Grace and peace to each of you! I’ve decided the format for Part II will be that of answering questions that Part I raised or might have raised in the minds of our readers. Here’s to greater clarity and greater fruitfulness of Christ’s church in these last days! (If you haven't read Part I, you might want to do that first). :)
Question 1. – Why did you choose to start Part I with the passage from Ephesians 3:10, since you didn’t elaborate on it? Answer: I chose to start with this passage because I wanted us all to see how invested Christ the Head is in His church. He is absolutely committed to finishing what He began with His church (Phil. 1:6). He is absolutely committed to so sanctifying and cleansing and purifying His church that not one spot or wrinkle will be left in it/us (Eph. 5:27). His church is the showcase of His wisdom and grace to rulers and authorities in the heavenlies, and I believe to those of us on earth. I wanted to raise our vision and expectation of what we can and should expect from Him, and why thus we should be ever more holding fast to Him.
Question 2. – You based your thesis of sorts that “Corporate worship, small group Bible studies, etc., will never go any deeper than the individual rootedness of its members” on Colossians 2:19. Can you expound a little more on this passage and its context? Answer: Paul’s deep pastoral concern for the believers in Colossae as expressed in vs. 4, 8, 16, 18-23 of chapter two is that there were people in the church there who were trying to teach and persuade people to put their trust and confidence in works, observances, rituals and subjective experiences and not in Christ alone. To counteract the deception and false teaching of these individuals, Paul sought to establish in chapter 1 that Christ Himself is the all in all (see vs. 14-22). Everything we need and long for and were made for is found in Him and no where else. Therefore Paul and his fellow workers sought to proclaim Him and Him alone (vs. 28). And they made it clear in chapter 2 vs. 10 that we are complete in Him and in Him alone.
Many of us have grown up not trusting in and clinging to Christ as a way of life. Even if we attended a church, often we were found to have been trusting more in our works, or practices, or doctrine, or forms, or experiences, or leaders we followed, etc., than solely in the person of Christ. This fleshly tendency is further exacerbated by seemingly well meaning people in the church who perhaps because of their gifting, persuasiveness or education are able to persuade or influence us to trust in and place our identity in these other things.
Therefore the apostle wanted to make sure the believers in Colossae knew that unless a man or a woman is clearly holding fast to and clinging to Christ as a way of life, they are not to be listened to. The growth we are after in the church only comes from God (2:19b). And we will only experience that growth when our leaders cling to Christ, and thus does everyone else. The only way the “supply” that Paul mentions in vs. 19 can flow through our horizontal relationships (“joints and ligaments”) is if it first flows through or from our relationship with the Head of the Church/Jesus. I have absolutely nothing of any kingdom value to give you unless it first comes to me from the Head. If you or I as a way of life cling to and hold fast to the Head, then His life can flow through us to our fellow members, at which point the body of Christ is built up and held together/unified.
Question 3. – This question actually comes from my good friend Ray Ruddell, who emailed me after reading my first post. In his letter he repeated one of my quotes, and then comments and then asks the question (below): "Only when every member of Christ’s church makes this highest priority their own, will we see His will and purposes accomplished through our corporate gatherings – however large or small." I can't imagine you mean every member. How can any congregation, or the body of Christ at large, achieve His will and purpose accomplished through us if this is the case? Answer: Thank you so much Ray for your honest and respectful response. Perhaps I should have written: “Only when every member of Christ’s church makes this highest priority their own, will we see His highest purposes accomplished through our corporate gatherings…”
But even then, I can see your concern. I am not saying God will not work in and through our gatherings unless every member is consistently making knowing and clinging to Christ their highest priority. Those who are young in the Lord cannot be expected to walk in the maturity of those who are older in the Lord. And sometimes we who are older get sidetracked and distracted with lesser things.
Jesus loves His church and is always working. He has clearly instructed His church and specifically the more mature in the church to be forbearing and patient with the weaker brethren. This can be seen in many passages such as I Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” I think that is one reason Jesus in the context of declaring that one of His disciples would betray Him told the others, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34,35. Most of the books in the New Testament both make it clear that there will be weaker brethren among us, and that we who are stronger and more mature should bear with the weaker and younger brethren.
But I also want to say that there is a strong expectation in the epistles that each member will play their part, which they only can play by abiding in or clinging to the Vine/Jesus/the Head. You can see that expectation in scriptures like the following: “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” I Cor. 12:7; (see also I Cor. 12:11, 18, Eph. 4:7; II Thess. 1:3; Heb. 6:11; I Peter 4:10).
Question 4. – Why did you not prove your point about our highest calling being to know, love, seek and walk with God from the New Testament, instead of going way back to Genesis? Answer: Here’s why in principle: The higher the calling or the greater the priority, the greater the need for truth to support it. All hell fights against our truly loving God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). Our flesh does not want to seek God (see Psalm 14, Psalm 53 & Romans 3 for proof of that sad reality). Many – even leaders in the body of Christ do not truly love God with their whole hearts. So to obey this command and to fulfill this highest of callings, we need all the truth we can muster to support and motivate and instruct us in this battle. If we do not see that this was always God’s expectation; if we do not see that God always wanted relationship with us more than anything else (see Hosea 6:6), then we will minimize this greatest of callings, and give into Satan’s many deceptive lies.
So back to Genesis. :) Because we know God looks at the heart, and is not into sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake (see Psalm 51:16,17), He must have established some level of relationship with Abel, who was the second son born to Adam and Eve. God sought relationship with Cain, but it had to be on God’s terms, not Cain’s; and even though Cain rejected those terms, God mercifully sought to reason with Him as can be seen in Genesis 4:6,7, 9, 10.
Cain and Seth (Adam and Eve’s third son) found wives and began to have children. And those children eventually grew up, found spouses and had children. And a guy named Jared had a son named Enoch (Gen. 5:18), (not to be confused with the Enoch born to Cain in Gen. 4:17). We are not told much if anything about all these people listed in chps. 4 & 5. But the Holy Spirit wanted us to know there was something special about this son of Jared named Enoch. This guy “walked with God”. So much so that it was mentioned twice in vs. 22-24. And Enoch not only walked with God for 300 years after he had a son named Methuselah, but he walked with God in a day when evidently few others did because we learn in Genesis 6 that “…the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth…”. God’s delight in this man was such that instead of allowing him to die like everyone else did at the end of their God appointed lives, He “took him” (vs. 24). That means God probably sent an angel and translated him from earth to heaven in a second (or less) (see Hebrews 11:5 for his entry in the hall of faith).
The Scriptures do not say, but one wonders if Noah’s heart for God and for righteousness was at least somewhat motivated by hearing the stories of his grandfather Enoch. In our day we hear or witness so many stories of people who walked with God for 10 or 30 or maybe 50 years, and then fell away. This man Enoch walked with God for 300 years straight right up to his translation into heaven, and that was without all the resources we have in our day to help us grow in Christ! May his tribe increase! And may Christ’s church be increasingly characterized by members of the body who gather together with this passion to know and love and walk with our God come hell or high water! And may your passion for God raise up future Noahs, who are inspired by your example!