Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďTHE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST: ITS TRAININGĒ

 

We will now attend to the training of the church of Jesus Christ. It is not the purpose of this message to train the church of Jesus Christ, but to show beyond reasonable doubt that Godís plan for His church of redeemed and baptized believers is that they be trained. What do I mean by the word train, especially when using the word as a verb? As defined in the Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, training is the preparation of someone by means of education, instruction, and practice.[1] The implication of the goal of training, of course, is the development in an individual of a set of abilities and skills for the performance of oneís duty.

We recognize that the primary means of Godís grace by which sinners are converted to Jesus Christ is the foolishness of gospel preaching, First Corinthians 1.18 and 21:

 

18    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

 

21    For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

 

One of the serious problems facing contemporary Christianity, particularly in western culture with its emphasis on individualism and the isolationist tendencies by which so many people live out their lives are people, married couples, and even families existing in a starkly anonymous and unaccountable way. Imagine Christian folks sitting under the preaching of Godís Word, coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but then remaining relatively unconnected and reserved in their reluctance to allow proper training to take place so they will know how to live the Christian life they have been given; how to be husbands and wives, how to be parents and children, how to be workers and supervisors.

What I hope to show you by means of this eveningís survey of both the Old and the New Testaments is that such an approach to the life lived for God is not advanced as a desirable way of learning how to serve and please God. It is quite obvious that our consideration of this matter will not be very deep, but I hope it will serve to show you that Godís plan has always been for His servants to be trained to serve God in various capacities in a personal and accountable way. Granted, the progressive nature of revelation means the examples found in the Old Testament will be scattered and not fully developed. However, we will see the pattern of training emerge over time, as well as the pattern of training tragically breaking down, abandoned, or misused in some instances, with its full development seen in the New Testament, especially in the life and personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples.

 

We Begin With EXAMPLES OF TRAINING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

 

Abraham is as good an example of training as we can hope for. We might well imagine that Abraham trained his nephew Lot, though we are disappointed that he took Lot with him to Egypt, a trip that was clearly out of Godís will and resulted in his acquisition of Hagar by whom he later sired a child. Not a good lesson to teach a nephew. Sadly, after returning from Egypt Abraham and Lot were so wealthy their herds could not graze together so they separated, which eventually resulted in Lot living in the wicked city of Sodom. However, in Godís providence we are as a result of that move shown evidence of Abrahamís training of others. When Sodom was sacked and Lot was kidnapped we are told of Abrahamís response when the news of Lotís trouble reached him, in Genesis 14.14:

 

ďAnd when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.Ē

 

Military historians recognize that Abraham and his trained men undertook the first successful nighttime military raid in recorded history, during which Lot was rescued. Note that Abrahamís men were trained, from a Hebrew word for those who were trained, tried, and experienced.[2] Do you imagine this result was accidental, anything other than hands-on instruction given to trusted men who were relied upon to protect both Abraham and his family? Think again.

Jump ahead with me in your reflection to Joseph. You know the story from Genesis of Josephís brothers betraying him by selling him into slavery. While serving in Potipherís house we learn that everything Joseph did in service to the Egyptian was blessed of God.[3] Where do you think Joseph learned how to manage a rich manís household? Could it be that maybe he was trained by his own father? As well, do you think he learned to fear God and was persuaded of the rightness to resist temptation on his own, or do you think his father taught him? To be sure, God blessed Joseph so that his organizational skills were sharpened and matured over time in Potipherís house, and certainly while Joseph was unjustly imprisoned. However, whether Pharaoh ever realized it or not, I am quite confident that Josephís blessings from God, from which he derived great success as the second most powerful man in Egypt, can be traced back to the personal and intimate training he received growing up from his aged father.

