Dr. Rick Holland is Senior Pastor of Mission Road Bible Church and the author of Uneclipsing the Son. The following are my notes from Dr. Holland’s second session at the BOLD Church Conference on October 1, 2012 (paraphrased).
In the first session I was able to share with you about how the gospel puts us in critical involvement with others in the church… and now I want to go a little bit higher and look at leaders in the Church. I want us to know what we are to expect from our leaders:
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)
The Apostle Paul was perhaps the bravest Christian who ever lived. In Acts, he was told that everywhere he goes will include beatings, trial and persecution. He debated in the Areopagus, he stood against the council that killed Jesus… His fearlessness cost him, as we see beginning in v. 23:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 ESV)
This was a man’s man, this was a masculine Christian. This was a fearless Christian. When the Roman Empire faced Paul it was steeped in hedonism. And when he died, it was shaken by the Christian faith. And yet we see in verse three that Paul says, “I am afraid.”
How can this be? What was he afraid of? He was afraid the Corinthians would defect from the most important person—Jesus. Paul believed in apostasy. The church had been infiltrated by false teachers… There were people all over who were professing to be believers but were false. And Paul comes to them and says, “Men, women I’m afraid.”
So I want to give you three theological commitments of healthy church leadership:
1. A Fearful Ecclesiology. Back in verse two, we see that Paul says he’s got a divine jealousy for the church… he wants to keep her pure. This is a motivated jealousy, one sustained like one who is protecting a treasure for someone else. It’s one that expresses a unilateral devotion to Christ.
It’s interesting that Paul’s eschatology, there’s an understanding of accountability. He knows that he is accountable for the people under his care. True Christian leadership must in some way reflect God’s jealously for his bride. Do we reflect this fear? Is there a care that extends beyond Sundays and Wednesdays and potlucks?
2. A functional bibliology. He says that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, the Corinthians would be led astray. Understand this: Paul took the Bible seriously. He believed there really was a talking snake that deceived Eve.
This is not the time to get too far on this, but if you don’t believe Genesis one or two, how can they believe Genesis three? At what point do you start believing your Bible?
Don Carson explains that when Eve fell it wasn’t because she was battered into submission but because she was overcome by cunning.
Back in Gen. 3 we see something interesting… we see in the dialogue between the serpent and Eve and read, “…she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
Where was Adam? He was right there and he did nothing to protect his wife.
One of the things about Satan is that he’s a localized being. He can’t be in more than one place at one time. So while he probably hasn’t actually messed with any of us—he’s got bigger fish to fry—he does have demons who may mess with us. He apparently doesn’t need to sleep. So he and his demons have thousands and thousands of years of careful observation… and he is cunning. He doesn’t come to scare you, but to deceive you. He’ll come to church and trick you…
3. A Jealous Christology. Paul says, “I’m afraid your mind will be led astray from the purity and devotion to Christ.” After parenthetically talking about Eve being led astray, he returns to his thought—it’s that Jesus Christ is to be the integrating centrality of the Christian’s life.
Jesus is to be first in everything—everything! How are we led astray? It begins in our minds. Christianity is fundamentally rational. While our emotions play a part in our faith, we’re not to be driven by them. We’re here to teach, not to lead pep rallies. And by the way, the Christian mind is Satan’s target. That’s why v. 4 says that there’s another Jesus, another gospel.
But Paul warns that he’s afraid they’ll be led astray from a pure, simple, Christ-focus. Who would have thought that in the first generation of believers, people would be led astray…?
But it happened.
Think about Ephesus. Paul on his last visit, warned them that some among them would rise up as false teachers. And 30 years later, Jesus wrote a letter to them, saying, “You’ve got your doctrine down, but this I have against you—you have abandoned your first love.
The Ephesians had Paul for 3 years, and Timothy for up to 15 years after that. And if they could have this happen to them, then it could certainly happen to the Corinthians.
And it can happen to us.
Have you ever heard gospel stories and testimonies and been like, “Yeah, I’ve heard that.” Shouldn’t that make us put it in park, stop and wait until we see the greatness?
This is what Paul is talking about. It’s that our thinking is led astray from simply thinking about Him.
Think about the resurrection. If Jesus really rose from the dead, it changes everything. If the truth of the resurrection can roll off our tongues [seemingly mindlessly] we must be cautious.
Church leaders are tog garner and cherish a passionate pursuit of the living resurrected Savior. And the only way to do this is with this book. He didn’t leave us a video, he left us a book. He froze it here so we can know it and study it from every angle. And if you study His Word, you’ll find Him.
So how are we doing? Lord, make us like John the Baptist who said, “Lord we must decrease so He may increase.”