Tag Archive: theology


Reaching Individuals

This may sound strange to your ears, but contrary to what is sometimes taught or suggested, we have no specific New Testament mandate to teach or disciple nations themselves. I say this, even though The Great Commission in Matt. 28:19-20 may appear to be instructing us to do just that.

…Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, perhaps disciple whole nations.

For more on this go to Restore the Word, The Great Commission

Rob Morley

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Church Leadership

Understanding, applying and getting to experience real New Testament Church Leadership is a huge challenge to the Church in this day and age. This is because we are so easily clouded by years of church traditions, tempted by the world’s form of leadership and are also often sadly unclear about the nature of New Testament church leadership.

If we are to do things God’s way then obviously the Biblical view is the one that we need clarity on. And, in order to get a sharper understanding of New Testament church leadership, we can ask various questions of the Biblical texts. But, for now, I would like to consider only two key questions because their answers reveal a stark contrast to typical Western churches and highlight where our main blockage exists.

Firstly, besides Jesus being the head of the Church, does the Bible advocate any form of chain of command in church leadership? And, secondly, was church leadership singular or plural by nature? I will show evidence in the New Testament that leaders did not have the positions of hierarchy that people so often afford them and that church leadership was never singular. (Most of the following is a slightly expanded version of my post, Does the Bible Support the Position of a Senior Pastor?)

Let’s begin by considering Acts 15 where we have an account of a church council at work. This chapter is used by some to support the idea of hierarchical church leadership with a lead elder. In the account, Paul, Barnabas and some others were sent from Antioch “to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders” about an issue.  Notice that they did not go seeking James, a key leader in Jerusalem, or the apostles alone, but their aim was to see the plurality of apostles and elders in Jerusalem to resolve the issue.

From a quick reading of this chapter, it can appear to some that James is the main leader of the church in Jerusalem.  One reason is that after a lot of discussion at this significant council meeting, James made the final statements that gave direction to the issue at hand. Secondly, he did this with the words, “my judgment is…” which seem to suggest that he was calling the shots. However, is this enough evidence to conclude that James was the lead elder? Couldn’t it be argued that any of the apostles or elders could have had the final word giving direction? If so, we would be wrong to conclude that James was the lead elder on that basis alone.

Rather than be likened to a final verdict of a judge, James’ statements, that helped conclude the meeting,  should be viewed as the assessment and opinion of a seasoned and respected brother, elder and apostle.  Also, that it was the group as a whole that was led by the Spirit to the conclusion is seen in the following, “it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch…with the following letter, ‘From the apostles and the elders, your brothers (KJV reads and your brothers) to the gentile brothers… Greetings…it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us (the brothers, elders and apostles), to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…”

Notice too, that the letter was not addressed from James, but from “The apostles and the elders, your brothers”. Also, it was not addressed to a church leader, but to “the brothers” of many churches. Brothers wrote to brothers. Granted, a strong argument for James’ leadership in the Jerusalem Church exists, but this would have been alongside other elders and it would have been without rank. It would have been in the context of Jesus’ teaching on leadership in Matthew 20:25-27 where he said things like “all ye are brethren” and “it shall not be so among you” when Jesus contrasted the world’s leadership with what theirs should be like. (For more on this see my post Servant Leadership – a Misnomer).

This James was prominent in the New Testament church, but that does not equate to rank leadership. We are reading far too much of our church experience into this historical account if we use it as a bases for the practice of having a single senior pastor. This is especially a problem if the text can be more comfortably viewed in a way that fits Paul’s specific instructions elsewhere and all of the other historical accounts in the New Testament.

