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FATHERS OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, June 18, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).


The local church needs men who will act as fathers to their own children, and also to the children who do not have Christian fathers. This is a truly awesome position. I hope each man here this morning will consider what it means to become a “father” in his local church. And I hope that you will live your life in such a way that you will indeed act as a father toward the many young people coming into our church, who do not yet have Christian fathers. Therefore, I urge each man to “know him that is from the beginning.” That is one of the steps you must take to become a leader in the church. You must be converted, knowing Christ, to become such a man. The Apostle John is writing here especially to fathers, and men who desire to help young people whose fathers are not yet Christians.

These men may be physical fathers to their own children on the one hand, and spiritual "fathers" to the new converts on the other. Though your earthly father may not be a Christian, yet the godly men in the church can and should receive you as their spiritual "children" in the faith.

A few days ago I sent a large ham with all the trimmings to Dr. Henry McGowan, who has acted as a father to me. He took me to church. He taught me in his Sunday School class. He was kind to me, and I am quite certain that I would not be a preacher today if he had not mentored me and helped me, beginning when I was thirteen. I sent another ham with all the trimmings to Dr. Timothy Lin, who, as my pastor in those early days, was a father to me in the faith. I would not be the preacher I am today if this Chinese pastor had not been my teacher. It is fitting that I should have sent a Father’s Day card and a gift to both of these men, who acted as my spiritual “fathers.” Dr. McGowan is in his ninetieth year, and Dr. Lin is fast approaching his 97th birthday. Both of these men made a lasting impression on me as a young person. It is fitting to look at our text in that light.

“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).

“I have written to you fathers.” I am going to speak to you about three characteristics of fathers in the local Baptist church.

Who are these fathers? They are “fathers” in the local churches. The usual way God produces men like this in the local church is to raise up men of advanced years and great Bible knowledge to help the young, to mentor them, to be their guides and examples, until they are mature enough to lead the local church themselves.

Why do historians call the early Christian writers, “the Fathers”? Not, I think, because there was more authority in their teaching than those of a later period, but because they were the first men, the pioneers,…and so the “fathers” of Christianity. The first and second century local churches were pastored by men who guided the churches in those early years, fought against various heresies, and preached the truth about Christ. Many of these men were deacons and held other positions of leadership in the churches.

Men in our church will become “fathers” in due time if they continue in faith and good works, grounded and settled in the local church, “pillars,” as God calls them, in the church. Their long years of work, their perseverance in the faith, their many years of prayer and godly living have earned them respect. There is a special honor in being a soldier, a leader for Christ, for a long time. And so the Apostle John says,

“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).

I. First, “fathers” in the local church are men of Christian maturity.

They are not new to the work of the church. They are not fresh soldiers, with few experiences on the battle field of faith. They are old soldiers, scarred with wounds received in battle. Usually, we mean by “fathers,” men who are long time followers of Christ, men who are full of wisdom, who through long years of labor in the local church have learned to tell right from wrong, and work alongside the pastor. They are not deceived by the current fads and fanaticisms so often found in many churches in our day. They know the voice of Jesus, and a stranger they will not follow. These “fathers” of the local church are not men tempted to fall into heresy or divisions. New converts need to speak to these older men, and learn from them, and listen to their advice.

They are men of strong faith and solid convictions, men of courage, capable of making wise decisions, men who are strong Christians. Substantial men of God like these are the pillars of the church.

Occasionally emotion-driven people come into the church. They give us untold trouble,

“tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

Churches cannot be built on such unstable people. They fly into the church, and then fly out again, like “birds of passage that nest nowhere,” as Spurgeon put it in one of his sermons.

Churches must be built on solid men. These men are strong in the faith and firm in their convictions. These are not men who change their minds, or shuffle their opinions. They are faithful and true. They give confidence to the weaker members by their calm defense of the church. All Christians should seek to grow into the kind of character these men have. The Apostle Paul spoke of this when he said,

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”
      (I Corinthians 15:58).

II. Second, “fathers” in the local church naturally care
for the souls of others.

A man truly becomes a father of his family when his thoughts go out to his children and his wife. He no longer lives for himself, but for them. His family is now the center of his life, and so is the local church. They live for their families and for the church, and for the care and guidance of its members, especially the newer ones.

It is a great thing when Christian people become like this, “fathers” in the church, anxious about the souls of others. Instead of thinking about themselves, they have grown up, have become mature in the faith. They now care for the souls of the children of the church and for strangers newly brought in from the world. They live their lives as fathers – not living for themselves, but living to nurture, guide and care for those who are evangelized and are infants in the faith. The Apostle Paul said to the “fathers” of the church at Ephesus,

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

III. Third, “fathers” in the local church know Jesus Christ personally.

“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).

Twice in this passage of Scripture, in our text and in verse 14, the Apostle John says, “Ye have known him that is from the beginning.” Both verses say, “because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13, 14). A younger Christian may know many things. He may be able to talk about prophecy, apologetics, Bible history, Christian biography, and many other things. But as a Christian grows older he focuses more and more upon the one needful thing – “him that is from the beginning.” The more mature a man becomes as a Christian, the more he realizes the absolute centrality of Jesus Christ, and the supreme importance of the gospel, by which he stands, and by which he lives. May all young Christian men grow up into the apostolic “fatherhood” of Paul, who said to his spiritual children,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

I have heard people say, “All Dr. Hymers preaches is the gospel. How can his people grow?” Strange, is it not, that we have such strong Christian men in our church. Our church is a man-led church. And yet these men have grown up on gospel-centered preaching. I say that they are strong fathers in the church because they

“have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).

I say that Christ Jesus is the meat of the Bible, and if men are rooted and grounded in Christ, and are constantly thinking about Christ, they will be

“…in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

And so I end nearly every sermon with an appeal for you to come to Christ by faith, that you may know “him that is from the beginning.” Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, His scourging, His death on the Cross, the Blood poured out – these cancel your sin, if you will come to Him by faith. His resurrection from the dead, His ascension into Heaven, His intercession for you there – these give you life and strength, if you will come to Him by faith.

“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).

May you believe on Christ. May you feed on Christ. May you be strengthened by Him, and

“…grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love”
      (Ephesians 4:15-16).

God bless you. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I John 2:12-17.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Faith of Our Fathers” (by Frederick W. Faber, 1814-1863).


THE OUTLINE OF

FATHERS OF THE LOCAL CHURCH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (I John 2:13).

I.   “Fathers” in the local church are men of Christian maturity,
Ephesians 4:14; I Corinthians 15:58.

II.  “Fathers” in the local church naturally care for the souls
of others, Acts 20:28.

III. “Fathers” in the local church know Jesus Christ personally,
I John 2:13-14; I Corinthians 2:2; 1:30-31;
Ephesians 4:15-16.