The Ascended Christ has given gifts to men (Eph. 4:11,12), one of these gifts being the pastor/teacher. Pastors are given the assignment of leading, feeding and caring for the sheep, as well as fending off wolves who would seek to devour them.
Every Pastor is very human. As the saying goes, “the best of men are men at best.” Some things encourage them greatly, while other things are definitely hard to deal with. A pastor must always remember Whom he is most trying to please, that being God Himself. He must please the Audience of One. While he wishes all to be happy as the local Church moves forward in the Lord, in the final analysis, if God is pleased, it does not matter who is displeased. Conversely, if God is displeased, it does not matter who is pleased. A Pastor lives, eats, sleeps and breathes to see a people formed who want that also – the will of the Chief Shepherd in their lives.
With this in mind, Dr. Ligon Duncan answers the question, “how can I as a Church member best support my pastor?”:
The King James Version of the Bible is an excellent translation. There is so much about it to be commended. It was my first ever Bible and I am indeed glad for that. However, it is not the only version one should ever use. We have learned much about the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible since the 17th century and these insights have shaped many of the modern translations, helping us understand the original words God inspired. Just saying this is anathema to some people caught up in what is called ‘King James Only’.
I very much appreciate Pastor Tim Conway’s teaching here (below). This is a controversy that has caused untold damage and division in so many friendships and families and very sadly, has even split entire churches. He addresses this vital issue in terms that hopefully all can follow. – Pastor John Samson
Grace Community Church’s website (gccsatx.com) reads: “Many adamantly hold to the ‘KJV Only’ as being the only translation of the Bible to use. It seems that constantly new believers are running into this question and wrestling with the evidence of whether it is a valid argument or not. In this Bible Study Tim seeks to put forward the evidence that convinced him that the ‘KJV Only’ position is not a stance that is being faithful to the evidence.
It is because of emails that we have received, like the following, that it was apparent there was a need to put something up on the KJV Only controversy. For example, at the beginning of 2012 someone emailed in saying:
“Exactly what part of “ANYONE WHO ADDS OR TAKES AWAY FROM THIS BOOK” DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND? IT IS INDEED NO different than “WHICH PART OF THE WORD “NO” DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND???? I was at a loss as to why almost everyone was reading from every other so called new and improved versions of the bible. All Reading from any and every other version EXCEPT the true Old King James……Why Why why would you want to change God’s word to suit the brethren. It ought to be rather, The brethren adapting to the grand language of the Old King James not all changing the word to suit the brethren !!!! The old King James Version has the SALT. All the rest are simply put…without SALT. I am just shocked though I know Our King of King’s Christ Jesus says I should think it strange. Go ahead brethren. GO ON… explain away. Many others will be led astray by you and yours. I am grateful to God evermore I remain wide awake.”
Two years later this same person emailed back saying:
“I have repented to God & have ceased from my ridiculous King James only attitude. I greatly appreciate your sermons & wish to apologize for my previous high minded opinionated foolishness. I hope you can graciously forgive me for lashing out the way I did.”
Our desire, as Tim says at the start of the study, is not to take away from God’s Word, but to see people, like the person above, come to recognize that the evidence does not support the KJV 1611 as being the only translation we should use.”
“Multiple translations don’t make a text more or less reliable. But it’s interesting that there’s kind of an underlying assumption when people make that statement and it feels something like this: well, the Bible has been translated and once it got translated, people have revised the translation without going back to look at those early manuscripts. And so, I thought that when I was in junior high school but I got past that relatively early. The reality is that the King James Bible, when it was translated in 1611, the New Testament was essentially based on seven Greek New Testament manuscripts, the earliest of which went back to the 11th century. We still have those manuscripts and we have almost 6,000 more manuscripts. So, we have almost a thousand times as many manuscripts as the King James New Testament was based on and our earliest don’t go back to the 11th century but so far as what’s been published, they go back to the second century. So they go back almost a thousand years earlier. So as time goes on, we’re not actually getting farther and farther away from the original text, we’re getting closer and closer.” – Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.
