A friend’s Pentecostal denomination was undertaking one of those constitutional reviews which happen from time to time (1989). He is a national Executive member of their group and aware of how far they are from God’s intentions, he believed to ask me to put down in writing some of the things that we had been recently talking about.
The following are some of the thoughts and understandings which I believe God has given to help me, and now wants me to write down. I hope and trust that together with other things which God brings to you through other people and elsewise by His Holy Spirit, that these notes will be of some use to followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I can remember at about nine years of age standing in a church building and asking Jesus,
“You are one God, how come there are so many denominations and churches?”
Since then I have been made aware of aspects of what God has intended for His Church, and the problems we have created or allowed Satan to bring in over the centuries.
The following accounts will give some idea of the spiritual opposition we face when we want to walk with Jesus in how He desires His Church to be.
A 'Minister' in western Southland New Zeland, once told a friend and I, how the Lord had instructed him to lay down his denominational ministry, and instead work for the establishment of what is spelt out in the New Testament. However, he said, he soon realised that historically there is a move from: –
So there would be no point in trying to do anything. We might as well just accept the second century AD ‘church’ structure and be done with it, he said. And thus he decideded for himself that God had given him back his denominational ministry. Not long after God moved him right out of the country, and got him a job as an industrial chaplin back in the UK.
I have wondered what other pressures and factors were motivating that man as well.
Another such kind of Minister in Wellington New Zeland, explaining why he was evicting some of my friends from one of that Spirit filled churches accommodation (rented overall for some five years) said,
“. . . there is more truth in what they, and you, are saying, even the New Testament shows this, but we have our [50 year old] traditions, and as you will find the truth can be an awfully expensive thing. . . .”
We might ask, what will it profit a man if he gains a great worldly ministry but loses his soul?
Today if ever before, believers now need to find their unity in the truth, built upon apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the foundation stone. (Eph 2)
Church history can tell us what happened, and an under standing of man’s sinful nature and the operation of demons will provide an insight as to how and why things are now as they are: but NOW we need to hear from the Holy Spirit, what our Father and Jesus want us to do about the situation.
The following pages are intended to help clear the decks, so that our thinking can start afresh and come into what God has for us as His people.
In most of the areas of Christian thinking and practice which are held in contention today, Paul actually gives spiritual reasons for what God has had him to write – and not as some claim cultural or historical ones!
We cheapen the work of God if we judge the writings of Scripture from such or any merely human wisdom.
The New Testament Scriptures represent those matters which the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has given for us to know about. They represent part of the fulfillment of the Lord’s requirement for His first apostles to go and instruct others.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “ All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And we are part of the “ others”.
Paul instructs Timothy to pass on what he had been taught, to faithful people who could then instruct others. No doubt one of the best ways to do that was to pass on Paul’s letters.
1 ¶ You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
God still raises up apostles today, but His contemporary apostles will never teach anything contrary to that Christ gave His first apostles were given to say and write.
As even the Law said, if a prophet rises up and the words which he speaks are fulfilled, but he leads you away from the Lord your God. then he is to be stoned. Well, we are far from required to stone people today, but we should note the warning.
1 ¶ If a prophet rises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder,
2 and the sign or the wonder which he foretold to you occurs, saying, Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,
3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
5 And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slaves, to thrust you out of the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put the evil away from the midst of you.'
Well, we are far from required to stone people today, but we should note the warning.
In essence, it is the thread of apostolic instruction with prophetic inspiration that gives the Church her boundaries and foundation in Christ. God purposed it to be this way.
To take away the apostolic writings or rewrite them to suit the spirit of this age. would be to deny one of the ”ancient boundary markers” that God has given us.
Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.
When looking at these things, some people talk about ‘apostolic succession’. By this they are referring to some supposed importance in belonging to groups which have bishops who claim to have had hands laid on them by people who have a pedigree of laying on of hands said to go back to Peter. The reality of it is that true apostolic succession has to do with holding whole heartedly to the truths taught by Peter and the other apostles as conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit, even in the Scriptures.
1 ¶ Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.
2 But I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and you keep the doctrines as I delivered them to you.
Otherwise we place too much value on outward traditions and deny the core reality of truth. Something which the Lord Jesus Himself is recorded as soundly condemning. Its the same as only doing things outwardly while the heart is far from God.
He replied, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
The basis of authority of the true Church is not simple historical. It is rooted in a continual abiding in the words of the Lord Jesus, in substance, and not just outward form. And a total reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, not the flesh (no matter how refined or dressed up it is. (Jesus speaking) -
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
Let everyone including the Charismatics and Pentecostals, Evangelicals and house Church movements and those called ’out of churchers’ please note that: we are only useful to God as much as His words remain in us and we remain in Him. Else we will bear no fruit. and will be chopped off by the Heavenly Father, and be gathered up and cast by the angels into the Fire! ( John 15)
There are many who do respond to the statements made so far with strong ‘Amens’. But what if agreeing to these thoughts, also meant reviewing the way we are evangelising, structuring our meetings, leaderships, and what we call our fellowships? What if it could be shown that the Scriptures in the hands of apostolic and prophetic preachers and teachers, show that we are still living with areas which escaped Reformation, and are following the teachings of men and demons in the areas named above, and not the teachings of the Lord?
With God’s help, it is the purpose of this writing to explore that reality, exposing those areas where we need to adjust our thinking. to come back to the truth, to honour the Lord.
The Apostle Paul wrote that we are to view ourselves both individually and together as God’s building.
He then goes on to tell us that all together we are one body.
“The Body of Christ is like a single body, which has many parts, it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us whether Jews or Gentiles. whether slaves or free, have been baptised into one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink . . .” .
And by God’s wisdom he tells us that,
“All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit. Just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, there is one God and Father of all, who is Lord of all, works through all and is in all. You are now fellow citizens with God’s people and members of the family of God. You too are built upon the foundation laid by apostles and prophets, the Cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord, in union with him you too are built together with all the others into a place where God lives through His Spirit.”
The Body of Christ, the Church, is one and undivided with Christ himself the head. The parts are the individual people who have been baptised by the one Spirit into the one body. Baptised, as a response to the “message of truth the gospel” of Jesus Christ God Saviour of mankind.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere [unsaved] men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul’, and another says, ‘I follow Apollos’, another. ‘I follow Cephas’ (Peter]; still another, ‘I follow Christ’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the Name of Paul?
The same sense of unity and belonging to one family, is revealed to us in the command to call upon His Name. Now just as in English where we can say we ‘called into’ see someone, with out actually meaning that we called or shouted anything out, so the original language of the New Testament Scriptures uses the word ‘call’ in a number of different ways.
In fact there are at least thirteen expressions in that language, which have been translated by the English word call. We will look at the ways this phrase is used in the Scriptures, and what it really means in today’s English.
After Paul had been blinded and taken to Damascus, Ananias spoke to him, having been sent by the Lord. He finished by asking, “And now why wait any longer.
Get up and be baptised and have your sins washed away, calling upon His Name.”
Paul repeats the phrase himself some years later writing in the letter to the Romans, “and all who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved”. This same phrase is translated in Acts 15 along the lines of, “All the Gentiles whom I have called to be my own. So says the Lord”
“all the Gentiles who bear my name”.
This phrase ‘to call upon’ or ‘bear the Name of’, includes the idea of coming under the Lord’s authority, becoming a child of His (adoption through faith in the truth of Jesus Christ), and taking on His Surname loosing your own worldly natural right or kind of existence.
12“Some, however, did receive him and believed in him, so he gave them the right to become God’s children,
13 children born not of natural descent (bloods), nor of human decision or a husband’s will. but born of God.”
To be released from the sinful nature of our ancestor Adam, we need then to be released from his inheritance to us of the nature of sin and death. God has purposed baptism into Christ as part of the gospel. We are born again, through faith in Jesus’ message.
Jesus in speaking to Nicodemus said that it is necessary to be born again, of water and of the Spirit. Nicodemus had suggested that a man could not again go into his mothers womb. The part of Jesus’ answer which mentions water, has been taken by some to refer to the natural birth waters of the mother. And in a sense it does refer to birth waters but not of a mother, for Jesus is calling for new birth from above, a finishing of the old life and a starting of the new in the power of the Holy Spirit having being cleansed from the old life and its sins.
Paul explains to us later, that it is in water baptism that the old man of sin is buried with Jesus’ death on the cross. “For surely you know that when we were baptised into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptised into union with His death. By our baptism then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life.”
In a sense then as a person repents, putting faith in God and what Jesus has said and done for them, then their baptism is the cutting off of the old life (from Adam), and every spiritual significance inherited from it through natural birth, and the beginning of the new in the fullness promised by Jesus.
The power of these things is that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The power to cancel sin is in Jesus’ obedient death upon the cross. And the individual’s recognition of these things is to be baptised in accordance with the Lord’s own command.
Peter answering the crowd’s inquiry on the day of Pentecost, states simply repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
As you will recall from an earlier quote, Paul was told the same kind of thing in his own baptism. “And now what are you waiting for, get up and be baptised, washing away your sins and taking on His Name.”
Later on Peter writes:
“And baptism now saves you also, not the removal of dirt from the body, but as the appeal [pledge or promise] of a clear conscience towards God. It saves you through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has …”
Here Peter makes plain that it is not a power of the water or of a ceremony as such, but the power of God at work through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the faith of the individual in the message of Salvation as Jesus states it — not as the Theologians of recent centuries have.
In a similar way, the Ethiopian Eunuch told Philip that he did not understand the Scriptures in Isaiah concerning Salvation through Christ. So beginning there (according to the KJV)Philip preached Christ to him. The man's response was to say ‘here is water, what would keep me from being baptised’. Part of Philip's preaching Christ included telling the man how he was to respond to the message of the cross if he believed in Jesus as the Equal of God (Son).
Philip did not tell the man to put up his hand, or to come to the front of the chariot and kneel at a make believe altar. Nor did he tell him just to pray a simple prayer of repentance and or confession. Or to ask for Jesus to come and live in his heart (all things which would have been easier for Peter at Pentecost with
3000 to deal with !). But Philip did obey the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is recorded as saying that those who repented and were baptised would be saved, while those who did not believe, remained condemned. The Lord also is recorded as having said, that the disciples were to go into all nations “. . and make them my disciples: baptise them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We may readily note that Jesus in telling us to make disciples to HIM, tells us to baptise people first before we get into the teaching programme.
