Oftentimes the music/worship debate is characterized by age. That is, older people like hymns and younger people like contemporary song. But that is simply not true. I, along with many of my peers, actually like hymns and a worship style without all the gimmicks and show. Hymns are also interesting because they generally have stories attached to them. One of my favorite hymns is Blessed Assurance. It was written by a lady named Fanny Crosby. Fanny was born in Putnam County, New York, on March 24, 1820. A poorly trained doctor applied a mustard plaster poultice to her eyes when she was only six weeks old, rendering her totally blind. At an early age she realized she had a gift for song writing. She enrolled in the NY institute for the blind at 15. At graduation they asked her to stay and teach. She taught there for 11 years following her graduation. During her 95-year life she wrote over 8000 Gospel songs. One day in 1873 a friend was visiting and played a tune for Fanny on the piano that she recently wrote. She asked Fanny, “What does this tune say?” After praying for a few minutes, Fanny arose and said, “It says, Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine!”
But do Christians actually walk around on a daily basis with Blessed Assurance in their heart?! Unfortunately, my experience is that they do not. It reminds me of an story I read about the scientist Carl Sagan. A newspaper publisher sent a telegram to a noted astronomer: WIRE COLLECT IMMEDIATELY FIVE HUNDRED WORDS ON WHETHER THERE IS LIFE ON MARS. Sagan replied, “Nobody knows” 250 times. If someone wrote you an email asking, "In 500 words or less write back how you know you would go to heaven today if you died?" Would you email back "nobody knows" 250 times?
I believe there are two extremes when it comes to the view of Assurance of Salvation
But herein sits the problem. As soon as you make a statement emphasizing assurance, people are going to say you are a Calvinist who believes in Eternal Security. Yet, if you emphasize the need for holy living and that grace is not a license to sin (à la. Romans 6), then people will focus on their own righteousness, realize they are not worthy, and lose all sense of assurance. I believe the proper focus is to understand how God views us once we become Christians. That will be the topic of my next post to finish the thoughts here. What is your view of Assurance?
What does it mean to unify as Christians? Why are we divided in the first place? What is the basis for our unity? These are important questions to ask when we talk about Unity. It is something Jesus prayed for (John 17:20-23), the Apostles practiced (Acts 15), and the Bible commands (Eph 4:1-3). We are going to take a closer look at Ephesians 4 and how it relates to Christian Unity.
Ephesians 4 starts off with the word therefore. Whenever you read a therefore you must ask yourself, "What is it there for?" The Apostle Paul has taught in the book of Ephesians about the great spiritual blessings we received in Christ (Eph 1). Next he wrote about the barriers between God-Man and Man-Man that Christ broke down through the Cross (Eph 2). He takes a detour in chapter 3 to speak about his personal ministry and how it relates to this topic but he ends up in Chapter 4 teaching the practical implications of his previous propositions.v
The Apostle implores (read this as commands) them to walk worthy of their calling. Ok great! But how do we walk worthy? Well, first he gives us the sort of attitude we are to have:
Next, Paul gives us the sort of actions we are to exhibit:
Notice that unity has a basis. So with Christianity, Unity has a basis. The question now becomes, what is the basis that we are to unify with other believers? For how you answer that question will tell you who you need to divide with. And yes, the Bible does command us to divide with some so-called believers. That is a topic for our next blog. What do you think is the basis for our unity?
The leading men of the Church, by pen as well as by voice, formulated apologetic and polemical literature as they faced external persecution and internal heresy. Their contributions to the Church are immeasurable. Unfortunately, they are almost forgotten by most church people. Here is a list of some major Church Fathers and a synopsis of their writings.
1. Clement of Rome (30-100)
Serious disturbance arose at Corinth due to men rebelling against the elders. Clement, a bishop in Rome, wrote in order to persuade these men to end their disturbance. He was not commanding them; rather he was intending to persuade them. He had not authority, and recognized such, in that he was not their bishop. This work is valuable for its information concerning the exalted position of the bishop in the Church at the end of the 1st Century. On a side note, the theory of two imprisonments at Rome for the Apostle Paul and a period of release in the interim is built upon a reference in Clement’s letter (5:5-7).
2. Ignatius (1st-2nd Cent.)
Bishop of Antioch in Syria, he was arrested and sent to Rome to be killed by beasts in the Imperial games. His letters are thanks to the churches who were kind to him along the way. He warns the churches about heresies that threaten the peace and unity of these churches. Mostly they are directed against Gnostic and Docetic philosophies. He emphasizes subjection to the bishop in order to avoid heresy. He is the first to place the office of bishop in contrast with the office of presbyter and to subordinate the presbyters to the monarchal bishop and the members of the church to both.
3. Polycarp (70-155)
A disciple of the Apostle John, he is a good source to the life and belief of the Early Church. The story of his martyrdom has great devotional value. His great faith is a testament to holiness that all Christians should strive for. It also describes the style of persecution and method the Romans would use during this time frame.
4. The Epistle of Barnabas
Most likely written by a Christian from Alexandria around 130 A.D. (not the Barnabas in Scripture). It was intended to help converts from paganism who some Jewish Christians were trying to persuade that the law of Moses should be observed because it was still, so they thought, in force. He consistently goes beyond legitimate Typology to Allegory. This type of exegesis was typical of Alexandrian theology.
5. The Epistle of Diognetus
Diognetus was the tutor of Marcus Aurelius. This letter was, most likely, anonymously written to him in the late 2nd or early 3rd century. He shows the folly of idolatry, the inadequacy of Judaism, and the superiority of Christianity in its beliefs.
6. The Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
It is not a letter but a sermon. It was not written by Clement. It is an interesting illustration of the content of preaching during the 2nd Century.
Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, in order to record the information that he had received from older Christians who had known the apostles. He states Mark wrote his Gospel as the interpreter of Peter and that Matthew wrote his work in the Hebrew language.
8. Apocalyptic LIterature
The Shepherd of Hermas, modeled after the Book of Revelation, was probably written about 150 by Hermas, who was considered, by the writer of the Muratorian Canon, to be the brother of Pius, the bishop of Rome. He was a freed slave who became a wealthy businessman. In the process he neglected his family and they fell into vile sin. He and his wife repented but his children rejected the faith. His work calls sinners to repentance and a holy life.
9. Catechetical Literature
The Didache contrasts the way of life and way of death. Then it discusses liturgical problems, instructions on how to distinguish false prophets from true, how to find worthy officials and other disciplinary matters. Some date the book early in the 2nd Century.
This is not a full list of all the Early Church Fathers but it is a group of the major ones. I would encourage anyone to sift through their literature. Often we are arrogant as to forget that many major doctrinal and apologetic battles have already been fought and won by Christians in the past.
Howdyl!! I’m Billy Dyer a Teacher and Preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is my blog page. It is focused on “coffee table apologetics”..... continue reading >>
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