JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”
July 31, 2010, 2:35 pm
Filed under: O Letter to Philemon

After Paul writes his letter to the church in Colosse, he is led by Christ to write a letter “to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home.” While it seems initially Paul is writing to the church that meets in Philemon’s and Apphia’s home, Paul later references “brother” focusing on Philemon personally.

This is the only letter in the New Testament that is specifically written to a household, and specifically to Philemon the head of a household where the church in Colosse meets. It is possible that the church in Colosse, like that in Jerusalem, met house-to-house, so Philemon’s home could be one of several homes where the church gathers together. As I read these opening words it appears that Philemon and Apphia are married and perhaps have a role similar to Aquila and Priscilla who worked with Paul in Ephesus and Corinth. They offered up their home as a place the church could gather in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, share their meals together, and mutually edify one another. It seems that Archippus, one of Paul’s trained church planters lives in Philemon’s household. It is possible that Paul, Aquila and Priscilla, met Philemon and his wife while in Ephesus. They received Christ Jesus as Lord through seeing the church gather in Priscilla and Aquila’s household. Perhaps Philemon and Apphia sensed God calling them also to do the same in Colosse, to open their home to a church. Since Epaphras and Archippus were working with Paul and called by the Lord to plant churches this opened “a door for the Word…(to) proclaim the mystery of Christ” in that region.

This church in Colosse was growing organically in Christ and Paul heard many times of their “faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,” specifically in relation to Philemon, whom Paul must have felt some kinship towards. When we learn Christ together in community, in face-to-face relationships, we will learn to live by the life of Christ and it will be manifested in our love for one another. We will refresh “the hearts of the saints.” How we need to mutually refresh the hearts of one another when we gather together! Paul makes a great point as he shares these words. As we live in this organic way, allowing Christ to be head of our gatherings and living by His life, this life of mutual love, this manifestation of the “fellowship of the faith,” we will grow “in full knowledge of every good thing in us for Christ.” Is this mine/your experience? May God move us forward in Christ Jesus and experience all that He has purposed for our lives, the fullness of Christ!

Paul’s main point in this letter is really nothing more than an application of this line of thought. This church, specifically how it relates to Philemon, being the head of his household, must face a societal issue. Will he “welcome” his run away slave, Onesimus, as he would welcome Paul? Will Philemon accept Onesimus “as Christ accepted (him), in order to bring praise to God”? Will the church that meets in his house welcome Onesimus, the run away slave? How the body of Christ has divided themselves because being deceived by the human traditions of society! The whole issue surrounds not Onesimus the run away slave but Onesimus but the “son” in the Lord of Paul. The “son” whom Paul helped to receive Christ Jesus as Lord. The one who is now “useful both to you and me.” Onesimus “who is my very heart,” the one whom Paul felt was taking Philemon’s “place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.” Onesimus the one who according to Christ was “no longer…a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” who was “very dear to (Paul) but even dearer to you, as a man and as a brother in the Lord.”

Will Philemon, Apphia and their household allow “the peace of Christ” to rule in their hearts by receiving Onesimus as an equal, as “members of one body”? Will they themselves “as members of one body”? “There is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Paul asks Philemon, who was helped himself in receiving Christ Jesus as Lord by Paul, to reflect on the fact “that you owe me your very self.” How quick we are to judge others according to the flesh! Paul perhaps is reflecting on his second letter to the church in Corinth: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Onesimus is one that Christ died for! He is a new creation, just like any of us, no matter what place we hold in society, “the old has gone, the new has come!” To think differently is to be thinking in the flesh which had died with Christ on the cross. What Paul wrote, in his letter to the church in Colosse, was also directed specifically toward Philemon, “as members of one body.” “God made (us) alive with Christ” and because we “have been raised with Christ” we are to “set (our) hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set (our) minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Onesimus died and his “life is now hidden with Christ in God” just like Philemon, we are all equal at the cross!

