Matt Postiff's Blog
I have written an outline of the book of Acts. Hopefully it will be a help to you. I like the six major sections, but the symmetry of the headings could be improved so that all six focus on the church instead of #4 focusing on Herod and #6 on Paul. It is a work in progress, but it is getting close!
The public reading of Scripture is an essential part of Biblical worship.
Part of the Christian worship service must include the reading aloud of the Bible from the pulpit so that all can hear and understand. I am not talking about a few verses here or there. I am talking about a substantial portion of Scripture each and every week, if not more often.
1. The Bible says to do so in 1 Timothy 4:13. I understand the verse to be expressing what should happen in a public worship service of the church. The entire book is about that subject (1 Tim. 3:15). The accompanying activities of exhortation and doctrine are public activities. Therefore, I take the 'reading' command to refer to a public activity.
2. Your people are not reading like they should. I speak on average or "in the main" or "generally." Many times I've heard people say, "The problems you describe in your church are the same as every church experiences." Fair enough, and probably true for the most part. So, I figure if my church has a problem reading Scripture, and if I personally have found in my life that it is difficult to maintain the discipline of private reading, then probably some other churches have experienced the same problem! I know, you've preached on how the members of the church should regularly read Scripture. You protest: "They are being disobedient by not reading!" Yes, I know. But I figured out that I cannot moan and groan about their lack of discipline. I have to do something about it. If the sheep aren't feeding themselves God's word, you have to do it. Read to them!
3. In Nehemiah 8, the Bible models the public reading of Scripture, and the great blessing that comes from it. The leaders in Israel spent a better part of the day reading the Law to the people. The people went home with joy "because they understood the words that were declared to them" (Neh. 8:12).
4. Your reading, if prepared and done properly, can aid your people to understand the Bible. Sometimes all it takes is a different emphasis on the words or a new inflection, or a key pause, to trigger a thought in the mind of the hearer. These artifacts of reading are not adding to Scripture; rather they are helping the listener to think carefully about what they are hearing. That is when the light bulb moment just may occur.
5. Many people are auditory learners. Some are not good readers. Some have taken your language as a second language and find it difficult to read and understand the Bible on their own. Some cannot read at all. In many places in the globe, the people are in the same situation as were those in most past ages who did not have a copy of Scripture at all.
The NET Bible comment at 1 Timothy 4:3 is helpful: "The public reading of scripture refers to reading the scripture out loud in the church services. In a context where many were illiterate and few could afford private copies of scripture, such public reading was especially important."
Since 2008 in our church on Sunday evenings we have read 37 entire books of the Bible. Most evenings we read two chapters of a book. The next week we read the next two chapters, until the book is completed. Sometimes we read three chapters if they are short; sometimes one if they are very long. We alternate between New and Old Testament books. We are presently reading Daniel. We started with Romans.
I do not insist on the practice in every evening service, for when we set aside the one Sunday night per month for the Lord's Table, we do not generally read the chapters on that night.
There are 1189 chapters in the Bible. If you read 2 chapters per week for say 40 weeks every year, then it will take over 14 years to read the entire Bible. That's a long time. But if you don't start now, one thing is guaranteed: you will never finish. And another thing is also guaranteed: some of your people will never get through the Bible either. What an impoverished Christian existence that would be!
The Word of God is the power of God to salvation. You were born again through the imperishable living Word. You are made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus by the Holy Scriptures. These things were written that you may have eternal life. So...read!
During an interactive Sunday school class on the topic of evangelism last weekend, a question came up about the gift or office of evangelist. The question was about the nature of the spiritual gift and how can it be "measured." Does an evangelist do what all Christians do, just with a higher "batting average" or number of converts?
One of the main points of the class was that there is a sense in which all Christians are evangelists. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:19-20). We must be involved in the Great Commission. We are not excused from that duty because there exist "specialized" evangelists with extra abilities from God to proclaim the gospel.
In short, the gift of "evangelism" is the ability imparted by the Holy Spirit in a person that enables him to be able to communicate the truth of the gospel clearly and persuasively. The gift is not measured by quantity of converts.
An evangelist has this special ability and a corresponding burden to preach the gospel to lost people and see them gathered into churches, whether on a far-away mission field or in the community where there is already a local church.
The evangelist (Acts 21:8, Eph 4:11, 2 Tim 4:5) is what we today call a missionary church planter. A man who is gifted as an evangelist preaches the gospel to unbelievers and gathers converts into churches. There will be a variety of levels of "success" among those gifted as evangelists because of differences in personal ability (gifting) and also the condition of the field to which he has been called.