Everything God’s people Israel had received by way of revelation, pointed to Him… and yet, we read, “his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11)
What an indictment that is!
How on earth did the very people awaiting the arrival of the Messiah, miss Him when he came?
Jesus, in John 5:39,40 declared, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
After the resurrection – Jesus encountered two very despondent disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were struggling to make sense of all that had taken place in Jerusalem…
Luke 24: 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Later on, He appeared to His disciples:
In Luke 24:44, 45 He talked about “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…”
Again, how did they miss Him, when He is the main subject matter of the Old Covenant?
WHO IS THIS JESUS?
In Genesis … He is the Lord God who formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into him;
the One who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day;
He is the Seed of the Woman;
He is Noah’s ark of refuge;
He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek
He is Abraham’s ram caught in the thicket;
He is the King in royal Judah’s line…
In Exodus… He is the One calling out from the burning bush – the great I AM;
He is the Passover Lamb;
and the Rock which followed His people in the wilderness.
In Leviticus… He is the Tabernacle;
He is the Altar; the Great High Priest, and the Lamb for Sacrifice.
In Numbers… He is the brazen serpent lifted up for the healing of all who will look to Him;
He is the Tabernacle’s cloud by day, and pillar of fire by night.
In Deuteronomy… He is the Prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua … He is Lord of heaven’s armies, the Captain of our Salvation.
Judges … He is the angel of the Lord; our Judge and Law-Giver.
Ruth … He is our Kinsman Redeemer.
1 & 2 Samuel … He is our trusted Prophet who sits on David’s throne forever.
Kings & Chronicles … He is our reigning King; one greater than even Solomon.
Ezra … He is the Faithful scribe.
Nehemiah … He is the Restorer of broken walls.
Esther … He is our Advocate Mordecai.
Job … He is our Ever-Living Redeemer who will take His stand upon the earth.
Psalms … He is the Lord our Shepherd.
Proverbs … He is our Wisdom.
Ecclesiastes … He is our sure Hope of Resurrection when all else is vanity and futility.
Song of Songs … He is our loving Bridegroom.
Isaiah … He is born of the virgin, He is Immanuel;
the Lord of glory, high and lifted up in the Temple;
the wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.
the suffering Servant of Yahweh;
the sin bearing Savior – wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the punishment due to us was upon Him and by whose stripes we are healed;
cut off from the land of the living, stricken for God’s elect people;
yet will be resurrected and live forever
Jeremiah … He is the Righteous Branch; the Lord our Righteousness.
Lamentations … He is our Weeping Prophet.
Ezekiel … He is the Son of man.
Daniel … He is the fourth man in the fiery furnace; the Ancient of Days, the One who comes in the clouds of heaven.
Hosea … He is the Faithful Husband.
Joel … He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Amos … He is our burden bearer.
Obadiah … He is Mighty to Save.
Jonah … He is our great foreign Missionary; the One who will be three days and nights in the belly of the earth.
Micah … He is the eternal ruler of Israel, born in Bethlehem.
Nahum … He is the avenger of God’s elect, our Stronghold in the day of trouble.
Habakkuk … He is the Great Evangelist
Zephaniah … He is the Restorer of the Remnant
Haggai … He is the desire of all nations, the cleansing Fountain.
Zechariah … He is our humble King riding on a colt; the pierced One, wounded in the house of His friends.
Malachi … Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in His wings.
Question: Pastor John, what are the marks of a true church? I have heard people say there are three: 1. The preaching of the gospel takes place. 2. The sacraments are rightly administered. 3. Church discipline is exercised. I can see that all of these are biblical components. But are these all we should look for? What about prayer, love, evangelism, discipleship and practical care for people, etc.?