Now, consider Moses. A Jewish child taken in by Pharaohís daughter and raised as her own, is there any doubt that the Egyptian education he received was not only second to none but also extremely personal? How many other kids do you think his tutors had to worry about as he was growing up? Maybe one. Perhaps two others. Of course, Moses also had to learn to be a shepherd as an adult so he could shepherd the children of Israel when he led from out of Egyptian bondage. However, the foundational instruction Moses received as a child, which had to include how to lead large numbers of people as an Egyptian leader, he learned in a very personal and intimate way in Pharoahís household.

Next, comes Joshua. Where do you think the right hand man of Moses and the man who led the fighting troops who would defend the children of Israel in battle learned his craft? From Moses, of course. No Israelite slave would by natural instinct know how to successfully lead an army in battle. Thus, it was his intimate association with Moses, who himself had been taught military trade craft by the Egyptians, that resulted in Joshua learning from one who had himself been taught by the very best. But it was an intimate instruction, donít you see, and not the lessons learned from any lecture or from being self-taught.

Consider now the prophet Samuel. Remember that he was the answer to Hannahís prayer for a child, who was then given to the LORDís service in Eliís household when he was about four years old. Thus, the essentials of his character were already formed through the loving devotion of his godly mother who taught him to love and serve God. However, Samuel did complete his growth to manhood in the household of the high priest Eli, who was an ungodly fellow who raised two sons to be reprobates. Sadly, though he was a great and devoted man of God, privileged to anoint Israelís first two kings, Samuel failed as a father himself, raising two worthless sons who did not fear and follow God as their father had. The reason? Perhaps Samuel just never learned how to be the father of his sons because of the terrible example of fatherhood he had grown up with.[4]

Next, there is Solomon. Solomonís father was David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. But we must admit that David was a terrible father, setting a terrible example, while admittedly being a great warrior and worshiper of God. Being the eighth son of Jesse, maybe David was not hardly raised himself, so he did not really know how to raise sons except to train them in the art of warfare. Solomon, too, gives little evidence of being a good father himself, though we do have the book of Proverbs he was inspired to write (no doubt after most of his children were raised). However, if you read Proverbs it is obvious that much of the book is devoted to the art of raising a son, with clear evidence that such is to be done with intimacy and a great deal of personal attention to detail. Sadly, few men and women have been raised by such fathers.

I close our consideration of the Old Testament with the prophet Elijah. I mention Elijah because from the time of Samuel down to the time of Elijah we find references in the Old Testament to the school of the prophets, the children of the prophets, and such comments as that. However, remember that a prophet was not primarily a predictor of the future, what we call prophecies, but someone who declared Godís truth; a preacher. How do you think this school of the prophets, these children of the prophets, learned their craft? By intimate and ongoing association with the prophets who came before them, older men, far more experienced men, who took the time to provide personal instruction to them. So you see, whether it is raising children, developing leaders to succeed you, or training up men who will proclaim Godís truth, the right way to get it done is shown in the Old Testament scriptures to be training that is accomplished (not in any classroom, though instruction is certainly needed) by means of personal education of facts, application of facts by instruction, and then the actual practice of that newly acquired and developing set of skills. Of course, all of this fits perfectly with the plan for rearing children by means of education, instruction, and practice that was presented by Moses in Deuteronomy 6.4-9:

 

4      Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

5      And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6      And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7      And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

8      And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

9      And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

 

 

We Now Move On To EXAMPLES OF TRAINING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

 

Keep in mind that in the New Testament the lessons learned in the Old Testament were not cast aside and forgotten. Quite the contrary. What we find in the New Testament adds to that body of knowledge about training already presented in the Old Testament:

The prime example of training is found in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ in the four gospels. Consider His approach to making disciples. First, there was the inner circle of three chosen men; Peter, James, and John. Those three were taken with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration, Mark 9.2-13. There were the twelve apostles, Matthew 10.1-4. Then, of course, there were the seventy, Luke 10.1. By the time of our Lordís resurrection from the dead, ascension, and the Day of Pentecost, there were 120.[5] During the course of His three and a half years of public earthly ministry commencing with His baptism by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ chose from among His followers different men whose lives He invested in. He ate with them, slept with them, traveled with them, provided different levels of personal instruction and teaching to them, and generally engaged in the development of their character and personalities. Important to remember, through all of this, is that He gave them responsibilities and held them accountable.