No church will ever move forward in Christ unless they are living by the life of Christ both in the good times and in the unpleasant times. In fact it is during the testing of our faith, deciding to trust Christ and love each other unconditionally, no matter the circumstances, will the church move forward and see the fullness of Christ in our gatherings. Philemon and this church in Colosse have an opportunity to be further “built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” as they live by His life of grace and truth. There decision will show whether they are going to live by Christ’s life, in whom they “have been given fullness in Christ, who is head over every power and authority,” or fall into denial about their being dead to the flesh.

But Paul desires to hear that Philemon will accept Onesimus as a brother in the Lord that he would “refresh (his) heart in Christ.” Paul seems to be, even though he wrote the letter the way he did, “confident of your obedience…knowing that you will do even more than I ask.” We must “let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly,” learn to listen to Christ speak to us inwardly and through one another and follow His directions. Living by the Spirit is listening and obeying His teaching and admonishment through “one another with all wisdom” being grateful that God would speak to us! When we live by Christ’s life, clothing ourselves with Him, we will follow what He says, we will bear the fruit of His life: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” That’s living by the Holy Spirit! It is about living by His grace and truth. May “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

“…that he may encourage your hearts.”
July 29, 2010, 2:22 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

Paul in his letters generally listed those who worked with him in church planting and gave some final thoughts to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In this final section of his letter to the Colossians Paul does the same. It is evident that Paul surrounded himself with those who have the same heart. His church planting assistants, who themselves were church planters, trained by Paul, had lived in organic church life, had moved forward in the Lord with His church, and now have been burdened by the Lord to help others live by Christ’s life and to grow forward in Christ with other believers in His body.

Tychicus, the one who takes this letter to Colosse, along with the letters to Philemon and the Ephesian church, is one of His church planting assistants. “He is a dear brother, a faithful servant and fellow slave in the Lord.” He is to let them know of “our circumstances” and to “encourage your hearts.” Tychicus was not going to become “pastor” of the church and preach a weekly service, it is because of those things that cause a church to drift from it’s pure devotion to Christ! He was providing them a letter by Paul to remind them of their glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and who they were in Christ as a result, and to remind them of what living by the life of Christ looks like when they gather together from house to house and within their households. Epaphras, when going to any church gathering, would go for mutual encouragement, like Paul described in the first chapter to his letter to the Roman church. We do not need someone to take charge of the church when it begins to drift from the Lord, it takes the glorious message of Jesus Christ to penetrate the heart and allow Jesus Christ to be head of His church!

Tychicus is also “coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.” It is possible that the church that meets in Colosse also meets in Philemon’s home with his household. If that is the case then everyone in the household will know Onesimus, the run away slave. But how important to hear Paul describe him as “our faithful and dear brother.” Paul had earlier in the letter reminded them about what living by the life of Christ looks like together as they gathered in their households. How the church moved forward in the Lord would be dependent upon how they accept Onesimus, now that he is a brother in Christ.

Paul lists a number of the church planters that were trained by and work with Paul, each of them giving their “greetings” to the church. The ones he lists first are “the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.” Paul needed them because of Christ in them who comforts us! Paul is possibly thinking of his second letter to the church in Corinth, and all the trouble they had in moving forward in Christ. Paul perhaps is in distress over hearing what has been occurring in Colosse because of the issues he faced with helping the Corinthian church live by the Spirit, but perhaps more so because he is sensing that the prophetic word that he spoke to the Ephesian elder Christians is already coming to past, even after just a few years. It is perhaps for this reason Paul feels God is no longer leading him to go to Spain as he originally thought but must look to going back to encourage the churches that he had formally planted once he is released from the Roman prison.

