So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Grace upon Grace upon Grace upon Grace...

50 years ago, Grace Community Church opened it's doors for the first time. There were 27 people there, and they originally met in a home. Evenatually they bought some farmland (which is now and built a church on the land. In 1969 a 29 year old seminary graduate applied for the pastoral position, but he had some interesting conditions:

1. He wanted 30 hours a week for study (because he was unwaveringly convicted to exposit the bible to the congregation)
2. no talk about salary (he figured if God wanted him there, God would provide)

The congregation agreed (especially to the first, which by today's standards sounds really strange) and John F. MacArthur Jr. preached his first sermon. Apparently he used to talk a mile a minute, but 37 years later some of the founding members agree that he's gotten better.

Now that little church of 27 is somewhere around 8,000-8,500 and their worldwide influence is simply staggering...but I'm not going to shoot off all the numbers about tens of millions of teaching tapes, or books, or dozens of schools they're started. Tonight what really impressed me was going out for burgers with some of the college kids from the Bible Study I'm co-leading (as of this week...yippee!) and sitting back and listening the inevitable talk about "relationships" turn into a 4-woman lecture (to 4 men) about "practical techniques to get things off the ground" (i.e. - how to tell "if she likes you" and where to go from there...).

Now for those Moose Javians, Toontowners, C-Towners, PGers and Edmontonians who've ever been on my receiving end of the lessons of beauty, romance, flirting, propriety and the biblical nature of relationships, you all know that I have a few ideas about all that stuff (someone in Victoria just laughed). Some of you have got the "relational continuim" talk. Some of you have had the "Trinity and submission" talk and some of you have had the "God's shopping list" talk.

I didn't give any of those talks tonight. The girls all beat me to it. I was not too shocked, but definitely delighted at how the fruits of one man's 37 year ministry of simply teaching the Bible, week in and week out, has actually made a bunch of college girls wise. They got it. Not only that, but they talked appropriately to the guys; not as stupid men but as brothers in the Lord who need help understanding some very difficult subject matter. There was joking, but basically no condescension. There was bluntness, but not impropriety. There was conversation without flirting. I wouldn't say that ministry here is hard, it is actually harder; just not in the way that I'm used to. Instead of spending a majority of my time giving the right answers I've got to concentrate on setting the right example. A majority of kids at Grace Community Church already know the right answers; they are looking for confirmation from leadership more than anything. (Do they really believe that and does it really work?)

I remember sitting in a restaurant, several months before I left Canada, and having the same talk with several women who were, on average, probably 7 years older than the girls I was listening to tonight (and no...none of them read this blog, in case you think it's you). The women at the restaurant were the "godly" women of their churches, and they basically didn't see how the scripture taught much on relationships, short of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (i.e. "date a Christian guy and don't forget to pray!"). Absolutely no understanding of the relationship between sufficiency and efficaciousness of scripture and relationships. No understanding of God's trinitarian example of love and submission. No understanding of the straightforward biblical didactic passages on qualities that God esteems in a godly women (though most of them had read Proverbs 31, they all thought it basically mean "Be a Chrisitian Martha Stewart"). Lots of disjointed and jumbled bible trivia, but no coherent biblical worldview.

I was contemplating how different two groups of women, both from "Christian" circles, see what is arguably the most common conversation topic among 20-somethings. One sees the Bible giving some "good ideas" about relationships, here and there, where as another sees the Bible as giving "clear teaching" all throughout the Bible that can be understood and synthesized into a whole. What was the main difference? A man who understood, in 1969, that 2 Timothy 4:2-5 was a command, not a suggestion...and 2 Timothy 4:2-5 makes a serious difference to the lives of college-aged women.

And God is gracious. He grants wisdom and maturity to those who feed upon his word.

πασα γραφη θεοπνευστος και ωφελιμος προς διδασκαλιαν προς ελεγμον προς επανορθωσιν προς παιδειαν την εν δικαιοσυνη
ινα αρτιος η ο του θεου ανθρωπος προς παν εργον αγαθον εξηρτισμενος

Never let up. Until Next Time,

The Armchair Theologian


Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh, I loved this one.

