A Little Time With The 1689: Day 333

Day 333

Of the Church.

Chapter 26, Paragraph 10.

“……and this is required by the Law of Nature, and by the Express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel.”

Scripture Lookup

1 Corinthians 9:6-14

Reflection

Sick? Go to the doctor. Need legal advice? Hire a lawyer. Want to learn a subject? Take a class with a teacher. When it comes to needing instruction and counsel, we do not blink an eye at going to a professional. We expect them to spend time with us, instruct us, and aid us. In return we pay for their services.

It is only fitting that those who work receive compensation for their work. Why, then, is the issue of paying a pastor such a difficult one? Here are some possibilities as to why that is the case:

  • It is not considered work. Earnestly studying the Bible and shepherding souls is erroneously viewed as a cushy job.
  • The wealthy pastors get all the attention, and we despise their consumerism (or secretly covet it).
  • It is personal. We might pay someone for their services in the secular world, but we do not always know their salary or go to their house for dinner. If we are involved in our pastor’s life, we will not only know his salary, but we will get an idea of how he spends it.
  • We still equate the pastorate with a vow of poverty.

All of these reasons fail to understand how the Bible defines the role of the pastor. It is a lifelong calling, and one the Lord Jesus commands should be compensated. As Christians who desire to obey our king, we should never begrudge our minsters their wages.

There are great spiritual consequences, for better or for worse, depending on the performance of this duty (Galatians 6:7-9). The wicked and oppressive failure of most evangelical churches to support their pastors amply is at the root of much of the dearth and curse which is upon the professing church of Jesus Christ. Those who highly value the labor of the servant of God will find themselves blessed with highly valuable labour. -Samuel Waldron

 

Questions to Consider

  • How are you helping to support your pastor?

 

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 332

Day 332

Of the Church.

Chapter 26, Paragraph 10.

“…so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others;…”

Scripture Lookup

2 Timothy 2:4
1 Timothy 3:2

Reflection

Bitterness abounds towards the flashy pastors who appear to live large on the backs of their congregants. Such men use the church for their own gain, and should be rebuked for such. That is often what people think of when the topic of pastors and pay is brought up. While financial fleecing does sadly occur, the impoverished state of a pastor and his family is more likely to happen in your average church. Where is the balance?

It is often joked that a pastor only has to work one day a week. Nothing could be further than the truth. In this chapter of the Confession, a key word describing the work of the pastor is “constantly”. Constantly is he to attend the service of Christ. Constantly is he to attend to the ministry of the word. Constantly is he to be in prayer, and constantly does he watch over the souls in his care. This never-ceasing aspect of the role of the pastor takes a toll emotionally and spiritually. Seeking to provide for himself as well is a great burden, one that the church should be able to relieve through their financial provision.

The church that cares for its spiritual health, and the well-being of its pastor, will provide enough so that he may devote himself to the work of the church. He will not have to obtain employment elsewhere that may hinder his availability. With the generosity of the church, he will in turn be able to be generous to those in his midst. Both pastor and church will be blessed by one another.

Questions to Consider

  • Why is the compensation of a pastor such a sensitive subject for many?

 

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 331

Day 331

Of the Church.

Chapter 26, Paragraph 10.

“The work of Pastors being constantly to attend the Service of Christ, in his Churches, in the Ministry of the Word, and Prayer, with watching for their Souls, as they that must give an account to him; it is incumbent on the Churches to whom they Minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability,…”

Scripture Lookup

Acts 6:4

Hebrews 13:17

1 Timothy 5:17,18

Galatians 6:6,7

Reflection

Pastors should be paid.

As part of the office of elder, a pastor is to devote himself to the word and to prayer for those members under his care. He is to know his congregation, keeping watch over their souls. Rather than being the cushy job that some megachurch pastors have led society to believe it is, the pastor that truly cares for his flock carries a tremendous responsibility, as he will be held accountable for those under his care.

Because of the constant nature of the work of a pastor, it is necessary and right that the members of the local church pay him. That is what “communicate to them of all their good things” means. It does not mean that you tell him what a good job he does during Pastor Appreciation Month (although that may be welcome!). Rather, it means that the pastor ought to be supported financially as much as a church is able.

