Archive for November, 2010

Biblical Church Government & Trustee Boards

The church I have the privilege of pastoring has pastors/deacons/deaconesses and trustees.  Our deacons function in many regards like biblical elders but that sermon is for another Sunday.  New Testament church polity is really not that confusing.  The apostles appointed a plurality of godly men to help govern, lead, and shepherd the early church.  Those men (elders) served as spiritual overseers and were the primary spiritual teachers in each local church.  My sermon series on this subject can be examined here (note the series: “By Whose Authority? Spiritual Leaders in the Local Church”)

I am currently reading Wesley and Men Who Followed a book written by my favorite author, Iain H. Murray.  In this book I came across the following comment on trustees.

There was, however, on preparation for the future that Wesley had made and one which was to prove his wisdom.  By 1791 there were about 400 meeting-houses belonging to his connexion and the deeds of these buildings were held by local trustees.  From time to time these trustees were so attracted to certain preachers that they would have been glad to have them permanently.  No such option was allowed in Wesley’s lifetime but it suggested one possibility for the future: let the Assistants all become ministers settled in local churches.  Wesley had foreseen such a scenario and put arrangements in place to prevent it.  His reasons were twofold: first, such a change would put the appointment of preachers into the hands of trustees, men who were not called to be spiritual leaders.  This would necessarily have been the case because the people in his societies knew nothing of the ‘democracy’ of independency, and were (not without reason) prejudiced against any form of Presbyterianism.  Second, and more important, settling men in local churches would bring an end to the itinerant plan upon which, he was convinced, so much good depended.

Because a trustee board is a non-biblical office and because with the exception of my current pastorate I have never been apart of a local church that had trustees I have yet to do a historical study on this “office” (for lack of a better word).  I always assumed that a trustee board was a modern Baptist invention.  That assumption was held until I read this paragraph in Murray’s latest book on John Wesley (is it a Methodist invention?).  Does anyone know of a good resource that accurately chronicles the development of trustees throughout church history?

If you want to know what my convictions are with regard to the subject of biblical church polity I direct your attention again to our church website  and the sermon audio section.  The best books that I know of on this subject are those written by Alexander Strauch and John MacArthur’s the Master’s Plan for the Church.


“What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? (John 6:62)

Augustine and the purpose of preaching

Having established that the purpose of preaching is to strengthen the bond of love between God and his people as well as the bond of love between Christians, Augustine moves on to speak of how the preacher is to go about the interpretation of Scripture, for the work of the preacher consists of two parts: first, to ascertain the meaning of Scripture, and second, to communicate that meaning once it it ascertained.

(Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Church: Volume 2 The Patristic Age, 388)

It’s just gas

Doug Wilson tells a funny one:

One time G.K. Chesterton, the rolypologist, was patted on the stomach by his adversary, George Bernard Shaw, a beanpole of an infidel, and was asked what they were going to name the baby. Chesterton replied immediately that if it was a boy, John, if a girl, then Mary. But if it turned out to only be gas, they were going to name it George Bernard Shaw.

Egomaniac Theological Society

In his interesting little book The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis has his narrator meet a respectable academic theologian who is on his way to present a paper at the local Theological Society.  In a somewhat humorous way, Lewis has the man just gushing, wanting to tell everyone what his research paper is about. By the way, it’s probably worth noting that this professor is on his way to Hell in Lewis’s story.

“But you’ve never asked me what my paper is about! I’m taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you’ll be interested in. I’m going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his earlier views, you know, if he’d lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste . . . so much promise cut short.”[1]

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Collier Books, 1946), 46.

Shake the tree

Luther said, “Divine Scripture is a very fertile tree, and there is no branch which I have not shaken with my own hands, and knocked down a few apples” (Table Talks, no. 5355).

The flow of the Olivet Discourse in Matt 24-25

I have been preaching through Matthew’s gospel account for the last few years and recently completed the section commonly known as “The Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24-25). The following is an expositional outline based on my own understanding of the text. Some of the phraseology is new and some is borrowed. The intent of this outline is to capture the flow of the text. This is not necessarily a preaching outline, although it can be if handled with care. I picture the text like eight movements in a musical score with each movement contributing to the overall masterpiece that is Jesus’ final sermon to His disciples.

I.               Introduction (24:1-3)

A.     The Setting (vs. 1)

B.     The Occasion (vs. 2)

C.     The Subject (vs. 3)

II.             Movement One: The Signs of Tribulation (24:4-14)

A.     Leadership troubles (vs. 5) (cf. vs. 24; see also 2 Thess 2:11)

B.     Geopolitical troubles (vs. 6)

C.     Natural troubles (vs. 7) (cf. Luke 21:11; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; *Rev 6:8)

D.    Initial timing of the signs (vs. 8)

E.     Religious troubles (vs. 9) (cf. Rev 7:14; 2 Tim 3:12; Matt 10:24-25)

F.     Faithfulness troubles (vs. 10) (cf. Mk 13:12; Luke 21:16; 1 John 2:19; 1 Pet 1:5; John 10:27)

i.     Because of persecution (vs. 10)

ii.     Because of deception (vs. 11)

iii.     Because of sin (vs. 12)

iv.     Encouragement (vs. 13)

G.     The gospel and the end (vs. 14)

III.           Movement Two: The End of Tribulation (24:15-28) (cf. Rev 7:14; Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1)

A.     Characterized by unholy worship (vs. 15)

B.     Characterized by unrelenting persecution (vv. 16–20)

C.     Characterized by unparalleled distress (vs. 21)

D.    Characterized by unshakable sovereignty (vs. 22)

E.     Characterized by unmistakable return (vv. 23–28)

IV.            Movement Three: Return of Christ (24:29-31)

A.     The Surety of Christ’s return (vs. 29)

i.     Historical

ii.     Future

iii.     Cosmic

B.     The Sign of Christ’s return (vs. 30)

C.     The Splendor of Christ’s return (vs. 31)

V.              Movement Four: Parable of the Fig Tree (24:32–41)

A.     The Parable: a word of instruction (vs. 32)

B.     The People: a word of encouragement (vv. 33–34)

C.     The Passing: a word of warning (vs. 35)

D.    The Teaching: anticipation (vv. 36–41)

i.     The timing (vs. 36)

ii.     The analogy (vv. 37–39)

iii.     The result (vv. 40–41)

VI.            Movement Five: Parable of the Thief and the Two Slaves (24:42–51)

A.     The Thief: vigilance (vv. 42–44)

B.     The Two:  faithfulness (vv. 48–51)

i.     Faithful servant (vv. 45–51)

ii.     Unfaithful servant (vv. 48–51)

VII.          Movement Six: Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1–13)

A.     The Delay (vv.1–5)

B.     The Arrival (vv.6–9)

C.     The Feast (vv.10–12)

D.    The Meaning (vs. 13)

VIII.        Movement Seven: Parable of the Talents (25:14–30)

A.     The Journey (vv.14–15)

B.     The Investment (vv.16–18)

C.     The Reward (vv.19–30)

IX.            Movement Eight: Return in Judgment and Glory (25:31–46)

A.     The Setting: Return for Judgment (vv. 31–33)

i.     Messiah is in control (vs. 31)

ii.     Universal in scope (vs. 32)

iii.     Final in nature (vs. 33)

B.     The Invitation: Inheritance of the Sheep (vv. 34–40)

C.     The Rejection:  Condemnation of the Goats (vv. 41–45)

D.    The Conclusion: A Fulfilled Promise (vs. 46)

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