Nehushtan: An Unfortunate Source Of Division

•04/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

In my 14+ years as a Christian, I have had the opportunity to serve and minister in many various ways. From preaching and teaching from a pulpit, to teaching countless Bible studies at home or in the homes of others, to hundreds of hours in both Sunday School and in outreach, not to mention being a member of a church board, to being a greeter and usher, working as a youth leader, to leading and overseeing various departments and ministries, up to and including a Spanish ministry, while also beginning and overseeing a campus ministry that led to a church planting, I can say without remorse that none of the awesome and amazing things that happened throughout each ministry compare to the simple times when I’ve been alone at the Lord’s feet, feeling His presence, His power, His healing, and His touch.

After about 10 years in the Apostolic Church, I resigned from every ministry and department in which I was involved, except being a board member (although I was going to, I was personally asked by the pastor to stay on, so I did, as a favor to him). There were various reasons, but the real reason, after all was said and done, was because, after the birth of my first child, my wife, with my consent but not my insistence, stepped away from her involvement in ministry to care for our daughter.

But how did my wife stepping away cause me to step away a couple of years later?

It’s simple.

When my wife and I had to make a choice on how we were going to raise our family, including the division of labor and the assigning of parental roles, my wife graciously indicated to me that between the two of us, I had the more important ministries, so that, when in service, between the two of us, she would care for our firstborn so I could serve and bless the people of God to the best of my ability.

This didn’t mean that my wife did everything while I did nothing. I changed diapers, dressed and carried and cared for our daughter, just not as much as my wife did, especially when there was a meeting of the church.

My wife saw her place in the home, following the edicts of Holy Scripture. She saw it her responsibility to be “discreet, chaste, [a] keeper at home, good, obedient to [her] own husband…that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:5).

Additionally, since Paul clearly indicated to Timothy that a woman shouldn’t usurp the authority invested into men by Christ (1 Timothy 2:12), my wife realized that in order to continue to serve in ministry meant I would have to be the one to take a backseat in the church in order to perform the predominant care for our daughter. She felt like this was a usurpation of her place as sub-ordinate to me as her head (1 Corinthians 11:3). I understood her reasons, and with my permission, she withdrew.

Jump forward a couple of years. My wife and I had had our second child, a son, who was a baby around the time I resigned.

Here is the reason, now that the back-story is filled in. I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going to be allowed to be in leadership and serve in the church unless my wife stepped up and got (re)involved in ministry. I was told that my wife’s care for our children bordered on idolatry.[1]

So I had a decision to make. Force my wife to put our kids into nursery/hand them off to someone else to watch during service, and so, be allowed to stay on the church staff as an elder and leader/minister, or say no to the demand and get the boot.

After talking with my wife and agreeing that it wasn’t anyone else’s responsibility to supervise OUR children just so my wife could sing or do whatever little bit of public, visible ministry, I decided to resign.[2]

I wrote a letter explaining my intentions and handed it off. The next week I announced my resignation to the whole church (without going into all of the reasons, just some).[3]

The reason I felt it was ABSOLUTELY OKAY WITH GOD to do so was not because of the unfortunate things that were said to me about my wife, or because of our decision to raise our children the way we wanted, but because after praying about what to do, the Lord spoke to me a word, which, once heard, sealed the deal and let me know I had HIS PERMISSION (I didn’t need anyone else’s) to resign from ministry.

The word was: Nehushtan.

2 Kings 18:4,

He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

In this verse, we have King Hezekiah instigating spiritual and religious reforms to help bring the nation of Judah back into the will and fellowship of God. So here, among other things, he destroyed the brazen serpent Moses made back in Numbers 21 as a response to a divinely introduced plague as a punishment upon the people of God for murmuring against both Him and also against Moses (Numbers 21:4-5).

In some uncertain way, in the ensuing years, the people of Judah began worshipping the serpent like it was some holy relic of old. Hezekiah smashed it to break the people free from their idolatry towards it, calling it, as it translates from Hebrew “a piece of brass“. Hezekiah’s point in calling the brazen serpent Nehushtan was to remind the people that, as just a piece of brass, it had no innate worth and so, there was no innate need to assign it religious or spiritual value, meaning there was no innate reason for it to be worshipped.

And this is what the Lord used to confirm to me that resigning from ministry was acceptable to Him. He told me all that I was doing and had been doing in ministry was Nehushtan. This doesn’t mean that I was out of the will of God or that I was a failure as a minister—God used me greatly in many different ways and at many different times—but rather, that the ministries in which I was mainly involved in at the time were and are (now don’t get offended) completely man-made and un-Biblical.

Let’s look at a list of various ministries and departments that exist in the modern Apostolic Church and see if any of them are found in the Holy Scriptures.

  • Pulpit Sermonizing
  • Music Ministry
  • Audio/Visual Ministry
  • Greeter and Usher Ministry
  • Outreach Ministry
  • Spanish Ministry
  • Sunday School
  • Nursery and Family Ministry
  • Church Board
  • Altar Call Working
  • Building Maintenance

Did I miss any? I was involved in and in many instances, in charge of all of the above, and yet, not a one is found anywhere in the Bible. To be sure, preaching and teaching is, but not from within a church-owned building from a pulpit. And yes, we are to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16), but not using a praise team leading while everyone else passively sings along. Reaching out to the lost is a key component of the faith, but not in a systematic, door to door, hand out a flyer and hope someone comes to church way. And while the Bible has much to say about the deaconate, it doesn’t have anything to say about church boards created by by-laws to manage the funds of a limited liability company and 501(c)3 tax exempt entity. Parents, and not Sunday School teachers, are expected to raise their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4). There never were any such things as altar calls in the Book of Acts. Rather, men of God, i.e. the Apostles, preached the Gospel to an audience and the Holy Spirit fell or It didn’t. People believed the preaching and responded in faith and so, were saved, or they didn’t. No one was given an overly emotional, manipulative verbal pull to step out into the aisle and come down to the front of the church’s building and kneel before the pulpit so the preacher and other ministers could lay hands on them. In fact, the early church didn’t even own buildings in which a pulpit could be constructed!

This being so, then what is all of this “stuff”? Simple. This “stuff” is just a piece of brass. It’s Nehushtan. And this Nehushtan, unfortunately, is a major source of division in the church. So many brothers and sisters are jockeying for position and platform, to build spiritual resumes and impress each other, it’s as political as any race for office.

