JohnSWilson3 Blog

Trimming Back Bushes
July 29, 2011, 6:25 pm
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

while trimming back the bushes this morning, seeing the smaller branches with no growth and the longer branches because of the sun has a lot of growth, the thought came to mind as I cutting them back, and cutting them back a lot: God desires the same thing in His body.

In order for the younger followers of Christ, the younger persons, to really see the Son, the life of Christ in His body, they need to see how the older followers of Christ, the older persons, when pruned, express Christ as they are pruned. In the pruning process there is a loss of growth and leaves, mainly for those who had longer branches. How well the older persons accept the loss of fruit, the dry seasons can also be an example to the younger persons in the body. As a result the branches, both older and younger, will better grow together and bear much fruit, having grown in faith, learning Christ better through the pruning and dry seasons together, to the unity of the Spirit and the expression of the fullness of Christ.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
July 28, 2011, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

Paul to the Hebrews, having expressed his desire to see the brothers and sisters to not forget their foundation of Christ alone, seeing what they had initially experienced of Christ together in a shared life, calls them to go forward in their life in Christ together encouraging them to continue to express Christ to one another. This life in Christ is not a one day a week meeting, this life in Christ is not for a month and because we find it “difficult” we go back to our old way of living, this life in Christ is not something we go looking for from place to place, but life based in relationship with one another, the hard reality of living in authentic intimate relationship with one another in face to face community, it is a new way of life, a new spiritual family. We are to be diligent in growing deeper in our love for one another; it is the hallmark of life in Christ in the body, “diligence to the very end,” until when Christ is the all in all!

As Paul told the ekklesia in Philippi: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” For Paul there was only one goal for himself: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

And later in his letter to Ephesus Paul states that there is only one goal for the corporate body of Christ: “…for the perfecting of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (NASB)

In this learning Christ together in His body we are learning to express the life of Christ in and to and through the body. Hearing Him in and to and through the body through the measure of Christ’s gift that He has given each member, and believing Him to the expression of His love for one another. This is obeying our Lord, this is living by His life. How this looks in each ekklesia is worked out based on the members of that ekklesia. This is a process of helping each other put off the flesh and put on Christ together, not for the faint of heart, a process that can only be worked out through living by the Spirit. “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” What an amazing statement: “What has been promised!” There is finality in this statement. And to make this statement even more definite to the brothers and sisters he describes God’s “promise to Abraham,” Abraham a type of example of the corporate body of Christ.

The author describes how final this promise is by giving an example of the fact that when God promises something to His people, it is a promise without precedent, like His promise to Abraham, it is a promise that is done, “and puts an end to all argument.” God wants to make His promise clear to us; He wants us to know how final His promise is in regard to us and he does so by His own personal oath! God’s promise is based on His “unchanging nature” and “it is impossible for God to lie.” “Abraham received what was promised,” because he “waited patiently.” Abraham heard God, believed God, and persevered in the promise of God. In this he is like an example of the body of Christ. Only as we live by the life of Christ together will we grow in “faith and patience,” and we will not lose hope. Paul prayed for the ekklesia in Ephesus “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” We as a body are called to “lay hold” of this hope! “We who have fled,” putting off the flesh together, are “to take hold of the hope offered to us,” putting on Christ together, so that we “may be greatly encouraged!”

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm, and secure (or safe).” This phrase is actually part of a grand statement by the author. The main point of the Greek can be translated: God is abundantly resolved to show the heirs of promise by His oath His unchangeable resolve to anchor our souls in the hope of Jesus Christ. (1) Wow! And this hope is firm and safe, because it is “moored” to the “immoveable object” of Jesus Christ! (2) Our hope, this anchor, is immoveable, “firm and safe,” because it entered “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Christ is our hope! Because “Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house, and we are that house, the new temple of God, in a sense what the author also is alluding to, and to show how secure and safe is our hope in Christ, is that Christ Himself has entered US on OUR behalf. God has decided to dwell, to live, to rest in US. “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” In all this, the high priesthood of Christ, greater than that of Aaron’s, is the reason why we can “go on to maturity,” that we can make our “hope sure,” and “inherit what has been promised!” And to this end the author now takes almost four chapters to describe Christ’s high priestly office, to help the brothers and sisters go on to maturity. May we as well by God’s grace.

