Friday, March 28, 2008
The Visible Vs. The Invisible Church
by Brian Schwertley
What do we mean when we make the distinction between the visible and invisible church? And what is the reason for this distinction? Starting around the 4th century - the expression "Visible Church" was refered to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.
On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Sprit, God's elect or true believers. Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always people in the church there with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Jesus will then say, "I never knew you". These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Jesus says of them that he "never knew them!!!" Some persons are in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These persons hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly regenerate, so we must be generous in our judgements. more
Friday, March 21, 2008
It's easy to condemn one another's (or the world's) sin. Too easy. When must we condemn and when must we forgive? What's the turning point? A repentant attitude. We must have the attitude of Christ; forgiving others as we have been forgiven.
On forgiveness, Luther says,
"Let the ministers of the Gospel learn from Paul how to deal with those who have sinned. "Brethren," he says, "if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith. If you see a brother despondent over a sin he has committed, run up to him, reach out your hand to him, comfort him with the Gospel and embrace him like a mother. When you meet a willful sinner who does not care, go after him and rebuke him sharply." But this is not the treatment for one who has been overtaken by a sin and is sorry. He must be dealt with in the spirit of meekness and not in the spirit of severity. A repentant sinner is not to be given gall and vinegar to drink." - Commentary on Galatians 6
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
As Christians, we understand that only Christ has fulfilled God's law on our behalf. We cannot hope to merit, in any way, our justification. Yet Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
John Piper comments that this reference to the law isn't about justification per se, but in the way Christians love. Here are some comments he gives on this verse:
• Our fulfilling of the law refers to a life of real love for people (Rom 13:8,10 / Gal 5:13-18)
• It is not the ground of our justification, it is a fruit of it.
• It is rendered NOT in our own strength, but by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
• It is rendered by FAITH as we trust Christ. This faith is the faith that justifiies - i.e. it is a gift.
• It is NOT a perfect love in this life. (Rom 7, Phil 3)
• It will become perfect when we die. (Rom 8:30 / Heb 12:23). It will be perfectly fulfilled in the future. But, we will be no more than justified sinners, and nothing more. Our righteousness is imputed. May Jesus' name be praised alone.
• It is sometimes called the "law of liberty", or "the law of Christ" in scripture.
• It is performed by means of trusting another who's obedience was already perfect.
• It is always pointing away from me and towards Jesus.
- "When you pursue love... pursue it as one who is free from the law as the ground of your acceptance with God. Pursue it as the law of liberty!"
- Our pursuit of love is an "indirect pursuit". We first go through Christ, not directly to the commandment, to love God and neighbor.
- Your God-dependent, Christ-exalting, Faith-based love for people which is based on your justification, is a REAL kind of love, it's really what the law requires.
- The goal of the law is Christ for righteousness (Rom 10:4)