We live in the most prosperous and wealthy nation that has ever been. I would say this is one of the most relevant spiritual topics both on a macro and micro level to the Church. It also doesn’t hurt that this topic is right up my alley given my profession. In my profession I have seen all kinds of examples of stewardship where money is treated as the master and how people are consumed with making and acquiring the next dollar as well as the avenues and lengths they have gone to get it.
Do you realize that money/stewardship is one of the most frequent topics in all of scripture? Did you also realize that in the 89 Chapters of the gospel accounts (Matt, Mark,Luke, and John) that money/stewardship is discussed approximately 123 times. Further more one half of all of Jesus’ parables discuss money/stewardship in some aspect? And lastly some of the most harsh warnings in scripture are in regards to money/stewardship.
So what is stewardship? I define stewardship in very simple terms…. Stewardship is the management of an asset that is from or belongs to another. With that definition in mind it brings me to what must be the first principle in Christian stewardship. EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD!!! See Deuteronomy 10:14 and Psalm 89:11. With that definition of Stewardship and the first principle in mind we need to ensure that we give equal significance, effort, and focus in acquiring assets and proper handling of these assets. It has to be a balance or we run the risk of stepping into the many harsh warnings that we see in scripture.
A few of these warnings are found in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Matthew 19:24, and Matthew 6:24. As you can see, it is very clear the warnings that scripture lays out for us in our pursuit of possessions and money and how easy it is to be overtaken by those desires. However, if we go back to the first principle that EVERYTHING BELONGS TO GOD, we are merely stewards of his assets that he created and gave to us, and we realize that we only have possession for a short period of time
Next let’s take a look at what the wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes has to say in regards to this topic. The writer brings out the meaningless cycle and toil, the burden of trying to keep up with others, and the effects of never being satisfied. However, he also points out that we can have satisfaction as we see in chapter 2:24-25.
So as we are going about living in a world that views Stewardship in basically an opposite way that we strive to as Christians, let’s remember the words of Jesus in Acts 20:35: IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE!
In Phil 2.2 Paul uses an imperative — make my joy complete. Because of this imperative, we know that something was still missing with that church. How were they to complete his joy? By having one mind, possessing one love, working closely with each other, by avoiding selfishness or pride, by practicing humility, by considering others to be more valuable than self, and by investing in the lives of others.
Look at the language used in 2.1 — if you’re encouraged by Christ, if you’re encouraged by love, if you share a common mindset, if you’re capable of compassion and pity, then make my joy complete by being unified and putting others above self.
When we think of issues in a church, our minds usually go straight to false teaching. We want to make sure nothing inaccurate makes its way into our doctrine. That’s definitely an important part of our spiritual health, but it isn’t the only issue we face.
This entire letter is all about how critical it is that we keep our relationships with each other healthy. And this isn’t the only time God communicates that message with us — I Jn 4.20 says, “If you hate anyone in your Christian family, God’s love doesn’t exist in you.” Mt 5.23 tells us that we shouldn’t even worship if there’s bad blood between us and someone else. Mt 18 tells us how important it is to resolve conflicts when they come up.
God has made it very clear that it’s just as important to be on good terms with our Christian family as it is to avoid false teaching.
Real cowboys from the American frontier, both the good guys and the bad guys, had no interest in the big, bulky Stetsons that everyone associates with them. Contrary to our more modern cowboys, the most popular headgear among 19th century gunslingers was the bowler, sometimes called a derby.
Many people have an idea in their minds of what the church looks like, but it just might be the case that the image doesn’t match scriptural teaching.
The “church” in the Bible is a singular, unified group of God’s people spread out across the globe in the form of multiple likeminded congregations. Though the people are God’s— they’re still people. People have problems. The difference between His family and the world, though, is that there’s a solution and a hope for His own.
When New Testament Christians claim that there’s one church they don’t mean there’s only one group of people who have all the answers and can do no wrong. They simply acknowledge the Biblical truth that God made plans for only one church and that plan had been in motion before the creation of the world (Eph. 3.10-11).
