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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Embracing Lordship

Churches (and individual believers) are often tempted to run on one of two tracks. Paul's answer to legalism and antinomianism is to see the Lordship of Christ. He tells us to look up toward Christ seated at the right hand of God. But Christ's Lordship is not an ambiguous picture, for Paul presents lordship in the word translated "raised up". Paul paints this picture in both the definition and in its parsing.

Of Person and Number

We are not playing a mere word game here. It is important for us to see the power that is in the very words used by Paul. For we know these words are inspired; God superintended every word...down to the voice, person and number.

Paul places "sunegerio" in the 2nd person plural. ntgreek.org states:
There are three main classes of grammatical person in both English and Greek. Person indicates the form of the verb (and also pronouns) which refer to:
1) the person(s) speaking (First Person)
2) the person(s) being spoken to (Second Person) and
3) the person(s) being spoken of or about (Third Person).
As for number, it states:
The concept of grammatical number is quite straightforward in both English and Koine Greek. It is the property of a verb (and nouns and pronouns also) which indicates whether the reference is to one (singular) or to more than one (plural).
2nd Person means Paul was saying "you." Plural means we have to understand he is speaking to more than one person. This is basic stuff. We learn these things in elementary school. Our question then is not to determine the person or number, but knowing these, our question then becomes, "To whom is Paul speaking?"

Of course, Colossians 1:2 clearly states:
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
It would be accurate to say that Paul was writing to the church in Colossae, provided we keep in mind that doesn't necessarily mean every person who meets in their fellowship. Just attending or calling oneself a part of the fellowship is not of concern to Paul. He is writing to the saints and faithful brethren. This is further attested in Colossians 3:1. The first word in the sentance is ει. "Ei" can be accurately translated "if." (Forget the fact that the NIV translates it "since." Nearly every other reputable English translation chooses "if." Seriously, go buy a NASB if you don't own one.)

Paul is only addressing the regenerate. Even in his tone, he is reminding each person to examine yourself (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you have been raised with Christ, you are to focus on Him, seated at the right hand of God. This can not be effectual for the nonbeliever, for every action is either legalism (attaining "his own righteousness" through adherence to law) or antinomianism (denying the rule of God in action and thought). Only those--through the divine work of God the Father, Christ the Savior and the Holy Spirit--who have been raised to life are capable of setting their minds on things above. Those who have not been given life may hear the reading of Paul's letter in public, but they are not Paul's intended audience.

Certainly it is difficult to tell the wheat from the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). There are some nonbelievers who will declare Christ as Lord and some who will do some pretty miraculous deeds (Matthew 7:21-23). Clearly, false teachers masquerade as genuine believers (Acts 20:30) and can only be spotted by the fact that they diverge (1 John 2:19). How much more difficult to discern the heart condition of the person outside of public inspection, say the person cleaning the nursery? In fact, we must acknowledge that we can't see the heart, only God can (1 Samuel 16:7). Churches will have false converts in them, there is no way for us to prevent this. However, there is at least one primary litmus test:

Do they even proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as Lord?

It is not a problem of whether the question is asked. Most pastors I know regularly urge people to make this proclamation. It is certainly not a problem of zeal, for what thrill is greater than seeing a person come to the place of acknowledging Christ as Lord. Yet, it is a problem of practice. Could anyone visiting the church be able to tell the professing believer from the professing nonbeliever?

We've been told that treating the believer and nonbeliever differently is not a good strategy. We should immediately incorporate visitors into positions within the church. Give them a job to do, for they'll stay if they take ownership. Get them plugged into ministry and perhaps that ministry will even be the tool that leads them to Christ. Do you like kids? Come work with ours! Can you keep a beat? Join our band! Like people? Become a "greeter" at our church. We should bring them right into the "community" and make them as comfortable as possible. Perhaps, over time, without noticing, they'll become convinced of the gospel.

But they are not part of the "community" and Paul has no problem reminding us.

You (the saints and faithful brethren) have been raised up with Christ...

Put a dead person in close proximity to living people and only one thing happens. The dead person does not absorb life, but the living absorb the stinch of death. The church is desperately looking for new and fresh ways to regain our evangelistic power, yet our light is getting dimmer and dimmer. The world is not looking more and more like us, we are looking more and more like the world. This is why I can not comprehend allowing nonbelievers to "minister" to the Body through video interviews, traveling choir concerts, special music presentations or even picking up the trash. They have no light.

I've heard the "seeker-sensitive" arguments. I've heard very passionate speeches (corporate and personal) exhorting me to get on the program. I was told once by a man I believe genuinely cares about me (yet has never been to my church nor heard me preach) that "unless [my] church becomes more seeker sensitive, it will not survive." I've heard the sermons (and read a few books) that claim "seeker sensitive" is just the modern day application of 1 Corinthians 14:23-24. (That argument is a gross misrepresentation of the text, let alone it requires one to ignore that verse 26 says all things are done for "edification," a verb reserved for the believers. Perhaps I'll write on this at Perspicuous Perspectives soon.)

