The subject matter we are discussing is paramount in the life of the church. Since God is a God of order, it is prudent that all things related to the local church setting and great commission is done in a biblical, logical and systematic approach. To create a pothole in the system causes a strain on many other ideas that are absolutely pertinent to the proper functions of the local church. For example, if we think one can determine how God is to be worshipped outside of the specifics of scripture, it creates a problematically wide-open gate that once embarked upon, will be hard to reestablish and rescue. It allows for just about anything. Hence we limit that according to the scriptures directives alone and that which the church at large over 2000 plus years has defended and embraced. This paper should be read after the paper entitled, ‘The Great Omission’ which can be found here:
In regards to the Great Commission and Matt 28:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
At the front end, one must first consider how God works in all of this. Since, as mentioned, God is a God of order, He does things in a systematic, orderly fashion; nothing is ever left to chance. Consider the family unit: God is head of Christ, Christ the head of man, man the head of woman. In the same way, the local church is established on a hierarchy. One could never call a unit a church if it does not have leadership. If a man feels called and sent, it does not happen at the universal level. So, since God works in a hierarchical fashion, one must consider this distinction whenever one looks at scripture when terms are used. It would be by default to consider that when the word ‘preach’ or any cognates of that word are used, the implication must be that the writer is speaking with this idea in mind, to begin with. The rationale is never devoid of this idea-it cannot be, else there is confusion and turmoil; much of the systematic that God ordained and intended is affected.
As well, one will need to consider terminology; for instance, the words, preach, preaching, preacher, proclamation, teach, teacher, church polity, characteristics of office holder vs laypeople, the means of grace and who are able to administer these means legally, the distinction between preaching and teaching and sharing, witnessing, speaking, evangelization, evangelizing, the office of evangelist, ambassadorship, ambassador, proclaiming, proclamations, etc. All of these terms must be weighed in light of a biblical hierarchy and specifically to church polity. One thing cannot be divorced from the other, as I will show.
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
1 Corinthians 1:23
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1 Corinthians 15:11
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
2 Corinthians 4:5
5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
1 Thessalonians 2:9
9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
None of the above scriptures should be seen devoid of this doctrine.
Whenever we see the term ‘church’ in scripture, one must as well make the obvious needed distinction between the local church and the church universal. As well, when we see terms like, ‘preacher or preaching, we need to weigh that in the balance in relation to whom this title is owned. It is never used randomly. When we look at Acts ch 8, we can see that this ‘church’ spoken of is the local expression as they are ‘scattered’. The universal expression could never be scattered. Yes, the living make up a portion of the universal but the majority are the elect that have passed on to glory, to which Christ heads in a way that is not the same as the local expression. The local expression, here on Earth is overseen by Christ as head, He being the groom and the local church is bride. This bride has oversight locally, i.e. elders and deacons. To say that this local expression, i.e. a ‘church’ is scattered, tells us on the front end that this scattered group still remains a church and to be a church one must always have oversight. This scattered group was never left leaderless else they could not be called a church.
Let’s address what it means to be called a church; To be called a church, the unit must have the marks that make a church a church. There are essentially 3 marks:
- The true gospel is preached
- The sacraments are distributed, i.e. the supper and baptism
- Discipline is administered by leadership
If these that were scattered were without leadership, allowing for the preaching to be random by everyone, this cannot be seen as a local expression as none of the rights commanded are being administered in a cogent fashion. The local church is an organized unit and this unit has specific rules for the unit to be called ‘church’. For Acts chapter 8 to use the term ‘church’ tells us that the leadership had to be in place. If a gathering of believers does not have a leader, it cannot be rightly called a church; yes, when I meet with friends for dinner, it could be said that we are the universal expression of the church, but never could it be said that we are the local expression if we have no oversight. It is a grave error to determine that this passage tells us that the church was orphaned from God’s providential oversight. It is silly to even think so. If God ordains a thing, why would He allow for such calamity in light of His decree?
8 And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
What does it mean when it says, ‘except the apostles’? Obviously, the apostles remained, unscathed and unscattered in light of this persecution. As well, this scattering could imply that all of the cells of Christianity went into a hiding of sorts and were forced to move all over the surrounding regions; think of them as seeds. Surely this was at God’s hand. Most think of this scattering in the negative.
