4-15-18 Lesson 20
Father, we are grateful for another opportunity to worship You, learn of You, fellowship with Your people. We, Father, are very privileged that you give us an opportunity in this life to make eternal investments and one of those investments we can make is investing in Your Word and we recognize that all the energy we pour into it doesn’t dissipate because “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord abides forever.” So we thank You for that and I just pray, Father, that the Holy Spirit would be with us, illuminating Your truth today to Your people as we look into Your Word. I pray people would come today and they would be blessed, edified, challenged, changed and Father, if it’s Your will maybe today is the day of salvation for people, some people. And I pray that not only for this immediate local church but for people that might be listening or viewing online. So I pray that You’ll use our time together to strengthen them because we know that “man does not live by bready alone but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
Good morning everybody; if we could take our Bibles and open them to Matthew 28:18-20. If you need a handout just put your hand up and Ron will help you with that. We’re continuing on studying the doctrine of ecclesiology which is the doctrine of the church and we’ve covered a lot of different subjects… Amen! But we’re at a part of it, Roman numeral VII which I think is one of the most important to understand, which is the purposes of the church, not so much what man thinks a church ought to be but what does God say about the church? What is God’s design for the church.
We’ve studied here that the church basically has three functions; the first two we’ve covered and we’re going to look at the third one today. The first is to glorify God and I’ve showed you basically that that’s God’s purpose in history, to glorify Himself. Everything God does in creation or redemption revolves around His glory and this is why the Apostle Paul says, “To Him be the glory in the church.” [Ephesians 3:21, “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”]
And the second great purpose of the church is to edify its members or to edify the saints and the last couple of Sundays we’ve spent a lot of time going through a very important paragraph, Ephesians 4:11-16, which describes the fact that God has given certain spiritual gifts to the church, one of which is the office of pastor-teacher or the gift of pastor-teacher to equip the saints. And you have a great description of that equipping process in that paragraph. Of course the tool that the pastor-teacher uses to equip the saints is the Word of God, the consistent preaching and teaching and application of God’s Word in its entirety, not a piece here or a piece there, as we’ve talked about. And that paragraph goes on and it tells us what the consistent teaching and application of God’s Word does in the life of God’s people—it brings them to maturity out of spiritual infancy. That becomes one of the dominant purposes of the church.
So we’re moving on here to Roman numeral III, what is the third purpose of the church and I want to explain it briefly and then I want to show you how these concepts that we’re coming up with here, purposes of the local church, are being almost jettisoned by people, willy-nilly.
But before we get to that, the third purpose of the church is to fulfill the great commission. A lot of people listen to teaching like this, about the equipping of the saints and they say well, what about missions, what about evangelism, what about the unbelievers, and what we discover about the local church is God has not designed the local church to be what I would call a “holy huddle,” where people sit, soak and sour and just let the unsaved world go into hell. I mean, that’s a misunderstanding completely.
By the way, if you want an example of somebody in the Bible that lost their missionary focus and became very internally focused— I’m thinking of a particular prophet in the Bible, anyone know which one I’m thinking of? Jonah. The word “Jonah” actually means silly, and the whole Book of Jonah is really designed to be coming relief of how ridiculous we look when we just focus on ourselves and forget the purpose of why we’re in the world.
So the tragedy is a church, even like ours that’s very focused on Bible teaching, can lose sight of the unsaved world all around us. The purpose of the church is to equip the saints in such a way that they become effective within the four walls of the church but also outside the four walls of the church. And one of the things that I believe very strongly in is healthy sheep, when they’re nourished properly in their local church have a tendency to reproduce. So when you’re consistently fed God’s Word you’ll discover that you have the fortification to contribute to ministries, conversations in the work place, conversations in your family, you have the ability to speak the truth in love and you have the ability to reach and touch people that leadership in a church doesn’t even know and doesn’t have access to.