I’ve had so many people, upon meeting me, want to know, first thing, whether or not I’m “licensed”. No one wants to know if I’m filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in the Spirit, living by faith and not by sight, honest in my dealings, upright and faithful to God and His call on my life. Nope, none of that. Just whether or not I have a piece of paper with some signatures on it.

And while I’m not knocking anyone for being licensed with any organization—if that’s what God wants for them, or if they need it for their ministry, then so be it—but let us also admit that such things are not Scriptural, either. Are they Nehushtan? I’m not going to say. That’s for another blog.[4]

But let’s face it. We judge each other based on how much WE DO for the Lord, as opposed to who WE ARE in Christ. And when someone thinks another someone isn’t doing enough for the Lord in terms of the Nehushtan of un-Biblical ministries, they say all kinds of dumb, hurtful things. And if they are in a position to do so, they do a lot of spiritual damage and ruin a lot of reputations when they open their mouths and get their way because they’re the only ones who get to have their say.[5]

Luke 10:38-42,

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Much could be said about this passage, but I want to focus on only a few things.

1.) Luke’s use of the word “cumbered“. In Greek, the word is perispao. It is a compound word made up of two parts: peri– meaning all around or through, and spao meaning to draw, i.e. pull along (as opposed to the art form). The literal meaning is to drag all around. Figuratively it means to be distracted.

This inspired text is trying to tell us that Martha was, to use a colloquialism, running around like a chicken with her head cut off. If ever you’ve hosted a party or large dinner, and you were in charge of the provisions of food and drink, you know just how busy you can get. Martha was drawn this way and that, all over the house, trying her best to take care of everyone. And in the process she became distracted (from what? from whom?).

2.) Luke’s use of the word “serving“. In Greek, it’s the word diakonia, and is the main word used in the Bible to mean or indicate ministry, or to minister. Do I need to say more? Martha was insistent that in order to take care of the Lord and His students, she had to minister much, just to please Him and His students, even though doing so caused her to be distracted (Again, from what or who?).

3.) Distraught at the amount of ministering she was doing, she became angry, even jealous of her sister, who didn’t appear to be doing anything but sitting at the Lord’s feet hearing His Word.

4.) In her anger and jealousy, she even dared accuse Jesus of not caring. Very literally, she challenged the Lord with the following: Doesn’t it matter to you? Who was Martha to challenge Jesus about anything?[6]

5.) Jesus politely and gently reminded Martha of what was more important, something her sister already knew: Spending time with the Lord at His feet hearing His Word matters more than ministering. Martha was running around trying to serve Jesus and His students so much, she allowed her “ministering” to distract her from the One (and ones) she was supposed to be serving. In fact, she got so worked up, she became “careful” and “troubled“.

In sum, Martha wasn’t really ministering to the Lord and His students; it wasn’t Christ or the Church she was serving. She was serving herself, thinking that her great efforts to minister would please the Lord and make Him appreciate her more, when just the opposite was true. Yes, Jesus loved her. Make no mistake. But being “cumbered about much serving” or becomingcareful” and “troubled” didn’t make Jesus love her more. Not serving at all didn’t make Jesus love Mary less.

The whole point of the story is to teach us to stop trying to “serve” the Lord with our ideas of how to minister, and just sit at His feet. To do otherwise is to become encumbered, i.e. dragged around and distracted, to become careful, i.e. anxious, and troubled, i.e. disturbed.

About a year before I resigned, and then about a year after I resigned, two different times, once before and once afterward, a man in the church, the same man each time, became offended at me and my wife for not living up to his expectations in regards to ministry. He felt like we weren’t pulling our own weight when it came to the success of the church (i.e. we weren’t doing as much as him and his wife).[7] The first time he went through the pastor, who, after realizing he couldn’t disagree with our Scriptural reasons for why my wife stepped down, calmed the man down, presumably explaining things to him. The second time, the man reached out to me personally, again with the same judgmental gripe. But at least, as before, so again, he apologized and repented and asked for my forgiveness. I readily forgave both times, taking no personal offense.

But after the second time, as I prayed about it on the way home, the Lord made it plain to me that this man should have known better, but allowed himself to fall victim to something He had already dealt with him about. During the drive home, I felt the Lord impress upon me that this man was going to suffer some things as a form of chastisement—not because of how he had judged me and my wife—but because he had offended the Lord. The next month, something major did happen with him and his family, health related, that I won’t relate here, but suffice it to say, but for the Lord’s mercy, it could have been devastating. As it was, it was still pretty bad, intense, scary, and etc.

Jump forward from then. A couple of years after I resigned from my ministries, I had a conversation with someone who accused me of being a “super-spiritual Pharisee who sits in the back row pretending like he doesn’t need anything, like he’s arrived…(I don’t remember the quote word for exact word) during worship and song service.[8]

Afterward, I calmly explained to this person that I sit in the back row with my family, with my children on my lap or in my arms and I quietly sing the songs we sing together as a church, to THEM, and talk to THEM about the Lord, and that’s the reason why I’m not out in the aisle, running and jumping and dancing and shouting during worship and song service.

We are no longer members of that assembly. My wife and I chose to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus. We chose the “one thing” that was “needed“. We decided the “good part” (i.e. the best portion) on the table we call the Christian faith can’t be experienced if we’re not sitting down to eat.

We chose against distraction and anxiety and perturbation. Like King Hezekiah before us, we took that piece of brass, that Nehushtan the modern church calls ministry, and smashed it.

And the sad fact of it is, since I resigned, even before ever departing from that assembly, as should be obvious, it’s caused nothing but division. But God wants us where we are at, and so, we sit at the Master’s feet, even though “Martha” is still out there berating and angry with us, as it were. I just wish “she” knew and understood that it’s not us “she’s” challenging, it’s “her” Lord and Savior, “her” Immanuel, Jesus of Nazareth, she’s challenging. It’s the Son of God, and not this son of God, with whom “she” is upset and annoyed.

Perhaps someday, if He has not already done so, Jesus will politely and gently remind “her” of what is more important, something my wife and I and our family already know: Spending time with the Lord at His feet hearing His Word matters more than “ministering”.

Everything else is just a piece of brass.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Many other things were said but I’m not going to go into them here in this blog.

[2] Before that happened, I sent off an email explaining just how much my wife did in and for the church and for me as a husband, even though much of it was unseen since it was done in our home in the form of hospitality and in the hosting of Bible studies. That email was never addressed.

[3] Additional reasons included my work schedule and health concerns, which while playing important roles in my decision, weren’t the only reasons, as I’ve indicated in the body of this blog.