1.) Preach Christ
2.) Baptise into Christ’s death and resurrection
3.) Teach Christ's ways
Jesus wants cleansed disciples. That’s what its all about not just how to become a ‘Christian’ (—that is a western idea never taught on in the record of Scripture), but rather how to be put right with God through life and death faith in Christ. His message, and His mission
(The importance of clearly preaching Christ first, is gone over later.)
It is noteworthy, that not a single baptism recorded in the New Testament (and there are literally thousands !) was delayed for even half a day. In Philippi, the jailer was baptised at midnight, rather than even at first light (which would seem to the natural mind a much better move); and Lydia, the seller of purple cloth (who was baptised on her first encounter with the message of the Lord Jesus Christ), said to Paul, ‘If you really think that I have become a true believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house’. And Paul did go and stay.
Preachers would do better being less concerned at wondering about the genuineness of people’s decisions, than being able themselves to say, with Paul (as he said to the Thessalonians),
“. . brothers we know that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own. For we brought the Good News to you, not with words only, but also with power and the Holy Spirit, and with complete conviction of its truth”.
People really should be being baptised the moment they decide to change their thinking seeking forgiveness of their sins. deciding to believe in – and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the Lord Jesus, has given no general instruction for people to baptise themselves. it is not a work that can be done for their Salvation.
Works as spoken of in the New Testament, fall into one of three broad categories, those things called for under the Law of Moses, things which a person tries to do to obtain favour from God (through catching His attention instead of believing in the Way of the Lord and those things which flow from a person’s life as a consequence of having put faith in our Lord Jesus), and due to the love now in our hearts (as spoken of by James, Paul and John).
It is important to separate out these different types of ‘works’, otherwise we confuse them, and come to some very unwarranted conclusions while reading the Scriptures.
A Christian’s works are prompted by faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are motivated out of a heart of thankfulness and love, and they are maintained by a steadfast hope in the return of Jesus, and His raising us from the dead. Paul spells this out in the opening remarks of his first letter to the Thessalonians. The New International Version seems to catch the sense of what God is saying there particularly well.
We know that Paul warns people elsewhere away from ‘works’ but if those passages are read carefully, you will notice that they are specifically referring to the works of the Law of Moses which some people were trying again to put their trust in, or to get others to return to.
These are quite different to those ‘works’ which the apostles commend as being praise worthy. And which James also reminds us must flow from our lives if we have really got faith.
We could say then that a person who claims to have faith in Jesus Christ, but produces no fruit, deeds of Love, has a faith as useful to their Salvation, as a tap which produces no water. If their faith is demonstrated as being dead through producing no actions, then it is of no use to them in Salvation. Dead faith can not save anyone. Jesus said that the wise man was he who, hears these words of mine and puts them into ACTION . . (from the story of the wise and foolish builders).
Now the Gospel that ‘saves’ contains a clear instruction concerning repenting, believing and being baptised. If a person has faith in the message that saves, they will repent, believe and be . . . ?
Here we do not mean a few chosen bits of the gospel, but the whole message of salvation of the person – what some have called the Full Gospel – with out compromise.
A repentant sinner is then baptised as their expression of faith in the Lord Jesus, His message and work. Their baptism is given in grace and faithful obedience by a follower of the Lord Jesus.
So we may see that baptism can never be valid for a person young or old who has not personally decided to follow Jesus.
The language of the New Testament tells us that baptism is given by immersion of the whole body in water. Early religious groups practised sprinkling and other nonauthorised practices, even as early as the second century and unfortunately these early errors are used by some groups even today, to try and justify their own traditions. Traditions which unfortunately are founded in false practices, rather than the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, a rotten egg is a rotten egg, even if it is nearly two thousand years old!
Being part of the new birth, baptism is the ”cutting off” of the world, a circumcision of our heart, and the beginning of the new inheritance from God through faith. It also means, through union with Jesus, coming into a new family the family of God. So we have a new family name. The name of the Lord. And there we can see the likeness as a birth process, to the birth waters of a natural mother. “. . be baptised, washing away your sins, taking on His Name. . .”
This does not mean, as such, that we have to change our name, say to be Joe Jesus or something, nor that we are to be physically baptised using only the name of Jesus.
There is a cult which falsely teaches that Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit are one and the same person, based mostly upon the scriptures in Acts where Peter commands people to be baptised in(to) the name of Jesus.
Here we need to realise that the word ‘name’ in ancient times as much refereed to the authority of the person named, as it meant to have to name the person. If we want to keep things along those lines, why not baptise in the ‘Name’ of the Father. and of the Son Who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.
The people who Peter instructs to be baptised in(to) the Name of Jesus, were being baptised in accordance with the teachings of the Jesus who Peter had preached to them about. The modern idea of just using the ‘name’. leaves out the important information and description of the person who the name stands for. In effect the five letters which together make the name of Jesus, as we spell, have no power on their own. It is only the person in reality who is meant by the name that has any power.
And that person has represented Himself through the Holy Spirit, by His Words and what He has taught and said about Himself and His Father.
So when a person is baptised into union with Christ, it is not just a religious act. They are coming into union with the Jesus who has been preached to them. If it is a Jesus other than the one the Holy Spirit confirms with healings, signs and wonders, then that person, although the word Jesus is used, has not come into Christ (which means the chosen or appointed One [of God the Father])- In Acts there is an account of seven sons of a Jewish High Priest called Sceva. They were not believers in Christ, but went around casting out demons. They did it saying: In the Name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches.
Where does the power lie, simply in the ‘name’, as we would use the word today, or in identifying the person, his nature and authority, that the name stands for?
Through this we can see the importance of identifying the exact nature and teaching of the Jesus who is being named. Is He Jesus, or is he some other jesus?
What sort of things did the Jesus who has been presented to you say and do, are they the same as in the Holy Scriptures? Does He still do miracles and heal by the Holy Spirit when His message of salvation is spoken, or is He supposedly now powerless? When the Scriptures record that Jesus is the Son of God, it meant to ancient people, equality, that is why they took up stones to kill Jesus, when he claimed Sonship with his Heavenly Father. They asked, ’do you a mere man claim equality with God?’ Is the Jesus you have been told about, Lord, meaning God almighty? or just treated as a good man? are you believing in JESUS?
For it is the Jesus who Peter, James, John and the others recorded in the New Testament knew, that Jesus Who the Holy Spirit confirms with the signs and wonders mentioned before, that is Who we are talking about here.
This Jesus is the one Who laid down His Life for His Church, having led a sinless life Himself, dying on a cross as a criminal to take the punishment due from God to us for our sins. And having been confirmed dead (blood and water flowing out of a spear hole in his side showing a massive heart attack), he was laid in a tomb, and on the third day was raised bodily from death by the ‘glorious power of the Father’.
This Jesus Who is the head of His own Body, Himself the Cornerstone of His Own Church founded upon apostles and prophets, He is the One Whose teachings we seek to follow.
Paul’s point on unity, is that all believers are immersed in water into the Name of Christ not Paul or anyone or anything else. He shows us that a believer’s membership is of and in Christ, so that there is no cause for division.
There are, regrettably a number of people and groups promoting and fostering various forms of division today.
This sin goes back along way in history.
The Lord Jesus does speak of division.
“. . . Do you think I came to bring peace on earth. No I tell you, but division.”
The truth of God will bring division between those who desire to do God’s will, and those who seek to do their own (and Satan’s) thing. Paul writes: I hear that when you come together as a Church there are divisions among you, and I believe it a bit. For no doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.
Let us note here that Paul was addressing all Christians in Corinth as one Church.
Someone who God uses to champion the truth is not a causer of evil divisions. It is the person who refuses God and takes people astray to personal opinions and private usages of Scripture – they are the causer of false divisions. Even if they belong to and are only upholding the teachings of a denomination or other division, they are evilly causing division in God’s sight.
Regrettably so much of this is now dressed up to appear acceptable, indeed to look as if it is God’s will.
It is often the case that personal opinions and private uses of Scripture, become traditions (even as we saw earlier in very short periods of time), and gain human credibility and human authority simply by being passed on.
Christianity has become in the world’s eyes, a religion that is something shaped by control through rules from the Latin ‘Religio’ to rule.
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the State adopted ’Christianity’ as its own religion.
Up until then Rome had worshiped a number of gods and required its citizens to recognise the Emperor himself as a ‘god’.
This Emperor took it upon himself to co-ordinate the affairs of the Church whenever he wished to.
About then the desire for “Empire” rooted itself in the thinking of many Christians, and later came out really strongly through various popes.
The Church previously viewed as Universal (that’s what ‘Catholic’ means), became the ‘Roman Universal church’ or Roman Catholic as many call it today.
At this time the leadership structure (which had already degenerated badly) was further standardised along worldly lines.
As far as structure goes, already by then you could look at one worldly institution and then look at the “official” church and notice little difference.
As time went by this church was to go on to demand more and more obedience from Christians all over the world. Eventually destroying whole settlements of believers in Europe, who rather than bow the knee to this structured churches’ perverse doctrines, chose instead to perish for Christ and His Teachings.
Yet even the later structured Protestant church drowned the Anabaptists for their belief that a person needed to have repented and believed the gospel before they could be baptised. In Switzerland many many such people died for real faith in Christ and His teachings. Even just for believing that baptism meant immersion. not sprinkling!
C. Mellis in ‘Committed Community’, writes that Luther, (viewed by many as the founder of the Protestant movement), noted in his memoirs. that he had wanted to alter the structure of the church.
He wanted Christians who loved the Word (meaning Jesus), to come together in each other’s homes and share real fellowship.
However, he decided to leave the Roman leadership structure style effectively in place, so that the prince of each Protestant German state would have a national state ‘church organisation’ he could relate to, and protect from the Roman Catholic princes. Who had been ordered by the pope to take up the sword against the Protestants.
In fact in his doctrines, Luther even went as far as to let the princes involve themselves in the affairs of the church should they wish to!
By leaving the parish and area type structure in place, and an effective hierarchy in operation, Luther actually appears to freeze the development of the church preventing it from developing apostolically.
People were too organised to be able to freely associate ‘around the Word’.
Not only did people not meet together in freedom to fellowship in their homes with Jesus due to the false leadership doctrines, Luther also refused to acknowledge the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Even when God sent “the prophets of Zwingli” to him, he still would not budge.
