Article by Michael Goforth II:
Yesterday morning I was reading the devotional from, "Good News of Great Joy" and it was all about suffering. Here's an excerpt:
"We are promised glory — if we will suffer with him (Romans 8:17). The way up is down. The way forward is backward. The way to success is through divinely appointed setbacks. They will always look and feel like failure." -John Piper
Right after that, I read my next chapter in, Knowing God by J.I. Packer and that was all about suffering as well! Here are some quotes:
"We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us."
“Fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest.”
“We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is after, in his handling of our affairs. Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here.”
After reading two devotionals about suffering on the same morning, I was beginning to think that God was preparing me for some massive tragedy. And to be honest, I was a little nervous about it!
Later that morning, I texted a few people from my church to encourage them for the day and ended up in a conversation with one of them. So I decided to share some quotes from my devotionals that day followed by, "Looks like God is preparing me for something. Kind of scary, but I know He is in control!"
He then responded by saying it could just be, "a simple reminder that not everything is intended to go our way, because our ways are not His.”
So who was right? Was God preparing me for some big trial or just some simple small ones along the way? I'm not sure. And it's a fool's errand to read into things like that and try to figure out what God will do next.
There were no big trials for me yesterday. Although strangely enough, when my wife and I read the devotional from, O Come Let Us Adore Him later that evening, that was about suffering as well! haha. So if anything, God was reminding me that suffering is a huge theme in the Bible and something that Christians should expect. (Philippians 1:29)
However, even though my day did not have any big trials, it was full of minor setbacks and frustrations. And I don't know about you, but for me it's really easy to, "sweat the small stuff." In fact, sometimes I feel like it can be harder to trust God and see His hand in the small frustrations of everyday life than it is in the "big" trials.
So my friend's text was a great reminder to not just apply what I had read that day to times of extreme hardship, but to also apply it to the "small stuff" as well.
This was Packer's advice from yesterday's chapter:
"How are we to meet these baffling and trying situations, if we cannot for the moment see God’s purpose in them?
Whether you're going through a big trial or a small one, this is great advice! If God is sovereign over all things, then He is not just in control of the big trials of our lives, He is also in control of the "small stuff." And when He promised to work all things together for good in our lives (Romans 8:28), the "all" in that verse includes small things.
I don't know what God is planning to do next in your life, but I do know that little frustrations are sure to come.
So when you face one of those minor but really frustrating setbacks today, trust that God allowed that trial into your life, seek His face, and respond with the strength He provides.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
You’ve heard this verse a thousand times. You’ve seen it on t-shirts and coffee cups. You may even have it memorized. But don’t let the familiarity of this verse take away from how amazing it is. Read it slowly and purposefully:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
About a month ago I was studying this verse for a sermon and it hit me like it never has before.
The old Michael with all of my sin, all of my brokenness, all of my failures, and all of my attempts at measuring up has been crucified with Christ.
I died with Him. But I live.
When Christ stepped out of that grave and conquered sin, death, and hell, I stepped out with him.
So I live, but it is no longer me living. It is Christ living through me. The one who loved me and gave himself for me, has united himself to me.
I have the presence of the risen Christ indwelling me and empowering me to live this life.
Again, if you’ve been a believer for any length of time, none of this is new information. But how many of us actually live like this is true?
So after studying it, I started thinking, how do I practically live this out in my everyday life?
This led to a lot of thinking, researching, and studying. And I came across an acronym that John Piper made in a sermon from 1983.
It’s called, “A.P.T.A.T.” and it’s how he practically tries to live out the truth of this verse. He breaks it down this way,
A. Admit that you can do nothing.
P. Pray for God’s help for the task at hand.
T. Trust a particular promise of God’s help.
A. Act in faith.
T. Thank God for the help received.
The amazing part about this acronym is that Piper still uses it to this day. So for close to 40 years, he has used a simple acronym to live out the astounding reality of union with Christ from Galatians 2:20!
Now I know they say that you shouldn’t try to fix something that isn’t broken, and that’s not what I am claiming to do here. However, even though I loved the practical steps from this acronym, I wasn’t a huge fan of what it spelled out. I just couldn’t see “APTAT” becoming a regular part of my vocabulary.
So I started thinking of different words that could be used to contain similar steps. And for the last month or so, I have been using the acronym, “P.R.A.Y.” I’ve used this before preaching, before talking with my wife, before sharing the gospel, when I have been tempted to lose my temper, and in so many other situations! I simply pause and “remember to P.R.A.Y.” I’ll break it down for you:
P. Plead for God’s Help
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.” Psalm 28:7
Before any task in your life, pause and recognize your dependence on God. Jesus said without Him we can do nothing! So simply pausing to ask for God’s help is a great way to remember that you cannot do this on your own.
R. Rely on God’s Promise
“For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Here I take a cue from Piper and remember a a specific promise from God’s word that applies to my situation.
So before sharing the gospel I remember Jesus’ words, “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20)
Before preaching on Sunday, I’ll remember the promise from Isaiah 55:10-11 that God’s word will not return void and will accomplish all of his purposes!