Paul again mentions his church planting assistant “Epaphras, who is one of you” who had planted the church in Colosse along with Archippus, whom Epaphras left in Colosse so he could go to Rome to find Paul. Epaphras and Archippus had given their lives in sharing Christ with his own people in this area, helping them to gather together and to live by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Epaphras’ own household was part of the church in Colosse or was the son of Philemon whose household the church gathered in during the week. Given these personal circumstances, and because of the drifting away from Christ as head of the church that had been occurring, Epaphras was under much distress. How hurt he must have been to share this news with Paul and to seek Paul’s advice on what he could do in this crisis to help the church move forward.

Paul says that “Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Epaphras’ prayer must have been similar to Paul’s in the opening of this letter to the Colossians, “since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father…” Perhaps Epaphras, having met Onesimus and knows that Onesimus is going back to his “owner,” his earthly “master,” who is also in Christ, Philemon, perhaps Epaphras is additionally distressed and concerned for the reconciliation that must also happen if the church is to move forward in Christ, instead of like the other human traditions that have come into the church and as a result “lost connection with the Head.”

Only the Lord Jesus Christ can change a heart, how we must pray for one another that we would see ourselves as Christ sees us, how we need to again reread the letters of the New Testament in their entirety in our gatherings, perhaps each taking turns to read part of the letter together and let Christ speak to us afresh about living by His life! Is it any wonder Paul says “after this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” How we so often pick and choose a “verse” without understanding the full meaning because of it being pulled out of the context and reason for the letter. Let us hear the Christ speak to us personally and to the church through one another.

Paul concludes his letter with a final word of encouragement to Archippus who was left behind by Epaphras to continue to help the church live by Christ’s life. Archippus was perhaps trained by Paul in church planting, and knows that the issues that have surfaced are just the beginning of further pain and distress for the church planter. Paul had suffered much in these past 20 years or so to plant churches that were rooted and founded on the life of Jesus Christ. The enemy knows he is losing ground and is not about to give up his turf without a fight. So Paul tells Archippus “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Don’t give up!

How easy it is to give up on people when we see them drifting from Christ. I have heard the saying: why help someone who doesn’t want our help? How distressing this can be! But we are “members of one body” we cannot give up on each other! Brothers and sisters we must have a solid faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us and whose life we are! His sacrificial love must reign! Only when He is our Lord personally and when we gather with Him as our Head, focused on Him, knowing Christ and Him crucified will He strengthen our faith and His fruit, His life will be made manifest for His glory! It is by faith in Christ that we “stand firm!” Just as Paul told the Roman Christians: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Paul reminds the church to “remember my chains.” Why? To encourage the brothers and sisters “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” It is all about Jesus Christ and His glory! It is about manifesting His grace, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” “he rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We will stand firm in Christ Jesus our Lord when we see how we are complete in Him, when we live by His life with our brothers and sisters. We must be fully assured of who He is in us and what He has done for us, all the will of God! Yes, God’s “grace be with you.” Let us see God’s grace! Amen!

“…God may open a door for (the word)…”
July 28, 2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

I come to the conclusion of Colossians and have been thinking about this whole section. This section pretty much sums up the reason for church living by Christ’s life. To manifest Jesus Christ not just to one another, but to all creation!

As we live by Jesus life in face to face community with other brothers and sisters in Christ in our households and as we meet each other during the day, He changes us! We are “being built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” As we “live a life worthy of the Lord” pleasing “him in every way” we will bear “fruit in every good work,” we will grow “in the knowledge of God” because of having “been strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” This is the result of living by the life of Christ in community in an organic way! Our households will manifest Christ as we gather together from house to house living by the Spirit. Our places of work will manifest Christ as we live by His life. In 1st Century Colosse, if not all cities in that day and age, many worked as part of households, so those in Christ in a household manifested Christ to other neighboring households during the day! In today’s day and age, especially in those of technologically advanced cultures where work is miles away from the household, how important it is to find other brothers and sisters in Christ who work in the same working environment to enable the life of Christ to manifest Himself through their working relationships.

Christ’s life is manifested towards the world when we are “wise in the way you act toward outsiders,” making “the most of every opportunity” and letting “your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Remember living by Christ’s life looks like this: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This is not preaching, this is not evangelizing, this is not handing out tracks, this is about living by the Holy Spirit. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Let us have that perspective!

