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Who’s in Charge of the Church? (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 19, 2023 3:00 am

Who’s in Charge of the Church? (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 19, 2023 3:00 am

There are many stories about corrupt religious leaders who abuse their authority to dominate, manipulate, or take advantage of others. How can you recognize and prevent unbiblical leadership within your church? Find out on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



Music Playing Now, we move from that to the question, Not have I been included in Christ. But am I submitting to Christ who is the head? You say, Well, this is a very corporate question in that we're studying the church. Yes, of course it is, but the way that the church as an entity submits to Christ is a result of individuals submitting to Christ. And so Paul writes to them, and he says, Listen, I want you to understand that Jesus is absolutely supreme. There is no one greater or higher than he, and Jesus is absolutely sufficient. Christ is the head of the body, the church. And as our heads control both our growth and our guidance, so Christ does the same for his body. Incidentally—and we'll come back to this in later studies—Christ mediates his rule through a plurality of godly men whom he has given as gifts to the church, says Paul in Ephesians 4, who are themselves pastors and teachers who have been given the responsibility of edifying the saints so that they might be enabled to do the works of ministry. God has given those who are the servants of the headship of Christ to be servants of the gospel of Christ, so that in the faithful exercising of that giftedness, the people of God may be correctly attached to the head.

Now, here is it, my dear friends, and listen carefully to this. The only foundation and basis upon which those of us who have been called through the teaching of the Bible by the enabling of the Spirit to mediate the rule of Christ's headship among his people is as we have the Bible preached to ourselves. And unless it comes in power to us, it cannot come in power through us. Therefore, no man can exhort you to submit to the headship of Christ with any sense of realistic integrity unless that man himself has been so beset upon by the necessity of his bowing to the headship of Christ. So it is not some monarchy that God has established, where with kings and popes and princes he has established some hierarchical structure, and in the midst of that you have the proletariat, you know, in Colossae or in Cleveland or in Corinth, and they are called upon to do what the leaders say. No, it is that together we bow beneath he who is the supreme one and the all-sufficient one, and he who alone is the head of the church. Who is in charge around here? Christ. Christ?

He has given it to no one else to be in charge—neither to a pope nor a prince nor a king nor a pretender to the throne. So we stand on the common ground at the foot of the cross, a sinner saved by grace, irrespective of the function and the gifting and the place that we are given in the economy of God's purposes. Now, loved ones, it is imperative that those who are given that stewardship, then, are proving faithful.

Now, when we begin to think the implications of this out, it takes us in many directions. Can I take you just for a moment again from the physical to the spiritual? Many of us have experienced this, either firsthand or with members of our family.

I certainly have had occasion in my life to push around in wheelchairs members of my immediate extended family. And the reason is that there is some malformation between the head and the rest of the body. I've observed a number of things in relationship to that physical condition. Number one, such individuals are unable now to move properly. Number two, they are easily frustrated because they know what they want to do, but they are now unable to do it. Thirdly, they tend to be rather clumsy in achieving even the simplest task. Fourthly, they normally have difficulty in communicating, since their speech is either impaired or increasingly nonexistent. And fifthly, they're easily tired out, and they're often unable to continue even in the least demanding of exercises. Now, when I was a student at LBC, my pastor pointed out in one memorable sermon that there are some distinct parallels between that physical element and the spiritual aspect of it amongst the body of Christ.

So let's just apply them and think it out. If the body of Christ, in its local expression, is in any way doing anything other than submitting to the headship of Christ, then, number one, it will become apparent that it doesn't move easily or with confidence and authority in ministering with relevance to a godless world. Secondly, such a church will constantly display a frustration at the gap between what it should be doing and what it's actually doing. Thirdly, it will seem to take forever to respond to and complete even the most straightforward of tasks. You sometimes wonder, why does it take so long to get anything done around here?