[4] Since I was not and am not a “licensed” minister at the time of my resigning, the word the Lord gave me, i.e. Nehushtan, doesn’t cover something I was not.

[5] A senior pastor once complained to me about one of his assistant pastors, who, even though he and his wife had two young children, nevertheless were not doing enough for the church as assistant pastors, that they needed to step up and do more, despite having children, even as the pastor and his wife didn’t have any children to speak of (at the time). This is the kind of real life story that for me, helps prove the overall assertion I am making in this blog: that these un-Biblical ministries can cause division in the church.

[6] Martha was one of Jesus’ closest friends. In fact, we read in John 11:5 that Jesus loved Martha (along with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus). Perhaps it was this closeness which caused her to think she had the right to be indignant at Him for not making Mary get up and help her? I suppose we’ll never know this side of heaven.

[7] By the way, this “man” was the assistant pastor mentioned in footnote #5, who, along with his wife, wasn’t doing enough for the church according to the pastor who opined to me about him. Do you see what happened there?

[8] I am thankful to say that my explanation caused the man to receive understanding, and he backed off. We ended the chat with a great big, teary eyed hug, which is to say, we reconciled!

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The Fruit Of Faithfulness

•02/02/2017 • Leave a Comment

Galatians 5:22-23 (English Standard Version)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Over the years, I have watched the Enemy work and whittle away at the bonds that otherwise unite the brethren. Even within the pages of Holy Scripture, one of the key themes present in the teachings and testimonies of the New Covenant is the idea of maintaining the bonds of unity contrasted against the idea of the love of the brethren, and the love of the truth, waxing cold.

If we consider the 1st century context in which the Holy Scriptures of the New Covenant were first penned, the first observation one ought to make is that those who came to believe on and receive Yeshua as Lord and Savior, did so despite a culturally diverse, ethnically heterogeneous, socio-economic and political hodge-podge of merchants, masters, and slaves, of Roman citizens, and conquered subjects, of those born low, struggling to survive, and those born high, given the right to rule, even as they desperately curried favor with Empire so as to not lose not only wealth and prosperity, but also their very lives.

The Benevolent Message of the Cross is quite universal, and can be applied to anyone’s life, no matter their personal circumstance. Whether we speak of the Roman Empire and 1st century Israel, or of modern day America, and its strong Christian heritage, the idea that God sent His only Son to pay with His blood an atoning ransom for sinners has reverberated and resounded far and wide, quite literally from “[a]s far as the east is from the west[1].

This being the case, and truly, the whole intention of the Father and His Son, we might wonder then how various humans of such disparate backgrounds could ever come together and become a Body for the Anointed One, even a Holy Temple in which our God may dwell.

I submit to you that one way that can happen is through the fruit of faithfulness. I realize that many brethren typically read from an English translation that simply reads “faith”, instead of “faithfulness”, in Galatians 5:22. And while that isn’t a crime of injustice to Paul’s letter to those churches, I believe it leaves something to be desired, or at the very least, causes a mistaken comprehension of the intended meaning.

The word “faith” typically has an array of meanings that encompass things like a set of convictions or beliefs, or, a sense of trust and reliance upon, or, even, the totality of one’s entire system of religious piety. These are all well and good, and do have their place under the heading “faith”.

But the Greek word most commonly translated as “faith” in the Holy Scriptures of the New Covenant can also mean “faithfulness”.[2]

When I see, hear, read, or discuss the word “faithfulness”, the first thing that comes to mind is a related word, namely “loyalty”. When one is faithful, or full of faith, it means that they are a person to whom trust ought to be given. Such a person may be relied on, without question. Of course then, it makes sense why the object of our faith is the Anointed One, for He is Someone to Whom our trust may be freely given, without reservation. We can fully rely upon Him, for salvation, for healing, for deliverance, for provision, and etc.

Yeshua has earned our trust. His sacrifice on our behalf and the intercession He continually makes before the Father for our sakes has endeared us to Him in an unmistakable, unbreakable way. He has fully made good on all His promises. In this regard then, we find we are incontrovertibly loyal to Him, and also, He to us. Such is the beauty of the saving relationship and covenant that has been offered to us by God.

But what about us? Do we have the same faithfulness, that we may be trusted and relied upon when duty calls? Are we bound to each other by an unmistakable, unbreakable loyalty? Are we bearing the kind of fruit that, for example, tells other believers in the Body: “I am on your side, you can count on me, and I won’t let you down, no matter the cost”?

I suppose every saint of the Most High will have to answer for themselves. Personally, I find such faithfulness and loyalty a rare commodity. In fact, I have seen the very words of the Anointed One used as an excuse for dividing the Body into disunity. Some have said, taught, or preached the idea that because Yeshua said that He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword, or that His message would cause fathers and brothers and sisters and mothers and in-laws and children and husbands and wives to divide against each other, that He means that His Body needs to wield the sword against Itself in order to divide against Itself.

My Friends, I tell you the truth: That is NOT what Yeshua meant. The Lord said those words to indicate that those who refused to heed Him and so, devote their lives to His cause would find themselves separated from the ones who did.

If, for example, there is a sister or daughter who has come to believe in and has obeyed the Benevolent Message, it may be that her siblings and/or her parents will want nothing to do with her or her new-found faith, because they are anti-christ in lifestyle and behavior. In this way, that sister and daughter is then, by cleaving to her Savior, cut off from her family by the sword Yeshua said He came to bring.

It does not mean that if this sister and daughter wins her mom to the Lord, that she and her mom then get to get into constant spats and fights over this and that such that they get to divide themselves against themselves and justify doing so because Yeshua’s “sword” demanded it.

If both have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, if both are fully trusting their God and Father with their souls, and are living to the best of their ability in accordance with the Word of God, whatever their differences might be, even all the way up to and including some (but not all) doctrinal differences, they are honor bound one to another through the fruit of faithfulness.[3] If, and only if, one or the other should turn from the faith that saved them and devote themselves again to a life of sin and disgrace, should it ever be considered appropriate for two people under such conditions to separate.

But and unless anyone can be proven through the Holy Scriptures of the New Covenant to be deceived and/or in sin, no amount of posturing or rationalizing will ever convince the Anointed One that His followers have the right to dis-fellowship.