So Jesus, in Matthew 28:18-20 as the kingdom was offered to first century Israel and was postponed because it was rejected, Jesus starts to begin to describe a coming church. [Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He says “I will build My church, the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,”]
He says [Matthew 16:18] “I will build My church, the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” And He begins to say something very different than what He said in Matthew 10:5-7 and other passages like Matthew 15:24 where the offer of the kingdom was only to Israel. [Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’]
He begins to describe a new man that would come into existence in Acts 2 and He starts to give hints of what coming new man, including the missionary focus of the church. So one of the things He said at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel is this: “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of” the nation of Israel… it doesn’t say that does it? “Go therefore and make disciples of” who? “all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]
Now that’s a command that completely contradicts (at first glance) what He said in Matthew 10:5-7 where He sent out the twelve to offer the kingdom to Israel and he said do not go the way of the Samaritans, do not go the way of the Gentiles, go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
And now at the end of Matthew’s Gospel He’s giving something completely different; He’s talking about going into “all the nations.” And you say well how do you reconcile the contradiction? It’s easy if you understand the offer of the kingdom framework; the kingdom was offered to Israel and rejected thus God raised up a new man called the church and He began to give the church a missional or missionary calling. And in fact, when you go through all the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, what you’ll find there are different versions of this universal command to go into all the nations. Sometimes we call these commands the great commission. So Mark’s Gospel puts it this way, Mark 16:15, he said, “Go into” where? “all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” So obviously there’s a missional evangelistic calling for the church.
Over in Luke’s Gospel, Luke 24:46-48 it says, “and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,  and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to” who? “to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” And these are very important words, Luke and the sequel Acts; does anybody know who Luke and Acts were written to? What specific man? A man named Theophilus, and everything we know about Theophilus indicated that he was not Jewish, he was Gentile.
You can sort of peace that together from how early Luke, particularly Luke 1:1-4 describes Theophilus. Luke calls Theophilus “most excellent Theophilus” which most believe is a title of authority amongst the Gentiles. [Luke 1:1-4, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,  it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;  so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”]
And so Theophilus is reading Luke, the prequel, in Acts the sequel and he’s understanding that the gospel is not just Jewish, it’s not just for the Jews, it’s not even for people like himself. And so you can see how Theophilus reading a command like this in the original letter or gospel, written by Luke to Theophilus recording the life of Christ would be very meaningful to him and very significant.
And then Luke is the prequel, Acts is the sequel, and so you find early Acts continuing on with this command to the new church. Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses” it doesn’t just say in Jerusalem, it says “both in Jerusalem,” so you start with Jerusalem, that’s the immediate neighborhood, and then you move into “all Judea and Samaria, [and even to the remotest part of the earth.]” Jerusalem would be like a city, Judea and Samaria would be the outside neighboring counties to put it into modern day vernacular. And by the way, when he says “Samaria” that no doubt blew their minds for the simple reason that for 700 years the Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews, that’s why in Luke’s Gospel the shock of the whole story is the story of the Good Samaritan; the Good Samaritan is the guy that comes out smelling like a rose in that whole story. And that’s intentionally inserted, I believe, to reveal to Theophilus, a Gentile, that the gospel is for him as well.
We could go on and on about this Jewish/Samaritan conflict. I mean, Jesus ministered to the woman at the well in Samaria, John 4, and the disciples are saying what are You talking to her for? Number 1, she’s a woman, and this culture didn’t treat women very well, and number 2, she’s the wrong race, she’s a Samaritan. And in fact, there’s one scene in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus goes into a Samaritan village and James and John, the sons of thunder say… they didn’t like the response and they said Lord, shall we call down fire from heaven and nuke these people? It doesn’t say “nuke,” that’s my own translation of it. But you have to understand that the Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews and Jesus says you start in Jerusalem but you go into Judea and even Samaria.
Samaria, as you know, is within the land of Israel but then he goes on and he says you go out of even the land of Israel to where? The “remotest part of the earth.” And so the Book of Acts records how the gospel finally made its way all the way to Rome, Acts 28 records Paul in house arrest evangelizing, taking the gospel all the way to Rome. And that’s where the Book of Acts stops and I think it stops there because there’s an understanding that once it goes into Rome it’s going to go everywhere because in the ancient world all roads lead to Rome. So Theophilus would read this and say wow, I’ve been contemplated in the plan and program of God from the very beginning.
So you can see in all of these passages that the church has a missional emphasis and a missional calling. You even find sort of a version of the great commission in John’s Gospel at the very end of the book, in chapter 20, it says this. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’” [John 20:21] So just as Jesus was sent in the world the disciples were being sent out into the world. And who was Jesus ultimately sent to? For God so loved Israel that He gave His only begotten Son. It doesn’t say that! “For God so loved” who? “the world” which would include Theophilus, it would include the Samaritans, it would include Rome, and it’s supposed to go even into the ends of the earth. And so just as Jesus had a worldwide calling He gave that same worldwide calling to the disciples also, in John 20:20-21.
