Friday, October 11, 2019


The voice of thy watchmen! They shall lift up the voice; together they shall rejoice: for they shall see eye to eye, how the LORD shall return to bring again Zion. Isaiah 52:8 Jubilee Bible
Image result for watchman on the wall clip art
The watchmen are not only waiting - they are watching! 

We have often been asked how we have been able to bring together seemingly disparate elements of Christ’s Body to strive together with one heart and mind.  Our answer is that we do not try to make it happen. We only look to see who else is looking to see - that is, those who see eye to eye. And when we see one another our hearts leap together as one in joyful expectation. 

God has placed those on the wall who are watching to see.  The vision may be faint such as Elijah’s cloud as small as a man's hand - but they cannot be seduced to come down from the wall.

We adhere to what we call the Simeon principle. Because Simeon was looking to see he saw the consolation of Israel for God had put eternity in his heart. “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2:25 

Watchmen!  You are among a company that is greater than you think. And your ear is also inclined for you hear in the distance the sound of an abundance of rain - all of your senses are alert! For it is the season of the latter rain: “Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain, so the LORD shall make lightnings and shall give you abundant rain and grass in the field to each one.” Zechariah 10:1 

Though with a scornful wonder
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.
S.J. Stone 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

From Heaven He Came And Sought Her - Part II

Our current dilemma is expressed succinctly by the following comment on the life and ministry of Carl F. H. Henry:  'According to Henry, problems of modern Fundamentalism are that it changed or narrowed the message of Christianity that has a social (corporate) aspect into only an individual aspect. He criticizes that "Whereas once the redemptive gospel was a world-changing message, now it was narrowed to a world-resisting message."' The implications here are vast.


This is why the oneness of the Body of Christ is so essential. And it is the High Priestly prayer of the Son:  "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;” John 17:22 The consummation (or culmination) of the ages - that is the full revelation of Him who was and is and is to come - shall not be made manifest until this prayer is fully realized in the earth. This is the true evangelical message - the gospel - and nothing short of it can make this claim. “That they all may be one, as thou, O Father, art in me, and I in thee: even that they may be also one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21 GNV  I heard someone say once, “Christ will appear in His church before He appears for her.” 

Once again, Christ did not come to be our personal savior - “From heaven He came and sought her...To be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her And for her life He died.” “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:27  He will present her to Himself - the One who is the Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End; the Author and Perfecter - He will accomplish this to the praise of His glory. And at the consummation: "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." Revelation 19:7

Charles Spurgeon elucidates: The Saviour who will keep His people to the end, will also present them at last to Himself, as "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish." All the jewels in the Saviour's crown are of the first water and without a single flaw. All the maids of honour who attend the Lamb's wife are pure virgins without spot or stain.

Divine Intercession 

Through His Divine intercession - “because he always lives to intercede for them” - He will bring His Church into likeness with Him and He will adorn her for her wedding day: “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:8 How dear to the heart of the Father must be the petition of His Son: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;” John 17:9 

It is only the bride who can take her husband’s name...only the bride can fully represent him. “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:22-23 And it has been said that Christ will return for a bride and not a harem. 

Matthew Henry comments on Zechariah 4:6: “God brings to pass his gracious purposes concerning his church, without any art or labour of man; sometimes he makes use of his instruments, yet he needs them not. This represented the abundance of Divine grace, for the enlightening and making holy the ministers and members of the church, and which cannot be procured or prevented by any human power.”

Mid toil and tribulation, 
and tumult of her war, 
she waits the consummation 
of peace forevermore; 
till, with the vision glorious, 
her longing eyes are blest, 
and the great church victorious 
shall be the church at rest. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

“From Heaven He came and sought Her...”

And He wash her clean with the words that he done said to her...Lecrae 

While listening to a media preacher recently it dawned on me that today’s evangelical message is almost exclusively directed toward the individual.  And that it is largely devoid of the gospel. It is increasingly difficult to discern the difference between Dr. Phil and Rev. So and so. What I would like to explore here is: how did this happen, what are the implications or better yet consequences - and where are we going?

With that in mind what I submit following I present not us dogma, but in the spirit of “come let us reason together.”  These observations are intended to stimulate dialogue.

Personal Savior?

