Theology and Practice — Odds and Ends

(This is the last in the series before I turn it into a book. You can always ask questions anytime, but if you want any additional issues covered in the book, you need to shoot me the questions in the next couple of days.)

The only means of grace is the Holy Spirit, and He doesn’t inhabit objects nor offices, only souls. However, the mercy of God is recognized in symbols, so we do have some prescribed rituals.

One such ritual is translated into English as “baptism.” It was a bathing ritual in the Old Testament, something someone might do any number of times during their adult life. Suddenly it reappears in the New Testament as part of the formal declaration of conversion, and all we have is the example of John the Baptist to set things up. The physical details of the ritual varied with the context. Sometimes a sprinkling was considered appropriate; at other times it was obvious that the whole body had to be immersed. Sometimes it was a private washing naked and sometimes it was in public with someone presiding over the process.

Most of the baggage attached to this ritual since the end of the First Century is nonsense. Baptism is a penitent ritual in the New Testament, celebrating a new lease on life. It’s not a one-time thing like circumcision, but you do naturally have a first time in recognition of that first moment you recognize the stirring of the Lord in your heart. It’s up to Him when you might need to engage in this ritual again later; He will tell you. The method you use will depend on what your heart demands of you. For the most part, new converts should probably be immersed in a public ritual, but it depends on available facilities. There is no one right way to do it.

The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus during His final Passover meal on the earth. It is pretty well covered in Paul’s letters, but most people read too much into what he wrote. I’ll go so far as to suggest that it can be any grain (in any form) and any fruit juice, and fermentation is not a significant factor. It should reflect the common food items grown in your area. Context is everything and we are not Israelis in Palestine. There is no prescribed schedule, but it’s pretty cool to do it near Jewish Passover at least.

The Lord’s Day is your choice. There is reasonable support for either the Sabbath or Sunday. Pick one and be consistent, but if you think it’s worth fighting over, you don’t get what Radix Fidem is all about. My personal habit is Sunday worship with others, and I have peace with God about that. However, I tend to worship every day, all day long in my heart. Paul flatly said that honoring one day over another is a matter of conviction, not a universal command from God.

Marriage is a private covenant. The state has no business getting involved, so there’s nothing sacred about a marriage license. Obey the relevant laws, take advantage of the loopholes, etc. What matters is that you covenant together as husband and wife in the presence of the Lord and with the support of your covenant family of faith. You two are on the same team. Yes, it is man and woman, and it is feudal and patriarchal, but not with all of the pool of meaning Westerners attach to those terms. I wrote two books about this, so there’s no need to chase all the details here.

Church offices are easy to figure out if you don’t read all your cultural and historical biases back into the New Testament. What the Bible calls “pastor” refers to a priestly figure that handles the rituals and is male only. There are also elders, those who actually lead and govern the body, and they tend to be male for the obvious reason that they become elders when people choose to follow them. An apostle is someone like a founding missionary, or someone who manages multiple churches in some sense, and tends to engage in the leadership work of both pastor and elder. Deacons are not elders; deacons are servants of the church, rather like attendants, both male and female. The term “teacher” refers to someone more professorial, a genuine scholar, a living treasury of biblical lore who leads the church’s education efforts, and they are elders in effect.

Other offices are more contextual. The church is supposed to be a feudal covenant clan, all adopting each other as family. It’s a tall order for Westerners, so until we get a body of experience to draw on, it’s hard to say much more about the signal roles in a church body.

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
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4 Responses to Theology and Practice — Odds and Ends

  1. Jay DiNitto says:

    I think it might be helpful to have a simple diagram to show the different church roles. There’s enough of a hierarchy and relationship types to make it meaningful.

    If you want I can cough one up. Wouldn’t take long.


  2. Ed Hurst says:

    Go for it, Jay. We could use some graphical representations in our library.


  3. Jay DiNitto says:

    Well, I had a quick design but I hated it, so I’m redoing it tonight. You’ll get an email.


  4. Ed Hurst says:

    The readers need to know that other folks can contribute to the process and materials produced.


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