The New Testament is largely made up of letters that were written to correct and admonish our natural human tendencies. When these things are left unchecked and unbridled they produce more pain and destruction, which can clearly be seen all around us. For most, the product of sin is self-evident but the power of the Savior isn’t— and that’s where the church comes in. The main function of the church is to seek, save, and keep the saved saved. This is done by walking, speaking, and acting like Jesus. The form and function of His family is simple because God’s goal is to save as many as possible (Jn. 3.16-17). The New Testament church is meant to be the hands, feet, and mouth of God. The church is to work, walk, and speak only the things He would and that’s only possible if a group of people are living by His instruction. Since God only wrote one book, there’s only one manual. Since following the instructions will produce one church family then there’s only one church. In the same way you can assembly an entertainment system wrong by incorrectly following the plans, you can also assemble the church wrong. There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way and one needs only to reference His instructions to be certain.
The 2022 college football season has gone, and the Georgia Bulldogs have repeated as national champions. Some argue that our national admiration of sports numbs us to the deterioration of our society. (Think ancient Rome and circuses and bloody spectacles.) However, there are also critics within the college football fan base who believe that the current method of crowning a national champion is unfair. The latter is more a matter of sour grapes. But when I consider paid college football players and transfer portals that foster a sense of entitlement among four- and five-star recruits, I find it difficult not to listen to some criticism.
As Kirby Smart’s teams have improved over the years, so has their emphasis on teamwork and selflessness. They’ve made it a permanent part of their game strategy, and as a result, they consistently give it their all in most contests. ESPN sports pundits marveled at Kirby’s ability to make his team believe they were undervalued and disrespected despite being labeled the favorites. But, as the adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. Many athletes wanted to help pave the way to victory for their teammates. That is to say, rather than dwelling on how many times they had possession of the ball or how many big plays they had made, they celebrated the accomplishments of their teammates. Nolan Smith, a senior, is a prime example of this because his senior season was cut short due to an injury. After his stellar play on last year’s national championship team, he was eligible to enter the NFL draft. But he returned to Georgia for his senior year. However, his injury hasn’t stopped him from acting as a de facto coach for the rest of the team. Marvin Jones, Jr., one of Smith’s admirers, says he wants to fill the void Smith will leave after graduation.
Some readers might assume I’m just trying to boast about “my” Georgia Bulldogs. Trust me; there’s more to it than that. An even more valuable group needs the same sense of teamwork and selflessness. Yes, I’m referring to the church. Like sports teams, the church requires teamwork and a selfless attitude to work together for the same mission. Paul writes that each church member contributes to its growth by fulfilling their role (Ephesians 4.16). One aspect of this role is encouraging and supporting each other (1 Thessalonians 5.11). Paul even went so far as to say that we should defer to our weaker brothers’ scruples to pursue peace and edification (Romans 14.19). While it is true that we will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14.12), we must focus on the “team.” Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life for her (Ephesians 5.25). As a result, we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5ff). And the early church had its counterparts to people like Nolan Smith, most notably Andrew and Barnabas, two men about whom less is known but who undoubtedly had a significant impact on the early church. These two provided the selflessness and humility the church needs today by following the Lord’s call and putting aside their desires.
Remember, we are not competing for a stylized black football atop a golden pedestal. Instead, we seek an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9.25). As a result, our devotion to the church must outweigh our enthusiasm for a football team on any autumn Saturday, especially in the South.
Ephesians 1.3 says, “In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What does that mean? We hear “spiritual blessings” and might gloss over it as another Christianese phrase. Here’s a short list of what those spiritual blessings are.
1.4 — God chose us before Christ made the world.
1.4 — He chose us out of love to be his special people.
1.5 — He chose us to be his own children through Jesus Christ.
1.6 — God gives grace liberally.
1.7 — We are free because of Jesus’s sacrifice.
1.7 — We have forgiveness because of God’s grace.
1.8-9 — God told us how we can get that grace. He didn’t set up a system that we would have to look super hard for, he made sure to preserve the information needed to find him.
1.10 — He is bringing the heavens and the earth together through Jesus.
1.12-13 — He made grace available to every country on earth, not just one group.
1.13-14 — He gave us his spirit as a downpayment on our reward.
While we won’t fully appreciate these spiritual blessings until later (Paul says these riches are “too great to fully understand” in 3.8), we’re still extremely grateful that God has done so much to give us hope for eternal life.