Not surprisingly then, there was a complete loss of mission
For almost 200 years, the Protestant movement as such failed to produce a single missionary. The whole church structure had proven false. Now in any one’s books, 200 years is a reasonable period in which to test something.
This all became our inheritance in the western world! (Still left basically unaltered by Evangelicals, Charasmatics, and Pentecostals etc . . . to this day.)
Then in 1797 William Carey wrote an essay called “The need for employing means for the conversion of the Heathens”.
And Carey’s essay led to the establishment of a separate Mission Society. Carey himself heading off to India!
Around this time there were Christians like the Moravians (- describes where they came from). Czechoslovakian refugees who had found shelter on a Count Zindendorff’s estate in Hern Hutt; the Moravians were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and became a mighty mission community. A community which protected its people from overbearing leadership styles and structures.
Sending out teams of whole families who emigrated and worked together, these people were to be used by God to touch the lives of people in the remotest parts of the world.
With a prayer meeting for world evangelisation which has lasted 24/7 (continuously) for hundreds of years, . . .
the Moravians demonstrate a freedom and commitment to action which now shines out across those centuries as a great example. In the past they even sold themselves into slavery to reach Muslim held lands which were otherwise closed to the gospel.
Obviously this kind of freedom and individual commitment can not be kept alive using methods which continue to harbour a core motive like “the desire for empire”.
Yet today even amongst seemingly ‘free’ groups, much of the thinking still has its roots in the ideas brought into the church during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and which remained unaltered during the Reformation.
Constantine, even after his supposed conversion, kept the pagan title of “supreme priest of the Roman Empire”.
This kind of thinking is still around today and encourages many men to seek an empire for themselves amongst God’s children, and to wrongly see such a desire not only as acceptable to the Lord, but also as an honourable objective. This kind of thinking has now been developed more fully, into what are known as the ’Dominion Now’ or ’Kingdom’ theologies, stating that Christians are soon to rise up to take over the world before the return of the Lord Jesus.
The idea of private empires within the Church, stands in direct opposition to various of the Lord Jesus’ teachings, where He states that leaders in the Kingdom of God would be servants of God’s people, unlike leaders in the world, who Lord it over (literally ‘be God’ over) their people.
Again we may recall that when the Lord instructs us to look to no other man as our rabbi, we are not to make the mistake of substituting the word ‘pastor’ (in our English for ‘rabbi’, For the Lord Jesus is warning us not to look to any other person than Himself as our spiritual authority amongst men.
Over the fifteen centuries since Constantine, a kind of state religion grew eventually to absorb by decree or actual conquest, Christian communities all around the then known world.
“Christianity” was to become in the world’s eyes a religion, something shaped by control through rules, and hierarchy, instead of being led through faith in the Word of God the Lord Jesus Christ and the revelations of the Holy Spirit.
In opposition to true faith, the so-called church even obtained access to the world’s power to have those who disagreed with it thrown out of countries, imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered — and that often by the tens of thousands at a time.
And it continues today, with many of God’s children still being interfered with, controlled by expectations and rules imposed by those dark powers which reach demoniacally down through the ages, trying to direct the minds and lives of believers.
Many such false doctrines, used by evil spirits, are in operation today, even amongst supposedly ‘free’ groups.
For example, how often have people been brought into a fear bondage, being told that, to disagree with or even just question what is called ‘God appointed’ or ‘anointed’ leadership, is to rebel against God and risk His curse?
Truthfully, if someone ignores God’s word to them, they miss out on the blessings God has promised for them in that line of action, and even end up in a ‘dry land’ until God’s mercy moves in their lives granting repentance. However to equate every word which comes from a person ‘called’ a leader, as coming from the Lord Himself, is going TOO FAR.
People who call themselves leaders and who want others to treat all their words in this way are risking some kind of blasphemy.
Some people even revere persons called leaders to a point that they no longer walk with the Lord at all. This can become as a form of idolatry in their life.
Such kinds of thinking have to be changed.
For we are not called to live in fear, but in love.
And above all to love the Lord our God above all others.
Our expectations learnt through observation of how things happen, and what we are taught, condition us to believe that that is how things are meant to be.
Only God can bring real freedom to the human mind, through the revelation of Jesus Christ – the Truth.
The understandings the mind receives and acts upon, are like a programme is to a computer, a sewing or knitting pattern to a person knitting, or a recipe to a cook.
Just as a computer programme causes the computer to process and channel data, a pattern shapes the use of the wool or cloth, and the recipe the ingredients, so the wisdom and understanding a person has will determine what they think and do about certain facts. Just as the wool is always the same wool whatever pattern is used, so the facts do not change, only the person’s perception and reaction.
The nature of the flesh, is according to worldly “wisdom”. God describes it in James, as unspiritual and of the devil. It is accompanied by envy and selfish ambition, with disorder (from God’s point of view), and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
We respond to the situations of life according to one of the above “wisdoms” And what we call common sense, is all too often the lower kind of wisdom. (Here not referring to obvious things like being careful of natural dangers, but man relying on his own reasoning.) People will also rely on this lower wisdom when they do not realise that they should be seeking God over something and not just continuing to trust their own thinking.
God the Father has determined that we will live through a faith response to His Son the Lord Jesus, Who is His Word and Wisdom to us.
What the Lord Jesus says, and what He inspires His servants to say by the Holy Spirit, is to be the basis of our understanding, and the way we will live and approach life situations. He is our Life.
Our old life is reckoned as dead, joining Jesus in His death on the cross, as in repentance and belief we are baptised. We then live by the power of the Holy Spirit, looking to be bodily resurrected, in the same way as Jesus was So we are to live with this new hope filing our mind.
The flesh being constantly accounted as dead, leaves room for us to be led, live and be filled by the Holy Spirit. It is one thing or the other – the selfless way of God’s love and life, or the selfish way of evil and death.
And the desire for empire here and now, finds no part in the selfless way of God’s love.
The true dominion given to Adam, now corrupted through the sinful nature to become fleshly empire building – can only find Godly fulfillment in Christ, in seeking His Kingdom where He builds His Church, and we are but co-workers.
We may see then that what a person thinks about their place in the Church, the structure of their relationship with leadership, (or if a leader – their understanding of their role in God’s Church), will shape the whole of their Christian life, fellowship with other believer; — and most importantly, their experience of Jesus’ direct lordship in their lives, and the joy of having God as their Father.
With any wrong thoughts in mind, a person could, when prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something, due to their wrong attitude or expectation, dismiss the very leading of God Himself, as being wrong.
This is well demonstrated by the way in which Peter was called in Acts to go to Cornelius’ house to preach to non-Jews, but God directly dealt with his thinking first, using the vision of the sheet with the various animals coming down from heaven Showing him the vision Three times.
Without this direct re-education, Peter would never have responded to the call to go to Cornelius’. God often deals first with the knowledge that conditions our conscience, before calling us to act in a ‘different’ way.
How much we need to be tender hearted towards God in all things that He may continue to bring us up as His children, to be like Him and do what He does.
Too often, we have witnessed church members being poisoned off some dear brother or sister, for actual reasons which are never honestly revealed (normally petty things), but which are cloaked in statements, which everyone would agree show that the person deserves draconian action. And various ones find God trying to direct their hearts towards these people, but with minds full of false information, and wrong forms of submission to wrong kinds of leadership, they are prevented from following the Holy Spirit in God’s love towards those ”wrong people”.
And so we have failed the Lord in not loving our brother, but we have, ’obeyed the Leadership’
While remembering that all things are permissible, but not all things are constructive, or beneficial, we need to explore and discover the kind of wisdom which is in operation in the structuring and leadership of churches at present.
Remembering. ”Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Freedom” (!!! ) 2 Cor 3:17
full of compassion
every kind of evil
harvest of good deeds
de . . (French or Latin) “of”
nomis . . name or title
The Oxford Dictionary puts the word as meaning division “. .according to name or title. .”
“Whoever has the Spirit, however is able to judge the value of everything, but no one is able to judge him. ”
“. .What human nature does is quite plain. . . People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into [cliches] parties and groups; they are envious, . . . and do other things like these . . I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not posses the Kingdom of God. But the Spirit produces love, . . .”
(—after Galatians 5:19-22, I have dropped references to orgies and drunkenness . . . as many people. when reading this, think to themselves, “I don’t get drunk or go to orgies this does not apply to me”, and therefore miss out the bits that do!)
People who believe to pull out from a church or fellowship group that God has shown is built on wrong foundations (no matter how humanly wonderful it looks), will seek to join with others who wish to find true unity in God’s Spirit and truth. Yet are often accused of being divisive.
Following the Lord Jesus and leaving a fleshly division, to find a real and living spiritual unity with Christ’s Body, is not being divisive.
It is true there have been people who have caused upsets for no good reason. But every one must be careful to learn to hear from the Holy Spirit for themselves on these issues. The Lord Jesus, as quoted before, made it plain that He had come with a sword not to bring peace in certain situations.
While aiming at the bond of peace that unites us all in Christ, we are not to remain silent when sound Christian doctrine is being destroyed and so leave others endangered.
Love must be founded in the Spirit of God and in the truth He reveals.
“When there is jealousy among you and you quarrel with one another. doesn’t this prove that y belong to this world, living by its standards? When one of you says “I follow” – [belong to this denomination or church’ or organisation etc]”. and another “I follow” - [belong to some other group] aren’t you acting like worldly people?”
Here where Paul put names in (Peter/Cephas , Apollos etc . .), I have inserted ”denomination” and such words.
The word denomination literally means:
– de – of
nomis – name
Or as the dictionary puts it — division according to name or title
The kind of wisdom in operation is obvious, even in the meaning of the word — “division” hence: – “worldly wisdom”
Which brings disorder. Please note the warning given above in the Galatians reading earlier. – God means business on this!.
Disorder, even when the denominational structure is highly organised because: it is out of God’s order.
As we may see from Scripture, God indeed does give us guidelines for the Christian meeting, but Christians have fallen into the world’s manner in gatherings, and often use Old Testament Scriptures to justify many things which plainly are not wanted by God at all! We are to be led by the Holy Spirit.
And yet we have continually structured meetings to leave less and less room for individual priests to respond to Him. We must stop trying to fit the Scriptures into a Roman Catholic (or any other) style of meeting, and start reading the apostles again from scratch, with the teachable attitude of little children.