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 651.
(2) Bruce quotes A.B. Davidson stating that “Our hope, based upon his promises, is our spiritual anchor. The figure of the anchor is not pressed; all that is meant is that ‘we are moored to an immoveable object’ – and that immovable object is the throne of God himself.” F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Revised), The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1990, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 155.

“…dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case…”
July 27, 2011, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The author of Hebrews in Chapter 6 after describing the foundation of Christ that the apostle had provided them and the importance of moving forward in living by His life, describes how impossible it is to God to think of anyone falling back to the legalism and institutionalism of Judaism, since He sees all who are in Christ in relation only to His Son, hidden in Christ. God’s great desire is for the expression of His Son, to be the all in all. That expression of His Son is the fruit of His life manifested through His Body. When we live by His life His life is expressed, “full of grace and truth,” love. But if we fall back to our old ways of the flesh, not putting it off, not seeing it as dead, forgetting our foundation of Christ, Christ is not expressed, His life of love is held back to the hurt of those who have not so learned Christ; we must hear Him and believe Him.

“Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case – things that accompany salvation.” The sense is that in the body you are going to find those who will hear and believe Christ and will be moving forward while there will be those in the body who will need more help to do so. The body will only express their measure of the fullness of Christ as every member is moving forward in Christ. To have brothers and sisters fall back to the flesh, to the legalism and institutionalism of religion and do nothing to help them is to keep the body immature, acting as children, to the limiting of the expression of His life in and through His body. Have we not seen this before to our sorrow? Hasn’t our own group of brothers and sisters after having lost families of God’s people because we were unable to help each other move forward in Christ together been to each others hurt? Is our own expectation of “church,” the religious baggage of our flesh, legalism and institutionalism, which we still haven’t learned is dead, the cause for our falling away from one another? Instead of trying to help each other put off the flesh in love how easily we dismiss one another instead of pursuing love for one another. If Christ is our life, do we see that in truth to dismiss one another, to be faithless with one another, is to dismiss Christ, to be faithless with Christ? If we could see the importance that God places in the building of our relationships with one another we would not so easily dismiss one another. Oh how crafty is our enemy to make us think our conflict is with our flesh and with one another when in fact it is with only his craftinesses. Can we see what the devil is trying to do? The devil wants to kill, steal, and destroy the expression of Christ in, to, and through the body of Christ! How easily we let this impotent foe do so. But in Christ, having such a glorious foundation of Christ, each member founded under His loving lordship and life, seeing the importance of what He did on that cross, His resurrection, and His eternal purpose that He places on the life in the body of Christ, we would do nothing else but sacrifice everything for Him. But how many ekklesias have been so founded? How many ekklesias have so learned Christ, to live organically by the life of Christ? May the ekklesia that God has placed us in, in His Son, so live by His life to do all in love, to encourage one another daily, and to help the body move forward. Haven’t we heard what the author says about living by Christ’s life? Christ is superior to all things! He is our great salvation! How could we ignore what He has done for us and desires to do through us? Haven’t we seen what He has done? Let us remember our foundation in Christ!

“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess…Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast…See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…Now we who have believed enter that rest…There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience…Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

When we are tempted to live by the flesh, to live by the old ways of legalism and institutionalism, when ever we suffer, brothers and sisters, may we quickly, with courage and confidence, go to our Lord and let Him help us! Do not be fooled by “the crafitnesses of the devil” and not go to our Lord, to try and “do it” on our own. The work of putting off the flesh and putting on Christ is God’s alone! Christ is faithful and merciful, He will do it! “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” When we hear Him, believe Him and help one another to put off the flesh and put on Christ, because our brothers and sisters are in Christ, He is our life, we are loving Him. Hearing Him, believing Him, loving Him is obeying Him and living by His life. When we see the flesh raise its ugly head, we are given opportunities to show love to Him, by helping each other in love put off the flesh and put on Christ.