The term evangelist is used in fundamentalist circles as a shorthand for an itinerant revival preacher who equips the saints and preaches the gospel. But such a minister is really an exhorter, someone gifted in exhortation (Rom 12:8). His function in the church is valid and helpful, but I would not call him an evangelist.
There is a question about whether evangelist is an office or a gift. In other words, someone may ask of the Eph 4:11 passage, "are these offices, or gifts?" as if there is a big difference between the two. I do not believe that we have to make a hard distinction between the gifts and the gifted men indicated there who may hold offices in the church. I take it that certain men fill the roles or functions listed, and that these functions required gifted ability. Both the functions themselves and the men that carry them out are gifts to the church.
I do not see anywhere in the New Testament that requires an office of evangelist in every local church. Nor can it be sustained from Scripture that the evangelist has a priority over the pastor or teacher in the church. Our Lord taught us not to think like unbelievers regarding authority structures (Mark 10:42-45).
A helpful article on this subject was written a number of years ago by Dr. William Combs of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.
If you have been absent from church for a while and would like to go this coming weekend, I can recommend several. Here are some in our area:
|If you are in or near...||Then check out...||Service Times|
|Hamburg, Pinckney||Hiawatha Bible Church||Sunday 8:30am breakfast, 9:30am, 10:45am, 6:30pm|
|Brighton, Hartland||Tri-Lakes Baptist Church||Sunday 9:30am, 10:30am, 5pm|
|Ypsilanti||Faithway Baptist Church||Friday 7pm; Sunday 8:30am breakfast, 9:30am, 10:30am, 5:30pm|
|Howell, Fowlerville||Fellowship Bible Church of Howell||Friday 6pm dinner, 7pm; Sunday 5:30pm|
|Ann Arbor, Dexter, Saline, Milan||Fellowship Bible Church of Ann Arbor||Friday 7pm; Sunday 8:30am breakfast, 9:40am, 10:45am|
Your personal salvation testimony can be presented more effectively by careful organization. The following guidelines will help you in preparing a testimony that will communicate effectively what Christ has done for you.
- Before you begin, ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance as you work on your testimony.
- Make brief notes on three separate sheets of paper labeled:
- BEFORE = a short sketch of what your life was like before you became a Christian
- HOW = the details of how, specifically, you took the step of receiving Christ
- AFTER = relating the changes in your life after you became a Christian
- Using your notes from the three sheets of paper, prepare a draft of your testimony, applying the guidelines below.
- Things to Avoid
- Avoid giving a travelogue dealing with externals and missing the spiritual matters.
- Avoid using lots of unnecessary details.
- Avoid mentioning specific churches, denominations, or groups (such as to criticize).
- Identify with those who will be hearing your testimony.
- Use word pictures to increase interest. Don't just say, "I grew up on a farm." You might briefly describe the farm so a person listening can visualize it.
- Remember that this is a testimony, not a "preachamony." Say "I" and "me" instead of "you." Keep your testimony warm and personal.
- Include some humor and human interest.
- Generalize so that more people can identify with your story. You could say, "For fifteen years I didn't miss a single service at church, but never heard how I could have eternal life."
- In the BEFORE, include both good and bad aspects of your life. Examples of good aspects might be a desire to excel, a concern for others, hard-working. Bad aspects might include an inferiority complex, temper, greed for finances.
- In the HOW...
- Communicate the gospel clearly from your first-person perspective.
- Start with God, that He wants us to honor, love, and serve Him.
- Tell about the fact and penalty of sin.
- Say how Christ died to pay sin's penalty and rose from the dead.
- Explain the need to turn from sin/rebellion and receive Christ.
- Convey how God promises eternal life and how you can be assured of salvation.
- Keep in mind that someone else should be able to trust the Lord through your testimony.
- Use Bible verses to back up what you say. You should quote at least one to show that you really believe it. The Bible is the authority. Don't say, "Bill shared with me that I had sinned and needed forgiveness." Say, "Bill shared with me that the Bible says...."
- In the AFTER, give some personal benefits of becoming a Christian. Emphasize the fact that the thing that has made the difference in your life was trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Try to outline your presentation on a 3x5 card so that you can give your testimony from this outline.
I was glad to see that more DBSJ articles are now available online at the Seminary website. The articles include many from the journal from 1996 through 2013. Subscription information can be found there as well if you are interested in receiving the most recent articles and book reviews. The DBSJ articles are also available at the Galaxie Software site.
I had tracked the journal electronically up through volume 15 using Galaxie Software's Theological Journal Library CD, but lost track of it after TJLCD volume 12. Then the TJL transitioned over to Logos and I have not managed to get up-to-date on the journals in Logos 6 because it is not clear to me how to go from where I am to the updated collection.