So when you put all of these Scriptures together you start to see coming into focus the three great purposes of the church. Number 1, the church exists to glorify God. Number 2, the church exists to edify the saints through spiritual gifts. And number 3, the church exists, not to just sit soak and sour, but to fulfill the great commission.”
And what you discover as you travel around and go to most churches is most churches will do one of the three or usually at best the two of the three. It’s sort of difficult to find a church that’s doing all three. I think in the prior generation what was happening is the church was glorifying God and edifying the saints but there are some Bible churches I’ve been to where it’s almost like to understand what’s going on you have to learn some kind of secret code that the pastor expresses himself in. He’s got his own sort of verbiage and he uses a bunch of words that are over people’s heads.
And what happens in those kind of environments, and I’m not against big words as long as they’re explained properly, but what happens in a lot of those environments is unbelievers are basically given a signal, you know you’re not welcome here. The church is for the believers but here, for example at Sugar Land Bible Church we recognize that unbelievers come all the time; some people come to church just because it’s cultural. And so we don’t want to talk in such a way that the unbeliever is excluded; we want them to understand what is being said and we want to include the gospel. But you run into a lot of places where that is sort of clipped off and the whole focus is ourselves. And you start to lose sight of the fact that God has given us all of these wonderful things, the riches of His Word, spiritual gifts, ultimately to be built up to be a blessing to the world.
So I think sometimes in the prior generation, in my humble opinion, what they were doing is they were glorifying God and edifying the saints and the great commission was kind of clipped in their thinking.
Now today in our generation what I think is happening is if churches are doing number three and perhaps number one what is getting left in the dust is edification of the saints because you have what is called the advent of the speaker friendly movement where the whole name of the game is to make unbelievers feel as comfortable as they can possibly feel in church. And you’ve got to get all these unbelievers in and that becomes the focus and the fact of the matter is if that’s your focus that really isn’t church, that’s an evangelistic rally; that’s an evangelistic meeting but it isn’t church because you have to neglect certain subjects to make unbelievers feel comfortable. And the more you neglect certain subjects who is not being edified in the process. Who is not being given their full food groups? The saints. You see?
So I’ve been in churches where their marquee is our church is a soul-winning station. That’s almost a direct quote, we are a soul-winning station. And I appreciate what they’re trying to say but that isn’t the church either. The church is not a soul-winning station; the church exists to equip God’s people so they can win souls outside the four walls of the church. Now am I against evangelistic rallies? NO! Just don’t call it church. I would call it an evangelistic outreach but that isn’t church.
So the great struggle in the life of the church is to try to do, not just one of these, not just two of these, but all three. And what I’ve discovered is it’s difficult to find places that are aware of all three and are interested in doing all three. So it’s always a tough balance. And the devil… I think it was C. S. Lewis who said this, is always pushing us to one extreme or the other. The devil loves it when we go off into extremes. So you get so focused on edification that you forget the great commission or you get so focused on the great commission that you forget edification, and we have to be all three. This is what God has called the church to do.
So having laid out, from my professor, Robert Lightner, who got these from God’s Word, the three basic purposes of the church, I want to shift slightly here, do a slight pivot, and I want to talk briefly about how these things are being challenged today because what a lot of people are talking about is the church exists to bring social justice to the earth. So there are a lot of buzzwords today about social justice and these kinds of things and what is happening, in my humble opinion, and I’ll show you the quotes that demonstrate this from different writers, but what is happening is the pastor’s role is being subtlety changed. The pastors, in a lot of places are just really no longer seen as an equipper of God’s people through the Word of God but he is seen more as a community organizer or something to that extent. I’ve seen this language: someone that’s re-weaving the community. So when you don’t tightly define why a church exists you get sucked into what I would call three misdirected church purposes. And so I’d like to share those with you briefly.
You have all of the quotes, you may not have this little outline; I developed that last night about 11:00 so it might not show up on your sheet but you’re going to have all of these quotes. But the three misdirected purposes are, and these are the big buzzwords: number one, holistic redemption. There’s a lot of talk today about holistic redemption. The second thing you get sucked into is something called social gospel which really isn’t new, it’s just kind of given a new package for the current generation. And then the third misdirected purpose you get into very quick if you don’t tightly define why the church exists is you get directed into an idea that the church is somehow bringing in the kingdom. Churches call themselves kingdom builders and that sort of thing.
