Month: November 2019

Pastor's Blog

The People of God in 1 Timothy 3:15

1 Timothy 3:15 uses three phrases to describe the New Testament church: we are “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”

On Sunday we explored the “pillar and buttress” metaphor in some detail. What we didn’t explore—quite as much—is the rich Old Testament background behind those first two descriptions.

“Household of God”

Let’s consider this first phrase. Households typically live in houses. And, in fact, both words—“household” and “house”—are translations of a single Greek word “house,” which could have either meaning, depending on context.

In the Greek Old Testament, the phrase “house of God” was often used to speak about the the place where God dwelt.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

(Genesis 28:16–17, ESV)

Later on this phrase was used many times to refer to the tabernacle and then temple.

Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God!

(Psalm 135:1–2, ESV)

In the New Covenant, we understand that we are God’s house. As Ephesians 2:22 says, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” And if we turn back a few verses in that chapter, we find that there’s not a huge gap between the idea that we are God’s “house” and that we are also His “household.” Look at how these two ideas come together in verses 19-21:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

(Ephesians 2:19–21, ESV)

This is who we are: the structure where God lives, and the family that lives with Him inside.

“Church of the Living God”

A similar Old Testament background stands behind the phrase “church of the living God.” Like we learned on Sunday, “church” is translated from the Greek word that means “assembly” or “congregation” or “gathering.”

This word is used many times in the Greek Old Testament to speak about God’s gathered people. When Israel gathered before Mount Sinai, this was known as “the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10). Joshua 9:8 speaks about the “assembly of Israel,” and Judges 20:2 tells us of the “assembly of the people of God.” 2 Chronicles 6:12 says, “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel…”

This word is used in the Psalms to describe the gathering of God’s people for worship, and it’s often translated as “congregation” in our English Bible. “I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you” (Psalm 34:18).

Understanding this connection between the words “church” and “assembly” helps us bridge the gap between the people of God in the Old and New Covenants. Many Christians still speak about “Israel” and “the Church” as if they are two distinct entities, or two separate peoples of God. Nobody living in the 1st Century, reading the New Testament for the first time, would have made this mistake. They would have understood that “church” (or “assembly”) was a standard term to refer to the gathered people of God. The New Covenant “church” is simply the assembly of God’s people, Jew and Gentile, who have been saved by faith in Jesus the Messiah (See Ephesians 2:11-22).

As we come together again on Sunday, we should do so with the knowledge that God is the living God, and we are His gathered people who stand in a long line of assemblies—from Mount Sinai to Jerusalem to Ephesus all the way to Nipawin. More than this, we are also God’s very house. When people enter our gathering they should be able to say, along with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place!” Not because of our building, but because we ourselves are God’s house and household, and the Lord Himself is dwelling in our midst.

Pastor's Blog

The Gift of Giving

One of the important truths coming out of our study in Ephesians 4 is that ministry is a gift. When God includes us in His work and entrusts us with a particular way of serving others, we should receive that as a gift from Him.

We saw this yesterday in Ephesians 3, where Paul wrote, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). The grace given to him was the ministry of preaching to the Gentiles.

This same language appears in several other passages as well. Consider the following:

But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:15-16

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

Galatians 2:7-9

Perhaps the most startling example is found in 2 Corinthians 8:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—  and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

In order to truly understand this passage, we need to know that the word translated as “favour” (in bold above) comes from the very same word that is translated as “grace” elsewhere in the passage.

God gave to the Macedonians the ministry of sacrificial giving. The Macedonians properly understood this ministry opportunity as a gift of grace from God to them, and so begged Paul for the grace of “taking part in the relief of the saints”—i.e. of giving sacrificially.

This passage is particularly relevant after yesterday’s congregational meeting. This past year, we made a decision to hire a new staff member, and as a result we’ve had to increase our budget for 2020. Meeting this budget will require generosity from all of us at EBC.

As we anticipate the ministries which the Lord has set before us as a church, and the opportunities he will give us in 2020, the question before us is, “Will we see this opportunity to give as a ministry, and a gift of grace from the Lord?” As the Lord enables us to have that perspective, it will radically alter our approach to generosity.

Jesus has set ministries before each one of us. Like Ephesians 4:7 says, “Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” One of those ministries is the grace of generosity. Let’s embrace that ministry together by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit as we look together towards 2020.

