EPIC CHARGE: Duties of the Church Body

SUNDAY. It is a day nearly everyone has grown fond of. Whether it be the unbeliever who gets to enjoy a day off work, or the Christian who is looking forward to fellowshipping with other believers, it truly is a day to be recognized. Unfortunately, for too many believers, it tends to be the only day that is recognized. We go to church, sing some songs, listen to a sermon, give the pastor accolades if you felt moved, possibly partake in some lunch with friends, and then go back to the grind of daily life. Seven days later, the cycle repeats itself. Is it any wonder so many professing believers are falling away from the faith with claims of boredom and the like? Sadly, too many view church as a building where like-minded people gather to worship God. However, that could not be further from the truth.

The bible has much to say regarding the church, and not once do we see it speak of a building or 501(c)3 organization. The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). As such, we have duties and responsibilities to the rest of the body. If one part of the human body fails, it is no longer operating at full potential, and is handicapped. This can be seen in the plethora of churches that have disbanded over the years due to disputes, dwindling numbers, etc. It truly is a sad reality. Like the human body, as members of the body of Christ, the Christian is endowed with responsibility and obligation to assist in ensuring the body functions at peak capacity. After all, God deserves nothing less.

In the execution of this power wherewith he is so entrusted, the Lord Jesus calls 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 prescribes to them in his word. Those thus called, he commands to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requires of them in the world.

Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Chap 26, Para 5

At the very core of the Church, there is a distinct implication of acting and doing. It’s not a matter of get saved and go to church. It’s a matter of obedience and joyful responsibility as we rest in the completed work of Christ, stirring up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Indeed, it’s far more than what we see being practiced in modern evangelical churches across the nation. Perhaps there is no greater and concise list of the responsibilities of believers in the Church body than that found in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-27. It reads as follows:

12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterance. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-27, NASB)

The remainder of this post will simply be for the purpose of bringing some of these to light. According to the very Scriptures breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), Christians are bound to the following:

  1. Respect and appreciate your pastors/elders (v.12)
  2. Esteem highly your pastors/elders (v.13)
  3. Live in peace with one another (v.13)
  4. Admonish the idle and unruly (v.14)
  5. Encourage the fainthearted (v.14)
  6. Help the weak (v.14)
  7. Be patient with everyone (v.14)
  8. Do not repay evil for evil (v.15)
  9. Seek good for others (v.15)
  10. Rejoice always (v.16)
  11. Pray without ceasing (v.17)
  12. Give thanks in all things (v.18)
  13. Do not quench the Spirit (v.19)
  14. Do not despise prophetic utterances (i.e. preaching) (v.20)
  15. Examine all things carefully (v.21)
  16. Hold fast to good (v.21)
  17. Abstain from evil (v.21)
  18. Pray for others and leaders (v.25)
  19. Greet brethren in love (v.26)
  20. Read the Scripture together as brethren (v.27)

I encourage us all to take an introspective look and evaluate whether we are functioning in accord with our high calling and purpose. If not, begin to ask why that might be the case. Maybe your church simply does not have a high enough view of the glory of God. Perhaps, it does not know how to function as Christ demands. If this is the case, I encourage you to speak with your elders and pray that a fire would be ignited that would lead to a desire to worship Christ aright by functioning as we ought. Then again, perhaps your church is doing all these things. In that case, I highly encourage you to continue doing so but to do so in love, lest you become like the church at Ephesus who had lost their first love (Revelation 2:4).

One thing is for certain: it’s not possible to function as a cohesive body, meeting at the requirements above as a labor of love and obedience, if Sunday is the only day we choose to even give it a passing thought. The duty of the Christian is a high calling indeed, but it is also the greatest of privileges we will ever know. The very idea that Christ would entrust us with this most important duty should humble all of us and spur us on to give him thanks. Brothers and sisters, especially in light of current events, heed the voice of the author of Hebrews as you meet, pray, love, support, and encourage one another.

not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:25, NASB

~ Travis W. Rogers

Has God Changed?

