Should God have made us, knowing many will be lost?, by Doy Moyer

One of the more difficult questions asked about God is this: why would God create people whom He knew would reject Him and, therefore, be forever lost?

First, while the following may not typically satisfy the unbeliever who asks the question, we need to consider this:

“Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.” (Rom. 9:20-24)

This gets into the nature of God, who is all-knowing, all-wise, and sovereign over life and death. Do we really have a right to question God on the way we are made? Even so, there is an important idea stated in this passage that helps inform us about the issue: God has shown His patience and wrath toward those who perish so that He can show forth His grace and glorify His people. The wicked do perish, and while God would rather that they all come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), He will not allow that fact to keep Him from being able to glorify His own. He is a God who glorifies. He took the risk, at least in part, because glorifying people is worth it to Him.

God created humankind with free will and the capacity to choose love. He did this so that He can glorify, but we make a mess through our abuse of the freedom and choice to hate God and others. Should that fact have kept God from creating those whom He can glorify? Not at all.

Why should those who freely choose to love God be prevented from being blessed, saved, and glorified just because there will be those who choose not to love God? If people choosing not to love God should have prevented God from making the human race with free will and the capacity to love, then the idea of the negative, obstinate, hard-hearted who would have had no desire for God would have wielded more influence over God’s decisions and will than the fact that it is in God’s nature to bless and glorify free will creatures. Evil should not be allowed to suppress the good. For God to keep from doing good because He knows there will be evil would be to let the concept of evil have the final say in what ought to happen. This is not God’s mode of operation.

I can only conclude that the provision to bless and glorify His image-bearers is extremely important to God in the scheme of things — more important than letting the fact that many will perish stop Him from doing what He loves and wills to do. Allowing the knowledge of unbelief to keep Him from creating those whom He can glorify together with Him would be giving too much credence to rejection. Is Yahweh a God who allows the negative to trump the positive, the evil to overcome the good? Apparently not. Let’s not forget, either, that God has made this salvation and glory available to all by His grace.

Every parent knows that bringing a child into the world runs a risk. The child can bring great joy and happiness, or the child can bring much sorrow and pain. Parents desire to have children that they can bless and care for. They know they will have times of great difficulty. They know there will be growing pains. They patiently work with their children through the hardships to bring them up. Parental desire to bless their children doesn’t change even as they grow up and move out. Yet that risk is there that the children will finally rebel, reject parental love, and turn their backs on the blessings and love that come through the family. Even so, knowing this risk and possibility, people keep having children and holding on to the desire to have a family they can bless and keep in close fellowship. The potential for the love and joy is great enough to take that risk. There is goodness in being able to bless someone. That goodness and love is in the nature of God, and this motivates God to bless and glorify a special people, even though others will have turned their backs on Him to be lost.

Likewise, every potential friendship runs the risk of causing great pain and heart-ache. Yet, we believe strongly enough in the love, the fellowship, and the joy that comes from it that we are willing to run that risk of loss. Should we let the fact that some may betray us cause us never to seek out friendship, fellowship, or love? Should we let the fear of loss keep us from the potential of love and joy?

Why would God create people whom he knew would reject Him and therefore be forever lost? It would seem, at least in part, that the answer lies in the fact that God, in His goodness, love, and grace, has strong motivation to bless and glorify free will creatures made in His image. Yet to make free will creatures He can glorify also meant making free will creatures who would choose to reject and hate Him, which puts them in a very bad position. Bear in mind, also, that even if we never fully understand this, that does not put us in a position to deny God.

God’s offer and desire is to glorify us, but He won’t force us to accept. Will we be vessels of wrath prepared for destruction or vessels of mercy prepared for glory? As Moses told the people of his day, “So choose life in order that you may live” (Deut. 30:19).

Doy Moyer

find this and more thought provoking articles here: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/

Gay Practice and that Pagan Context, By Doy Moyer

As the case for gay marriage continues to ramp up, we may wonder how those who are claiming to be Christians, but who also are advocating gay marriage, can actually believe that the Bible supports their views. We often hear that Jesus never said anything to condemn it. They seem to miss the fact that Jesus argued for marriage “from the beginning,” and that this was rooted in the creation of male and female (Matt. 19:4-6). He didn’t have to specifically condemn what the Law had clearly condemned in no uncertain terms.

However, the argument we are hearing even more is that the those passages that unequivocally condemn gay practice are in a pagan context and associated with the ancient idolatrous culture. These weren’t God-fearing gays who were in a loving and committed relationship, you see. These were pagans involved in ritualistic prostitution, and that, they would agree, is wrong.

