Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Suffering of God’s People Continues to Mark Church History.

Polycarp was the Bishop of Smyrna around 155-160 AD.  He was arrested by the Roman authorities.  They took him to the local Arena.  In the Arena they exhorted him, saying, “Swear by the Genius of Caesar; repent, say, ‘Away with the atheists!” 

Polycarp looked around the arena. Then he motioned toward the crowd with his hands and he said, “Away with the atheists!” 

The magistrate persisted.  He said, “Swear the oath and I will release you. Revile Christ!”

Polycarp replied, “For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  And so Polycarp persisted in his faith.  And they lit him on fire.

John Huss was a minister in Bohemia.  He was a preacher of justification by faith alone in Christ alone.  In 1415 Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance.  On July 6, 1415 John Hus was burned at the stake for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In October 1555 Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were burned at the stake in Oxford, England.  What was their crime?  Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Or consider Hugh MacKail – the 20-something Scottish pastor in the 1660s.  When they arrested MacKail they took him to the Tollbooth.  There they placed his leg in the Boot, a device of torture whereby the knee would be broken – forcing it to bend backwards, one wedge at a time. 

As they moved MacKail back to his cell, he was heard to say, “How good is the news! Four days now till I see Jesus!” 

When he was asked about his impending hanging, MacKail said he was far less bothered about dying than he had ever been about preaching a sermon.  When the day came, as he went up the ladder, he said, “Every step is a degree nearer to heaven.”  They hung him from the gallows.  What was his crime?  Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Down to today, Christians continue to suffer.  Recently about 150 Hindu radicals attacked 4 Christian families who had gathered for worship in India.  Following the attack, the Christians were asked to recant their faith. When they refused, the Christians were beaten again. 

In Central Africa, rioters attacked a pastor’s home and a church located close to the city center.  The church building was set on fire along with the pastor’s home. 

These sorts of stories are happening all over the world. 

The suffering of God’s people continues to mark the history of the church. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Throughout the Bible God’s People – The Church – Have Suffered.

The history of God’s people is the history of suffering.  The major redemptive act of the Old Testament is the exodus.  The exodus was necessary because “a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8).  The new king enslaved the people of God. He appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor.  The exodus comes from a setting of suffering. 

David suffered at the hands of King Saul.  Saul’s jealousy of David provoked Saul to seek David’s life.  Saul threw a spear at him. Saul hunted him. Saul chased him through the wilderness.  David suffered at the hands of his king. 

The New Testament begins with the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  Herod cut is head off because John had the audacity to confront Herod’s sin. 

The gospel age begins with the crucifixion of Jesus.  Our Savior is the suffering servant.  Jesus was “oppressed and afflicted.”  Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  Jesus was pierced through for our transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities.  Though I will come back to this, we must not forget that we follow a crucified Savior. 

The church begins with suffering.  As Stephen pointed to Jesus, the leaders drove Stephen out of the city and began stoning him.  They laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 

We know Saul better as Paul of Tarsus.  He was an early church planter.  He was a writer of many of the New Testament epistles.  Paul reports his own suffering to the church in 2 Corinthians 11:23-39.

James the brother of John was put to death with a sword.  John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos where he received the Revelation. 

Clearly, throughout the Bible God’s people suffered. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Role of Women in the Church

The role of women in the church, like the role of men in the church, begins with character.  Who we are is always more important than what we do. 

Thus Paul told Timothy that women are to be dignified.  They are to avoid gossip.  They are to have self-control, and to be faithful (c.f. 1 Timothy 3:11). 

Writing to Titus, Paul said, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:3-5). 

Again, there is the exhortation to pursue a godly character.  Sensible. Pure. Kind. This character is to first of all be lived out at home – love their husbands, love their children, workers at home, being subject to their own husbands.  But the word “likewise” presses that older women are to teach younger women.  Specifically older women in the church are to teach younger women in the church how to be godly women.  How to develop this godly character. And how to display that godly character in the various areas of life. 

But a woman’s role is not just confined to the home.  In Acts 1:14 we see that women participated in the corporate prayer meeting with the men.  Both men and women gathered together and prayed. 

1 Corinthians 11:4-5 says, “Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 

Here a woman is encouraged to pray or prophecy – though she must do so with her head covered.  In other words, she must recognize the authority which God has put in place in her life.  Thus, a woman’s praying, or any other speech in church, is to be done in a way that acknowledges the authority God has placed in a church. 

Is it ok for a woman to voice a prayer during a co-ed prayer meeting? Yes.  Is it ok for a woman to pray during Sunday morning worship? Yes.  Is it ok for a woman to read Scripture during Sunday worship? Yes.  Why? Because her action is done under the authority of the elders of the church. 

Acts 18:26 might be a surprise.  For there the Bible says, “and [Apollos] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.  Here we read that Priscilla and Aquila took a man aside and taught him more accurately.  Thus it seems that there is room for a husband and wife to teach a Sunday School class together. 

What is the role of women in the church?  Necessary!  But again, the role of the woman is not as important as her character.