A friend asked a simple question as part of a research paper. He asked if God of the New Testament was the same as God of the Old Testament. Below was my attempt to answer his question.

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Many have made the claim that the God of the Old Testament is angry and judicial whereas the God of the New Testament is kind, loving, and tolerant. This can be heard in everything from biblical debates to comedy bits. There’s zero doubt that the claim is made. So far as this is concerned, it’s a non-issue. What we have to determine is whether there is any validity to the claim. It’s my position that there is not.

Malachi 3:6
For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Revelation 1:8
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The Bible is clear that God is not one who changes. Even if one wanted to argue that the God of the Old Testament was a different God, the argument would fail since Revelation tells us that the God of the New Testament is the very one who existed at the beginning. Yet, when we compare the Old Testament to the New Testament, there appears to be a clear distinction. Of course, due to the law of noncontradiction, they can’t be different gods and the same God at the same time. It must be one or the other. When faced with a crossroads such as this, it’s always a safe bet to assume our finite human understanding is flawed whereas the Word of God is not. The plain teaching of Scripture should always force us to change our views on something we can’t seem to reconcile.

To begin, I believe many hold to an erroneous view of God when it comes to the Old Testament. Is He really an angry and mean God or are we simply failing to see His love, mercy, and grace? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). After each day, He saw that it was good. He was satisfied. On the sixth day, after creating man, we see something special. Not only was it good, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Man was the pinnacle of God’s creation. He made man perfectly upright to rule over creation. Sadly, this was not to last. By Genesis 3, we see mankind being tempted and falling into the first instance of sin. We see a curse being placed upon humanity. We see the fulfillment of what God promised would occur in Genesis 2:17. God promised that Adam would die if he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam knew this and he failed to shield his wife, the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), from the enemy. What Adam didn’t know is that he would represent all of humanity thenceforth (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, this wasn’t referring to just a physical death but to a spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13). All of humanity is dead in sin and only Christ can make us alive again. We all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and deserve nothing but death, both physical and spiritual, as a result (Romans 6:23). Therefore, God would have been perfectly just to destroy the earth and all it contained upon the moment of sin entering into His perfect world. Man tarnished God’s creation and, as of that very moment, deserved nothing more than eternal torment as punishment for his actions.

Yet, over and over again, we see of God’s mercy. Many view the Old Testament Law as being harsh but, truth be told, even that was an act of mercy. God could have left humanity alone to perish but He chose to reveal to them His righteous standard. He chose to raise godly men to lead them. He chose to bless those who rejected Him and to bless them abundantly. He gave His people land and a promise of a Savior to come. Yes, He generally held them accountable for their actions but this was because the Law had not yet been fulfilled (Matthew 5:17) though it had been broken in full.

What we see in the New Testament isn’t a new God but a God who had decreed that the fullness of time had come (Galatians 4:4). Those who were born under the Law would now be redeemed from that very same Law. Whereas before they fell under the law of sin and death, now they fell under the law of the Spirit of life. The former Law was weak and could never save. It could only instruct man of a standard they were incapable of keeping in their current fallen form. That Law was in need of God, the same loving God of the Old Testament, to fulfill His Law by sending His own Son to die (Romans 8:2-3) as an atoning and substitutionary sacrifice (Isaiah 53:5).

Only when we have a proper understanding of fallen man’s condition can we truly understand the love and restraint God displayed throughout all of the Old Testament. In many ways, aside from knowing Christ is the epitome of God’s compassion, the compassion of God in the Old Testament may appear to exceed that which we see in the New Testament. Of course, we know this is only our human understanding because, as stated in the beginning, “there is no variation or shadow due to change” when it comes to God.