“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” Helping each other takes living by the life of Christ, His faith and patience. Those who are living by the life of Christ have been given to the body to help the rest of the body to live by the Spirit. Only when each member is living by the Spirit of Christ together in His body, based on their measure of faith, based on their measure of the grace of the gift of Christ, will the body grow, will it express fully, to the Complete Man, to the measure, the fullness of Christ. May it be so.

Books to Read to Help Understand the Organic Nature of Church

Was asked to share a list of books that might be helpful to better understand the organic nature of church. Obviously there is much that could be listed but here is the list that I have read and that has greatly helped and influenced me. These have helped me to see the organic nature of the body of Christ that we see in the New Testament, God’s heart that the body of Christ, living in the freedom of Christ together, sharing His life out of that freedom in grace and truth with love, to the full expression of the Son.

I have listed them by author(s). Each have their pros and cons and each person who reads them will look at the pros and cons differently. As most will say, none have figured it all out, and much has been more in exploration and experimentation.

Frank Viola and Milt Rodriguez books tend to be more wholly organic and look at organic church from a more practical corporate basis. T. Austin-Sparks, Robert Banks, and Jon Zens books tend to look at organic church from a more theological basis. Neil Cole’s books tend to look at organic church from a cell like church movement perspective with a more individual disciple-making basis. Tony and Felicity Dale tend to look at organic church from a simple and house church perspective. Each author brings their own flavor of living by the life Christ together in His body and each have provided me many areas of edification and growth in understanding what it means to live by Christ in His body and to expressing Him outside of the body. There are many other authors out there with their own books such as Leonard Sweet and Wolfgang Simpson, I just haven’t gotten to reading them, hope you can forgive me, :).

Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet:
– Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ

Frank Viola and George Barna:
– Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (a deconstruction of the institutional church)

Frank Viola:
– From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God (mind blowing look at God’s eternal purpose from the entire Bible)
– Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity (a reconstructive look at living in organic church)
– The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament (great guide to reading the Bible, especially the New Testament in chronological order)
– Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities (very useful in looking at how Christ in His ekklesia grows and spreads organically from the book of Acts and today and useful helps for those looking at venturing into this kind of life organically)
– Revise Us Again: Living From a Renewed Christian Script (most practical of Frank’s books, really helpful at looking at different mindsets within the body of Christ and how to love one another despite our differences)

Milt Rodriguez:
– The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships (best book I have read on the subject)
– The Butterfly in You: Discovering Your True Identity in Christ (wonderful analogy of sanctification, living by the life of Christ)
– The Temple Within: Fellowship With An Indwelling Christ (really impacted me on learning to hear Christ, and am still learning)
– The Priesthood of All Believers: 1st Century Church Life in the 21st Century (important treatment of seeing life in the body where ALL participate not just a few)
– The Organic Church: Something New In case You Might Be Interested (great look at what organic church is and is not)

Jon Zens:
– A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? (similar to Pagan Christianity but focused more on American “church”)
– What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 (best commentary on the confusing passages by Paul related to women, must read!)
– No Will of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity and Personhood (group of essays on the false teaching of Patriarchalism)
– The Pastor Has No Clothes (great look at the hindrance that clergy-laity divide has in the full functioning of the ekklesia)
– Searching Together Magazine

Robert Banks:
– Going to Church in the First Century: An Eyewitness Account (a short and wonderful historical fiction story of an unbeliever visiting an organic church in the ancient city of Rome)
– Paul’s Idea of Community (Revised Edition) (the book that questions the institutional church and its practices that limit body life)
– The Church Comes Home (with Julia Roberts) (haven’t read this yet)

Neil Cole:
– Search and Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes A Difference
– Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens
– Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are

Tony & Felicity Dale:
– The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church

T. Austin-Sparks:
– The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
– God’s Spiritual House
– The School of Christ
– The Stewardship of the Mystery
(these are just some of his best works, as far as I’m concerned everything that Sparks wrote is probably the most edifying works I’ve ever read short of the Bible, :))