People should aim to meet in their own areas, simply as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. – And live His ‘Life’ for even neighbours to see.
Now, some people have been taught ‘whatever denomination or group you were in when you were saved – so remain’ This idea is drawn from -
“Everyone should remain as he was when he accepted God’s call”. However, the same reading continues - “Were you a slave when God called you? Well, never mind, but if you have a chance to become a free man, use it. . .”
Hier . . (to do with) priests
arche . . government, rule. Principality
The Oxford Dictionary puts the word as meaning
“. . System with grades of status . .”
Efforts to divide the Body of Christ can take many forms,
according to truth
The life of Christ
Love of God
His people lusts for money and power
In this section we are looking at division caused by a systemising of the structure of Christian community, and imposition of leadership styles and Offices that God has not expressly ordained:
Peter: “. . You are a chosen people a royal priesthood a holy nation, a people belonging to God . .
Hierarchy of priests (people separate from leaders) “a system with . . various grades of status.”
It has never been God’s intention that any function or gift in the Body of Christ should in any fleshly way give a person status over someone else, and so cause division:
24 “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it,
25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal CONCERN for each other.”
Please pause and consider the
F U L L
implications of this.
Before we can check out the true place of leadership in the Body of Christ, we need to review a few of the ways of thinking, phrases and words which we use in this area.
We have a problem similar to the buttons in a lift having been rewired behind the panel, so that although everything looks all right when six is pushed, the lift goes to the second floor, and so on.
Further, this then leads to the development of wrong types of relationships between brothers and sisters. Wrong, from the point of view of what God intends. For when Jesus spoke on this area He emphatically stated that no one was to Lord it over anybody else or even be seen as ‘the’ Teacher, as we are all brothers, and are to serve each other.
People need to pray carefully to find out what God expects from them in each situation in life.
To learn which areas God expects them to personally obey Him in without reference to other people, the areas where people are to submit to each other, and those times and places where there is to be a total obedience to human authority. As in family structure with the father as head, the husband in marriage, the work place, righteous laws of the land. Here remembering Acts 5 concerning the preaching of the gospel.
All to often people have applied the kind of authority that would work in an army, into the Church. Giving a man or woman in the position of ‘Pastor’ or ‘Whatever’, the kind of authority that a commanding officer in the army would have over his soldiers.
Matthew 8:5 13, is often used to try and justify this style of leadership. This is the portion of Scripture where a Roman Centurion seeks a healing for his servant who is sick in bed. Jesus offers to go and make him well. But the officer answers,
8 “Oh no, sir, I do not deserve to have you come into my house, just give the order and my servant will get well.
9 For I too am a man under the authority of superior officers, and I have soldiers under me. I order this one Go! and he goes, and I order that one Come! and he comes, and I order my slave do this and he does it.”
From the story so far, we might agree that here is a Scripture that would appear to show that spiritually the Church or kingdom of God could be seen in the same way as a chain of command, with God at the top and various officers all the way down to the common church member.
However this passage of Scripture continues on,
When Jesus heard this. He was surprised and said to the people following Him, “I tell you, I have never found any one in Israel with faith like this.”
The soldier’s explanation of how he understands that the Lord Jesus can do miracles (even at distances), has been taken by some to mean that the Body of Christ should be organised in the way the soldier’s life was.
The Lord Jesus, however did not use this as an actual opportunity to teach us that indeed His followers were to be organised by men as an army, but rather marvelled at the soldier’s faith.
The soldier could see something invisible, that no other person in Israel had yet seen to the same degree. The Roman saw that Jesus was also under authority, just as in a soldier’s way, Jesus also was.
Who did the soldier see Jesus as under authority to?
The Lord Himself answers this as recorded in John 5 19,
”So Jesus answered them, ’I am telling you the truth, the Son can do nothing on His own, He does only what He sees His Father doing. What the Father does the Son also does.”
Paul goes onto explain in Romans 8, that it is those who are led by the Spirit of God who are the sons of God, starting with the choice of whether or not we will live for Christ or for sin and death. He then goes on to say that it is by the Holy Spirit we cry Abba [Daddy] Father.
So the disciple is called to live by faith in the, words of the living Head of the Church, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring His words to us, and we will look at this a bit more later.
“Obey your leaders and follow their orders...”
would seem open and shut.
However the English language uses one word, obey, to translate two quite separate words in the New Testament language. One is a word ‘obey’ which does actually mean a military type obedience.
The second word means to be ‘open to persuasion’. This word is in the same word family as trust, faith, or believe.
Dealing with this particular word W.E. Vines notes,
‘The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion’
Also, the word translated ‘leaders’ is often more correctly put as “guides”.
The Lord wishes to bring back a truer balance in these things. And does not want military spiritual regimes.
The responsibility of the believer is to learn to hear the Voice of the Chief Shepherd, how and or who ever He chooses to speak through.
The idea of a kind of obedience resulting from persuasion, leads people to continuing and growing faith.
With out, faith, we a told, it is impossible to please God. To then generally obey instructions issued by a ‘Leader’ without actual faith, is then a spiritual folly. That is unless we are just trying to please and seek praise from men.
The Lord teaches us clearly in John 5:43-44,
43 “I have come with My Father’s authority, but you have not received Me, when however someone comes with his own authority, you will receive him.
44 You like to receive praise from one another, but you do not try to win praise from the One alone Who is God, how then can you believe in Me?”.
Here the Lord Jesus warns us that we must seek the praise that comes from God alone.
For if we live to seek the praise of men, then we will end up with no faith in Jesus.
This potential result is perhaps the most dangerous factor of hierarchy.
A friend once told me how he had been shown by the Lord, that he wasn’t to be involved in leading meetings or song leading any more. He went to their ‘Pastor’ and explained this. He was told that he was under authority to the ‘Pastor’ as his covering, and that he was to lead meetings etc, when ever he was told to. That man went into a spiritual wilderness as he wrongly submitted himself to that part of the hierarchy of his Pentecostal denomination.
That ‘Pastor’ started to make a habit of this, even calling himself the ‘big cheese’ of the place.
Within a very few months, that ‘Pastor’ found himself surprisingly exiled by his denomination for unknown reasons, to a very low key area. He said to one man that he felt he had been hard done by. Since then, my friend has taken some years to find his feet spiritually.
There have been too many cases of this nature over the years. Too many people have been hurt unnecessarily. And the workers and the work of God has been hamstrung,
It is time to realise that as tools, denominationalism and hierarchy have some very dangerous flaws in them, which make it unwise for them to be used in Christian work.
These hidden reefs in denominationalism and hierarchy are relatively safe at high tide. But when the water is not flowing so freely, then many people’s faiths have been shipwrecked.
Spiritually, as mentioned before, hierarchy also separates people into two effective classes, ‘priests’ and ‘lesser believers’.
The priests are permitted to handle certain spiritual matters. while the ’lesser believers’ must wait in attendance for the priests ’ blessings.
Matters such as:
deciding to follow the Lord Jesus in repentance and being dipped in water for the promised forgiveness of sins.
responding to the gifting and leadings of the Holy Spirit.
(both in meetings and life in general)
and organising the believer’s finances.
All too often these areas, and some others as well, have been taken over in inappropriate ways by this caste system Which regrettably then uses such things, sometimes in ignorance, to exercise control over the Christian community.
There are different functions amongst believers (these will be looked at later). But here we should recall just, what Jesus meant when, even as the Lord God, He knelt and washed the disciples feet.
Here we are not thinking of a ceremonial religious experience, but an on going attitude of heart in those who desire to be involved with Jesus in His leading His flock.
This leading of the flock, is something which we can never say that the Lord has completely delegated. Even in evangelism, the best we can say is that Jesus said that all authority has been given TO HIM, and He tells us to go in His Name-.
There the authority remains, in His Name. Apart from Him, we can do nothing [John 15].
Romans 13 is often used to try and create a military type church authority for a hierarchy.
Those Scriptures clearly record, that everyone must obey the state authorities concerning things to do with the country and its running, taxes and so on.
No where in Scripture is it suggested that such worldly authority and obedience applies within the actual church of God.
In fact, as we have seen, even in Hebrews 13:17, the Holy Spirit teaches us a different kind of leadership and obedience.
Further, the Church of God and the State, are two completely separate beings, ‘We are in the world but not of it’.
In the things of God, the State has no control over the Church, which is one of the reasons why it persecutes her. Yet Christians are the best citizens a country can have, especially when they take note of the true meaning of Romans 13.
Neither is the Church to try and control the State. The Lord said,
21 ‘Render unto Caesar [the State] what is Caesar’s, but render unto God what is God’s.’
[John 18 36-37, note also Acts 1:6-7],
36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."
37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
6 “For the sake of the Lord submit to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, and to the governors who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good.
7 For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. Live as free people, do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. Respect everyone, love your fellow believers, honour God. and respect the Emperor.”
It is sobering to think that it appears, that at the time when Peter wrote these words, the Emperor was burning Christians rolled in tar, in his garden to provide light at night. Christians are promised to rule for ever with Christ, and are not to desire empire now. (Please note Acts 1:6 7 again )
We owe to God, our spiritual obedience. We do not owe our spiritual obedience to the State, to the world in general, nor to so called Christian hierarchies which use earthly type authority structures and systems.
The spiritual obedience we owe to God includes how we structure our attitudes and behaviour in all things.
The human race at Babel, decided to get a name for themselves. They purposed to build a way into heaven, without God’s counsel or assistance. In fact they had been instructed to spread out over the whole earth, but were working to directly disobey this command of God.
The Lord Himself came down to look at what the sons of man had started to do, and He said that as they were of one speech, and one mind and purpose, NOTHING they purposed to do would be with held from them. So God confused our tongues creating many languages where there had been one, and Himself scattered mankind over the face of the globe.
Today many groups are trying to make a “name” for themselves ignoring God’s commands, and agreeing amongst themselves to do other than He has said. And count their success in their agreed ventures as some sort of confirmation of their tasks.
When the Lord Jesus said, when two or three agree on earth it shall be done for them in heaven, the actual wording should be translated, ‘when two or three agree concerning that which has been done in heaven, it shall be done on earth’.
This establishes for us that we are not like authorised agents of a business who are empowered to do absolutely anything, and so bind the company to an arrangement.
We are more like ambassadors who need to keep in constant touch with their Government, knowing that Head Office is taking the lead in everything, and will be communicating with us constantly by the Holy Spirit.