What is going on here? Well, it's not the only answer, but one of the answers is that there's a disconnection, you see. The information is not flowing from the head in the way that it needs to flow. Fourthly, the communication of such a fellowship will often be vague and jumbled.

No one will actually know what it's saying or even if it's saying anything at all. And after any unusual exertion, it will be exhausted and protest that it needs time to be given to it to recover. Now, all of this is a failure on the part of the body to submit to the head. It would be nice, somehow or another, if we could go in and then give a variety of explanations as to why the body and the head would be disconnected. There is never any possibility of disconnection from the head to the body in relationship to the headship of Christ. Therefore, it is all from here to there, and it is all addressed in one simple word, and the word is sin. If I am disconnected from the headship of Christ, the answer is sin.

If you doubt that, read your Bible. When you think of the word sin, most of us are so familiar with it, we say, Sin? What is sin?

Well, first of all, sin is not a deed. It's a condition. It's a state of being. It's a mentality. It's an approach to things. But it expresses itself in a variety of different ways. And that's why in the New Testament we're given all kinds of words to indicate the nature of sin. It's a long time since I've shared them with you.

I want just to reiterate them this morning in order to make this point most clearly. The first word, or the first word on my list at least, is hamartia. H-a-m-a-r-t-i-a, which is the transliteration of it into English. It's a shooting term. It's from archery. We're familiar with it. We know it to be that missing the mark. We all fall short of the glory of God. We miss the mark.

We know that we're not what we ought to be. Sin. The second word is parabasis, p-a-r-a-b-a-s-i-s, and it means to step across the line. Those of you who fought your friends at school and then made up very quickly will remember those times in the playground when some character determined that he would dare you to step across the line. And every so often we were foolish enough to step across it, and we lived with the consequences as we clutched our noses and ran home to tell our mothers about the evil that had been done to us. But we stepped across it deliberately, intentionally, premeditatively.

Listen and listen really carefully. When you and I look the instruction of the headship of Christ straight on, when we understand where the lines are drawn, and we say, I know I shouldn't say this. I know I shouldn't do this.

I know I shouldn't be there. And we say it, do it, and go there, then we engage in willful sin and the idea of being able to enjoy the full flow of the communion and guidance and growth of the headship of Christ, simultaneous with that, is a feat that is uncountenanced in the whole Bible. Anybody stepping over the line willfully? The third word means to slip across the line.

Pareptoma. P-a-r-a-p-t-o-m-a. This is something that is impulsive, it is unpremeditated, it is unintentional. We find ourselves saying, I've no idea why I did that. I didn't mean to say that.

I didn't want to do that. And we did it. The fourth word is anomia. Nomos is Greek for law, e, the prefix, as in anomaly, anomia, anomia, lawlessness. I'll do what I want, I'll think what I want, I'll go what I want.

It's just total rebellion. And the last word is ophelima. O-p-h-e-i-l-e-m-a. And it simply means a debt. When I fail to give God and other people what is their due. Now, do you understand this?

It's very simple, isn't it? If there is any disconnection between the head and the body, it's a result of sin—sin that works its way out in my life in lawlessness, in stepping over the line, in slipping over the line, in incurring a debt to God that should be dealt with as I come to him in confession. And you can't take the cumulative impact of that amongst the company of God's people and expect that the power of the Spirit of God will be pulsing throughout the body, you see. That's why our sins as individuals are not individual sins. For none of us sin to ourselves, no more than we live to ourselves or we die to ourselves. But we live and die to the Lord, and we sin, and it impacts everybody else. So the sin of Achan was closing down the development of the events of God's unfolding plan until finally he comes forward and says, Hey, I put it there. I hid it there.

I'm the man. And the evil one comes with the insinuation and says, You know, nobody knows. Nobody sees. Luke chapter 12, Jesus says, The things that are whispered in the secret behind closed doors are going to be shouted out on the rooftops.

He said, The things that are done whereby we believe we've got them perfectly concealed, they're going to be made known to everybody. The devil one comes and says, Don't worry about that stuff. You don't have to worry about that.

