Apostolic Dumpster Scrapings

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Introduction

Some time ago, at our weekly Sabbath dinner, my father said something like, “No sense dying with a good reputation.” I forget what brought that on, but my daughter Rachel asked, “So you have a good reputation?” And he said, “Better than it ought to be.”

Two Cautions

In emphasizing what I am about to emphasize—which is the biblical importance of having a bad testimony—we have to go out of our way to make the point that there is another sense in which we are to have a good testimony. We are told this repeatedly in Scripture, and in many different ways. An elder must have a good reputation with outsiders (1 Tim. 3:7). A woman may be enrolled as a widow if she has a good reputation for good works (1 Tim. 5:10). Young men are to behave in such a way that adversaries have nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:8). We are to live in such a way that when we are slandered, those who do so might be ashamed of what they have said (1 Pet. 2:12). So then, walking worthy of the gospel is a good thing. So then, there is a good way of having a good testimony, and a bad way of having a good testimony.

The second caution is this. Just as there is a good way of having a bad testimony, so also there is a bad way of having a bad testimony. It is true that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12). But it does not follow that all who are persecuted are in that position because of godliness. It is true that we should be concerned when all men speak well of us (Luke 6:26). That is how the false prophets of old were received. But it does not follow that if you succeed in getting men to speak ill of you that you are thereby found to be a true prophet. The apostle Peter speaks directly at that confusion. Let no one suffer because he is a thug (1 Pet. 4:15). But if you suffer as a Christian (1 Pet. 4:16), then the instruction is this—do not be ashamed.

The Devil Is Not Stupid

When a Christian is being persecuted for being a Christian, the devil lies about it. No one is persecuted for their nobility, their love, their care for the poor. No, the early Christians were accused of incest, cannibalism, and atheism.

And so what this means is that believers must constantly navigate their circumstances, deciding whether they want a godly testimony, biblically defined, or a glossy PR press release testimony. There is a good way and a bad way of being respected, and there is a good way and a bad way of being disrespected.

So then, the apostle Paul insists that Christian leaders have a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:7). At the same time, he commends Onesiphorus for not caring about having a good reputation, for not being ashamed of Paul’s chains (2 Tim. 1:16).

Now it seems to me that nothing is plainer than that the modern Christian world is obsessed with having the wrong kind of good reputation. We have been led into this ditch by men who automatically assume that anything “negative” is a poor testimony. There is nothing good to be said about it. And it certainly is not God’s way of building the church.

Trying to Get a Call

Imagine a resume filled out by the apostle Paul. Imagine him trying to get a call at a modern Christian ministry. No—imagine him trying to get a call at a modern Christian ministry that was named after him. The form they made him fill out did not having any boxes to check that included things like being shipwrecked, beaten with rods, stoned (2 Cor. 11:25), or left for dead (Acts 14:19).

“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you” (1 Cor. 4:7–14).

There are three categories of people here. The first is the apostolic leadership, the ones with a dodgy reputation. The second is the Corinthian church, a tall steeple church with old money, filled with believers who are also sophisticated and wise. Paul could almost wish it were actually true. And then there were the outsiders, the people doing what they do to the apostles. Let’s walk through what Paul actually says here.

Ministry Gets Real

You Corinthian Christians are full. You are rich. You have managed to reign as kings independently of the apostles. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if the apostles could coast on the coattails of the Corinthians? Then they would be in fat city. Then the Christian faith could really go places.

But alas. God had different plans. God is the one who put the apostles last. The foundation stones for the entire Christian church were the stones that were placed at the bottom, down in the lowest place. The apostles were not the cross on the steeple; the apostles were the footings. The cross down below feels a bit different.

God appointed the apostles for death. He was the one who made them a spectacle to three audiences–first to the world, then to angels, and then to men.  A gaudy spectacle, bruised and bloody.

The apostle Paul then sets up a contest between him and the urbane Corinthian Christians. The apostles were fools for sake of Christ—the Corinthians had figured out how to be wise in Christ. The apostles were weak, but they, being Ivy League graduates, were strong. Their slick web site ensured that they were cast as honorable, while God had determined the apostles would be despised.

Down to the present, Paul says, they hunger, thirst, are naked, are beat up, and are homeless. They work hard, doing so with calluses on their hands. They are reviled, and bless in return. They are persecuted, and endure it. They are defamed, and entreat those who defame them.

They are made—by God, remember—as the filth of the world, and as the off-scouring of all things. They are the apostolic dumpster scrapings.