First of all, because I feel a distinct connection and affection for Grace...I'm planning on coming out soon. Soon. So it was great hearing about Johnny Mac's young start. (Next DG conf is seriously going...let's just say, I'll be going sockless...cuz they'd be rocked off anyway.)
-freaking out-

Second of all, it is so encouraging to hear about other women who are as adamant about the truth of scripture and the "applicability" to life as, say, my friends and myself are out just feels so uniting in Christ. Man, it's just awesome!

Praise the Lord for Grace Church and Bethlehem; praise the Lord for His grace and faithfulness in opening our eyes to the truth of His word. Yey God!! :)

9:44 AM

Blogger michael lewis said...

Oh Dear God,

Please tear the veil of ignorance from the eyes of your self-acclaimed servants.


A "Christian" girl with an unworldly list of demands for the proper mate is also, and not in the least bit ironic, the single girl.

I recently dated a girl who demanded I "treat her like a princess", although she was competely and utterly unwilling to treat me like a prince. So then, there is no equality? She also could not understand my request to not be physical. I tried to reason with her: "look here now, I'm washing the dishes and talking with you, and all I can think about is sex."

"Well what do the dishes have to do with sex?"

"Everything has something to do with sex."

So she wanted to be the Princess Bride, and I wanted to be the 32 year old virgin. And she wouldn't budge on either.

It's all rather silly. And when a girl comes round with her list of demands, I'm out. Single life is better than compromising myself just to be with someone.

Speaking of compromise, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 cannot be taken in the context which you have suggested. It's a very black & white text which does not consider the people who are neither wicked nor christian. If you write off anyone who isn't a christian (by whatever means you define that), you certainly are not displaying the grace God has bestowed upon you. And how does one contrast this with Jesus' invitation to be yoked with him? Matthew 11:28ff.

Or consider Paul's call to gracious treatment of others! Philippians 2:3-4.

The exhortation of Corinthians was meant to be a warning against becoming deeply involved, committing oneself to total vulnerability, in relationships with a person or persons who can only, ultimately and inevitably, drag you down. But if one follows your suggestion, then no Christian would ever even have an acquaintance who is also not a Christian.

And your suggested teaching from Corinthians does not stand any chance in the light of the noted passage from Philippians.

Specifically for the marriage relationship, if one is considering entering it with the ultimate maxim "what is in this for me?", then no person should marry that one. But if the maxim is: "what will I give to this person to show God's love, grace, and glory to that person?", then that one ought to be married.

1:03 PM

Blogger Joanna Martens said...

so... you go to grace?? (finally made the connection) where do you fellowship at? It would be a blessing to meet you. I go to grace life, and sing in the choir when i can... email me and let me know! cheers.

3:21 PM

Blogger C.W. Graham said...

Oh "Shibie!" That was my experience when I was co-teaching that same bible study. Ever start wondering what on earth you can bring to the table when you sit down for the next study?

Bow Before Chad Vader, and learn the true power of the expositional side! or the day shift, or maybe the (sob) night...

9:01 PM

Anonymous The Armchair Theologian said...

Joanna - I don't see your e-mail anywhere... E-mail me instead. I think mine is posted!

9:21 PM

Anonymous The Armchair Theologian said...

Yeah. I hear you in stereo Hib. You know something else? I mentioned to a few of them that I have met some cool Christian kids at Bethlehem and they got all excited! You've expected to come to the USC Thursday night Bible study when you're out here.

Micheal - hmmm...I'll get back to this one when I have a little time to Friday! DOH!

Jo - We'll definitely meet up sometime in the next 2-3 weeks. Fer Sure.

And're right. I was thinking "this is so awesome" but also, "Well, I guess I don't have to worry about being TOO deep" well as "Holy Smack! There's 3 GNT's around this table! WHAT the CRAP?!"

No word study slight of hand around here...MAN! It IS freeing to be able to feed people steaks though.

10:06 PM

Blogger C.W. Graham said...

Micheal, I don't follow your argument. Are you familiar with the text of 2 Cor. 6:14-15? It does not talk in general principles but rather lays out a clear picture:

1. "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers": ie. dont be harnessed to someone going on a different path, or you'll never follow a straight line. Who are those going in a different direction? "Unbelievers".