When struggling with patience, I remember that I have access to the fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22-23)
This is a great way to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly! (Colossians 3:16)
A. Act in God’s Power
“I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29
After asking for God’s help and trusting in a particular promise from his Word, now it is time to act in the strength that he supplies. (1 Peter 4:11)
The Christian life is not self-help. It is to be lived in complete reliance to God’s power for His glory.
Y. Yield to God’s Spirit
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
Even though I have decided to act in God’s power, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that I need Him every moment.
So whether I’m sharing the gospel, preaching a sermon, or having a difficult conversation with someone, I am trying to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit all throughout the process.
That is what it looks like in my life when I, “Remember to P.R.A.Y.”
Like I said earlier, I’ve only been using this acronym for about a month, so I understand if you choose to use Piper’s time-tested APTAT instead. Or maybe you’re the type to come up with your own! Obviously you’re not required to use an acronym, but I have found it to be an extremely practical way to live out Galatians 2:20.
Remember, you are crucified with Christ. But you live. And it is no longer you living, but Christ living in you.
I love how David Rightmire explains this, “Christian experience is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus. It is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart by the Spirit.”
So plead for God’s help, rely on His promises, act in His power, and yield to His Spirit. All to the praise of His glory.
Sermon 4 in the Galatians series: Set Free, Live Free
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26
In this message we learn about 3 blessings that flow out of our union with Christ:
1. We receive new status.
2. We receive new power.
3. We receive new hope.
The key thought is to, "Live in the freedom of being God's child."
Article by Mike Peters:
Prove it. These are two of my most favorite words to say when in a discussion about religion, politics, sports, philosophy or pretty much any topic worth discussing. What can I say? I love evidence. Evidence is the catalyst in a conversion between two opponents that will build a bridge for one of them to that juicy moment of, “Ha! I told you so.” Forget for one second the fact that this craving for evidence can be entrenched in pride. Let’s be honest. We all love being on the winning side of that “gotcha” moment.
Scripture even has a lot to say about evidence and namely evidence related to the person and work of God. We are called to seek after evidence. From the Old Testament teachings about having more than one witness to approve a matter to Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to his disciples and others, we see the importance of evidence in the Bible. John also instructs us to use the Word of God to verify others who claim to speak for God so we can see whether or not they are a false teacher. This is crucial as there is no shortage today of false teachers looking to enrich themselves by way of abusing God’s church. This driving force for evidence even shows up in our evangelism as we share the gospel with others. We give them all the reasoning (medical, logical, cultural) as to why the resurrection of Christ had to miraculously happen. And let’s be honest, how many of us are still crossing our fingers for even more archeological discoveries that continue to verify Biblical accounts of days gone by? Yeah. Me too.
As important as evidence is in the Christian faith, we must proceed with caution. Notice I said, “Christian faith” in the last sentence. Here I want to quote A. W. Tozer. If you’re not sure who he was, no biggie, doesn’t matter. (He was a good preacher, author and dapper looking fella. He also died in 1963) Tozer said, “In the living, breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something. It is a Voice. It is too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” The man of earth (unbelieving) kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to live in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of a scientist, not those of a worshiper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. “It thundered,” we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” Could it be that as a Christian, I am now obsessed with the “evidence” that reinforces my position, and that is the stuff I live by? Or, am I living a life that walks by faith? Hebrews says faith is the substance of what is hoped for, and it’s the evidence of what is not seen. The author to the Hebrews also says it is absolutely impossible to please God without faith.
So how does this simultaneous pursuit of evidence and living by faith play out practically for me? (PSA, I am a sola scriptura guy. Worth googling.) Maybe the study of God (theology) has become my passion instead of listening to His voice. Maybe I am so into the Bible, that it has become another subject for my intellectual mastery (Paul Tripp, another guy, has called that “bibliolatry”) instead of letting the Bible be a finger to point me to the Voice of the Great Author. Maybe I have become so pragmatic in my Christianity that I don’t sense the need to stop and let His voice, the Holy Spirit, speak to me. Do I pray anymore? Do I sit in His presence and just listen anymore?
Here is the great thing about the Bible. It is timelessly true. All of it. If you doubt that, then I kindly declare to you that you are wrong. As good as that is, the Bible has quite a bit of grey area. You may say, “Wait a second, are you a heretic Mike?” No, not today, Satan. Let me illustrate. Who told you to marry your spouse? Who told you to move to that neighborhood? …. how about joining that ministry at your church? Or even that specific church? Why? Yes, there are biblical principles we use as filters, but the specifics on most of life’s choices…? That credit belongs to the Voice of God, aka, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. (John 14-16) He always works in conjunction with the revealed Word, specifically where the revealed Word is not specific. We adhere to the existence of the Holy Spirit theologically, but are we ignoring Holy Spirit’s person and work practically?
We must live by faith. There comes a point when you will not be able to explain and prepare. This is God’s doing. God is committed to your spiritual growth. God is chasing you down with the “faith life”. He is working to push you out of that comfort zone of “normal” and make you trust His character as revealed through His Word. Has evidence become your idol? In this age of information and enlightenment, do our lives resemble that of a kneeling worshiper or that of an “evidence seeking” skeptic.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Who governs the church? While Scripture is very clear that Christ is the head of the church, the form of government beneath Him is slightly more complicated. A simple survey of the wide variety of church government structures that exist today would attest to this. While the differences in church policy could be discussed in great detail, that is not the purpose of this study. Instead, this is an attempt to narrow in on one category of church government and answer a specific question contained within. However, before introducing the problem and presenting the findings of the research, some background information is necessary.
