What We Need to Learn from the Early Church

Tim Keller: Many say that Christians who maintain the historic, traditional doctrines are behind the times, are too exclusive, and are “on the wrong side of history.” Two recent books that cast doubt on this view are from historian and biblical scholar Larry Hurtado: Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World and Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries?. The earliest Christians were widely ridiculed, especially by cultural elites, were excluded from circles of influence and business, and were often persecuted and put to death. Hurtado says Roman authorities were uniquely hostile to them, compared to other religious groups. Why? It was expected that people would have their own gods, but that they’d be willing to show honor to all other gods as well. Nearly every home, every city, every professional guild—including the empire itself—each had its own gods. You couldn’t even go to a meal in a large home or to a public event without being expected to

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Martin Luther’s 7 Characteristics of the Church

W. Robert Godfrey: The Word “First, the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy word of God.” Martin Luther always returned to the foundational importance of the Scriptures and the gospel in his approach to any doctrinal question. The church must have and cherish the revelation of God. “And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s word cannot be without God’s people, and conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s word.” Baptism “Second, God’s people or the Christian holy people are recognized by the holy sacrament of baptism, wherever it is taught, believed, and administered correctly according to Christ’s ordinance.” The church possessed and administered the sacrament of baptism as taught in the Bible, a visible expression of the gospel. The Lord’s Supper “Third, God’s people, or Christian holy people, are recognized by the holy sacrament of the altar, wherever it

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Power of the Gospel

Darin Smith: Where is the power for the church today? Clearly, if this month proves anything, it proves that it does not find its power in politics. We must discard the budding belief that power politics are what it is all about.  I’ve been reminded lately that politics and political parties aren’t where Christ-followers look for hope. Instead, I am thankful that we have an all-sovereign, all-powerful King to find hope in times such as these. Romans 1:16 says that “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Practically, in today’s modern church landscape, what does this means for us if politics aren’t the answer? Here are nine brief reminders for us: 1. We need to stop trying to make the Gospel relevant—it’s always relevant. To center on and proclaim the Gospel is to be as relevant and powerful as the apostolic early church (Rom. 1:4). The Gospel doesn’t need you. The Gospel doesn’t need bright

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You Know You’re Really Preaching the Gospel When…

Dave Harvey: When two pastors meet for the first time, the same question always comes up: How big is your church? And I get it. How else is a pastor supposed to determine if he’s a success or failure? Pastoral ministry isn’t like sports, in which even the most obscure statistics (average yards per carry on third downs after 3:00 PM) are quantified and assigned value. Ministry isn’t like business either, with a bottom line that is either distinctly red or distinctly black. Ministry isn’t like manufacturing, which is often boiled down to the how many you sold and how much you made on each sale. No, ministry is much more nebulous. Earthly equations for determining a pastor’s success or failure are much more difficult to come by. Because of it’s nebulous nature, some pastors desperately try to find some measurement or number that will help them determine if they are successful. They want to be assured they are doing

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Can We Be Saved Without the Church?

. Andrew Wilson: . Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, said Cyprian of Carthage: “Outside of the Church, there is no salvation.” Even more provocatively: “he cannot have God as Father who doesn’t have the Church as Mother.” Emphatic stuff. I’ve just finished Marcus Peter Johnson’s One With Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation, and somewhat surprisingly (and refreshingly) he concludes his survey with a chapter on the church, probing exactly this issue. Was Cyprian right? Can we be saved without the Church? No. Johnson says this for three reasons: The first reason … is that the proclamation of the gospel, the good news of salvation, is intimately bound up with the proclamation of the church. To proclaim the mystery of Christ includes the proclamation of the mystery of the church [he then cites and summarises Gal 3:26-28; Eph 3:1-12; 5:31-32; 1 Cor 6:15]. Our union with Christ provides a second reason … It is important to point out that the Protestant

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Why the Church Is Vitally Important for Every Christian

  This post by Stephen J. Nichols is adapted from the ESV Student Study Bible. What Does the Bible Have to Say about the Church? Mention the church to a group of Christians and you are likely to get a mixed response. Some might say that, while they do love Jesus, they don’t love the church. Others might respond, “Of course we love the church.” God has ordained the church, a fellowship of the flawed, to carry out his purpose and will in the world. When we consider the biblical teaching on the church, we realize the church is vitally important for growing in Christ. Like a branch that grows because of its connection to the tree, we thrive when we stay connected to the church. To explore this issue, it is necessary to consider what the Bible says about the church. The Church in the Bible: Old Testament Life and Worship Before we can look at what the New

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How Important is the Church?

Sam Storms: The disturbing and unbiblical trend continues: professing Christians who insist they love Jesus but have no formal association with or participation in the life of a local church. What are we to make of this? Is the church secondary to God’s purposes in history? Or might it be primary? And if so, what is the reason for the existence of the church? Paul speaks to this point in Ephesians 3:10 where he says that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God” is now “made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.” What does this mean? The word translated “manifold” was used to describe everything from the intricate and colorful design of flowers, to embroidered cloth, to woven carpets, and even crowns with their exquisite jewels. It could be rendered “richly diversified,” “multifaceted,” “highly variegated,” “infinite diversity,” etc. God’s saving wisdom is gloriously intricate in its design and its effect. It is the very antithesis of

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Why is Monogamous, Heterosexual Marriage so Important to Evangelical Christians?

Sam Storms: Why do we who identify as conservative evangelicals put so much emphasis on the importance of heterosexual monogamy as the only morally acceptable option? Two reasons may be cited. Of course, I could mention historical, social, and cultural arguments, even psychological arguments for the benefits and blessings of heterosexual marriage. But let me mention two biblical arguments, both of which were recently discussed by my friend Ray Ortlund. First, this is God’s will for all mankind! Moses said it clearly: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In a world where the primary human relationship was of a child and his parents, this was a stunning statement. We are being told that nothing trumps the one-flesh relationship between a man and his wife. A person’s deepest and most abiding loyalty is to his/her spouse. A man is to “hold fast” or

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How to revive a dead church

By Tom Schreiner, courtesy of Credo Magazine: As Christians we should be responsible citizens and vote. It is especially important to vote on the great moral issues of our day, like abortion. Historians look back on what the Nazis did to the Jews with horror, and we can easily be dulled to the relentless murder of babies in our culture. Abortion is the great moral issue of our time. And those who fail to see this reveal their own moral blindness. But we must never put our faith in politics or any political party. The City of Man will never become the City of God. We should do our civic duty, and if you are called to politics, or to serving as a judge, that is a wonderful calling. But we do not put our hopes in the political process. We do not believe our nation will be transformed by passing laws which enshrine moral principles, even though the passing

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The Church as the true Israel

Sam Storms in Kingdom Come: “If someone should object, as no doubt they will, that these Old Testament passages when read in their original context pertain to God’s prophesied purpose for Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I happily concur. But again we cannot read, interpret, and apply such texts in isolation from the complete revelation in the New Testament concerning the identity of God’s covenant people. As we’ll see on several occasions, all believing Jews are included in these predictions. No one is replaced by a believing Gentile. But all those who are by faith in Christ, the true seed of Abraham, are now themselves ‘one new man’ and thus co-heirs with believing Jews of the promises made to the fathers. The Church is, therefore, the true Israel in and on behalf of whom all the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled. Thus, when we read about prophesied regatherings of Israel into their land, we are to

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