And who should be embarrassed by all this? Interestingly, notice how Paul wraps this section up. “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.” If anybody should be embarrassed by all this, it wouldn’t be the person who was pelted by the insults of the world. It would be the Christian who never has been. Paul did not bring up his record with the Corinthians because he was trying to brag.

So do you have a good reputation? And is it better than it ought to be?

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"A" dadDCHammersPerfectHoldJohn KillmasterME Recent comment authors

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PerfectHold
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PerfectHold

How many run-of-the-mill “ordained clergy” have much better cred than they should?

Why, don’t many (most?) get into the job to avoid the risk?

Give me a stage on Sundays & Wednesdays.
Give me a study for half the week.
Okay I’ll have to do some face-to-face stuff for a few hours (guess I gotta pay some price).
I’ll be golden.

Kilgore T. Durden
Guest
Kilgore T. Durden

Your degradation and mis-characterization of the honorable work of a pastor in preaching the gospel and discipling his flock into personal holiness is pretty disgusting.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

I can only pray it becometh a good bad reputation.

Kilgore — if it were true, just saying wild speculation here — if it were true that say a good half + of “preachers” get in the job for the perks of being a bit adulated and liking being a CEO of sorts, plus the major thing about being able to tuck away in the quiet cloister to study — and all to get paid money & respect … would the reality be pretty disgusting?

Jane
Member

He’s been called on this before and hasn’t even chosen to moderate or clarify his language. He thinks it’s perfectly okay to make sweeping defamatory statements based on speculations and intuitive perceptions about men he doesn’t know.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

At least I didn’t go so far as to call them open graves

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Unmarked graves. Those are bad because you might step on one and make yourself unclean and not even know it.

Jane
Member

If you’re comparing yourself to Jesus, I would point out that He actually knew the people He was condemning, not broad-brushing those to whom we’re called to give double honor because He figured it was a safe bet most of them were like that anyway.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

I think comparing ourselves to Jesus is a good place to start, and finish.

And if you don’t actually know the people your honoring, should you be honoring them?

Jane
Member

If you don’t actually know the people you’re speaking of, should you be dishonoring them, no matter who they are? No, you should not. You should not speak evil of men you do not know. Why is this even an argument?

Of course we should compare ourselves to Jesus. That means conforming our behavior to His, not using superficial similarities to what He did to justify our own behavior.

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

If you believe pastors have it easy, you are greatly deceived.
http://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Was Jesus deceived when he said those pastors are seeking their own agendas? Or you think we have gotten so much better in our own time?

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

I believe you may want to define your terms. Who do you mean by “those pastors?”
Do you believe the majority of Pastors are self-serving liars and hypocrites?
That has not been my experience.
If it has been yours, you have my condolences.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

I doubt that either of us have experience with the majority of pastors. The question is whose experience is representative of the herd that is out there. I appreciate your condolences and we’ll pass them on to so many many others that I have met and need your prayers.

Jane
Member

Since you admit you do not have sufficient information to generalize, charity and respect demand that you not generalize negatively. That’s basic Christian ethics.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Dunsworth–
You’d need to make the case that I’m generalizing.
I admit that I said “many” — by that I mean, for me, a lot.
% wise for the ones I know — say 95%.
So it’s not a generalization of all that’s out there.

I’d say almost every preacher I’ve met would not be properly classified a pastor.
Many are good men and good teachers, just not pastors as I see the Bible and common sense defining them.

Jane
Member

You suggested, and have clearly said in the past, that you think it’s “most.” That’s a generalization.

Again, I’m sorry for your experience. But coming out in public and making a general negative statement about pastors is not an appropriate response to that.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

When you reminisce about Jesus’ experience with and response to pastors of his day — largely positive?

Evan
Guest
Evan

I think pastors were Jesus’ idea though.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” Eph 4:11,12

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Pastors, yep.
Posers, not so much.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

If Someone Himself came out in public to warn you to beware of these wolves, how strongly would you object to such generalizations?

Jane
Member

When has Jesus ever warned us to beware of “many, if not most” pastors?

Again, he warned us to beware of a specific group of people who were doing specific things, not “all the people who preach the gospel in My name.” That’s frankly a ridiculous and dishonest comparison.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

He didn’t say to beware of the many — it was, rather, beware of them all.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

“if you believe pastors have it easy …” and then you referenced this:
“33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church” — you mean, wolf-like?
and this:
“95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses” — let alone, you might suppose, their sheep
and this:
“80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families” — that’s about right for both families and parishioners

John Killmaster
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John Killmaster

I tend to agree with you. It seems to me that the problem lies in having too many men pick ministry as a “career” before they have actually experienced life. I think the better model is to choose spiritually mature men from the congregation (not necessarily old, though it would likely skew that way) who have experienced the day to day life of working, raising a family, and being a layman under the discipline of a group of elders, before magically being deemed an “elder” upon graduating seminary.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Thanks. That is so true. What do you think would happen if those elders split up the preaching duties and had the leader focus on actual pastoring?