Therefore, brethren, the conclusion is this: if men and women who believe on the Lord, who are not in sin, who are not receiving damnable heresies, are distancing themselves and dis-fellowshipping each other, they are not displaying the fruit of faithfulness. Such folk are lacking in the love department, or have been trained and taught to do so, regardless of the commandments of the Lord that countermand such actions.

Finally, if you happen to be someone who reads this, and if you happen to be someone who has cut off and divided yourself against another believer in the Anointed One, and it isn’t for damnable heresies or continued sinful conduct, to put it plainly, you are in the wrong and you need to repent, by first confessing to God your error, then praying to Him for the courage and humility to go and make things right with whomever you have dis-fellowshipped.

If and when you are reconciled, then I submit to you, that you seek the Lord for His help in developing the fruit of faithfulness until such a bond of unmistakable, unbreakable loyalty is created in you, from now until He comes.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] See Psalm 103:12.

[2] The Greek word in question is pistis. All the major lexicons are in agreement, e.g. Strong’s, Vine’s, Vincent’s, and etc., that pistis can and should, in context, mean “faithfulness”. See the New International Version, the New Living Translation, and the New American Standard Bible, for Galatians 5:22. These all render pistis as faithfulness.

[3] There are of course, certain “damnable heresies” that if received, could cause two believers in the Lord to have to separate, even if they are, as the example above shows, mother and daughter. But I would like to point out that this is pretty rare, even almost unheard of, since there are so few of these kinds of heresies, and the power of God unto salvation, even the keeping of one’s soul in the true faith, is such that one would have to seriously apostatize before ever falling into deceptions of this nature (See, e.g. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12,  2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 2:22,  and Jude 1:4).

Harping

•01/02/2017 • Leave a Comment

Greetings, Dear Reader!

Tonight, in this latest blog entry, I want to address the following idea:

Harping

Harping is the persistent, even insidious, and unwelcome addressing and spouting off against someone or something, ad nauseum.

You know the type (don’t act like you don’t!). Always going on about the same old thing. Always in the negative about whatever thing it is upon which they harp. They seem to always find ways to make every conversation revert back to their pet issue. They become impossible to be around. And, if it’s a preacher or your pastor? Oh boy. You’re in for a world of hurt.

Harping often occurs for the following reason: Tunnel Vision

A person with tunnel vision has, intentionally or not, decided to solely focus on only one idea or concept, or only on one small part of an idea or concept. They refuse to step back and take a better, BIGGER view of what’s going on around them.

People with tunnel vision often come to this place out of fear, uncertainty, and/or doubt.

Being able to ignore something that doesn’t agree with, comfort, or otherwise, ameliorate the person suffering from tunnel vision allows them to stay seated in their own little, falsely created, heavily biases world, while the rest of the real world continues on all around them.

To get one’s head out of the tunnel requires bravery and an act of the will. When something outside of the purview of the “tunnel” tests, probes, pushes, attacks, or proves superior, the person with tunnel vision has to make a decision: to confront what is new or different, and see whether or not their vision inside the “tunnel” can stand up to, and hold its own against, whatever it encounters outside of the “tunnel”, or continue to tuck tail and turn away in retreat back to the place this person calls “home”.

In so doing, one of two things will occur. Either the tunnel visionary will discover something better and more important than such a closed mind view of things, or, they will hunker down for the long-haul.

Hunkering down inside of one’s “tunnel” is what then causes the person to begin to harp away at any and all things outside of the vision. It’s kind of like a sniper, or an unseen rattlesnake poised to bite.

The tunnel-visioned person takes pot-shots from afar, harping away with unwanted words, even attacks, in whatever direction helps keep the person from having to expand their view and understanding of the world around them.

The bottom line is fear. Something has made this person afraid, likely early on in life. This person became convinced that someone or something was dangerous, and was forced, either by internal or external authorities in life, to run and hide.

In the realm of ideas, the “idea” that an “idea” is dangerous has often caused people to shrink away from knowledge and understanding. An example (take it for what it’s worth):

Several years ago, there was a woman attending the church I used to be apart of, who would always tear up and cry as the presence of the Lord came over her. She repented of her sins, and was immersed in the name of Jesus. Many people would pray with her and for her to receive the Holy Spirit, but she never did. She would seemingly get as close as anyone possibly could, but never crossed over into Holy Spirit immersion.

Witnessing this, as I prayed for her a few feet away, the Lord, through His Spirit, caused me to understand that she was afraid of receiving the Holy Spirit, because she thought receiving the Holy Spirit would be like Jesus putting a chain around her neck to make her a slave.

The point here is that she couldn’t get outside of her own understanding. She remained convinced that her world without the Holy Spirit was less dangerous, and more fitting, more to her liking. She remained locked into her “tunnel”.

In principle, something happens like this a lot, especially among disciples of the Word of God. They come across or hear about a competing view regarding some doctrine or another, or they are at a church meeting, and someone offers something that doesn’t sit right; maybe it comes from a book, or even a message board forum like this.

The first response in such cases is recoil. Instead of engaging the competing view of the doctrine, and really examining it from all sides to test it for merit or truth, it’s summarily rejected out of hand for no other reason than being “other”.

The tunnel-visioned person realized, perhaps subconsciously, that this competing idea originated somewhere outside of his or her “tunnel”. As such, it’s automatically outside of this person’s comfort zone.

I submit to one and all that Jesus directly confronts this mentality head-on and turns it on its ear. He is, after all, the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense. It’s not that one should just choose to receive and belief anything flying by on the wind. But it does mean that sometimes, Jesus comes to you in a way you cannot recognize, whilst you walk down the road to Emmaus.

When you encounter a new idea, or hear about a different view of the contents of God’s Holy Word, it might just be the Lord from Nazareth attempting to open your understanding of all that the Holy Book contains.

We reject this visitation at our peril.

In conclusion, I recommend that everyone take a personal inventory of their beliefs, whether they be related to any one particular doctrine or doctrinal view/schema (or not), and ask the Lord to shake you up and turn you upside down, and strip from you anything and everything you’ve ever believed, been taught, or just fell into without realizing it, that doesn’t soundly and perfectly conform to the Inspired Scriptures.

The cure for harping, blessed brethren, and the tunnel vision that causes it, is silence at Rabbi Jesus’ feet.

Peace and God bless,

Aaron

The Myth Of “Orthodoxy”?