Notice that nowhere in the Confession does it state that a church ought to have its own building, or dedicate funds for Sunday School, or even to set aside part of its budget for missions. While all of those are worthwhile things for a church to have, the primary purpose of the church is the “mutual edification of the local assembly, and the due performance of that public worship.” The spiritual growth of the church is dependent upon the preaching of the word, and preaching of the word is part of religious worship. If a church values its spiritual health, it will place the monetary support of its pastor as a top priority.

Caring for the church is a full-time job. It is a labor of love, sometimes overlooked and underappreciated by members. Such a strenuous ministry deserves the support of the congregation, and a vital way to support the pastor is to pay him well. The pastor looks to the spiritual needs of the church, and the church looks to his physical needs. In this way both pastor and members are mutually supportive of one another.

Questions to Consider

  • Is the support of the pastor a primary concern of your church? Why or why not?

 

 

Book Review: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008. 254pp. $16.00.

0cec69c028853f708858c875b6693795_400x400In his 1952 book by the same name, C.S. Lewis attempted to defend what he coined ‘mere’ Christianity. He described Christianity as a house that included Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and various strands of Protestantism. When a person is first converted, that person is a mere Christian in the great hallway of the house. From that hallway, a mere Christian can and should choose to go into one of the various rooms (denominations). Lewis was not as concerned with getting unbelievers into his particular room as he was with getting them into the great hallway. In keeping with Lewis’ emphasis on converting unbelievers to mere Christianity, Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, seeks to meet unbelievers in their doubts and lead them into the great hallway. In Keller’s own words, “I am making a case in this book for the truth of Christianity in general—not for one particular strand of it” (121).

Summary

In The Reason for God, Keller strikes a very pastoral, almost conversational tone. He is not primarily speaking to Christians; his intended audience is made up of doubters. Like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Cornelius Van Til’s Why I Believe in God, rather than being an apologetics textbook, The Reason for God presents as a conversation piece for Christians and unbelievers. The main body of the book is broken up into two main parts—Part 1: The Leap of Doubt, and Part 2: The Reasons for Faith.

The Leap of Doubt

In this section, Keller addresses a host of misconceptions about God and Christianity. In the first chapter, he addresses the assumption that exclusivity in religion leads to bigotry by demonstrating that Christianity, while being exclusive, is a religion comprised of members who should themselves have been excluded. Writing Chapter Two, in dealing with the problem of suffering, Keller paints pictures of God and of heaven that are so desirous that, in theory, it retroactively erases all pain experienced this side of death.

Chapter Three is a case for the glory of slavery in the service of a King who became a Slave and died for His subjects. Keller’s goal in the fourth chapter is to point out the inconsistency of committing injustice while claiming the name of Christ. In Chapter Five, he demonstrates the fact that the God of the Bible is not a God primarily comprised of an all-inclusive love, but neither is such a god found in any of the texts of the myriad religions of the word. The seventh and final chapter of Part One demonstrates the folly of trying to interpret God and the Bible through the lens of a modern approach to history and culture.

The Reasons for Faith

After a brief intermission where Keller offers a brief apologetic for his approach to the subject matter, he returns with Part Two: Reasons for Faith.  Having briefly dealt with several reasons unbelievers may have to doubt Christianity, he turns to a positive case for faith. Chapter Eight is Keller’s case for the Christian approach to empirical evidences and against evolutionary science’s unsatisfactory attempt at dismissing divine evidences. He points to internal evidences such as moral obligation, in Chapter Nine, as evidence for God’s existence.

With Chapter Ten, Keller attacks the issue of sin and shows the necessity of the cross. Chapter Eleven is devoted to the demonstration of grace’s triumph over self-righteousness. His twelfth chapter is a demonstration of the relational and social implications of the cross. In Chapter Thirteen, he lays out his apology for the resurrection. The fourteenth and final chapter is a brief treatise on the glories of heaven. Keller concludes this work with an epilogue titled: Where Do We Go from Here? In this section, he walks the unbeliever through the process of conversion and incorporation into the body of Christ.

Critical Evaluation

Christians can gain much from reading The Reason for God. One thing that is immediately noticeable is the fact that no one can write on this subject without upsetting some, if not all, parties: believers and unbelievers, liberals and conservatives, evidentialists and presuppositionalists. However, Keller strikes a tone in this book that can be described in no other way than pastoral. While a case may be made that he makes too many concessions, he does not draw lines in the sand and die on hills where it is not dictated by the subject matter. When writing with such pastoral overtones, it can be difficult to toe the line between unbiblical compromise and gross reactionism. Keller is not always successful in toeing this line, but no one could argue that he has not made a valiant effort at doing so.