We seem to argue, “that was just their culture,” for just about everything these days. The problem with this argument, though, connected to the passages that condemn the behavior, is that, as the saying goes, it proves too much. If it’s all based on a pagan context, then what about the other items condemned in the very same context?

In Romans 1, for example, Paul not only condemns “men with men” and “women with women,” he also condemns unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, slander, haters of God, the insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, being disobedient to parents, without understanding, the untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.

Why isn’t anyone arguing that these are also in a pagan context, so as long as we take it out of that context, it is perfectly fine to be greedy, envious, and slanderous? As long as it’s not in a pagan cultural context, we can be insolent, boastful, arrogant, and disobedient to parents? In a different culture, it’s okay to be untrustworthy and unmerciful.

It’s the same context, and honesty demands consistency.

Further, the way Paul makes his argument is not just grounded in a pagan context, but it is grounded in creation. Paganism is a sign that people have forgotten the Creator, so they worship the creature. The reason they are doing what is indecent is because they have lost sight of God as the Creator, who alone has the right to determine proper relationships. Marriage doesn’t change the condemnation of “men with men” or “women with women” doing what is unnatural.

Let’s take 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. While pagan practices were certainly a part of the culture, bear in mind that in the very same context that gay practice is condemned, so is the practice of fornication, idolatry, adultery, thievery, covetousness, drunkenness, reviling, and swindling. Would anyone care to argue that as long as it is removed from the pagan context, it would be okay to practice adultery, thievery, and drunkenness? Why do they only pick out what has to do with gay practice to say these are just based in culture, while ignoring the rest?

One could just as well argue that Paul’s argument against fornication in the same chapter (1 Cor. 6:14-20) is based on ritualistic prostitution, so once we get away from that kind of context, it would be okay to practice fornication.

The same can be said for 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Those who practice homosexuality are right there in the middle of the unholy, profane, those who kill their fathers and mothers, kidnappers, liars, and perjurers. Who looks at that context and says, “Well, that’s just pagan culture, so in a different culture being a kidnapper would be okay”?

Taking any of these things out of a pagan cultural context doesn’t change the nature of the sin, nor does it change the consequences.

Let’s also recall that pagan practices are rooted in forgetting God as the Creator to worship the creature, as Romans 1 makes clear. When we understand that marriage is founded upon God as the Creator, and we see how God established marriage from the beginning, then we cannot argue that God ever intended anything other than male and female cleaving to each other, suitable to each other, becoming one flesh with each other.

When we ignore what is rooted in creation, with God as Creator, and begin to change the fundamental nature of God’s expressed intentions, then we have indeed become worshipers of the creature rather than the Creator.

Perhaps we are still in that pagan culture after all.

Note: I know that just as sure I post this, we will hear, “but we have to hate the sin and love the sinner.” Indeed, and loving the sinner includes a call to repentance for all of us. Notice, also, that I’m talking about the practice, not an identity. We cannot ignore what practicing any of these things in these contexts, pagan or otherwise, will do to our souls.

 

Apologetics and Ecclesiastes, By Doy Moyer

“Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher. All is vanity.

How can life seem any less meaningful? “What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?” Everything just keeps happening over and over. One generation comes, another goes, and the cycle of life starts over. “All things are wearisome…”

But Koheleth was determined to find meaning in life. He sought out many avenues through which he thought he might find happiness. He tried wisdom, only to discover that “in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.”

He tried pleasure. He withheld nothing that he desired from himself. Yet, at the end of the day, he realized that it was “vanity and striving after wind.” There was “no profit under the sun.”

He looked at the world and saw oppression, ugliness, grief, and death. Riches did not live up to its deceitful promises: “The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.” Power is not what it is cracked up to be. In the end, whether a person is rich, poor, good, bad, or anything else, we all end up going back to the dust. As is the fool, so is the wise man.

Looking at life from such an earthly perspective can lead to terrible despair. Koheleth looked at it all; he tried it all. He found nothing ultimately satisfying or meaningful – until he turned back to God.

Once this life is over, there is no coming back: “they no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun.” From the outside, it appears that man and beast are the same; they both die just the same and it seems as though there is nothing else. As far as an earthly existence, this is true. However, it is there where the likeness ends. What we cannot see with our eyes is that we have souls that do continue beyond the body. And it is this understanding that affects our grasp of the meaning of life.