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
– The Cost of Discipleship
– Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Watchman Nee:
– The Normal Christian Life
– Christ The Sum of All Spiritual Things
– The Normal Christian Church Life: The New Testament Pattern of the Churches, the Ministry, and the Work (this is from a Chinese house church cultural perspective)

George Barna:
– Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary (more of a postchurch perspective)

Gene Edwards:
– The Divine Romance (wonderful story in the form of a play of God’s eternal purpose from an view of the angels in creation to the resurrection of Christ)

Larry Kreider:
– House Church Networks: A Church For A New Generation (this comes from a perspective that both large cell churches and house churches are both important, this is the first book God used to help me see the importance that hierarchy and church structures hampered more than helped the church, seeing that church was not about leaders but about functioning in the body, although the author doesn’t necessarily share this view)

Brother Lawrence:
– The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life (comes from the perspective of a monk but has many great truths about living by the life of Christ in every aspect of life)

Jeanne Guyon:
– Experiencing God Through Prayer (tends to appear to come from a programmed approach to prayer like most studies on prayer but has a more organic perspective than other)

I have many other books, devotionals, theological, commentaries, studying the Bible, church history, discipleship, leadership, counseling, worship, ministry, evangelism, etc but these in almost every case come from an institutional bias with a focus on individual Christianity, living the Christian life by your self in the world. These I still keep, I guess to help me remember that it is not about living an individual Christian life but about living by the life of Christ in and to His body and expressing Him through His body.

“…crucifying again to their own hurt the Son of God and putting him to open shame.”
July 26, 2011, 1:48 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

This section of chapter 6 (verses 4-8) is perhaps one of the most questionable sections of the New Testament and lends itself to many doctrinal debates, some to the point of division within the body of Christ. After hearing Christ in me, I still think that what I write here is just skimming the surface. I will be looking at these verses as brothers and sisters who started living in an organic way by the life of Christ. In looking at these verses the thought that comes to mind is that as believers began to live a shared life, focused solely on hearing and following Christ together, on loving relationships, and the flesh revealed for what it is in the process, instead of putting off the flesh and putting on Christ together in love some felt it to be too difficult and fell back to their old way of the safe legalism and institutionalism of Judaism.

Some would say that those who do fall away is interpreted as someone who apostasies, denying Christ, as a result they lose their salvation, doomed to destruction in eternal hell fire. At least this is what is said by some denominations. This statement has many assumptions, perhaps making what are metaphorical statements as literal statements, and not looking at the reality of what is being said in context. I do not plan to go in that direction, because I don’t think that the passage meant to. The author says: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.”

Some brothers and sisters that the author has been speaking about have been drifting, forgetting their foundation of Christ and not living by His life. The Greek word for “fall away” means “to fall in one’s way” and is only used here in the New Testament. Some have been falling back to their old way of Judaism, which is of the flesh. We to, if we do not go on to live by Christ organically, will fall back to our old way of living, go back to living in the institutionalism and legalism of religion. Given the description of our foundation in Christ the author’s desire is that they be carried on by Christ to completion, to stay in The Way of Christ. This process is living a shared life in Christ with one another. In verses 4 and 5 we see an interaction between the body and the Spirit of Christ: “once being enlightened” is to “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” as Paul told the church in Corinth. These brothers and sisters were given spiritual sight of Christ’s life within them. “Tasting of the heavenly gift” seems to indicate that the brothers and sisters had tasted, had had some experience of seeing Christ, “the heavenly gift” in them and among them. This gift of grace was given to them by faith in Christ Jesus. “Becoming sharers of the Holy Spirit” means to share in and partake of the Holy Spirit, as the author previously mentioned in the first verses of chapter 3: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, sharers of a heavenly calling, consider fully the apostle and high priest of our confession – Jesus.” “Tasting the good word (rhema) of God” is to taste, to briefly experience the utterance of God within the body, rhema meaning “that which is spoken, what is uttered in speech or writing.” (1) “And powerful deeds of a coming age” seems to indicate tasting or seeing wonderful things occur within the body of Christ, things only of the Spirit. The Greek construction seems to connect the tasting of the rhema of God with the powerful deeds of a coming age. As Paul told the church in Ephesus: the rhema of God, is the sword of the Spirit. Christ Himself when He speaks in our hearts will show Himself as living and active, judging our thoughts and the intentions of our heart in and through the body. It is perhaps this that truly determines whether we go on in Christ. Will we be adjustable to what the Spirit of Christ says to our hearts as we relate to one another? Will we hear Him and believe what He says? If so then we will put off the flesh and put on Christ, we will love one another, we will express His life more and more. Or will we fall back to the safe legalism and institutionalism that does not allow Christ to speak to our hearts and go backward instead of forwards in our spiritual life with one another in Him?

