Lessons From Church History
A Sermon on Romans 12:6-8
6However, since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them properly: if prophecy, in proportion to one’s faith; 7if service, in the act of serving; or the one who teaches, in the act of teaching; 8or …
6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, …
Do the practices of the early church have anything to say to the contemporary church? How can one explain the obvious difference between what is read in the pages of Scripture regarding the church and the present manifestation of so many contemporary church models? As those invested in the authority and sufficiency of God’s word, evangelicals must be willing to set aside prejudices and look at Scripture with fresh eyes and seek to conform to the picture and pattern found in the New Testament. This is the conviction of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In this sermon on Romans 12:6–8 titled “Lessons from Church History,” he elaborates on the glimpses of early church life and asks pressing questions about the development of church governance over the past two centuries. Dr. Lloyd-Jones provides an overview and explanation on the accumulation of power by the bishops throughout church history. He also tackles the reactions to centralized power by radical free church groups after the Reformation. The key in all these matters, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, is to get back to the Scriptures in all matters of preaching, governance, gifts, pastors, and church life. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones reminds evangelicals that they cannot afford to ignore the doctrine and nature of the church.
- The apostle Paul instructs the church in Rome regarding spiritual gifts and how Christians should use them for the edification of the body of Christ.
- Paul lists several gifts including prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy. These gifts are given by God's grace and differ according to each person.
- The early church was alive and functioning as a body with many active members using their gifts. This is contrasted with the typical church today where most of the work is done by one person.
- The church today does not seem to match the picture of the vibrant, spiritually gifted church described in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14. This is a concern, especially given the current ecumenical movement and interest in spiritual gifts.
- To consider unity, we must determine the true nature of the church according to Scripture. The early church was made up of independent yet interconnected congregations. No outside group controlled them.
- The church's structure changed over time to address issues like discipline and false doctrine. Bishops gained more power and authority, leading to the development of church hierarchy and eventually the papacy.
- The Protestant Reformation addressed salvation but did not significantly reform church structure. Movements like the Quakers, Brethren, and charismatics have attempted to restore spiritual gifts and body ministry but have had limited success.
- The solution is to avoid extremes, come back to the New Testament pattern, recognize the diversity of gifts, make room for them, but also have orderly public services led by gifted preachers and teachers. We must pray for God to give us understanding and courage to follow His will.
The Book of Romans
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.