by Paul Benson
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 1:3
Even in his day Jude could see a tendency among the believers to drift away from the foundational truths, as well as the practical example, set forth by the Apostles of our Lord. And he exhorted them to fight their way back to that standard of faith!
The words of our brother Jude speak the same message to us today as they did the day they were penned. But is the Church today giving heed to that godly advice, and contending for a true biblical expression of Christianity and its associated practices? It sure doesn’t look like it to me. It seems to me most of modern Christianity is heading in the opposite direction! But do we have to follow suit?
Do We Need To Upgrade The Gospel?
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1Corinthians 3:11
In this day it seems we are always hearing about the ‘brand new thing’ God is purportedly doing. A new vision, a new mandate, a new paradigm shift, a new revelation, a new this and a new that. I often wonder how much of this (if any at all) is actually from God.
It is almost like the modern Christian mindset believes the tried, trusted, and true biblical methods of ministry have somehow become tired, tattered, and threadbare; and now need to be replaced with something new.
But as I look around at American Christianity, in spite of all the new stuff God is supposedly doing, where is the evidence we are conforming to his will? I don’t see genuine repentance, genuine revival, or any improvement in the general spiritual climate of what claims to be the Christian Church in this nation. What I see is an increasing atmosphere of apostasy nurtured along by the increasingly apostate Gospel preaching of increasingly apostate preachers and teachers (and most are quite comfortable in that state). If you think that a rash statement you are most likely stewing in that apostasy yourself. WAKE UP SLEEPER!
There is a whole lot of stuff going on nowadays claiming to be ‘Revival’ that seems quite lively and exciting, and a lot of it is only that – excitement. But how much of it is according to the truth, or actually produces a lasting edification (or proper instruction in God’s will)?
It seems like folks are busy exalting many aspects of the Spirit-led walk (prophesy, visitations, dreams, signs, wonders, the gifts of the Spirit), and totally ignoring the very heart of the Gospel! I have honestly grown quite weary of those who seem more caught up in seeking signs and wonders than seeking the will of the one who truly ought to be THE object of our wonder.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. John 15:26
Something quite noticeable to me, and also quite disturbing, is the evident lack in most preaching today of a focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The crux of the message of the Kingdom of God is the work of Christ upon the Cross, the power of his Blood and his Name (to forgive and to save), the power of his Resurrection (and our identification with it), and his soon coming Return to Earth to exact vengeance upon those who have rejected him and to set up his millennial Kingdom.
Although there are certainly a few who are still faithful to the true message of the true Gospel, it is getting harder and harder to find them. How often do you hear a message on the Blood of Christ or the power of the name of Jesus? Rarely!
But those preaching on dreams, visions, visitations, signs, wonders, aliens, giants, and angel / human hybrids are coming at us from every direction! Is taking the focus off Jesus and placing it upon these things (some of which are not even true) going to save the lost? Is that the Good Seed that produces life in the heart that opens and receives it? No, it is not!
Even the majority of those who are preaching on his Return are not focused upon our identification with his death and resurrection (a personal resurrection must be preceded by a personal crucifixion. Not a popular message.); nor are they preaching about the coming wrath the world will face upon his Return! Mainly the focus is a self-centered one that revolves around false teachings on an escape from the time of great persecution that is just ahead. The Rapture! But where did the Apostles place the focus? Upon Jesus!
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:14
Jesus taught the Holy Spirit would testify of him and glorify him! And that we also would bear witness! The Holy Spirit is a Christ exalting Spirit and will always seek to spotlight not only him, but his Lordship, his work of redemption, his role as intercessor, and his future coming as Ruler and Judge. All Spirit led and anointed preaching and teaching will evidence this focus upon Christ. Not every word of every sentence obviously, but the focus will be there!
But in the vast quagmire of (supposedly) Spirit filled ministry, that is (supposedly) speaking forth what God is saying and doing in this end-time generation, it is an increasingly rare thing to witness such a focus upon Jesus that truly glorifies him.
