Occasion: Eight Anniversary Service Anchor Baptist Church Cape Coast, Ghana
Date: 27th August 2017
“Three Facts about the Future of This Church”
Text: Revelation 3:10-13 “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown…”
Introduction: If there is anything that I can present to this congregation on this special and happy occasion, it will be the contents that will follow in this message from God’s word. These facts are non-negotiables in the life and health of this local church. If we fail to put into practice the truths found in this message, we will one day cease to exist as a vibrant gospel preaching local church. The truths we will examine today require far more attention than the few minutes we will take to examine them this morning. If we correctly embrace this exhortation today, these facts will provide the framework for the life of our church and its members for the rest of their lives, and the lives of those who follow behind them till Christ returns. One day, we will all stand at Christ’s judgment seat, and as the text exhorted this dear Christians in Philadelphia, there is something to grasp with all our might today and there is something to be lost or gained on that day.
Fact 1: If this church will hold fast until Christ comes: we must be a doctrinally sound church
- If we do not hold fast to sound doctrine, we will cease to be a church in the Biblical sense
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 Stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2 Timothy 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
- We must hold fast to the gospel: If we lose the gospel, we have lost the faith Jude 1:3 Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
- We must hold fast to sound Christian doctrine Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
- We must hold fast to preaching on personal holiness 1 Peter 1:14-15 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Fact 2: If this church will hold fast until Christ comes: we must be a Christ-like church
- If we do not have Christ-like character, we will self destruct and undermine the message we are trying to proclaim.
Philippians 2:2-5 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Colossian 3:12-15 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Romans 12:2 Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
- Humility: We must be gracious, teachable, and peaceable.
- Compassion: We must genuinely care about the spiritual and physical wellbeing of others.
- Conviction: We must know what is right, refuse to compromise, and purpose to do the will of God in all things.
- Focus: We must not be distracted by the things of this world.
Fact 3: If this church will hold fast until Christ comes: we must be a reproducing church
- If we do not reproduce ourselves, in one generation, there will be no church:
- Our families: Evangelism and discipleship Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
- Our neighbors: Evangelism and discipleship Acts 5:42 Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
- Our future leaders: Service and mentoring 2 Timothy 2:2 The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Conclusion: My appeal to you from the word of God is simple to understand, yet may require you to put off certain attitudes, ideas, and habits and then to replace them with new attitudes, ideas, and habits. This message may cause your to face troubling and painful realities about the way you think and live on a daily basis, but that pain is for your good and Christ’s glory at His judgment seat. How will you respond to this exhortation? Will you embrace it as the words of a friend directing you to the words of your Creator and Lord? May God graciously grant us repentance as He transforms us through the renewing of our minds. May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a will to be moved and molded by the Spirit of God through His word.
Are John’s statements in verse 20 “ye know all things” and his statement in verse 27 “ye need not that any man teach you…” meant to be understood as universal statements without limitation?
1 John 2:20-27 “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth…These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie…”
For those who may have missed our first post, consider reading Should Christians Hesitate to Use Bible Study Tools Like Commentaries and Studies Bibles Based on 1 John 2:20-27 and John 16:12-14? for context:
If the answer to our first question is yes, consider the implications of such a position. First, there would be no need for a believer to attend any kind of school even for a secular vocational training, he would have no need to sit under any pastoral or lay teaching for instruction in Christian doctrine, nor would he have any need to be discipled by an older more mature believer. In this view, the Holy Spirit would be his only teacher, and he would be wise to shut himself off from all opposing voices that could muddy the waters of what the Spirit is teaching him. In addition, there would be no need for mature spirit-filled believers to debate amongst themselves on doctrinal matters, because they would all believe essentially the same thing, seeing that they all are mature and guided by the same Holy Spirit. We would even expect to see the Great Commission and apostolic instruction in the epistles articulate a different paradigm then the one we find in the New Testament. Having stated these observations without much explanation, I will address these thoughts more thoroughly under question four: “How does the rest of Scripture relate to John’s statement in 1 John 2?”
On the other side, if the answer is no, then in what ways are the scope of these statements limited by the context of John’s epistle? Our next post will discuss that question: “What is the specific situation that John is addressing in this epistle?”
Should Christians Hesitate to Use Bible Study Tools Like Commentaries and Studies Bibles Based on 1 John 2:20-27 and John 16:12-14?