So let me walk through each of these three words so you understand what they mean because almost everybody is using this language today and I believe it’s a manifestation of not first sitting down and thinking about why does the local church exist. So what is met here by “holistic redemption.” What does that even mean? What that means is the name of the game is no longer so much on individual salvation but collective salvation. So instead of individual salvation, the saving of souls and building them up in Christ so they can be effective witnesses, now the whole point is collective salvation of nations, and ultimately collective salvation of the entire world.
So in this type or rubric the great commission is substituted for a lot of talk about changing these structures of society. And you’ll hear a lot of talk in these circles about structural bias, structural racism. And what are they talking about? They’re talking about the institutions, for example, let’s say the United States of America, you know, I love being an American; we all acknowledge though that we live in a fallen world, America is not a perfect country and so the name of the game is sort of to fix America. Now how do you fix America? It depends on your own politics. If you’re coming from the right and try to fix America or are you coming from the left and try to fix America and holistic redemption becomes sort of this ambiguous buzzword that people use to dump their own philosophies into it, trying to change pastors into what I would call community organizers.
Probably one of the first guys that I can think of that began promoting holistic redemption was Robert Schuller. Robert Schuller, he’s passed on now but he was a very popular speaker in what’s called The Hour of Power. And he wrote a lot of books about self-esteem and this kind of thing, and his church was probably about 15-20 minutes from where I grew up, you couldn’t miss it driving on the freeway, a giant church made of glass called The Crystal Cathedral. And here is quote Robert Schuller makes in one of his books. And there’s so many things to react to in this that are just outrageous in my opinion but I won’t do that, I’ll just focus on one sentence.
He says, “Negative-thinking theologians looked at the doctrine of sin, salvation and repentance… through distorted glasses tinted with mortification mentality.” I have to laugh because I think sin and salvation and repentance is not like the heart of the whole Bible. “Too many prayers of confession of sin and repentance have been destructive to the emotional health of Christians…I am not fully forgiven until I allow God to write his new dream for my life on the blackboard of my mind, and I dare to believe ‘I am; therefore, I can. I am a child of God…” Now look at this, “God has a great plan to redeem society… The emerging church, reformed according to the needs of self-esteem-starved-souls under the Lordship of Christ….” by the way, if you look at surveys do you know where they have the highest self-esteem amongst the population? Prison inmates! Prison inmates have a very high self-esteem so I’m not sure self-esteem the way he’s defining it is really the way to go. “… under the lordship of Christ will help us to affirm the concept that ‘While God’s ideas may seem humanly impossible, he will give us these ideas which will lead to glorious, self-esteem-generating success.’” [Robert H. Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1982), 104-05]
But the part of the quote, there I have it underlined, is the goal of the church is to “redeem society.” I mean, you don’t hear anything about the passages we just went through, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, Acts 1, there’s nothing about the great commission, suddenly it’s all about redeeming society. It’s just about collectively changing nations and changing their social structures.
Now, as you know, my alma mater is Dallas Seminary and I received a lot of good teaching there, but there was, when I was there and it continues to progress, a movement that developed called progressive dispensationalism, which to me is neither progressive nor dispensationalism, other than that little problem I began noticing in the writings of progressive dispensationalists and listening to their lectures that they started to talk this way—it’s all about the community. So Craig Blaising, one of the progenitors of progressive dispensationalism writes this: ““Unfortunately, present-day dispensationalists have written very little in proposing a theology of social ministry.’ He continues, “if we as a community of Christ worked on creating our community as a model of social justice” those are key words today, social justice, “and peace,” I mean, I don’t even know what social justice and peace is, it depends on who you’re talking to, if I’m talking to a libertarian they’re going to define it one way; if I’m talking to a Marxist they’re going to define it a different way, it’s just this fluffy term that people throw out and they kind of dump in their own personal philosophy as to what it means. He says, “ then we really would have some suggestions to make for social reform in our cities and nations.”’ if we as a community of Christ worked on creating our community as a model of social justice and peace, then we really would have some suggestions to make for social reform in our cities and nations.” He says, “if we as a community of Christ worked on creating our community as a model of social justice and peace, then we really would have some suggestions to make for social reform in our cities and nations.” [Craig Blaising, “Dispensationalism: The Search for Definition,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, ed. Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 14, n. 3; idem, “Theological and Ministerial Issues in Progressive Dispensationalism,” in Progressive Dispensationalism, ed. Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1993), 288–89.]