I am so thankful that in my own conversations at the place I work at I have found other teachers as well as students who either know Christ or are on that journey to knowing Christ so that we can share Christ together as we go about the work that we do, encouraging each other and praying for one another. It brings a new perspective, a sense of accountability to some degree, that some of the persons I am working with or some of those whom I teach know Christ and are looking for Christ in me. My senses become more tuned to listening to what Christ is saying in the midst and to follow His directions in my working environment. Living by Christ’s life in this way sometimes seems that we live a life in continuous prayer.

Jesus Christ is looking for a home in every neighborhood, every working place, in every city, in every country. To NOT live by Jesus’ life and to manifest that life of love to others is a denial of God’s grace and truth that has been given to you and I. Only when we fail to keep Jesus Christ as head of His church in our gatherings usurping His life then the entire body of Christ will always be struggling to understand Christ in them, they will look like the world they will live by the flesh. They will unknowingly live in denial. Denial that we “died with Christ to the basic principles of this world” and denial that He is our life. No wonder Paul had to give a warning to the Corinthian church: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus in is you – unless of course, you fail the test?” How important is prayer for one another! “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Let us pray that for each other!

The rest of this concluding section of Paul’s letter to the church in Colosse describes the importance of church planters in the life of the church. I do not mean what we have now in the modern church where self titled “apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers” have replaced function with position and missionaries are underlings to these positioned people in institutional churches. Church planters, servants of Christ and His body, who have lived in organic church life, from how I read the Scripture are the only ones called out to proclaim Christ in the forming of communities of believers, helping build a foundation of Christ with the church, leaving them and from time to time returning to encourage the brothers and sisters to move forward in the Lord. They did not stay, get hired by the church, and set up a weekly “preaching service” or “healing service” or “prophetic service” or “singing service” which replaced the daily meeting together with Christ as head, we have replaced Christ with a thing. But sadly that is what happened in church history. “Finding Organic Church” by Frank Viola provides an excellent resource to better understanding this more authentic biblical way of planting churches.

As we truly live by Christ’s life in an organic way together with other brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps God may be calling you to either be a “Priscilla and Aquila” to help prepare the way for a church in your home for a church planter or to go out with other brothers and sisters and plant churches that live by Christ’s life in an organic way. Prayer is important. Even Paul asked the church in Colosse to pray for him. “Praying together also concerning us in order that God may open to us a door of the word (logos), to speak the mystery of Christ.” We should pray for each other that Christ would manifest His life through us by speaking His words of grace and truth, clearly and without confusion. Together we should pray for others who like Paul, church planters of organic churches, that they to should manifest Christ’s life so that others may hear the good news and understand “God’s grace in all its truth” receiving Christ Jesus as Lord so that He might root Himself in another group of followers, His body, so that more may see “the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

“Continue in prayer…”
July 27, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

Towards the end of Paul’s letter to the organic church in Colosse he tells the believers “In prayer continue, watching in it with thanksgiving, praying together…” (literal translation) (1). My first impression as I read these words is to find a practice or form of praying instead of looking at what it says in principle. How often we focus on how to pray versus allowing the Spirit to lead us in the praying as He desires. So often when we gather together, whether in an institutional church setting or simple church setting in a home we tend to focus on what to pray about, instead of allowing the Spirit to organically enable each of us to pray as He leads. How often we talk about who needs prayed for and after a lengthy time of discussion of multiple needs one person is called on to pray for them all. I don’t think that’s what Paul means here about continuing in prayer and being watchful in it with thanksgiving. The former is programmed prayer and selfish and not led by the Spirit of God. Organic prayer rises from the depths of knowing Jesus Christ in each of us by His Spirit, to manifest Jesus Christ’s life through His body.

