Friday, June 28, 2013

He Humbled Himself

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:8)

"See," says one, "He voluntarily became obedient.  He was not equal to Him whom He obeyed."

O obstinate ones and unwise!  This does not at all lower him, for we too become obedient to our friends, yet this has no effect.  He became obedient as a son to His Father.  He did not fall into a servile state, but by this very act above all others guarded his wondrous sonship, by so greatly honoring the Father.  He honored the Father, not that you should dishonor Him, but that you should rather admire Him, and learn from this act, that he is a true son, in honoring his Father more than all else.  No one has so honored God.  As was His height, such was the correspondent humiliation which he underwent.  As He is greater than all, and no one is equal to Him, so in honoring His Father, He surpassed all, not by necessity, nor unwillingly, but this too is part of His excellence.  Words fail me!  Truly it is a great and unspeakable thing, that He became a servant: that He underwent death is far greater.

But there is something still greater, and more strange.  Why?  All deaths are not alike.  His death seemed to be the most ignominious of all—to be full of shame, to be accursed.  For it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree." (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13.)  For this reason the Jews also eagerly desired to slay Him in this manner, to make Him a reproach, that if no one fell away from Him by reason of His death, yet they might from the manner of His death.  For this reason two robbers were crucified with Him, and He in the midst, that He might share their ill repute, and that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "And he was numbered with the transgressors." (Isa. 53:12.)  Yet so much the more does truth shine forth, so much the more does it become brilliant.  For when His enemies plot such things against His glory, and yet it shines forth, so much greater does the matter seem.  Not by slaying Him, but by slaying Him in this way did they think to make Him abominable, to prove Him more abominable than all men, but they availed nothing.  And both the robbers also were such impious ones, (for it was afterward that the one repented,) that, even when on the cross, they reviled Him.  Neither the consciousness of their own sins, nor their present punishment, nor their suffering the same things themselves, restrained their madness.  Therefore the one spoke to the other, and silenced him by saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation?" (Luke 23:40.)  So great was their wickedness.

Therefore it is written, "God also highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name which is above every name."  When the blessed Paul hath made mention of the flesh, he fearlessly speaks of all His humiliation.  For until he had mentioned that He took the form of a servant, and while he was speaking of His Divinity, behold how loftily he does it, (loftily, I say, according to his power; for he speaks not according to His own worthiness, seeing that he is not able).  "Being in the form of God, He counted it not a prize to be equal with God."  But when he had said, that He became man, henceforth he fearlessly discourses of His low estate, being confident that the mention of His low estate would not harm His Divinity, since His flesh admitted this.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Philippians, 7

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Getting Vision in Focus

Our local assembly is struggling with what to do about our growth in numbers.  We are putting a strain on available square footage.  Four proposals have been put forth: build at a new site, refurbish an existing building, modify/add to the existing structure, and begin a new work with a percentage of the people.  Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, and there are proponents for each course of action.

I sat in a meeting not long ago, listening to a presentation given by representatives of a firm who have experience in planning and building structures for church use.  Near the end of the discussion, the presenter said, "You don't have a vision.  What is your vision for the church?"  I have been thinking on that observation since then.

It is a valid question.
If any group does not know its purpose and where it needs to go in the future, how long will it survive?  Should it survive?  Our current purpose statement is posted on a web site and states that we are helping each one "move toward maturity in Christ," emphasizing four discipleship areas:
  • •    WORSHIP GOD together each week.
  • •    LOVE OTHERS within the framework of a small group.
  • •    SERVE JOYFULLY in a ministry that strengthens the church family.
  • •    SHARE CHRIST with others everywhere we go.
Each of these is valid within the congregate life of a local church.  Supporting texts are easy to come by.  Each prospective member is taught this and is asked to subscribe to it.  There is a plan—generic though it be—for maintaining existence, just not one for how to move forward from here.  Defining such a statement would be a good, telling exercise.  And this leads to my next point.

