Understanding John

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). This verse is critical to our understanding John and the focus of his Gospel.

John wrote so that we may know two things about Jesus: (A) That He is the Christ [promised Messiah] and (B) That He is the Son of God (eternal, holy deity). John wrote this for one purpose – that we would believe; with one result – that we would have (eternal) life by His authority. John wrote so that Christians, from all cultures, could have confidence in the person and work of Christ!

The Gospel of John is one of four broader records of the life of Christ, but why four Gospels? Why the overlap and apparent (and sometimes confusing) gaps in the different accounts? It’s all about perspective. Culture, education, and life experience all influence how we look at things. They have an impact on our perspective. At the time of Christ there were 3 distinct cultures overlapping Jerusalem:

Jewish = cultural focus on spiritual/religious identity, heritage, independence

Roman = cultural focus on power, influence, economy,

Greek = cultural focus on art, science, philosophy

Each Gospel author was “targeting” a specific audience through its presentation of the person and work of Christ:

Matthew presents Christ as the Prophesied King to the Jewish nationThe Jewish nation was looking forward (and still is) to the reinstatement of their Kingdom

Mark presents Christ as the Obedient Servant to the Roman worldThe Romans understood use of servants to accomplish great things

Luke presents Christ as the Perfect Man to the Greek perspectiveThe Greeks appreciated excellence and perfection in all things  

John presents Christ as the Son of God to humanity at largeThe world needs to see the universal truths of the person and work of Christ. 

Each Gospel author presented specific things about Christ that were of particular interest to their target audience:

Matthew includes the genealogy of Christ through David to confirm His right to the throne.

Mark includes the actions of Christ, rather than a family history, to confirm His power and ability.

Luke includes the genealogy of Christ back to Adam to confirm His humanity.

John includes the relationship of Christ with the Father to confirm His deity.

Each Gospel author makes their presentation from a unique perspective:

Matthew is a teacher presenting the sermons of Christ.

Mark is a preacher proclaiming the miracles of Christ.

Luke is an author recording the parables of Christ.

John is a theologian declaring the doctrines of Christ.

As we work through our study remember John wrote so that we may know two things about Jesus: (A) That He is the Christ [promised Messiah] and (B) That He is the Son of God (eternal, holy deity). John wrote this for one purpose – that we would believe; with one result – that we would have (eternal) life by His authority. John wrote so that Christians, from all cultures, could have confidence in the person and work of Christ!

 

Why study John’s Gospel?

As we continue with the series through the Gospel of John we want you to understand why the Elders of LHBC chose this book, and the process for working through it, for our Sunday Gatherings. There are three anchor points for this decision:

First, Approximately ten to twelve months ago we as Elders started a process of examining everything at LHBC through the lens the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) which teaches three distinct responsibilities:  (A) Make disciples (B) Baptize them [lead them to public identification with the Person and Work of Christ] and (C) Teach them to obey everything Christ commanded.

Second, As Elders we articulated a Mission Statement born from, and consistent with, these distinct responsibilities: “LHBC exists to make mature followers of Christ to the Glory of God.”After settling on that statement as the articulation of the reason LHBC exists we then asked ourselves one basic question: "What does a “mature follower of Christ” need to know (and be and do)?" As we interacted around the answer to that question we began to see that a study through the Gospel of John was a great way to  lay (review in some cases) a doctrinal and theological foundation for maturing believers. A careful study through John clarifies Who we are following and where He is leading!

ThirdWe prayerfully settled that going through the Gospel of John was the right way to begin teaching by example a process we refer to as the “proper presentation of the Word.” For us as Elders at LHBC this means two things: Exegetical Preparation and Expositional Presentation.  Exegetical preparation refers to the process of allowing the Biblical text to define itself. "Exegesis" is the process in which a Bible student identifies the context, content, and concept of a passage in order to understand its meaning and application. Expositional presentation refers to the process of communicating God's Word as it was given to us, through a sequential context. "Exposition" is the process of teaching through Scripture in a verse-by-verse or chapter-by-chapter process in order to maintain the integrity of context and observe the author's original concept develop through the passage. We do this so everyone can learn how to look at Scripture for themselves in order to understand and apply it. This goes beyond knowing a “chapter and verse” for things we believe. This process builds confidence and stability (i.e spiritual maturity) in the foundation built on the context of specific words in a specific verse in a specific chapter. This is intended to be an interactive process were the reader interacts with the text and the audience interacts with the teacher. If you’re hearing doctrine and information but are missing the practical implications and applications we invite you to connect with us for further discussion and clarification.

Another benefit of working through a book in this way is that you know what’s coming next! You can read ahead and review the concepts presented in the next passage rather than trying to process everything in one sitting. Tools like this blog feature and the audio files of the messages will help us all review the teaching as we proceed through the series. Another way in which this teaching series will be interactive is through the schedule shift we'll be making with the Sunday morning Gatherings beginning on September 3. By placing the main teaching first (10:00 a.m.) then unpacking it in a discussion-based, small-group format (11:00 a.m.) we will be able to identify specific implications and applications for our own lives and situations as individuals, families and Covenant Members of LHBC.

