this seemingly small reference to martyrs found in Luke 11 and Matthew 23 speak loudly that Jesus (and his audience) respected a fixed set (and order) of Old Testament books that decidedly has always excluded 1 Enoch.
  2. The New Testament consistently appeals to Old Testament books as Scripture. This usually includes a preface like, “Scripture says,” or “God says,” or “Have you not read,” etc. I’ve read that Jesus does this with 24 of the 39 Old Testament books, and of course other New Testament writers extend this. It is significant that they never introduce 1 Enoch (or any other writing outside of the Old Testament) in this kind of a way, even though they are aware of (and do reference) other writings not in the Bible (see Jude 1:14-15, and below, for instance).
  3. Certain phenomena about Old Testament events (that are not found in the Old Testament itself) were known and recognized by Jesus and the apostles, just as such phenomena were also written in various books between the Old and New Testaments. For instance, they acknowledge that angels were part of the giving of the Mosaic law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19), that the names of the magicians in Moses’ day were, “Jannes and Jambres,” (2 Tim. 3:8), that Moses, “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” (Acts 7:22), etc. And though things like the angels being present with Moses could perhaps be hinted at in the Old Testament (Deut. 33:2; Psalm 68:17), they are more expressly discussed in inter-testamental books (that is, books written between the Old and New Testaments). This does not mean Jesus and the apostles thereby grant authority to the entire contents of these books anymore than they grant authority to the entirety of what the Pharisees or others of their day said when they agree with them on certain points of doctrine (cf. Matt. 16:6 and 23:3). Instead, we simply conclude that events affirmed by the New Testament and 1 Enoch (or other such books) are correct because the New Testament affirms those events, while no such authority should be granted to sections of 1 Enoch (or other such books) where the New Testament is silent. Further, in 1 Enoch, I’m not sure it’s correct to believe that the author originated the content of the book as much as he may have repeated content already widely held by others of his time. In either case, we continue to conclude that the current contents of our Old and New Testaments are authoritative in ways that 1 Enoch is not.
  4. Jesus’ sheep know his voice (John 10:27). Thus, we should look at what the church (as well as Jews before Christ) received as God’s Bible throughout history. In doing this, we realize that it has been virtually unanimous that the Jews and Christians have excluded 1 Enoch from God’s word throughout history. Guthrie writes that, while the early church father Tertullian affirmed 1 Enoch‘s authenticity, “in this he is unsupported by any others,” (Donald Guthrie’s, New Testament Introduction, 3rd Ed., 1970, p. 917). And as of my writing this, according to the Wikipedia entry on the Book of Enoch: “While the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church consider the Book of Enoch as canonical, other Christian groups regard it as non-canonical or non-inspired.” Again, is it conceivable that Jesus’ sheep know his voice (John 10:27) and yet the vast majority of his sheep throughout the ages have totally missed that 1 Enoch is part of Christ’s word/voice the way the rest of the Bible is?
  5. The Bible quotes plenty of non-biblical sources. Joshua mentions, “The book of Jasher,” (Josh. 10:13). Numbers references, “the Book of the Wars of the LORD,” (Num. 21:14). King David is written about in, “the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer,” (1 Chron. 29:29). Paul quotes non-Christian poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12) as well as referencing a letter he wrote that is clearly not part of the New Testament (1 Cor. 5:9). Thus, having Jude quote 1 Enoch makes it no more part of the Bible than all of these non-biblical sources quoted throughout Scripture. Again, it is one thing to show agreement or reference points on specific elements of books, but it is another thing altogether to say such-and-such a book is completely trustworthy and part of the Bible. God forbid!

To dive deeper into this subject I highly recommend Roger Beckwith’s, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (2008).