Thanks for your question. Of course, many sects call themselves a “church.” Such has always been the case throughout Church history. Because of this, the Protestant Reformers in coming to understand the true Gospel of Christ, sought to help people distinguish between true and false churches. Since early on in Church history Christians have used the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed as summaries of the faith, to be affirmed by all Christians. If a Church has a problem affirming these basic doctrines found in these catholic creeds (the word catholic here means universal, meaning that all orthodox Christians would affirm these truths) it leads me to think that they do not embrace true and sound doctrine. If a Church cannot affirm essential truths such as the Trinity or the full deity and humanity of Christ, then it is embracing something else, and anything else is a heresy.
A heretical church by very definition cannot be a true church. It is vital that we get our doctrine right on the essentials of the faith. We only have to read Galatians chapter 1 to realize that if a church preaches another gospel, it comes under the anathema (the eternal curse) of God. That is why Martin Luther called the doctrine of sola fide (justification by faith alone) the article upon which the church stands or falls.
The Reformers were clear: The one true holy and apostolic church is present where (1) the word of God (and the Gospel) is preached and taught; (2) the sacraments of the church are rightly administered (namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper) and (3) church discipline is faithfully exercised. By implication, this third mark necessarily requires the presence of godly leadership (elders) who provide a safe place for the sheep to grow in Christ and who can ward off any wolves who seek to devour (see Acts 20). That is why Christians simply getting together for fellowship, though wonderful, without the oversight and care of elders, it does not consititute the gathering of a true Church. Christ, the Chief Shepherd has established His under shepherds for the care, protection and spiritual well being of His precious sheep (see Hebrews 13:17).
Other things are vital for church life as you rightly observed. In fact, we could add many more elements to your list. However these things flourish only where the three marks of the church are present.
For instance, lets talk about love. Love is absolutely vital for the health of a local church, yet we need to ask “how do we distinguish true Christian love from all imitations?” We do so by being exposed to the word of God. That is because when God’s word is rightly preached and taught it actually cultivates true Christian love among the people. It is a function of faithful shepherds of God’s church to (at certain times) bring caring, Christ like, Biblical discipline to the church’s members, both as an act of love and as a means of cultivating genuine and authentic love among the members.
I heard a good illustration some time back that I feel is worth sharing. Think of the three indispensable elements of a house: a foundation, a frame, and a roof. Many things may be installed in a house, such as couches, chairs, curtains, sinks, toilets, a bath or shower, a washer and dryer, an oven, electrical wiring, beds and so on. I am sure we agree that the list could be endless. Yet though I may have all of these things in a yard somewhere, I really don’t have a house until I have the three essentials elements of a foundation, a frame, and a roof.
There are many essential elements for healthy church life. Yet unless the Word of God is rightly preached and taught, the sacraments rightly administered, and church discipline is faithfully exercised, there is no true church present. Where these marks are absent, true holiness will be absent too. If even one of these three marks are missing it should not be considered to be a true church of Christ.
Article 29: The Marks of the True Church
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.” We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”
The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults.
In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church– and no one ought to be separated from it. As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works. Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.
As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry. These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other.
“Now, wherever you hear or see this Word preached, believed, professed, and lived, do not doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica (Christian holy people) must be there… And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s Word cannot be without God’s people and, conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s Word.” – Martin Luther, On the Councils and the Church
King’s Church is committed to the primacy of corporate worship. We believe God sovereignly establishes and increases faith through the ordinary means of grace: the preaching of the Word of God in the gathered assembly, prayer, and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Regular attendance to these means is vital for believers’ spiritual nourishment and growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. God’s people are therefore called to participate regularly in Lord’s Day corporate worship, in dependence upon God’s Spirit, who applies these benefits through these God appointed means.
As such, we encourage you and your family to consider the various ministries, fellowship events, and educational opportunities, such as weekly Bible studies and Sunday school classes, as supplements to corporate worship, but never as replacements of corporate worship.