“The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

Knowing that God gives us life both physically and spiritually helps us to better appreciate our existence on this earth. Through God, we can learn to enjoy the simple things of life: the eating and fruit of our labors. We can engage in our activities with a cheerful heart, putting away the grief and anger that characterizes those who have no sense of purpose. It is crucial to remember our Creator if we are going to appreciate and enjoy life here and now.

The apologetic value of the book of Ecclesiastes is as relevant today as it was when it was first written. People are still searching for meaning. They try all the avenues available to them: knowledge, riches, power, pleasure, and anything else they can think of. But they still come up empty-handed. It is when they turn to God that they finally realize that life is not just about the “here and now.” It is about that which cannot be seen. It is about God. It is about our souls.

One day we will go to our eternal home. We will face the judgment of God. Will your life on earth have meant something then? Or will it have been a hopeless chase after meaning and value only to find that nothing makes sense apart from God?

Doy Moyer – doy@dmoyer.com

9 Contradictions contained in the Bible. #6 Will blow your mind!* by Doy Moyer

Many disparage the Bible because, they say, it contains contradictions. Well, it does contain contradictions by setting up dichotomies that cannot both be true at the same time and sense. Here are a few:

  1. You cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24). You cannot serve God and not serve God at the same time. By choosing a second master, we are choosing not to serve God as He has called us, and saying that we follow Him at that point is an empty claim.
  2. You cannot be a light and at the same time hide (Matt 5:14). You cannot be a light and a non-light at the same time. Christians are luminaries in a dark world; hiding our lights means that we are hiding who we are, and this makes contradictions of our lives. We cannot be ashamed of our Lord and, at the same time, be ashamed to let others know who we are.
  3. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit; a bad tree cannot produce good fruit (Matt 7:18). The figure shows that people can tell what kind of tree we are by what kind of fruit we produce. If we claim good fruit, we had better be a good tree or else our lives will contradict the claims.
  4. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24). This was said about the idea of the devil casting our demons. But no kingdom, divided against itself, can accomplish good, much less God’s will. This should cause Christians to reflect on the importance of unity (cf. John 17:20-21).
  5. A branch disconnected from the vine cannot bear fruit (John 15:4). Not only must we bear good fruit, but our ability to bear fruit at all is based upon our connection to Jesus. Claiming good fruit, as a branch, without a genuine connection to the vine is contradictory and amounts to praising God with the lips while our hearts are far away from Him.
  6. A mind set on the flesh (“the natural man”) cannot understand spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14). The mind is a vital part of our love and service to God, but when we set our minds on carnal worldliness, we will be unable to love God properly or to even understand His truth. We cannot exalt human wisdom and at the same time appreciate spiritual truth. The mind set on the flesh is death (Rom 8:6).
  7. God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13). Yes, the Bible tells us that there are some things not even God can do. He cannot deny Himself. It’s not in the realm of the possibility of His nature. To deny Himself would be to become self-contradictory, and this will never be God’s nature.
  8. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). This connects to #7, of course, but also assures us that His promises are not in vain. He is trustworthy through and through. God cannot lie and make trustworthy promises at the same time. The point is that we can trust Him.
  9. The one born of God cannot practice sin (1 John 3:9). This doesn’t mean that Christians never sin at all. It means that we cannot legitimately claim to be God’s children and, at the same time, give ourselves over to the practice of sin.

Now you’ll notice that this wasn’t claiming that the Bible was self-contradictory, but only that the Bible contains these contradictory concepts in order to show us how important it is to choose to follow the Lord His way. Failure to do so means that the contradictions reside in us, not in His will.

* Gimmicky titles. Yes, I know. I tire of these, too. But you read it anyway. 🙂

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/doys-blog/9-contradictions-contained-in-the-bible-6-will-blow-your-mind

Baptism: A Death, Burial, and Resurrection, by Doy Moyer

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“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well- pleased.’” (Matt 3:13-17)

In one sense, the baptism of Jesus fits what is sometimes called the “principle of embarrassment” (which actually increases the credibility of the text). Why would Jesus come to John to be baptized? Why would Jesus need baptism at all? John’s baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). If Jesus didn’t need repentance and forgiveness, then why would He be coming to John for baptism? John recognized this difficulty, reacting with surprise and attempting to prevent it. Jesus told Him to permit it “at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” There is something about His baptism that is connected to the fulfillment or completion of righteousness.