•12/12/2016 • Leave a Comment

There has been a thought rolling around in my head for several years now, one that I have shared in various settings a few times before, but never here, at the blog. A topic that is near and dear to my heart is found in Ephesians 4:2-3 (ESV), which reads:

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

The maintenance of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace has become something of a personal rallying cry. It bangs away on the inside of my soul with great profundity. I look in so many different directions, being in fellowship and contact with so many different believers and saints, all from many different locations and local churches, each with unique backgrounds and testimonies of how God intervened in their lives and brought them out of darkness.

And when I attempt to look at and ascertain what it is I see, I realize that what I see is that not one single saint of the Most High actually agrees on much of anything, in terms of their personally held beliefs and convictions regarding the Holy Scriptures.

To be sure, there is great overlap between people, and many agree in a lot of various ways, on some things. But I know of no one who agrees with someone else on everything. In a way, this is to be expected, as we are all growing and maturing and coming to grips with primary, secondary, and even tertiary doctrines. In other words, it’s normal.

But what I didn’t expect to find, when this idea first began resounding inside my heart, was that such DISUNITY could be created between brothers and sisters, friends, and colleagues in the Lord, in the face of such expected normalcy.

It is surprising to me that people who love the Lord and desire to serve Him to the best of their ability, who are sincerely attempting to trust and obey Him, can be so callously driven away from each other by one or two simple disagreements.

Now, I am not speaking of disagreements between say, a die-hard Roman Catholic and a fiery Evangelical Protestant. The disunity created between two such groups is common.

But within the same faith, among brethren of the same experience, of the same mutual fellowship, who have known each other for a long time, have served together, prayed together, have evangelized together, have cried together, and otherwise have gone the proverbial extra mile together, can so easily become disloyal and distant towards each other the moment it is realized that they don’t agree about something.

I know for a fact that there is no one I know who believes everything I believe, who prioritizes their beliefs the way I do, who considers various beliefs to be central in comparison to others, and etc.

Not even my wife and I see eye to eye about everything the Bible contains or teaches!

And yet, my relationship with my wife is no worse off, hasn’t been under any additional spiritual attack, or has ultimately, come to end, simply for not believing the same things about every thing God or the Word of God, has to say.

But you say, “Yeah, but that’s your wife. You’re married to her. You made a promise to stay together, no matter what. You have to weather all the storms and disagreements in order to keep the covenant you made together before the Lord going strong.”

What the above is actually saying is, “You’re stuck, so you have to stick it out. You don’t have a choice now, no matter what you may disagree on now.”

To which I respond, “Yes, this is true. I agree 100%. But why isn’t it this way between brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

Hear me out. The Church is the Bride of Christ, correct? This means, that collectively speaking, in a figurative, spiritualized way, we are all “married” to each other. We have given ourselves over to the Lord unconditionally without restraint. In effect, we have promised ourselves to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in so doing, by being members who make up the Body of Christ, we have promised ourselves to each other, just as much. We are stuck with each other. Entering into covenant with God causes all of us to, in equal measure, covenant ourselves to each other.

True, the nature of a marriage is different in many ways compared to the nature of a brother to brother or sister to sister communion. This is obvious. But the underlying principle and chief goal of marriage—to become one—is the same chief goal of being bought with a price: to become one with Christ Jesus and the Father, and so, be made one with each other.

The fact that this unity appears to be dissolving all around us leads me to question whether or not the idea of orthodoxy is legitimate, or rather, if such an idea is merely a myth. For anyone who is reading who isn’t sure of what orthodoxy means, it signifies, in its most literal sense: right/correct beliefs.

The main idea is that there are a set of beliefs inherent to the Christian faith that are right/correct. And in order to be in the faith, one must automatically agree to and practice these beliefs, or else one isn’t a Christian, i.e. in the faith.

On the surface, let me reassure anyone who is reading, I agree wholeheartedly with the principle just enunciated. There is a point in which one either is, or is not, “in Christ”, as the Biblical phrase goes.

But how that plays out and is universally (or not) applied in the real world is a completely different thing as compared to the theory and principle of the matter. I mean, do we all need to become thought police and go through each other’s checklists before we can agree to commune together in the presence of the Lord?

Do I have to meet your personal set of criteria for fellowship before you will accept me the way I am? Do you need to meet my set of criteria to do likewise?

If so, tell me, how is that “bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”?

Many, if not almost every, local church has a charter detailing their core beliefs and/or tenets of the faith around which they form themselves. The founding members, or those who inherited the reins of the local assembly, have all agreed to agree on a basic list or set of bullet points, usually beginning with the Bible and the nature of God and ending with a statement either about the church, end times, or finances, with something about Jesus, sin, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the ministry, and etc. sandwiched in between.

Is this why God sent His only begotten Son into the world? Is it really what Jesus died for? For a statement of faith? Some church’s statements are a mile long quoting so many verses of Scripture they might as well save everyone the time and simply say “We believe the Bible. Period. End of Story.”.

If only it was that easy!

More and more I am finding that the idea of “orthodoxy” while beautiful and necessary in one way is completely untenable and just about a waste of time in the other. You are never going to have perfect insight and knowledge about me and what I believe. I will not have that about you, either. No one will about anyone. Only God knows the heart.

So then, we can agree upon what?

  • That God exists?
  • That there is only one God?
  • That Jesus is the Son and Christ of God?
  • That Jesus was crucified for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised from the dead by God the Father three days later?
  • That in order to be saved, we must fully trust in and rely upon Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior?
  • That we must confess and repent of our sins before Him?
  • That we should pursue baptism in the name of the Lord?
  • That we are free to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as a promise from God the Father as a seal upon our hearts proving that we have been adopted by Him?
  • Anything else???

That looks like a pretty good list, that most everyone, I think, would agree with. So, we CAN be orthodox after all! Not so fast. Sure, we all agree that God exists, but in what way? Yes, we can quote Holy Scripture and say there is only one God, but what does it mean, exactly, for God to be “one”? What does it mean for Jesus to be the Son of God? The Christ of God? And right on down the list.

See, once the details of all these supposedly agreed upon statements of Christian orthodoxy become exposed, we find that all the agreements we claimed to have between ourselves suddenly begin to disappear.

So, where do we go from there? Disband all allegiances to one another and cast each other out as heretics and children of the Wicked One?

Do we raise up councils of people we allegedly trust and ask them to be the doctrine-makers so we can go to them regularly and affirm our commitment to whatever they say is the truth regarding God’s Word?

Do we appoint specially trained clergymen to tell us what to believe in all points concerning our religious beliefs so we no longer have to worry about ever forming our own convictions?

Do we decide to let doctrinal chaos reign and “every man to his tents, O Israel!”?