~ Travis W. Rogers

Man vs. God

I’d like to share a story with you. Though it’ll probably enrage many, I ask that you reserve judgment until the end. It’s a story of a school bus filled with kids on their way home from a tiring day at school. All was normal in the world. The driver was making her way down the winding country roads. The elementary aged children were playing

with their friends while trying to avoid the attention of the driver. Parents were waiting at home to greet their children. Sadly, the bus wasn’t the only vehicle on the road. What nobody knew, nobody could have predicted, was that the town drunk had gotten started early that day. It was barely into the afternoon and he was already completely intoxicated, focusing intently on the road ahead of him. In an instant, life got turned upside down. The screeching of tires pierced the ears of anybody within range. Though the car was smaller, the impact couldn’t have been more precise. The car was already a mangled mess as the bus began to roll a seemingly infinite number of times down the adjacent hillside. For the solitary witness, it was a nightmare that had become reality. He got out of his car and ran full speed down the hillside, desperately praying he wouldn’t break an ankle before reaching the bus. As he approached the wreckage, it was lying on its roof and flames were beginning to roll with billowing smoke coming from the windows. The only thing he could think to do was rip open the back door and climb in. Some of the children were beyond hope but, much to his surprise, he found most of them to be alive and pleading for help. Before he could think, he had two children, one in each arm, and was jumping out the back door. Upon bringing them a safe distance, he returned to save more. The smoke was getting thicker and it would be only minutes before the flames overtook the children. He had to act fast. After he had saved another four children, he looked at the bus one more time. He knew he could easily save the remaining ten if he acted quickly. However, instead of racing for the coughing and crying children on the bus, he put his arms around the six he had saved and began to walk back up the hillside where he loaded them in his truck and brought them home. Not once did he look back. Not once did he ponder whether he should save the rest. Not once did he regret his decision. He could’ve saved them all but that simply wasn’t his intention. He saved as many as he wanted and that was just going to have to be good enough.

Where do you stand in regards to this story? Do you praise the man as a hero or do you condemn him as a monster who left children to die unnecessarily? Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, this isn’t a true story. Instead of being found in the latest headlines, it resides nowhere other than my brain and this blog. Truth be told, that’s not even an honest declaration. In reality, though I embellished a bit, it’s the foundation of an old theological argument against the doctrine of election. I know, shocking! Perhaps you’ve even heard the argument from someone else. Many who despise the doctrine of election love to use a similar story, placing God as the main character who is saving children from a burning fire. The claim is that, if God could save everybody yet chooses to let them perish while only saving some from the flames, it makes Him a monster. The next claim tends to be that a monstrous God should never be worshiped. In and of itself, I could agree with the last claim. However, is there really any validity in correlating God to the hero/monster in the above story? Is there any relation at all or is this a case of apples to oranges?

Unfortunately, too many would say the above story is accurate. I believe this is the direct result of knowing neither the righteousness of God nor the wretchedness of man. So long as man exalts himself to a loftier position than he ought, he will always demote God to a position other than that which He deserves while denigrating the Most High. Scripture speaks loudly of both God’s character and man’s status.

Deuteronomy 32:4 – “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

Isaiah 6:3 – And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Ezra 9:15 – O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.”

Numbers 11:15 – So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

Romans 7:24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

No, the story told above shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you hear somebody telling it, stop them any way you can and preach the gospel for they either do not know Christ as they should or they don’t know man as he is. A better analogy would be one of the same bus on the same road. Yet, instead of being filled with children on their way home from school, it’s filled with heinous convicted murderers being carted off to death row in a maximum security prison. Instead of being a drunk driver, it’s an interception with a prison break in mind. The mastermind behind the ordeal leaps into action. Everybody is confused. They never saw it coming. In fact, for the most part, the mastermind is so quick, they still don’t realize what’s happening. Yet, here we are again at a crossroads. The mastermind can break all sixteen prisoners out but he chooses to only grab six. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason behind who he selected but selected they were. The remaining ten sit in silence as they too don’t even realize what’s happening. They don’t even realize six of their fellow prisoners are no longer with them. The six who were broken out are stashed away at a safe house, given new identities, and are now walking amongst the world, minding their P’s and Q’s in an effort to avoid going back at all costs while forever indebted to the mastermind.