It is a dangerous question.
When church groups consider their future, the results are often disastrous because plans are based on desire rather than doctrine, replacing God's defined purpose for his church with their own agenda.  One does not need to search very far or long to stumble over a gathering that left their beliefs by the wayside months or years before in order to "reach out" and "be relevant."  God's Word contains an entire section recounting what happens when each person and group ignored God's express commandments and revelation, in order to do "what was right in his own eyes" (Judg 21:25).

Eric Andersen warns in a post that asking the question "What kind of church do we want to be?" should never be asked because we, as redeemed sinners, still have the old nature wreaking havoc.  The result will always (not sometimes, as I charitably stated above) be a disaster.  Whether or not one agrees with the assertion, his summary paragraph is useful for this discussion:
The challenge for the Church today is to resist entertaining questions that take the focus off of Jesus and so divide His Body.  Not all questions are good questions.  Self-serving questions do not edify the Church.  We must be careful to avoid the temptation to re-create the church after our own image and likeness.  The Church is not Her own, for She has been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).  She has been called out of the darkness not to bear witness to Herself, but to bear witness to Christ (1 Peter 2:9).  The words of John the Baptist could serve as a motto for every Christian and every church: “He must increase, but I must decrease,” (John 3:30).  As the blood-bought Bride of Christ (Acts 20:28), the Church is not ours to do with as we please.  Rather, the Church freely submits to Her Heavenly Bridegroom in all things (Ephesians 5:24), so that all blessing and honor and glory and might be to God and the Lamb, now and forever (Revelation 5:12—13).
Vision and purpose are not defined by what we want to be, or feel we need to be.  We are what the Lord and his word says we are.

It is a question needing an answer
With the constraint placed upon us that our existence and conduct be derived from a holy God's expectation of perfection and willingness through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection to accomplish atonement—he who was made "our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30)—there is need to take greatest care in crafting what might define the future of a local assembly.  The best wordsmiths ultimately fall short here in their attempts to lay a foundation on which might be forged the superstructure of church life.  I therefore offer the following vision statement as a humble gesture:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  (Matt 28:19-20)
Are you thoroughly underwhelmed?  There are no Christian catchphrases, no missional mantra, no postmodern punditry.  Instead of a slogan meant to appeal, but being more maladroit than majestic, we have clear instruction delivered by the head of the church to those who obeyed this very command to the benefit of those who believed the proclamation of the gospel: they made disciples by baptizing them into Christ and teaching them all he had commanded.

Of first importance in a local gathering is not the formation of a vision intended to target a demographic or build in a particular section of a town or county.  These factors are ever changing in significance and weight.  The people will be unable to keep up.  The church throughout history never grew because of market research or location preference:  It grew by remaining faithful to what had been received.

This is not a diatribe against spending money on a structure in a particular locale.  This is a plea for Christians to not make decisions interpreted through current cultural norms or mystical divination attempts to determine God's will, nor through the more crass influences of creative marketing and poll numbers: rather let these be based on priorities drawn directly from their Bibles.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  (Phil 3:13-16)

Monday, June 17, 2013

God's Pardon the Fruit of Repentance

To all sins, then, committed whether by flesh or spirit, whether by deed or will, the same God who has appointed penalty by means of judgment has also promised to grant pardon by means of repentance, saying to the people, "Repent, and I will save you;"[1] and again, "as I live," says the Lord, "I will have repentance rather than death."[2]  Repentance, then, is life, since it is preferred to death.  That repentance, O sinner,… so hasten to, so embrace, as a shipwrecked man the protection of some plank.  This will draw you forth when sunk in the waves of sins, and will bear you forward into the port of the divine mercy.  Seize the opportunity of unexpected blessing: that you, who sometime were in God’s sight nothing but "a drop of a bucket,"[3] and "dust of the threshing-floor,"[4] and "a potter’s vessel,"[5] may henceforth become that "tree which is sown beside the waters, is perennial in leaves, bears fruit at its own time,"[6] and shall not see fire nor axe.[7]  Having found the truth, repent of errors; repent of having loved what God loves not: even we ourselves do not permit our servant lads not to hate the things which are offensive to us; for the principle of voluntary obedience consists in union of wills.