Its better then to aim to walk and live in faith led by the Holy Spirit, so finding God’s will, than to see Him later overturn our decisions. Especially when we powerfully interact in other’s lives.
Concerning Government, Isaiah prophesied that it would be on the shoulders of the Messiah.
And we are not in the position Israel was in when it chose to ask for a king who they could see, to rule over them.
We are to live by faith in the revelation that God has already provided His Own Son and equal as King from ever lasting to everlasting.
If anyone has a pastoral/shepherding gift, they would do well to remember that the gift functions as an under-shepherd to the Chief Shepherd, and as Peter continues [in 1 Peter 5], as such may not Lord it over the flock.
Further we will notice too that with out exception such ‘leadership’ operates in plurality. There is no Scriptural position of ‘Pastor . . etc’ over the elders=bishops. In fact the elders, in two portions of Scripture, are told to pastor the flock [Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5].
No where is any one man or woman given authority either at an international, regional, or local level, as a pope.
This whole area leads us into the Fatherhood of God. Here ‘the system’ or guru mentality leads us into sinning against God’s own areas. The Lord told us to call no man on earth our Father, for we have but One Who is in Heaven.
This means we are not just to avoid naming someone out aloud as our Spiritual Father here on earth. But more importantly, that we are not to allow our hearts or minds to look to anyone other than God as having that position, in an on going way, in our lives.
This does not rule out God using people in an important way in our lives at different times. Particularly when we start our walk with the Lord Jesus, He loves to give us people to help us learn to hear Him.
And God will from time to time speak directly to us through prophets (this will be looked at more later).
No one is to be our ‘guru’, except Jesus the Son of the living God! – And He has sent the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us into all truth, and remind us of whatever the Lord Jesus has said.
Now God uses men to work through, but we must bear in mind that it is God Himself who is our Teacher. He is the Chief or Senior Pastor, the Leader of His people.
This was all a lesson which Israel seemed to constantly loose sight of, particularly concerning the Kingship. Now our Moses is Jesus, our High Priest is Jesus, and the spirit of prophecy for us is the testimony of the Lord Jesus.
And as said elsewhere, we are not in the position to choose a Saul for king, for the Father has been pleased to give the job and full honours to His beloved Son. Who shall reign throughout all eternity. So woe to the Absalom who tries to covet that position, and a warning to those who will follow the people who try to be kings in the Kingdom of God, you will be led out of God’s will for your life, and some even away from the Messiah.
We are all kings and priests unto God, and no one is to set themselves up, or allow others to set them in a place, that is now not only reserved for the Lord Jesus Christ, but is also fully occupied by Him for all time.
It is not God’s will that within one district, the Body of His dearly Beloved Son, be divided into various self governing “principalities”.
Even the Old Testament tells us that not a single bone of Jesus’ body was to be broken. [ Exod 12:46 cf. John 19:36-1]
Hierarchy not only side-steps the true style of leadership that, God intends, but also creates division, forming two classes of Christians. One class called priests, rabbis, pastors, moderators, ministers, directors, or just leaders (etc.); the other class, ‘church’ members, the laity, or layman, members of the congregation or assembly, just the people, and so on.
Hierarchy wrongly structures relationships between people, and inevitably brings barriers into the body; with ‘covering teachings’ even effectively separating individual members from their true Head, namely Christ Himself!
This in turn develops wrong spiritual lifestyles, in which individuals do not live responding in faith to God’s messages to them.
The result is a lack of overall obedience to our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ by the revelation brought to each one by the Holy Spirit.
Instead men ask men what they think should happen. Many will not act in faith at all, waiting for approval or permission from mere humans to do what God is speaking to them about. An approval at that which often never comes.
As the prophets said. cursed is the man who trusts not in God but in man, Jeremiah 17.
People must be aware that they can enter into false humility through practicing a form of false submission. Through allowing themselves to be subjected to kinds of authority that God does not intend for His people and Church, individuals can remove themselves from God’s best purposes for their lives
God has made plain His Way for His followers Yet we find people using all kinds of Scriptures and man made traditions, to justify various worldly systems of administrating God’s family.
There are two things often happening on the organisers part. A work which may have started as a genuine outreach, doing wonderful evangelism, tries to extend its organisation to cover the people who have been brought to Salvation by the Holy Spirit through their efforts.
Paul’s ministry of both evangelism and teaching to disciple the saved, operated in two different ways.
There was the apostolic team who traveled with him, the membership of which changed from time to time, and the churches of saints that grew in each of the areas, and which Paul and others ministered amongst.
Paul never tried to incorporate the new Christians into his evangelism establishment as such, but established and strengthened them in their own faith. He did not establish his own church, but taught people that they belonged through their baptism into Christ to His one Body. He taught Christians how they should gather, and what they should do when they ALL came together. And here we must note that there were often thousands of believers in each town, city and area in quite quick order. Paul emphasised that unity was a top priority.
He taught all this from the things that the Lord had personally taught him by direct personal revelation.
It helps us to recall that not all Christians are called to be evangelists. Yet all are called to be witnesses of Christ and what He has done. And it is the responsibility of all believers to help, and in some way, as led by the Holy Spirit, assist those called to evangelism. But also to help the poor, widows, orphans, their own families, teachers prophets elders and other fellow believers, relatives, and neighbours.
The person who has come into Christ, has come into the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
A whole life, and not just a structured seemingly spiritual experience!
Further, each person has their gift from the Holy Spirit, and some will have miniseries which may have no direct relationship to the ”preaching of the good news”, but are just as important to God’s overall purposes, . . .
naturally those gifts which are used by God to prepare people for works of service, while not all doing evangelism help produce, under the Holy Spirit, the people who will.
People committed to outreach, often establish what we might call evangelism machines to help organise necessary materials, finances, and activities. This in itself is not a problem. However as stated before, when this machine is extended over the lives of the people who God has not called to be part of the particular ’Work’ or ministry, then it becomes a hindrance to those people’s personal growth and development.
Starting with the best of intentions, many also fall foul to a desire for empire, and justify their structuring up of people’s lives with examples like Moses or King David. Forgetting that these people as examples to us find their fulfillment in Christ Himself.
All different kinds of Scriptures are taken out of context, the organisation of the temple priesthood with a High Priest (who is now Jesus), Abner as leader of the army (the Captain of the Host is now Jesus), or even Abraham as a father figure and the Lord Jesus says to call no man on earth our Father, for we have but one, Who is in heaven.
The desire for empire, includes the longing to make something that will last, leaving a stamp on human affairs.
This desire is closely linked to the fleshly yearning for lordship and dominion, and a seeking for physical immortality.
Conversely, this is matched by the desire of many to be organised wholly by man, and never to be exposed too directly to God. This represents and avoidance of laying the whole life down at the cross, to then be led by the Holy Spirit to understand what Jesus is saying will please our Father in heaven. By allowing themselves to be fooled into thinking that a religious life (even amongst supposedly Spirit filled gatherings), fulfills God’s will for them, such people are left free to live the rest of their time simply for their own passions, without any reference to the Lord Jesus at all.
There are regrettably people who love to keep others in this kind of kindergarten stage of growth, as it makes them continually dependant on the ministry they provide.
All the human traits mentioned before, are intended to find a genuine fulfillment in some aspect of a true life in Jesus, God’s chosen One, through faith, love, holiness, and righteousness.
However, some seeing themselves as God’s chosen “one”, set about to see other people find their fulfillment only in, and through, their ministry or life.
Then the flesh has come into operation and the limitations of mere human resources and strength, require a structure to be established, where the efforts of many can be focused onto or through one individual, or a small core group.
Normally this then becomes a pyramid type structure with higher degrees of authority as we proceed in looking from the ground level upwards.
From base to top we pass through various intermediary steps, ” church departments”. home groups and leaders, area-district-fellowships pastors, a council or executive or oversight, associate ministers and finally ”the” Minister . or ‘Pastor’ or ‘Whatever’, who invariably is not Jesus.
Further afield, often a regional then national, and even international link up. Building a whole chain of command, and the word chain, often becomes a very appropriate description of what happens to God’s chosen people.
This is a normal expression of organisation by the flesh. And may be recognised in all forms of human society and endeavour.
It is all fundamentally FEUDAL and if left unchecked, eventually produces spiritual serfs to the system, instead of disciples to Christ.
The Church is not to be just another expression of human society or endeavour, for her origin is not fallen man and his ways, but her Source is Divine and she is made up of restored humanity in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is empowered through the Holy Spirit and as a faith response to the words of her living Head. Not through “the focusing of human energy”.
Here we need the operation of the cross, to kill that which is a fleshly root in the thinking of the members of the Body.
Where humble men are working with the Lord, they often establish some form of organisation described above. And while they are part of it, walking in humbleness, God is there with them. However, should they depart from the structure, or genuine humbleness, then the whole structure risks becoming an offence to God and a hindrance instead of an aid to His people.
Organisers should be aware that they can not assure the future success of what we shall call an organisational ministry, through structure.
Forms of structure or administration that God permits for one man, must not be seen as an overall policy statement from God,
approving a whole line of approach for those who are to follow in leadership, or for others who are setting up or ‘renewing works’. God inspired Paul to write in Romans:
“. . All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial, all things are permissible, but not all things are constructive. .”
God permitting us to use a certain kind of organisation or structure, does not mean that He would have chosen for us to do it in that way, if we had truly sought Him on the ‘how’ as well as knowing the ‘what’ (we should do).
And because of God’s great desire to see souls saved, we will see results, almost no matter how we do it, we must bear in mind that if we then build things up in the wrong way, it will not be constructive or beneficial in the long term. Even though the way we did it was permitted this does not mean that it was totally founded in wisdom.
Very often then, we need to re-evaluate the progress of our activity, realising that not every member of the Church can constantly maintain a crusading mentality. There are always seasons of growth, development, and of different kinds of activity.
In the development of the work, so often the key man or individuals, slowly lose sight of their humble origins, and count success as an unconscious opportunity to become subtly or out rightly prestigious.
For this reason, it is a good move to take a leaf out of the ‘apostles’ book and leave the control of finances to other people, and be set aside to prayer and the ministry of the word, avoiding becoming a king.
This is more important than many can at first appreciate. The situation was so real that Peter was able to look at the cripple at the Temple Gate Beautiful and say,
“silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give unto you. in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.”
