Troy Solava

About Troy Solava

Troy's Blog
Troy Solava is in his final year of seminary at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He has been married to his wife Lindsay for 4 years and they expecting their first baby this year! He loves studying theology, reading Puritan books, and following Chicago sports.



What Makes a Church, a Church

As you sit in your pew on a Sunday morning have you ever wondered, “What makes my church, a church?” Is it the steeple on the roof of the church? Is it the free, often burnt coffee that is offered before the service? Is it simply the gathering of like-minded Christian people? I want to argue that the answer to all those questions is no. A local church is much more than those things.

I want to argue that there are 3 key features to a local church that makes it a local church.

What Makes a Church, a Church

But first, it is important to define and distinguish between the universal and local church. One cannot be a true member of a local church if he is not a member of the universal church.  Scripture speaks of the universal church as the blood bought people of God (Eph 5:25). It consists of the company of all people who are regenerated and baptized with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13; 1 Peter 1:3, 22-24).

Millard Erickson defines the universal church as “the whole body of those who through Christ’s death have been savingly reconciled to God and have received new life.”  It is vital to understand that the church is not a man-made institution but rather a “supernatural entity” established by God. The church’s existence is founded upon and sustained by the work of Christ.

He is the one to build the church (Mt 16:18) and the one to sustain it (Col 2:19). It must be understood clearly: There is not such a thing called “the church” without the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

But what distinguishes a local church from the universal church is its personal expression within a particular and localized community of believers. Calvin defined the local church when he said,

Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).

I agree with Calvin but would like to add one more feature: church polity. I intend to argue in this blog that for a local church to be a local church, it must 1). Preach the Word of God, 2). Observe the Ordinances, and 3). Have a Polity.

 

A Church Must Preach the Word

A local church can only exist if it is a place where the word and Gospel of God are preached. Throughout Scripture, it was God’s word that brought forth life (Gen 1; Ezekiel 37:7-10; Mark 7:32-35; John 1; Rom 10:17). A church is community of people who have been brought to life by the word of God (the Gospel). Thus, a church cannot exist without the proclamation of God’s word.

Also, the New Testament is full of passages, both prescriptive and descriptive, regarding the necessity of the preaching of Scripture in a local gathering of believers.

Firstly, one of the four practices of the Acts 2 church was the devotion “to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Secondly, it is by the word of God that not only are the lost saved, but also the saved are sanctified (John 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17).  Thirdly, God sets apart men to preach the Word to local churches. This is seen clearly in Acts 7 where the Apostles appoint deacons so that they can have more time to preach:

Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:3-4)

Also, Paul commands Timothy to be a faithful pastor in his local church in 1 Timothy 4:13-16. According to Paul, a faithful pastor is one who reads, exhorts, and teaches the Word of God to the body. Thus, a local church must be a community who preaches and hears the Word of God. Without the Word preached, the elders would be unfaithful, and the people would not be sanctified.

 

A Church Must Administer the Ordinances

A local church can only exist if also administers the ordinances established by Christ (Matt 3:13-17, 26:26-29). Firstly, in the ordinance of baptism, a Christian publicly demonstrates the inward work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. It is a display of one’s union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3-4). Christ commanded his disciples to baptize those who believed in his gospel (Matt 28:18-20).

Thus, it is both a command to individual Christians and to the local church to practice and prioritize baptism. Baptism is an important practice for it is “the initiation rite for entrance into the people of God, signifying that one has become a member of the new community and that one now belongs to the triune God.” Thus, through baptism, a local church:  1) Obeys the command of Christ, 2) Displays the Gospel, and 3) Protects the church from hypocrites.

Secondly, the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper or communion was initiated by Christ prior to his crucifixion. The Lord’s Supper is to be consistently observed in the local church for it is sign of continuing fellowship with Christ (1 Corinthians 11:25) and with a local body of believers (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Through the symbols of the bread and the wine, a church corporately renews its commitment to live in light of the cross work of Christ and to rejoice in anticipation of the future meal that all believers will share together (Lk 22:18).

