Church As We Know It… (part 2)
It was high noon and His blood had been spilling down to the ground for 3 hours. At the same time Caiaphas, arrayed in the splendor of his high priestly robes, was beginning the procession where he would enter the temple courts to slaughter a pure, spotless Tamid lamb, a lamb whose spilled blood would represent perpetual sacrifice. Little did he know that God’s final perfect perpetual sacrifice was also about to happen.
Jesus, the true Tamid, the true perpetual sacrifice died at 3 p.m., at the same time the Tamid lamb was being sacrificed*
From the cross he cried out with these last words, “It is finished”. Suddenly the earth shook violently and the sky turned black. This was no natural eclipse of the sun. It was Passover which meant the moon was in full phase on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. A supernatural darkness was covering the land, rocks were being ripped into pieces, graves were being opened and (not zombies but…) holy people were walking forth. Creation was acknowledging the death of it’s Creator at the same time His Resurrection power was about to overcome death!
And something even more amazing was happening. After the moment when Jesus cried out and gave up his spirit, the veil of the temple, a veil 50 plus feet tall, so stout, thick, and heavy, it is said it took 300 men to lift it into place, was being torn in two from the top to the bottom.
When Jesus died, the veil, the partition that separated us from our God was torn apart. God was on the move, out of the Holy of Holies! That place, that temple made with hands (Acts 17:24), was never to be dwelt in by Him again. God the Father by his son’s sacrifice on that cross was making himself directly accessible to his people. God was done with that temple and its religious system and was replacing it with a new temple, a temple made of living stones. His new dwelling place was to be in the hearts of men… At Pentecost He entered His new temple, the redeemed and sanctified hearts of men and women and by the Spirit began the work of building His new dwelling place1Pe 2:4,5
And… At Pentecost a new way to gather was instigated. And it was contrary to the old and broken religious system. Within the community of God– the Father, Son, and Spirit– their family, bride, and body was now to have direct access to the Godhead without a human mediator! The veil that had separated them was torn by God from the top to the bottom! Direct access had been granted with our new High Priest, Jesus directly making intercession for us. Heb 4:16
(But then something not so amazing happened)
Paul’s writings contrasted human traditions with Christ’s and pointed us to His New Way of doing things. He encouraged us to maintain Jesus’ new (Covenant) traditions which he had taught to the apostles. Those new traditions were taught and passed on to us by the apostles in word, in deed, and by their letters. They remain the standard of teaching that was to be maintained for the Life of the Body. Jesus was now the active head of his body and through his Spirit each member of his body participated in his Life, by the building of itself up in love as the Holy Spirit empowered them. It was the normal Christian’s church life. The standard was set for each member of the body to actively participate in the ministry of this new way of church gathering**, each member, each living stone of his new temple, coming with the Spirit’s indwelling presence and tuned in to the Spirit’s prompting, were listening and ready to participate within the gathering with a song, a word, etc (1 Cor. 14: 26) as the Holy Spirit would direct them. God now was not only directly accessible to each and every one, but was fully capable and ready to reveal himself through each and every one of his new living stones which made up his new living temple.
This new but standard practice was exactly what slipped away from the church within the 1st 200 to 300 years of her existence: The traditions taught by the apostles, the radical New Covenant way of gathering under the headship of Christ, and participating with one another on common ground empowered by the Holy Spirit was a revelation! It was a practice unlike any other in the world. Men and women, Jew and Gentile, freemen or slaves, rich or poor, all were equal in this new kingdom way of gathering. All were ministers and priests in the gatherings and that directly contradicted the religious norms of hierarchy, power and politics that were foundational in the world’s systems. But this New Kingdom’s dunamis power was too radical for those who coveted earthly fleshly power, men who did not understand the full meaning of the cross, men like Constantine who proceeded to set in stone the manmade traditions the ecclesia had gradually slid into. As they increasingly conformed themselves to the mindset of the world’s system, they turned away from Spirit lead organic Life back, to the hierarchical, political and institutional death traps of this world. To a form of godliness…
We have carried the baggage of those manmade traditions with us down through the centuries, and have rarely opened those bags up to examine what’s inside. And so, without giving it much thought, normal remains normal. We are still trapped in the trap, in that cage we have built around ourselves which we, to the best of our abilities, have covered with our finest veneer, in the attempt to make it look cathedral, like a temple fit enough for God himself to be contained in. But unfortunately, even our best edifices are nothing but man made cardboard shacks that cannot contain the glory of God. God does not dwell in the edifices we have built. But He still does, to this day, dwell in the gathered hearts of men and women who acknowledge His Lordship and Headship. It is through them, his true temple, that he reveals his love and his glory.