Gen 50:19 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
Acts chapter 8 cannot be rightly used to show that the church was without oversight and that the command as given in the Great Commission was transitioned to all people.
Jesus promises to never leave the church as orphans:
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Granted, this passage is speaking of the Holy Spirit; however, to be without leadership is akin to being left as ‘orphans’. To be orphaned is to be without a parent. Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells believers and in that way, they are never orphans, however, to be without headship, i.e. God the head of Christ, Christ the head of man, man the head of woman, the church without leadership, makes the body local, orphans and Christ promises never to leave them orphaned. The statement is much deeper than just allowing it to tell us that the Holy Spirit is all we need to remove the idea that there are more things that make believers orphans than just the Holy Spirit indwelling us. The forensic nature to the church is relevant in this and to be without leadership, at any time and epoch must be considered. In that, this scattering that is mentioned in various New Testament places is never void of over sight. That would make us ‘orphans’ at the local level, not to mention the church would cease to be a church and we all know what Revelation says of that. ‘The gates of hell will not prevail…..’
1 Peter chapter 1:
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
We can see that Peter is in place as leadership; we see the term ‘scattered’ again being used here. The question to ask is are these people without leadership locally? If we read on, we can see that this scattering is not like some may want to believe:
5 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as kbeing lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.
One can clearly see that this scattering did not leave the church as orphans as there were among them ‘elders’ still. The Preaching that Peter is speaking of happens at the leadership level.
James speaks of a scattering;
aJames, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
In chapter two, the idea is fleshed out so we get the idea correct:
2 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
We can see that the word ‘assembly’ is used. This is the same word to denote congregation. Then we see in chapter 3 where ‘teachers’ are addressed:
3 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
This clearly shows that those that were ‘scattered’ were not orphans and were not left without the needed, adequate leadership that the local church system demands. Hence, to assume that any scattering was without leadership is to doubt the power of God in keeping his church alive at all times under all sorts of persecution.
What is the commission?
Is it Christ who sends or the church?
It is Christ who sends; the issue is does Christ send rogue people outside of His local church? One would think that they would want the over sight of their leadership. The prayers and blessings that happen at this level are irreplaceable. Should the leadership get their hands on determining who is fit to go to the streets? Well, of course. All of us have seen the travesty of people who are out there who are not studied in the scriptures. I recall one time in Los Angeles where a gentleman was screaming into a bullhorn at passing cars hell fire and brimstone. Now, I will be the first person to tell you that there are reasons to speak about sin and the result, i.e. hell. However, we are told to make sure our speech is seasoned properly; and balanced. Many of these people are new believers who have just put their hands to the plow. Granted, they have the excitement, but many times the knowledge is lacking; knowledge that an officer typically has.
Now, I do not want to destroy my own argument by quoting from 2 Timothy as we all know that this epistle was specifically written for the man of God who is either pursuing an office or is holding an office, but it is relevant. I quote it only to make a point:
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
How would a man that studies know that he is approved? Who would be the approving? Christ? How would you know? Thats definitely over-spiritualizing the command. The approval happens at the level of the local church, specifically by the officers. Yes it is Christ sending, but He is sending the officers. The laypersons work under the officers and play an important part in the commission. The commission, would be like a 3 legged dog if we remove the needed work that lay people have. This is not the issue, however. Again, we are dealing with terms and distinctions.
The commission itself, i.e. the gifts of the body play a part in completing that commission-it is not just the delivery of the actual gospel call. Most people are compelled to reduce the commission down to the delivery alone. My wife bringing forth her gift of hospitality is as important in the commission as is the actual preaching. Consider the people who pray for the message to be received. How important are they to the commission? The commission is much more than just the delivery. You can see that the thinking in this age with regard to the commission is the delivery, primarily. When we do hit the streets, it should be with a bevy of gifted people; prayer warriors, people who have the gifts that God blesses the church with, as these things are so relevant to the whole.
