Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

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Constantinian Shift Pt. 2

Thursday, October 12, 2017

(This question is a follow-up to “Constantinian Shift”)

I am glad you have corrected your statement about Constantine "forcing" all to convert to Christianity.  There is a very fine line between statements of historical truth and statements meant to lead a reader to a conclusion by implication and exaggeration.  My only issue with your line of reasoning has to do with how you determine what is historically reliable and what is not.  You cannot have things both ways.  When presented with historical sources and actual named witnesses to a questioner laying a foundation of an organized church before Constantine, you rejected the history outright and claimed it was contradictory and unreliable (see your response to "A History Of Error" in the Catholic archive).  Then in response to other topics (canon of New Testament and Constantine's activities), you relied on extra-biblical historical accounts.  So on one hand, you are relying on history to make some points, while on the other hand, you are rejecting history to disprove other points.  I am hoping you see this contradiction as I really don't want you guys to keep sawing off the very branch you are sitting on in an attempt to influence your readers away from a faith you don't agree with.  Why do you accept the testimony of the witnesses to Constantine's subtle ways of influencing conversion?  What makes you think those extra-biblical accounts are reliable?  How do you know the early church historians (bishops and clergy) that attest to an organized church before the famous edict are unreliable?

Sincerely,
Cite Your Sources Please

Dear Cite Your Sources Please,

We appreciate your concern over our use of extra-biblical history.  Let's see if we can quickly clarify.  We use historical resources as reliable sources in regards to Constantine because that is the ONLY history of Constantine we have.  The Bible never directly deals with Constantine; therefore, we are left to use secular history as our only guide.  You may have misunderstood our statements about Constantine – we do believe Constantine forced people to obey his state-run religion.  As we mentioned in the last post, he forced them by using inducements.

The times that we have stated that the early church historians were being unreliable or contradictory is when we do have a biblical account to compare it to.  The Bible is always the first and foremost guide in church history, and the Bible soundly condemns Catholicism's practices.  Therefore, people who lived and taught anything in opposition to the Bible are wrong, no matter whom they are.  There were early church historians that were beginning to move toward the Catholic way of functioning before the era of Constantine (Constantine simply is the historical demarcation point when things began to quickly move downhill), but the fact that early church writers taught things contradictory to Bible teachings discredit them in doctrinal matters.  We can trust early historians in secular history unless they prove otherwise (i.e. contradict the majority of historians); we can trust early historians in religious history unless they prove otherwise (i.e. contradict Scripture).  Hopefully, that gives you some clarity as to why it seems like we are "cherry picking" the history that we want.  Everything gets compared to Scripture – even early church writers.

Asking For Directions

Friday, September 15, 2017
I need help with guidance.  I have lately been doubting the power of God.  I need help gaining a religion to belong to.  In my family, there are many different and conflicting religions, and some have no religion at all.  I have gone to many churches, but I have never really belonged to one.  I worry about going to hell for my uncertainty.  Can you please help me?

Sincerely,
Looking For A Home

Dear Looking For A Home,

The problem with much of religion today is that it is confusing and contradictory!  Some churches teach one thing while others teach the exact opposite… yet, they all call themselves christians.  The confusion has occurred because most religion is built around people’s opinions and preferences, instead of the foundation of Scripture.  God’s Word isn’t confusing (1 Cor 14:33), but people sure have a way of muddying the waters, and the more confusing religion is, the easier it is to just want to give up trying.

The denomination world teaches that how you act and worship are matters of opinion, but Jesus said that how you act and worship are matters of truth (Jhn 4:24).  The only way to avoid denominationalism is to find a congregation that simply teaches what the Bible says – no creeds, no opinions, no personal agendas.  If we truly love Christ, we will follow His commandments (1 Jn 5:2).

Everything a church does (worship, membership, how they teach to be saved, how they spend their money, even their name) needs to have Bible verses backing them up (1 Tim 3:15).  A church needs to be able to explain the reasons for why they do what they do (1 Pet 3:15).

Our congregation here in Monroe goes by the name ‘Monroe Valley church of Christ’ because ‘church of Christ’ is a Biblical name for a congregation (Rom 16:16).  We worship by singing (Col 3:16), studying the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), praying (2 Thess 3:1), taking communion (only on Sundays – Acts 20:7), and taking up a collection (also only on Sundays – 1 Cor 16:1-2).  We teach that you must hear God’s Word (Rom 10:17), believe God’s Word (Jhn 3:16), repent of your sins (Mk 6:12), confess Jesus as your Savior (Lk 12:8), and be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21).  We do all these things because they are practices found in the Bible.  As you said, you don’t want to go to a church that offers their own thoughts – you want God’s thoughts.

There are other congregations like ours scattered across the country and the world.  Most of them use the name ‘church of Christ’, but then again, many churches that use that name aren’t faithful.  A Bible name for a church isn’t enough to make it faithful.  We have helped others, like yourself, looking for New Testament Christianity find faithful congregations in their area by contacting other preachers and christians that we know.  We’d be happy to do the same for you.  If you feel comfortable, just let us know what general area you live in, and we will try and get you in touch with a congregation that lives like your Bible reads (our e-mail is askyourpreacher@mvchurchofchrist.org).  It is frustrating, confusing, and exasperating to deal with denominationalism and it does lead to a sense of uncertainty.  Thanks be to God that there is a better option!