These few words about praying is after Paul has described ways that the life of Jesus is manifested in the church as it gathers and in the households where the church meets together. “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.” Praying is a manifestation of the lordship of Jesus Christ in us and is directed by Him just like all spiritual life in His body. Prayer, our relationship with Jesus Christ, is learned in community with the brothers and sisters. It is not at a specific time or directed by any person in our gathering, it is directed by the Holy Spirit through the gathering towards Christ and His purpose and also has relevance towards our life in Christ when we are not gathered together.

J. B. Lightfoot describes “continue” or “devoted” to prayer as “clinging closely to” or “remaining constant” in prayer and that “watching in it” refers to having “the heart…awake” (2). This gives me a sense of closeness to Jesus Christ. How much does Christ dwell in me? How much do I really know Him? Jesus had much to say about praying in many of His parables, much of it dispersed throughout the gospels. Perhaps this also gives a sense that prayer is not something that we program but is meant to be a part of our new nature, our life with Him, as He is our life! I can imagine that while Paul is in prison he has been reading some of the gospel account that Luke has been writing to his friend. In Luke’s account he mentions numerous accounts of a relationship with Christ of praying. Of course Mark is also with Paul at this time and probably has a copy of Mark’s gospel account, and perhaps has a copy of Matthew’s gospel account as well, having visited the Jerusalem church earlier. Here are just a few examples just from some of the sayings of Jesus in the gospel according to Luke (look for yourself what Matthew and Mark also says):

“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks…(the one) who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.”
For “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word (logos), retain it, and persevering produce a crop.”
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word (logos) and put it into practice.”
“No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
After watching Jesus “praying in a certain place….one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ ”
After His brief teaching on prayer Jesus tells the disciples” “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
“He who does not gather with me, scatters.”
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word (logos) of God and obey it.”
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.”
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
He told a parable to His disciples “to show that they should always pray and not give up.”
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
“My house will be a house of prayer…”
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

Prayer comes from Him, it is based on listening carefully to His speaking to us, He teaches us to pray. Prayer is in response to His speaking to us inwardly, the praying from His Spirit through His body, or in our circumstances. The gifts of the Spirit are another means by which we see and listen to what He is trying to say to us and we respond in kind. We learn more of Christ as we respond to Him. Praying then is also “watching in it,” listening and discerning what the Spirit of God is saying and following His directions. Praying then becomes continuous and organic, occurring throughout the time of our gathering together instead of at a specific time. It is spiritual wisdom not earthly. It is towards Him not us. How easy we can be tempted to not listen to the Spirit and listen to our needs and wants and express our flesh instead of His life.

Praying is another aspect of what Paul described as being a part of the church’s gathering: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since (you are) members of one body” and “Let the word (logos) of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” And brothers and sisters, when we have heard from Him, in us, in His people, and we respond to His directions, what peace we have, what wonderful gratitude do we have towards God that He would live in us and speak through us and be a part of our lives! Praying is not an event, not programmed, it is directed by the Spirit of Christ throughout our time together!

Remember what Paul wrote decades before he wrote this letter to the Colossians in his first letter to the church of the Thessalonians: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through…” A good word about life in Christ, praying, within the body of Christ. Our time together is about displaying the life of Christ towards Him through one another.

Paul’s initial prayer for the Colossians comes to mind: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” When Christ is the head of His body, and we allow Him to direct us as we gather praying will be organic, it will be produced by His Spirit in us as we listen to Him and we follow what He says by faith. What grace that God has given us that He would speak in and through us towards one another! God has made us “alive with Christ”! When I hear Him speak to me and through His people how thankful to God I become!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 593.
(2) Lightfoot, J.B., “St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon: J.B. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, Third Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, 231.

