pet peeve chew toy

After reading the meta from yesterday's walk with the peeve, I think some people aren't listening very closely either to what I am saying or what they are saying. You know: one of the startling attributes of Paul's letter to Titus is that it takes absolutely for granted that the local church is the only place for believers -- so much so that it actually attracts unbelievers, which is why you need "presbuteros" and "episkopos" to teach and exhort and preach.

The way Paul says to set things in order is to establish elders who are of good character and who will teach what they have been taught. It turns out that some people are among the believers teaching some pretty wretched things, and the way to get that fixed is with the truth.

Think about that: with the truth and not with an exodus from the places where false teachers are popping up. Paul didn't tell Titus, "dude: just round up the faithful and be on your way. With the party of the circumcision around, you just can't win." In fact, he rounds out what we call chapter 2 like this:

    Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
That's pretty strong language if Paul is talking about a bunch of people who -- as the meta has said -- are just "an organized assembly of baptized believers in Jesus Christ in one locality where the Word of God is preached and practiced and the ordinances are observed".

It takes more than mere "organization" to be able to "rebuke with all authority": it takes authority. That is: it's not just a mutual agreement that it's good to have someone administrating things who has the go-ahead to write checks when the bills come due. Somebody has the authority to say, "excuse me, but NO. NO. 7-7-3-4 N-O NO."

The Greek word, for those of you scrambling to your lexicons and NA27s, is "epitage" -- which is the same word which Paul uses in Tit 1:3 regarding how God gave Paul the orders to preach His word. So we're not just talking about shouting somebody down here: we're talking about the right based on God's command to preach the word -- that is, to get it correct -- to give correction that binds. And that's reiterated in Pauls' exhortation to Titus: "Let no one disregard you."

Paul is saying that it's not enough to make them go away: you have to correct them until they are corrected or exposed as teachers of falsehood so that the believers reject them. This is what Paul has in mind when he's talking about setting things in order.

And that's just a recap, or wrap up, of what we were talking about last time. We made a big leap-frog there over most of Titus 2, thus:
    But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
Let's remember that we're defining the church here in order to answer the question "So should I leave my current crummy church?" We have established -- through Paul -- that one definitive aspect of the church is a faithful leadership. The church must be more than a loose federation of people with similar opinions if it has leaders who are tasked to rebuke with [God's] authority and do so in a way that cannot be disregarded.

But look here: these men are not leading a bevy of hapless smurfs. They are leading people who are themselves sound in doctrine in a way which is not theoretical or academic or otherwise merely-intellectual, but which leads to integrity, dignity, and sound speech, among other things. And look: the goal of those goings-on is that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

It's almost too much, really. When we compare what we have in our churches today to this description of what the church ought to be, we've got some stripped-down jalopy of a church on which we have spray-painted the words "ordinances" on one side and "scripture" on the other, and if some of us get into it sometimes we think, "well, it's nice to air it out once in a while."

The church is not a jalopy, people. The church is the vehicle for the glory of God in this world. We get in it to display and make beautiful what is true about God and from God. When we treat the church like a beater, we are doing dishonor to God.

So the first point is that God established the church as something in particular and not merely something which is ad hoc or coincidental to salvation: it has leaders who can and should wield authority. We can talk about that authority in detail eventually because they don't have a blank check, but they do have a bully pulpit and the platform of God's own word. And the second point is that the church is not just a bunch of fuzzy little peeps the leaders are trying to chase around the global barnyard: they are themselves people committed to each other and to obeying God in order that God may be shown to be as beautiful as He really is.

There is a third point, and without it we can't answer the question you fuzzy little peeps want answered. Here's a handful of corn meal while you're waiting. And I guess the Zens paper is going to get put off another week -- somehow I though today was Tuesday and not Wednesday, so sorry about that.