I do believe in miracles. I do believe in the power of God, and that the gifts of the Spirit are for the believer today. I very much believe in the prophesied end-time Revival; and the world-wide move of the Spirit of God which will empower the Body of Christ to bring in that final harvest.
But I also believe the overwhelming majority of what is claimed to be ‘Charismatic Ministry’ in our nation today is actually false signs and lying wonders masquerading as genuine revival. And when you also contrast the organizational structures, the teachings, and manner of congregating of those claiming to be fundamental American churches against the New Testament pattern they too bear little resemblance to that pattern.
In light of this all, I think it wise we would be asking (or perhaps more appropriately begging) God to renew in us a vision of that faith once delivered to the Saints.
We could easily turn this post into a lengthy book expounding upon the many ways we have drifted from the example we were given. Let’s just highlight a few of them for consideration.
Jesus clearly taught the Church was not to pattern itself after the hierarchies of man (Matt.20:25-26); but nearly every church still does. Men (or women) sitting in lordship over God’s people (and usually higher-ups sitting in lordship over them); but the pattern given us by God is the Head (Jesus) in Lordship over his Body (us) and ALL the members of that Body in subjection to one another. God’s people have no business joining and submitting to ANY of the organizations and denominations of man. This is something people do apart from the leading and call of Christ. BEWARE!
If you have to ‘join’ something to be a member of a group – DON’T! They are extra-biblical entities which have usurped dominion over the people of God. We do not ‘join’ the Body of Christ, we are born into it by the Spirit of Christ taking residence in us. There is no need to be a member of any thing else! We can congregate and function as the Body of Christ without becoming the property of (belonging to) a religious organization.
The biblical pattern of oversight and guidance among the Body of Christ is clearly a multiplicity of elder-ship. Basically the older sheep looking out for the younger sheep. The concept of a ‘Pastor’ sitting as ‘head’ of a church is not biblical! You will not find this example in the New Testament. Actually the word Pastor is only found once in the entire N.T. (KJV); and that usage is in a hyphenated pastors-teachers form which is again a reference to elder-ship.
The ‘pastor-rule’ model came from a wayward ‘clergy over laity’ concept which is the bi-product of the pride of man, and not the chosen way of God. The biblical pattern of multiple elders in submission to each other (and also to the entire group) provides a safety of accountability, as well as a more balanced expression of ministry (and authority) than the ‘one man show’ ever could.
A pastor who thinks he is the ‘head’ of a church and that the flock is ‘his flock’ is far from the pattern of the Word, and has usurped the headship of Christ. This is an expression of the spirit of Antichrist (which not only comes against the authority of Christ, but also seeks to replace Christ). ALL hierarchical religious structures (large or small) are birthed by that prideful man-exalting antichrist spirit of Babylon, and are seen by God as an expression of rebellion. Sadly most ‘pastors’ could not even begin to hear the truthfulness of that statement!
Open Pulpit / Body Ministry
The manner of assembly, and methods of ministry of most churches bear absolutely no semblance to the clear teaching on these things we see in the Bible! Most often what you will see is a man with a superman grip on ‘his’ pulpit; with access granted to a select few on only special occasion. But the biblical pattern is what I call ‘open pulpit’.
When the believers come together it should be in expectaion that the LORD might speak or minister through any of the various members of his Body present, and there should be a reverent waiting upon God until his Spirit moves upon those he chooses to minister according to their individual gifting. This ‘Body ministry’ is the true expression of the ministry of Christ that God desires, and carries a great impact to those present (saved or unsaved).
The ‘pastor rule’ model stifles the working of the Holy Spirit through the rest of the Church, and causes stagnation and atrophy to the members who are not allowed to function for fear someone might do or say something the pastor is not in control of (or in agreement with). Again this is the spirit of Antichrist working against, and instead of Christ, through the pride of man.
We already discussed the necessity of a Christ centered Gospel that carries a demand for repentance and a submission to obey the teachings of Christ and the will of God. Any Gospel that is void of these critical elements is a FALSE Gospel.