The issue with the author is that to fall back to the flesh, legalism and institutionalism, does not make sense. In truth to do so tells others that what Christ did on the cross was not sufficient. It is to deceive oneself, it is to be deceived by the “craftinesses of the devil.” Christ was crucified once and what He did on that cross He did only once. As a believer, to live by the flesh is to make Christ, who is our life, a servant to our flesh. To repent and believe the message of the good news of Christ, according to God, was a one time occurrence. If you are in Christ, Christ is your life, and that is all that God sees from His perspective, in fact He sees us in heaven with His Son! In God’s mind it is impossible to see our life in any other way. If the Lord only sees us in Christ then it is impossible for Him to not see you in Christ and therefore impossible to renew you again to repentance. For us who have tasted living by the life of Christ in an organic way, have we not seen our flesh come back again from the dead as we participated with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Sure we have. Every time this occurs we must see that this flesh is dead and to live by the life of Christ. This is putting off the flesh and putting on Christ. It is a process as we mutually participate together in our open gatherings sharing Christ freely with one another. Every time the flesh appears is God’s way of showing what a dead thing it is and how important it is for it to be put off. When the flesh appears in the body it shows we are still children, we must continue to go on to maturity, to express the fullness of Christ by putting Him on. If we do not then we demonstrate that we have not so learned Christ, we have forgotten our foundation, we have not recognized what He did on the cross for us, and we crucify Him again, making Him a servant to sin, putting Him to open shame, to our own hurt. May it never be so! If we live by the life of Christ in a shared life, if we go on together and become adjustable to our Lord, just like land that produces fruit, we will bear fruit, food, “a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives a blessing of God,” the blessing of the fruit of the life of Christ, the fruit of love. But if we do not put off the flesh, we decide to live safely in our flesh, the old way of religion, instead of relying on Christ in the midst of conflict; we will not see the fruit of His life. It will be to our own hurt, bringing more of the flesh back from the dead, full of thorns and thistles, useless for the building up of the body.

May we live by the life of Christ, experience the Christ who indwells us together, and keep Christ Jesus our Lord, our foundation, as our focus, putting off the flesh and putting on Christ. It’s a process brothers and sisters; we are called to help each other in and through the process by the life of Christ. We must be adjustable to the Christ in one another in love. As we live by Christ we will be in the midst of conflict to the very end and as a result we are called to “diligence to the very end.” As Paul encouraged the ekklesia in Corinth: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 224.

“And God permitting, we will do so.”
July 25, 2011, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

In Acts we see the grand narrative of the life of Christ growing and spreading through His people to the known world. As brothers and sisters heard and believed on Christ Jesus as Lord from those with an apostolic functioning they formed an ekklesia, a gathering of believers and the apostles helped them to live by the indwelling Spirit who was their life, in order to grow in the fullness of Christ. As Christ’s life became more fully expressed through the life of His people to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc the world saw a people “full of grace and truth,” who loved one another deeply from the heart. In this way Christ’s life was manifested, grew if you will, and spread. This is “to be carried on to completion,” this is to “go on to maturity.”