 

Matthew 16.24:  ďThen said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.Ē

 

Luke 9.23:  ďAnd he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.Ē

 

To put to rest any doubts about the personal nature of His instruction, consider Luke 11.1:

 

ďAnd it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.Ē

 

Of course, this led to the Savior providing for them what is sometimes called the Lordís prayer, a template useful as a guide for disciples to know the essentials of praying to God.

With the Lord Jesus Christ providing the example, we find much instruction provided by the Apostle Paul in the epistles he wrote. Listen as I read, and try to imagine what else these verses could suggest if they do not demand the personal ministry of one Christian to another:

 

First Thessalonians 2.7-12: 7  But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

8     So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

9     For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

10   Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

11   As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

12   That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

 

Sadly, there are these days both mothers and fathers who are not intimate and attentive to their children, but you see from this passage it ought not so to be. How many mothers and fathers know, really know, how to parent their children in this fashion? I have observed very few over the course of my forty plus years as a Christian.

 

Ephesians 4.11-16: 11  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13   Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14   That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15   But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16   From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

 

Take note that Paul shows here that developing Christians for a life of ministry is not so much different from raising children. And any parent who has more than one child knows that no two kids are alike, no two kids have identical needs, and every child requires personal attention and intimacy to be raised properly. Of course, the great example of this was Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, who spent personal and private time with each of her nineteen children at least once each week while they were growing up. She knew how to do it the right way.

 

Titus 2.1-8: 1    But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:

2    That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.

3    The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

4    That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

5    To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

6    Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

7    In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,

8    Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

 

Someone comes into the church after trusting Christ and being baptized. Who is to say that guy or that woman knows anything about being a real Christian husband or a wife, or knows the first thing about being a Christian dad or a mom? Are they to limit themselves to being the kind of mom or dad, husband or wife, their own parents were? Good grief, I hope not! And what about those who did not have a mom or a dad in the home, and therefore have absolutely no idea how to effectively get the job done of raising children or being a godly spouse? Where are such poor babes in Christ to learn how to live the Christian life? See the word teach in verse 4? It translates sophronizo and has to do with encouraging, advising, and urging upon someone a course of action.[6] Now look at the word exhort in verse 6. Translating a word meaning urge, exhort, encourage, its meaning developed over the years from a word that initially meant to call to oneís side.[7] That provides a mental picture of a certain level of intimacy, does it not?

 

It is undeniable that training is so thoroughly woven into the scripture as a means for raising children, as a means for developing leadership, as a means for providing for a successor, as a means for training young women how to love their husbands and their children, as a means for training young men how to be real men, and as a means for bringing Christians in the church to spiritual maturity with skill sets that will enable them to serve God and bear fruit.

Is it not therefore tragic when our western cultural biases reinforce isolation from people, justify inappropriate autonomy from those who would mentor us and hold us accountable as they train us to live for Christ? Let us therefore recognize that since the church of Jesus Christ is the pillar and ground of the truth, First Timothy 3.15, we should certainly be committed to learning how we ought to behave ourselves in the church. That can only fully be accomplished when we recognize that training involves more than lecturing by a pastor or a teacher, and involves more than devotional Bible reading and prayer by a committed believer. It also involves appropriate application of the truth to our lives by a mentor and the practicing of that applied truth under the watchful eye of that mentor.

Are you being trained at present? I would suggest that you prayerfully consider coming to talk to me so that we can arrange for you to be trained after the scriptural fashion. After all, how else is Christís command that we teach you to do all things whatsoever He has commanded to be fulfilled?



[1] Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1936.

[2] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 335.

[3] Genesis 39.2-6

[4] 1 Samuel 8.3

[5] Acts 1.15

[6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 986-987.

[7] Ibid, pages 764-765.


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org