There are likely several reasons why Jesus came to be baptized by John. This was, indeed, a special time of fulfillment. The Messiah has come! This action serves as the inauguration of His public ministry, identifying Him explicitly as the Son of God. This would also identify Jesus with those who were awaiting the kingdom. Recall that John’s preaching entailed the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). In preaching the kingdom, he was pointing to the Messiah, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). It was this action, coupled with the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus, telling John that Jesus was the expected One (John 1:29-34). By doing this, Jesus identified Himself with John’s mission and validated the work John was doing. It also serves as an example to all who would follow Jesus. This is just the beginning.

With all the possible reasons that could be given for the purpose of Jesus’ baptism, the one we wish to focus on is how His baptism foreshadowed His own work. Paul later makes the point that baptism is a death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-7, a passage we’ll come back to). Through baptism, Jesus foreshadows His purpose for coming into the world as the Son of God: to die and rise again.

That the resurrection is ultimately in view is confirmed by what the Father said: “This is My beloved Son.” This statement comes from Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is messianic and focuses on the kingship of the Anointed One. “He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’” This very passage was taken by Paul to refer, not to the birth of Jesus as the Son, but to His resurrection:

“And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are MY Son; today I have begotten You.’ As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’” (Acts 13:32-34)

The second part of what the Father said (“in whom I am well-pleased”) comes from Isaiah 42:1, another messianic passage that speaks to the fact that He was endowed with the Spirit, bringing justice to the nations (cf. Matt 12:15-21). In Jesus’ baptism, He shows that His work as the Servant would culminate in His own death, burial, and resurrection.

Our Baptism

Baptism, then, is both symbolic and a very real action. In other words, it is not just getting wet. In this case, our own baptism is itself a way of following after the footsteps of Jesus as He went to the cross and rose again from the dead. Baptism, for the believer, is also a death, burial, and resurrection:

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Rom 6:3-5)

“Death” is a word used in several ways. We are dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1). Yet, when we respond to God’s will in baptism, we die again, only this time we die to our sins (instead of being dead in our sins). Paul began Romans 6 by making this very point: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it” (vv 1-2). The old self is then said to be crucified with Christ so that we would no longer be slaves of sin, “for he who has died is freed from sin” (vv 6-7). Paul continues, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again” (vv. 8-9).

This is the point Paul makes about baptism: it is our own death, burial, and resurrection, following the same pattern of Jesus both in His baptism and in His physical death and resurrection. It is an identification with everything that Christ is and stands for, primarily as He died for sin and rose again. Our being baptized says that, by the grace of God, we have died to our sins and we are raised up to walk a new life with Him.

Baptism is, likewise, making a commitment to the new life resulting from death, burial, and resurrection. If we really have died to sin, how shall we keep living in it?

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Rom 6:11-13)

Elsewhere, Paul makes a similar point: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col 3:1-4)

By being baptized into Christ, we are making a vow to serve Him. We are dead to sin and alive in Him. We have buried the old man who was dead in sin and we have been raised up to be new creatures in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). Baptism is our pledge that, by God’s strength, we will no longer be controlled by sin. We are a new creation.

Once again, we should be able to see the great significance of baptism. It is, through God’s grace, our inaugural act that identifies us with us the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It also identifies us with that same kingdom preached by both John and Jesus. Further, baptism is done with repentance and for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and anyone who wishes to follow to Jesus will gladly do it (Acts 2:41). Many ask, “is baptism necessary?” The answer should be obvious if we substitute the word “baptism” with how Paul discusses it in Romans 6: “Is it necessary to die to sin, be buried with Christ, and be raised to walk a new life?” But even more, wouldn’t the one who desires to follow the Lord eagerly do what He says? Let us, then, be committed to the crucified and raised life.

Doy Moyer

For more on baptism, see also Baptism: Washing with Water

 

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2014/04/baptism-a-death-burial-and-resurrection.html

Racism and Christ, By: Doy Moyer

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He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26).

Racism is not just a political issue, and it cannot be fixed through political means or force. It is the symptom of a much greater problem, and this is not a problem that will ever be legislated or forced away by violence. First, and even most significantly, racism is a moral and spiritual issue. It is, at its heart, a failure to understand and appreciate that all humans are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). “Human” is not a skin color or ethnicity. Being human does not depend on being a particular ethnic background. The greatest human quality is that of mirroring God’s image, and this is shared by all humans, however imperfectly.