2. What does this mean? Paul backs it up by giving the principles behind it "What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?" The idea is that your testimony is hurt, when you bind yourself in a spiritual enterprise, or relationship with an unbeliever. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be salt and light to them. It means you don't fellowship in their lawlessness. That is all relationships with unbelievers need to be directed to evangelizing ie. fellowshiping in righteousness, never to get married, or enter a dating bond.

3. Jesus call to take his yoke, means the opposite of your interpretation. Christ calls us to go His direction and follow him as Master. Thus no longer to be unequally yoked.

4. Philipians teaches us to care for the needs of others. Ie. we need to recognize that unfettered lust takes one to hell. In a non-marriage relationship, we should "look after the needs of others" by setting boundaries.

5. A friend said to me recently, when you buy a mustang you test drive it first, when you buy a ferrari, you don't test drive it, you don't even touch that junk. You just know its a ferrari and the ride is going to be good!

If a woman has standards, persue that Ferrari and leave the mustang to the spiritual trailer trash.

Wishing you all the best as you find a godly spouse. Except Armchair who sadly lost his godly spouse to the apostacy of hollywood (see the armchair geek, and Jesica Alba's dead again after alegedly born again status and mourn for our friend.) He didn't use the biblical standard he suggests above... HA HA

10:12 PM

Blogger Princess Jones said...


1:33 PM

Blogger Jennifer said...

Ha! I loved that Mustang/Ferrari illustration...never heard that one before. Good stuff. :)

8:56 AM

Blogger michael lewis said...

My comments are most ALWAYS based in hyperbole.

Jesus came to fulfill the law, replacing an ageing dated set of rules with a simple mandate: love others in the way that I have loved you.

But getting into nit-picking over something Paul wrote, or another thing which Peter did, or some other thing which Luke blogged (in Acts), while the entire time detracting from the loving-others-mantra by self-enforcing new rules or laws upon the Christendom, which Jesus never remotely suggested, pulls everyone down to the bad side of lawlessness.

If one can use 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 as a prooftext for dating or marrying ONLY "christians", then the argument logically carries through to the (silliest) conclusion of not being yoked in ANY relationships.

This effectively means that no Christian may even work for a company that isn't a church or a mission. You also can't buy a home on mortgage, because you would be placing youself under extreme debt. (You can't even pay taxes because Bush is president, and he's the worst sinner known today!)

But again, Jesus yoked himself with us. Please explain!?!

God's grace does not allow for us to even consider denying anyone that same grace by proxy.

8:39 PM

Blogger Dusto said...


I am wondering who you think wrote the texts in 2 Cor, Acts, and the letters of Paul and Peter? If you deny that God, therefore Jesus, did not write them then you are denying any authority of the scripture. With that clarified that which you call "nit picking" is in fact the goal to understand as best as we possibly can the teachings that Jesus would have us know. So it would be easy to write off the teachings of Paul, Peter and Luke while making the appeal to Jesus if it were merely the teachins of Paul, Peter and Luke that we were worried about. The fact is that all scipture is God breathed and inerrant.

I have no idea how you make your conclusion that if we use 2 Cor 6:14-16 as a guide to say that we should be in UNION with a non believer we are supressing grace. I am curious are you promoting the "flirt to convert" theory here? Dare I say that if we don't want to "date" or "marry" a non christian that does not neccesarily mean that we are not acting cracious towards that person. It just means we are taking serious what the scripture, therefore Jesus, is clearly instructing us to do.


5:56 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Hmmm. I was going to jump in here, but I think I'll sit back and see how the current fireworks play out! This is interesting!

12:47 PM

Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

No wait. I said I'd get back to you, so I will...I do try to be a man of my word!

Micheal, you seem to be a smart fella and I MUST misunderstand you for you seem to approach biblical texts with a "common noun equals common topic" idea. Jesus' "yoke" in Matthew 11:28 is not the same as the "yoke" talked about in 2 Corinthians. Words mean different things depending on context, and I'm guessing that I misunderstood what you were saying as I doubt it's possible for such an intelligent man as yourself to make such elementary exegetical errors. SO, I'll simply walk through the biblical texts and hope that it will clear everything up.

Jesus' "yoke" is clearly his teaching in Matthew 11:28. The agricultural metaphor was also a common phraseology for the teaching of ANY Rabbi in the Ancient Near East. Beyond that, the context of 'revealed knowledge' about Christ is what's being talked about in Matthew 11:1-30, specifically the preceding verse of Matthew 11:28. Jesus own teaching about himself was the "yoke" that those around him were to take upon themselves; he was essentially telling those around him to "take this teaching and believe it".