The good of repentance is a vast subject-matter to consider, and therefore should be committed to great eloquence.  Let us, however, in proportion to our narrow abilities, insist on one point: God's command is good and best.  I hold it audacious to dispute about the "good" of a divine precept, for, indeed, it is not the fact that it is good which binds us to obey, but the fact that God has commanded it.  To exact the rendering of obedience the majesty of divine power has the inherent right: the authority of him who commands is greater than the usefulness to him who serves.  Why do you ponder, "Is it good to repent, or not?"  God commands—no, not merely commands, but likewise exhorts.  He invites by offering salvation as its reward.  Even by an oath, saying "as I live," he desires that credence may be given Him.

Oh blessed are we, for whose sake God swears!  Oh most miserable, if we do not believe the Lord even when He swears!  What, therefore, God so highly commends, what He even, in human fashion, guarantees on oath, we are bound of course to approach and to guard with the utmost seriousness, that, abiding permanently in the solemn pledge of divine grace, we may be able also to persevere in like manner in its fruit and its benefit.

Tertullian, On Repentance 4

[1]  Ezekiel 18:21-23
[2]  Ezekiel 18:30-32; 33:11
[3]  Isaiah 40:15
[4]  Hosea 13:3.  Comp. Daniel 2:35; Matthew 3:12
[5]  Jeremiah 19:11.  Comp. Romans 9:21; Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27
[6]  Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8
[7]  Matthew 3:10

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rethinking Your Thinking

I enjoy challenging preconceptions including my own all the while understanding that my own will color how I view the legitimacy and applicability of those preconceptions.  This is not to say that I willingly slip into a deconstruction of language and thought centered on what we have as community; rather I just want to know the facts and how to properly interpret them.

That being said, there are times when my bell needs to be rung.  A recent example comes from a blog post by Matt Richard.  Here is his setup:
Today in my Confessions class the professor gave us some words and asked us to organize them.  Why don't you take a chance to arrange them into two categories, too.

Soul - Body - God - Earth - Frog - Heaven - Rock

So, how would you arrange them?
I took the challenge.  Before going on, try this yourself.  If you are a typical church-going American, your answer will be like my first attempt:

Group #1 Group #2
God Earth
Soul Rock
Heaven Body
What does this say about my thought process (and yours if you did the same)?  Read Matt Richard's short post to find out.  Are you unnerved or intrigued at his conclusion?  I was.  One question that immediately came to mind is that if the author is correct, should I care?  Will that worldview make a difference in my Christian walk?

In the past few years I have been in close contact with young couples who have a thorough-going desire to be involved in work for God's kingdom to the extent that life decisions are being made based on feelings, impressions, dreams—any type of input which can be interpreted as a move of the Holy Spirit.  This is not a new phenomenon in Christian circles.  Second-century heterodox teaching of the Gnostics and Montanists sought to place the spiritual above the material, living "by the Spirit" or "in the spiritual realm" as a distinctive.  Later, godly men and women separated themselves, living in desert places in order to pursue spiritual ideals.

Why do Christians pursue this experiential spirituality?  Whether second or twenty-first century, the answer lies in the perceived state of the church.  The local or regional church is seen as becoming lethargic or corrupt, and those seeking to be pure in their lives, search for opportunities to enhance their spiritual existence in order to be cleansed from the world and whatever of the world has infiltrated the church.  In order to effect a personal or corporate cleansing, the spiritual is emphasized as being better or more legitimate in the kingdom of heaven than the material.  But God's word makes no such distinction.  Does the church need reforming?  Yes, but the answer is not to withdraw into a private or isolated existence—i.e., operating independently from the fellowship of believers in the understanding of doctrine and decisions of conduct.

An improper view of the Christian life, then, leads to poor judgment, so that a self-assessed level of derived spirituality becomes the chief factor in decision-making.  I have seen this multiple times in the past couple of years: naming children based on an impression; proposing to a future spouse because of a dream; planning to go on a missions trip to a foreign country without spouse and children for an indeterminate period of time; traveling cross-country to work in an undetermined and unestablished work venture.  These individuals are giving more credence to their feelings of what God has said and done, than what he actually has said and done as clearly revealed in their Bibles.  Why were these impressions even considered?  Solely because the decision process seemed more spiritual in nature or the anticipated work effort is attributed by the Christian cultural as having a greater association with a holy endeavor.

