1. While the sinner's prayer may not be found in the Bible, saying it with a fellow believer when I committed my life to Christ helped one understand what I was doing: acknowledging my utter brokenness before God and recognizing my need for forgiveness. Are you saying it is wrong to pray the sinner's prayer or merely that it should not take the place of baptism as a public acknowledgment of conversion?
iJ Eduard Schweizer, The Church As the Body of Christ (Richmond. VA: John Knox Press, 1964), 26, 36-37. K Barclay, Lord's Supper, 99-102.
The New Testament repeatedly exhorts us to hold fast to the apostolic tradition given to the church by Jesus Christ and the apostles (t Corinthians 11:2, 16; 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6). See Viola, Reimagining Church for details.
The latter. We are merely saying that it should not replace water baptism as the biblical mode of conversion-initiation.
2. While you express your concern that the term personal Savior undermines the truth that our relationship is just as much corporate as individual, doesn't this phrase also remind us of the necessity of making our own confessions of faith and not assuming that merely being part of a church gives us a ticket to heaven?
We certainly should make our own confessions of faith. The early Christians confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior. Many Christians today feel this is sufficient. Therefore, they do not feel compelled to insert the word personal before it.
3.The apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, in which he reminds believers of Jesus' words when instituting the Lord's Supper, seem to emphasize communion as a time to remember Christ's sacrificial death. Naturally, then, many believers use it as a time to confess their sin and remember God's mercy. It is hardly an "empty ritual" as you describe it. Your thoughts?
We agree that the Lord's Supper is not an empty ritual for all Christians. At the same time, we regret that so many churches have lost the focus the first Christians had when they celebrated communion. The early Christians took the supper in an atmosphere of joy and celebration. By it, they proclaimed Christ's victorious death and His future coming. They also took it as a full meal in fellowship with the body of Christ, the church. This is the way it was handed down to us by Jesus and the apostles. Therefore we ought to ask ourselves: Is stripping the Lord's Supper from the meal and making it a somber occasion a development or a departure? Have we improved upon what Jesus and the apostles passed down to us, or have we strayed from it?
> CHRISTIAN EDUCATION: SWELLING THE CRANIUM
"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?"
—TERTULLIAN, THIRD-CENTURY THEOLOGIAN
"'The Primitive Church had no New Testament, no thought-out theology, no stereotyped traditions. The men who took Christianity to the Gentile world had no special training, only a great experience—in which 'all maxims and philosophies were reduced to the simple task of walking in the light since the light had come."'
— B. H. STREETER, TWENTIETH-CENTURY ENGLISH THEOLOGIAN AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR
IN THE MINDS of most Christians, formal Christian education qualifies a person to do the Lord's work. Unless a Christian has graduated from Bible college or seminary, he or she is viewed as being a "para"-minister. A pseudo Christian worker. Such a person cannot preach, teach, baptize, or administer the Lord's Supper since he or she has not been formally trained to do such things . . . right?
The idea that a Christian worker must attend Bible college or seminary to be legitimate is deeply ingrained—so much so that when people feel a "call" of God on their lives, they are conditioned to begin hunting for a Bible college or seminary to attend.
Such thinking fits poorly with the early Christian mind-set. Bible colleges, seminaries, and even Sunday schools were utterly absent from the early church. All are human innovations that came hundreds of years after the apostles' death.
How, then, were Christian workers trained in the first century if they did not go to a religious school? Unlike today's ministerial training, first-century training was hands-on, rather than academic. It was a matter of apprenticeship, rather than of intellectual learning. It was aimed primarily at the spirit, rather than at the frontal lobe.
In the first century, those called to the Lord's work were trained in two ways: (1) They learned the essential lessons of Christian ministry by living a shared life with a group of Christians. In other words, they were trained by experiencing body life as nonleaders. (2) They learned the Lord's work under the tutelage of an older, seasoned worker.
Remarking about the first-century church, Puritan John Owen writes, "Every church was then a seminary, in which provision and preparation was made."' Echoing these words, R. Paul Stevens states, "The best structure for equipping every Christian is already in place. It predates the seminary and the weekend seminar and will outlast both. In the New Testament no other nurturing and equipping is offered than the local church. In the New Testament church, as in the ministry of Jesus, people learned in the furnace of life, in a relational, living, working and ministering context."2
In stark contrast, contemporary ministerial training can be
John Owen, Hebrews 3, Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer, eds. (Wheaton, IL Crossway Books, 1998), 568.
Marrou, Liberating the Laity (Downers Grove, IL InterVarsity Press, 1985), 46. Note that these words cannot be said of the modern institutional church. They rather apply to all first-century-styled churches.
described by the religious talk of Job's miserable comforters: rational, objective, and abstract. Very little is practical, experiential, or spiritual.
A complete examination of the methods by which Christian workers were trained in the first century is beyond the scope of this book. However, a small chorus of books have been dedicated to the subject.' In this chapter, we will trace the origin of the seminary, the Bible college, and the Sunday school. We will also trace the history of the youth pastor. And we will discuss how each of these is at odds with the way of Christ—for each is based upon the educational system of the world.'
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