Typically, when having this conversation it proves unfortunate, yet necessary, that one has to offer the following provisos:
    Our church cares about the lost.
    Our church desires to reach the lost. (And God has been gracious to allow us to do so.)
    Our church speaks and acts in a way that is mindful that lost people are in our presence.
    Our church wants a nonbeliever to know they are welcome in our presence, but we do not want them to be comfortable. (I'm not sure we even want our believers to be comfortable.)
I am not calling for a nonbeliever to be treated with hostility or contempt. To be anything but loving, caring, honest and truthful would be to sin. However, I believe it is imperative that we distinguish the professing believer from the professing nonbeliever for the sake of:
    1. The mature believer.
Their ability to evangelize is greatly confused when they don't know if the person serving with them knows Christ or not. Should he link arms to join in spiritual battle with the man beside him, or is the man next to him held captive by the enemy?
    2. The immature believer.
The immature believer can be stagnated by what they see. They are surrounded by people ministering that may or may not bear the marks of discipleship. Should we be suprised that they continue to languish.
    3. The unbelieving servant.
Our hearts are bent toward self-righteousness. How scary to let a professed nonbeliever pick up a broom and start cleaning. Is it possible that they will believe their service is earning them favor before God (despite our protests)? Is it possible others in the church will be confused by their service (assuming it to be a sign of discipleship) and give them unmerited words of affirmation? Could the church unwittingly be contributing to the veil over their eyes?
    4. The visitor
What of the person who walks in the door and spots a known nonbeliever serving? Is he going to think, "Oh, a fellow seeker, I bet they are letting him serve so that he eventually becomes one of them," or is he naturally going to think, "Huh, I didn't think that guy was a Christian, but he must be one of them."

If we believe it is necessary for a person to declare Christ as Lord, then presenting Him in His Lordship is the only "seeker friendly" thing to do. Paul did not hesitate to remind that his words only applied to the believer. This would serve as a stern warning to any listening who did not know Christ. To seek the things above, they must first be "raised up with Christ." Paul is not speaking to a club or a group. He is speaking to the Bride of Christ.

Paul calls the church in Colossae to keep their focus on Jesus Christ, their Lord. There ability to see Christ as Lord begins (and remains rooted) at their understanding of their gospel conversion. He very carefully chooses the word "sunegerio" to make his point. It reminds the reader that he is raised from death in sin to life in Christ. The passive voice reminds him that this work was divine. It was not his doing, but rather, it was done to him. The person and number reminds him that Paul is only speaking to those who have been converted. All this from just one inspired word.

But "sunegerio" says even more than that...


  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    I have not digested your article, so forgive me for asking this off the cuff, but I didn't want to forget and not ask it at all.

    Do you think ALL people are born dead in their trespasses and sin? If you do, does that mean that those same people are born as tares and must be changed from that creation into a new creation, which is wheat?

  • At 6:08 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i'll see if i'm answering your question here...

    certainly, ALL are born dead. for Ephesians 2:1 states that the elect were dead in trespasses and sin. there was a time for every believer that they were dead. the nonbeliever (children of wrath) is still dead (v3).

    as for the tares and wheat, i'm probably guilty of mixing metaphors (something charity says i do often). this parable seems to take a far more eternal perspective...at the harvest, Jesus seperates the wheat from the tares. a man probably does not start as a tare, but rather is lifeless. if he is meant to be wheat, the analogy would probably best play out that he lays there as a lifeless seed until he is given life. you either END as a wheat or a tare, but i'm not sure i would say all start as tares. every CURRENT unbeliever is not tares, for some will come to Christ. they may be this lifeless seed, and the church may have the privilege of tilling the ground and watering. (however, that believer is God's elect...even before their conversion...so in a sense, they were wheat seed all along...it was just dead before it was given life).

    yet some clearly are tares...for the workers in the field spotted them before the harvest. to me, the obvious tares seem to be the people described in 1john 2:19, or hebrews 6.

    i guess my point was that every church is going to have its wheat and its tares, its unavoidable. some churches have gotten lazy about identifying the tares when the Lord makes it obvious, but some churches have gone even farther. not only are they calling wheat and tares the same thing, but they also treat the bare patches of ground as if they are wheat fields too.

    clear as mud??? (i could probably mix in another metaphor if you give me time!)

  • At 10:51 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    I wasn't picking at your metaphors. I like your metaphors. In fact, I have a hard time not seeing a clear correlation between "dead" people and tares, and "live" people and wheat.

    It is interesting to think about and study.

  • At 6:08 AM, Blogger ~d said…

    i finally got around to reading the entire post, danny, and i'm once again encouraged by your boldness to tell it like it is. people coming to church should be hearing only the truth, after all. even if it initially offends, it is the only compassionate thing to do.

    i confess that in the workplace i hesitate to speak as freely as i would in church. first, it's not a place people expect to hear the truth about their spiritual condition. second, if i don't know the person well, what makes me think he/she is willing to listen or will notice a difference (yet) in my life that will back up my words?

    sometimes i think the relationship becomes A (though not THE) critical factor.

    after presenting an opportunity to such a person to talk about spiritual truths, is it best to let it drop if they shy away from it or is it showing a lack of compassion if i do?


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