You will find that the terms are important and do not negate the full participation of all member of the body; even the infant lying in the cradle plays a part in fulfilling the commission, i.e. ‘out of the mouths of babes’, the birth of Christ. One should never be seen as a lesser person if they do not feel they are able to share in the same capacity as the man who is functioning with a calling to be a verbal witness; all believers are doing a part in fulfilling this mandate. No one area of the commission is greater than the other. My wife, who has a gift of hospitality, may play a more integral part in this fulfillment than I, depending on providence and time. A person who is cleaning the church prior to a Lord’s Day service may be the catalyst that completes the invitation. I am not saying that the deacon serving in this way is actually delivering a gospel call, but is assisting in the message being conveyed in that the church has an order that only God can provide and is reflected to the regenerated member as a process of sorts. The order that is seen is a characteristic of God and is to be appreciated at the spiritual level.
Another thing to consider is that there are different polities out there; ultimately, there are two. One is either Presbyterian or independent. Some independent organizations are more independent than others. For example, there are some faithful credo Baptist groups that have an accountability in place that resembles Presbyterian polity-this is to be appreciated. However, the majority of credo Baptist congregations have no oversight outside of their local body. This is problematic, ultimately. One of the pitfalls of independency is that the essence of the idea flows downstream into the mentality of the members. Independency spawns more independency. As a Presbyterian, I know that nothing I do is independent of the whole. Nothing I do is above or beyond the reach of my local church and leadership. Everything falls under the accountability of my elders and local church.
For example, my speaking with a couple during a intermission at the ballet is in proxy of my local church; we should always want to ultimately invite these persons to the local congregation as that is where the means of grace are actually disseminated officially. My sharing or witnessing should never be devoid of discipleship and leading the people I talk to the source of life giving water. Is my sharing the story of Christ less imperative or valid if I do not call it ‘preaching’? In one way it is not and in another it is. I am not preaching nor teaching per se. This is where the distinctions I mention are imperative. For instance, what if this couple were to immediately say, ‘Look, there is water, what prevents me from being baptized?’ I am not an ordained man. I cannot place the sign of covenant on anyone. I understand that some Baptists believe that water can be applied by anyone, but that is contra biblical and can be proved from scripture. If a person is able to place the sign, they are able to as well, administer the supper. This is problematic. It causes a cascade of problems and an unavoidable breakdown in hierarchy; a hierarchy that Christ has implemented.
Christ and the church
How does Christ feel about independent people doing thing divorced from His bride? Lets look at scripture:
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Yes, the above scripture is in regard to how husbands are to love their wives; however, again, digging deeper we find the extent of Christ’s love for the local expression. Loving my wife as Christ loves the church is a practicality. I have to work at it. It happens locally in my home. When the Apostle is addressing this, surely he means the church local. Sanctification happens practically. It cannot be about the universal church as they have been glorified. If Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it, one can see that he holds that local expression in the highest regard. In light of this, why wouldn’t all those who feel the desire to speak of this Christ want the advocacy of their local church? If Christ calls leaders and places them in office, it is for a good reason. These men will be judged at a higher level for good reason; they are looking out for our wellbeing and even our souls! Should they not identify your gift? Isn’t this how it should work?
Another good example would be woman in ministry. Are woman pastors? Are they teachers? If they are out evangelizing or preaching, as is often said in the Baptist fold, ‘All are called to the Great Commission’, look at the result; on one hand, we would agree that woman are not preachers, yet they are out in the streets, ‘preaching? Teaching? Or when we approach this pothole, we take back the idea that ‘all are called’ and then reduce it to a single gender. My response would be, ‘Then all are not called-just the male genders?’ It shows a bit of inconsistency. I have met a few able bodied females who were gifted in sharing biblical truth. It would seem consistent in that they are able to share, witness and testify legally within the scope I pose. On the other hand, if we follow the above criteria, it excludes them based on the idea that the scriptures are quite clear that woman cannot preach, to which I heartily agree. But under my premise, they can share freely, without limitations, knowing that they are not preaching.
The commission is clear; those called and sent are responsible to all of the directives. It is not to be broken down into pieces. Those called and sent are commanded to go, make disciples and baptize them.
If we follow along the lines of the idea that laypeople may place water on people, outside of an ordained office, because they are fulfilling the commission, you must allow for woman as well to do the same. This begs the question again, is the commission to all or just some? If we allow for laypeople to fulfill this mandate, we lose the distinction in relation to the ordained office itself. Where would be the divining rod between a person of office and the layperson? Why would we need officers at all?