As a missionary and pastor, passages like 1 John 2:20-27 and John 16:12-14 have always demanded a significant time of personal reflection. There really are two reasons for this. One is that I have preached verse by verse through John and am currently working through 1 John, and secondly, I have seen first hand the devastating consequences to those who misapply Scripture to their own destruction. We have all heard the statement “Practice makes perfect.” Really, this statement does not take into account the nature of the practice in which one is engaged. Practice does make permanent, but that permanent may in the long term prove to be detrimental to the person in training if his practice has firmly established detrimental habits. We all approach the Bible with certain biases and blind spots that often cloud the meaning of the text. Our culture, family situations, local church background, friends, fear, and pride all play a role in this subtle blurring of what should be very clear. Many times, our understanding of a passage like these two passages is not really built on careful observation of context and the author’s intent, but rather it is rooted in the status quo, what we have always heard. If we read the passage 5 times or we read the passage 100 times, our faulty understanding is never brought into question; rather it becomes more firmly rooted in our minds. This is why Paul commanded Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15 to be a diligent workman,“rightly dividing the word of truth.” Peter warned Christians in 2 Peter 3:16 to be careful of false teachers who are “unlearned and unstable” and “wrest” “the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” We also see in Hebrews 5:13-14, we are warned that spiritually immature people are “unskillful in the word of righteousness” while those who are spiritually mature “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Rightly dividing the Word of Truth, is something that we grow in as we mature in the faith, and as we learn to establish good study habits that dig into the correct understanding of what “Paul or John” meant. It is not until we meet someone who rocks the boat for us that we for the first time carefully observe the text and understand it correctly. That person can come in many forms. It may be a person to whom we are trying to minister. It may be someone who flatly opposes our position. Who it is or the circumstances surrounding that confrontation are irrelevant. What really matters is that we step back, put aside our biases, and examine the details of the passage so the correct understanding can tear down our presuppositions. I want to invite you to look at these two passages more carefully, and consider the implications of your current position. Consider the following questions, and then let’s take them one by one:
- Are John’s statements in verse 20 “ye know all things” and his statement in verse 27 “ye need not that any man teach you…” meant to be understood as universal statements without limitation?
- What is the specific situation that John is addressing in this epistle?
- How does this specific situation limit the scope of what John is saying?
- How does the rest of Scripture relate to this statement?
- How should we apply John’s statement?
When we consider the last post, we were reminded how easy it is to twist words when the whole conversation has not been considered. Each part serves a particular aspect under-girding the writer’s main point, so I want us to begin our study of 1 John in that place, John’s main point. John writes in verses 1-4 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life…That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
What captures your attention in the opening of John’s letter? Three thoughts come to my mind. First, John’s words in the opening of this epistle draw our attention to the opening words of two other books in the Bible, the gospel of John and Genesis. Notice the similarities between “That which was from the beginning…the Word of life…”, “In the beginning was the Word…”, and “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” All three passages emphasize the eternality of the central figure in these books, God. In Genesis, the central figure is Yahweh the Creator. In John’s gospel, the central figure is the Word, the Creator, and in 1 John again, we find the Word of Life. Secondly, John’s words draw our attention to the physical reality of the incarnation of Christ. He says: “that which we have heard, our hands have handled, and that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you…” John is writing as a witness of physical events that he personally experienced, and then he is going to relate those events to the spiritual well-being of his church congregation. Apart from the incarnation of Christ, there could be no eternal life. Thirdly, John is going to emphasize his main point for writing the epistle. He says “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us…And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” John’s purpose can be summarized generally with the following statement: John wrote the his epistle confronting false teaching concerning the person of Christ and the nature of the Christian life, because he wanted these Christians to have a vibrant Christian experience as they walk in fellowship with God. God wants you to have a vibrant Christian experience as you walk in fellowship with Him, as well; therefore He preserved these words for your growth as a Christian. In our next post, I would like to dig a little deeper into John’s purpose, a vibrant Christian experience.
Imagine for a monument that you are a young person who has taken the potentially life changing step to run for public office in your local community. After formally announcing your candidacy, you are approached by a member of a popular local media outlet soliciting your first formal interview. Being young and inexperienced, you thrill at the opportunity to get your name and views out to the public, and after completing the interview, you eagerly anticipate its publication. Finally, the day comes that the interview is published. You pick up the paper and begin absorbing the article, but to your dismay, you meet an article that is far less flattering toward your views than you anticipated. You cringe in several location, where the author twisted your words, and presented them in a way that misrepresented your views. Every quote was verbatim, however not every quote accurately portrayed what you said in the interview. You quickly learned the hard lesson, that your words can be easily twisted and presented in a way that is quite contrary to your original intention.
As a pastor, it is both my passion and sacred duty to labor to “rightly divide” the word of truth for God’s people. Pastoral labors are not strictly academic; however, living and working in the midst of God’s people provide countless reminders of the devastating consequences of embracing false teaching to whatever degree we meet it. Ideas have consequences, and the degree to which we embrace right ideas will directly manifest itself in the blessings we experience in our daily Christian walk. To the contrary, wrong ides also have varying degrees of negative consequences. It was this passion that drove the Apostle John to pen a series of simple yet practical epistles to his beloved church family at Ephesus. Over last few months in our church here in Cape Coast, we have been studying the first of these epistles. Week after week, my hearts has been stirred by the pastoral love of John for his church family, and his desire to confront wrong thinking. It is my desire to share with you some of the highlights of our time spent in this epistle. Our next post will discuss the primary situation facing the church, and John’s approach to correcting this great problem in the church.