If the things that are being done continually require massive organisation and tying up of people, even though God makes use of us where we are at, is it all really happening as He would best wish? This needs to be constantly evaluated, even if we do end up with something that is less impressive from a purely human point of view, it will be more greatly empowered by the Holy Spirit and bring greater glory to our Father in Heaven, which is your goal, or is it?
If we have been “project” or “programme” orientated, then we may need to learn what it is to genuinely sit with our Father and the Lord Jesus, without busyness and plans to be pursued, and find out what will delight God.
Especially when our life and vision interacts in any powerful way with the direction and leading of other people, this becomes an ABSOLUTE.
Hunches and ‘good feelings’ about ideas, are not enough when what we are thinking of will dramatically affect so many others. Others, that belong not to us, but to GOD.
This all calls for wisdom and a growth in maturity. Drawing encouragement not from people who are just doing things the same way as us, but from the HOLY SPIRIT.Otherwise we can become as the prophets of old who took words from each others’ mouths and prophesied them as if they were from the mouth of God, until they had convinced each other that they did have the word of the Lord.
Because the techniques of organisation done by the flesh take such common forms throughout the world, merely finding others who are doing things the same way as ourselves, does not at all serve as any objective confirmation of God’s pleasure on the matter.
It is all too easy to surround ourselves with like minded people to protect our own flesh, and to brand any opposition as Satanic, and the work of deceivers, accusing even people that God would be using, as being in deception, simply because they bring the word and teaching of God. If our pride is challenged then we are not surrendered as we should be to Jesus, and He will oft times even scatter the work we are involved with if He considers it too great a threat to His people and his best wishes for their lives.
Paul wrote, There is no other foundation than that which is Christ Jesus’, and concerning building . . that we were to be careful to build using precious stones, gold and silver, knowing that each man’s work will be tested with fire. In quite another setting Paul said,
“. . In times past God has been prepared to wink at [overlooked] these things. but now calls all men everywhere to repent, . . .”
this contains a message to us in these matters as well.
People who have acted in ignorance will surely find forgiveness as they now seek the Lord in earnestness.
But there are those who have actually developed or consciously sided with erroneous doctrines ‘distilled’ from Old Testament types, and blended with occasional phrases in the New Testament Scriptures, who will need to positively repent if they are to find any on going usefulness to God.
Otherwise they will be as a stumbling stone in the path of God’s people, and will risk suffering as their private interpretations and personal opinions are overturned and removed, by the Lord and His servants.
”Build up, build up, a highway. remove the stones from the path of my people that they may return to Zion.”
God has utilised much of our past organising for EVANGELISM His Spirit moving through grace, in spite of frequent fleshly approaches on our part.
Therefore we must not confuse the almost invariable fact of God blessing the preaching and teaching of His own message, as being an endorsement of a human fleshly style of structuring. ( . . “Must we continue to sin that grace may abound? . .”)
We can make a great mistake when we take the “team and team leader” approach permitted for evangelism (and perhaps displayed by the apostle Paul in his outreach activities), and extend this into organising the community and lives of people who have become believers.
(Something which Paul and the others went to pains to avoid doing.)
Traditionally this has happened with groups who at their outset have even said that they were not churches.
So today we are exporting some wonderful evangelism to other parts of the world but including in the package and examples sent, wrong information on how the church which results, should be. This if left unchanged, will eventually spiritually backfire, hurting many unnecessarily, as we have already seen concerning ‘works’ of past decades.
The evangelist or even an apostle, is not to continue to direct a group of believers in a structured relationship indefinitely.
God has better ways for His Church to be guided and His lambs to be fed.
Given that God has made known His will, how are people so frequently taken aside from Him and His truth?
Here we look at the styles used to build up a sense of ‘authority to support some wrong venture particularly as regards the use of the Bible and people having ‘words from God’.
The claim or implication by someone that they are speaking a word from God, is an awesome thing.
As God often does give people revelation by His Spirit, it is quite exciting when in His presence we realise that He is speaking to His people!
There are however, times when people claim these things, and it is not so.
In the area of general teaching, one of the most difficult situations to sort out, is when someone waves the Bible around, calls it the ‘word’ of God, quotes some bits and pieces from it, draws a conclusion in purely human logic from what they have read, and then tells everyone that if you do not now obey what they have said, you are not obeying the ‘word’ of God from which they have quoted.
Now what Christian could peacefully continue on, thinking that they were not obeying a word from God to them?
In terms of teaching, the Bible is not to be viewed as raw material available to be taken, shaped, and used to build something other than is recorded in the context it appears.
The Scriptures are themselves a finished product, not meant for recycling or refabrication by carnal man.
The portions of Scripture concerned, need to be viewed in their over all place in God’s purposes. Was it written for the benefit of the Israeli nation? Was the piece concerned written to people bound under the Law of Moses
Was a prophecy of Scripture directed towards specific people? Has a particular instruction contained in the Old Testament been bettered by a higher teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ even as taught by His disciples and recorded in the New Testament?
All these kinds of things need to be born in mind when reading or listening to someone else speaking
We need to realise quite simply that not everything recorded in Scripture has direct relevance to our lives. For example, it is very hard to fairly say that Balaam’s donkey spoke revelation from God when the Scriptures themselves have recorded that the Lord gave the donkey the power of speech and IT said. ”What have I done to you? Why have you beaten me these three times ?” (Amazingly Balaam actually then has a conversation with his donkey with out seeming at all put out !).
Whatever else we may say, it is obvious that the donkey is speaking its own words. and that this is not the Word of God. However, we can learn a lot from the whole story.
Neither should we say that Satan or demons’ speech recorded in Scripture is the Word of God
We too loosely use this phrase ‘The Word Of GOD’. By it, when referring to the Bible, we should mean that the Holy Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, are an authoritative account of those things which God has purposed for us to know about, and do contain direct statements, which the believer as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is to accept by faith as God’s requirements.
In fact the Scripture has been so inspired as to lead us to believe that it is not a book, but a certain Person, Who we are to look to and believe in as the “Word of God”.
In a number of places in the New Testament Scripture, the phrases “word of God”, and “word of truth”, may both be better translated by the modern English “message from God”, and “message of truth”.
This can become quite important when we are trying to unravel some of the high sounding, and complicated arguments, that some people falsely present when trying to con us into some matter or other.
None the less, the Holy Spirit has chosen at times to use the Scriptures to open up ideas to people, not to do so much with general life and behaviour (teaching), but in a prophetic way. A way in which He draws someone’s attention to an idea, to a concept.
A way which would be right out of context, as it would seem, to the original meaning of the Scripture concerned. But such a revelation (or one that a person says that they have simply ‘heard’ or ‘seen’ from God) would never contradict some other direct teaching contained in the New Testament, and intended for believers in the resurrected Lord Jesus.
Any such use of Scripture should be tested in the same way as prophecy, particularly when it involves people other than the person who believes they are directly receiving it from God.(This will be discussed later. )
It should also be realised that such an event is no different to God using even a common magazine article, or even a road sign, or what ever else He wants to use, to catch our attention on a theme that He wishes us to meditate and pray on. We should never let God using the Scripture with us in this inspirational way, lead us into a general method of interpreting the bible from our own flesh — a wrong “allegorical” or ‘over-spiritual’ way of reading the Bible.
We should also be carefully avoiding using the Scriptures in a too heavy handed way, or trying our selves to “nut out” for ourselves or others what God requires.
We need to be both reading Scripture, and at the same time listening to the Holy Spirit.
We must be listening to God so that we can apply the Scriptures properly. Even the Law of Moses emphasised obeying the ‘Voice’ of the LORD.
The Lord Jesus, towards the end of John’s gospel, is recorded as focusing our attention on the way in which the Holy Spirit Himself would bring to us whatever Jesus says, teaching and reminding us of all that the Father has given to the Lord Jesus.
In his first letter, John assures us that the Holy Spirit Himself will keep us safe from falsehood and false teachers, as we walk in the calling and choosing that God has given.
When we approach the question of what God has said directly to us in Scripture, we are faced with a matter of faith.
As such the Lord only mentioned the word Church, at most, a couple of times in the Gospels. And those times He was focusing on sorting out relationships, sin, repentance and forgiveness.
Jesus is recorded as having instructed the apostles by the Holy Spirit after His resurrection and before His ascension into Heaven. And He would directly appear to and instruct people like Paul and Peter. So we need to look at the rest of what the New testament has to say about Church.
But first, faith is required to realise just who men like Paul, Peter, John (and the other writers recorded in the New Testament) are. We need to understand something of apostolic ministry, what it is, and how it operates, to realise that the first apostles were writing revelations from God, holy writ.
Some today try to discredit or downplay the importance of their work by suggesting that their writings were culturally, or gender, biased. Yet a close scrutiny of the Scripture will reveal that on a number of issues the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit to set down matters significantly in opposite directions, to their own, and other cultures of their day.
In most of the areas held in contention today, the cries against Scripture, (for example Paul’s writings on the distinctive roles God has given men and woman, . . .
both in the family and in the Church with men being the head under Christ), much of the criticism has often resulted from, a misunderstanding of the points God is making for us in Scripture, an understandable over reaction to abuses from previous misuses of the Scriptures concerned, and or a responsiveness to the spirits of lawlessness and rebellion prevalent in these closing moments of this Age.
If we had witnessed the dead being raised by God through people like Paul, no doubt we would better appreciate their walks with God, realising that they had been given hot-lines with God. We would then no doubt be in a better position to respect that they believed that what they were to say to the Church, was to stand until the Lord Jesus Himself returns.
In one part of Scripture Paul does emphasise that he is writing without the Lord’s express revelation, but in some of the areas which pose the greatest difficulty to some today, he makes quite plain at the opening of the letter that he is writing to all Christians everywhere, and further in, that he is writing the Lord’s command – and that if any one ignores what he is saying there, they are themselves to be ignored (1 Corinthians).
Strong words, but ones which we should give careful attention to. For if Paul and the others were writing under inspiration, then we must heed what has been put there by the Holy Spirit. This writer believes that they were, and that we have a pretty good copy of the original, kept safe by the Holy Spirit. Why?
“ . . and I will find some way to keep you in constant remembrance of these things after I depart . . ”,
and we have his writings today.
If we decide that the early Christians made mistakes in compiling what they believed to be the authoritative writings of the New Testament, only picking and choosing those bits and pieces which we like, then we place ourselves in the position of being able to believe just anything without any sound instruction at all.