For example, in 1Timothy 1:3 we see that Paul urged Timothy to remain behind in Ephesus in order to settle things in the church.  Timothy was not the pastor, nor lead pastor, but he was part of a church planting team. In this letter, Paul instructs Timothy on the appointment of multiple elders. Also, in Acts 14:23 we see the appointment of a plurality of elders with no sign of seniority given to any. It reads, “and when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

Notice too, that whenever Paul wrote to churches, the list of recipients were the elders and saints, with no mention of a senior leader. Had there been a lead elder, then surely he would have been listed ahead of the elders and saints in the list of recipients. Also, Elsewhere, Paul requests to meet with the elders of Ephesus and there is no mention of a senior leader.  This furthers the case that singular leadership didn’t exist in the New Testament. In fact, the appointment of a senior/lead pastor is never mentioned in the Bible. Respect for eldership, role and gifting, existed, but there was never superiority of rank.

While certain leaders like James and Peter are mentioned because of the key roles that they played, this honor is not to be equated to hierarchy. Nothing was done outside of the plurality of eldership and church consensus. The only leader with rank in the Church was and is Jesus.

For more on Church Leadership, see my posts:

Rank or Respect

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 1

Who Calls the Shots (Decision Making) in the Body of Christ?

Servant Leadership – a Misnomer

Rob Morley

New Life

Let’s continue to look at just how good the Good News really is!!!

(Go here for The Good News of an Exchanged Life – Part 1)

I was Dead, but am now Alive 

  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… (Eph 2:4-5).

I have God as my Owner 

  • Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price… (1Cor. 6:19-20).

I have a New Responsibilty 

  • So glorify God in your body (1Cor. 6:20).

I have a New Leader 

  • And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air… (Eph 2:1-2).
  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… (Eph 2:4-5).

I have a New Path 

  • you once walked, following the course of this world (Eph. 2:2).
  • Jesus said …, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Joh 14:6).

I have a New Function 

  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them(Eph 2:10).

I have a New Perspective

  • …and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:6).

I was a Victim, but now I’m a showpiece of God’s Grace 

  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (Joh. 10:10). 
  • … so that in the coming ages he (God) might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7).

Rob Morley

Changed Life

How Good is the Good News?

What we grasp of the Good News when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior is minuscule compared to what the Good News in its fullness really is.

You may have come to Jesus for any of the following:

  • God’s offer of pardon for sin
  • seeking a new life
  • help in a crises
  • a need for His love, etc.

We are all drawn to Jesus Christ and different aspects of the Good News found in Him, but no matter what avenue you came in on, the total package becomes yours!

Let’s look at just how good the Good News really is!!!

Exchange

Good news! I lost my status of sinner and I got Jesus’ status of the righteousness of God.

  • For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

I am Changed

Good news! I am no longer subject to the control of my sinful nature, but I am a new creation, with a new spirit, a soft heart and the Holy Spirit to govern me.

  • Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (Ezek. 36:26-27).

I am Changing

Good news! I am being changed to be more like Jesus.

  • But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).

Good news! I can participate in the change.

  • And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed (changed) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom. 12:2).

I will be Completely Changed

Good news! This body of mine will become new and immortal, not subject to aging, sickness and pain.

  • we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:52-53).

Rob Morley

(See Good News – No More a Sinner! for more on the exchange from SINNER to THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD)

Inerrancy of Scripture

Confident in the Bible

Biblical inerrancy is the belief that Scripture, in their original form and properly interpreted, is without error and therefore completely true in everything they teach. Inerrancy is the foundation for the Bible’s authority. Without this belief, our confidence in the Scriptures cannot be secure.

Jesus and the Inerrancy of Scripture

In Matt 4:1-11, Jesus affirms the inerrancy of Scripture where He says, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3).'” The word “every” clearly shows that the God-breathed Scriptures are included. That He meant the Scriptures is also strengthened by His immediate use of them, demonstrating that He lived by them.

The Bible and the Inerrancy of Scripture

In 2 Tim 3:16-17 it states that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

That Scripture is God-breathed is what essentially makes them inerrant (without error). Inerrancy is vital to the authority of the Bible, and without it we may as well throw out our Bibles. As John Wesley put it, “If there be one mistake in the Bible, there may as well be 1,000.”

In 2 Pet 1:20-21 it states, “… that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Also, the authors of the New Testament identified the Bible with the living voice of God. In various places, the Scriptures are spoken of as if they were God Himself speaking, for example in Matt 19:4, 5 and Heb 3:7. Elsewhere, God is spoken of as if He were in the Scriptures, such as in Gal 3:8.

