Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Spirit and the Churches of the Kingdom

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ~ Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13

John was given visionary instruction while he was in the Spirit by the One (introduced in chapter 1 as "like a Son of Man") to write to the angels of seven churches.

Did the Spirit have the same message for all of the churches? Not precisely the same, though some elements are consistent through all.

Did the Spirit want each of the seven churches to know what His message was for the others? One must assume so, or there would have been seven separate epistles.

Would the Spirit today have different message for individual congregations, depending on what their strengths, struggles, challenges and spiritual temperature (hot or cold or lukewarm) might be?

Would He reveal the message(s) to one evangelist acquainted with all of them, to be delivered by him to all of them?

I don't have a specific answer to those last two questions. He might. He might not. But to totally discount His work in this way as impossible, based on no scriptural conclusions, is foolhardy at best. It could be blasphemous at worst.

By that, I mean that it could be seen as men trying to tell God what He can or can't or should or shouldn't or must or must not do through His own Holy Spirit.

And once again, I come back to the doubt that very many church leaders would be open to the possibility of the Spirit operating as He did in the scriptures - through an individual or group of individuals not currently among the membership of their own church.

Is it possible that we don't have the Holy Spirit because we don't ask for Him? Is James 4:1-3 as true about asking for the Holy Spirit as it is about other things we want? Do we want those things more? Do we ask for His wisdom, but while failing to believe God will deliver?
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. ~ James 1:5-6

How would the leaders and members of your church react if sent a letter by a former evangelist, or another neighboring church or group of churches, expressing concern over something happening or a teaching shared at your church that might be wrong?

How did Corinth react when Paul wrote them about a man bedding his father's second wife; about their competitive spirit in worship and regarding who baptized them and who was the better teacher; about lawsuits among them? Did they send back a nasty letter that said, "Congregational autonomy! Mind your own blankety-blank business, Paul!"?

I don't think so, or Paul couldn't have said what he did about them after Titus' visit (2 Corinthians 7:8-16).

The problems and challenges of individual churches, if not resolved within themselves by the leaders appointed by the Spirit (Acts 1:12-26; 13:2; 1 Corinthians 12:28), are kingdom business. They witness more than just the shortcomings of individuals or congregations.

They reflect on the Kingdom. They reflect on the King.

4 comments:

nick gill said...

Paul and John are not Rick and Bubba, or even Tom and Joseph.

They were personally designated by the Master with authority.

While I know the Jesus Way has little to do with comfort, I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea that your congregation (or a gathering at Tulsa, or the Freed lectureships, or the NACC, or CFTF) could send out a letter from that gathering and my congregation would be required to obey whatever it contained.

Again, I'm not saying we are a law unto ourselves. But convincing me that a council of believers in 2010 would have apostolic authority would be a hard row to hoe.

Keith Brenton said...

Not even if the things taking place at your congregation were as heinous as the things taking place at Corinth?

And doesn't the authority Jesus speaks about being given to Him (at the close of Matthew 28) still include empowering us to go, make disciples, baptize, teaching others to observe all that He has commanded us?

Doesn't the last verse of Ephesians 5 still apply to us? Should we not submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?

I don't know all the ramifications of this, and some that I have thought about give ME the heebies, too. I haven't gone so far as to say that a council of believers should have apostolic authority in 2010 ... or that your church (or mine) would be required to obey it. But believers should be able to have the authority of Christ in all ages, and I believe that is still given through the Spirit as well as the Word.

Shouldn't you and I, Nick, have the authority of the Spirit and scripture to disagree with those who send out letters, church bulletins, and/or Web sites damning others to hell over their opinion of scripture? Shouldn't we be able to say that's just plain wrong? That doctrines of men are not equal to instructions of God? That bluster, bravado, self-confidence, reason, logic, and shouting loudly in a prophetic voice is not equivalent to prophecy?

Or are we bound by a doctrine of congregational autonomy not found in scripture so that all we're allowed to do is meekly say, "Oh, well; that's your opinion; I have a different opinion"?

nick gill said...

Keith, you're making me think! AUGH! Seriously, though - this is challenging stuff, and I love that we can try and think through it together. Obviously, I don't have any answers either, but here's what I'm thinking right now.

Not even if my congregation is WORSE than Corinth. Because, for example, CFTF probably thinks that Richland Hills, et al, are already worse than Corinth. What if they believed they had the authority not just to "disfellowship" but to come and command the RHCC leaders to obey them?

You might be cutting off the limb we blog on! It seems to me that the same protection that we're afforded, the same right to read Scripture together, come to conclusions, and act on them -- that is precisely what allows those groups to do what they do, and what allows us to ignore their mandates and refute their teaching.

Yes, we must go, make disciples, teach, submit. I'd love to agree with your next-to-last paragraph:

"Shouldn't you and I, Nick, have the authority of the Spirit and scripture to disagree with those who send out letters, church bulletins, and/or Web sites damning others to hell over their opinion of scripture? Shouldn't we be able to say that's just plain wrong? That doctrines of men are not equal to instructions of God? That bluster, bravado, self-confidence, reason, logic, and shouting loudly in a prophetic voice is not equivalent to prophecy?"

You know how much of that I agree with. You know how many people I'd like to muzzle in the name of Christ. But I don't think the doctrine of congregational autonomy (as poorly-named as it may be) limits our ability to disagree! and surely it doesn't force us into some milquetoast position - Brother, I've read your blog, and you're hardly trapped by CA into "so that all we're allowed to do is meekly say, "Oh, well; that's your opinion; I have a different opinion"?"

The authority we act with is not the authority to bind and silence - I am trying so hard to stop reading Paul that way. The authority we speak and act with is the Jesus Way - the Mark 10:42-45 way - the Php 2 way.

Keith Brenton said...

Exactly, Nick! The authority Jesus gives is to make disciples and teach, not command and condemn!