Some say, the Holy Spirit will bring the truth to every believer without the use of men or Scriptures. That being so, none of the gospels would have had to be written, nor would the letters ever have been sent to the Churches in the first place. To say such a thing is to assume that everyone is an apostle, or a prophet or a teacher, which, thank God, the Scriptures record teaching which makes quite plain, that not everyone is. (Eph 4, 1 Cor 12 and Romans 13).
And if such an idea of the Holy Spirit working with each believer in a total vacuum were true, then why did Jesus say that the apostles were to preach and disciple those who believed their preaching, baptising them and TEACHING such ones all that He had taught them?
It was obviously central to the Lord Jesus’ plan to use men to teach other men in the power of the Holy Spirit, through both revelations and the writings, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit
Now why should anyone, nearly two thousand years later, consider themselves better able to judge which Scriptures we will consider appropriate for us, than the people who were much nearer in time and relationship to the Lord’s own walk here on earth?
In fact it is those people who reject various of the Scriptures as being culturally biased, who are themselves using their own cultural values to reject what God sees as being important.
The gospel brings us into the culture of Righteousness. Our own cultural values must be repented of where they conflict with the truth which has been revealed by the Holy Spirit.
God our Heavenly Father has appointed the Lord Jesus Christ, the ‘corner stone’ (the main place from where all measurements are taken in laying out the building) of the Church.
The Lord Jesus, Head of His Body, has set out apostles and prophets as the foundation of His household. (Ephessians 2:11-22)
11 The Lord Jesus Christ has given special gifts for the church . . “It was He Who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up,
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . .”
The general teaching of the New Testament always places these gifts in the same order of revelation, as again found in 1 Corinthians 12. In this quote which is speaking to us most of all about the different gift functions at a gathering of the Church in an area, while the ordering of the gifts is in the same line as the Ephessians 4 quote above, there are two gifts not mentioned for functioning in the meeting of the saints: –
27 “. . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
29 Are all Apostles? Are all prophets? . Are all teachers? . . . ”
Paul then goes on to tell us about the greatest thing, love.
Now in the quote just given, there were two gifts as mentioned before, that do not appear from the Eph 4 reading. They are evangelist, and pastor. Both of these functions take place for the far greater part outside the Christian gathering.
A wee bit different to modern practice? Yes.
The gift of evangelist is directed for its greater part towards the world-to get them saved! The evangelist also helps to train others to do the work as God calls them.
Pastors tend, care, and look after the sheep of Jesus. They do not run the sheep’s lives as discussed elsewhere.
The truth is that: the elders = bishops are told to do the pastoring = shepherding of the Lord Jesus’ flock. No one else is actually given authority to, other than apostles. — Even if they, like Paul, do not call themselves elders = bishops.
Nor do pastors-elders as such, dominate the Christian gathering.
When we talk about these gifts of Jesus for His Body, we are not to look for men who we could identify like a president of a society, or a captain of a sports club, or a chairman of a meeting.
Jesus’ gifts move in the power of the Holy Spirit, not human strength or reasoning. Nearly every example of ‘Ministry’ has been too biased in worldly ways, to be of any help in understanding how God has things to work. Ask for God’s help in this.
Each person needs to recognise very carefully, just what their gifting and calling really is. Particularly if someone has held a title in an unscriptual way, they need to repent of such a thing, and find their feet in the Lord as He wants their life to be.
For too long we have called evangelists and prophets Pastors, and tied apostles up with administrative duties, a real trick from Satan which he has got away with for too long.
While the elders who should carry the load for the real pastoring, have been made in reality to sit aside in false humility and submission to unscriptual hierarchy titled positions.
No one should take a title or do a job that God has not called them to and confirmed in His Holy Spirit.
It will be apparent by now that the title of ‘Pastor’ or the like, is not to be used amongst real believers. So each person with such a title, needs to find their true calling. You’ll be more blessed and more of a blessing to others, in your real calling. Don’t rest with how God has used you, remember God used a donkey once! — and ‘not all who come saying Lord Lord did we not . . . . but only those who do the will of My Father in Heaven’. . are words which would well ring in all of our ears.
If we simply try to justify any complacency with things as they are, without God’s leading us on by and in His Spirit, then we only deceive ourselves and become a hindrance to others.
And by the same token, not every one who is called ‘Pastor’ ‘Etc’, is going to actually prove to have an Eph 4 type ministry at all.
Let every one be humble and earnestly seek the Lord.
The counsel that God has given concerning the gatherings of His people is, for the most part, found in 1 Corinthians.
This starts by dealing with the nature of the meal that we are to eat when we all come together.
Here Paul instructs us concerning the attitudes in which we are to eat. Being considerate to one another, (often translated ‘waiting for’), not eating lots of food in front of the poor without sharing it, and examining our consciences to make sure that we are right with God and His people.
The size of this gathering? Hebrews says, let us not give up meeting together, as some would have us do.
The NT language better means ‘don’t leave off from getting completely together’, which again emphasises total unity in a district. Often people misuse ‘where two or three gather’ to mean they don’t have to join with the rest of God’s people.
After the meal (‘supper’ here meaning main meal or dinner), there would then be a time following the remembrance of the Lord’s death as described, when various brothers and sisters will bring their gifts and functions, in the Spirit, forward for the encouragement and building up of everyone else.
Here we need to let the Holy Spirit take the lead and try and avoid being organised beyond simple necessities (like where necessary making arrangements for babies etc.).
In 1 Cor 14:26 forward, we find some real pointers for the gathering.
Noticeable is the fact that there is no mention of a president of the meeting. Nor is any mention made of an elder or anyone else running the time. Obviously if the need arose an apostle, elder, or other leader would step in, but the emphasis is on freedom.
This does not rule out different people sharing what they believe God would have happen, but places this area into testable prophecy, rather than an instruction, which is (as it were) legally binding on every one present.
What’s the difference?
Prophets are to be heard two or three at a time, and to be judged by others of similar gifting (from the NT language used in 1 Corinthians 14).
No one all by themselves has control of any other individual believer or group of believers. A group which is completely controlled by one person (if they will not reform) is better disbanded.
So both in the meeting of believers (two and three upwards) and in the private life of each individual, outside of the direct family relationship, as between husband and wife or parents and young children, no one may bring controlling ‘words’ from God to anyone else.
Instead, the Lord Jesus lays down the guideline for the NT believer, of everything being established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.
Whether it is prophecy (words which people say are coming from God), visions someone is having, or leadership in general, we are to be careful to learn to hear from God for ourselves on life issues affecting us.
In that, we are to appreciate that God will frequently speak to us through other people by His Spirit, but we must learn to sort out for ourselves, with God’s help, when we are hearing His wisdom, and when we are hearing some one else’s, or some other people’s opinions or even demonic interference. (As when the Lord Jesus hearing Peter saying ‘don’t, go to the cross’, turned around and rebuked Satan.)
So in a meeting, small or large, everyone is to be free to speak out and do the things that they believe God is telling them to. Remembering that generally, we are to be subject one to another.
Each of us is to think that someone else has something more important, to say or do, than we have.
And obviously we are to avoid any showiness or prideful ambition, the ruin of any good thing that God would have us enjoy.
For some things, God has laid it down for all to see so that there would be little room for error.
For example, showing us that no sister is to allow herself to imagine that she may take the lead or generally try to instruct the church or believing men (over the age of adolescence), in the things of God. Whether or not her husband agrees – God says
If her husband agrees, it only makes it all a double wrong, and two wrongs don’t make a right!
This last point is hard and fast. But does not interfere with any sister bringing any revelation, scripture, song, prophecy, prayer or other gift of the Spirit as God leads her to, so long as she knows in faith that she is honouring her husband (if she has one) and is not trying to take authority.
While it is stated that there is to be no control through real or supposed words from God, teaching concerning genuine holiness and right living, as spelt out by the apostles in Scripture, has a special force to it. And it is to be expected, that various of the brothers will bring these things to everyone’s attention as the Holy Spirit shows them to.
In this area of general instruction, it is the particular duty of apostles, prophets and teachers (who may not always be elders = bishops) to be available to God for such a function.
In many instances such people may be elders in the local scene. Although apostles and prophets will tend to be more mobile. And Apollos was a mobile ‘teacher’, who also was never called an elder.
None-the-less, it is the duty of the local eldership to give the lead and guide when it is necessary – but that in the Holy Spirit, and if they even agree together outside of God’s will, God will often use any apostles and prophets that He chooses, to sort matters out . .
Overall, it is not possible to have a genuine Christian meeting without the presence, leading and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
All this is not an optional extra, but the base line set by God. A so-called Christian meeting in which the Holy Spirit is not working as described in the New Testament, . . .
is just a waste of time and a dead work of human flesh – and no doubt full of pious religious traditions – No matter how nice the people are, it is of no value in the things of God.
Apostles appoint the elders from scratch, and where there are other elders already, in consultation with them.
Prophets assist in various ways as the Holy Spirit leads them.
It has been suggested that the Pastors and Ministers of an area are the elders, or the bishops over the elders of that area. On the second point it is clear in Scripture that the elder is a bishop.
The word bishop meaning one who ‘looks over’ (perhaps here one who looks after?) while elder describes his relationship and measure of respect amongst (not Lording it over!) the other believers.
Respect for the function, not a fear respect of a position or title. There are no titles as such in the body of Christ, other than Lord, and that has been given to One already!
Concerning the general idea that the ‘Pastors’ ‘Etc.’ are the elders. Some times a Pastor is an elder. But if he uses a title over the rest of the elders in his area, he becomes of unsound doctrine, and suspends himself from true eldership.
In fact the idea of treating the ‘Pastors’ in an area as the genuine elders, is really often just an effort to validate a whole state of affairs which needs to be taken apart carefully, and put back together the right way.
Sometimes genuine apostolic ministry overlaps the worldly powers of a ‘Pastor’ , and God permits the situation to precede.
However this cannot set a bad example for others, seeming to justify the whole system, and causing confusion later when people try to appoint a person who is not an apostle. It is not of long term benefit for such an approach to be maintained. Paul did not tell Timothy to appoint another Timothy, but instead elders in each church!
God meets us where we are, even places some in these areas – to lead us all on into His better thoughts and higher ways
We are here, not talking about trying to have these elements of the Kingdom of God and foundations of the Church, blend in with the present state of spiritual chaos. But rather, to function instead of the current, wide spread anarchy against God’s ways in the Church.
