SBC President Barber: Trust Jesus’ authority and presence in church conflict
Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmersville, TX., preached on Jesus’ authority in the church during Gateway Seminary’s weekly chapel service.
Ontario, Calif. -- Bart Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church, Farmersville, TX., preached on Jesus’ authority in the church during Gateway Seminary’s weekly chapel service.
Barber’s sermon on Matthew 18:15-20 outlined the procedure for dealing with conflict in the church as well as two promises in the text.
“I'll tell you from the outset that often we don't make it through the one procedure to get to the promises,” he said.
“Today we're going to look at all of this text, but I'm going to emphasize the promises more than I am the procedure.”
Barber described the first step of the church discipline process described Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother” (CSB).
“Be the kind of person in your church who has the courage and love to go to people to work out your differences with them,” Barber said.
“Unfortunately, churches are sometimes populated with people who go to everyone else first and spread rumors and air their complaints.”
“What they are interested in doing,” he said, “is winning an argument or a contest when Scripture says the prize to be won is your brother.”
Regarding the second step of the process, Barber challenged listeners to be peacemakers who are “willing to step into other people's messes and help.”
“Jesus, in this text, says that we should be the kind of people who are willing to help those who are in conflict and cannot resolve it.”
The final step, Barber said, is for the local church to “address stubborn rebellion against peace.”
“When it happens, churches must have the courage for the good of the person who's in trouble and also for the good of everyone else in the congregation,” Barber said.
“Churches must have the courage to take action against rebellious cantankerous sin. That's the process Jesus gave to us.”
Then Barber shared the first of two promises made in verses 18-20.
“It is a promise that God in heaven empowers the church to pursue its mission,” he said.
“Here in this passage, we have Jesus, the one who holds all authority in all the universe, and particularly all of the authority in the church...vesting it in the congregation.”
“In verse 19, Jesus explicitly ties that authority to the gathering of believers,” Barber said.
He pointed out Jesus vested heavenly authority in the congregation specifically, not directly to an elder or overseer, nor to a denominational body; he said that is “part of the reason why we as Baptists believe in the autonomy of local churches.”
The second promise, Barber said, is Jesus’ presence.
“It's in verse 20, ‘where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst,’” he said.
“What Jesus is saying is, ‘I am giving you authority, the authority of heaven, but I need to be in the room while you're using it.’”
“Those two promises go together, and they have to do with the procedure because it's a really difficult thing,” Barber said.
He concluded his message with two exhortations for listeners.
“Authority is not given to you as an individual; it's given to the gathering of believers. [Jesus’] presence is not promised to you as an individual; it's promised to the gathering of believers,” Barber said.
“If you as an individual go into your church to do the right thing, the presence of Jesus will raise up other people to support you in doing that. If you'll be patient and loving in prayer, the supernatural power of God can do that.”
“And if you seek to do the wrong thing in a church, the presence of Jesus will raise up people to bring you down and oppose you, not for your harm but for your good; to bring you back to a place of humility.”