The author to the Hebrews in chapters 5 and 6, while mentioning that they have become dull in hearing the Lord, still acting like children, needing to experience the Logos of Righteousness, who is their life, is not content to let them stay that way. One with apostolic functioning has only one goal and that is the eternal purpose of God. Paul describes some of what this means in his letter to Ephesians that he wrote perhaps just a couple years earlier:

“And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the ekklesia, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
“His intent was that now, through the ekklesia, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The author points out in Hebrews what appear to be some key areas that those with apostolic functioning would share to help lay the foundation of Christ within His people. It even has a sense of the gospel message. This foundation in Hebrews is described as: “of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings (baptisms), and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (NASB) My thought is that these are areas that relate to Christ and lays a foundation of Christ for a gathering of brothers and sisters, knowing who they are in Christ as His body in order to live by His life. These are all actually found in Judaism (1), with each pointing to its reality in Christ. As Paul would say later in the letter, they were “a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.”

The foundation of the body of Christ is Christ Himself. We are called to put off the flesh and to put on Christ, it is to repent, to change our mind, to change our purpose (2) and “no longer live” for ourselves, which is “dead works,” but rather live “for him who died for” us “and was raised again.” Before Christ we were “dead in” our “transgressions and sins, in which” we “used to live.” In Acts 20:21 Paul told the older people of the church in Ephesus that “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” By believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, we “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” and have been made alive with Christ, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.”

Instruction about baptisms involves knowing what Christ has done and who we are in Christ as a result. Baptism means to dip fully in or under. (3) Some baptisms described in the New Testament are: after “having believed” the Holy Spirit, God Himself is given to us as guarantee of our inheritance in Christ. Baptism then means to be fully in Christ “by one Spirit into one body.” In baptism we also at the same time with our brothers and sisters are made one, no longer are their any physical distinctions, our life together is now Christ’s, His one body. Baptism also refers to the death of Christ Jesus in His death. When we received the Holy Spirit, put completely in Christ, we were also “baptized into his death,” we were “buried with him through baptism into death,” meaning “our flesh was crucified” and “sin” was “done away with” and as a result we have been “freed from sin.” Baptisms speak of death, a complete death done only by Christ Himself. And because of these baptisms and being so completely identified with Christ in His death, we also are completely identified with Him in His resurrection. We are now to count ourselves “dead to sin” and “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because “Christ was raised from the dead…we too (can) live a new life.” Resurrection speaks of new life found only in Christ and that life only produces good fruit by “the new way of the Spirit.” (4)

Regarding “eternal judgment” Paul speaking to the men of Athens said: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) “Laying on of hands” is mentioned a few times in the New Testament and in each case it is recognition of authority and headship of Christ, often as a result of seeing the life of Christ demonstrated greatly in a person(s) life. They live only by His life as their only source, that is why when the laying on of hands is done, the hands are laid on the head of the person. It is not to be done lightly only by the command of the Spirit, generally these are those who have an apostolic functioning, who have lived organically by the life of Christ with other brothers and sisters, and will face the hardships and burden that result in that functioning. Only in James letter does it seem to acknowledge Christ’s authority and headship and source in a particular matter. The body of Christ must see that its only life is Christ and we live by Him together as a new family, each person sharing His life freely with one another, without condemnation, and in love. Christ must be head of His body, hearing Him, believing Him, and following Him, if the body is to go forward to maturity, to express the fullness of Christ.

Each area of this “foundation” has its root firmly in the life of Christ in the body and God’s eternal purpose of manifesting His Son through His Body. Only from this can we truly begin to experience the life of Christ in the body. How important it is for those with an apostolic functioning to lay a proper foundation of Christ! Paul said: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” While the author apparently had laid a proper foundation of Christ, those in the body were not careful on how they built on this foundation. They had not learned to move forward in experiencing their indwelling Lord and as a result had drifted from and had forgotten their foundation. Sadly I wonder how many of God’s people have had a proper foundation that even comes close to that even mentioned here? Even to include myself and I have had to reevaluate what it means to live by Christ versus the traditions of men.

After the author points out these specific areas related to understanding their “foundation” that they had been forgetting, he is led by the Spirit of Christ in him to stop. The author desires to see the brothers and sisters go forward in Christ but he recognizes that growing in the life of Christ is a process, it is of the Spirit, this process is only organic within the body, it is of the life of Christ, and recognizing this says “And God permitting, we will do so.” Perhaps the author was thinking about continuing with this “foundation,” but prompted by the Spirit decides not “to go on insisting on these things, therefore would not really help them; it would be better to press on to those teachings which belonged to spiritual maturity.” (5) So now the author, with God’s permission, begins to help this body of Christ to move forward to maturity.