As sin entered the scene of human history, God put a plan into effect that would allow humans to be saved from their sins and the corruption of the world. To do this, He called out a particular person, Abraham, and through him a particular nation, which came to be called Israel. Through this nation He would bring about His promises. His purpose in doing this was so that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The reason He maintained a distinction between His chosen people and all others (gentiles) was to keep them holy as His people (see Josh 23:4-13). The danger was not in other ethnicities per se (as is seen in the fact both Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles who became part of Christ’s lineage); the danger was that paganism had become standard among the nations and He wanted them to stay away from the influences that would lead them down that path of worshipping other gods.

God’s plan all along encompassed the idea that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would bring together all nations into one. This is not to say that all nations would become one big worldly kingdom. Rather, all nations would unite together in Christ as one “chosen race” and “holy nation” who would proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Pet 2:9). In this holy nation, there are no distinctions to be made when it comes to the outward matters of skin color. In Christ, there is no “white church” or “black church.” Such distinctions are unknown to the Gospel. Should Christians, then, continue to perpetuate them? Shall we willingly participate in the worldly stereotypes that only divide?

Perhaps the earliest, most significant challenges for the church came in the form of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Acts 15). Let’s just say they typically didn’t care for each other very much. There was initial reluctance on the part of the Jewish Christians to preach to the Gentiles, as is seen in Peter’s response to the Lord’s desire for him to go Cornelius, a Gentile soldier (Acts 10). It took a vision and a command for Peter to get it, and once he did, there was no turning back. “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean” (vs. 28). It may have been a bit shocking, then, for some fellow Jews to hear Peter declare:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

God’s will is that all come to repentance, that all will come to the knowledge of the truth (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4). Racism is a denial that Christ died for all. It is a denial of God’s desire for all to know the truth. It is a denial of the unity desired by the Lord. It is a denial of the gospel. It is sin.

Again, Peter said, “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:42-43). Everyone. No one is out in this endeavor.

Political agendas will be what they are. God’s people need to transcend the clamor and evil trappings of the world in order to be what God intends. To be effective in reaching out to the world, we cannot pull back our hands because those of another person are a different shade. All hands are made by the same God, who desires all to be in His fellowship. Dare we deny this most important desire of God?

In truth, there is only one race. It is the human race. And there is only one holy nation, comprised of all of God’s people, who transcend the boundaries and borders of worldly kingdoms and earthly cultures. May God help us all to see all humans for who they really are—made in His image, fallen, and in need of His grace and mercy.

Doy Moyer

via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2014/01/racism-and-christ.html

 

THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE ORGANIZED CONGREGATION, by Doy Moyer

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The twin fallacies of composition and division assume that what is true of the parts is true of the whole (composition), and what is true of the whole is true of the individual parts (division). Composition would take the basic form, “Individual pieces of x have characteristics Y and Z; therefore all of X has characteristics Y and Z.” This is not always fallacious, but it cannot be assumed to be true without proper warrant. For example, one might reason that since particular players are the best at their position, then putting all the players together necessarily makes the best team (though they might not play so well as a team). Division would reverse composition. For example, since this is the best team in the league, then all the individual players are the best players at their position. (These are common illustrations.)

These fallacies can be instructive when thinking about the relationship of the individual to the congregation. It would be fallacious, for example, to say that what is true of the individual Christian is true of the congregation of which he is a part. Likewise, it is fallacious to say that whatever is true of the congregation as a whole is true of each individual Christian who is part of the group.

Once again we should be able to see how these fallacies might be committed. For example:

“These Christians are hypocrites; therefore the whole church is hypocritical.”
“The church is evangelistic; therefore each Christian is evangelistic.”

Both of these statements are fallacious. Hypocrites within a congregation do not make the entire group hypocritical, and a congregation that is overall actively evangelistic does not mean each individual is actively participating very well.

It is not uncommon to hear the argument, “Because the church is made up of individuals, then whatever the individual can do (or is doing), the church can do (or is doing).” This is the fallacy of composition. We can understand how the fallacy is made. The church is comprised of Christians, but individual Christians acting is not identical to the organized group as a whole acting. This is seen in passages like 1 Timothy 5, where believers are told to care for their own needy first (widows) so that the church is not burdened: “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed” (vs. 16). This would make no sense at all if there is no distinction to be made between individual action and organized group action. Individuals act in their capacity as business associates, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, citizens, neighbors, etc. These actions are independent of the organized group. No one would reasonably argue that since a husband and wife, both of whom are Christians, share an intimate relationship, this means the entire church shares that same relationship. Clearly, individuals can act on their own without their actions being that of the group. In matters of money, Peter told Ananias, who had just lied, that his land and money were under his (Ananias’) control. We can understand that an individual maintains control of his own possessions and finances until relinquished to the group.