Anecdotally I recently tried to recruit several Denver area pastors to nursing home ministry, only to be told “Thanks but no thanks. That type thing is just not a focus here.”

dchammers
Member

“A hot sun and a slow mule called more preachers than God ever did.” – Clarence Jordan
(I’m thinking I got this quote from the host of Blog & Mablog)

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

Your daughter and father–I bet there were gales of laughter after that.

adad0
Member

“It is true that we should be concerned when all men speak well of us (Luke 6:26). That is how the false prophets of old were received.”

“of old”?

This is how false prophets down through history are spoken of, case in point, our out going “scandal free” president. : – 0

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

“Imagine a resume filled out by the apostle Paul. Imagine him trying to get a call at a modern Christian ministry. No—imagine him trying to get a call at a modern Christian ministry that was named after him. ” Wonderfully said! Sometime ago, I was volunteering at a church concession stand where we sold hot dogs and hamburgers to raise money for Christian schools. An elder of the church approached me and informed me that the elders had been talking to their insurance company and all who worked at the concession stand would have to get a criminal background check… Read more »

adad0
Member

Matthew 5:10-12
10 God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right.
They belong to the kingdom of heaven.

11 God will bless you when people insult you, mistreat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. 12 Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven. People did these same things to the prophets who lived long ago.

John
Member

maybe the hat turned them off.

ashv
Guest
ashv

I regretfully found the tone and timbre of my voice elevated as I pointed out that not one of the apostles, let alone Jesus Himself, would have passed such scrutiny nor met with the approval of any insurance
company on the planet!

Did it perhaps escape you that the things on Jesus’ and the apostles’ “criminal records” are things that aren’t actually illegal here? This is a stupid equivocation.

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

I think I follow you and agree but I could not help but think of that stupid picture of Trump and his wife on the piano. How did that present a good testimony of Christ to anybody? Would this bring the wrong kind of reputation or the good kind? Maybe there was an apology and I missed it.

adad0
Member

Ephesians 5 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” D’, I surmise that Wilson did not post the Donald’s photo as a testimony of Christ, but rather a testimony of the Donald. It’s OK to expose fruitless deeds of darkness, especially if one… Read more »

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

Sorry A, Doug Wilson is way too good with words to need that kind of pic, regardless of the point being made. If that pic can be justified then we are too good at spin.

I wonder if any other pastor that Doug respects would have published a photo like that to make a point?

Re Eph 5: We ought not mention what they do but it’s ok and clever to publish the photos?

adad0
Member

Yep! That’s one way to “expose”.
Anyway, I think the Donald published the photo in the first place.
Using it as a vehicle for an ubsurdity contest was pretty funny! ; – )
(Futility of man and all!)

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

I still think “No Fat Interns” was the best caption for that photo.

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

Duly noted and recorded.

insanitybytes22
Member

“When a Christian is being persecuted for being a Christian, the devil lies about it. No one is persecuted for their nobility, their love, their care for the poor.”

Apparently Wilson is a Christian lacking nobility, love, and or care for the poor. Also, he doesn’t seem to know the devil very well.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

“No one is persecuted for their nobility…”

He means ostensibly. The persecutors never acknowledge their true motives.

insanitybytes22
Member

Neither do the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

I’m afraid you might have misread him here. Please make sure not to condemn him for something he doesn’t teach. It could cloud your argument when you’re right.

adad0
Member

Galatians 5 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Hey Memi, glad you are back, as always. Re: “nobility”, did you notice, in the previous post, that Wilson “retracted” his association with the “Federal Vision” theological brew? He offered… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Tell me, when have you ever seen that kind of fruit here? It is so rare as to be counted on 3 fingers, more like trying to pearl dive in a cesspool.

I am not back. This kind of rubbish threatens my own fruit and makes me very jaded about those claiming Christ’s name. I know better.

adad0
Member

1 Corinthians 4:4-6 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. Memi, When Jesus cleared the temple, or spoke truth to people who then tried to stone Him, Jesus was still speaking in “Grace and Truth”. “Grace” is a bigger word than we may ever get a grip… Read more »

drewnchick
Member

I would love to sit in on a Sabbath dinner at the Wilson household some random Sunday.