Is Such a Strong Statement warranted? Please read On —
1 Corinthians 14:26 forward, gives a very clear set of guidelines for a gathering of Christians.
But it assumes that the believers will have received the Holy Spirit (and hence be able to have ‘revelations’ and messages in ‘strange tongues’ etc.). Further down, Paul writes that His teaching here, is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that if any one ignores it they are to be ignored. Obviously what he has written is the way God wants it done, and that’s that!
Here we need to realise that it was the expectation of New Testament believers that they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In the following account from Acts we can see how essential this is seen to be by the kind of question that God leads Paul to ask first when he met some new people who obviously had some faith in God. During Paul’s initial visit to Ephessus, it is recorded in Acts 19 that:
“. .There he found some disciples, and asked them,
‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’
‘We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’
‘Well then what kind of baptism did you receive?’
Paul finds out they had only been baptised according to John the Baptist’ teaching, and then instructs them concerning Christ.
5 “. .When they heard this, they were baptised in(to) the Name of the Lord Jesus.
6 Paul placed his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them: they spoke in strange tongues and also prophesied There were about twelve men in all. ”
Perhaps if we had been brought up with the temple or synagogue style of worship, where man follows set patterns and rules of service, then we would appreciate more fully how radical a departure form the flesh way of doing things, worshiping God in Spirit and in truth really is.
But that is essentially what the Lord Jesus told the woman by the well.
She had asked effectively, should we worship God here or there? The Lord answers her:
23 “. .But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as He really is. Offering Him the true worship that He wants.
24 God is Spirit and only by the power of His Spirit can people worship Him as He really is.”
25 The woman said to Him, ‘I know that the Miessiah will come, and when He comes, He will tell us everything.’
26 Jesus answered, ‘I am He. I Who am taking with you.’
When we consider it, the style of worship that is followed by most groups is basically the same as temple or synagogue worship. And people not realising this attempt to just mix in the gifts of the Spirit of God, instead of putting to death the fleshly way, and following the Lord in His own teaching.
Again the work of the cross is required for the thinking of true believers to be cleansed.
We can not and must not, worship God by the reasoning and empowering of human flesh, to God it stinks! Isaiah says its all filthy rags.
With God it is all or nothing, and we must not fool ourselves, or be conned by other people into mixing the traditions of man, with the teachings of the Lord Jesus and His apostles and prophets
This will mean for believers that they must count themselves as dead to the false leadership styles, false structures, and other fleshly ways of various denominations, charismatic groups, Pentecostal fellowships / churches and other more obviously traditional outfits. And alive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
But please note that repentance always comes before faith in the New Testament. If you want to see these things of God’s Spirit, you’ll need to quit everything which He shows you now to be fleshly, no matter what realm of life it is in.
The rest Of 1 Corinthians 14. leads us On from Simply describing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to show us how responsible believers, we are to function together, using our gifts to build each other up.
In part God’s purpose is that He will have a truly loving caring people who are living in the power of His Spirit, on two main levels. That we may be altogether His Temple.
One level is the supernatural working of healings, miracles, prophecies by which people are convicted of their sins, and all the other many and various empowerings of the Holy Spirit.
While the other, and most important level, is the fact that we receive God’s love out poured into our hearts by the Spirit Whom He gives us.
And this love will find expressions of the faith God has given us through the works, actions of kindness, and labours that we are prompted and led to undertake.
The Lord has in mind that we will be led each day by His Spirit, even in the things we might consider ordinary. God is not religious, and wants to share each part of the day with us, helping and guiding and fellowshipping with us and each other.
God is glorified by our love one for another, it proves that we really are His disciples, and evidences the reality of His resurrection.
All the divisive elements spoken about earlier in this writing, stand in the way of such love being expressed in the unity of Christ’s Body.
It is only through the continual leading and understanding of the Holy Spirit that we can avoid the mistakes of past generations.
Abraham’s father set out also for Canaan but stopped along the way. God raised Abraham up as a man of faith and His friend, to go in by faith.
Today, God is again looking for Abrahams and Sarahs of faith to press into the Canaan rest that He has long held out for His children.
Will you be a friend of God and leave the world behind by faith to press into the Land God holds out before you now? I pray so.
To use another biblical type, lets quit the religiousness of the world, leave Egypt and get ready for a feast of Tabernacles with God – The Lord Jesus is coming soon! – Let’s be found full of the Holy Spirit, pure and clean, ready and waiting with expectation!
You can either put out a bucket to catch the occasional shower of God’s blessing, or better, push right out into the stream and flow in God’s Spirit. The showers where you are, are intended to lead you on into more, not be a fulfillment in themselves. God has far more for you!
Don’t just live on the appetiser! Take Peter’s words to heart,
2 “. . Like new born babes. crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it. you may grow up in your salvation,
3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
It is up to genuine leaders to take steps of obedience, setting a better example for the flock
If where you are, the leaders don’t or won’t, then the best solution is one provided by Paul: –
15 “ . . and they [Stephanas’ Household] have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers,
16 to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labours at it. . .”
Quite clearly God expects us to test and see, who is in the work and labouring at it, and join ourselves, and be submissive to them.
The ‘work’ here, does not mean ‘much religious organising’, but the work of the gospel as spelt out in the New Testament.
In this we should also note Paul’s instruction in -
“Anyone who receives instruction in the word must also share all good things with his instructor”.
Here you will need to recognise just who God is using to bless your life and accept it as a ‘bill of love’ to help them materially and financially.
12“. .We beg you brothers, to pay proper respect to those who work among you,
13who guide and instruct you in the Christian life. Treat them with the greatest respect and love because of the work they do.”
In coming out from under wrong doctrine and leadership, it is very important to not become anti-leadership as such. You may view the situation like finding one product in the supermarket to be no good. This does not put you off finding and getting a superior one of the same kind.
And just as various districts supported Paul, we need to help those who God has called to teach and preach beyond our own area.
So too with this situation. Prayerfully recognise with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, just where things are at.
If you are a leader, teach the people the truth, and de-structure, getting rid of false leadership styles and programmes, and such things as automatic tithes.
Alter the gathering to be led by the Holy Spirit, and teach the people the reality of the Headship of Christ, and of true unity amongst all believers.
If you can’t cope with the transition, explain to the people. Leave it all to people who God has already prepared, and retreat while you seek the Lord in earnestness.
Don’t worry if some people for a season go through a wilderness type experience. Those who learn will come into the Lord’s rest. Something which they would not yet have truly entered otherwise.
In being set free from the artificial constraints of false structure, leadership, and religious rules generally, it was this writer’s experience that a number of fleshly desires and sin, had to brought to death in the cross through self-control. .
It was necessary to learn to please God freely, rather than simply “not sin” in order to be pleasing to some hierarchy or other
But this is a risk God takes with us, for it is only in freedom, growing to the full stature of Christ, that we come to know God’s Fatherhood.
Such Scriptures as,
“For the sons are free . . .”
“As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God’,
come to mind.
When Jesus says,
“I am the way the truth and the life”,
we are blessed if we let Him be our whole way, our whole truth, and our whole life!
These Scriptures can be very helpful during such times —
13 “. . Instead let love make you serve one another
15 But if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other then watch out or you will completely destroy one another.” (Galatians 5).
Do your best to avoid becoming an authority on the ails of the church, and instead get on with a real walk with God and loving everyone, submitting one to another out of reverence for the Lord.
During this time of Renewed Reformation, it is important for individuals to honour and respect each other. For God is not. calling at present for a ramshackle crusade of zealots “cleaning the church up”, so much as He desires a receiving of wisdom, and a growth of spiritual maturity—unrelated to physical age.
Other brothers will have other points to share, and more thoughts to help us clear things up. And hopefully we will all come closer to the Lord and each other, through lovingly walking in more freedom, bringing great honour and Glory to both our Father in Heaven, and the Lord Jesus.
But above all else, let’s be found doing the Master’s work, His WAY, when He returns.
16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’ temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
17If anyone destroys/ defiles / corrrupts God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple?”
This Scripture refers to God destroying anyone who defiles His temple.
Usually taken to refer to the immorality or suicide of an individual, the meaning of the word defile here means destroy, and the temple is referring to a plural sense of “you”. And has nothing to do with cigarettes or moderate alcohol consumption.
As W. E. Vines and others have pointed out, temple here refers to the local Church.
19 “. . Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief corner stone.
21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
The importance of this matter is that the context of the chapters 1 Corinthians 1-3, is all about division according to names of people, ministries and teachings.
The defiling, or corruption, or destruction referred to, is not an individual (through sexual immorality as in 1 Corinthians 6) but of the unity of the church in a district.
When we are to take the Lord’s Supper (Dinner – a real meal), we do so in remembering the Lord’s death until He returns, as a united brotherhood, not as a ceremony devoid of power, but aware that people have become very sick and even ‘died ’ through not properly discerning the body of Christ – meaning only the sacrifice? I believe not. The eating of the bread and drinking of the wine, expresses the commitment of God to us and us to Him, AND EACH OTHER.
It is wrong for there to be different groups in a local area trying to enjoy this meal – wrongly separated from each other.
In ancient times, men would make covenants of mercy/ love / friendship between each other by first speaking of it to each other, agreeing to it, then sharing a special meal. The covenant would be established to last for a thousand generations, between their decedents. And meant that they could not harm each other ever. In fact they were to become effectively as one flesh.
To seal the covenant, the men shared a meal where they blessed and broke a loaf of bread, and fed each other bits of it (this represented a family bond being established), then they drank from one cup of wine (which then meant that they shared the same blood or life).
In some instances they would even draw blood on themselves (on their hands) and press themselves together. In this way they became of one heart and mind, and belonged to each other.
David and Jonathan formed such a covenant. People between which such an understanding operates hold nothing back from each other. Material or spiritual.
And Jesus our Lord struck such a covenant for us, to God the Father. ‘Only in this case Jesus’ body being the bread, His blood being the wine. Jesus’ hands being pierced on our behalf. A sin offering and covenant maker.
He says that all that He has is ours – he holds nothing back from us. Let us be so like minded with Him and each other.
So the Lord tells us to love one another as He has loved us and John writes in his first letter,
“So that we may know what love is Christ laid down His life for us, so ought we to love one another.”
There is obviously no room for divisions in such a covenant.