Did Jesus come to be our “personal savior?”  (Try looking that term up in an exhaustive concordance.)  No, He came to rescue and to claim His bride who He is calling out of many nations. The only singular person who is eternity’s object is the Son of God.  “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:21 It should be noted that the purpose of God is unique in the Son - that there would be a company being conformed into His image that He would be the preeminent One among many (Romans 8:28-29).  

The purpose of God is a people - not persons. “The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock.” Zechariah 9:16 The message is not: How you can be a better you.  Yet we have succumb to the myth of individualism.  This is why the pastoral ministry is one of the loneliest professions there is - its true nature is cloaked in a shroud of invulnerability.

A Community

The Presence of God seeks to inhabit not a collection - but a community. A community that is God-centered, not individual centered.  “And in Him you (ye) too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22 Berean No single individual can fully represent the nature of Christ.  “The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High.” Charles Spurgeon

It should be noted here that when we encounter the word “you” in the modern translations of Paul’s letters the word is usually plural.  Our current individual mind set renders it as singular however. In Southern vernacular it would be “you all.”  Older translations preserve the original intent by the use of the word “ye” which is the plural of “thou.” It is hard to calculate the enormity of the misfortune rendered by this inadequate interpretation.  

The Whole Church

The apostle writes to the whole church in the city of Ephesus: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” Ephesians 4:13  I prefer the King James (or its predecessor the Geneva Bible {GNV}) translation here for this verse takes its predicate from the conjunction “till” rather than the preposition “until.” To use “until” here interjects a note of speculation (a connotation), while “till” is indicative of a predetermined purpose of accomplishment (a denotation) which ties Paul’s whole thought together - that is, it is only the many joined together in agreeing concerted complementation that can adequately give full expression to the One. He further expands on this concept: “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint (and ligament) supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:16

When Paul writes of God’s great electing purpose in Romans 9, he writes of a people not persons. “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:” v.6  And specifically these are the ones whom the Son lifts before the Father: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9 ESV 

To be continued..... 

Friday, March 6, 2015

What Is Hindering Revival?

Posted by warrenhstewartjr on January 3, 2013

Do you know the name of the spirit...?

A Word of Hope - "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3 

Our friend Francis Frangipane was once asked something like this: “Do you know the name of the spirit that is hindering revival in our area?”  “Yes I do,” was his affirmative reply.  Eagerly the answer was awaited.  “Its name is Yahweh, for God opposes the proud.”  He will not allow the mind of man to take credit: “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29 KJV  There is only one true Revivalist - He who is the Author and the Finisher. 

What begins as a sovereign move of God often quickly degenerates into “how did we get God to respond to us and how can we replicate the process?”  The premise comes if we do this - repent, fast, pray, praise, tithe, etc. - then God will act accordingly. The Presence is exchanged for the process–the Person for the program - worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  Tragedy enters in when we do not notice that this has happened.

God has no grandsons

One man’s revelation becomes another’s ritualistic routine. I remember reading a small book years ago on the life of the Pentecostal Ambassador David du Plessis one chapter of which was entitled, “God has no grandsons.”  Yes, there are fathers in the ministry whose call it is to raise up children in the faith - but they are not to stand as substitutes for the Father, only to model His character: "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9 Paul himself who was a father in the ministry said: “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” To usurp the place of the Heavenly Father is to impede the growth of the Body resulting in perpetual immaturity. 

The methods of man takes the place of the mesmerism of the Majesty. Much is made of 2 Chronicles 7:14 when we enter into periods of supplication - “If my people...”  Yet taken out of context the object becomes the healing of the land. It could be said that a text taken out of context becomes a pretext.  Self-service subtlety becomes the focus whereas the aim of the whole passage is the Shekinah Glory of God: “now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” 2 Chronicles 7:15 

George Otis, Jr whom God has used to document instances of revival throughout the world via the Transformation videos has said that the fallacy comes in when others try to “do transformation.”  The process vitally serves as encouragement, but it is not intended for rote replication. 

Much discouragement comes into the ministry - albeit the intentions are honorable - when attempts at replication result in disappointment.  Unfortunately this illusion is maintained by the plethora of publications lining the shelves of our bookstores that proclaim the way to make it happen. 

There is no surer way to quench a genuine move of the Spirit of God than for man to take the credit - or to reap the benefits unto himself.  Many city-reaching revivals lose their evangelist fervor when the pastoral leaders forsake their vision for the city and return to their individual congregations. 