Humans are both corporeal and spiritual: God designed and created them this way.  Attempting to separate the two or emphasizing the one above the other is to pursue what was never intended.  Opening to spiritual forces perceived to be the movement of the Holy Spirit only leads to disruption within the individual, the family, and the church, especially when coupled with attempts to inhibit the effects of the sin nature through measures of asceticism.  The scriptural example of a spirit-filled life is a sober mind and self-control (Titus 2:1-6), not mysticism and self-flagellation.  Our minds are to be transformed to discern the will of God (Rom 12:2) not in a mystical sense, but
with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Phil 1:9-11)
We might give heed to Martin Luther's admonition:
Should not the heart, then, leap and melt for joy when going to work and doing what is commanded, saying: Lo, this is better than all holiness of [those who] kill themselves fasting and praying upon their knees without ceasing?  For here you have a sure text and a divine testimony that He has commanded this; but concerning the other He did not command a word.  But this is the plight and miserable blindness of the world that no one believes these things; to such an extent the devil has deceived us with false holiness and the glamor of our own works.
Large Catechism, I.120

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nicene Creed According to the Scriptures

A year ago, I had shared a post from Paul McCain at CPH on the Apostles' Creed which included proof texts.  Recently, he shared another such list for the Nicene Creed.
I Believe
Rom. 10:9; Jas 2:19; John 14:1
In one God,
Deut. 6:4; Is. 44:6
The Father
Is. 63:16; 2 Pet 1:17; Matt. 6:9
Gen. 17:1; Ps. 91:1; Rev. 4:8
Job 4:17, 35:10; Is. 17:7, 54:5
of heaven
Gen 1:1, 8
and earth
Ps. 104:5; Jer. 51:15
and of all things
Gen 1:31
visible and invisible.
Ps. 89:11-12; Amos 4:13; Rev. 3:5; Col. 1:16
And in one Lord
Eph. 4:5
Jesus Christ,
Acts 10:36, 11:17; Rom. 1:7, 5:1; 1 Cor 1:2, 6:11; 2 Cor. 1:2, 8:9; Gal. 1:3, 6:14; Eph. 1:2, 3:11; Phil. 1:2, 3:20; Col. 1:3, 2:6; 1 Thes. 1:1, 5:9; 2 Thes. 1:1, 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:3, 14, 2 Tim. 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 25, Heb. 13:20, Jas. 1:1, 2:1; 1 Pet. 1:3, 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:8, 14; Jude 17, 21; Rev. 22:20-21
the only-begotten,
John 1:18
Son of God,
Matt 3:17; John 3:16
Begotten of His Father,
Heb. 1:5
Before all worlds,
John 1:1; Col. 1:17; 1 John 1:1
John 1:1; Heb. 1:5
Not Made,
Mic. 5:2; John 1:18, 17:5
Being of one substance with the Father,
John 10:30, 14:9; Heb 1:3
By whom all things were made;
1 Cor. 8:6; Col 1:16
Who for us men
Matt 20:28; John 10:10
and for our salvation
Matt 1:21; Luke 19:10
came down from heaven
Rom. 10:6; Eph. 4:10
and was incarnate
Col. 2:9
by the Holy Spirit
Matt 1:18
of the Virgin Mary
Luke 1:34-35
and was made man;
John 1:14
and was crucified
Matt. 20:19; John 19:18; Rom. 5:6, 8; 2 Cor. 13:4
also for us
Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:15
under Pontius Pilate.
Matt. 27:2, 26; 1 Tim 6:13
He suffered
1 Pet. 2:21; Heb. 2:10
and was buried.
Mark 15:46; 1 Cor. 15:4
And the third day
Matt. 27:63, 28:1; 1 Cor. 15:4
He rose again
Mark 16:6; 2 Tim. 2:8
according to the Scriptures
Ps. 16:10; Luke 24:25-27; 1 Cor. 15:4
and ascended
Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9
Into heaven
Mark 16:19; Acts 1:11
and sits at the right hand of the Father.
Ps. 110:1; Matt. 26:64; Acts 7:56; Heb. 1:3
And He will come again
Jn. 14:3; 1 Thes. 4:16
with glory
Matt. 16:27, 24:30, 25:31, 26:64; Mark 8:38; Col. 3:4
to judge
Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 17:31
both the living and the dead,
Acts 10:42; 1 Pet. 4:5
whose kingdom
John 18:36; 2 Tim. 4:1, 18
will have no end.
Luke 1:33; Rev. 11:15; Ps. 145:13
And I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Matt. 28:19; Acts 13:2
The Lord
2 Cor. 3:17
And giver of life,
John 6:63; Rom. 7:6, 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:6
who proceeds from the father
John 14:16-17
and the Son,
John 15:26; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped
Luke 4:8; John 4:24
and glorified
John 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17
Who spoke by the prophets.
1 Pet. 1:10-11; 2 Pet 1:21
And I believe in one
1 Cor. 10:16-17, 12:12-13
Eph. 3:16-17, 5:27; 1 Pet. 2:9
1 Cor. 1:2
and Apostolic
Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14
Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:24; Heb. 12:23; 1 Pet. 2:9
I acknowledge one Baptism
John 3:5; Rom. 6:3; Eph. 4:5
For the remission of sins,
Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Tit. 3:5
And I look for the resurrection of the dead
1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:12-13, 16, 52
And the life of the world to come.
1 Cor 15:54-57; Rev. 22:5
Ps. 41:13; 2 Cor. 1:20
Prepared by Richard Gilbert, Hacienda Heights, CA.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reconciled and Steadfast in Christ

