"Feed My Sheep" - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 5 - THE CORPORATE RELATIONSHIP
God is building a Temple in the earth, not made of hands, a Temple whose glory shall radiate throughout the whole earth. If ever there was a need for true God-given leadership in ministry, it is today. And if "the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former"... then we may be assured that those whom God has ordained to teach, and to instruct, and to lead Gods people in His ways will be as carefully chosen and disciplined of the Lord as were the leaders in any of Gods former, lesser temples. It is God who chooses, and ordains, and establishes in the Body of Christ those whom he has chosen, and whom He has made ready, to lead His people into the land of their heritage. No man ever takes this honor unto himself, but God is the one who appoints accordingly to His own will; and they are sent to the people directly from the Throne. God may, or may not, use other men to designate His chosen vessels; for Joshua was designated by Moses, and Paul was designated by Ananias, and the elders of the churches were set in their place and designated by other ministers in the Church. But the office thus conferred upon such a minister proceedeth directly from the throne and not to the one whom God may have used to ordain him. Jesus Himself was designated by John the Baptist, but God put a special seal upon Him in the form of a dove from Heaven, and a voice which said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Notice again, that it was the Son that God ordained, not the Messiah; and because He was ordained and designated as a SON, He knew He must walk constantly in the realm of SONSHIP, which implies total and absolute obedience unto the Father in all things. "Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever..." (Hebrews 1:8). And again, "The word of the oath, which was since the law, APPOINTETH THE SON, who is perfected forevermore" (Hebrews 7:28). He was the Messiah, the Christ. Other Messiahs had come in their own name... others would yet come in their own name, But He is the SON-MESSIAH, which implies that God the Father remains the supreme Sovereign over all, even as the Son reigns on the throne. For when He was exalted to highest heaven, and given a name which is above every name, this was in no way a dividing of the Authority of the Godhead... it was rather a case of Christ actually BECOMING THAT AUTHORITY, sitting at Gods right hand, until all enemies are subdued under His feet.
In the meantime He reigns in the midst of His enemies, and is preparing a people, making them to be a willing people in this Day of His power. (See Psalm 110.)
Our Relationship To The Body Of Christ
As Gods purposes hasten on to fulfillment, He who sits enthroned at Gods right hand is literally shaking the "heavens and the earth" and He is doing so on behalf of His people, who are partakers of His unshakable Kingdom. In the meantime, as the old order in the world and in the Church passes away to make way for the new, God does not want us to be mere onlookers, observers, standing by to see what is going to happen. Men of vision must be men of faith they must not only see what God is doing, they must embrace it, and become involved. And then as they do, they begin to discover a new relationship in the Body of Christ that they had not known heretofore.
Perhaps one of the first things we discover is the fact that we can no longer be a law unto ourselves. Nor can we imagine that in our own individual and personal relationship with Christ we can attain to the standard that God intended for our lives, apart from a right relationship with our brother. This is not just an arbitrary arrangement on Gods part... it springs from the fact that God requires (in virtue of the infinite longings of His own heart) a BODY in which He may dwell, and through which He may express all His glorious fulness. True, He found this Body in the person of His own Son... and God found supreme delight in Him. But the love of God and the purpose of God could not stop there; and the expression of the heart of God in His own Son must find still greater enlargement in His many brethren. On the earth Jesus was indeed the very Temple of God. But now henceforth in His exaltation He would become... not the Temple, but the Chief Corner Stone of an enlarged Temple composed of His many brethren. This has therefore been the burden of the Spirit of God in the earth ever since His exaltation in the heavens... and particularly so at this present time, as the purposes of God hasten on to complete fulfillment.
Once we fully embrace this revelation there is no longer any place, nor any desire, for that spirit of individualism that has prevailed in times past, with respect to our relationship to the Body of Christ. I cannot "go it alone." Lam but a member of a vast Body, and as such I have responsibilities to my brother, as I come under subjection to the Head of the Body, which is Christ. The Head rules from Heaven, and He has placed ministries in the earth, "For the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, unto the edifying of the Body of Christ." Therefore I am directly related to the rest of Gods saints, if so be I am a member of His Body. We must not lose this vision, because our individual relationship with the Lord will depend greatly on our corporate relationship with the rest of the Body. By way of illustration let us observe:
Israel must come out of her bondage as a corporate people. The "individual" approach that Moses tried 40 years earlier could only fail; Gods plan was for the whole nation.