Acts 20:18 says, “And when they came to him, he said to them ‘You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia…” The apostle Paul gave of his time to the church. If a preacher doesn’t give his time to the church, then he is doomed to fail the congregation.
What is a preacher that does not give of himself? First he is selfish, and secondly he is not treating the Bride of Christ with the respect and care needed. Notice that Paul says “the whole time,” not just “most of the time” or “some of the time.” Paul was fully devoted to those in Ephesus. He was a man that was church-minded. This was a man that showed focus, and likewise we must show this focus and determination to make the church as strong as it can be. A proficient preacher proffers personal time for others. It takes a selfless person to give up time for the brethren.
Paul uses the Greek word epistamai which means “to acquire information about something, know, be acquainted with” (BDAG 380). Paul knew for certain that the elders knew who he truly was. The same must be true for the preacher and the congregation. So what does this mean? This means as ministers we must be transparent. The elders should know what we are doing to help build and strengthen the church, and so should the members.
When it is all boiled down we see that a minister, in the most simplistic of terms, is to be a servant. He should be a servant of others in the church, and most of all he should be a servant of God. If the preacher is not a servant and is not setting that example then how are the other members in the congregation supposed to look up to him and follow him? Will they be servants? Most likely they will follow the example of the minister. We, as ministers, in many cases set the standard. We can inspire, or we can harm the church. One thing we should never forget is that our influence and example can be some of our best tools. Are we excited about God’s word and work? We should be showing that and lighting the fires of every member in the church.
Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Frederick W. Danker, et. al., Third Edition, U of Chicago Press, 2000. Logos Bible Software, 13.0, Faithlife Corp, 2022.
When taking a look at the book of Acts, many insights can be found about the church. From the Lord’s supper to the appointing of elders, there are many things that can be learned about the Lord’s Church and how it should act. Today there are far too many churches that have left and strayed away from the original design. Since we have one Bible, there should be one church. Out of the many things that can be learned from Acts, one of the most prominent aspects seen is the local preacher in a congregation and how he should behave.
Today when we look in the denominational world, we see the preachers as a sort of leader in the church. The names given to preachers can sometimes be misleading. But the preacher has a very significant job, and hopefully by the end of this article series we will see that the minister is not too different from the member of the body. He is one that proclaims the word. His main job is to be an example and one who can take the word of God and turn it into something that God’s people can learn, and then apply to their christian walks. By looking at the examples given in Acts about the local preacher, we are able to answer quite a few questions.
Probably the chapter that contains the majority of these insights is chapter 20, specifically verses 17 through 38. These articles will be an in depth study on this section of Acts, and how it applies to a preacher in a local congregation.
Acts 20:17, “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” Notice that Paul met with the Elders of the church at Ephesus. The word for elder here is the word presbuteros, and we know that this is in reference to those who held the office of elders, and were not just older men. We see this in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6ff.
To be a successful local preacher it is vital to talk to, and build a relationship with the elders of the congregation. Elders play an extremely vital role in churches, and to be an effective minister we must make sure that there is a healthy relationship between the elders and the preacher. Paul set the example, and now we follow what he has set. It makes sense. The elders are the leaders of the congregation and if the preacher is leading in a way other than what the elders have asked then how will the members react? The preacher must be one that uplifts and submits to the authority of the eldership. Paul was a great man. He had given up so much for the gospel yet even he submits himself under the elders. God knew what He was doing when He designed the church, so it is no wonder that many denominations fall away from the original design, and then run into many issues.
The local preacher is a member, therefore he must submit to the oversight and leadership of the elders.
I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
Love, Pt. 2
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the king who came from God should also love everyone who belongs to God. When we love God and practice what he commanded, that’s how we know we love his family, too. We prove that we love God when we do what he’s commanded, and those commands aren’t difficult to live out.
If you’re a part of God’s family, you’ve already beaten the world. Our faith is how we’ve won — if you believe that Jesus is God’s son, you’ve won in our spiritual battle against the world!