Local churches are governed with a vast amount of variations today. However, in his book entitled, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Wayne Grudem explains that most forms can be organized into three large categories. He states it this way, “Different philosophies of church government will be reflected in different methods used for selecting officers of the church, as explained above. This is evident in the fact that forms of church government can be broken down into three large categories, which we may term “episcopalian,” “presbyterian,” and “congregational.” One of the primary distinctions between these three categories is the self-governing nature of the congregational form. In this structure, the local assembly of believers has no governing authorities outside the congregation.
Episcopalian and presbyterian, while different in many ways, both contain an element of authority that governs more than one local assembly. Charles Ryrie, in his book, Ryrie’s Basic Theology, presents a simple definition of congregationalism. He says, “Basically the congregational form of government means that ultimate authority for governing the church rests in the members themselves. Additionally, it also means that each individual church is an autonomous unit with no individual or organization above it, except Christ the Head.” For the purposes of this study, the congregational form will remain the central focus going forward.
Within the congregational category of church government there exists several variations of structure. Nevertheless, this study will focus on two of the most prominent forms. These forms are similar in that they both only recognize two Scriptural offices in church government, elder and deacon. Where they differ is how they structure the office of elder. The first form is called single-elder led congregationalism. In the book entitled, Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government, four different authors write essays on four different structures of church polity. Steven B. Cowan, the general editor of the book, defines single-elder congregationalism this way, “In this model—probably the most widely used—the local church is overseen by one elder or pastor chosen by the congregation and clearly distinguished as its spiritual leader.” As mentioned, this is a very popular form of church government today. In fact, it may be helpful for the reader to know that the researcher behind this project has a background in this form of government. This structure usually has a board of deacons as a secondary office and includes those churches who have assistant pastors.
The second form of congregationalism that was studied is called plural-elder congregationalism. The difference may seem obvious by comparing the labels, but it is still helpful to see the contrast. Cowan distinguishes this form from single-elder congregationalism by making these distinctions, “Plural-elder congregationalism is demarcated from single-elder congregationalism in that (1) a church with only one pastor is considered deficient, and (2) all the pastors/elders are considered to be equal in authority.” This form also usually comes with a board of deacons, but rejects any hierarchal authority structure among the elders. When comparing and contrasting these two forms of church government, the question is, what saith the Scriptures? The goal of this project was to answer that question. Specifically, does the New Testament prescribe a plurality of elders for each local church congregation? In order to answer that question, the researcher first had to determine which passages in the New Testament refer to this issue. Secondly, he had to examine those passages in their context to discover their bearing on the question. Finally, he had to compare the different passages and their meanings and draw a conclusion.
The first step in studying the plurality of elders in the New Testament is to determine which passages refer to this issue. In an essay on single-elder congregationalism, Paige Patterson identifies three different words that refer to the office of elder. He says, “The terms “pastor” (Gk. poimen), “elder” (Gk. presbyteros), and “bishop” (Gk. episcopos) are used interchangeably in the New Testament.” D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo make a similar comment in their book, An Introduction to the New Testament. They describe the different terms this way, "Within the period when the New Testament documents were written, the labels “pastor” (which simply means “shepherd”), “elder,” and “bishop” (sometimes “overseer” in modern English versions) all referred to the same people, that is, those primarily responsible for the leadership of local congregations.”
One passage of Scripture that demonstrates how interchangeable these labels were is 1 Peter 5:1-2 which says, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;” Peter is writing to the presbyteros, translated “elders,” and tells them to poimanate, translated “feed” or “shepherd,” and to episkopountes, translated, “taking the oversight.” In just two verses, one sees the task of one office described with three different words. In his essay, “Baptist Polity And Elders,” Mark Dever uses a different passage of Scripture to make the same argument:
These two passages are especially helpful because of how clearly they illustrate the interchangeable use of the terms. However, even passages that do not contain all of the terms together can still be compared with other passages and lead to the same conclusion.
In the book, Perspectives on Church Government, James White comments on these three terms and says, “By comparing the use of these terms in parallel passages we are able to discover that the apostles used these terms in a basically interchangeable fashion.” This information is of critical importance when determining which passages in the New Testament refer to the issue being studied. Since Scripture uses the terms elder, bishop, and pastor to describe the same office, all passages that refer to any of these terms should be thoroughly examined. Locating these different passages can be done by conducting a detailed study of each of these words.
“Elder” was the first English term to be studied. This word is taken from the Greek root presbytos and is found 78 times in the New Testament. Depending on the Greek lemma used, as well as the context, this word can carry a different meaning. For example, Luke 15:25a says, “Now his elder [presbyteros] son was in the field:” Here, the word is clearly not referring to the biblical office, but only being used to designate this son as older in age. During the research process of this project, each of the seventy-eight locations was examined to see how many times the word referred to the biblical office of the church.