For the sake of My Holy Name

True revival is an irresistible response of the people of God to a sovereign move of God - not the response of the Sovereign God to a move initiated by the people of God. ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name,...” Ezekiel 36:22 NIV 

As vital as obedience is, in our passion for revival we must not let it become the object - or we run the risk of it being about ourselves and not about an Eternal God.  The Reformed author Ian Murray writes: “However, if we say that obedience causes revival, we’re going to sooner or later cause deep depression, because many godly Christians have lived on the missions fields, served Christ in many places, and made costly sacrifices who have never seen revival. They have been obedient, eminently so.”

When true revival breaks out those in whom God has placed the desire will be the most surprised.  Murray continues, “So no, it’s never obedience that causes revival. It is Christ. Jesus said, ‘It’s not for you to know the times and the seasons which God has set by His own authority’, and that applies to revivals. Times and seasons belong to God.”

Surprised by the Spirit 

On St. Valentine’s Day 1904 in a village in Wales a pastor opened the floor for testimonies. One after another young men got up to speak, but the pastor set each one of them down as they invariably began to wax after their own agendas. At last, Florrie Evans, a young woman of just 14 years stood to her feet and confessed: “I love Jesus Christ–with all my heart!”  It is reported that as she spoke these words the Holy Spirit’s power and presence fell upon those gathered there. History records this as the beginning of the Welsh Revival which swept her nation and the nations - continuing on its course even today. 

If God be looking for anything He will seek out those who are worshiping Him in Spirit and truth - and by His own grace He will open their hearts to receive the living and abiding Word of God: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 16:14 

Jonathan Edwards, one of the most noted preacher/teachers in the history of our nation put it this way concerning revival: And ’tis revealed that when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out ‘the spirit of grace and supplication,’ Zech. 12:10 and “When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence as to shew [sic] his church their great need of it, and to bring ‘em into distress for want of it, and so put ‘em upon crying earnestly to him for it.”  

At the beginning of the First Great Awakening Edwards published a tract partially entitled: “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls...”  Let us note the use of the term Surprising Work.  In retrospect several methodologies could be observed - yet their genesis of which was a complete and unwarranted surprise.  God will put the longing, the desire, in the hearts of His people - but they will be the most surprised when their object is made manifest in their midst.  Thus no grounds are created either for fatalism or fanaticism. 

The Providence of God

This cannot be orchestrated, manufactured or scheduled - it is the providence of God and God alone. “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?” Isaiah 40:13 

We were in a prophetic conference probably around 1990 when a word was given to our friends and fellow Vineyard pastors John and Carol Arnott.  Essentially they were instructed to move from Stratford, Ontario to Toronto - and there God would orchestra an outpouring of His Spirit.  We looked at them as this word came and we could see the astonished surprise on their faces. In 1994 another Vineyard pastor - Randy Clark - came to the Toronto Airport Vineyard to conduct a series of meetings. We once heard Randy say concerning his wife, “I have the brains, but she has the power.” Those meetings resulted in the beginning of the revival which came to be known as the “Toronto Blessing.”  Thousands upon thousands were subsequently renewed and energized by this sovereign move of the Spirit of our Faithful Father. 

John Piper on addressing the desperate need of revival in our nation defined it like this: "the one-sided, supernatural arrival of God to do something extraordinary, to awaken people to their sinful condition and to awaken them to the reality of God and then the reality of Christ, the reality of sin, and the necessity of repentance in faith.”

He continues: "It moves like an inexplicable wave across the culture. We haven't seen that for a long time in America, but I doubt that short of that we will come out of a God-ignoring, God-belittling frame of mind, which pretty much grips the whole nation." 

Pray for America!

Our Ugandan friends who have experienced a sweeping national revival which they say came as a result of desolation leading to desperation pray for our nation that we would come to the point of desperate petition without desolation.  In my first visit to Uganda in 2003 I had the privilege to speak before a congregation of 12,000.  At the conclusion of my message I said, “Uganda! We do not have what you have in America - and our money cannot buy it. Uganda! Pray for America.” I and the friend that was with me stepped down from the platform as the congregation surged forward to pray for America!  

On subsequent visits I have continued that appeal - whether in a large congregation, a small bush gathering or on national TV and radio. God has set a nation to praying for us. May we hope, that despite ourselves, we may yet be surprised by the suddenly of another Great Awakening.