That's not going to happen. You just go ahead and do what you do. I mean, you're going along. You're there. You're at church.

I mean, you're in. You're sitting there. The person next to you doesn't know. It doesn't affect them.

It does. The impact of Parkside Church in terms of its growth to maturity and its ability to affect the unconverted community of Cleveland is directly related to our preparedness, willingness to submit to the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ. And sin can only leave the body one way, and that is via the mouth. You understand that? If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin. But if we sit on our sin, if we hide our sin, if we run away from our sin, if we think that simply the passage of time deals with sin—you know, that was a long time ago, and it doesn't matter now.

Yes, it does matter now. Until you and I come and deal with that which breaks the communication between the head and the body, then we live with the implications of all that potential dysfunction. That makes perfect sense, doesn't it? That's why he uses the metaphor. Christ, he says, is the head of the body, his church. Let me just say a word about the fact that he is not only the organic head of the church in terms of governing its life and its growth, but he is also the ruling head of the church. He is, as we've said, in charge. He alone is the supreme one.

It doesn't fall to any other individual. If you read your Bible, you'll discover that Peter had a significant place amongst the twelve, but he was just one of twelve. It's questionable whether he came out top in his dialogues with Paul in the book of Galatians. It's certainly questionable whether Paul himself regarded himself in submission to Peter at any point. Certainly the other disciples were able to give as good as they got, and as the church unfolded throughout the early centuries, no one would have said very much concerning the primacy of Peter. That emerges throughout the later ages. It's really an interesting idea, is it not?

Why? Because he was the leader of the twelve. We do be the leader of the whole church throughout the whole world. You ever seen a beehive? She the queen bee? The queen bee's in charge of the hive. If you could interview the bee, do you think the bee would say that she was in charge of all the hives within a hundred square miles of her beehive? Do you think that she would say that just because she was the head of this beehive, she was in charge of all beehives?

No, clearly not. Do you think that we'd had the opportunity to interview Peter, that he would have said, as a result of his privileged position in leadership within the twelve, such as it was, that he was now going to be the foundation upon which the whole church was established? He the foundation? He to whom Jesus is to say, Get you behind me, Satan. You are Christ, the Son of the living God. And he said, That's right, Peter, and upon that rock I will build my church. What rock? The clear testimony of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

That's the rock. There is no foundation that any man can lay, save the foundation which is there in Jesus Christ. Isn't that what Paul says?

Listen, loved ones. There is no foundation, either in the Roman papacy nor in any structured denominationalism throughout the history of the church, nor in any local church with all its pretending little popes as we may emerge. There is no place for primacy and supremacy and authority and headship to be given to any individual saved to Jesus Christ. And that is why I say to you all the time, you are sensible people. Read the Bible for yourself and see if these things are true, so that you may become students of the book, because your ability to understand the Bible will be the greatest preventative measure from anybody rising to a position of authority or authoritarianism or autocracy or domination or manipulation.

That's what happens in the cults. And the reason is that nobody knows anything. Nobody knows what should be or what shouldn't be. They have no substantiation.

They have no book from which they're working. They are simply based by the authority and the personality and the power of the individual. Well, that's never the case within the church. Any authority that is granted to leadership within the church is a derived authority. It is by the Spirit, through the Scripture, and under the headship of Jesus Christ. And individuals do themselves great harm when they begin to see themselves as unchallenged founts of wisdom and instruction. I want you to know that neither I nor any of my colleagues here regard ourselves as unchallenged founts of wisdom and instruction. But we do believe that we have the immense privilege of dealing from the holy Scriptures, which are an unchallenged fount of wisdom and instruction. I can't tell you how crucial this is.

