Being a Faithful Church
These last few weeks we have been considering who we are as All Nations Baptist Church. This week we will consider a couple aspects of being a faithful church.
Who are we?
We are and seek to be a simple, local, faithful Church
What do we do?
We confess the gospel of Christ, grow in the Lord, and go out into the world.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:13
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-24
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father…He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord… Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you.
Colossians 1:2, 4:7, 9
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:16
'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'
When we say that we are a faithful church, we must be careful to say this with humility. We aspire to be a faithful church and to be called a faithful church, and this faithfulness doesn’t begin in ourselves, but in the Lord Jesus Christ. In surveying the New Testament and the idea of faithfulness, we find first that Christ was and is faithful. God sent his only son to the world for a purpose: to redeem humanity to the praise of his glorious grace. Christ was faithful. In our desire to be faithful, we must first look to Christ who was faithful when we were dead in our trespasses and sins. This is why 2 Timothy is the first passage cited above. In the astonishing song that Paul records, this is the punchline: Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless. He cannot deny himself.
In this we are drawn to wonder in the work of God in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminds the church that this faithful one has called his church to himself and he who calls us is faithful to sanctify us and keep us blameless for the end. In this work of God, we trust. However, this does not imply that we are simply passive recipients of such a gift. This calling is also a calling to something. This is the thing that we most think of when we want to be faithful church. We want to be faithful to what the Bible says is the proper response to God’s salvation.
So we can be faithful in what we do. We have even listed specifically some ways that faithfulness looks as a church body in our church resolution (what is often called a church covenant). Our desire is that the whole resolution reflects what the Bible has instructed us in as a church, and it is what we have formally committed as church members to do. We want to faithfully confess Christ. We want to faithfully worship in Spirit and in truth. We want to faithfully fulfill the ‘one-anothers’ within the church. We want to promote the unity of the church body. We want to faithfully make disciples of all nations.
But faithfulness isn’t just about how we live. It is also what we confess and believe. We cannot deny the Triune Nature of God and still count ourselves as faithful. This is why Paul can instruct Timothy as an elder in the church in Ephesus to keep a close watch on himself and his teaching. What does it look like to be a faithful elder? Watch what you do and watch what you teach. In both these things salvation is found. Granted, like I have already mentioned, this salvation is based on the faithfulness and election of God. At the same time, our human response in this salvation, and specifically as leaders, is to watch what we do and what we teach. When this is communicated to the church, then I think we could say something similar, ‘Watch yourself and what you believe.’
These two things are central, and they reflect God’s calling on the whole life of a person. A person who has the right belief but does not act in accordance with what he says he believes is called a hypocrite and will not enter the kingdom. Vice versa is true as well. God has called us to be faithful in all things: in our minds, hearts, beliefs, and bodies. Although we do stumble, like the disciples, we have an advocate with the Father and we have the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
So to be a faithful church acknowledges the great work of God, but it also acknowledges that there is a joyful, proper, and right response. I gave my daughter a drawing tool this year for Christmas. The joyful response is to play with this gift, and it has made me so happy to see her actually using it and enjoying it the way it is made to work. So to be a faithful church is to respond in accordance with the scriptures.
Sometimes what we think is faithful might not be the same as what another Christian group might interpret as faithfulness in doctrine or in practice. Baptism is one area where this is common. We are convinced that the pattern of baptism we see in the Bible is that sinners repented, believed, were baptized, and added to the church. Repentance and faith require a discerning brain and heart. But we do not in seeking to be faithful in this area denigrate or condemn others whose theology and interpretation of the Bible drive them elsewhere. Instead, we are seeking to be faithful here, and they over there, so long as the doctrinal issue does not destroy the foundation of true belief. Adjusting the doctrine of God, the doctrine of salvation, and the Word are errors that are tantamount to rejecting the teaching of the scriptures. In other areas, we forbear. The elders of each church spend some of their energy and thought and prayer into which of these issues are serious doctrinal errors to be addressed and which we entrust to the conscience. Our doctrinal statement and historic confessions give us a guidepost.
There are many more specific matters that we could delve into. It would take a series of books to delve into all of them. So to finish, I want to summarize what we believe a church is since we are trying to be a faithful church. A church is a group of baptized believers who have committed to gather regularly to worship God through song, prayer, and proclamation of the word, and to regularly observe the ordinances of baptism and communion. As a group of people who is locally connected, we seek to fulfill the one-anothers of the scriptures and confess Christ. Our gatherings are intended as well by God to equip the saints each to go out and make disciples of all nations. We acknowledge that we are imperfect in such an endeavor, but we also are continuing to strive ever more towards maturity. In this way, we are attempting to be a faithful church.