The church (group) is not an institution separate from people (as we have previously argued), but the group still does exist with organization and authorized actions; in this sense the church is an organization (i.e., a group of people organized for a particular goal or work). This organization need not be complicated, and we aren’t using the term here to imply some massive business model. Organization means that there is order to what is going on, under leadership, and has a goal and purpose to which all are attending. Is there biblical evidence for this?

1. The evidence for local congregations is found throughout the New Testament documents, particularly from Acts on. When congregations are addressed, these epistles take on more than simply the idea of Christians who all happen to live in the same city. The epistles were intended to be read in assemblies, implying that they met in order to hear God’s word read and taught. The church at Corinth, for example, came together as a group (or were supposed to) with the intention of edifying, teaching, and participation in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:18ff; 14) . Instead of chaos, and since God is not the God of confusion (14:33), order and organization within the assembly itself was required.

2. The evidence for elders and deacons shows God’s desire for local organization (Acts 20; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3; Titus 1). If we are to put ourselves under the “leaders” (Heb 13:17), who keep watch for our souls, this cannot be done without some level of organization. They cannot do this if they do not know who it is that they are supposed to watching for. This implies some kind of record, knowledge, roll, or something of which they would be aware. People often shy away from “membership” terms, but the idea is simply that the Christians know who is part of their group so they can help encourage and share their activities.

3. The evidence for organized, congregational action is strong. The very fact of assembling together for edification, hearing God’s word, participating in the Lord’s Supper, etc., is evidence of specified group action. Paul wrote of the “churches of Macedonia” acting by collecting funds to send back to needy saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:1ff; note that the plural form of ekklesia here implies local groups acting; if all Paul was doing was talking about Christians generally in the area, why would he use the plural form?). He directed the “churches of Galatia,” and then the church at Corinth, to collect funds for needy saints (1 Cor 16:1-4). Any actions like these require some organization.

Authorization for individual action is not identical to authorization for congregational action. If the church is not to be burdened with some matters that the individual has an obligation toward, then this is proof enough of the point. The congregation exists for a purpose, and God has provided for particular activities within a congregational setting—Christians coming together for His purposes, and in which all are expected to participate in organized action.

The point is that we should not conflate individual action and authority with congregational action and authority. We understand this principle in other matters. If we gave funds to a hospital with an expectation that these funds are used for helping the sick, and they take these funds and form a softball team with it, we would likely be fairly upset with such a misuse. Does this mean we wouldn’t support a softball team in another context? Of course not. This is simply recognizing the context and purpose for which a particular group or organization exists.

God wants Christians banding together in a congregational setting to worship Him and encourage one another in the things of Christ. We don’t find congregations in Scripture acting in any and every way that individuals might act separately, though they are sometimes chastised for the way certain individuals act (e.g, 1 Corinthians; Revelation 2-3). “When you come together as a church” is instructive (1 Cor 11:18), and they were limited by God’s orders as to what they were to do in such a setting (1 Cor 14:37). If no distinction is to be made between church and individual settings, then there would be no context in which the women could speak up (vs. 34).

Everyone participates in various organizations and relationships with different contexts and purposes. Christians might join together to form a business in one context (e.g., a donut shop), but this does not mean the “church” as a whole (congregational or universal) is in the donut business (composition fallacy). Christians working in conjunction with each other in education generally does not put the church in the education business. Context and purpose are everything (as in biblical interpretation, so in life application). In the capacity of a local congregation, there is a context and purpose that differs from other actions that may involve multiple Christians. Again, we recognize this principle in other areas of life. Players on the Giants going to the movies together does not mean the “Giants” are going to the movies (this would imply a more official, organized context and purpose). There is a reason people speak about government abuses, where they recognize that there are limits to what a government ought to be able to do in relation to the individuals of the state. Again, organizations exist for different purposes and in different contexts. Why would this be any different when it comes to local congregations that exist on God’s authority?

Though the congregation is comprised of individuals, the congregation as an organized group is not identical to the individual (division) and the individual is not identical to the congregation (composition). We do well to remember this in discussions about both individual and congregational activities.

Doy Moyer

Via: http://www.mindyourfaith.com/1/post/2013/12/the-individual-and-the-organized-congregation.html