The loss of authority in the church at this point in the twenty-first century is staggering in its implications. When I was a boy in Glasgow—and I'll just finish with this illustration—when I was a boy in Glasgow, in the Glasgow Central Station, before they had electronic scoreboards—not scoreboards, but electronic, you know, the train coming here and there and all that jazz—they used to have what was essentially a huge, big bay window. It went way down 120 feet and then round a corner, and there was a man who just put boards up there—I'm sure you had it at Penn Central and all the other stations here as well—and he put the boards up, the trains going to Glasgow, the trains going to Edinburgh, the trains going to Carlisle, and so on. And there was also a man—I don't know if it was the same man, I think probably another man—and this man used to announce, and his voice would reverberate around the hallways, and you would hear it just sort of back there, you know? And everybody just going about their business, just not a thing.

And I'd stand there as a small boy, and I'd say to myself, I wonder what it feels like to be that man? You know, you stand up there, and you think you're, you know, the train now, and the people, it just couldn't give a rip. I wanted to say, wouldn't it be great if just once, you know, we said, Hey! Shh! The whole station! Listen! And the guy said, They're listening!

Now the metaphor and the analogy breaks down at so many points to be shameful, but listen. There is a sense in which the average church feels that all is well. The train's on the track. People are getting on at the station. They're getting off at the station. They're going to their class. They're going to their group. They're doing their thing. They're reading their Bible. They're coming to the thing. They're ticking the box. They're doing the thing. And Christ is giving instructions from above, and everything goes on without any attention to him at all. And someone says, Oh, it would be great if we could just all listen for a moment, and if we might hear from him.

That's the thing. The staggering thing, loved ones this morning, is not that there is such rampant declension within the twenty-first-century church. The staggering thing is this, that most twenty-first-century morning congregations are totally oblivious to the fact. What is the future of the church that is in bowing to the headship of Christ?

Who's in charge around here? In any local church, the growth and maturity and community impact of that church is directly related to our willingness to submit to Christ's headship. We're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg.

Alistair will be back in just a minute. We learned today that understanding God's Word is the best way for us to recognize and prevent corrupt leadership within the church. That's why you'll often hear Alistair encourage you to open your Bible and think it through for yourself. In addition to studying along with us on Truth for Life, we want to recommend to you personal time in God's Word, and we have an easy-to-use daily Bible reading plan that will guide you through four passages of Scripture each day, so that in a year's time, you will have read through the entire Bible. You can download the Bible reading plan for free at, or purchase a booklet that contains the plan.

It's just a dollar. Go to slash store. Now, you'll also want to request a copy of a book we're recommending that goes along with our current series. The book is called Corporate Worship, How the Church Gathers as God's People. This is a book that explores the main elements of a local church service. It includes baptism and the Lord's Supper, and explains what each element is for and why it's important. The book Corporate Worship lays out the essential framework for worship that's given to us in the New Testament. It's perfect to give to folks as part of your church's new membership class. And if you're a longtime church member, you'll still benefit from revisiting the twofold purpose of Corporate Worship, which is to bring glory to God and to promote evangelism.

Request your copy of the book today when you give a donation at slash donate. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Oh God, our gracious Father, out of a multitude of words we pray that we might hear your voice, that you will take that which is in error or which is unhelpful, which is counterproductive to the unfolding of your purpose, and you will help us to readily forget it. And we pray that you will take that which is of yourself and you will ingrain it within us. Cleanse us, we pray, from our sins, from playing around with stupidity and ideas that are wrong.

Fill us afresh with your Spirit. Revive your church, O Lord, we pray, in the midst of the years. And remind us that Christ is the only foundation, that he is the cornerstone, that he is supreme in and through it all. Unite us then to him, we pray, by grace, through faith, and bid us submit all of our lives and our futures before his authority and his love. And unto him, the one who is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and along the journey of our uncertain life and pilgrimage, and until he comes and then forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Being a member of the church is more significant than you might realize. Tomorrow we'll find out how your membership in a local church is part of God's master plan. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-21 19:23:00 / 2023-01-21 19:31:54 / 9

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