How about this?

How about we realize that we’re not all of us always going to agree about everything, and decide we will be okay with that fact?

How about we concede the fact that someone else may understand any number of Bible topics or doctrines better than we do, and decide we will be okay with that fact?

How about we patiently and lovingly remember first that we are all of us in covenant with God through Christ, and so, we are all of us, sons and daughters of the Most High? And in remembering this, we acknowledge that this makes us a family, and that brothers and sisters don’t get to disown each other if the Head of the Family has not disowned one of His own?

How about we humbly and with contrition and repentance, admit to the preconceived ideas, prejudices, and critical condemnations we’ve secretly held in our collective hearts toward those brothers and sisters we know don’t believe exactly like us?

How about we come together as a family and talk through our differences, without malice and condescension, and find out why we all believe whatever it is that we believe, that causes us to not agree with each other, deciding we all might learn something new?

And finally, instead of copping out by “agreeing to disagree”, and using that as a cover to begrudge one another just so we can justify any form of mistreatment we might think to use against anyone who doesn’t conform to our system of beliefs and convictions, how about we actually find a way, with the help of the Master Himself, to, for once and for all, actually, with all humility and gentleness, and with patience, bear one another in love and become eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

Perhaps I’m just an eternal optimist, but I think we can do it. Do you?

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

The Tares and the Wheat: A Flawed Understanding

•11/23/2016 • Leave a Comment

Introduction:

Jesus spoke many parables, and some, he repeated more than once.[1] All, in turn, have shared in the overall fame, if you will, of the One who taught them. One particular parable that has garnered wide attention and interpretation is the parable He shared regarding the tares and the wheat.

In this blog, I intend to give a simple exegesis of the parable, and in so doing, explain how this parable is constantly misunderstood by many who speak of it, or teach about it.

For starters, let’s look at the entire parable, as seen in Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43,

  1. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
  2. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
  3. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
  4. He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
  5. But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
  6. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
  1. Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
  2. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
  3. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
  4. The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
  5. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
  6. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
  7. And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  8. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

From this parable, many teachers, preachers, pastors, and saints make the following assumptions:

  • There are saved and unsaved in the Church (the “tares sit with the wheat” is a common expression)
  • The Devil sends tares into the Church to cause disruption and disunity (from verses 25 and 28)
  • It can be hard to tell the saved from the unsaved (real life tares look almost exactly like stalks of wheat; only as it approaches harvest do the differences truly begin to manifest. Similarly, many make a very good outward show of faith, but inwardly, it is feigned)
  • In the Church, there really isn’t anything that can be done to maintain the saved while ousting the unsaved (per the instruction to let them grow together until harvest; we just have to let God sort it out)
  • Coming to terms with the above four sentiments is the only way to truly have peace about all the problems that exist in the Church, and those who cause the problems
  • But in the end, since the “Lord knows them that are His”, when the rapture hits, we’ll finally tell who truly was and wasn’t saved in the Church, as some will be taken, others will be “Left Behind”, as the popular book series attempts to reveal through a fiction

Dear Readers, I submit to you that all of the above is false, based wholly on a misunderstanding of the parable. But before I attempt to prove this assertion, please allow me a few more minutes of your time, to wax rhetorical, as it were, and ask and answer some thought-provoking questions:

Question #1:

How is it possible that anyone who has never been saved, or has backslid so far as to lose their salvation can, in anyway that makes sense, said to (still) be in the Church?

Observe:

The Church is the Body of Christ.[2] To insist that all over the world, there are people in the Church, or Body of Christ, who are unredeemed and/or in disobedience to the Gospel, is a grand mistake. One cannot simultaneously be lost in sin on their way to Hell, and be a citizen in the Kingdom of God on their way to Heaven.

Granted, in any meeting of the Church, at whatever level, local or otherwise, there may be people who attend the meeting who are not saved. They may even act as though they are, they may attempt to participate as though they were, but, if they are not, no matter what they say or do, they are not members of the Body of Christ. To say otherwise is to allow a soul to remain a transgressor of the Law of God (See 1 John 3:4), while making no attempt to evangelize him or her even though he or she is doomed.

Additionally, Christ is the Head of His Body[3]. The Headship of Christ implies authority and ownership. How is it that a man or woman can both be in the Church under the authority of Christ, yea, even owned by Him, if he or she hasn’t obeyed the Gospel, or has apostatized and rejected the Gospel that had first saved him or her?

The Church is the Temple of God/Temple of the Holy Spirit[4]. This ought to be self-explanatory, but just in case it isn’t obvious, let it be asked:

Does God dwell in the unsaved? Do the unsaved make up His Temple? A temple is a place of worship and adoration, of the deity believed to dwell within its precincts. Does the unsaved man or woman worship and adore God as the resident Deity enthroned in their soul as the Temple?

No, my brethren. I think not. The Church is not made up of saved and unsaved, but only of the saved.[5]

Question #2:

Does the Devil have such power to so rigorously afflict the Church that he can place unsaved people into it so as to, presumably, infiltrate the Body of Christ in order to destroy it from within?

Contemplate these verses of Holy Scripture:

Matthew 16:18,

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Hebrews 2:14,

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil

1 John 3:8,

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

It looks to me like the Devil has been thoroughly trounced by Christ Jesus, and that Satan has no real power at all to do much against the Church of the Living God.

Again, as said above, it is fully possible for someone who is not saved, to be motivated by an evil spirit to attend a meeting or try to “join a church”, and so, cause havoc and hurt. But also again, let it be said that these are not people who make up the Body of Christ. They are “spots on our feasts of charity” (See Jude 1:12), to be sure, and they may even be antichrist (See 1 John 2:18-19), but never Christians, no matter what they profess. Therefore, there are no Satan-implanted “tares” in the Church, only (potentially demonized) sinners trying to attach themselves to the Church for whatever ungodly reason(s).

Question #3:

If it’s so hard to tell who is saved from who isn’t saved, because real life stalks of Lolium temulentum[6] and real life stalks of Triticum aestivum[7] look so much alike, how can anyone in the church ever successfully discern who is their real life brother or sister in the Lord, and who is not?

There are certain parameters, clearly located and explained in the pages of Holy Scripture on who is saved and who isn’t.

The first and foremost of these parameters is the Gospel, and obedience to It (See Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Anyone who has not received and obeyed the Gospel isn’t saved, no matter how kind, gentle, or loving they may otherwise be.