Pastor's Blog

The Sheep and the Shepherds

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

1 Peter 5:1-3, ESV

This passage reinforces two connected truths about church leadership.

1) Church Leaders Are a Team

Notice how Peter speaks to the elders, plural. They, not one single person, is responsible to “shepherd [pastor] the flock of God.” It’s also hard to miss that Peter includes himself among this group: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder.” Peter was an apostle who had been with Jesus, and yet here he refers to himself as just a fellow elder. 

This reinforces the Biblical pattern which describes the church as being led by a team of elders/overseers/pastors, none of whom have any more inherent authority than another.

One or more of those elders/overseers/pastors may be paid staff, a situation that 1 Timothy 5:17-18 anticipates. As paid staff, they are freed up (and expected) to carry more responsibilities than the non-staff elders. They will probably be the ones to preach more often, do more visitation and counselling, and so on. 

Some elders may also have particularly pronounced giftings, and may be delegated by the rest of the team to function in a leadership capacity—kind of like a team captain. Timothy, for example, may have had this role while in Ephesus. But these staff- or lead-elders still have the same basic office as the rest of the team, and hold no more inherent authority.

We can think of it this way: a pastor is just a staff elder. An elder is just a non-staff pastor.

This can be a tough idea for us to wrap our heads around, especially if we have gotten used used to the “pastor-as-CEO” or “pastor-as-priest” model that pervades many North American churches. But it is the Biblical pattern.

2) Pastors/Elders/Overseers Are Still Just a Part of the Church

To glimpse the second truth, notice Peter’s use of “among” in verse 1: “So I exhort the elders among you.” Peter’s letter (like most of the New Testament letters) was not written to the elders who then read it to the church. No, it was written to the church, and the elders were there among the church, receiving it from Peter. 

The elders were a part of the church, among the church—not above them. 

Notice also how verse 2 tells them to “shepherd [pastor] the flock of God that is among you.” Not underneath you, but among you. The shepherds were among the sheep, and the sheep were among the shepherds, and they were all a part of the church together.

Perhaps we struggle with the first truth—that pastors are just a part of the team—because we don’t understand the second. We’ve subtly come to believe that pastors are a special class of people who exist on a higher spiritual plane above everybody else.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches this kind of thing. Ordinary people are a part of the “laity” who do “secular” work, whereas the priests are a part of the “clergy” who do “sacred” work. Their prayers are seen to be more special than everybody else’s, and they are viewed as the ones through whom the people draw near to God.

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that all Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:4-5) who each approach God through our one high priest, Jesus (Hebrews 10:19-22). Pastors/overseers/elders don’t exist on a higher spiritual plane than everybody else. Their prayers don’t have more inherent power than anybody else’s. In one sense, they are still sheep themselves. They lead the church as a part of the church.

This is God’s good design, and we will find great blessing and freedom as we follow it.


What Is the Gospel?

The word “gospel” means “good news.” Here at EBC, we delight to know and share this best news in the world, a message which can be understood in four parts:

The gospel—the good news—begins with the message that God is our creator and has made everything, including us, for His glory.
You and I have chosen to sin against God by rebelling against Him and worshipping the things God has made more than God Himself. Our sin has earned God’s judgement. We experience God’s judgement in so much of the brokenness and dysfunction we experience in our world today, and, apart from God’s mercy, we will experience His wrath fully when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.
God is full of love, and He has provided a way for His justice to be satisfied and for His mercy to flow to us. He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and died on the cross in our place. In His death, Jesus took the punishment of our sins upon Himself and satisfied God’s justice fully. Three days later, He rose from the dead, conquering death itself, securing for us the reality of eternal life, and ruling as king over all things.
There is nothing we can do to earn this salvation. Jesus earned it for us, freely paying for it all in our place, and God offers it to us as a free gift. All we “do” is let go of our idols and treasured sins, and reach up to receive this gift with empty hands, trusting in Jesus and all that He has done. The Bible calls this response “repentance” and “faith,” and it is a work of God in our hearts. Because Jesus is king, and because He sends His Holy Spirit to fill and empower His people, trusting in Him will always result in a transformed life.

If you have never trusted Jesus, you can do so today—even right now! Please contact us if we can help you better understand the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus.

Sharing the Good News with Others

If you would like help understanding the gospel so as to share it with others more confidently, the following sermon and blog post may be helpful to you.