The findings were then verified by the, “Logos Bible Sense Lexicon.” This lexicon divides Greek lemmas into different categories of meaning based on the context. In the majority of the locations where this root is found, it is referring to the Jewish religious official and not the Christian office. However, the lexicon did identify eighteen different locations where this Greek lemma specifically refers to that office. In these locations, the word is defined by the lexicon as, “Christian elder n. — an elder over an assembly of Christian believers (as an appointed or elected position).” The researcher also added two other locations where the Greek lemma could refer to the office, totaling twenty.
The English word, “bishop” and “pastor” were studied next. “Bishop” comes from the the Greek roots, episcopos and skopeo. Out of the twenty-four times in the New Testament that these roots are found, only seven refer to the Christian office. Poimon is the Greek root from which “pastor” is taken and is found forty times in the New Testament. However, eight times it is used in the context of the Christian office. Together, all three terms made up thirty-five locations that were studied during the research phase of this project. The findings of this research will be summarized in the following section.
Studying each passage in the New Testament that refers to the office of elder was the second step in answering the question. Namely, does the New Testament prescribe a plurality of elders for each local church congregation? What follows is a chronological survey of the relevant findings from the New Testament passages dealing with this question. The first time elder is mentioned in the Christian context is Acts 11:30. In this passage, the church in Antioch is sending money to the Christians in Judea who are struggling due to a famine. Paul and Barnabas are sent to the “elders” in Judea. While the word, presbyteros, is in the plural here, the passage does not specify these elders as belonging to a single church in Judea.
The next time one sees Christians elders mentioned is on Paul’s first missionary journey in Acts 14. After Paul and Barnabas preached and planted churches in many cities, they returned the same way they came to appoint leadership in those new churches. Acts 14:23 says, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” This verse very clearly shows that “elders” plural were appointed in every “church” singular. In his book, Why Elders?, Benjamin L. Merkle makes the following argument, “Even though Luke mentions Barnabas and Paul appointing “elders” only in Acts 14:23, it is likely that this was Paul’s customary procedure.”
In Acts 15, Christian elders are mentioned four times and they are all in the plural form. Verse four of this chapter seems to once again show a plurality of elders in one church. Acts 15:4, “And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.” Acts 16:4 and 21:18 also mention a plurality of elders in the city of Jerusalem. Paul ends his third missionary journey in Miletus by calling for the leaders of the church of Ephesus and giving them a farewell address. Acts 20:17, “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” Once again, one sees “elders” plural in a “church” singular. The root word for “bishop” is also found in this passage in the plural form. It is translated, “overseers” in Acts 20:28. While there are no direct commands in the book of Acts that prescribe a plurality of elders for each church, that certainly seems to be the pattern. It is also worth noting again that Acts 14:23 could be considered an apostolic precedent.
The next passage of relevance is Philippians 1:1, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” Notice the Greek word episcopos, translated “bishops,” is used in the plural here. Also, in Philippians 4:15, Paul calls the Philippians a “church” singular. These two passages indicate there was more than one elder serving in the church at Philippi. The books of 1 Timothy and Titus contain the next set of findings. In chapter three of 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul lays out the qualifications for elders/bishops. Verse one of chapter three says, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” Here the word “bishop,” from the Greek word episcopos, is used in the singular. The same exact thing takes place in verse two as well, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
It is interesting to note that in the next five verses Paul continues to give qualifications for this office and each time he references the person in the singular form. Then, in verse eight, a clear shift takes place. 1 Timothy 3:8, “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;” Paul starts this verse by referring to the office of deacon and he uses the word in its plural form. Another example of the word bishop clearly being used in the singular form is Titus 1:7 which says, “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;” Some have used these verses to argue for a single-elder position, including A.H. Strong. In his book, Systematic Theology, he even points out the singular definite article modifying “bishop” in both of these verses. Wayne Grudem responds to Strong’s arguments by saying,
In 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7, the Greek definite article modifying “bishop” simply shows that Paul is speaking of general qualifications as they applied to any one example. In fact, in both cases which Strong cites we know there were elders (plural) in the churches involved. 1 Timothy 3:2 is written to Timothy at Ephesus, and Acts 20:17 shows us that there were “elders” in the church at Ephesus. And even in 1 Timothy, Paul writes, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). With regard to Titus 1:7 we need only look to verse 5, where Paul directs Titus explicitly to “appoint elders in every town.”
In Grudem’s quote one can actually see the next place elder is found and that is 1 Timothy 5:17 which once again uses the word in its plural form. Two verses later in 1 Timothy 5:19, the word is used in the singular, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” However, this seems to be referring to an accusation that is made against a specific individual who is serving as an elder.
In Titus chapter one, one sees the next relevant findings in verses five and seven. Verse seven was dealt with above. However, in Titus 1:5 the first prescriptive command dealing with the amount of elders is found. It says, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” Here, Paul clearly prescribes more than one elder in each local context. However, since each city in Crete theoretically could have had more than one church, the command still leaves room to question.
