A Serving Church (Chapter 4 Verses 1-11)
The world? Leave them to the Lord, they must give account to him (vv5-6). We don’t judge them, we show them God’s wonderful grace, we display God’s kindness, God’s mercy to them. Today is a day of grace, salvation (2Corinthians 6.2). So how do we do that? With a particular kind of Church Peter says (vv7-11). A thinking Church (v7). Not just blindly carrying on doing things in a particular way because we have always done them that way. Thinking through the issues of our day, the culture we are seeking to minister in, and to. What’s Biblical, and what’s just tradition. A loving Church (v8). This above everything else, we can get away with a lot of we love each other, we can disagree about secondary issues, matters of practice we won’t always agree on, but what does matter is that we love (1Corinthians 13). A happy Church (v9). No grumbling and plenty of hospitality.
A gift-conscious Church (v10). For centuries this subject has been ignored and misunderstood by the Church. But the New Testament is quite clear and emphatic that the use of such gifts is a normal part of Church life (1Corinthians 12.4; Romans 12.6; 1Corinthians 12-14). We are not talking about Pentecostalism or Charismaticism. Yet many Christians deny the validity of such gifts, or limit them to the early Church, or re-interpret them in a way that robs the Church of them. The reaction to this with the advent of Charismatic movement, has led to polarisation, one group denying the gifts, and the other, not just over-emphasising, but abuse of them. But they need to be understood in a Biblical context, as part of God’s plan for the normal functioning of the Church community. Interpretations as to specific gifts may vary but we have no Biblical right to invalidate or restrict the gifts of God to the early Church or ban a specific gift today. Most of the arguments against come as a result of secondary not Biblical considerations, and fear of excesses or abuses. But that amounts to throwing the Baby out with the bath water. So keep the gifts and get rid of the excesses and abuses. The ministry of the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a great corrective to this hard-line cessationism that now sadly grips the Reformed church today. We expect so, so little, and we get so, so little. A preaching Church (v11a). A community of Christians committed to the expository preaching of God’s word. Because that is the antidote to all errors, all excesses, all abuses, the corrective of God’s word will bring balance, healthy Christian growth, informed, thinking, reforming Christians. A serving Church (v11b). And whatever the area of service, we do it in the Lord’s strength, not our own, and for his glory not ours. This only fulfils the Churches mandate (1Peter 2.9).
(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)