So what he’s saying is let’s bring social justice and peace, whatever that is, to the church and then we can tell the unsaved world how they can have social justice and peace too. What did Jesus say to the disciples? “I will make you” what? “fishers of men.” [Matthew 14:19, “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”’] Now we’re not fishers of men, we’re cleaning up the fish bowl that we caught the fish out of. See that?
You may say well, you’re just nitpicking but this is a profound change in how the life of the church is understood. And Charles Ryrie, someone that I agree with on probably most things, properly comments on this. And he says, ““Holistic redemption can easily lead to placing unbalanced, if not wrong, priorities on political action, social agendas, and improving the structures of society.” [Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 176.]
So this is what is meant by holistic redemption. And a related concept is called social gospel. You guys have heard of social gospel, right? Has anybody heart the expression social gospel? Social gospel is the idea that the purpose of a church is to bring social justice to the earth. So there’s a lot of talk in social justice circles about the environment, the greenhouse effect, alleged global warming, and these kind of issues. They talk a lot about redistribution of the wealth. They talk a lot about universal health care. And one of the big buzzwords is racial reconciliation, when I think God has given us the best book you can ever read on racial reconciliation because according to Galatians 3:28 there’s neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for we are all” what? “one in Christ Jesus.”
You get two people of a different skin color that are both in the body of Christ and you honor them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, you know what disappears really quick? This silly concept of racism. So if you want to get rid of racism, I would say preach the gospel because racism emanates from depravity in the human heart and the gospel changes that, doesn’t it! But that’s not what they mean, we’ve got to get out there and change the structures of society. They talk a lot about structural bias, institutional racism, and we’ve got to change all that. And there’s a lot of talk about how the United States was founded (they think, I don’t necessarily agree with them) founded as a racist country. And we all acknowledge that there’s things in our past as Americans that we wish weren’t there but the reality of the situation is there isn’t a country anywhere in the world that’s done more to make up for its past than the United States. Amen! Things like the Civil War, where a lot of white people died. Right? Things like the thirteenth, and fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments to The United States Constitution passed in 1866 where our constitution was changed three times to eliminate the vestiges of slavery. Things like The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was designed to remedy the problems of the Jim Crow South.
But when you bring these things up people say well that sentiment of racism is still there and no matter what America has done in the past she still thinks like a racist country because that was her origin and so the purpose of the church is to fix that, to fix structural bias and institutional racism and things like that. So my point is not to get into a big talk about America and racism; it’s to show you how the focus of the church is changing in these other subjects related to social causes. So let me give you some quotes to demonstrate this.
This is Brian McLaren who is one of the, if not THE thought leader of the emerging church. And Brian McLaren says this, it was stunning when I read this, I couldn’t believe this was actually said. But he writes: “The church has been preoccupied with the question, ‘What happens to your soul after you die?’” Now given the fact that the soul is eternal and hell is forever, I mean shouldn’t that be a concern of ours, where people are going to spend eternity? And he writes, ‘“What happens to your soul after you die? As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, ‘Jesus is trying to get more souls into heaven as opposed to hell, after they die.’” I thought that’s why Jesus did come. And then he goes on and he says, “I just think a fair reading of the Gospels blows that out of the water. ” [Brian McLaren; cited in Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, 203]
And I think what he’s talking about is miracles that Jesus did to feed the masses and Jesus did do humanitarian things but you’ll notice that when they stop believing in Him for salvation the miracles stopped as well. And He said in John 6 the only reason you all are following me, John 6:15, is because I fill your stomachs with food and he stopped the miracles at that point. [John 6:15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” ] John 6:26 says, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” I mean, what good does it do to fill someone’s stomach with food for 24 hours if their soul goes into an eternal hell.
So I think Brian McLaren is sort of piecemealing the life of Christ; but this is basically classic social gospel. To my mind one of the biggest proponents of social gospel in our lifetime is Rick Warren. I understand, people say well Rick Warren has done this good thing and that good thing and I acknowledge that. But the reality is when you listen to some of the things that Rick Warren talks about what he’s doing is he’s recycling social gospel. One writer puts it this way: “P.E.A.C.E.” now P.E.A.C.E. is Warren’s vision for the church. P.E.A.C.E., there’re different vocabulary words or concepts for where he thinks the church ought to be headed.