Israel must cross the Red Sea as a nation; and in so doing they were "baptized unto Moses" as a nation, "in the cloud, and in the sea."
They must submit to the government that God ordained for them in the wilderness, as a nation. There were 12 tribes. Each tribe had their own leadership, with all the tribal heads forming a corporate leadership under Moses and Aaron.
They were judged as a nation when they refused to go into the Land of Promise... the old generation passing away, making way for a new generation that would arise to take the inheritance.
The new generation must cross the Jordan as a nation. Caleb and Joshua could not go in alone. They had to wait for the new generation that God was preparing in the wilderness.
The new generation was circumcised as a nation. It was a new circumcision, preparing them for the new land.
They must possess the land as a nation. The two and a half tribes that were content with their heritage on the Eastern side of the Jordan could not possess their heritage until the whole land had been conquered. They could not live unto themselves even though they were distinct tribes within the nation. God was dealing with one people. They fought their battles as one nation, attained to victory as one nation, suffered defeat as one nation. In fact, when one man sinned, God said, "Israel hath sinned," and the whole nation suffered defeat because of one mans idolatry. (See Joshua 7:1-12.)
We believe these things were written for our admonition, and for our instruction, that we might know how we are to relate to one another, as fellow-citizens of the "Holy Nation" of God.
God is a God of order. Everything that God does, He does in order and in harmony. This is what Divine Government is all about. We need, however, to keep Gods purpose in mind lest we fall into the trap of thinking that Gods desire is to establish some sort of Divine Hierarchy in the earth, and that His ultimate purpose is simply Divine Government. Divine Government is rather the means. His purpose is order, and harmony, and unity... and eventually, LIBERATION. Creation is longing for liberation as she groans and travails, and her groaning is bringing forth SONS OF GOD, not kings and dictators.., not apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors and teachers...
"For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the manifestation of the SONS OF GOD..." (Romans 8:19). These SONS may at this present time be fathers, and mothers, and sons, and daughters... or they may be apostles, or prophets, or elders, or deacons... But it is in their ultimate training and disciplining as SONS that they shall become the LIBERATORS that God has in mind for a world in darkness and in bondage.
No matter what your calling may be in life (and let us all learn to accept our calling as Gods calling for us, if indeed we are committed to the doing of His will)... no matter what your calling, you are not to be denied the privilege nor the responsibility of learning obedience and submission to the will of God... and THIS IS REALLY ALL THAT MATTERS, And if you deem the calling of your brother to be of a higher order than your own calling, then be assured that so also is his responsibility greater. Your calling is in the hands of God. It is really "His calling," and it is only yours because He committed it to you... and you are exhorted to "abide in the same calling wherewith you were called" (1 Corinthians 7:20). Having greater gifts and an exalted calling does not place one in a place of greater favor with God. In fact, these very things could be detrimental to ones growth unto maturity if such a one does not remain very low at the feet of Christ.
A deacon is often considered to be of little account in the things of God. His services are usually considered to relate to the physical and the temporal. But this is not so. If you take your concordance you will discover that this service also pertains to spiritual things. And of the deacon it is said that he may "purchase for himself a good degree..." because by the very nature of his office he is called to SERVE. And let us never forget, it is the SERVANT who qualifies for promotion in the Kingdom of God.
Children are usually very anxious to "grow up." But children have a wonderful opportunity to learn obedience, submission to their parents, submission to their teachers, submission to authority in general. While very young, children may learn righteousness, truth, meekness, gentleness, and childlike simplicity... qualities which are inherent to the Kingdom of God.