The remaining passages with information relevant to the question are found in James, 1 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John. In James 5:14, James says, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:” Here James assumes there will be “elders” plural in each “church” singular. In 1 Peter chapter 5, Peter addresses the “elders” plural and consistently refers to the men in the plural form in the following verses. 1 Peter 5:1, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:” 1 Peter 5:3 “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Notice “elders”, “lords”, and “ensamples” are all in the plural form. In 2 John 1 and 3 John 1, the Apostle John refers to himself as, “The elder.” This could be a reference to his office, or it could have just been a title of his. Dever argues that it is hard to know for sure, “Presumably, he was known by this title. But if he was writing to those outside his own congregation, the title may have suggested his widespread recognition, rather than his office. It is difficult to say on such slight information.”
In summary, the biblical evidence seems to be weightier for the proponent of a plurality of elders in each church. In fact, Daniel Akin, an advocate of single-elder congregationalism, makes this admission, “The argument for a plurality of elders, pastors, overseers, leaders is easier to make based upon the biblical evidence.” As seen above, every time the New Testament word elder is used to definitively refer to church leadership, it is found in the plural. Also, of the churches mentioned in Scripture, all of them seem to have a plurality of leaders, and it could be argued that it was Paul’s precedent to ordain more than one elder for each church. As Samuel Waldron says in the book, Who Runs The Church?, “The plurality of elders in local churches in the New Testament is not something that is doubtful. We know of no church in the New Testament that had only a single elder.” That being said, it would still be difficult to make an argument that the New Testament requires it. There is only one example of a prescriptive command when dealing with this subject and that is Titus 1:5. Here, Paul tells Titus to “…ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” However, as mentioned above, it is difficult to say for sure whether or not the cities in Crete had more than one local church.
In conclusion, does the New Testament prescribe a plurality of elders for each local church congregation? After examining every passage in the New Testament that relates to this issue, it could be argued that there is flexibility when answering that question. However, while there are no clear prescriptions of plural-elder congregationalism, the biblical evidence is definitely on that side of the spectrum. The single-elder congregationalist would have a difficult time using Scripture to prove his side. One is left to determine whether or not the description in the New Testament is one that should be followed as closely as possible. With that in mind, Benjamin L. Merkle makes a powerful observation. In his book, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons. He says, “Something described in the Bible is different than something prescribed. The first explains what happened in history; the second exhorts us to do something. Yet, once we leave the biblical model of biblical eldership, we leave the sure footing of apostolic precedent and begin wandering in the wilderness of pragmatism.” The question is, should the church follow the biblical description, or wander into the wilderness? That is a question that each church must answer on her own.
 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 923.
 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 472.
 Steven B. Cowan et al., Who Runs the Church?: 4 Views on Church Government (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004) Kindle Edition, 14.
 Ibid., 15.
 D.A. Carson, and Douglas J. Moo: An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005) Kindle Locations 583-585.
 Mark Dever, “Baptist Polity And Elders,” Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry 03:1 (Spring 2005) : 8-9.
 Chad Owen Brand et al., Perspectives on Church Government (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2004) Kindle Edition 270.
 Faithlife Corporation. “Logos Bible Software Bible Sense Lexicon.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. (September 2017)
 Benjamin L. Merkle, Why Elders? (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2009) , 29.
 A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1907), 914–17.
 Grudem, 930.
 Dever, 11.
 Akin, Perspectives on Church Government, 64.
 Waldron, Who Runs the Church?, 212.
 Benjamin L. Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008) 165.
Article by J. Mike Peters:
Major depressive disorder is when one feels an intense level of sadness, worthlessness or apathy. This feeling may come and go, and it varies in its duration. Half of the population will battle with depression at least once in their lives. 
First, allow me to share a bit about my own personal experience. I have dealt with these sensations of utter despair and failure due to a perceived inability to achieve success or acceptance by peers and family. According to the behavioral model, one needs reinforcement to maintain levels of motivation. When that reinforcement does not exist, a feeling of worthlessness begins to take over like a dark, looming storm cloud just before a downpour. When you are constantly pushed to perform and inevitably your performance always falls short of pleasing the authority or yourself, depression is lurking.
Next, cognitive theorists add to these insights as they say that depression can be caused by a negatively biased or distorted way of thinking when a person encounters failure or disappointing events.  These cognitive distortions, in a religious context, can cause a person to develop an unhealthy view of God and others as they watch themselves or others battle with sin during their Christian walk. If you feel like God can’t stand you because of something you did today, depression is lurking.
Lastly, consider this. How many times does personal failure and the disapproval of self and others have to take place before we reach a conclusion of futility and just give up? This “learned helplessness” is a way of thinking that can add to the depressive state because one thinks that acceptance and love are always out of reach. Add all the stress involved in a demanding religious paradigm and you have someone who just may want to give up on God, life and everything. If you have ever wondered, “what’s the point anymore?”, depression is lurking.
The answer is not an easy one as we navigate these waters. I have lived and am tempted to sink back into these modes of moods on a regular basis. Don’t let my following explanation seem to be oversimplified because I believe in professional help for those suffering with depression.
