Friday, January 23, 2009

The legion stands, the knight falls.

Ephes. 6:10-24 (ESV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
[21] So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. [22] I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
[23] Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [24] Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.


“Making supplication for all the saints.” When we in the west think of armor we tend to think of a knight on horseback, valiantly fighting on a field of battle alone in the midst of hordes. It brings up an idea of chivalry, and a code of honor that does not let another fight your fight. Growing up I remember friends fighting with each other because on friend stepped in to help another friend who was getting the tar beat out of him. It was an assault to your honor to be bailed out by another. Fights were one on one and fair. One had to guard his sense of honor by not fighting dirty or letting others fight for you. Given all that I still agree with the marines that if you end up in a “fair” fight you screwed up. War is a different story than a third grade grudge match.
We are at war, with the devil and his hordes. The image that Paul means to bring up with his talk of armor has nothing to do with knights. The armor he was talking about is useless to the individual, it requires the the unity of a military squadron or legion to be effective. It was the armor of Roman legions. It required that you be locked into a formation with others. It was effective in formation. But should you be splintered off from your formation it was useless. In conjunction with a formation it was quite effective.
We are not Christians on our own. We belong to the communion of saints. We stand together or we fall. We fight together against the dark forces. We put on our armor and stand together. Our formation is the local congregation gathered around the gospel and the sacraments. It is our connection to the larger Church militant found all over the world. This is why Paul addresses the congregation with the second person plural, not singular. He is not speaking to individuals but to a congregation. Together they put on this armor, and pick up the sword of the spirit that is the word of God. And together they pray for all the saints. We are Christians together. Together we make up the body of Christ. As individuals we are nothing and soon fall prey to the devil. The legion stands, the knight falls. Together we are Christ, and in Him we have victory. Stand together, go to church. If you can’t find one start one, get a Bible study going, and call a pastor.

3 comments:

Daniel Skillman said...

Pastor,
Tongue firmly in cheek, but finger, wet to the wind, I ask:

Who needs the local church?

Don't you know that there is a great awakening happening among Christians now?

One of the key features of this movement is that people are discovering that they don't need to be reliant upon the local church with its preaching and sacraments anymore. George Barna tells us that "millions of believers have stopped going to church already," and in 20 years "only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their
faith.”

This isn't a bad thing. Look, a congregation where we were baptized, taught, and given Communion is only a "congregational-formatted ministry"; just one of many ways to "develop and live a faith-centered life." Congregational-formatted ministry is not ultimately necessary. Actually it's adiaphora. "We made it up." It served for a time, but we're in a new time now.

The problem is, you and people like you (and we know that you're sincere) are missing the point of Christianity, big time. What matters most is a life of good works. It's living faithful lives. People need to live out their Christianity. "If a local church facilitates that kind of life [of good works], then it is good. [But] if a person is able to live a godly life outside of a congregation-based faith, then that, too, is good."

So, you're going to have to revamp your thinking, Pastor. Like Barna: "Whether you become a Revolutionary immersed in, minimally involved in, or completely disassociated from a local church is irrelevant to me (and, within boundaries, to God)."

What matters is living like a Christian. It isn't about going to Church. It's about being the Church. Whatever helps you to do the right thing better and more consistently is what counts.

So, you might encourage your people to turn to small groups, accountability partners, internet advice sites, spiritual growth coaches, and the like. You ought to be seeking out those things yourself.

-------------
If only this wern't actually being said.

In Christ
Daniel Skillman
Out

steve martin said...

Right!

I agree with Skillman.

It should all revolve around 'us'.

Who needs outdated Roman Catholic type sacraments. If it smacks of Catholicism then throw it out.

Besides, why waste gas and drive to a church when you can be comfortable at home and be with a few friends. You could even keep the game on so you won't miss any great plays.

We have to get with it. Local congreagtions are out. Doing your own thing is in!

Long live individuality and creativity and self actualization!

Bror Erickson said...

I have heard of all that garbage out there Dan. I don't think it is anything new though. It is the American way. But it isn't "The Way."
The only thing you can do is show these people that the Bible doesn't agree with them.
It was Sasse who alerted me to the Roman Legions behind all this. Then a late night bought with insomnia watching PBS taught me how the armor worked and how useless it was when it wasn't in an interlocking unit. That is when light bulbs clicked for me. Two months later the synodical bulletins had a knight in shining armor... "and another one bites the dust." Reference to knights dying on the Battle field when a GODDag took them out. they couldn't scream (unchivalric) so they would bite the ground.