Wives sometimes resent their role, and oftentimes there is a longing to assert equality with the man, and to throw off her yoke of submission under the guise of "liberation." But in so doing she is actually throwing away the golden opportunity God has given her to partake of such virtues of grace, and meekness, and submission, and quietness of spirit... without which there shall be no promotion in the Kingdom of God.
The husband, on the other hand, by virtue of his calling, is ruler and head of the wife, and of the home. But the domineering man is far, far from the Kingdom of God; and unless he submits to the will of Christ, and learns humility, meekness, lowliness of mind, he will never rule and reign with Christ in His Kingdom.
The employee oftentimes resents his role in life, But the employee who truly takes the place of a "servant" is said to be the Lords FREE MAN (1 Corinthians 7:22). Once he recognizes that he is really serving the Lord, and not his earthly master... then he is indeed free, for subjection unto Christ always brings about true freedom, And if he is accounted faithful as an employee (or a "true servant")... so shall he be accounted worthy to receive the "reward of the INHERITANCE" (Colossians 3:24).
The employer on the other hand is somewhat at a disadvantage, because he is in a place of authority. (And let us remember, being in a place of authority never qualifies one for a place in the realm of the Kingdom.) But if he truly desires to walk in Truth he too shall be made FREE, But he shall be free only as he takes his place as a "servant" (a "doulos"... a "bondslave") of the Lord! Not only so, but if he truly recognizes that he is but a "servant," he has discovered the key that will open the door into the Kingdom of God, and will also cause him to live humbly before men, and to honor and respect his servants as potential rulers in the Kingdom of God, and as he would desire his Lord to honor and respect him.
All men are not born equal... nor do all men become equal in this life nor is this important. For all men may share equally in the New Birth, and in the Grace and Mercy of Christ, and come into a place of equal favor with God.
Once we realize of a certainty that Gods purpose is for the LIBERATION of mankind, and that His calling toward us is to prepare us to that end... then it no longer concerns us whether we be an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, a teacher, an elder, a deacon, a husband, a wife, a son, a daughter, a master, a slave, a king, or a peasant. In each and every case we are in subjection to a still higher authority, and it is in learning obedience in this realm that we may qualify as SONS OF GOD. approved of the Father, and accounted worthy to rule with Christ as co-heirs in the Kingdom of God.
Gods Purpose--The Maturing of His People
Gods purpose, then, in sending forth His ministers from the throne, is to prepare in the earth this kind of people... a people who shall come unto full maturity, even unto the stature of Christ. There is a great deal of emphasis in the Church today concerning the shepherding of the flock of God; but very often Gods purpose in sending them forth to the sheep of His pasture is not emphasized. There are often vague references to the word "perfection" or apologetic interpretations of the meaning of the word. It seems to be too high an ideal to set before the people of God. But let us remember it is Gods ideal, and also His responsibility to bring it into being.
Now the word "perfection" in its most common usage means "maturity." But what is "maturity"? And what is Gods standard of "maturity"?
"And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry..." Let us just pause here a moment: THE PURPOSE OF MINISTRY IS TO EQUIP THE PEOPLE OF GOD THAT THEY MIGHT ALL BECOME MINISTERING SERVANTS TO THE BODY. And what is the ultimate purpose of "ministry" in and through the Body? "TILL we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a PERFECT MAN." For the Body of Christ in its ultimate fulness is viewed as ONE PERFECT MAN IN CHRIST; and the standard is nothing less than the standard of the Living Christ: "UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST" (Ephesians 4:12,13).
God is always faithful to send forth true leaders to bring His people into new ways in God, when the time comes for His people to enter in. And God is faithfully doing this today. That is why it is so important that the ministry, as well as the people, "hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches" lest the ministry on the one hand assume a place of carnal authority and leadership that has no relation to what God is doing today... and lest the people on the other hand submit to such authority under the false notion that it is the highway to the Kingdom of God. The ministry must not take the place of a Mediator... for there is "one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Nor is it a "husband" ministry... the relationship between the ministry and the people must never become a bridegroom-bride relationship. Rather, the ministry seeks to prepare the people to become the spotless "bride" of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).
