The Power of the Church.
*Just a reminder that this study of Wayne Grudem's book, Systematic Theology, is not by any means me teaching, but rather a simple summary chapter by chapter of his book for my own enrichment.*
Does the local church have influence to change a community, or is it weak and ineffective?
The power of the church could be defined as: its God given authority to carry on spiritual warfare, proclaim the gospel, and exercise church discipline.
A church has the power of the gospel to break through sin and hardened opposition and awaken faith in the hearts of unbelievers.
...Also, to stand against those outside and inside the church who oppose the gospel. Paul was clear in the need for church discipline in various New Testament churches.
Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16 that he will get the keys of the kingdom of heaven; i.e. an authority to preach the gospel of Christ and allow people to enter into God's kingdom. Together with this goes the job of regulating and caring for the people within the church, known as church discipline.
The church cannot make up new laws to follow nor do they have the power in themselves to forgive sin, only God can do those things.
The church should not raise up a sword to try to force people to follow or live under Christianity, although God does give to civil governments that right. The authority of the church and of the state belong in distinct spheres.
There is nothing wrong with Christians attempting to bring positive moral influence on governments; i.e. for the protection of family, private property, value of life, and things consistent with Biblical standards. Where many religions are allowed to exist freely together, Christianity thrives.
In terms of church discipline, the goal is restoration (of the offender to right behavior) and reconciliation (between believers, and with God). Church discipline, just as our Father does to us, is acting in love for the best of its flock.
Secondly, church discipline is important to keep sin from spreading to others. If one man is allowed to continue in a sin unstopped and uncared for, perhaps others in the church would also look at that sin and think that it must not be so bad, and partake in the sin. It also helps to set a precedent for similar actions in the future, to say that the church does not tolerate this or that.
Thirdly, church discipline is there to help protect the purity of the church and the honor of Christ. None of us are perfect, but we need always strive for holiness for ourselves and together.
The pattern in the New Testament was that the sin was outwardly known or evident, and had been continuing for some time, and thus bringing reproach on Christ’s church.
Grudems speaks of how the process should be contained within a small group. The fewer the better, because then repentance is easier for a smaller group (compared to repenting before the whole assembly).
Matthew 18 speaks clearly on the step by step increase in action towards response, ending with a public appeal before the whole church. It should always be done with gentleness and humility, and a true appreciation for our own weakness and fear that we might fall into similar sins.
Forgiveness and reconciliation should be from the heart, loving, and truly embracing.
Next week, church government.