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones1 describes such a move this way: “We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church. Revival means awakening, stimulating the life, bringing it to the surface again. It happens primarily in the Church of God, and amongst believing people,...”

And continuing: “What the people are conscious of is that it is as if something has suddenly come down upon them. The Spirit of God has descended into their midst, God has come down and is amongst them. A baptism, an outpouring, a visitation. And the effect of that is that they immediately become aware of His presence and of His power in a manner that they have never known before. Suddenly they are aware of His presence, they are aware of the majesty and the awe of God. The Holy Spirit literally seems to be presiding over the meeting and taking charge of it, and manifesting His power and guiding them, and leading them, and directing them. That is the essence of revival. This is what God can do. This is what God has done. Let us together decide to beseech Him, to plead with Him to do this again. Not that we may have the experience or the excitement, but that His mighty hand may be known and His great name may be glorified and magnified among the people.” 

The original Pentecostal outpouring can be attributed to one thing and one thing alone - "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:33 No agency of man is capable of exalting Him to this position. Thus this springing forth cannot be laid at the feet of any virtue of those gathered in that upper room. If so it would have failed them for John says “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.”  The day that was upon them was nothing less than “an administration suitable to the fullness of the times.”  The only instruction they had received was to wait or tarry until they received power from on high. Yes they praised, yes they prayed, yes they were with one accord - but their motivations were a mixed bag: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Christ trumps all of their confused expectations: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;...”  This is the hope that sustained them until “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:4  Later Peter would say concerning these events: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 4:28 NIV 

What was true then is no less true today - the timing is His prerogative and His alone.  “The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.’” Isaiah 14:24 NIV 

It is such a hope - and such a hope alone - that can set His people to Pentecostal praying.
Soli Deo Gloria!  To the Glory of God Alone! 

1 Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. He also influenced the Charismatic Movement - teaching a subsequent experience of the Spirit and opposing cessationism. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

He Is God All By Himself!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is no amalgamation. It is not an admixture of two separate entities. Nor is it the confluence of the eternal purpose of God with the whimsical agency of mankind.  As I have heard from my friends of the African-American Church: “He is God all by Himself.” 

The Word made Flesh is singular, solitary and sole. To borrow from the title of a contemporary hymn, it is “In Christ Alone.” Or hearkening back to the Reformation: “Solus Christus.” 

Any Gospel ministry that adheres otherwise forsakes the ability to provide traction.  It is unsustainable.  Thus the well-meaning desire to see fruit that will remain eludes many sincerely intentioned ministry leaders resulting in disappointment and frustration.  Oft the accompanying plea is, “Where did I go wrong?” For many the allure of ministry is an enchantment - the spell of which must be broken. If we are only disillusioned, the illusionment remains - and we quixotically charge of in pursuit of another. 


The above paragraphs were sparked by my reading from the International Standard Version: ‘Jesus told them, "I AM."’ John 18:5  Almost all other versions insert the pronoun ‘he’ but it is not there in the original.  Once again His reply to those who had come to take Him captive was no amalgam. Christ Himself had initiated this discourse by asking: “Who are you looking for?” He provided the question that He might also provide the unequivocal answer: “I AM.”  The pronoun is not only unnecessary, it is misleading. A pronoun is indefinite - of a general reference. There is nothing indefinite nor general about Christ’s response and His claim to Oneness with the Father–the One and Only source of eternal salvation. 


This discourse takes us back to our sincere pursuit of fruitfulness. In His eternal purpose Christ states: ‘This was to fulfill what he had said, "I did not lose a single one of those you gave me."’ John 18:9 (17:12).  Fruit that will remain comes in no other manner than through sovereign initiative. Peter’s impulsive response was to draw his sword and sever the ear of the servant. Might we say here that the drawing of the sword of the flesh will render the intended hearers of our message deaf?  The Savior’s immediate response was: “Put your sword back into its sheath.” The arm of man’s might is impotent to accomplish the purpose of God. He then announced: “Shouldn’t I drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  Only that which has been given by the Father is capable of being sustained - and that too, by him. 