The ministry has amply fulfilled its purpose in the earth if it succeeds in declaring Him, speaking about Him, and leading others into direct union with Him. And having fulfilled this Divine objective they should be willing to just "fade away," as it were (as Moses and Elijah faded away on the Mount of Transfiguration)... that the people of God might "HEAR HIM..." and see "JESUS ONLY." Moses and Elijah have an important part to play... and the ministry that is sent forth from the throne as gods gift to the Church has an important role to fulfill. But they are important for one purpose only, and that is... to bring men into closer union with Christ, where they can hear his voice, and see His face, and have personal and intimate communion with Him who is the Head. As the government of Christ increases in the hearts of His people, then the ministers of Christ must decrease. As the heart of a true son begins to mature and develop, then the servant (for Gods true ministers are "servants") must be quick and anxious to loosen the ties of allegiance that somehow may have come into being as he sought to lead Gods son into maturity; and encourage them to walk alone with God. (Alone, I say, because no matter how many thousands there are who are walking with you and with God... your walk with God is intended to be very individual and unique.) Ministry in the Holy Place must give way to SONSHIP in the Holiest of All, as faith must give way to Hope, as Hope gives way to Love... as the Blade gives way to the Ear... as the Ear gives way to the Full Corn in the Ear... as bondage in Egypt gives way to a walk of discipline in the wilderness... as the wilderness gives way to fruitfulness in the land of Canaan. In other words, the ministry has fulfilled its purpose if it has been successful in bringing the people of God into direct, intimate communion with the Lord.
The Inheritance Of The Individual
Divine law and order and government were very important by way of bringing Israel as a nation into the place that God desired for her: namely, liberation and fruitfulness in the Promised Land. But because God was dealing with them corporately, this in no way diminished the measure of liberty that God had in mind for each individual. The laws and rules and governments to which they were subjected were intended to safeguard and guarantee the rights of the individual to his own personal inheritance in the Land. They in no way deprived him of those rights. God always establishes and vindicates the leadership that He provides for His people; from their standpoint, their only concern is that the Sheep of His pasture be safeguarded, and their rights upheld.
One of the most fundamental of all our basic rights, whether it be in the realm of Church Government, or earthly government, is the freedom of the very heart and soul of the individual to serve God. Not only is it RIGHT for us to enjoy, it is a RESPONSIBILITY that has been granted unto us, and we cannot afford to relinquish it into the hands of any government, in the Church or in the world. It is Gods abiding place alone, and it must not be usurped or handed over to any other. The forces of good and evil will continue to wage warfare in this area, and the true shepherds will take up true spiritual warfare on behalf of those who seek to retain this portion of their inheritance they will not stand by unconcerned when others seek to take it from them.
Conscience, The Ear And Eye Of The Soul
A mans conscience is his own private inheritance from the hands of the Creator. See that no man or angel, no priest or bishop, no pastor or elder, no king or dictator... takes it from you. Give them your possessions, if need be; and take the spoiling of your goods with joy. Give them your fields and your vineyards... your stocks, your bonds, your houses, your lands. Give them even the labor of your hands without reward, if need be... but do not sell your conscience. For this is the jewel that God put in the heart of man when He created him in His image... a jewel that He denied all earthly beasts and creeping things. He gave it to you, because you were made in His image... and it was an impartation of Himself that would make fellowship and communion with Him possible; and it was for true fellowship and communion that He created you. With "conscience" you have an inner, inborn knowledge: for that is really what is implied in the word. Animals have "instinct"... and we marvel at the seeming wisdom and discretion that they display without their being aware of it. For with instinct they have an inborn wisdom that relates them to their environment and safeguards their very existence. But you are higher than the animals, and you have a "conscience"--which makes you aware, you know not how that THIS is right, and THAT is wrong. And when any one succeeds, knowingly or otherwise, in robbing you of this your heritage... then you are left as a ship without a rudder, a bird without a wing, a fish without fins a man without vision, For it is in the knowledge of what is TRUTH and what is ERROR that you pursue your course of life in this world; and it is your acknowledgment and pursuit of the TRUTH that you shall be made free.
