Who is the friend of the Bridegoom (John 3:29)?
The friend of the Bridegroom does not represent a group of people but is a designation for John the Baptist. In verses 27-34, John contrasts himself to Christ. Among the several contrasts is the one in verse 29. Christ is the Bridegroom; John is the friend of he Bridegroom. “He must increase, but I must decrease” verse 30 indicates that increasing greatness belongs to the Bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom has a passing and fading role.
This is a cultural reference. The fiend of the bridegroom assisted the Jewish groom by making the prior arrangements for his marriage. He brought the couple together. Perhaps the reference in is verse to Johns standing and hearing the bridegroom paints the picture of the best friend of the groom waiting at the bride’s home for the arrival of the groom.
All of this is telling. John’s water baptism (John 1:26) prepared the people for the coming of the Bridegroom. Christ’s baptism with the Spirit (John 1:33) brings the Church, the Bride (Ephesians 5:32) into view.
Does Hebrews 9:27 (“once to die”) mean that those the Lord raised, like Lazarus, did not die again but went to heaven at Christ’s ascension?
At the Fall, God appointed death as the one-time penalty for sin (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22). That compares to the one-time offering of Christ for sins (verse 28).
This verse states that in the natural course of events, death is a one-time occurrence. At the Rapture, supernatural power will alter this. Living saints will never die (John 11:26). In the case of those raised from the dead before the Lord’s incarnation, during his ministry, and in the apostles’ ministry, supernatural power contravened this order. Only a divine intervention can reverse death.
Scripture gives no reason to believe that any raised from death before Christ’s incarnation or after His ascension had a miraculous exit from earth. They returned to life in a world ruined by sin; along with Lazarus, they died again.
The Lord is the only One thus far raised “out from death” (“out resurrection,” Philippians 3:11). He is alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18) and is the Firstfruit (1 Corinthians 15:23) of a new and distinct harvest. Others before Him were raised from the dead. He was raised out from death – a resurrection. At His coming, the sleeping saints will not merely be raised from the dead, they will be resurrected never to die again, having changed bodies like the Lord’s body of glory (1 Corinthians 15:51-56; Philippians 3:21).
Is it right to divide an assembly and form another within reach of the existing one?
An army must defend its ground (Ephesians 6:10-18) and advance to new ground (I Thessalonians 1:8). Each assembly has a gospel responsibility to not only see souls saved and added to its fellowship but also to replicate itself in seeing other assemblies formed. Working locally and commending full time workers to preach the gospel accomplishes this.
While a new work may take some from the number of the existing assembly, it should never cause disunity in the assembly. When believers apparently want to see a new assembly planted for their own convenience, or to gain “place,” or to avoid being subject to their overseers, they appear willing to “divide the child” to further their own agenda (1 Kings 3:1627). On the other hand, Christians will avoid dissension by not judging others’ motives (1 Corinthians 4:5). Workers will avoid dissension by remembering that when God works He unites His people (Isaiah 32:17).
The ideal would be for the entire assembly to unite behind gospel outreach in the region where God has planted the assembly. If God works, it will be evident. If main’s hand forces the beginning of a gathering it is evidently not God’s planting (1 Corinthians 3:9). If a gathering is a “church of God,” God has produced it; it is a testimony where the Lord has placed His name (Deuteronomy 12:5).
Assertiveness may advance a business, but a balance between energetic, scriptural efforts and waiting on God advance God’s work. At best, we work together with God (2 Corinthians 6:1).
How does one decide who is an overseer?
The Lord decides (Acts 20:28), but the oversight guides (Hebrews 13:7, AV margin). No man decides this for himself, yet he must be sure in God’s presence that this is God’s will for him.
The oversight (1 Timothy 4:14, a single unit, “presbytery”) is not a secret society nor does it make independent decisions. Its responsibility is to determine God’s will through His Word and to lead the assembly in fulfilling it. Overseers guide the assembly in recognizing men whom God has called and to whom He has entrusted the care of His people in that assembly. The man demonstrates the characteristics given in the Scriptures (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). His activities and the course of his life express a care for fellow-believers and for the truth of God.
Overseers continually watch for evidence of this work of God, not limiting their search because the number of overseers is sufficient and not rushing it because the number of overseers is depleted. They allow God to do His work on His schedule.