Monday, January 31, 2011

Neocaesarea - Canon 15

The deacons ought to be seven in number, according to the canon, even if the city be great.  Of this you will be persuaded from the Book of the Acts.

Spurred by the letter of the Law rather than the Spirit behind it, this council affirmed that seven deacons were required for any church by virtue of the number of men serving in Acts 6 without regard for any unspoken circumstance or need.  I wonder what thought was given to the idea that seven was an efficient number to care for those needing the service rendered. Instead, it was now being sanctioned as a perfect number for a local church regardless of size.

Neocaesarea - Canon 14

The chorepiscopi, however, are indeed after the pattern of the Seventy; and as fellow-servants, on account of their devotion to the poor, they have the honor of making the oblation.

This canon appears to be a continuation of the previous.  The chorepiscopi were not considered sufficiently qualified to be full overseers but could administer the Lord's Supper without undue restriction.

How to Get God to Talk to You

Paul McCain has posted something worthwhile at Cyberbrethren concerning God's method of communication.

It seems God is not really all that great a conversationalist. He is kind of a fanatic, and that’s the sort of person who won’t stop talking and won’t change the subject. And that’s pretty much what God is like when He talks to us. He just won’t change the subject, no matter how much we wish He would. There are a lot of people who turn to false gods and false hopes and false religions precisely because they talk about things that interest them. And nothing is of more interest to you than you, right? You would rather have God talk about you, but even then, to talk about you in a very certain way: positively. God, please assure me once more what a basically wonderful person I am, that I’m not really all that bad.

Well, the bad news is that God does not talk to you, and me, the way we would prefer, but in the way He chooses to talk to us. But wait. How do we get God to talk to us at all?

The answer is really quite simple and it is not one people stop and think about enough.

Check out the entirety of the post here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Neocaesarea - Canon 13

Country presbyters may not make the oblation in the church of the city when the bishop or presbyters of the city are present; nor may they give the Bread or the Cup with prayer.  If, however, they be absent, and he [i.e., a country presbyter] alone be called to prayer, he may give them.

The eldership of outlying areas was considered lower than that of the main city.  The country elder was not allowed to administer the Lord's Supper a city elder was present, though it was permissible when such were absent.  The distinction is superficial unless a country elder was considered to be a journeyman type of position until he might reach full mastery as a city elder.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Neocaesarea - Canon 12

If any one be baptized when he is ill, forasmuch as his [profession of] faith was not voluntary, but of necessity [i.e. fear of death] he cannot be promoted to the presbyterate, unless on account of his subsequent [display of] zeal and faith, and because of a lack of men.

The person was sick so that death was feared, spurring the baptism.  Lest this be equated to a last rite, remember that catechumens sometimes waited three years to be baptized in order to make their faith plain to all.  Once baptized, they were considered true believers with all the rights, responsibilities, and repercussions.  This outward act was and is a demarcating line of faith properly understood and practiced.  Upon recovery that man was considered unfit to be an elder by virtue of his prior immaturity.  His baptism would not have suddenly made him able to rightly divide the word of God.  If however his ensuing life demonstrated the character and growth needed, he might be considered as an elder if there was a lack of suitable men.  This concession stemmed from an acknowledgment that what training in sound doctrine he had would likely be put to proper use.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Neocaesarea - Canon 11

Let not a presbyter be ordained before he is thirty years of age, even though he be in all respects a worthy man, but let him be made to wait.  For our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized and began to teach in his thirtieth year.

Scripture does not give a specific age for elders to be recognized.  Those around within the Christian community should be able to discern who has sufficient wisdom and experience to be heeded.  Had I a voice into this council, my plea would have been to make the minimum age higher.  Elders are by definition older than those they lead.  I realize there are small groups of "20-somethings" meeting together for worship and mutual edification trying to be led by someone not much older than they.  Regardless of his Bible knowledge, he simply does not have the life experience of faithful application of scripture.  Take this advice from one who in his mid-20s knew everything and over the next three decades discovered he didn't.

Why did this council pick 30?  More than one thing is acting on the decision.  First is the reason given: Jesus began his ministry about age 30.  That is insufficient reason for ordination in and of itself.  Behind this mention of Jesus' age is God's wisdom in timing.  The Levites were not allowed to begin service in the tabernacle until age 30 (Numbers 4).  For the Lord Jesus to be, in the eyes of the people, a viable rabbi and minister in all things pertaining to God, he needed to meet this basic qualification.

Second is the desire to maintain the formal hierarchical structure that had been implemented some time before.  Elders were considered junior overseers.  With enough time and preparation, a future promotion came as reward.  Some delineation of age and experience requirement needed to be established in order to make a separation from the common people.  This Levitical age requirement suffices.