Is Conscience My Guide?
What we have said, of course, raises many questions: Is my Conscience to be my guide in life? Is not the Bible greater and should it not have more authority over me than my conscience? If I am fallen by nature, how can I be sure that my conscience gives me a true sense of right and wrong?
Let us get, first of all, a clear understanding of what the conscience is. According to the meaning of the word, and according to its usage in Scripture, it relates to that inward awareness and understanding of what is good and what is evil. (Greek: "suneidesis"--a knowing with ones self--Dr. Young.) Man as originally created knew only good by nature. But since the Fall he knows "both good and evil"... and ever since the FALL that inward awareness has been there: law, or no law; government or no government. It is the Law of God written in the inward soul of man... so as to either accuse him when he goes against it, or to excuse him if he refuses to violate it (Romans 2:15).
Now from the Fall even unto this day men have persisted in their evil ways, even to the defiling of their conscience so that the compass which once pointed unerringly to the Truth no longer does so; and man has come to the place where he may call evil good, or good evil... and actually believe the lie. When men persist in their evil ways, contrary to their conscience, their conscience becomes so seared and callous that it is no longer sensitive to that inward danger signal that it used to hear so faithfully.
Man, then cannot be saved by following his conscience; nor can we say that a mans conscience is in any way a safe guide in life. Nor was it ever intended to be. It is rather that inward sense of hearing, that inward sense of vision, that inward capacity that man has to come into contact with God and the Truth. And if perchance it has become dulled or callous it needs to be quickened and made sensitive by the Spirit of God that the man, long hardened to Truth and blinded in unbelief, might be restored to a place of sensitivity. This is what happens when the Word of God comes to him in power, as a sharp two-edged sword, and challenges him with the Truth. Of course the Word of God is "above" a mans conscience, as God is "above" man, as a light of this world is "above" my vision. But without clear vision I cannot see what the light would reveal. And when a man is taught to walk in a certain pathway because of certain Church rules and regulations, regardless of the mans conscience, this would have the effect of robbing that man of the dignity that God gave him when He created him in His image. The faculty of the conscience is something deeply implanted in man... related, perhaps, to what the wise man said: "The Spirit of man is the candle of the LORD" (Proverbs 20:27). It is just a candle... but it searches out the inner thoughts and motives of the heart. It may flicker many times... it may even go out. But God put the candle there, and as the light of His Truth shines upon him and the flame is rekindled, at that very moment the man is brought face to face with a new awareness of God, and his need for God, and he is enabled to reach out and lay hold upon LIFE.
Now the Word of God does not overrule your conscience any more than we could say the light of the sun overrules your eyesight. It could, of course, blind you... if you persist in your disobedience. For Jesus said, "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:23). But the purpose of the light is not to blind, but to give direction. And so your conscience is that inward eye that enables you to see the pathway in which you must walk... it is not your guide. Gods Word alone is your guide as it is ministered to you by the Spirit. But you do not blindly follow the Truth. He quickens it to you, so that you know of a surety in your own selves, "This is the Way... I shall walk in it." You SEE it and HEAR it for yourself; otherwise it profits you nothing.
This faculty to "know both good and evil" was an awareness that came upon man after the Fall... for until he sinned he knew only good. How could he know evil when there was no evil? But that inward faculty was there by creation, and as soon as he sinned he became aware of his sin, and sought to hide himself from the presence of God. Now as God leads us back to the image of God, that image will be of a much higher order than what Adam knew before he fell, For the first man was "of the earth, earthy; but the second man is the Lord from Heaven." Nor does God intend to bring us back to a state of innocence. The knowledge of evil becomes an inherent part of his conscience; and in the midst of all the evil and darkness that surrounds us God will have a people who have come to full maturity in Christ, whose senses are "exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). In other words, He will understand clearly: This is Truth, and That is error; This is right, and That is wrong. This mingling of light and darkness... this calling good evil and evil good... this mixture of flesh and Spirit... will not always co-exist in the midst of Gods people. For as the saints of God are "weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts," and partake of "solid food," they are going to have clear vision and a sure sense of direction, and will know of a surety the true ways of the Lord. Once again God is in the process of separating the Light from the Darkness, and the Light will be called DAY, and the darkness will be called NIGHT.
