Tony Evans praises Southern Baptists as “tethered tightly” to Scripture

DALLAS Tony Evans, popular author and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, took the stage Nov. 14 for the final sermon of the 2017 annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Evans praised Southern Baptists for continuing to hold “the torch high for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and staying “tethered tightly to the truths of the text of Scripture.” 

Calling ecclesiology—the doctrine of the church—his “passion,” he characterized Ephesians as “an ecclesiological document,” applicable to personal life yet dealing with the church, noting the apostle Paul’s frequent use of the word “church” or its synonyms throughout the letter.

The church is first mentioned by Jesus, “its head and creator,” in Matthew 16, Evans said, referencing Jesus’ conversation with his disciples by calling them the “Galilean Baptist Convention.” 

“Who do y’all say the Son of man is?” Evans loosely translated verse 13, noting the plural form of the Greek word for “you” to explain that both question and answer, “upon this rock I will build my church,” were directed to the whole group, not just Peter, who received a name change and promotion from Simon (“pebble”) to Petros (“rock”). 

Jesus did not imply that he would build his church upon one man, Evans said, but a “collection of stones minted together to form a larger cliff, rock or slab.” 

The Greek word translated “church” is ecclesia, the “called out ones,” Evans said, explaining that in Jesus’ day, the term referred to civil government, the Lord’s word choice suggesting the purpose of the church, albeit “dumbed down” today, was “to legislate from God to man… from heaven to history, from eternity into time.”

So important is the church to God, that he refuses to act independent of it, Evans continued, quoting Ephesians 3:10 and proclaiming, “Don’t expect God to change the White House if he can’t … change the church house” and issuing a political warning: “Christians are looking to the wrong house. We’ve let that house divide the church,” referring to Republican and Democratic issues although “God doesn’t ride the back of donkeys or elephants.”

Often the church falls short, its presence “hardly felt,” Evans lamented, despite its having “the keys to the kingdom.”

“The church exists for the kingdom. It does not exist for the church. The moment a church exists for the church, it is a failed church,” he warned. 

God created the church to continue his kingdom program abandoned by Israel’s rejection. The church, as the manifestation of the “fullness” of Jesus described in Ephesians 1:23, had better get its act together, Evans explained, stating “If Jesus comes tomorrow, we don’t have to worry about any of this. If he waits 200 years, you better worry about all of this.” 

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