A good argument against continuationism and in favor of cessationism is this: the Bible promises that there will be a resumption of revelatory activity and associated spiritual gifts during the end time.
For a resumption to be possible, there has to be a cessation first. We are experiencing that cessation in the present day, because there is a complete absence of new revelatory activity, including revelatory gifts such as prophecies, tongues, and knowledge. There is also the complete absence of authenticating gifts such as miraculous healing and resurrections. The current cessation of such charismata makes a future resumption of them meaningful.
If the cessation indicated in 1 Cor. 13:8 does not happen until the end time, or in other words if continuationism is true, it makes no sense for Paul state that something will cease, for in fact it will never cease if it "ceases" in the end time and immediately restarts again. At best, continuationism and cessation-at-the-end-time basically make the phrase "they will cease" a vacuous statement because the point at which they will cease is the same point they start again. At worst, the continuationism doctrine completely turns the meaning around so that "they will cease" means "they will never cease."
I contend therefore that for there to be any meaningful sense of resumption of the spiritual gifts and revelatory activity, there must be a cessation first. Something cannot resume if it never ceased.
1. Basic Cessationism
I am not a continuationist. I am a cessationist. I believe that in the church age, since the completion of the 66 books of the Bible, God has ceased giving miraculous gifts. This does not mean I deny miracles, for the miracle of regeneration occurs regularly. God can heal someone from a sickness if He so chooses. I deny that God gives gifts to individuals that permits them to do miraculous activities such as prophecy, tongues, knowledge, healing, interpretation of tongues, resurrections, and the like.
I have long believed the cessation doctrine on grounds other than I describe in this article: the plain statement of 1 Corinthians 13:8, the argument of the apostolic foundation in Ephesians 2:20, and the complete lack of evidence of the existence of miraculous spiritual gifts today. Since I understand miraculous gifts and revelatory activity to be closely connected, and I understand that the canon is closed, there is no need for miraculous spiritual gifts in the present day. God has, in his sovereign distribution of gifts, decided not to give certain gifts in the present portion of the church age. The question is not whether God can give such gifts for obviously He can; it is whether He has said He will. Presently, the Scriptures indicate, He has decided against distributing such gifts.
2. Basic Resumptionism
However, I am a resumptionist. I coined this term for my own thinking on the subject (not sure if it has been used before or not) to refer to the doctrine that God will once again, at the end time, sovereignly grant special miraculous abilities to certain individuals. This will occur during the Tribulation and forward, according to Joel 2:28-29. At that time, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh; Jewish men and women will prophesy; older men will have special dreams and younger men will have visions. These manifestations of the Spirit are reminiscent of what happened on a limited scale in the prophets during the Old Testament era.
It is evident that the Joel prophecy was not completely fulfilled at Pentecost, for the heavenly disturbances were not, and have not, happened (Joel 2:30-31, Acts 2:19-20). Because of this incomplete kind of fulfillment, I understand Peter to be preaching using an analogy, that the Pentecost outpouring of the Spirit is like that which will happen in the end time, but because of the obvious differences, Joel has not yet been fulfilled.
The gifts listed in Joel do not include tongues, but they do include a special presence of the Holy Spirit and associated dreams, visions, and prophecies. These are all revelatory gifts. Were such gifts operational today as is supposed in the continuationist view, there would be nothing special about them being promised in the end time.
Seminary professor and author Kevin Bauder recently wrote on the subject of the resumption of revelation and spiritual gifts at the end time: "In the future, however, special revelation will commence again. The Tribulation will involve divine communication at several different levels. This phenomenon is what Joel had in mind when he wrote that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and 'your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions' (Joel 2:28-31)." (In the Nick of Time, February 20, 2015, Central Baptist Theological Seminary).
When the Lord returns in the end time, the things He says and the world-wide decrees He makes will obviously be revelatory as well, authoritative and equal to Scripture. The end time will bring both the revelatory and the miraculous.3. Problem with Continuationism
Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teaches that the first century gifts will not cease, but will rather continue until the end time, at which point they will disappear because they are no longer needed. He illustrates by citing Barth's imagery that the nighttime visible light of the stars is extinguished by the brighter light of the Sun when it rises (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, p. 646). So the continuationist's gifts continue until the end time when something greater arises and cause the earlier, dimmer gifts to "cease." Fee basically argues that the gifts that are needed to build the church today will fade as the "complete" comes onto the scene.