The Church and the Inerrancy of Scripture

Many church fathers affirmed inerrancy. For example, Clement said, “the sacred Scriptures are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.”

Calvin said, “We owe the writings of the apostles and prophets that same reverence which we owe to God, because it has proceeded from Him alone…”

Warning against Rejecting or Limiting the Idea of Inerrancy

“The generation of those who first give up biblical inerrancy may have a warm evangelical background and real personal relationships with Jesus Christ, so that they can ‘survive theologically’ on the basis of their limited inerrancy view. But what happens when the next generation tries to build on that foundation?…any denomination or parachurch group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked.” – Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster.

Rob Morley (based in part on notes by Gus Martin)

Here are further posts concerning the Bible:

Jesus and the Bible, Separate but Inseparable

“I Hate You” – The Living Power of The Written word

The Bible is God’s Word

What Did Jesus Write In the Sand?

Inerrancy of Scripture

The Words of the Bible are Alive

The Bible Is Jesus Speaking

Where the Bible is, God is

Is the Bible for Everyone?

Do What You Can Do

The Words of the Bible are Alive

Recording Words

Communication through words is a strong characteristic of both God and man. Recording our words in books, on MP3, CD or whatever means can be a way of not only preserving what we are saying, but also of having our words continually represent us.  This way, our recorded words can always be transmitted as though we are still physically speaking them. Similarly, God’s recorded words represent Him eternally.

Time Doesn’t Change God’s Word

In a sense, the Scriptures are like posts that someone blogging wrote some time ago. They still represent the blogger as though he were posting them today. Unless the blogger indicates a change of mind, when we read his older posts, we are still hearing what he is saying. Similarly, when I read the Bible I am not only hearing what God said, but also what he is still saying.

Despite a lapse of time, my recent posts, and for that matter my posts of months ago, still stand as my point of view. Likewise, despite a lapse of thousands of years, God’s recorded words in Scripture still stand, and are speaking, just as they did at first. The Bible is a recording of essential communication from God that is still alive and active.

Rob

Good News – No More a Sinner!

Once a week I have the wonderful opportunity to teach a group of 11-12 year olds about God and the Bible and what Christianity is really about. Recently, I challenged their views on how God sees each of them and I believe God blessed many with a fresh realization of the GOOD NEWS!

Photo: rgbstock

I started the class by asking them why Jesus came. Quickly, and somewhat expectedly, I got the answer, “To die for our sins.” I agreed, but wanted to expand on this truth. The verse that came to my mind was 2 Cor. 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” and I wrote it on the board. I then explained its meaning and, although everyone seemed satisfied, I wanted to see if they really understood what it meant to them individually. So, just as we had agreed upon in previous sessions, I had them again recognize that we have all sinned and still often do sin. And, that in fact, we had all probably fallen into sin a number of times over recent days.

Sinner or Righteous

Then, I wrote two headings on the board, RIGHTEOUS and SINNERS. I asked if Jesus were to return today and separate the RIGHTEOUS from the SINNERS, would they know what group they belong to. It seemed without a blink that each put themselves in the group of SINNERS. Now, I am sure that among them there were some not yet born again and that answer would be true for them. However, the believers among them also classified themselves as SINNERS. It seemed, both groups needed to hear the GOOD NEWS again. The SINNERS for salvation and the RIGHTEOUS (who called themselves SINNERS) for realization of what they had received in Christ.

Good News!

Undoubtedly, the focus that the Christians in the group had was on their behavior rather than on their pardon for sin and new identity in Christ. And, the non-believers probably had a blurred grasp of the GOOD NEWS. Using the above verse I again explained the good news, only in this instance I took the time to show them what the verse really meant to them PERSONALLY. I showed that Jesus who hadn’t sinned actually became SIN, that all of our personal sin and that of the world was put upon Him. And, that He did this, so that we could be called RIGHTEOUS and not SINNERS anymore. That’s GOOD NEWS!!!