Facebook Post by Mike Hutchinson, “Learning to gather as the church around Christ.”
July 27, 2010, 2:05 pm
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

Yesterday Stacy and I gathered with a group of brothers and sisters around Christ as His church. The gathering was started by sharing a meal/breakfast together and good conversation/fellowship, this spirit of fellowship prevailed as we naturally moved into a time of acappella singing of hymns/psalms/spiritual songs spontaneously selected by a number of the brethren. After a time of praising the LORD in song, brothers and sisters started to share from various portions of scripture and making application to our lives, a sister contrasted being under the Law to walking in the Spirit, a brother encouraged us regarding following Christ’s example when handling opposition, slander and abuse, much more was shared as we encouraged, exhorted and taught one another as we acknowledged Christ as our Head and His church as His Body. I believe every adult in attendance contributed to the time of sharing/teaching. We have no set stopping time or schedule of events, but as the group sensed the sharing time coming to an end, a number of brothers and sisters prayed for various things and overall that we would grow together in love and that we would learn more and more what it means to follow Christ. From this point we naturally moved back around the table to enjoy more food and fellowship. We really enjoyed meeting with these brothers and sisters in Christ as we left many were still enjoying conversation and fellowship and a competitive match of Wii tennis! We understand that only about half of the group was present at the meeting today for various reasons so we look forward to meeting the rest of the brothers and sisters and getting to know everyone more and more over time. This local group of believers meets house to house between Katy & Sugarland.

My comments reference the post: “At Home in a House Church” – The Gospel Coalition Blog
July 27, 2010, 1:28 am
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

These are my comments to the the following blog:

While I appreciate the viewpoint of the author there is also bias as well, a defensiveness of the institution. Jesus Christ is the head of the church. Too often than not Jesus is not the head but a paid or unpaid leader, a paid staff, a board of deacons, a board of elders, etc.

What if God’s people were taught how to live by the Spirit in face to face community in homes under Christ’s headship alone? What if instead of being focused on titles the body of Christ focused on function within the body of Christ: caring, guiding, serving, watching over, maturing? Too often it is all about preaching or teaching, teaching about a topic, a doctrine, teaching about this or that by a single trained person instead of God’s people experiencing Jesus Christ as they seek Christ together. We have made ministering to one another the business of professionals and therefore God’s people have been made to feel that they cannot serve. The modern church has been duped by the evil one to following human tradition and usurped Jesus Christ as Head, to be like any other organization. As the Israelites before us who did not what God as their leader but a human being with the devastating effect of the church being insipid and impotent. How sad that our fundamentalism as well as our liberalism has reduced the body of Christ to being babes in Christ, to the elevation of a professional clergy, and not followed Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church in his first letter. No wonder the church has succumbed to nothing more than a place of cheap grace and entertainment instead of knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The body of Christ is meant to be the glorious expression of our Lord God and Savior! The Church is His very Body and meant to be display the wonders of His grace and love! The body of Christ is meant to be directed by the Head! It is He who builds His church, and He builds His church together in Him in love by His gifts He has given to all His body.

What if the self titled pastors, who are in Christ, decided to live by the life of Christ in face to face community with God’s people in humility and then, instead of preaching a sermon every week they would actually go out and encourage God’s people in their homes throughout the week as they lived by the life of Christ together from house to house! We have forgotten how to live by the life of the Spirit.

God has always called a remnant to Himself, it has always been the case in history, so why is it surprising that God would be calling a remnant from institutional Christianity, to focusing solely on Jesus Christ?

Believing Wives and Husbands, Unbelieving Wives and Husbands

In the third chapter of Colossians Paul briefly remarks about how a wife and husband live Jesus’ life towards one another. This life in Christ is learned and displayed through the church as they meet in each others homes. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, in Chapter 7, Paul gave a lot of information about how wives and husbands live by the Spirit in oneness together, believers who were married to unbelievers, those who are not married, and a short discussion on slaves. An excellent source of what living by the life of Christ looks like as He manifests Himself to one another in our relationships. When Jesus Christ is our Lord, then He becomes our everything, our all as we learn Him as we live by His life. That has major implications in the basic relationships between a man and woman including working relationships.