Consider the idea of discipleship. Look again at Matt 28; we are called to go, to make disciples and to place the sign. I used to be very active in a street ministry years ago. Follow up was near to none. Periodically we were able to meet with people we shared with. Most times, not. Getting phone numbers from homeless people was impossible as none had money for phones. I understand that one of us plants, the other waters; but when the apostle implied this he did not intend for the idea to be stretched to the degree most street outreaches go. Discipleship is key and in most ways, sacrificed; most street ministries give the call and then depart, never to see the persons again. This is NOT the commission.
Consider that the gospel message is preached routinely to the local church by the pastor. Why? Because there are many people in the congregation that are unsaved still. As well, they are all actively being disciple. Sometimes this discipling is occuring in a flawed way. Discipleship has been subjected to all the other silly stuff the church gets their feet into, i.e. lunches, holiday parties, musical events, etc. Discipleship takes a back seat to these entertainments, sadly.
It was recently said that I hold to too much tradition. The rationale behind that was secondary to much of what I write falls under what is called, good and necessary consequence or inference. The young believer may not have studied these things as they are not written out in the way many other doctrines are. Many of these ideas are gleaned by years of study and harmoniously apply a group of passages. For example:
1) Paedobaptism-the sign changing from circumcision to water baptism
a) Female infants and their covenantal status-females are ‘in’ covenant even though they do not have a sign placed on them.
2) The Trinity
3) The Covenant of grace and redemption
4) The change in the sabbath from the last day of the week to the first day
5) Woman taking the supper
6) The local church vs the Universal Church
7) The Regulative Principle
9) Baptism of adult children belonging to Christian parents
10) Mode of baptism
11) Church Polity
The above doctrines are gotten to by combining a group of principles that are found in scripture.
Preaching is a means of grace and falls under the RPW
Ch 7 WCF:
- Under the gospel, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed, are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations.
- The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as, also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, and vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasion; which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.
- Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable to, any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth; as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself, so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.
- The outward element to be used in the sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto.
26.11 Although the bishops or pastors of the churches are obliged to regularly preach the Word as part of their office, yet the work of preaching the Word is not exclusively confined to them. Others who are also gifted and qualified by the Holy Spirit for the task, and who are approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it.1
*as part of their office…
*approved and called…..it would follow that those approved and called, would be officially sent. This shows ordination and office.
WLC Q. 158. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?
A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.
WLC Q. 176. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?
A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.
Distinctions are important. For example, the word, ‘preacher’. It is used only four times in the NT:
Rom 10:14 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent?
1 Tim 2:7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
2 Tim 1:11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
2 Pet 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
The word ‘pastor’ is used only once:
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ
The passage in Eph is important in that we no longer have apostles or prophets. Evangelists are essentially done away with as well. Some Presbyterian denoms do still use the title; however, it is an office and the only ones holding the title are elders.
There is a direct relationship between a preacher, a pastor and a teacher.
If a person ascribes the title to himself, outside of these distinctions, it causes confusion. The lines of distinction are blurred and not to the church’s credit. For example, if a person calls himself a ‘street preacher’, what is the distinction between him and a church preacher? Does the street preacher introduce himself to people as a street preacher? The pastor who preaches does. He owns the title. If someone asks him what he does for a living, he replies, ‘I am a preacher’. Can the street preacher do the same? If there is a devaluing or a reluctance on the part of the street preacher in his reply, or if he is despondent to use the title, it is because he does not own the title rightly; by default a distinction is being made, without that person even having to voice it.
As a closing remark, the above principle should not be considered an injustice to those who want to go out and share with the world at large. As mentioned previously, this rationale is an issue of semantics and definitions. All parties within the body of Christ play an important part in the fulfilling of the great Commission. The ‘omission’ comes about when these biblical distinctions are ignored. The prayer warrior or the person gifted with hospitality is as important to the whole process coming together as the person delivering the actual message. To deliver a message without the other components, in my opinion, misses the mark. The body itself cannot be devoid of a finger or toe and function optimally. As I made mention of recently, just because I ride in a fire truck does not make me a fireman.
I pray this paper is a blessing to all who read it and helps amplify some facts.