Strong Meat For Full-Grown Men
Notice, then, the function of the "strong-meat" of the living Word of God. It is intended to impart within Gods people that inward awareness of Truth and Error so that they themselves know where to draw the line. The "milk of the Word" will always be necessary for the nurturing of the new-born babes in the Church of God. They are spoon-fed... and no questions are in order. They simply receive it because it was given to them by one of Gods "nursing" fathers (1 Thessalonians 2:7). So may the Lord help every minister who ministers the "sincere milk of the Word," that it may be that indeed pure, and wholesome, and fresh.
But as men grow to maturity the strong-meat will cause them to have clear vision, and clear perception. Therefore the true shepherds and fathers in the Church will not seek to keep the people in a perpetual state of babyhood, but will seek to bring them into a higher and more direct relationship with the True Shepherd. He is only a true shepherd and father as he pursues this objective. May God search out the hearts of His ministers everywhere, that they might discern what their real motives are:
To lead the people of God into the liberty of true SONSHIP with the Father
To keep them under control, as babes, in some form of ecclesiastical structure.
(It seems to me there is only one thing that is more pitiful to behold than a child that is mentally retarded..., and it is to see a congregation of people, who sit in the same pews week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade... with no other desire but to have their bottle of milk every Sunday morning, perhaps a little pablum on Wednesday or Thursday night... Spiritually retarded Christians, and seemingly enjoying it.)
What About Ones Individual Pursuit For Liberty?
And what about a direct, personal relationship with God? This is all part of the inheritance. True, I cannot take this inheritance by my own isolated efforts, and I must recognize that there is a Divine order that causes me to relate properly to all other members of the Body of Christ. It is an Order that comes into being according to the Law of the Spirit of Life that functions in that Body; and if we find grace to have the life of First Corinthians Thirteen thoroughly implanted within us, we will have no problem in this area. On the other hand, we also need to be reminded that our inheritance in God is something very personal and very individual something that no earthly or ecclesiastical government may interfere with. There is law and order and government in everything that God created. But the law that governs the Body of Christ (though ministered through the lips of men) is in reality THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS, also defined as THE PERFECT LAW OF LIBERTY. Guidance we need, and watchcare, and correction, and instruction, and chastisement. But we dare not alter the course of LIFE that God designed for each individual member of the Body of Christ. The true shepherd must guide the flock; but he does not fear to turn them loose in the open grasslands.
The Shepherd calls His own sheep by name, and the sheep knows his name, and will respond. The sheep is not just a number, one among five hundred others. He has his own name, a NAME that no other sheep knows anything about; for his relationship with the Shepherd is very special, even though the Shepherd may have ten thousand times ten thousand others in his fold.
The gardener must care for his plants, water them, nurture the soil, root out the weeds... but the whole purpose of his care over the plants is that the LIFE within will not in any way be hampered or stunted or diseased because of the adverse effects of the Curse. That is about all he can do. The Law of Life must do the rest. The gardener has no authority to alter the course of life that functions in the plant... according to the plan of God that He put there when He created it. Paul said, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:7). What a tremendous INCREASE we are going to see when Gods gardeners are content to sow the seed or water it... or weed the soil, and let God give the increase as He sees fit; rather than seeking to alter the course of LIFE that God designed specially for each individual member of His glorious Body!