The best answer is the gospel. The gospel says that even when I am bad, I shouldn’t despair from my own self disapproval or the disapproval of others, because Christ was good for me. The gospel says God is not mad at me when I mess up and I don’t have to view my sanctification process negatively, because Christ lived perfectly for me. The gospel says that inner change is possible and there is hope for me to become more like Jesus because Christ is in me and I am in him.
If you battle depression, I implore you to get ongoing help from a professional just as I have. Beyond that, I plead with you to see Christ more clearly. Romans 8:1 says that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. There is nothing to be ashamed of because anything you could have ever done is able to be covered by the finished work of Christ. Don’t listen to the feelings that tell you you’re worthless. Seek comfort amidst your failures from the Great Comforter and ask His help for change as you battle sin. Seek community from a group of believers who know and live the gospel because they have seen it transform them. Believe the Word when it says you are treasured by God because you are in Christ, not because of your performance.
Christian friend, you were worth the immeasurably precious shed blood of the Son of God, so don’t let anyone else, including yourself, tell you otherwise.
Editor's note: If you are struggling with depression and would like to speak with someone from our church, please do not hesitate to contact us.
 Nevid, J. (2018) Essentials of Psychology. Concepts and Applications, Boston, MA: Cengage Learning
Our church is privileged to partner with Mike and Jen Peters, along with their children Jack, Ollie, and Henry, as the serve the Lord in southern Spain as church planting missionaries. To connect with them and read their latest newsletter, click here.
Are you looking to your own works to justify yourself? Are you trying to live the Christian life in your own strength? The Apostle Paul calls that foolishness, and in Galatians 3 he gives several arguments for his position.
Sermon 2 in the Galatians series: Set Free, Live Free
In Galatians 2 we see a picture of self-centered living that leads to insecurity, fear, and hypocrisy. We also see a picture of gospel-centered living that leads to freedom, power, and confidence. Which picture best represents the life you are living?
This is the first video in a brand new series called Tabletalk. Each week Pastor Michael, Josh, and others will have a live conversation about faith, life, and God. This week's discussion was, "Life's Ultimate Questions." They walked through 2 different perspectives on the questions, "Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world? and How can it be fixed?"
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Welcome to The Friday Five! Today I'm sharing five articles that I've enjoyed reading this past week along with my favorite quotation from each.
1. Two Habits of Successful Parents by Tim Challies
". . .a young mom is more likely to seek the counsel of another young mom who has an online following than the counsel of an older mom who does not."
2. 5 Ways to Ensure Our Souls Aren't Strangled by Screens by Kevin DeYoung
"Because we understand our worth as image-bearers and our identity as children of God, we will not look to the Internet to prove that we are important, valuable, and loved."
3. Are You Too Busy to Disciple Someone? by Ajith Fernando
“Christianity is not an individualistic religion. The Christian life is lived in community.”
4. What Did Jesus Teach about Evangelism? by Jerram Barrs
"As we read the four Gospels we learn that Jesus is the best example of how we are to relate to those we meet, whatever their views, whatever their way of life. He is the best example of how we are to live before unbelievers and how we are to love them, serve them, and speak truth to them."
5. The Drama of His Glory by Christopher W. Morgan
“God’s glory is the magnificence, loveliness, beauty, and grandeur of his perfections.”
That's a wrap, enjoy your weekend!
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Monday morning text from friend: "Hey, my aunt has hip surgery tomorrow morning and we would appreciate your prayers!" Your response: "Okay, I will be praying!"
Wednesday morning text from friend: "Thank you so much for your prayers, the surgery went great!" Your initial response to yourself: "Shoot, I totally forgot to pray about that. . ."
Feeling super guilty, you respond with a vague: "That's so great to hear!"
Has that ever happened to you? If so, you're not alone. Unfortunately, this happens far too often with far too many Christians. To be honest, sometimes when people say, "I'll pray for you!" I'm thankful, but I'm also slightly suspicious about whether or not that will actually happen. I know that's kind of negative, but I also know it's kind of realistic. And that's why I'm writing this article.
I want to share a super simple habit you can build to help you actually pray for your friends and family when you say you will. It's not original with me, and it's nothing new, but it is excellent advice. The title kind of gives it away, but here it is:
When you receive a prayer request from someone, stop what you're doing and pray right then and there for the request.
It doesn't have to be a long and elaborate prayer either. You simply pause, and bring the request to your heavenly Father. After all, if you're His child, you have blood bought access to His throne room at any time, why wouldn't you use it?
After praying right then and there, it's also helpful to add the request to your prayer list if you have one. And if you really want a pro tip, use a reminders app on your phone to remind you to pray again later. This is especially helpful if the request is time-sensitive like your friend's aunt who has hip surgery tomorrow morning.
I get little reminders all throughout the day that say, "Pray for ____'s surgery." or "Pray for ____'s job interview." or "Pray for comfort for the ____ family during this time." Not only does this help me actually pray for them more than once, it also keeps me in contact with my heavenly Father all throughout the day.
This habit is especially powerful if you receive a request in person and you pray with the person right then and there. You'd be surprised how encouraging this is to someone who is in need of prayer!
Let's walk through another scenario with this great new prayer habit you've been practicing:
Friday evening text from friend: "Please pray for my unbelieving co-worker, I plan on sharing the gospel with them today."
