Monday, June 25, 2012

The Church & You

Sometimes R.C. Sproul, Jr. will write something a little provocative... and if you're easily offended, you probably will be. But there is so much rich truth in this little piece he recently wrote about the church, that I had to post it here.

Sadly, I bet I could match his nickel & dime collection coin for coin.

If "the church as mother" is a new thought for you, take in this quote by John Calvin before getting to Sproul.

"I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith… so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26)." 
      ~ John Calvin (Inst. 4.1.1).

Dissing Our Mother
by R.C. Sproul, Jr.

It wasn’t the first time a wife upstaged her husband, and the results were nearly as disastrous. In Eden Eve took the lead, conversed with the devil, bit the fruit, and then served it to her husband. By the time the Reformation came around the bride of Christ, the church, had taken it upon herself to become the mediator between God and man. An institution created to be a help suitable to the second Adam, like a second Eve the Roman church, desiring to be like God, affirmed that she was the means by which a man might have peace with God. She held the purse strings to merit, to the means of grace, and to grace itself. Rome fell when she affirmed that she saved the lost.

Ever since the serpent has been slithering through a different tack.  Rome made herself to be everything, and the serpent has since made the church to be nothing. Oh, we might be willing to confess that on occasion good things can come through the evangelical church. It’s a blessing to hear good preaching. Who doesn’t enjoy time with friends? And then there’s the church softball league. The church as the church, however, what’s that about? Who needs that? I mean, I download preaching from Sermonaudio, I play rec league instead of church league softball, and hang out with the guys from Promise Keepers, instead of the guys from church. What am I missing?

What we’re missing is our mother, the church. She doesn’t nurture us from afar. She doesn’t feed us through the internet. She can’t discipline us when we won’t even acknowledge her.  Now my heart breaks for those who have made orphans of themselves. I fear for homes led by men who are so intent on leading their families that they refuse to be led by elders and so lead their own children into rebellion. But what is most frustrating, is when those who won’t acknowledge our common mother yet insist that they are my brother.

If I had a nickel for every story I’ve heard that begins with “Well, my son, uncle, father, friend, roommate, doesn’t belong to a church, but is a Christian” my nickel collection would be the envy of my neighbors. If I had a dime for every “brother” who wants me to grant him all the relational goodies of being in the family but who insists that no one will rule over him, well, my nickels would each have someone to play with.  This friend can’t understand why her “professing” son is shacking up with his girlfriend.  That other friend wants to leave the church where I serve, without transferring to another church, and yet still wants to be free to come to the Lord’s Table. And be welcome as a brother into our own tables. This third friend fences the Lord’s Table this way, “If you are a baptized believer you may come.” Okay, according to whom? Just how many baptized people are there out there that are not in the church? And they can come to the table? How can you commune if you have made yourself immune to excommunication?

Friends, I know churches can stink up the joint. Rome did, and it didn’t stop there. But just how repentant are we when we, by refusing to join a church, profess, “Well, I’m a sinner, but not a sinner that might need the grace of discipline. I’m a sinner, but not as bad as all the elders in my town. I’m a sinner, but I’m too good to join that church over there because of their sins.” This kind of repentance looks an awful lot like pride.

It’s true that the work of Christ becomes ours when we by the power of His Spirit trust in that work. It’s true that the thief on the cross never took any membership vows. It’s true if you trust in Him, and end up shipwrecked alone your soul will be safe. But it is also true that on the glorious truth that Jesus is the Son of God the Son of God has built and is building His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It is also true that the church is our Mother, and our calling is to honor her.  Our post-modern, western, evangelical low to non-existent ecclesiology isn’t a mere mistake. It isn’t merely bad systematic theology. It is instead deeply and profoundly dangerous. Love your mother. She bore you.

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