Three Men Crucified

Then, to bring it home, I spoke of the three men who had been crucified (Jesus being one of them) and how the whole message of the GOOD NEWS for mankind is seen played out through what happened. In the middle was Jesus, having been charged as a criminal along with the other two criminals. Yet, we know that Jesus hadn’t ever sinned. One of the criminals scoffed at Jesus, not realizing who He was. The other one, realizing who Jesus was, turned to Him and said, “Remember me when YOU come into your kingdom.” We agreed that he had been a bad man, a SINNER, as he even said of himself. And yet, despite this, Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

Identity Changed

What happened at the cross then was that three died. One, a criminal, a SINNER, and he died a SINNER. In the middle was Jesus who was RIGHTEOUS, but who was made to be SIN and He died as a SINNER. Then on Jesus’ other side was another criminal, also a SINNER, who recognized that through Jesus, God was offering pardon for sin and a new life. Through faith in Jesus he was made RIGHTEOUS.

Will Good People Go To Heaven

The general idea that most of the 11-12 year olds seem to have had is that although we all do wrong, “good people” will go to heaven. This is typical of how many people think. Yet, “good people” are also SINNERS and as such don’t qualify. What everyone does qualify for is God’s wrath. Not wanting to pour this out on us, God instead poured it out on Jesus, so that we could be freed. The response of these two criminals (with Jesus in the middle), in a way, represent everyone.

It seems that entrenched into many church members is the idea that as Christians we are SINNERS, but the message of Christianity is that through believing (realizing and receiving) who Jesus is, and what He did for us, we are made RIGHTEOUS.

Rob Morley

New Life

Concerning remedying your sinful behavior, don’t focus on being right-and-wrong-conscious, but rather be sold out to God with all of your heart and mind. Being right-and-wrong-conscious can put the emphasis on behavior where you might try to rectify things yourself and not fix the real issue of living from the wrong source. You see, when living from the Spirit, you won’t be occupied with wrong things anyway, because He automatically does what is right.Now, while it has been said that sin and addictions are best resolved by replacing the negative activity with better ones, unless I am living from Jesus as my source, it’s inevitable that I’ll succumb to further sin or addiction. Ultimately, there’s only one satisfying and meaningful way of life and that is living in a Spirit-filled relationship with God.

In believing in Jesus, the issue of righteousness (standing acquitted before God) is settled at the cross once and for all and no amount of error on my part can untangle that. Not only am I acquitted for life, but I am placed into Christ’s death and resurrection, immediately dying to sin and to God’s law, and rising again to a new life. I am born again and made into a new person. And, what’s more, I am joined irreversibly to Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to live in me, giving me the ability to do what I used to fail to do. He also comes teach me and enable me to live the life that Jesus has planned for me.

Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension have made forgiveness of our sins, re-birth to a new life and His empowering of us possible so that we can have productive lives for God’s kingdom. Only, I need to remember that I cannot live apart from Him as my source. In actual fact, living from Jesus as my source is my sole purpose in life. It’s in Him that I get His vision for my life and His strength to carry it out.

So, focus on building your relationship with God as your new source of life. Then, if you should sin, and you probably will, simply recognize that you have lost touch with God as your new source of life and start relying on Him again. Remember, as far as our sin is concerned, both God’s wrath and the law have been satisfied through Christ’s death so that we can be free to enjoy life by the Spirit. No matter how often you fail don’t let your errors stop you. Rather relish in the abounding mercy and grace that there is to pick you up and empower you to succeed again.

So, living in the Spirit is the Bible Code for Life.  “…we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6 ).

(If you haven’t yet, THE GOOD NEWS is that you can receive Jesus as your savior. He is God’s free gift to acquit you from sin and give you a new life in the Spirit. This, despite the life that you have led, because He loves you!  You see, the Bible says in 1Timothy 1:15, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …” Go to God and ask to be forgiven and for a new life in Him).

(Go here for part 1 and part 2)

Rob Morley

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