Secondly, another parameter of who is and who isn’t saved is found in who manifests a distinct indication that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and that God is the sole object of their worship (See, e.g. Ephesians 4:4-6). People who are not saved don’t do this, even if they once upon did, when, once upon a time, they were saved, but have since given up their calling and election for the sake of the world and its god.

Another parameter to distinguish who is and who is not saved is in realizing that the saved have a sincere passion and desire for the Church and all things related (See, e.g. 1 Peter 1:22 and 1 John 3:14).

These three and many more like them all throughout the pages of the New Testament show this assumption to be false. The reason tares and wheat looks so much alike, as it pertains to the parable given to us by the Lord, is for altogether different reasons.[8]

Question #4:

If there really isn’t anything a saint in the Church can do about there being tares in the Body of Christ, as per the parable in Matthew 13, what’s the point of all the New Testament verses regarding admonishment, correction, reproof, rebuke, and ex-communication?[9]

It ought to be obvious that these things exist in the Body of Christ to help those who have come into the Kingdom of God to remain steadfastly citizens of that Kingdom, which is to say, these measures have been ordained of God for the purpose of keeping those whom He has saved, saved. Why, even the ex-communication of incestuous fornicator can lead that backslid sinner back to his salvation! This then being the case, there is much the saints of God can do about those in the Body who are becoming unruly or disenfranchised with living for God, before it’s too late, that is, before a saint becomes a sinning tare.

And as far as the never saved tare is concerned, their lack of salvation would become quite apparent the first time they were scolded for any wrong-doing. You see, the closer the time of harvest comes, tares stiffen and stand up straight, whereas stalks of wheat, heavy with fruit, genuflect, as it were, toward the ground, thus indicating that the former is full of pride, vanity, and ego, and the latter is naught but humble, submissive, and meek.

Question #5:

If coming to terms with the first four assumptions from our list above is the only way to achieve peace in the face of problematic dynamics in the Church, then what’s the difference between coming to terms and simply just giving up?

Let’s face it. If we have to wait until the Last Trump to see the tares removed from the Church, and since the tares are the product of the Devil operating in the Church, and there isn’t a thing we can do about it but leave it up to God, then every time there’s a problem with a member in the Church, these assumptions can only lead us to logically conclude that the problems that arise within the Church can’t be solved or resolved, which is to say, whenever a problem causing person causes a problem, we simply have to throw our hands up to heaven and hope it all works out, which is just another way of saying “I quit”.

Really, is that what God wants us to do when issues and problems arise in the Church? Let’s just wait until Christ returns and whoever was a tare can go to Hell, and all the rest of us will go to Heaven, as if to say anyone going to Hell is no biggie, doesn’t matter much at all, we’re just here to get our card punched, don’t mind me, I don’t want no trouble?

That is not the Church! If we cannot put aside our differences and work through every single one of our inter-relational problems among us as believers, then what hope has the world of ever seeing Jesus through our witness? All the world will see is a bunch of in-fighting Tiburon mobsters who turn on each other instead of turning the other cheek, the moment there’s blood in the water.

Rather, the world should be seeing this:

Ephesians 4:21-32,

  1. If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
  2. That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
  3. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
  4. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
  5. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
  6. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
  7. Neither give place to the devil.
  8. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
  9. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
  10. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
  11. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
  12. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

A Church that can get past all its hang up and issues will surely evangelize the lost and be an epicenter through which God can move to establish His reign over the hearts and minds of everyone in the world.

To simply give up and wait for train to take you away from all those tares you allegedly couldn’t do anything about is an affront to, and denigration of, all that God called and elected you to be.

Question #6:

If it’s only at the end of the world that the Church is finally free of the tares that hampered and hindered Her so, how can the Church ever hope to be ready for Christ when He does arrive?

All the way down to the individual level, the Church is supposed to be holistically sanctified and preserved blameless at the appearing of Her Savior (See 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

When we are presented to Christ as His Bride, we are supposed to go before Him as a chaste virgin, espoused to no others (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Indeed, we are supposed to be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”, so that we might be “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

My Dear Readers, if the Church is supposed to suffer all these satanic tares right up until Judgment Day, there’s no way She can go before the Lord in the manner described in the three verses directly above. All the problems that tares cause will work against Her, no matter how hard She tries to remain above it all. There will be sickly stalks of wheat all over the globe when Jesus comes, because the tares have been sapping their soil of the proper nutrients needed to help the wheat grow strong and true into maturity. The ministry will be burn out dealing with and tolerating all these fakers for so long, so much so, that no real ministry in the Church will ever be accomplished on any major scale.

Tares left to their own devices, to flourish and prosper in the increase while the wheat in the Church suffers them will make the Church a beaten up bride that won’t be able to stand before Christ when He arrives.

The Flaw:

I hope I have, through the above rhetoric, shown ample proof that this parable has been woefully misunderstood, that tares and wheat do not “sit together” on the pews, as if a saint had to stay on constant watch for any sign that the person in front, behind, or beside them, of being a tare. Such nonsense only engenders suspicion, distrust, fear, and eventually paranoia, which leads to judgmentalism and condemnation.

These things being the case, please allow me to show you where the mistake in understanding this parable is, through a verse by verse exegesis of Matthew 13:36-43, so a more accurate rendering of its meaning can be made known.

37. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

Verse 37 gives us Christ’s own interpretation of the parable He put forth before His students a few moments earlier. Just as I intend to do, Jesus goes through the parable line by line, giving His class a point by point understanding of each symbolic element.

The first symbol is the sower of good seed. Jesus says it’s the Son of Man, which is to say, the sower of good seed is Jesus. This, right away, should cause us to realize something about the Church. If the only kind of seed Christ sows is “good seed”, and as the next verse shows, the “good seed” are the saints, then the only type of people in the Church are saintly and goodly seeds. To say otherwise is to say Jesus indirectly, through an act of permissive non-obstruction, causes the tares to take root in the Church. Such a thought is nothing more than a blasphemous accusation against the Head of the Church. We ought to know better!

38. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

Ah, here it is! This is where so many stumble and misunderstand the parable. Look very closely at the first five words of this verse. Allow me to help:

The field is the WORLD.

The field into which Christ sows the children of His Kingdom, and into which Satan cast his tares, is not the Church! It’s the world! In the world, there are two kinds of people: saved and unsaved, children of God or children of the Devil. All across planet earth, two kingdoms are constantly at war with one another: the Kingdom of the Spirit of Christ, and the Kingdom of the Flesh, through which evil spirits may align themselves to have their way.