Surely, we aren’t thanking the mastermind for breaking out those who were convicted of murder. Nobody in their right mind would think this was a righteous move. In fact, most would be thankful he only snagged six instead of pulling out more. If the mastermind were ever to be discovered and captured, most reasonable people would demand he be put up on trial and convicted of his crimes. Are we now putting God on trial? Are we demeaning His character even in this story? While not all the details match up perfectly with God’s redemptive story, the concept is still there. Simply put, prior to regeneration, we more closely resemble the convicted murderers than we do the sweet and innocent children. As it stands, God took guilty men and set them free. He chose to save some

while leaving others to perish. If one wants to tout fairness, instead of crying over God not saving everybody, he should be seething over the fact that God, in His own infinite wisdom, chose to save ANYBODY! After all, we were guilty! We were wretched! We were vile! We hated God, cursing His name and trampling His goodness under our feet. We were bound for death row but He chose to take us off our collision course, give us new life, and abide with us forever. What a gracious God we serve!

It continues to amaze me that He would ever choose to save those who never would’ve chosen Him if the roles were reversed. For those who still despise the doctrine of election, it’s okay. So long as you trust that Christ is God, born in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21), died a horrific death (Matthew 27:26), rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4), and ascended to be seated at the Father’s right hand (Mark 16:19) for all of eternity in order that you might be saved so long as you trust in Him (Ephesians 2:8), while an important piece of doctrine, your position on election doesn’t change your status before God. You’re a part of it regardless and for that you can be thankful. God is good and, though we can now call ourselves saints (Ephesians 2:19), it’s only because of what He first did for us.