The Land Of Promise
When the land had been conquered and the seven abominable nations of Canaan had been subdued, there was an immediate dividing of the inheritance. Every man was to receive his portion "by lot." In other words, God was to designate the portion that was to be allotted to each individual. It was not left to the leaders of the tribes to make decisions of this nature. He may have been used to cast the lots... but God made the decisions; for "the lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD" (Proverbs 16:33). Paul tells us that God hath set the members in the Body "even as it pleased Him." They may have received their gift and calling "through prophecy, and the laying on of hands"... but this in no way altered Gods intention for their life; it merely conformed it and established it with greater unction. Leadership is intended to lead the saints into their own personal inheritance in God. The True Shepherd is always seeking to bring His sheep into that individual place in God that will bring forth true liberty and fruitfulness. True, this pathway may lead to confinement at times; but after the confinement there is the enlargement. David said, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psalm 16:6). These "lines" defined the extent of his heritage... for God "divided them an inheritance by line" (Psalm 78:55). Paul talks about the "measure of faith" that God has distributed to every man. No individual can have all the "fulness of God." This heritage is so vast that God designed a BODY to encompass it; for only in union with the vast Body of Christ can we know and apprehend the FULNESS and COMPLETENESS of the Christ, Having the "measure" that God apportions me does not "confine" me; for it is this "measure" that effectually joins me to the whole inheritance. "That ye may be able to comprehend (apprehend) WITH ALL SAINTS, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be FILLED WITH (UNTO) ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD" (Ephesians 3:18, 19).
But let us not be "slack" to lay hold upon that measure that God has placed within our grasp, like the tribe of Joseph. They complained that they didnt have enough. Joshua replied, "Thats your own fault... go up to the mountains and clear the land... its all yours." They said, "We cant do that... there are too many enemies..." Joshua said, "You can do it if you want to... iron chariots or no iron chariots..." Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Even now let the saints of God begin to explore the inheritance that they have in God. Shrink not back because of the vastness of it, and because of the strength and the power of the Enemy that would withstand you. And as you are enabled by His Spirit from time to time to make little excursions, into the Land... stake out your claims while you are there, and be not discouraged when the glory of His presence seems to fade away, and you feel you have lost out. No man will be able to lay hold upon the fulness of this Glory until the Body of Christ is prepared to possess it as a corporate unit. But stake out your claims! (When God reveals His Truth to your heart, lay hold upon it. Say, "Yes Lord, I believe it, and I will embrace it...."--even though it may seem to be utterly impossible.) And remember, when Caleb finally came into the Land of Promise, after 45 long years of patient waiting... he got the very land that he had walked upon and claimed 45 years earlier. God had reserved it for him. But he didnt really possess it until 7 years after they entered the Land. He was too concerned and busy helping the rest of the people find their own inheritance, than to worry about his own.
The LORD was so concerned about the individual lot of the Israelites, that when Zelophehad had no sons to carry on his name in the inheritance, it was decreed that his daughters would he entitled to the land after their father died. And lest they should marry, and the inheritance pass to another tribe, they must marry within the tribe of their father. Let us remember, "for our sakes" these things were written... for God is keenly concerned about each individual and their personal relationship and union with Himself. That is what the inheritance is all about: our whole sphere of LIFE IN GOD. For we are "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ."
No leader of the tribes, no high priest or king, has any place interfering here. When Ahab tried to take Naboths inheritance, God punished him very severely. He was king... but that gave him no prerogatives in this area. Being king rather placed upon him a greater responsibility to guarantee and to protect the rights of Naboth, not to take them from him. "Now ye are the Body of Christ..." And this needs to be emphasized continually. But it will never function properly as the Body of Christ until the individual members come into the borders of their own inheritance, and find themselves in a place of fruitfulness "under their own vine and fig tree." The ministries in the Body cannot define these boundaries for them. All he can do is to "cast the lot" like Eleazar the priest. All he can do is to faithfully minister the Truth... and then as the Truth begins to lay hold upon the saints of God, individually, they shall be encouraged to reach out after God and to prove for themselves "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." Every individual must be encouraged by the Word of the Lord to earnestly seek the Lord, until he finds his place in the Body as a "member in particular." Until this takes place the Body of Christ will never amount to anything more than it is now... isolated and divided members... sitting together in the same pews, visiting a little with each other in a social sort of way, preached at from the pulpit, and keeping together as a social unit... but not a vital organism, pulsating with the Life of Christ. .. every man in his own inheritance in God... every one making his own contribution to the welfare of the whole Body because of a vital, personal union with his Lord.