 

A Church Must Have Polity

The word polity means a particular form or system of government. Polity requires organization, structure, and rules for governance. This is seen clearly in the United States that consists of organized governing bodies with clear roles and functions. The citizens of the nation have power to elect, appoint, and influence the nation. The country’s rule and authority is not left up to debate, but must be aligned and practiced from the U.S. Constitution. Polity in government is a blessing. But polity is not just for civil government but is also for the church.  

The universal church’s polity consists of Christ as the head and all Christians as his members. But in the local church, the New Testament points to a localized community of believers as having a ruling structure. Jonathan Leeman in Baptist Foundations: Church Government in an Anti-Institutional Age notes that “the movement from the universal church to the local church is a movement into polity.” Thus, a local church cannot be defined merely as “a people,” but rather must be regarded as an organized and covenanted community of believers.

In brief, I believe that a local church must be a community who not only administers the ordinances and sits under the preaching of the Gospel, but also has a governing structure. This is seen in the fact that Scripture commands churches to have church officers, elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Also, a local church is given authority by Christ to execute church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20).

Further, a church is called to exercise authority over false teaching (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Peter 3:17; ). Without a polity or governing structure, these biblical descriptions and commands would have no foundation. How can a local church practice church discipline without organization? How can a church cast out false teachers without structure and standards? How can a church have elders and deacons without polity? It is impossible to do these things without organization and structure.

By preaching the Gospel, administering the ordinances, and governing, a local church can protect its purity from false teachers and false converts.

A local body of believers has the biblical authority to “bind and loose” or to welcome new members and hold one another accountable to live as the people of God (Matt 16:19). Leeman puts it poignantly, “Because God is utterly concerned with his own name and reputation, Christ has authorized churches to wield the keys of the kingdom. He has deputized them to mark off the what and the who of the gospel through baptism and the Lord’s supper.”

 

Conclusion and Summary

According to Scripture, a local church is a body of organized believers who preach and hear from the word of God and participate in the administration of the ordinances. It is obvious to see how if a local church were to rid itself of preaching the word and the ordinances, a church would lose its identity.

However, it is as vital to understand that without the organizing structures set in place by Scripture, a local church would no longer be considered a church. Thus, a small group or Bible study who meets in a home is not a church. Though they may pray, evangelize, serve, and study Scripture, they are not a church. They may perform many duties of the church but are not a church.

As you attend your church this week, I pray that you will have a greater understanding of what you are a part of. You are part of not only the universal body of Christ but also part of a covenanted and biblically organized gathering. God is glorified in these local churches who preach the word, who practice the ordinances, and have polity, for they are merely obeying Him. Your local church, Lord willing, is a visible expression of the New Testament.

I recommend the following books for further study:

Baptist Foundations: Church Government in an Anti-Institutional Age by Mark Dever;

Church Basics Series edited by Jonathan Leeman

By | 2018-06-11T23:08:58+00:00 June 18th, 2018|

4 Subjects for Meditation

When I hear the word “providence” or “sovereignty”, I too often begin to preach why I believe Calvinism is right and biblical. I think it is something worthy of my passion. But too often I allow my theological views to simply sit in my head without them affecting my heart. What does it matter if I can argue for a doctrine if it doesn’t lead me to worship?

The doctrine of providence ought to cause my heart to rejoice in God. Let me explain:

John Flavel says that providence is “the execution of God’s decree and the fulfilling of His Word.” It is God’s work of fulfilling and accomplishing all that He has planned in eternity past. This ought to bring a Christian to deep joy knowing that God’s eternally good and perfect plans will not be thwarted. I do not desire to enter into the mystery of man’s freedom and God’s sovereignty here, but it is worth noting that even our own sin and disobedience cannot cancel God’s decrees.

