Ok, for those of you who really thrive on reading blogs with controversy, here’s a big one for you. At least when it comes to boring theological stuff. Baptism has become one of the most hotly debated issues in the history of Christianity. Though the apostle Paul included Baptism among the “elementary teachings” in Hebrews 6:2, the subject continues to be divisive some twenty centuries later. The theological interpretations of baptism today are as numerous as the denominations among the Protestant wing of Christendom. The Roman Catholic church elevates the act to such an extent that there is no need for faith prior to baptism and thus baptizes infants. Other groups do not adhere to physical baptism at all and merely spiritualize baptismal texts in the Bible. So what’s the answer? Is there a connection to “Church Admission”?
To start with I want to clarify that when we’re talking about “church” in this section of Kingdomology, we’re talking about the CHURCH universal. We’re talking about the connection that all Christ followers have across the world and for all time. We’re not talking about a local body of believers like First Christian Church in Liverpool, NY. In other words, these are the folks who live in different parts of the world and from different time frames that may or may not have slightly different scriptural interpretations than me, but are still in the same family of God by grace alone. We’re still Kingdom of Heaven Citizens. I do believe there is a place for local body church membership. But that’s another post. For now though, there is another point which the Bible includes as being part of the admission to God’s Church, and that point deals with ‘repentance.”
Ok, it’s been a while since we’ve talked “Church Talk” so I’m a bit over due. So here we go and I’ll try not to make it too heady. Now, we’ve seen that the CHURCH in its truest form is a lot more than just showing up to some building on Sunday morning. The Church is a gathered body of Christ followers, called out from the world for Him. They then act out His mission on earth today. They are part of Him; or, in him. So the question for today, actually for a few days, is how does one become part of such a revolutionary group of folks?
Ok, show of hands here. How many of you had the burden of memorizing seemingly useless poetry in Junior High School? Yup, me too. But to this day there are a few of those old classic jewels that still stick in my head. One of those was by Emily Dickinson and it went to the tune of, “A word is dead when it is said some say. I say it just begins to live that day.” Now, in addition to the simple fact that the poem is short, I also remember it because it actually says something. I tend to agree with dear old Emily that words are powerful and have the ability to do good or evil. Just ask any elementary school kid on the playground that gets called names. I’ve had my share of complements and ridicules growing up so I know all about it. But when it comes to real names, I like mine. There have been times that I’ve thought of the Stephen in Acts Chapter 7 who was martyred for the Faith. Stephen was a man of great faith who laid it on the line to the point of death. That makes me proud. Some folks have shortened the name to six letters making it, “Steven”, but I would never submit to such a heresy. In fact, I actually draw encouragement from the man who went before me and gave his life for Christ. Names can do that. They can bring boldness and also they can cause discouragement.
But what kind of thoughts and feelings come to mind when you hear the name “Church”?
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11.
I love the Church. In fact, next to Jesus, my wife and kids, I can’t really think of anything that I care about as much as I do the Church. I’ve had a lot of experiences with churches and church people over the years. I’ve been part of church gatherings that have really rocked and some that have quite frankly made me yawn. I’ve seen living churches and others that should have been buried long ago. But how do we know which ones are which beyond just liking or disliking a style or observing external signs? I remember reading a Time Life book years ago about the Soviet Union and particularly paying attention to a section describing the Orthodox Church there. The opening caption simply read, “The Living Church.” Having lived in the former Soviet Union for a while, I really question that statement. Sure there was a lot of priestly activity going on, and incense flowing around. But does that mean it’s alive? What kind of church were they really talking about? Though the state authorized church provided ceremonies and rites under Communism, their existence resembled more of what Paul described as “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) So what is the church anyway and what’s it supposed to do?