One is reminded here of Christ’s words of commission to Peter: "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:17  This is followed almost immediately with a correcting rebuke when Peter began to waver from the truth: "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Matthew 16:23 


In my forty plus years of Gospel ministry I find this singular - holistic - truth primarily in the teachings and legacy of the Reformers which has come down to us as Covenant or Reformed Theology. The counter to unadulterated ministry is quick to come. Centuries before the Reformation Augustine had his Pelagius; Calvin and Beza had their Arminius; Spurgeon his downgrade controversy and so on.  All of which indicate a turning from the substantive traction of the truth to a slippery slope of amalgamation - “I am he.”  Christ alone becomes Christ and human agency - thus the pronoun he.  The allure is subtle, but then again all deception is subtle or it would not be deception. 

Many of the most fruitful praying, preaching, sending and serving ministries of the past centuries have had their roots firmly planted in the rich soil of the Reformation: Knox, Zinzendorf, Edwards, Whitefield, Newton, Wilberforce, Carey, Taylor, Carmichael, Muller and of course Spurgeon to name a few. And this is what is missing in many of our contemporary ministries. These men and women knew it was not about them, but God.  In our day of abundant resources we have not yet become so convinced. 

the LORD is one

God had said of Himself: “This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.” Exodus 3:15 There is no admixture here - no alchemy. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4  The glory of God is in no need of alloy.

A young pastor friend recently penned these words of caution to a contemporary setting: “My prayer is that they aren't decreeing their imagination, but the revealed will of God.”  He was expressing his concern for authenticity–there is nothing more relevant to a seeking society. 

Our God is not synergistic, but monergistic. He is not waiting on our cooperation. If the Messiah came in the fulness of the Father’s timing will not His Consummation come also likewise? Does God need our help - no!  Does He use chosen vessels (Acts 9:15) to serve His purpose - yes!  That singular purpose is that His Son would be the First of many (Romans 8:29) to bear the image of God (Hebrews 1:3). 

Recently I heard a radio commercial for a novel written on the life of Ruth. It spoke of her “chance encounter” with Boaz. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. There are no chance encounters in the eternal purpose of the One slain before the foundation of the earth. How have we become so shallow - exchanging the truth about God for a lie, and worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. 

Why do we want to think it is about us?  Partly because we want to elevate personalities. We want to look up to Biblical “heroes” - yet every one of them was qualified solely by the sovereign choice of God. As has been said, “He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” I am perplexed every time I hear someone referred to as a “great man of God.”  When are we going to see chosen men and women of a Great God? 

greatest motivating factor 

There is not one word written here that engenders passivity. This is the greatest motivating factor in all of the universe.  The conviction that I have been caught up into the eternal purpose of God spurs me on. Often by well-meaning friends we are referred to as the founders of this or that ministry.  My reply is, “We didn’t find it, it found us. We were not looking for it.”  “But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.” Romans 10:20 KJV 

There are no hybrids in the plan of God for hybrids are sterile - incapable of producing after there own kind. His plan is sons and daughters begetting sons and daughters that His Son might be the firstborn of a great company. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;..”  Romans 8:29  These He will present to Himself - “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27 ESV 

Herein is no amalgam, alloy, hybrid or pronoun - Solus Christus: In Christ Alone. 

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Crisis of Ecclesiology

Local Church or Church in a Locality?

While reading a booklet on the role and mission of the church the writer noted a conversation with John Stott the noted evangelical leader and one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant of 1974.  He asked the recently deceased English church leader what he considered to be the most neglected doctrine in the current odyssey of the Christian faith. To his amazement the reply was ecclesiology.  The word means the study and function of the church as in the Greek root ecclesia - which means a called out legislative body1 or congregation.

While being greatly encouraged by the contents of this booklet about midway the writer launches into a functional juxtaposition between the church universal and the church local. In so doing he begins to describe the latter entity as a “local church.” 

Although the term local church is very much a part of our common evangelical vernacular its use always causes me to pause and consider: what is meant when we use the phrase “local church?”  In my following observations I will attempt to avoid dogmatism and instead encourage healthy inquiry in the format of “come let us reason together.”

Is there such a thing as a local church? In thinking of the root word as locus - we can say that the church local should be defined by geopolitical boundaries. It is not to be identified by common affinities or ethnocentric traits - for only in its heterogeneity can it give full expression to the many splendored wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10), not by its homogeneity.  

The church is the community of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology. The Lausanne Covenant

Yet, when the expression local church is used its unmistakable reference is to a specific congregational gathering usually defined by its commonalities. These units are vital indeed for ongoing relational encouragement - with all that that encompasses. But if we jump from there to the universal or catholic church - we will leap over the entity that is the commissioned organic instrument of societal transformation. That is the church as a whole that has its residence within certain geopolitical boundaries. 