4 Subjects for Meditation

Here are few objects of meditation in regards to providence that should cause us deep joy:

 

  1. The Death of Christ

    Prior to the foundation of the world, God’s sovereign plan was to send His own Son to live perfectly, to suffer a sacrificial death, and to resurrect victoriously. The sending of Jesus was not a solution that came to mind after the fall of Adam. It was the plan of God in eternity past to save His children. Look at Acts 2:23-24:

“23 This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised Him up, loosing the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.”

God’s sovereignty and providence has brought you a savior. Rejoice in that!

 

  1. Adoption and Salvation

    Not only did God decree His Son to be the Savior of the World but He also decreed us to be His Children. Scripture makes it clear that God does not leave “accepting Jesus” up to us. God doesn’t just put the offer down on the table and walk away. God, before the foundation of the world was laid, chose us to be His children. With a full scope of our sin, rebellion, and weakness in His view, He chose us anyway. Ephesians 1:3-10 speaks boldly and joyfully:

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

If God’s plans always are executed, then we should read this with joy! Not only has God saved and adopted us, but He will also give us EVERY spiritual blessing that Christ has. God’s providence brings us salvation and eternal joy.

 

  1. Details of Life

    But God’s sovereignty is not just over the “big” things in life such as salvation or creation. But this God is also executing His plan amidst the details of our lives. Too often we think of God as just the God of our salvation and spiritual life. But if God is over our salvation, shouldn’t He also be the sovereign God over our family and job and tasks? These things are not too small for God. Throughout all of Scripture we see God’s sovereign control over the details of lives (i.e. Joseph). Scripture speaks boldly of God’s ordering of our lives:

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Ephesians 1:11

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:7

God is ordering all of creation and our steps. This is very difficult to grasp and understand, particularly Isaiah 45:7. But it can also bring us joy knowing that we are where we are because of God’s direct providence in our lives. God has given us our job, our family, and our experiences for a distinct purpose. We truly are not alone. And our struggles and tragedies are not a result of oversight by God but a part of His plan for His glory.

 

  1. The Goal of God’s Providence

    God’s goal in creating the world, calling us to become His children, and ordering creation is to bring us conformity to Jesus. The greatest good that we could ever attain to is to be like Jesus. This is exactly the result of God’s providential care of our lives and our world.

“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

God will, because He is always successful in His fulfillment, bring us conformity of Jesus. We will be glorified and like Him for all of eternity. God does not choose us just because. He chooses us so that we can enjoy Him with eternal joy.

Providence is a mystery. It is hard to grasp the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom. But it is more importantly a joyful doctrine that humbles us and causes our affections for God to be deepened.

By | 2018-05-25T03:18:24+00:00 June 4th, 2018|

5 Reasons for Expository Preaching

Preaching is the primary means for building up the saints in faith. In Romans 10:17, Paul writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Also, in Colossians 1:28, Paul details even further how one’s faith is developed: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” If you were to read through the New Testament, you would observe that God has given the preaching of the Word as a means for the local church’s sanctification.

But it is not enough to merely commit to preaching the Word. A preacher has to determine how he is going to preach the Word and what passage of the Word he is going to preach. Will he preach to the felt needs of a congregation or will he preach through a book? Will he preach on a topic with an assortment of Scripture or preach one text? In other words, will he emphasize topical or expository preaching?5 Reasons for Expository Preaching

I believe that a preacher should consider and adopt an expository style of preaching. In their helpful book, Preach, Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert define expository preaching as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached” (36). Simply put, the truths or points that a preacher argues in his sermon are directly from the text he has decided to preach on. I believe this is the most biblical and effective way to build up Christians in a church. Here are X reasons why I believe this:

 

1. Expository Preaching is Modeled in Scripture

Scripture is not a textbook on the “how’s” of preaching. However, in both the Old and New Testament there are passages that show the effectiveness and practice of expository preaching. In Nehemiah 8:5-12, Ezra opens the book of the Law to read, explain, and exhort it to the people. He merely presents the Word, interprets it, and applies it to the people.