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.  (Col 1:21-22)

Again he lays down also the manner of the reconciliation, that it was "in the body," not by being merely beaten, nor scourged, nor sold, but even by dying the most shameful death.  Again he makes mention of the Cross, and again lays down another benefit.  For He did not only "deliver," but, as he says above, "Who made us qualified" (ver. 12), to the same he alludes here also.  "Through" His "death," he says, “to present you holy and without blemish and above reproach before Him."  For truly, He has not only delivered from sins, but has also placed amongst the approved.  For, not that He might deliver us from evils only, did He suffer so great things, but that also we might obtain the first rewards; as if one should not only free a condemned criminal from his punishment, but also advance him to honor. And he hath ranked you with those who have not sinned, yea rather not with those who have done no sin only, but even with those who have wrought the greatest righteousness; and, what is truly a great thing, has given holiness which is before Him and being above reproach.  Now an advance upon blameless is above reproach, when we have done nothing either to be condemned for, or charged with.  But, since he ascribed the whole to Him, because through His death He achieved these things.  "What then," says one, "is it to us?  We need nothing."  Therefore he added,
if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.  (Col 1:23)
Here he strikes a blow at their listlessness.  And he said not simply "continue," for it is possible to continue wavering and vacillating; it is possible to stand, and continue, though turned this way and that.  "If indeed you continue," he says, "stable and steadfast, and not shifting."  Wonderful!  What a forcible metaphor he uses!  He says not only not tossed to and fro, but not even moved.  And observe, he lays down so far nothing burdensome, nor toilsome, but faith and hope—that is, if you continue believing, that the hope of the things to come is true.  For this indeed is possible.  But as regards virtuous living, it is not possible to avoid being shaken about, though it be but a little; so what he prescribes is not grievous.

John Chrysostom, Homily on Colossians, IV

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Consider the Forbearance of Christ

Consider the words, the actions; consider that He is Lord, and you servant.  He is suffering for you, you for yourself; He on behalf of those who had been benefited by Him and had crucified Him, you on behalf of yourself.  He on behalf of those who had used Him spitefully, you oftentimes at the hands of those who have been injured.  He in the sight of the whole city, or rather of the whole people of the Jews, both strangers, and those of the country, before whom He spoke those merciful words, but you in the presence of few.  And what was more insulting to Him, that even His disciples forsook Him.  For those, who before paid Him attention, had deserted Him, but His enemies and foes, having gotten Him in the midst of themselves on the cross, insulted, reviled, mocked, derided, scoffed at Him—Jews and soldiers from below, from above thieves on either side.  For indeed the thieves insulted and upbraided Him both of them.  How then does Luke say that one “rebuked?”  Both things were done, for at first both upbraided Him, but afterwards one did so no more.  For that you might not think the thing had been done by any agreement, or that the thief was not a thief, by his insolence he shows you, that up on the cross he was a thief and an enemy, and at once was changed.