We need to break out of our ecclesiastical ghettos and permeate non-Christian society. The Lausanne Covenant

The term geopolitical represents a duality, not a dualism for its parts are intrinsically joined. By looking at these parts we can keep in mind the analogy of a coin which has an obverse and a reverse (heads and tails), yet its integrity is that it is one inseparable coin. The obverse cannot be spent without the reverse also being spent at the same time.

Does the scripture recognize such an entity? Looking back at the word geopolitical lets take the second part first. Do we see the Word upholding political realities? By strong inference yes: "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's;” Matthew 12:21; “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Romans 13:1; “and the government shall be upon his shoulder,” Isaiah 9:6; (pray) “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:2.

Now considering the prefix “geo” as being short for geographical boundaries - even more definitely yes!  

Matthew 11:20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 

Luke 19:41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”

We have an unescapable conclusion here from the words of Christ concerning the realities of geographical boundaries - unfortunately it is the issue of condemnation that is our illustration. Where is the ecclesiology for this?  Our libraries are bare!

Also we have from Paul:

1 Corinthians 1:2 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:”

Ephesians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:”

Here is a little variation in that church is plural for this letter was not written to a city, but to a region: Galatians 1:2b “To the churches of Galatia:”

There is no more striking example than that found in the Book of the Revelation. It is the exalted Christ who says:

Revelation 1:20 "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”  

And following - Revelation 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:” And also to Smyrna; Pergamum; Thyatira; Sardis; Philadelphia; Laodicea.

Is there anything more that could be said?

It has been forty years since this concept was birthed in our hearts. There is only one church in a city/community - with many local expressions. Paul’s words to the Church at Philippi jumped from the printed page to indelibly sear themselves on our conscience: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;...” 1:27  

“Where’s it at?”  That is the query we often get when we tell folks that we are with the church in the city. Our reply, “It is in the hearts of the men and women of God who long for the reconciliation of the Body of Christ in their city and who are willing to sacrifice to see this reality come forth.” We never try to convince people.  We just look to see who is looking to see. And our Faithful Father has them. We call it the Simeon Principle - because he was looking to see, Simeon saw the hope and consolation of Israel. “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Luke 2:25 

Occasionally we will get a request from someone who wants to buy our domain name:  Without fail they do not represent their city, but a local congregation that wants to be known as the church in their city. How audacious! As a matter of principle there is no amount of money that could cause us to give up our hope. In times past in our community - maybe in yours also - a local congregation would rise up and proclaim that they were going to take the city. Every instance of this resulted in utter failure, often with dire consequences - for God opposes the proud.

World evangelization requires the whole Church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. The Lausanne Covenant 

There are glimpses in history: Calvin’s Geneva; Knox’s Edinburgh and even Patrick’s Ireland. Our longtime friend and mentor Francis Frangipane has written: “It takes a citywide church to win a citywide war.”  

There is only one entity that has been so constrained by mandate for this epic struggle - for there is only one entity that has been so called and equipped. As it is written to the church in the city of Ephesus. 

Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints2 for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

This is the plan of God for the building of the Place of His abode within a city/community. It is foundational to the full accomplishment of His purpose - the revelation of His Son who is the Mature Man. And she is the only entity that the Father holds accountable for the gifts and callings that he has placed in her midst. No local congregation or denomination is so adjured. 

The Son Himself is at once the foundational cornerstone and the supreme capstone of this holy organic edifice. 

“And he will bring out the capstone accompanied by shouts of: Grace, grace to it!'" Zechariah 4:7

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20-22 KJV 

If you will allow me a play on words the convenient chronos of our current crisis of ecclesiology must be displaced by the appointed kairos of our Kyrios3. And our logos and egos supplanted by the Logos4 and the Imago Dei5 or Ego Eimi6.  “And he has put everything into subjection under his feet, and he has given him who is higher than all as The Head of the church,...” Ephesians 1:22 Aramaic

The Church is at the very centre of God's cosmic purpose and is his appointed means of spreading the gospel. But a church which preaches the cross must itself be marked by the cross. It becomes a stumbling block to evangelism when it betrays the gospel or lacks a living faith in God, a genuine love for people, or scrupulous honesty in all things including promotion and finance. The Lausanne Covenant

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
Samuel J Stone - 1866

We affirm that Christ sends his redeemed people into the world as the Father sent him, and that this calls for a similar deep and costly penetration of the world. The Lausanne Covenant 

Yes, Lord, so be it!  We are looking to see...