““P.E.A.C.E. is an acronym for” P stands for “Promote reconciliation; E” stands for Equip servant leaders;” A stands for Asist the poor; C stands for “Care for the sick; and E stands for Educate the next generation. Coalition members see these actions as Jesus’ antidote to five “global giants,”— Now where is he coming up with five “global giants”? He gets that because David, when to slay Goliath, had how many stones in his backpack? Five stones. So they take these five stones and they turn each stone into a global giant that the church has to topple. So what are those five global giants? “…problems that affect billions of people worldwide: spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, poverty, pandemic disease, and illiteracy.” [Rick Warren and 1,700 Leaders Launch the Peace Coalition at Purpose Driven Summit,” accessed November 15, 2014, [http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/2495867]”
And I keep reading this saying when is he going to say the great commission? I mean, when is he going to quote Matthew 28? When is he going to quote Mark 16. I think the greatest problem facing people is their hurling towards the Judgment Seat of God and they need to hear the gospel and be saved from that. And as flowery as this language sounds, that is the major component to my mind, that just got omitted from Rick Warren’s peace plan because the focus is changing the structures of society. You see that?
And as you move into that emphasis what get eclipsed is the great commission, the great commission becomes the great omission. Now am I against helping the poor? Not at all. But here’s what you discover is sometimes you have poor people because of capitalism and they’re being treated unfairly, but when you actually get into the Book of Proverbs what you start to see in that Solomonic wisdom is a lot of people are poor because they made themselves poor by dumb sinful decisions.
So what the social justice warriors want you to believe is all poverty is caused by capitalism, which is basically a Marxist paradigm, I’m not denying that people sometimes are treated unfairly in the work place, I’m not denying that at all, but biblically speaking that’s not the only cause of poverty. I think the Puritans were pretty good at distinguishing between the legitimate poor and the illegitimate poor; they drew that distinction in Puritan writings. They helped people, like the Book of Job, where Job had all of these calamities that came upon him outside of his control, but the Puritans also recognized that there’s another form of poverty that’s self-inflicted. And if you just read through the Book of Proverbs you’ll see this constantly. Speculation makes people poor, not working diligently makes people poor. Signing a what’s called a suretyship where you make yourself responsible for someone else’s debts, you know, a lot of parents do that for their teenagers thinking that’s loving. The Book of Proverbs tells you not to do that.
And you can go right on through the Book of Proverbs and you can see self-inflicted poverty. And see, that gets omitted; the gospel gets omitted, the clear purpose of the church gets omitted, and I believe this, that yeah, I think we ought to be concerned about literacy, poverty, these kinds of things but as a church you use those issues as a basis for preaching the gospel. You use those issues as a platform for preaching the gospel. You don’t just go into humanitarian work just for the sake of humanitarian work because that is not a purpose that God gave to the church.
So social gospel is trapdoor two, and then lastly, trapdoor three is bringing in the kingdom. And this is why I wrote this 400 page book called The Coming Kingdom, because I saw millennials all around me being pulled into Kingdom Now thoughts, Kingdom Now thinking. And I noticed that most of the scholars that had defended a future kingdom are very old now or have passed on so I tried to take their mantle and push forward the conversation a millimeter by contemporizing their arguments. So when a millennial is drifting into Kingdom Now theology there’s now a book available that I think is at a certain scholarly level, that they will appreciate and give them the other side of the story. But there are countless churches that are drifting into Kingdom Now theology.
So back to Brian McLaren, look at what Brian McLaren says. “He” that’s Jesus, “selected 12 and trained them in a new way of life. He sent them to teach everyone this new way of life…Even if only a few would practice this new way, many would benefit.” So what are the benefits as the message of Jesus goes out? “Oppressed people would be free. Poor people would be liberated from poverty. Minorities would be treated with respect. Sinners would be loved, not resented.” Here comes the politics, “Industrialists” that’s capitalists, right? That’s all these people that provide goods and services that the rest of us need and provide a tax base to fund the United States government, which is supposed to be doing these things. See, industrialists are always demonized, this is a Marxist, basically this is a Marxist paradigm. The people that took the risk to start a company to create a product and service that the rest of the human race needs, those people are demonized. And I think it was Atlas Shrug, isn’t it, where it’s basically a book and it became a movie about this idea that eventually these people are going to be so demonized that they’re just going to close up and leave. And what’s going to disappear is your jobs and a tax base, not to mention the product or service that they’ve created. And that’s the problem, in my humble opinion, with demonizing industrialists all of the time is you’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg. But anyway, I won’t go there… well, I just went there. I’ll stop.