He writes, "Good as spiritual gifts are, they are only for the present; Christian love, which the Corinthians currently lack, is the 'more excellent way' in part because it belongs to eternity as well as to the present" (p. 649). His point about love is helpful, and the solar illustration is clever, but it doesn't do justice to the real meaning of cease because the gifts effectively never cease on his view. Those gifts were present—at the time of Paul's writing and for a brief period of time beyond that—but are obviously not present now. That I view it this way is not due to my "totally cerebral" and "domesticated" "bland" western version of Christianity which is without the Spirit (a severe charge leveled on p. 645, fn. 23). Rather, it is due to my eyes being open to the lack of evidence of miracles (an experiential argument, to be sure), and to the teaching of Scripture that such things would stop at some point. That point was reached a long time ago.
The inaugurated eschatology of Fee allows him to say that we are in the end time already but not in the end time yet. We are in the beginning, but not the completion, of the End (p. 645-46). Such inaugurated eschatology permits the interpreter to believe that Joel's prophecy is being fulfilled in the present "end times." But current conditions are so far from the promised conditions in the Old Testament surrounding the inauguration of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah that there is no meaningful way we can say we are in that kingdom. We are in the church, not the kingdom.
Around the time of Jesus' return we will see a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, new revelatory activity, and a massive change in world conditions as the Messiah takes His throne and rules the nations with a rod of iron. We pray that the kingdom will come (Matthew 6:10), and that the Spirit's work of old will resume. For now, we await that resumption, praying to be faithful with the "normal" means granted by the Spirit to accomplish the work of Christ.
A new Bible book outline is available on the Book of Leviticus.
Moses penned words of this book at God's direct instruction. It covers the law of offerings, the induction of Aaron and his sons into priestly ministry, various regulations for the priests and the people, annual feasts, redemption of property and people sold in various circumstances, and a strong chapter covering the blessings for obedience to the Law and the curses for disobedience.
Other Bible book outlines are available here.
From Voice of the Martyrs, I share this:
- Pray that persecuted believers will sense God's presence (Heb. 13:5).
- Pray that they will feel connected to the greater Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:20, 26).
- Pray that they will experience God's comfort when their family members are killed, injured or imprisoned for their witness (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
- Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel (Col. 4:3).
- Pray for their boldness to make Christ known (Phil. 1:14).
- Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors (Matt. 5:44).
- Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them (Acts 9:25).
- Pray that they will rejoice in suffering (Acts 5:41).
- Pray that they will be refreshed through God's Word and grow in their faith (Eph. 6:17).
- Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers (Jude 20-25).
Why do I not recommend the KJV? Archaic and strange words are a key reason.
Romans 9:25—As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
This is supposed to be Hosea.
Ephesians 1:19—And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
This should be toward us.
Philippians 1:22—But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
This should be I do not know.
Matthew 2:17—Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying...
Matthew 3:3—For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias...
These should be Jeremiah and Isaiah, respectively.
I often look at the KJV in my studies, and I'm not trying to "bash" it. I'm just saying that it is not helpful for the modern English reader to have to slog through such archaisms to understand the Word of God. The 1769 revision stands in serious need of an update. Actually the NKJV has provided that update and could simply be called the KJV for this era. There are several other very good translations available which provide today's English reader with a more accurate and understandable translation of the Bible.
On Wednesday evenings, we just finished studying a series on faith.
We saw unbelief, little faith, imperfect faith, great faith, repentant faith, and self-confident faith.
We learned some ways to remedy imperfect faith, such as thanking God that He has given us the gift of faith in the first place, even if it is not fully formed in us as it should be. We saw that we can seek God's help. We can cultivate a self-examining faith. We can also follow Biblical examples during our trials and obey Biblical commands that have to do with improving our faith.
We also reminded ourselves that no matter how imperfect our faith may be, regardless of our performance or strength of faith, the object of our faith—God—is perfect and great beyond description. Thanks be to God!
Finally, we looked at the case of Mary and Martha regarding the death of their brother Lazarus, recorded in John 11. They said, "If you had been with us, our brother would not have died." And, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Sometimes we have great faith in the abstract. "If" in the past or "sometime in the future." But what about right now in the present? Do you have faith in the Lord? If someone gets sick, we believe in the abstract the Lord can heal them or give them grace to persevere and die well. But what about when "I" am sick "right now"? Do we trust God then? Let us ask God to grant faith in Him that grows strong and does not falter.
For more, view the full set of notes.
One of those things that's been in the back of my mind for a while to do is to write a Bible reading schedule that takes you chronologically through the book of Acts and epistles of Paul. I added in James just for fun, and produced a 4-month, one-chapter-per-day reading schedule. Try it out sometime and let me know what you think.