1 It should be noted that this body functions only as the delegated representative of a higher power. Although a secular definition predating Pentecost the parallel relationship between the church and Christ her Head is obvious. 

2 Some translations insert a comma here leaving the erroneous impression that the called gifts of verse 11 are also to do the work of ministry instead of equipping the whole body to do the work of ministry. This unfortunate inference has gone far to saddle the church with the associated encumbrance of perpetual adolescence. 

3 Lord - “and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Philippians 2:11

4 Word - “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

5 Image of God - “For he is The Brilliance of his glory, The Image of his Being,” Hebrews 1:3 Aramaic 

6 I Am - “for unless you believe that I AM, you'll die in your sins." John 8:24 ISV

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

And they are still there today...

There are certain truths that have propelled us through this city-reaching journey - the following is one of them.

It is recorded as the Ark of the Covenant - transported via poles on the shoulders of the priests - was placed behind the veil at the dedication of Solomon’s temple: “These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from outside the Holy Place; and they are still there today.” 1 Kings 8:8 NIV That is, their ends could be seen pressing against the veil. 

I have just concluded reading an extensive treatise on the Tabernacle of David.  It is quite thorough and I have benefitted much from the author’s research, yet as he draws to a close he covers the removal of the Ark of the Presence from the Tabernacle of David to the Temple of Solomon. He then says that the poles were removed from the rings of the Ark and that this is a type of the Church at rest.

This was a very disturbing conclusion for a truth that has gripped our heart for years is that the poles were never removed and that they could actually be seen protruding against the curtain as a testimony to the mobility of the Presence. It was with some perplexity that I attempted to discover his reasoning and I found it in the KJV rendering of the passage above: “And they drew out the staves,...” But this does not mean they were removed, but only lengthened in some way as a testimony of the transient nature of the Presence of God - never to reside in any certain place for a set length of time. 

To assert that the poles were removed would fly in the face of God’s instruction to Moses: “The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed.” Exodus 25:15.  It may be a comforting thought to believe the church is at rest - and in a manner of speaking this is true - but this does nothing to spur us on to love and good deeds. The Prophet Amos declared: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,...”

The question is then begged: In our heart of hearts have we removed the poles? Have we taken our ease? Has the early morning dew of fervor - that is our first love - lost its life-giving zest? 

The Church is at rest, but it is not a static rest.  God rested on the seventh day of creation, but He did not quit. Our Sabbath rest is in Him whoever lives to make intercession - it is intercession, not cessation. As long as His Church in any manner is still on this side of the eternal veil we are in desperate need of His divine activity. No remote deity is the Great I Am.

It is not possible for a static church to be a militant church. As much as we value Martin Luther’s great anthem “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” we must not mistake its intent for it is from this confidence that the Church sallies forth as soldiers of Christ: 

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

She is a pilgrim people...always on the move, but moved by the pursuit of purpose. That purpose is singular - conformity into the image of His Son, both individually and corporately. 

The love of God never leads to complacency. Paul has said it so well: “For the love of Christ constraineth (controls) us;” 2 Corinthians 5:12 KJV John Gill has written: “Nothing more effectually keeps ministers, or other believers, in the work and service of their Lord, or more strongly obliges and constrains them to a cheerful discharge of their duty to him, and one another, than his love displayed in his covenant engagements,...”

The poles continue to swell against the veil in pregnant anticipation of the release of the Presence.  There is a travail in Zion: “for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” It is the purpose of God that the divine glory be no longer cordoned off in the back room of a physical temple.  It is to be extended, drawn out, made visible - through his end-time image bearers.1

Where is the Ark of the Presence today? Although there is much speculation no one knows for sure.  What we can know for sure is that the poles remain in the rings awaiting that Prophetic Royal Priesthood that will carry it forth once again - in jubilation and in militancy.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

1 Appreciation to G.K. Beale in his “The Temple and the Church’s Mission” for the germination of this thought. He adds: “They are priest-kings who carry out the eschatological purpose that we have seen to be inherent in Genesis 1 - 2.”