He's Outta Here!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Who fires a preacher?  The men's meeting or the congregation?

Sincerely,
Finger On The Button

Dear Finger On The Button,

Preachers serve at the pleasure of the congregation.  A preacher is supported when a congregation believes he is doing work worthy of his hire (1 Tim 5:18).  If a congregation no longer believes that he is worthy of his hire – they cease supporting him and no longer give him the privilege of using their pulpit.  This may be because he is no longer a good fit for the group, or it might be because he no longer is teaching the truth.  In either case, the congregation makes that decision.

Now the problem is a congregation is made up of a group of people, and that group of people has to make decisions through some leadership structure.  In a perfect scenario, the church leadership is a group of qualified elders (men who meet the standards of 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9).  If a congregation has elders, those men would make the decision to support (or cease supporting) a preacher.  If a congregation doesn’t have elders, they must make decisions as a unit – this often involves a men’s business meeting.  If the men’s meeting is making decisions for the congregation, the choice to no longer support a preacher would fit under their purview.

Head Coverings

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Please clarify the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.  In church, we are required to pray individually and corporately.  I see women in church and on T.V. ministries lead prayers and prophesy without head covering.  In 1 Cor 11:1, Paul says, " Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ".  Verse two says, "... Keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you."  Verse sixteen says, "But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God."

Sincerely,
Keep Your Hat On

Dear Keep Your Hat On,

Women must always have their heads covered while praying (1 Cor 11:5), but God has built into every woman a permanent head-covering – her hair (1 Cor 11:15).  God designed men and women differently… this should be no surprise to anyone that has ever dealt with the opposite gender!  Men are to be the leaders in the home (Eph 5:23) and the church (Tit 1:5-6).  Women are the heart of the family (Tit 2:4-5), and men are not complete without them (1 Cor 11:12).  Both genders are equal heirs of salvation, but they are designed with different strengths and roles (1 Pet 3:7).  One way that God signifies this is by having men look different from women.  When women have long hair and men have short hair – it pleases God (1 Cor 11:14-15).  There are varying degrees of long and short hair, but ultimately – men are to look like men, and women are to look like women.  This principle is even borne out in the Old Testament (Deu 22:5).  The teachings of 1 Cor 11:1-16 are simply teaching that a woman’s long hair is a God-given covering for her head, and men are not to have that same covering due to their varying roles in leadership.

Trouble At The Top Pt. 2

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

(This post is a follow-up to “Trouble At The Top”)

First of all, I wanted to thank you for the answer to a recent question about the doctrinal problem I was having in the church I attend.  But because of the answer, I have other questions I would like to ask.  They are:
  1. Why is this truth of Acts 20:17 not taught?
  2. All the churches in the area that I know of have a pastor, two to three elders, and deacons.  Where is this type of church government found in the Word?
  3. If it is not, why is it so popular and allowed?

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Skeptical

Dear Skeptical,

There is a constant battle in the religious world between doctrinal purity and ecumenicalism.  Ecumenicalism is the teaching that we should accept anyone and everything just as they are.  It is impossible to accept everyone as they are and still remain true to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  As people move toward tolerance of all, they move away from Christ.  Sadly, most churches in America flourish under the banner of total acceptance… this is why Acts 20:17 (among other simple but unpopular biblical teachings) isn’t taught.

The Bible even warns us that such things would happen.  Paul told Timothy that most churches would eventually stop teaching truth and start preaching whatever peoples’ ears itched to hear (2 Tim 4:3-4).  Whenever the main goal of preaching becomes to make people happy, false teaching abounds.  Paul also warned that there would be a “falling away” in the years following the Bible’s completion (2 Thess 2:3).  Every time a church shoves the Bible to the side and begins to do what is popular instead of what is faithful (faith comes by hearing and applying God’s Word – Rom 10:17), it falls away.  That is what began to happen to the Galatian church.  Paul warned them that they were misusing the Bible.  The Galatians were warping and twisting the Word, and that is just as bad as not using the Bible at all (Gal 1:6-9).  Many churches do exactly what the Galatian church did; they add or subtract from the Bible whenever it suits them, and consequently, they stop being a faithful church (Rev 22:18-19).

The biblical pattern for a congregation is for a plurality of elders to lead the church (1 Pet 5:1-2).  Those elders must meet the qualifications of 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9.  If there are men qualified to be deacons, they should be appointed to serve as helpers for the elders (‘deacon’ means ‘servant’).  Deacons must meet the qualifications found in 1 Tim 3:8-13.  There is no example in the Bible of a leadership structure other than that.  The single-pastor system is totally manmade… popular, to be sure, but still manmade.  We’ve all seen that many things in this life that are popular are also wrong.  The Bible is God’s tool to bring us salvation (Rom 1:16-17)… if we want that salvation, we must stand firm and not let Satan delude its influence.  The only way to stay doctrinally pure and pleasing to God is to test every church practice against the Bible (1 Jn 4:1).

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