““Industrialists would realize that God cares for sparrows and wildflowers-so their industries should respect, not rape, the environment.” So if you’re an industrialist you’re described with the harshest vocabulary that can be imagined, an analogous to rape. It’s amazing. “The homeless would be invited in for a hot meal.” And then what does he say here? “The kingdom of God would come” see that, “not everywhere at once, not suddenly, but gradually like a seed growing in a field,” and then he says, oh no, “like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough,” now I have a problem with that because when you look at yeast in the Bible it’s not something good, it’s something what? Bad! Jesus, in Matthew 16 says, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees.” “… like light spreading across the sky at dawn.” [Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 111.]
So what he’s saying is Christianity is about getting the message of Jesus and as we do that all of these structures of society that we don’t like will start to get changed. And that becomes the focus of the church.
Rick Warren is a very big believer in bringing in the kingdom. He says this at a coliseum, a public address, he says: “I stand before you confidently right now and say to you that God is going to use you to change the world…I’m looking at a stadium full of people right now who are telling God they will do whatever it takes to establish God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” What will happen if the followers of Jesus say to Him, “We are yours?” What kind of spiritual awakening will occur?” [Rick Warren, cited in Oakland, Faith Undone, Kindle edition.]
So we, as the church, are supposed to be doing everything within our human power to (he says) establish God’s kingdom on the earth. Now sorry, in the Lord’s Prayer what are we to pray? “Thy kingdom come,” we’re to pray for its arrival. So if I’m in the kingdom already and bringing it in why would I pray for it to come, I’m supposed to bring it in myself. I mean, when Jesus said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” He never said go into all the world and bring in the kingdom. Go into all the world and change the structures of society. In fact, if I’m understanding my Bible correctly Jesus, two times, it’s recorded twice, once in Matthew 26:11 and once in John 12:8, He says, “the poor you will have with you” what? “always.” There’s not going to be a great fix in poverty. You can make certain dents in it I guess, but that issue, just like racism is not leaving this earth until Jesus comes back and sets up His kingdom. Then poverty disappears permanently from society, as does structural racism or institutional racism.
There’s a book by Stearns called Hole in the Gospel. Did you know the gospel has a hole in it? I didn’t realize that until I read his book. I thought the gospel was “the power of God unto salvation,” Romans 1:16-17. [Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’”] Stearns says no, there’s a hole in the gospel. What’s the hole? The hole is until the church assumes its kingdom role and gets involved in all of these social causes and changing the social structures of society the gospel is not really being preached, is basically what he’s saying in the book.
So Stearns writes, “If we are to be a part of this coming kingdom, God expects our lives – our churches and faith communities too – to be characterized by these authentic signs of our own transformation: compassion, mercy, justice, and love – demonstrated tangibly. Only then will our light break forth like the dawn, our healing quickly appear, and our cries for help be answered with a divine Here am I.” [Stearns, Hole in the Gospel, 57.]
“The gospel that we have been given – the whole gospel – is God’s vision for a new way of living…Christ’s vision was of a redeemed” what? world, doesn’t that sound like Schuller, Holistic Redemption, the redemption of the world, the redemption of society. “Christ’s vision was of a redeemed world order populated by redeemed people – now.” Look at that language, “world order,” gosh, I’ve heard that before. Let me tell you something folks, I don’t want to be in any new world order. The only new world order I’m comfortable in is the one that Jesus is administering from Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom. “To accomplish this, we are to be salt and light in a dark and fallen world,” oh here we go again, “the “yeast” that leavens the whole loaf of bread (the whole of” what? “society). We are the ones God has called to be His Church. It’s up to us. We are to be the change. But a changed world requires” oh my goodness, look at this, “change agents, and change agents are people who have first been changed themselves.” [Stearns, Hole in the Gospel, 276, 243-44.]