~ Travis W. Rogers

It Is Not Good…

ALONE. Have you ever felt completely and utterly alone? I don’t mean the occasional feeling of missing a loved one or even the feeling of being ostracized for an opinion. I’m referring to the deepest sense of the word. Have you ever felt as if you had nobody to turn to, nobody to love you, and nobody who cared about you? I can honestly say I haven’t ever felt this deep feeling of loneliness, yet I know there are many who have. It is discouraging to me whenever I hear of someone who feels this way. As mankind, God has decreed that it is not good that we be alone (Genesis 2:18). As saddening as it may be to me, I can only imagine how depressing and devastating it must be in the life of the one who has lost all hope of human connection. Sadly, we all too often see the tangible results of such thoughts and feelings. While the holidays are meant to be a time of reconciliation and family togetherness, for many, it is a time of hopelessness. Instead of smiles and laughs, we read of suicides and mourning loved ones who just couldn’t be seen through the fog of despair.
I’m reminded of a time when I had an encounter with a random stranger. He confided in me that he had renounced the Christian faith. His reasons were plenty but one in particular stood out to me. He felt like God had abandoned him. In a time of extreme struggle and hardship, he reached out to God but felt as if God had not reached out in return. To him, this was the final straw. How could a loving God leave a man in such turmoil? How could a kind God sit back and watch as he suffered the indignities of cruel humanity? How could the Father not respond to His child when he was pleading for help? At this moment, he had lost all hope in man and had reconciled in his mind that God was nothing more than the imaginary hope that man wanted Him to be. He was now hopeless. He had nobody.
How do we respond to such confessions? Do we treat them as any other criticism of the Christian faith? Do we bust out our Bibles and begin the Scripture recitations? Ashamedly, this is how many self-proclaimed Christians behave when faced with similar situations. There is a time and a place for standing firm in the Scriptures at all costs but there is always time to let the Scriptures speak in love. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to share with him God’s redemptive story beginning in Genesis all the way through Revelation. I shared how God had created mankind perfect and upright in His image (Genesis 1). I explained how mankind fell to the temptations of Satan and how, as a result, mankind was cursed (Genesis 3). I shed light on some practical examples and how sin shows itself in our daily lives. I explained how we have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are worthy of death (Romans 6:23). We looked at Ephesians 2:1 telling us we are dead in our trespasses and sins. He had shared with me how he had done so much for his fellow man only to be greeted with thanklessness in return. This prompted a review of Isaiah 64:6 where he states that even our greatest works are as filthy rags. Sin is nothing more than a failure to put God at the center of all things. Regardless of what we may deem good, it will always be in the relative sense. Unless God is at the center, it will always be as foul as filthy, blood-stained rags. Nothing we can ever dream of doing will ever earn God’s favor nor should we expect it to net us something in return. Even if our entire life should reflect the portion where Job suffered worst, it would only be a small portion of what we actually deserve for our rebellion against God Almighty.
My goal in all of this was to show how, as mankind, we are depraved and sinful beings. We have a sense of entitlement when, in reality, we deserve nothing. Yet, as sinful beings worthy of nothing, God has decreed that it is not good for man to be alone. Indeed, even when we have nothing, we know that God does not want us to feel alone. I could’ve left our discussion at that but then I’d be no better than those fierce Christians I spoke of earlier. Where would my demonstration of Christ-like love be? After all, he was already feeling the bitterness of being alone. Should I kick him while he’s down and tell him he deserves nothing due to his sinfulness? No, there was too much left to the story to leave it at that. I wanted to make it abundantly clear that God has promised never to leave nor forsake His own (Hebrews 13:5). If we have been reconciled to the Father through Christ the Son (2 Corinthians 5:18), He will always be with us. Though we may not always feel His presence, we can be assured He is there with us. Just as He has declared it is not good for man to be alone, He has also declared we will always have communion with Him through the Son.
Of course, none of this would be complete without tying it into Christ’s redemptive work. I wanted to highlight the fact that Christ, God in the flesh, came to this Earth with a specific purpose. He lived a sinless life only to be met with contempt. He demonstrated love in its perfection only to be met with hate, mockery, and an excruciating death. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Hanging on that cross, he was cursed by God (Galatians 3:13) so that we would not be. Christ knew communion with God better than any of us could ever imagine. He was God! He had the most intimate of relationships with the Father. Yet, this innocent man came of his own accord to give himself up as the ultimate sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and reconcile all of His own. That moment when Christ became sin (note, not a sinner), he experienced perhaps the greatest agony of all. No, it was not the nails piercing his skin nor was it the scourged flesh hanging off his body. Nor was it the salted sweat dripping into his wounds. In the midst of such torment, Christ had to endure the fact that God the Father turned His back on His Son (Matthew 27:46). This was the most unimaginable sorrow any man had ever felt. Christ had the feeling of absolute loneliness on that cross. His own Father had forsaken him. It had to be this way if Christ were to accomplish that which he came to perform.
As alone as a person may feel, it will never come close to what Christ had to endure. God Himself has assured us of this. Friends, if you or someone you know ever feels totally alone, I encourage you to remember that God is with you. Even if your heart tells you there is nobody there, please understand that the heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Though the Christian has been set free from the shackles of sin, there is still a very real battle against the flesh. If you are a Christian, I implore you to pray harder than ever before and to not lose hope that God is by your side. Whether or not you feel He is answering your prayers, they will be answered in His perfect time and we need to place our unwavering trust in the God who created the universe. Trust that the God who forsook His Son has promised never to leave nor forsake us. This should be an encouragement of the utmost degree. If you are not a Christian, it is my prayer that you would look to God, cast all of your burdens upon Him, show yourself before Him, and trust in the miraculous gift of Christ. Only then will you truly understand the hope that is found within (1 Peter 3:15). Friend, you do not have to be alone.
~Travis W. Rogers

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