(1) F.F. Bruce states “how little in the list is distinctively of Christianity, for practically every item could have its place in a fairly orthodox Jewish community.” F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Revised), The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1990, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 139.
(2) Repentance means “to change one’s mind or purpose.” W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 525.
(3) Baptism means. Ibid, 50.
(4) Following passages from the New Testament were used as an example of many that describe these areas of foundation in Christ necessary for a body of believers given by an apostle: 2 Cor. 5:15; Eph 1: 13-14, 2:1-8; Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:2-8, 11, 7:4. Each letter seems to describe these same basic foundations as reminder by the apostle to not forget their foundation and to press on to fullness of Christ.
(5) F.F. Bruce, 143-144.

“…not laying down again a foundation…”
July 23, 2011, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

In chapter 5 and 6 the author’s focus is to help the brothers and sisters realize that the only way to be carried on to completion, to the mature man, the complete man, is to experience together the Logos of Righteousness, the Mature Man, the Complete Man, Jesus Christ our Lord. Learning Christ together, exercising our new spiritual instincts as a new creation within the body of Christ is the only way to move forward, to experience the fullness of Christ in His body. Paul in his letter to the ekklesia in Ephesus said: “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children…” (NASB)

Brothers and sisters who are children are those who are “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” They have been deceived by the devil that their conflict is not with him but with their flesh and other people. As a result the life of Christ in them is not being expressed. The author to Hebrews says that children are those who have not experienced the Christ who indwells them, the Christ who is their life. As a result they still live by their physical senses and have not learned to exercise their spiritual senses within the body of Christ. They have not seen the good of Christ, the Tree of Life, in their lives, His fruit, but only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Brothers and sisters who are children are not building on the right foundation. Brothers and sisters remain children because they have not learned to live by the life of Christ together and experienced Him in His fullness. The author to the Hebrews is trying to counteract that and so the importance of this letter for our generation, for our time.

In chapter 6, Paul describes that the body of Christ, to become mature, must leave “the elementary teaching about the Christ” which seems to reflect back to his similar thought of the brother and sisters needing someone to again teach them “the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” Both seem to describe the “foundation” of the brothers and sisters. They had forgotten the foundation that they had been built upon. There are many images that come to mind as I reflect on this. The New Testament has much to say about foundations, and its importance. Jesus, in Luke’s gospel, described two types of foundations, one being “on the rock” found only by digging deep to the rock that is under the ground and the other being “on the earth,” on top of the ground. Only the building on the foundation on the rock could withstand the flood. It seems what determines how well a house is built is based on its foundation. And that foundation is found in digging deeply. Jesus describes this foundation on the rock as “everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them.” To move forward in our life in Christ together is to go deep into the inner man, to seek Jesus in us, the Tree of Life, and live by Him in us. Again brothers and sisters the phrase from the Old Testament: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” again is key to understanding not only how to live by the life of Christ, but also in being built on the right foundation. How we need to hear Him, in us, who judges our thought and hearts, and follow His direction instead of our flesh. We must put off the flesh and put on Christ.

Paul told the ekklesias in Galatia: “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing?” The Galatians were acting like children. Paul was saying in his letter to Galatians that keeping the Law, legalism if you will, is not building on the right foundation, they had forgotten their foundation and had focused on a form of institutionalism. Paul told the ekklesia in Corinth: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The Corinthians were acting like children. Paul was pointing out that the divisions in the body were the result of not building on the right foundation; they had forgotten their foundation and had focused again on another form of institutionalism. The believers that the author was writing to in Hebrews were acting like children, they had forgotten their foundation. Jesus Christ IS the foundation on which the body of Christ is built upon, He is the rock! Christ said that He Himself would build His ekklesia! To learn Christ we must hear Him and be taught by Him, “just as the truth is in Jesus.” Let us keep our focus on Christ Jesus our Lord, let us fix our thoughts on Him.