And add to this, I pray you, by whom, and wherefore, and when, and who it was.  And (the most grievous matter) while these things were being done, no one found fault, no one blamed what was done, but on the contrary all rather approved, and joined in mocking Him and in jeering at Him; and as a boaster, imposter, and deceiver, and not able to prove in His works the things that He said, so they reviled Him.  But He held His peace to all, preparing for us the most powerful incentives to long-suffering.

But we, though hearing such things, are not patient so much as to servants, but we rush and kick worse than wild asses, with respect to injuries against ourselves, being savage and inhuman; but of those against God not making much account.  And with respect to friends too we have the same disposition; should anyone upset us, we do not bear it; should he insult us, we are savage more than wild beasts, we who are reading these things every day.  A disciple betrayed Him, the rest forsook Him and fled, they that had been benefited by Him spat at Him, the servants of the high priest struck Him with the palm of the hand, the soldiers rained blows on Him.  Those that passed by jeered Him and reviled Him, the thieves accused Him.  And to no man did He utter a word, but by silence overcame all; instructing you by His actions, that the more meekly you shall endure, the more you will prevail over them that do you evil, and will be an object of admiration before all.  For who will not admire the one that endures with forbearance the insults he receives from those who are using him spitefully?

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew, 87.2-3

Friday, June 7, 2013

Origen on Divine Foreknowledge

When God planned the creation of the world, inasmuch as there is nothing without a cause, His thoughts traversed the whole course of the future, and He saw that when a certain thing takes place another follows, and if this occurs it will have its fitting result, and this supposed, something is its consequence.  And going on thus to the end of all things He knows what will be, but is not at all the cause of the occurrence of any particular event.  For as when we see a man reckless through ignorance, and in his recklessness foolishly venturing on a slippery path, we are not the causes of the man's finding the path slippery, because we realize that the man will slip and fall.  In the same way, we must understand that God having foreseen what every one will be like, also perceives the causes of his being what he is, and that he will commit these sins or do these righteous deeds.  And if we are bound to admit that the foreknowledge is not the cause of the occurrences (for though God knows before that a man will sin, He does not put a finger on him when he does sin), we shall make a still stronger statement, nevertheless true, that the future event is the cause of God's peculiar knowledge concerning it.  For it does not happen because it is foreknown, but it is foreknown because it will happen.

Origen, Philokalia 23.8

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Problem with Praise Teams

T. David Gordon has a great post asking if praise bands are serving a biblical purpose in the local assembly.  Here is what I consider to be his thesis statement.
For traditions that regard the church as an institution (not as a voluntary society), then that institution must do what it is instituted to do; it must “devote” itself to the purposes for which it was instituted.  Working within that tradition, then, we ask whether that assembly is required to sing audible praise to God, and if so, how it is commanded to do so.  That is, if an audible thing is required, then there would be an audible test of whether the required thing were done (as with the visible test of the cherubim woven into the curtain of the tabernacle).
Gordon then lays out the scripture texts pertinent to these three areas with a summary of how they are presented in a corporate context.  In addition he tests his thesis by visiting two assemblies—one with and praise band and one without—with a uniquely qualified individual to get her perceptions.  Her observations are telling.

The author avoids stereotypical questions of style to lay out what should be the basis and attitude of worship music.  Believe me when I say the critique is valid.  We use a praise team every Sunday, and playing half-time, I experience both sides of the issue.  Instruments are to accompany vocals, not lead them.  And the song leader's task is to keep everybody together by starting starting on pitch and with good tempo, not by overpowering through amplification.