You read the text, stop what you're doing, and pray: "Father, please empower ____ as he shares his faith at work today! And please work in the heart of his co-worker so that he would come to faith! Amen."
Your response: "I just prayed and will continue to! That is very exciting, so please keep me posted!"
As you can see, this is simple, but it is also extremely powerful. With this habit, you're simply taking God at His Word, believing that prayer actually makes a difference, and then praying. Imagine the joy that would fill your heart, if the co-worker in that scenario trusted Christ! You would be a part of advancing the light of God's kingdom in this dark and needy world.
So start praying right away. I think you'll find this practice to be very encouraging, especially when you start witnessing how powerful prayer really is.
Sermon 1 in the series: Set Free, Live Free (Galatians)
In this message, Pastor Michael gives an overview of the letter to the Galatians and covers chapter 1. The challenge for this week is: Do you know the gospel?
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Welcome to The Friday Five! The weekly spot where I share five resources to help you in your walk with the Lord.
1. Website: Free Online Theology Courses
This link will take you to the courses section on The Gospel Coalition website. They offer a large variety of great courses on theology and life. Plus, they're all free!
2. Article: 20 Ideas for Dating Your Wife
In this article, Justin Buzzard gives some really simple and practical ideas that husbands can use to date their wives.
3. App: Christian Audio
The title of this app kind of speaks for itself, but it's an app for downloading and playing Christian audio books. If you create an account with them, you get a free audio book download every month!
4. Video Series: Family Worship with Donald Whitney
This is a five day series of short videos on the what, why, and how of family worship. This is a lost art today, and it may sound intimidating to begin, but Donald Whitney makes it super simple! I think you'll really enjoy this series.
5. Facebook Hack: See First
If you ever find yourself clicking on your Facebook app only to end up mindlessly scrolling and reading pointless content, then you'll love this little hack. Go on Facebook and search for pages like: Desiring God, Crossway, and The Gospel Coalition and click "see first." Then whenever you go on Facebook, the first things you will see are great videos and articles that will help you grow as a Christian! Below is a video showing you how to do it with our church page. (P.s. Our church would be another great page to "see first" haha)
That's a wrap, enjoy your weekend!
Article by Michael Goforth II:
I come from a family of six people. If you’re counting, that’s 2 parents, 3 sisters, and me. Interestingly enough, everyone in my family has had eye trouble except me. So growing up, I was the only one who didn’t have to wear glasses. I was grossly outnumbered by my sisters, but at least they couldn’t call me four-eyes.
It wasn’t until college that I realized that I actually did wear glasses. And whether or not you have eye trouble, you wear glasses as well. That’s right four-eyes, you wear glasses too.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about what is commonly known as a worldview.
Webster’s dictionary defines worldview this way, “a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.”
In other words, a worldview is a certain set of glasses that all of us look through when we consider the universe around us and our relation to it.
The glasses you wear have been shaped by your upbringing, your culture, the media you consume, your friends, and so much more. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a worldview, and it impacts your life in more ways than you realize.
Pastor and apologist, Voddie Baucham Jr., has done a considerable amount of research and teaching on this subject and he uses four basic questions to distinguish between a secular worldview and a biblical worldview. Here are his responses to the four key worldview questions from two different perspectives:
WHO AM I?
Secular Worldview: You are an accident. You are a mistake. You are a glorified ape. You are the result of random evolutionary process. That’s it. No rhyme. No reason. No purpose. This is the pathetic reality when evolution runs its full course. If the idea is carried to its logical conclusion, human beings have no value. You are ultimately nothing.
Biblical Worldview: The Bible says that I am created by God—in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Not the result of random processes. The Bible says that whether I am tall and beautiful or small and not so handsome, whether my body functions perfectly or is severely deformed, I am the crowning glory of the creation of God, and as a result I have inherent dignity, worth, and value.
WHY AM I HERE?
Secular Worldview: You are here to consume and enjoy. That’s the only thing that matters. When the famous philanthropist John D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” he was as honest as any man has ever been. He responded, “Just a little bit more.” Consume and enjoy—that’s why you’re here.
Biblical Worldview: “All things were created through him and for him…. that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:16b–18). The ultimate purpose of all things is to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ. That’s why I exist. That is why you exist. And because of this, contrary to the view of our culture, the reason for my existence goes far beyond consumption and enjoyment.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD?
Secular Worldview: People are either insufficiently educated or insufficiently governed. That’s what’s wrong with the world. People either don’t know enough, or they’re not being watched enough.
Biblical Worldview: I am. You are. Despite the fact that we are the crowning glory of the creation of God, created to live and bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, we are instead hostile and disobedient toward the One by whom and for whom we were created. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The Bible calls this disobedience towards God “sin”, and it says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). In short, sin is what’s wrong with the world.
HOW CAN WHAT IS WRONG BE MADE RIGHT?
Secular Worldview: The solution is more education and more government. Teach people more stuff and give them more information. How do we combat AIDS? Through AIDS awareness. How do we combat racism? Anti-hate classes. What about the man who beats his wife? Anger-management classes. Just give people more information and everything will be fine.