So what’s a pastor supposed to do? He’s supposed to be the change agent, he’s supposed to get into the pulpit and misdirect these poor misguided fundamentalists away from what Christ says about fulfilling the great commission and the purpose of the church and let’s get into the social causes of the day. We’re bringing in the kingdom—this is essentially what he’s saying.
Now am I against Christians voting? Am I against Christians being involved in political causes? Am I against Christians showing up at City Council meetings and voicing their concerns? NO, I appreciate that, I support it, I try to do a little bit of that myself, but here’s the reality of the situation. That type of activity plays a role in slowing down the progress of evil; that’s what it does. It puts maybe another hindrance on Satan’s next move. But it does not and it cannot bring in the kingdom of God, which can only be brought in through a converted Israel at the second advent of Christ, and it cannot and should not become the primary purpose of the church because those things, as important as they may be, are not our primary purpose. The primary purpose is fulfillment of the great commission.
So if we’re not going to bring in the kingdom who’s going to bring it in? Any guesses? The stone cut without human hands which will appear suddenly at the end of the tribulation period which will shatter the antichrist’s ten nation or ten kingdom confederacy cataclysmically, and that stone will grow and grow and grow until it fills the whole earth. That’s when the kingdom comes. And until that time in history arises, which is yet future, any language that we’re bringing into the kingdom now is completely misguided.
People say well Andy, why do you emphasize eschatology so much? Because your eschatology, understanding it correctly, determines your what? What’s the name of our study here? Ecclesiology! Because you eschatology is wrong and you think we’re bringing in the kingdom it changes the whole focus of the church. The church becomes a colony of the kingdom bringing in the kingdom. And that’s outside of our instruction manual.
I like Daniel 2:44, “In the days of those kings” Rick Warren will set up a kingdom… Robert Schuller will set up a kingdom, Brian McLaren will set up a kingdom. It doesn’t say that at all, does it? “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom” in the days of what kings? The ten nation confederacy of the antichrist which will exist in the tribulation period. The world is in change right now. Romans 8, it’s groaning. [Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”]
And yet the day is going to come when God is going to liberate this world from its chains. That’s why so much language in the Book of Revelation sounds an awful lot like the Book of Exodus. Have you noticed that? Sores, plagues in the Book of Exodus—1st bowl judgment, Revelation. Rivers to blood, 1st plague, Exodus, 3rd bowl judgment, book of Revelation. Darkness, 9th plague, the Book of Exodus, 5th bowl judgment, Book of Revelation. Hail, 7th plague Exodus, 7th bowl judgment, Book of Revelation.
Why the parallels? Because in the Book of Exodus God is taking His people out of 400 years of Egyptian bondage. In the Book of Revelation God is taking the whole world out of the bondage that it’s in. We are in bondage just as literally right now as was Israel in Egypt. And so God did a work to liberate from bondage and God has to do a second work to liberate the earth from the bondage that it’s been in, not under Pharaoh but under the devil. The church can’t do this. The church is not given the task to do this. The church isn’t given the power to do this. This doesn’t happen until the events of the Book of Revelation begin to unfold. THEN the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. [Revelation 11:15, “will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.”]
The church can’t bring this in, only the eschatological end time events of Revelation can bring this in. And this is why I so appreciate this quote by Hal Lindsay in one of his lesser known books, called The Road to Holocaust. “Bestselling author Hal Lindsey warned what could happen to the church in the last days if she began to see herself as the establisher of God’s kingdom:” he says, quote, “The last days of the church on the earth may be largely wasted seeking to accomplish a task that only the LORD Himself can and will do directly.” [The Road to Holocaust, 269]
The devil is a pretty sneaky guy, would you agree with me on that? And wouldn’t it be very sneaky of him in our waning hours on the earth to get us involved in some task that we don’t have the power to pull off, nor the instructions to do it and we omitted what we’re supposed to be doing. You see, this is why defining what the purpose of the church is becomes so significant. What is God doing today in the age of the church? He’s not bringing social justice to the earth. What He’s doing, Acts 15:14 is He is taking out from among the Gentiles a people for His name. [Acts 15:14, ““Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.”]
He’s not redeeming all the Gentiles; what He’s doing is He’s taking out a select group from amongst the Gentiles, which is much smaller, isn’t it, of a task than bringing social justice to the earth.
So I hope you enjoyed that, Roman numeral VI, the purposes of the church. Next time we’re together we’ll do Roman numeral VII, the activities of the church. Anybody have a quick comment or question?