5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Here, Ezra and the elders of Israel, read Scripture and explained what that passage of Scripture means. In verses 9-12, the people of God receive the Word and it brings forth affections (v. 9) and actions (v. 12).

In the New Testament, Jesus modeled this expository approach. On a Sabbath day, Jesus entered a synagogue and preached a sermon to the people (Luke 4:16-30). Here Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah (vv. 16-17) and explains its meaning (vv. 21) to the people. In his epistle to Timothy, Paul commands him to be an expositor: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13).

These are just three examples in Scripture where expository preaching is modeled and even commanded (see also: Luke 24:25-32; 2 Timothy 4:1-5). If this is the biblical method of preaching, why would we not adopt it in our local churches?

 

2. Expository Preaching Fixates the Church on the Word

Expository preaching is the proclamation of a text’s truth and argument. Thus, a preacher is

not bringing new “revelation” or “wisdom” to the congregation. Rather, he is simply encouraging his local church to look down at their Bibles. There are two direct applications of this truth.

Firstly, this protects the pastor and his preaching. His goal is not to establish a new argument or bring forth his own intellectualism. Rather, his time in the study is to merely interpret, organize, and display what the passage says. Expository preaching protects the pastor from false teaching and misguided teaching (1 Timothy 4:6-7).

Secondly, expository preaching protects the church from falsehood, silly myths, and irreverent teaching. If a church’s preacher is an expositor, then the church can confidently trust that the Holy Spirit will sanctify them through the preaching of the Word (1 Timothy 4:16). They will have no need to be worried of erring from the truth.

 

3. Expository Preaching Teaches the Church How to Study the Bible

Through the consistent expository preaching of the pastor, the congregation will learn

how to read and interpret Scripture. The preacher sets forth an example of how to study a passage. He points out key phrases, the argument, and how it connects to the rest of Scripture. A healthy diet of expository preaching will lead a congregation to become better students of the Bible.

 

4. Expository Preaching Introduces the Church to the Whole Bible

If a pastor preaches consecutively through books of the Bible, the congregation will

have a greater grasp of what the entire Bible teaches. Thus, in a topical style of preaching, the congregation may only be aware of a few key verses in the Old and New Testament. But in expository preaching, the congregations traces the entire narrative and argument of a particular book. This is helpful for it also connects a specific passage to the entirety of the book to the entirety of Scripture.

There are three further observations to make here. Firstly, expository preaching requires a preacher to handle the tougher passages of Scripture. Rather than shy away from them, the preacher and congregation must come face to face with all of God’s word (i.e. divorce and remarriage; adultery; election). Secondly, expository preaching helps the preacher vary his style and mood.

Not all passages require the same temperament and thus reveal the varied emotions of God’s word. A congregation will be edified in knowing that Scripture speaks to their laments and suffering in the Psalms but also rebukes them in the commands of Deuteronomy. Thirdly, expository preaching shows the congregation that the Bible is relevant for their life. An expositor is always relevant, for the whole Bible is always relevant (2 Tim 3:16-17).\

 

5. Expository Preaching Brings Forth Conversions

It is the word of God that brings individuals from death to life. Paul in Romans 10:9 writes, “so faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” A preacher’s wit or wisdom or convincing argument will not bring repentance and faith. Rather, the Holy Spirit’s work through the preaching of God’s word will save sinners (Isa 55:1-3; 2 Cor 5:20; Col 1:28).

A congregation who sits under expository preaching will hear the gospel of Jesus every week. This will bring forth those who believed they were Christians into an actual saving faith of Jesus. Also, church members will invite the lost to a Sunday morning gathering for it is by the word of God that salvation comes to individuals.

Expository preaching is essentially a church’s profession of the sufficiency and authority of God’s Word for their lives. A church submits to the revealed Word of God and expects the Spirit to awaken their hearts and lives to the truths preached. Faithful preaching is expository preaching.

By | 2018-05-16T01:54:36+00:00 May 19th, 2018|

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