If the above is true, that our normal quenches rather than enhances the glory of the Godhead in the community of believers, we then need to heed the words of Paul to Timothy. Paul prophetically told Timothy that in our days, the last days, we would face perilous times, that all around us men and women would be lovers of themselves, and etc., more than be lovers of God… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Ever learning…but never learning the truth 2Ti 3:1 2Ti 3:5 2Ti 3:7
Is that us!? That can’t be us!
So we protest, ” That can’t be us. The context of that verse would put us within the company of some really bad people… We are the church! We are God’s own chosen people.” (But Ooo…That sounds an awful lot like the Jews reaction to Jesus when he told them they were unwilling to hear his words of truth: What? “Our father is Abraham!” they declared, and protested, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.” Jhn 8:38ff) “We are His Church. His Spirit comes and visits us… How can this be?”
Some time ago, if you shopped for garden hoses at Ace Hardware you could find them in three grades of quality: Good, Better, and Best. The least costly was the “Good” hose which would last for maybe a season. The “Best” and most expensive hose would last for years. You got what you paid for. As God’s temple we have a choice: Good, Better, or Best. For the church of the western world there is a cost if we are going to have the Best. We’ve gotten what we’ve paid for. We have settled for Good. And Good is Normal. Good has lasted for a season. But I submit, there is a Better, and there is the Best. But the Best is costly. Are we willing to pay the cost for the Best?
So here we go again, supposing and examining…
Let’s suppose we as the church (carrying all of our man made traditional baggage which the term church implies) have bought the Good form, a practice, which years of tradition have caused us to see it as Normal. But let’s suppose our good normal practice causes us in practice, to quench the Spirit, to give Him less than our best, so that we are experiencing less than his Best. We may truly be learning, ever learning “orthodoxsoly speaking”(!) but what if we have yet to rediscover what His truth in practice is?
Examine this: If what we are learning and what we believe is the truth, then correct belief (orthodoxy) would compel us to move towards correct practice(orthopraxy) . “Correct belief” would compel “correct action,” but incorrect action would be the ongoing result of our old (normal and traditional but) incorrect beliefs. If we believe that church as we know it is Good and our Good is Good Enough, we have no compulsion to ask the Builder, or search the scriptures to see if our actions and practice, match the Builder’s new traditions given by the apostles to the early church gathering.** If what we are presently doing doesn’t match the actions and practice of the early church given to them by Jesus himself through his apostles, are we, just like the religious people of Jesus’ day, denying his words of truth? If Jesus, the builder, truly is setting before his body his first Best choice, His normal for His ecclesia, what do we do?
The question is: “Does normal “church”, church as we know it, have the correct form in belief and in practice and thus have God’s divinely conferred power (i.e., charisma) to validate that it’s belief and practice is correct? Or does it have an incorrect belief (in it’s traditions) which results in an incorrect form in it’s actions and practice, which, in turn, quenches the charisma (i.e., divinely conferred power) of the Spirit, stunting our one another call to disciple, and ultimately robbing the Son of his full Glory? The latter leaves us with only a (Good) form... The former would change our normal and give us the Best.
What does His “Best” cost?
(More to come)
King James, the “Pope” of the Church of England– long after the hierarchical ecclesiastical church had, by the traditions of men, separated itself into the clergy/laity divide and had ceased to be the participatory gathering (or ecclesia) of fellow ministers and priests– wanted to retain his hierarchical and political power over the institutionalized church, as well as retain the Bishop/clergy ecclesiastical/political power over the so called laity, so he at that time, prohibited the translators from changing the word “church”, which by now meant the political institutional church organization, i.e., The Church of England, of which he was the head, to it’s true meaning: a gathering, or congregation (of the people of God who had the Lord Jesus as their Head). The power struggle continues to this day…