Giving / Tithing
The Apostles had much to say about giving. Very much to say! Give! Give freely and generously! Give cheerfully, and from the heart! It plays a major role in the believer moving in accord to the will of God. But something the apostles did NOT teach their disciples was an obligation to tithe! Those who are burdening God’s people with the notion tithing is a New Testament practice are misleading the flock, and placing upon them an obligation the Scriptures do not!
If you do a word search on the word tithe in the N.T. you might be surprised what you find! Other than Jesus instructing those who were still under the Law as to the appropriateness of their tithing, there is only ONE passage in the entire N.T. that speaks of a ‘tithe’. ONE! (Hebrews 7:4-19) It concerned Abraham tithing the spoils of war to Melchesedic, and an honest consideration of the context does not read as a commandment for us to tithe. In fact it says the Law that commanded the tithe was disannulled and done away with!
Tithing was a part of the Law of Moses instituted to support the Levitical Priesthood. God never intended for this practice to carry over into the New Covenant. Despite all the teaching today to the contrary, and all the Scriptures on giving taken out of context and twisted to teach tithing, the apostles taught no such thing! They taught Spirit-led giving; not the necessity of obeying a law. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2Corinthians 9:7
FOOD 4 THOUGHT: Some might ask: If the Bible is so clear on Spirit-led giving versus the legal obligation of the Law to tithe why is this not the standard practice preached by all? The answer is quite simple. GREED! Spirit-led giving directs funds to where God intends for them to go! Spirit-led giving does not build and support the kingdoms of man or his wayward endeavors. He will instead direct your giving to the poor, or maybe to support a person who is faithfully obeying the call of God, and preaching the true Gospel.
The Holy Spirit is not going to lead folks to support organizations and denominations he never wanted to exist in the first place. This means they have to resort to means that DO produce the income they need. Sadly this means the people find themselves subjected to the methods of manipulation commonly employed to fill their coffers. The flat out coercion used in the preaching of tithing is nothing short of ungodly; but it is so commonly presented most accept it as ‘Gospel Truth’. BUT IT IS NOT!
There is NO obligation to the believer today to tithe; and the practice actually presents a very real danger. As it is a part of the Law, and the Bible teaches whoever seeks to keep the law but breaks one part is guilty of all; a wrong understanding can rob the grace of God from you and replace it with religious condemnation.
Many people struggle with condemnation, and don’t realize the source is the religious duties imposed upon them by wayward teachings on tithing. (Some of you might need to pray for understanding on this matter.)
Again the New Testament standard is Spirit-led giving from a generous heart of love, not the keeping of an element of the Law. (And NO God’s people did NOT tithe before the Law! That is a deception commonly used, but it is false. ONE man (Abraham) tithed ONE time before the Law. It was not a practice of God’s people until the Law of Moses (which we have NO obligation to keep).
Much more could be said of the myriad of ways the modern Church has departed from the pattern the Scriptures present of the true walk of Christian faith. But my goal here is not to fully expound upon them all, but to waken within us an understanding of where we are at compared with where we ought to be. The modern Church is NOT presenting true biblical Christianity to the believers of this day; and the only way we are going to find that true expression of faith and practice is to seek God in prayer and in his Word; and then CHANGE our ways to conform to his ways.
A Return To The Faith Once Delivered
A true return to ‘the faith once delivered to the Saints’ is best expressed as a return to Jesus! A return to a focus upon him. A return to heartfelt devotion to him. A return to a commitment to seek out and obey his true teachings. A return to congregating according to the pattern of his Word.
A return to preaching the same Gospel the Apostles preached with the same demand they expressed that one truly repent (turn away) from sin, show their faith in Christ by obedience to his teachings, be baptized in water, and vocalize their faith in witness to the world.
If we seek Jesus with all our heart,
are submissive to the leading of his Spirit,
and obey what he shows us in his Word,
then we also will be truly walking in the faith once delivered to the Saints!
Let’s get to it. Let’s get it right!
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