Monday, November 22, 2010

Many Sheep Are Without and Many Wolves Are Within: the Visible Church Verses the Invisible Church

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16. ESV.)

Wayne Grudem states,
"Realizing this distinction between the church invisible and the church visible, Augustine said of the visible church, 'Many sheep are without and many wolves are within.'" (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. © 1994. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI. Pg. 857.)

So would it be fair to hold a congregation accountable for the "wolves" within it?

An Excellent Congregation

Over a year ago I came to a new area (while waiting on the Lord) and started attending a local Sovereign Grace church plant...which has been a HUGE blessing! The hospitality and nurturing I have received is nothing short of God's precious work.

I am going to have to leave soon (and return to the place from which I came) but before I do, I will be sure to express my heartfelt thankfulness for the fruit of which I got to partake that was poured out from this church.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19. ESV.)

And I truly believe the leader (especially) of this church to be His! When new to this location, I assessed a few congregations. During my time here, this particular Sovereign Grace group fed me exactly what I NEEDED (not to be confused with what I wanted) from God's word. There were renewing messages regarding "waiting on the Lord" and an uplifting series on Isaiah, not to mention a very powerful prayer service (to name a few). My heart's desire is to remain in the Sovereign Grace "church family" even when I have to move on from here. Further, I have sincerely enjoyed and learned much from the pastor and wish I could bring him (and his family) with me. Thank you, Pastor Phil.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16. ESV.)

Grudem states,
"Each of the metaphors used for the church can help us to appreciate more of the richness of privilege that God has given us by incorporating us into the church. The fact that the church is like a family should increase our love and fellowship with one another....The metaphor of the church as the body of Christ should increase our interdependence on one another and our appreciation of the diversity of gifts within the body." (SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. © 1994. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI. Pg. 859.)

The Sovereign Grace church family taught me "interdependence on one another", trust, and what it feels like to be nurtured in a time of waiting (while "poor and needy").

When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
20 that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
(Isaiah 41:14-20. ESV.)

(photo by: Nate Brelsford)
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