These Kingdoms each have their own invisible borders. They do not overlap per se, but they do seemingly diffuse into each other from time to time. What I mean is, as the saint lives in this world, he or she exists in a setting that is not his or her true home. While here, the mindful saint, longing to share the Gospel with the lost, righteously presumes to cross the invisible border and establish a beachhead into Satan’s territories. Once there, he or she brings the Gospel to whosoever has ears to hear, and in the process, offers an immigration policy par excellence to those willing to ex-patriot themselves from underneath the clutches of the Wicked One.

Conversely, as already explained, those emissaries of antichrist also make attempts at infiltrating the Church, to terrorize Her much as many modern day terrorists do through the deployment of sleeper cells.

Spiritual warfare then, occurs in both Kingdoms. But let it be said unequivocally, they are not in a truce, there is no armistice between them, and neither the Kingdom of God nor the Kingdom of Satan intend to give the other any quarter. Yes, everyday, citizens of each country are changing sides, some for eternity. But the world is not the Church, and the Church is not the World.

39. The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

Here Jesus makes it plain that the field into which both He and the Wicked One cast their seed, is going to come to an end. This ought to be clear for the student who takes the time to reason out what Jesus means by this.

Is the Church going to come to an end? I thought our salvation was eternal? I thought the Gospel that saved us is an “everlasting Gospel” (See Revelation 14:6)? So then, how can Jesus say the harvest is the end of the world unless the World, and not the Church, is really going to come to an end, in which case, it becomes even more obvious that tares aren’t planted into the Church, since both they, and the farmer—Satan—who cast them into the field of the world, along with the world, are all going to perish, even as the saintly wheat and the farmer—Jesus—who cast them into the field of the world, will be rescued at the time of harvest.

40. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

Again, the world and the tares in the world, are going to be made history, engulfed in flames of fire, of the judgment of the Son of God (See, e.g. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The Church isn’t going to be saved by fire, but from fire!

41. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

This is where the stumble from verse 38 turns into a fall. A student of the Lord’s reads this verse and sees the phrase “his kingdom” and automatically assumes kingdom = church. This is a faulty concept, mostly due to the fact that so many have been incorrectly taught regarding the reign of Christ as King. So many have been led to believe that as of right now, or rather, as of Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus only reigns over Heaven and the Church. To them, all the other “kingdoms” that exist out there in the world are still autonomously their own, and that, only at some future point will all the kingdom of the world be made “the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ” (See Revelation 11:15).

The practical application and reality of this ideology means that people who believe this don’t see Jesus as sitting on the throne of the universe, that literally all things created and existing, are under Him (See 1 Corinthians 15:22-28). Sure, there are many corrupted, vain things, among them evil spirits and many millions of people, who refuse to be subjugated, even as the grace of God abounds over sin (See Romans 5:20 – 6:1) and the Lord patiently waits for all to come to repentance and the acknowledgement of the truth (See 2 Peter 3:8-10 and 1 Timothy 2:4).

But this doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t rule over them. Even evil spirits were subject to Him, right?!?[10]

If you are having trouble with this idea, consider for a moment the following.

Jesus said that He was the light of the world (See John 8:12 and 9:5). You believe this, don’t you, Dear Reader? I am sure you do. Now, take that conviction and apply it to this, an alternate rendering:[11]

I am the Illumination of the Cosmos.

For Jesus to be the Illumination of the Cosmos incontrovertibly demonstrates that He rules as King over not just Heaven and the Church, but the entirety of Creation (See, e.g. John 1:1-5). This being the case, the phrase “his kingdom” in Matthew 13:41 is talking about the cosmos. Whatever corrupt and vain thing that exists in this universe that won’t submit to Him as King is going to be forcefully removed and destroyed.

42. And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth, of course, will be completed by the tares, those children of the Wicked One, who lived in the field of the world alongside the wheat, but would not consent to Christian conversion. What a horrific fate to be had!

43. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Here, finally, at the end of the Lord’s explanation comes the truth. Once the Cosmos is purged and unfettered by all things that offend and do iniquity, the saints of the Church will be able to “shine forthin the kingdom of their Father”. You see, just as much as Jesus is the Illumination of the Cosmos, so, too, are we. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”.

Conclusion:

There are no tares in the Church. Only saints of the Most High. Sure, many are weak, being new or under-fed by an often ineffectual ministry. Sure, many local assemblies are fraught with difficulties and problems ranging from unruliness and a love that is waning, or from bad teaching and a lack of attention toward fulfilling the perfect will of God. But remember, even the Corinthians were still a church, with all their carnal problems and immature proclivities toward unrighteousness.

Yes, the Church is often found smarting from some attach, whether externally or internally, but She is going to make it. Her lamps are always full of oil, no matter what comes against Her. She will have preserved Herself blameless for when Her Lord arrives. Any dead weight seemingly clinging to Her garments are but the children of the Wicked One looking for a some other way into the sheepfold (See John 10:1). But they are of the world, always were, always will be, except they repent.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

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[1] See: Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, by Dr. Bruce Chilton, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2000.

[2] See, e.g. Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 12:27, Ephesians 4:12, and Colossians 1:18.

[3] See, e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 5:23, and Colossians 1:18.

[4] See, e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 6:16, and Ephesians 2:19-22,

[5] For the sake of time and space, I have limited myself here. Another possible consideration is that the Church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Someone who isn’t saved does not represent the truth of God as either pillar or ground. It’s plain fact.

[6] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolium_temulentum

[7] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat

[8] The reason the two seeds look so much alike, is, since they represent people, is because both saints and sinners are human, and both have fallen short of the glory of God, both have a law of sin in their members, and, among many other things, but have the capacity to repent and be saved.

[9] See, e.g. Matthew 18:15-35, Romans 15:14, Colossians 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 14, 2 Thessalonians 3:15, 2 Timothy 3:16, Ephesians 5:11, 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:13, Titus 2:15, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5, and 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

[10] Mark 1:27 clearly shows, along with many other Gospel verses, that even before Christ was crowned at the cross, He had been given all power and authority, even over, or rather, especially over, demonic spirits.

[11] There is amply justification for this translation. Any simple search through a Biblical lexicon will show that light, or phos in the Greek refers to something luminous, i.e. anything that shines and so, projects rays of light. Additionally, these same Biblical lexicons will show that the word for word is kosmos, from whence we arrive at “cosmos”, a synonym for “universe”.

 
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Theo-sophical Ruminations

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