The second half of the Ephesian letter is addressed to showing how the redeemed walk in Christ. That cannot be divorced from the Christian’s function within the body of Christ, the church. It has often rightly been observed that Paul, in this epistle, is exalting the church of the Christ. It is valuable to God and to us because (1) It is the body of Christ, His Son (1:22-23; 4:4), (2) It is His means of reconciling all people together (2:16), (3) It makes us members of His household (2:19-22), (4) It is the means through which He shows His manifold wisdom and eternal purpose (3:9-11), (5) It is the means through which He receives glory (3:20-21), and (6) It is where and how God intends for us to use our talents and abilities to grow individually and collectively (4:11-16). Added to that list is what Paul says in what we call Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul makes it clear that the material he covers in this text illustrates a profound mystery; what he is saying “refers to Christ and the church” (32). Therefore, whatever else we take away from this text as inspired guidelines for marriage–which it is–we must understand that the church is the bride and Christ is the groom. When we see God’s binding legislation on the husband and wife in this text, we must remind ourselves that it illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church. Paul repeatedly gives this reminder (23, 25,27,29, 30,32). But, it’s not exclusively about that, as Paul concludes, “However, let each of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (33). In other words, Paul is saying, “Even though my underlying point is about Christ’s love for the church and the church’s need to submit to His authority, apply this to the marriage relationship!”
This illustration is about submission (22-24). The command here builds on the command previous to it, in Ephesians 5:21, that being filled with the Spirit is fulfilled by “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That is more generally about each member of the church. But, in a marriage between Christians, there would also be this mutual submission. Yet, in a specific way, God commands the wife to submit to the headship of her husband. Paul speaks “of submission involving recognition of an ordered structure… of the entity to whom/which appropriate respect is shown” (BDAG 1042). Louw and Nida add that it means “to bring something under the firm control of someone” (475). Kittel tells us that in the middle voice (i.e., the one commanded acting upon himself/herself) this is voluntary submission, but it is according to a divinely willed order (1159). The wife places herself under the leadership of her husband in a way that shows that she respect him (33). God commands this because, as previous commands in this letter, it does not come naturally or easily. It requires self-discipline and effort. The close the loop on the metaphor, Paul says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (24). This is neither vague nor unclear, though it is difficult.
This illustration is about sacrificial love (25-30). The command here complements the one Paul gives to the wife. The husband is commanded to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (25). The specific “love” mentioned here is not erotic, familial, or companionship centered. It is the highest form of love, “to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard—‘to love, to regard with affection, loving concern, love” (Louw-Nida 292-293). This is the love used to describe why God gave His Son (John 3:16). Likewise, Paul here is saying that what husbands are called to show their wives is what prompted Jesus to lay down His life on the cross. Picture the intensity, the fierce devotion, the selfless care involved in that (as you read 5:26-27)! But that active interest also leads the husband, in love, to nourish and cherish her (29) as carefully as one acts to preserve self (28). Paul sharpens the focus of husbands on the sacrificial love Christ heaps on the church, and that is the bar God sets for the husband in the marriage. A husband is to be driven by concern, care, and genuine interest for the needs of his wife! Her greatest need is spiritual, so he will never abdicate the role of spiritual leadership. He will lovingly exercise it.
This illustration is about severing (31). When the old saying goes, “Marriage takes three,” it does not mean the husband, his wife, and a parent. In fact, a prerequisite of forming a marriage presupposes what Paul explicitly states here: “Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh” (31). Did you know that this is one of the first commands in the whole Bible? Paul quotes Genesis 2:24)? Jesus reiterates it in His teaching to restore marriage to its original state (Mat. 19:5; Mk. 10:7). Suffice it to say, this is a foundational principle. Just as God does not want any outside influences to interfere in the church’s relationship to Christ, He does not want any undue influences upon the marriage relationship. That includes the parents of the bride and/or groom! The legislation is spoken to the husband, but it is applicable to the wife. It is also a warning to the parents whose children leave their home and form their new home. While this does not mean total isolation and desertion of responsibilities to parents, whom we must always honor (6:3), it does mean that the relationship changes. The married couple are not under the rule of parents. They leave that relationship and form a new one, beautifully described as a “one flesh” relationship.
This metaphor is to help the church at Ephesus understand their relationship to Christ. But, let’s not miss the bottom line application, either. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (32-33).