Now in 2 Corinthians, a DIFFERENT agricultural metaphor is given, with a different principle inherent in it. Paul uses the concept of "yoked oxen being used to plow" to encourage the Corinthians to join WITH him in laboring for the gospel. In 6:1 he speaks of the Corinthians as "God's fellow workers", in 6:3-10 he argues for his uprightness in ministry as verification for his sincerity and then in 6:11-13 he encourages the Corinthians to open their hearts to him as he has with them.

We then have 6:14-18, in which Paul submits a 'common sense' principle that the Cornithians would understand: the necessity for yoking similar animals in plowing. Even today we sort of get the illustration: If you want to pull a plow, you don't put a bull and a beagle under the same yoke.

Paul's saying "I'm a bull and YOU are also bulls, so join me for the purpose of the gospel. He states this explicitly in 7:2 and in 7:3-16 he comments on how he's confident that the Corinthians will accept his challenge.

Why? Well, most likely because we learn in chapters 10 and 11 that the Corinthians were entertaining false apostles and false teachers that were pulling them AWAY from the gospel and the Lord, and like any good teacher, Paul exhorts first and THEN corrects.

So in 2 Corinthians Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to join with him in the gospel, for they are similar creatures; Christians, with a similar yoke: the gospel.

The principle is general and is obviously applicable in different situations; that's what defines a GENERAL principle.

So, for a Christian woman, who is laboring on behalf of the gospel for the glory of God, to enter into a dating/marital relationship with a non-Christian, who is laboring on behalf of sin/self/satan for the glory of sin/self/satan, is simply ridiculous. They are different creatures (Christian and NOT Christian) with different yokes (God's glory and NOT God's glory). So it seems quite clear that such a universal principle should apply.

As for your questions about "any" relationship, surely you've read such passages as Matthew 22:15-22, 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 6:1-10, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-24, 1 Peter 2:13-21, Titus 2:9-14. Surely you know from such texts that both paying taxes and working are done unto the Lord (as acts of submission to those places over you by God), and business relationships are inescapable in this world but exist for the purpose of evangelism.

So if one has a proper biblical hermeneutic in understands the basic principle of "Scripture Scriptura interpretum" (Scripture interprets scripture), then one must understand that 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 CANNOT mean severing business relationships or rebelling against the government. Clear scriptural teaching in other areas negates those possible misunderstandings.

And so in the understandings of these clear teachings of scripture, Philippians 2:3-4 does not speak against 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 in the slightest. One does not think of others more highly then oneself because one submits to God. And submitting to God is obeying GOd's clear teaching of scripture (John 14:15, John 15:10, 1 John 5:2-3, 2 John 1:6). The message of Philippians is to not consider oneself higher than one ought because everyone is united under God in service, following the example of Christ. The message of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is to not challenge submission to God by attempting to unite oneself for labors unto both Christ and Belial.

So did I pass your test Micheal? I hope so...

But now I have a question for you. Did Jesus yoke himself with US or does he call US to yoke with him?

Secondly, and MUCH more importantly, You said:

"Jesus came to fulfill the law, replacing an ageing dated set of rules with a simple mandate: love others in the way that I have loved you."

Now you MUST be testing me again. If Jesus came to fulfill the law, then how can he fulfill it and replace it at the same time?

I mean, "Love your neighbor" was IN the Law. It's Leviticus 19:18. It is PART of the law. If Jesus replaced the law, would not that include rules IN the law, including this one?

And Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Galatians 5:14 all clearly state the the entirety of the Law and the Prophets are SUMMED UP in the TWO commands "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself". Those two commands are the law in a nutshell.

So you MUST be testing me because you seem to be saying that Jesus replaced the rules of the law with a summary statement of the law, but seeing that it's a summary statement of the law, it incorporates the ENTIRE law. So you SEEM to be saying that Jesus replaced the law with the law. Isn't that a bit of a redundant statement?

So please explain to me how Jesus replaced the law with the law?

1:11 PM

Blogger Jen2 said...

I think I've found where the rubber meets the road.

2:09 PM


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