Biblical Worldview: What is wrong can only be made right by the substitutionary, atoning death of Christ. “He [Jesus] has now reconciled you in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and beyond reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22). There is no other means by which we can be made right with God. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 
Those aren't the only worldview questions to ask, but they are certainly the most important ones. And as you can see, they are radically different from one another.
Many Christians will compare those questions and breathe a sigh of relief because they think they have a biblical worldview. However, it is important to recognize that our actions don’t always line up with what we say we believe. Let me give you a practical example from everyday life.
There are a large number of Christians in America who say they believe that sin is the world’s biggest problem and that the answer to that problem is the gospel. However, when it comes to the future of our country they put their hope in political parties and candidates, instead of the gospel.
They ridicule and mock non-Christians who disagree with their political views all the while forgetting that those people are eternal souls who are in desperate need of Christ. They don’t need to be ridiculed, they need to be prayed for. They don’t need to hear a political speech, they need to hear the gospel. They don’t need to trust in a candidate, they need to trust in Christ.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in politics. I’m saying we should allow a biblical worldview to shape our involvement. The Scriptures teach that our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and our primary political views should be, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done. . ." (Matt. 6:10) God isn’t seeking more republicans, He’s seeking more worshipers. (Jn. 4:23-24) Worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation to the praise of His glorious grace. (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:6)
When we apply a biblical worldview to politics, we understand that our first priority is not to advance a political party or recruit voters, it’s to make disciples. (Mt. 28:19-20) And this should radically impact the way we handle ourselves around unbelievers when politics are brought up.
That is one small example of how an American worldview affects the actions of Christians in America, but it is not just politics. The glasses we wear impact everything about us—our money, our time, our resources, our relationships, and so much more. So how do we ensure that we are operating from a biblical worldview?
Ultimately, we must rely on the Holy Spirit and seek His power and guidance in our day to day lives. However, there is one practical step you can take to do this and that is to saturate your heart and mind with the Scriptures.
In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Every single day your worldview is being conformed by everything around you. The culture you live in, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the friends you spend time with, and so much more.The only way to combat this constant pressure is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Every single day we need to renew our minds with the Word of God. Read the Word, pray the Word, study the Word, meditate on the Word, and listen to the Word preached. And slowly but surely God will use His Word to renew your mind and reshape your worldview.
We all wear glasses…the question is, do yours need to be cleaned?
 Those questions and answers can be found in the tract entitled, "Life's Ultimate Questions" by Voddie Baucham Jr. https://www.crossway.org/tracts/lifes-ultimate-questions-2837/
If it's true that, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." (John Piper), then the Christian life is a fight for joy.
In this sermon, Pastor Michael shares five weapons to use when fighting for joy in God.
Last week Pastor Michael gave us 5 weapons to use in the fight for joy. This week he gives us 5 more. Enjoy!
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Welcome to The Friday Five! The weekly spot where I share five resources to help you in your walk with the Lord.
1. Resource: The Gospel Prayer
Use this prayer to help you grow deeper in the gospel everyday: “In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less. Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy. As You have been to me, so I will be to others. As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.” The link above will let you download different visual versions of the prayer. Enjoy!
2. Book: The Valley of Vision
This is a collection of puritan prayers compiled by Arthur Bennett that can help guide you in your prayers. I bought this a few years ago and it has been such a blessing to my prayer life. As Mark Dever explains, "When used slowly, for meditation and prayer, these pages have often been used by God’s Spirit to kindle my dry heart."
3. Podcast: History and Hope
This is a new podcast with Mark West and Matthew Lyon where they look at history from a Baptist perspective. They only have two episodes so far, but I've really enjoyed both of them. Go check it out!
4. Playlist: Hymns Live
The Lord has used this playlist to really stir my affections for Him lately. Some of my favorites from the list are "Is He Worthy," "His Mercy is More," and "He Will Hold Me Fast." Enjoy!
5. Article: 18 Things to Pray for Your Church
This is a great article by Jonathan Leeman that reminds us of the importance of praying for our local church. He also gives you 18 sample prayers to get started.
That's a wrap, enjoy your weekend!
To see all editions of The Friday Five, click here.
Article by Michael Goforth II:
Welcome to The Friday Five! The weekly spot where I share five resources to help you in your walk with the Lord.
1. Weekly E-mail: Equip
Every week I send out an email with the latest sermons, articles, and videos from our church. You can view an example from last week using the link above. You can also simply enter your email here to subscribe:
2. Playlist: New City Catechism Songs
Last week we started our second journey through the New City Catechism, and this is a helpful YouTube link to the songs for each question.
3. Sermon: Why Did God Create the World?
This is a classic sermon from John Piper that will change the way you look at everything. Piper is the founder of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He also served as pastor 33 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
4. Blog: Gospel-Centered Discipleship
"Gospel-Centered Discipleship exists to publish resources that help make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus."
5. Resource: Book Recommendations
Each week, during our Sunday morning gathering, I highlight one book or resource that I've found helpful. This page is regularly updated with the links to those books.
That's a wrap, enjoy your weekend!
Everyone wants to be happy, this is without exception, and it influences everything we do. What does the Bible say about this universal human desire? In this message, Pastor Michael answers that question from Philippians 1.