Why do I have to join a church?

To relate to God, you must do it “covenantally.” He wants all of you; he wants every aspect of you; he wants every bit of you.” It’s silly, but it’s natural that American Christians will say to me, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Why do I have to join a church?” I say, “What do you mean?”

“Where does it say in the Bible that I have to join a church?”

“On every page,” if you understand the covenant. All joining a church means is you’re willing to make a public vow that makes you accountable for your whole life. That’s what we don’t like because, “Who needs that? The most important thing is the personal and the spontaneous.”

No! The most important thing is every part of you has to go to him. You’re supposed to make yourself a whole burnt offering on the altar. That’s what it says in Romans 12 where it says, “Make yourself a living sacrifice, a whole burnt offering, to the Lord.”

 Keller, Timothy J., The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013)

“Of Whom I am the Worst”, John Newton and Amazing Grace

John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” was written from personal experience, for Newton himself was among the worst of sinners. At the age of eleven, he took to the sea, where he had many adventures: he was press-ganged into the navy; he was captured and flogged for desertion; he despaired almost to the point of suicide. Eventually, Newton became a slave-trader, a hard and wretched man. But he was shown mercy. As he feared for his life in stormy seas, he threw himself on the grace of God, which he found in abundance. Later he testified, “How wonderful is the love of God in giving his Son to die for such wretches!”

Even after he was saved, Newton continued to confess his need of God’s amazing grace. He wrote in one of his letters, “In defiance of my best judgment and best wishes, I find something within me which cherishes and cleaves to those evils, from which I ought to start and flee, as I should if a toad or a serpent was put in my food or in my bed. Ah! how vile must the heart (at least my heart) be.” Newton did not despair, however. Before closing the letter, he quoted Paul’s words to Timothy: “I embrace it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Every Christian knows how to complete Newton’s quotation in the quietness of a believing heart: “of whom I am the worst.”

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see yourself as the worst of sinners?

Resources

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This post is an extended quote by Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Timothy, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Daniel M. Doriani, and Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 29.

Can anyone, no matter how evil, be saved?

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Ti 1:15)

Calvin comments:

“He shews that it was profitable to the Church that he had been such a person as he actually was before he was called to the apostleship, because Christ, by giving him as a pledge, invited all sinners to the sure hope of obtaining pardon.

For when he, who had been a fierce and savage beast, was changed into a Pastor, Christ gave a remarkable display of his grace, from which all might be led to entertain a firm belief that no sinner, how heinous and aggravated soever might have been his transgressions, had the gate of salvation shut against him.”

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe that anyone, no matter how evil they are, can be saved?

Resources

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Quote from John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 38–39.