Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Imitating Jesus Christ is the "One Faith"

Jesus Praying in the Garden
Robert Louis Wilken writes:

"The apostolic age is a creation of the Christian imagination. There never was a Golden Age when the church was whole, perfect, pure-virginal. The faith was not purer, the Christians were not braver, the church was not one and undivided..."

I believe that the "one faith" Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:5 is described in Eph. 4:13-15 as "the knowledge of the Son of God and becoming mature."

Essentially, "the faith" is growing up into/imitating/conforming to the image of  Christ.

Paul writes,

"...unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Eph. 4:13-15).

If there is "one faith" to keep, and there is, then I suggest that it is not any kind of "pattern worship at church," or any other mandatory form of orthodoxy to be enforced, but as Jesus said:

"I am the way, the truth, and the life..."

His life is "the faith."

As the song, "Where He Leads I'll Follow," says, "He the great example is and pattern for me...."

Jesus "Attacking" The Money Changers
I think that we certainly need to remember the past (traditions, doctrines) and their significance, because they have meaning beyond their symbolism: baptism and Lord's Supper, etc., but we do not need to put our hand to the plow and look back while walking forward. Since we understand that plowing while looking backwards is foolish, it seems we keep plowing in the same spot while looking back.

That's not plowing, that's digging a hole.

We are in a hole in churches of Christ, because we believe various myths that what we do today was what the first century churches did.

We do not.

We have been taught that CHRISTianity is CHURCHianity and, therefore we think that the church is an organization of people instead of people: an institution consisting of orthodox acts of worship separate from the rest of life conducted on certain days and in certain locations. And we have viewed the "one faith" of Eph. 4:5 "doctrinally" as steps to salvation and acts of worship to be repeated instead of the life of Christ to be imitated. 

In my 18 years among southern churches of Christ, I have heard all the right things said, but I have not seen changes IN DOCTRINE where WE ARE WRONG actually carried out among the churches I know. It's always, "We are right, everybody else is wrong..."

When we pray, "Lord defeat us in things that are wrong," we NEVER mean the 5 acts of worship, and we are wrong on three of these!

Today's churches of Christ practice a Reformed Reformation, or Restoration Religion, that we think is "doing Bible things in Bible ways" and "saying things in Bible words" just like they did in the Bible, but we are not.

Orthodoxy (institutional church) or patterns of "doing church" came later than the first century and our people have modified--mostly by changing names--the Catholic and Protestant orthodoxies we inherited.

We inherited the Catholic/Protestant institutionalism of clergy-laity (oligarchy of elders and delegated spokesman in coCs), truncated Lord's Supper, church treasuries, and public buildings. None of this is what "the Bible says," or "what they did back then" as we have been mistakenly taught.

The quote by Wilken above may be the hardest pill for churches of Christ to swallow, because for 200 years, and especially the last 100 years in southern churches of Christ, we have been taught that we restored "the faith" meaning that "the one faith" is primarily 5 acts of worship to be repeated on Sunday.

This is the foundational assumption of our assemblies in many churches.

What I am saying is that there is no original ancient order for worship that was later corrupted from its original purity. This false assumption is the source for many of our problems. If we must have a "faith" to keep, then it is the way, truth, and life of Jesus--not organizational church customs.

Beware The Sleight of Hand of Men (Eph. 4).
If WE STUDY (church history), then we will show ourselves approved. If we agree with preachers and elders to be approved (without personal interpretation), then we will be dependents--not people who mature into Christ as desired by God above in Eph. 4:13-15. Our study will lead us to LOVE one another everyday in everything we do, not create an organization with officers and a treasury.

I purposefully left out Eph. 4:11 above, because we often cannot read "Christ gave apostles, prophets, pastor teachers," etc. without viewing them as rulers to be submitted to. This is because our culture is overwhelmed with the military industrial complex-complex! Military rank authority is what MUST be opposed in the churches. "Authorized" Versions such as the KJV that uphold top down authority must be exposed by the more accurate, newer translations based on better historical data.

Pastors (preachers) and elders are not rulers, but servants who are to "equip" YOU not demand submission to them with their man-made "expediencies" and "offices" they bind as laws of God. They are to help YOU mature in "the faith" of imitating Jesus by their life's example and persuasive influence (Heb. 13:17). Military rank authority does just the opposite. You are forced to  remain dependent on their positional authority for your own good until they allow you to grow (be promoted when you conform to their orthodox set of beliefs).

Servants do not hinder you from doing your work or living your life, they help you live it better--but rulers make you subject to their wants and needs, works, and how they live their lives. They intimidate, shame and convince you they have God given authority when they don't.

It boils down to this:

If we do not desire to live like Christ from our hearts, why pretend that we want to be Christians?

If you do desire to live like Christ from your heart, then why do you need someone outside of you to rule you?

You don't.

Paul's prayer is my prayer for us:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God..." (Eph. 3:16-19).

Those Vested in Man Made Traditions Stand To Lose Greatly
God warns us against the ruler-ship of men:

In 1 Samuel 8, God told the prophet:
"Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king... Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights."

"Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

"But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."

"When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 
The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king..."
We have one King--Christ. We don't need any other people in between Him and us.

Let us speak out. Act out. Be assertive. Fight for the truth of equality in Christ as brothers and sisters, and especially our responsibility for our own maturity as commanded by God above:
"For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
"‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’"
"So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister" (Rom. 14:10-13)...

"...For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others..." (2 Cor. 5:10-11). 
The Christian Evening Meal or Lord's Supper
Let us understand Jesus in Jesus' world. Do what Jesus did. Act like Jesus acted toward authority. 

Conform to Him, not to an organization with its officers.

How? By faith...
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.."
Let us eat together, sing together, pray together, give together, and discuss the Bible together. Every day. All the time. Let us live freely in the kingdom of our King without oppressive structures that benefit the few.

When we all do this where ever we are in whatever we do, then we will BE the church--the BODY of Christ on Earth:

"Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did" (1 John 2:6).

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).

Freely imitating the life of Christ is the "one faith" of Ephesians 4:5.


"The Myth of Christian Beginnings," 1971. Amazon Book Review.

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