Furthermore, though Keller is very accessible and pastoral in his writing, it must be noted that he is widely read on the subject matter at hand. He quite obviously reads broadly, quoting from a wide array of Christian and non-Christian authors. The subject is doubtlessly one of great importance to him, one that he does not think worthy of minimal research and much conjecture. Keller’s heart and his effort in The Reason for God is to be commended highly.

However, there are a few concerns that arise in his method of argumentation. Keller approaches the doubt of an unbeliever as something that is ethically neutral. He makes the gross error of equivocating the common with the honorable. Everyone has their doubts. Thus, it must be honorable to put your doubts on display, right? Wrong. If Christians were to understand doubt for what it is: the sinful suppression of truth, they would reject this equivocation and cease treating the doubts of Christians and non-Christians as something to be praised.

At the end of Keller’s “Introduction,” he describes two scenes where Christ dealt with doubt in others. When found in the apostle Thomas, Christ is said to exhort Thomas to believe and to give him the evidence for which he asked. This is an incomplete account of the confrontation. Christ also rebuked his sinful doubt, “do not be unbelieving” (John 20:27; NASB), and compared him in a negative light with those who do not doubt (vs. 29). In the same way, the father of the epileptic boy in Mark 9 obviously understood the sinfulness of persistent doubt when he said, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (vs. 24). The Greek word here rendered “help” is a word meaning “come to the rescue of.” The direness and sinfulness of doubt are not adequately conveyed in Keller’s approach to unbelievers. Rather, he appears content to applaud their honesty, and join them in it, as long as it moves them to the next point in the discussion.

Of further concern is Keller’s doctrinal minimalism. He admits, as does Lewis in Mere Christianity, that he does see a point where every Christian ought to assume a broad-reaching doctrinal and corporate identity. However, his primary concern in the book is to make a case for “the truth of Christianity in general” (121). As such, the question must be asked how soon a new Christian ought to find a local church. Keller addresses this issue only as a byword, and only after much admitted trepidation, in his Epilogue. He affirms that new Christians must find local congregations with which to identify, but all-the-while passively validating their residual disdain for the bride of Christ (246-247).

Conclusion

In The Reason for God, Timothy Keller sets a commendable example for approaching unbelievers. He is always very cautious to breach the tough topics with much gentleness and humility. However, his method is not representative of a proper hamartiology (doctrine of sin). Doubt is not neutral as it relates to sin; it certainly is not commendable. Christians who engage the unbelieving world do them no favors by pretending that it is, whether in word or deed. Readers would do well to imitate Keller’s tone and patience with the unbelievers with which they come into contact. They would do just as well to approach his many concessions with great discernment, careful not to die on non-essential hills, but willing to draw the line in the sand on matters that are unquestionable in God’s Word.

________________________

 

Pick up The Reason for God today:ReasonForGod_040809.inddThe Reason for God paperback

by Timothy Keller

LBCF of 1677/1689 – Chapter Twenty-Six, Of the Church

1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
( Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23; Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32 )

2. All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
( 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22 )

3. The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.
( 1 Corinthians 5; Revelation 2; Revelation 3; Revelation 18:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; Matthew 16:18; Psalms 72:17; Psalm 102:28; Revelation 12:17 )

4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
( Colossians 1:18; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-9 )

5. In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.
( John 10:16; John 12:32; Matthew 28:20; Matthew 18:15-20 )

6. The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.
( Romans. 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:41, 42; Acts 5:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 9:13 )

7. To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority, which is in any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe; with commands and rules for the due and right exerting, and executing of that power.
( Matthew 18:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 )

8. A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.
( Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1 )

9. The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.
( Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:3, 5, 6 )

10. The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.
( Acts 6:4; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17, 18; Galatians 6:6, 7; 2 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:6-14 )

11. Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it.
( Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11 )

12. As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.
( 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15 )

13. No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.
( Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2, 3 )

14. As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.
( Ephesians 6:18; Psalms 122:6; Romans 16:1, 2; 3 John 8-10 )

15. In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.
( Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23, 25; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 John 4:1 )