I felt like I needed to continue this learning of Christ in relationships. While Paul gives a brief idea of what Christ’s life looks like between a wife and husband in Colossians, Paul has had much to say about how that relationship looks like in his letter to the Corinthians. Remember that Corinth was like Colosse in that they were both Greco-Roman cities, except that Corinth was very large and very active, having a large diverse ethnic population with a huge slave population due to the mercantile business that made up most of Corinth’s business. As such it was a place seething with idolatry and evil. The mix and divisiveness of wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters in the households of Corinth must have been even more prominent in Corinth. As they met from house to house lives were changed and the miraculous work of Christ was seen often being worked in each others households, to the point that the miraculous was often expected and looked for more so than Christ Himself. The work of Christ became more important than Christ Himself, a form of idolatry to the Christians. This extremism in the church in Corinth because they met in the households eventually affected the marriage relationship and they even asked Paul if “it was good for a man not to marry”? This church did not have Christ as head of their gatherings and as a result they were divisive over many things. Apparently not only were they jealous over who was in charge of their gatherings but they were also pitting married couples against those who were not married, somehow thinking that single life was more important than married life and vice versa. How sad! The purpose of our gatherings are not about us, but about knowing nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We are members of one body, if you are single or married it does not matter, there is no single or married distinctions in the body of Christ, “but Christ is all, and is in all.” We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and are called to function equally as we meet together.

As the church gathered together in each others homes, some who attended may not know Christ. It could also be that some who gathered and were part of “the family of believers” came without their husband or wife because their husband or wife were not a follower of Jesus Christ. Obviously this would bring a new dynamic in the couples relationship if they were married to an unbeliever. A dynamic allowed by the Lord so He might display His grace and truth. By living a shared life together with the body of Christ they learned Christ, learning to live by His Spirit. This would profoundly affect their marriage relationship! For those who are married, Paul reminds the Corinthians that when a person received Jesus Christ as Lord, their marriage partner must also confess Jesus as Lord to be in Christ. But some may be unwilling to accept the Lord. We have to remember, especially if it were the wife who was the believer, her husband literally owned her as property. To be a believing wife and be married to an unbelieving husband she was now placed in a volatile situation, a situation where her faith is greatly tested in living out the life of Christ. So Paul gives this word of advice that Jesus had not mentioned from the gospel accounts, but has every weight coming from Jesus Christ in Paul: “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” This would enable Christ’s life to be manifested through the believing husband or wife to their unbelieving partner. Perhaps the church might gather together in these households, especially for the believing husband and the good news of Jesus Christ and His life, being manifested by the church, could come to those in their household by believing the message and receiving Christ Jesus as Lord!

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.” If there is a situation where the unbelieving partner is abusive and harmful I think this would be something the believing husband or wife should consider. While God hates divorce, this reference is specifically related to believing marriage partners because it does not show the beautiful picture of Christ and His Bride. Although in this world, no matter if they are believers or not, the consequences that occur because of divorce can be devastating, another reason for God hating divorce, the consequences tend to be very hurtful for all involved. Christ cannot divorce Himself from His Bride, they are one in each other. But if someone is unbelieving they are not a part of Christ and therefore do not belong to each other in God’s eyes.

The church should be involved in helping and loving these couples, living by Christ’s life, clothing themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” bearing “with each other” by looking after those who have been hurt in society. For a believing wife to divorce herself from her unbelieving husband and his household would be to either force her to go back and return to her parents home or to live with another household where the church gathered. If not she would find herself on the streets or as a slave in perhaps greater distress than when she were married to an unbeliever. How important it is for the church, the body of Christ to meet from house to house, to live by Christ’s life towards one another, to care for one another, to display His grace and truth to everyone in the homes that they gather in!

For those who are single believers, and if you marry, how important it is to marry those who “belong to the Lord.” Look to the “family of believers” and be alive with Christ and let His peace and life direct you in all matters! Let Him so dwell in you that however He leads you follow!