Understanding Elder Leadership

Last week we looked at the fact that Christ has given his church gifts, in the form of leadership gifts to equip the body so that it functions and grows the way Christ desires and designed.

This morning, in Bible class, we looked at what Scripture says about New Testament leadership and answered some questions that we’ve received about how this is put into action at LHBC. I’ve attached the PDF that we used this morning as a guide to what the New Testament teaches.

LHBC-Biblical-NT-Leadership

Please take the time to read through the PDF to better understand the Biblical reasons for how we have organized the leadership of LHBC. If you have questions, any of the Elders can help you out.

Below are the questions and answers from this morning’s Bible class hour that you may have heard or even had yourself:

Q: Are we going to hire a new Full-Time Pastor?
A: Immediately? No. However, this is something that we will be evaluating over time. Being a paid staff member is not equivalent to being “in charge.” Being a paid Elder simply provides more availability to the church that the other Elders may not have, given their employment. However, the more important question is not will we hire someone, but should we hire someone. Is it Biblical to hire an Elder?

Scripture makes reference to the church supporting an Elder in 1 Timothy 5:7, Galatians 6:6 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. Paul even states in 1 Corinthians that he has the right to require support but in some instances chose not to exercise that right. So, is it Biblical to have a “supported” Elder(s)? Yes, however, Scripture seems to indicate that this was something they could excuse if they felt it was the Lord’s will.

We will be evaluating the needs of LHBC going forward to determine if a paid Elder is necessary. If so, most likely one will be chosen from our current Elders, unless the Lord has lead us to bring on another Elder. Again, scripture does not indicate that Elders who receive support are above the others. Regardless of pay, all Elders are equal in role, responsibility, and authority based on Scripture. Pay does not reflect ability, responsibility or authority. It solely reflects availability.

Q: Are we going to fill the empty Elder spot?
A: Scripture does not give us a specific count of elders nor does it give us an Elder to member ratio or any other method for determining the correct number. This is based on the needs of the Church as well as the availability of men worthy to be potential Elders and their desire to take on the responsibility.

Appointing Elders is not a quick process. The requirements laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 indicate that there is a process of observing the lives of the men who would be appointed to Eldership. There are many aspects of these requirements that take months if not years to evaluate properly, which goes against the current process for calling a Pastor in many churches today.

In 1 Timothy 3:22, Paul warns Timothy from being hasty when “laying on hands.” This is a reference to appointing Elders in the Church. This process takes time. While we are always looking out for men who meet these qualifications as potential elders, much of it will depend on the needs of the Church as well. We will not rush into ordaining any new Elders immediately.

Q. Who is going to be the leader now?
A. If any man at LHBC is looked to as the “leader” of the Church, including our current Elders, then we’ve been doing it wrong! Scripture is very clear that Christ alone is the head of the church. The Elders were given to oversee and guide the church under the headship of Christ. Paul made this very clear in 1 Corinthians 1 and 3 that the church is Christ’s, He alone is the head. Ephesians 4 echoes this as well in verse 15 when it states that the leadership gifts given to the church for equipping the saints are to help them grow to become like the head… Christ! Peter also confirms the humility that is required by the Elders in 1 Peter 5 as he lays out the responsibility to shepherd under the “Chief Shepherd.” When we even simply use a title such as “head” or “lead” Pastor/Elder we create the opportunity for weaker Christians (like those in 1 Corinthians) to begin to follow men instead of Christ. That is not our goal and is not in keeping with how Christ built His church in the recorded Scriptures.

Q. How do you guys make decisions with an even number of people? Who is the tie-breaker?
A. Unity among the Elders is a necessary aspect that we find in Scripture. This does not mean that we must always agree. God has gifted each Elder with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives that often provide a more thorough process for evaluating decisions for the church. The Elders at LHBC believe that it is not only best but Biblical that any decision is made unanimously.

Why? God is not the author of confusion, nor does He promote disunity among the church. Each time we meet, we seek the wisdom from above as stated in James 1:5-8. We believe, therefore, that God will give us the wisdom we need to lead the church according to His will. If there is disunity, there are only two options. Either there is sin in the life of one or more Elders, or the Holy Spirit has not made it clear to all Elders that a decision is correct or timely. When there is no unity, there is no decision. We must learn to lead on God’s time frame and not ours.

We find a Biblical precedent in Acts 15:6-35. Here we see a very major decision for the church regarding the need for Gentile converts to follow the law of Moses. It begins by stating that there was much debate. Even in that meeting, there was a debate, different speakers with different perspectives on the decision to be made. However, after discussion was made, we see a clear unity of both the Apostles and the Elders and even the Church at Jerusalem when they make the judgment. There is even an indication of such in verse 25 where it states they were “in one accord.” It seems clear that the decision of the Apostles and Elders was unanimous and provides an excellent example for how decisions for the local church should be handled as well.

Even this process, when followed shows the value of equality, plurality, and unity of Elders in the local church. It also reminds not only the church but the Elders as well that Christ is the head and that we must seek Him to provide clear direction for His church in every decision.