Third, or possibly as an extension of the first two, was the shift toward the Law as a basis for church life.  As one follows church history, the rites of the declining Jerusalem church with its distinct Jewish culture were taken up by the Gentile churches.  Gradually, the types, pictures, and shadows of the Moses were solidified within the Church.  Grace gave way to Law so that the outward expression became the goal rather than the outflow of individual and corporate life.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spiritual Warfare - Angels

The elders at Maranatha Bible Church asked me to teach an adult Sunday School class on spiritual warfare. The study has kept me quite busy, and subsequently my blog activity has curtailed.

Some have asked for my material, so I will begin by posting the links. If you see anything useful, please use it and give due credit to those I have used.

Lesson plan – We are already off schedule, but since this is my first attempt, I do not feel too badly about it. The pace is good so far.

Bibliography – These are from my personal library or freely available on the internet. The only works I have not yet read are from Kent Hughes and Sam Storms.
They are included because those authors are trustworthy.

Angels PowerPoint – These are the slides for the introduction to the topic of angels and specifically those that have not fallen.

Angels Text – This is my teaching text with the corresponding slide numbers noted on the left for the projectionist. This is mostly from W. Robert Cook's unpublished book in the bibliography.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

The following is from LOGIA, Volume 19, No.4, 54-55.   The portions removed were directed to Lutherans, while the rest of the piece is applicable to any church body.

One of the recent hip and trendy tent-meeting/auditorium innovations that will undoubtedly be copied (if it isn’t already) by anxious pastors and transforming-the-church-and-world institutional types . . . is the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey.”  Seriously!  They dance the Hokey Pokey.  Youtube it if you want.  Comes complete with healing for a lucky few who participate, according to the pastor who leads the dance.  So every congregation should adopt this, right?  After all, it “works” (supposedly creating critical events of conversion) as well as many of the other revivalist practices that have already been adopted . . . . What “works” may just transform your congregation.  Who knows?  There may be loads of success that you can measure with your eyes, graph on charts, and deposit into bank accounts.  Numbers that might even make Texans jealous!

Perhaps we should think outside of the box and learn from the Reformation.  That’s right, I said it!  Wouldn’t that be new and innovative?  Who’s trying that these days?  Gerhard Ebeling in his Luther: An Introduction to His Thought wondered why Luther’s reform became a Reformation not only in word but also in deed so that it planted deep roots in western Europe and helped reshape the world.  He concluded quite simply and rather scandalously that Dr. Luther put his trust and confidence only in God’s word and not in the performance of people.  Yes, indeed!  You read that correctly.  News flash everyone!  Dr. Luther trusted God’s word!

And why not?  After all, God’s word is not just informative but performative.  It does and gives what it says. “Let there be light and there was light.”  “My words are Spirit and they are life,” Word-in-the-Flesh Jesus promises (Jn 6).  “Just speak the word,” the centurion confessed to Jesus, “and my servant will be fine” (Mt 8).

. . .

We’ve been given to cling to the Lord’s word.  To trust in his promises of mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life, against all that we see, hear, measure, and experience to the contrary.  Catch the Lord in his promises.  He’s absolutely thrilled with that.  “You have great faith!” (Mt 15:28) he proclaimed to the Canaanite woman.  And to you too who believe only in Jesus.  Faith is great because Jesus and his word, especially his word of forgiveness, are enough and sufficient.  We do not despair.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Neocaesarea - Canon 10

Likewise, if a deacon have fallen into the same sin, let him have the rank of a minister.

This refers back to Canon 9 and the elder confessing sexual sin prior to ordination.  Should the same scenario happen with a deacon, he would no be allowed to move further up the clerical ladder as an elder or overseer.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Neocaesarea - Canon 9

A presbyter who has been promoted after having committed carnal sin, and who shall confess that he had sinned before his ordination, shall not make the oblation, though he may remain in his other functions on account of his zeal in other respects; for the majority have affirmed that ordination blots out other kinds of sins.  But if he do not confess and cannot be openly convicted, the decision shall depend upon himself.

It was possible that an elder confessed a sexual sin that occurred before his appointment to the current position.  If so, he was no longer able to handle the bread and wine for the Lord's supper but continued in all other respects.

The clause concerning the blotting out of sin is most curious.  Ordination has no biblical power to blot out sin.  No work of man could, though perhaps this was an application of absolution mentioned in Matt 18:18-19 and John 20:23.  Conversely, it was recognized that sexual sins were not removed though others could be.  Possibly this might have been how the required blameless character (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:7) was addressed when the past sin came to light.  The last sentence lends some light in that the sexual partner might have been able to bring charges.  If she either did not or could not do so, the elder could just remain quiet and continue on faithfully in his duties without the confession.