You are not really being fair to the sheep of Gods pasture if you put a halter on them, or a bit and bridle, as you would to a horse or mule. You are robbing him of his inheritance if you define the will of God for him... and he in turn (under the guise of submission and obedience) finds in you an oracle to direct his steps. A disciple such as this will discover one day, much to his own sorrow and regret, that in the simplistic manner in which he Was made a disciple he was actually denied access to the very stepping-stones that God intended for his maturing... such stepping-stones as Abraham, and Moses, and David... and Gods men of all ages... had to climb...
....Stepping stones of great heart-searching, and times of perplexity and frustration, as he sought to know Gods direction for his life...
....Seasons of walking alone.., oftentimes in the night... as he called upon God and the heavens seemed to be silent...
....Times when he sought God in earnest fastings and prayers, as he came to the crossroads... and knowing in himself that he dare not let anyone else decide for him which way he must go...
....Long nights wrestling it out with God at his Peniel, when he was sure he saw the Face of God... yet somehow could not help but resist and fight back... until the Angel of God touched the hollow of his thigh and crippled him... and then he would not be denied... he would not let go... and God could not get rid of him...
....And in and through it all this man came to know the Lord God... just a little more, just a little better... just a little more intimately than he had ever known Him before.
David And His Renegades
A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. All kingdoms recognize this, and any division that appears in a kingdom is certainly cause for immediate alarm; and I think this has much to do with the fear that seems to be mounting higher and higher in the ecclesiastical realms... that some of Gods people are getting to be just a little too free.
The fact is that God has been bringing division into the midst of kingdoms since the day kingdoms began... for the simple reason that God has an "everlasting kingdom" in mind, and any kingdom that does not give way to the everlasting kingdom is doomed to failure. It is not difficult to recognize this when it concerns the kingdoms of this world, but as Christians we find it difficult at times to recognize that God often brings divisions into the ranks of the ecclesiastical kingdoms. They are not called kingdoms, of course... we use different names... like Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian... and we just stop here for lack of space and time. But God has one Kingdom in mind, even "the Kingdom of His dear Son." The heirs of this kingdom are for the most part scattered throughout the other kingdoms... but Gods plan is for "one fold, and one Shepherd." This is what the ministries are for... to gather together the scattered flocks of God. Thats why it sounds strange when some of these ministers say, "You are all right where you are... just stay in these other kingdoms... it doesnt really matter."
Gods purpose in sending forth the Ministry is very clearly set forth in the Word: "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ: TILL WE ALL COME in (unto) the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a PERFECT MAN, UNTO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST" (Ephesians 4:12,13). We realize that many good brethren who have been enlightened concerning the moving of the Holy Spirit in the earth today, do not realize that God would bring them out of the old ecclesiastical structures, and we recognize that God alone must make this matter clear to them in His own way and time. But let us not labor under the delusion that somehow God is going to refashion the old ecclesiastical structures so that the new thing He is doing can be accommodated in some old wineskin that has been rejuvenated with Charismatic oil.
The King-Shepherd continues to call the sheep that are scattered upon the mountains, calling His own sheep by name, and there is a response. A new sense of hearing is coming to his chosen ones, and they are arising and coming towards their Shepherd.
So it was with David and the discouraged and the distressed who labored under Sauls dominion. It was not rebellion, or disobedience, or hatred, or lack of submission... it was simply a case of God urging them to get out. They could not be satisfied where they were. Many other dissatisfied ones remained where they were because they lacked the courage, or the vision, or perhaps both. But a handful of the brave-hearted resorted unto David, and he became a captain over them.
Now as soon as this begins to happen, there is further distress in the kingdom of Saul... and greater and greater hatred develops in the heart of Saul against David and his company. This is inevitable. But from your standpoint and mine, all we can do is gather together out of love for our David, and follow where He leads us. We will be accounted renegades and rebels by the ass-herder Saul, but we must remember that Gods Anointing is still there in many of these old kingdoms of the house of Saul, and we have no part in trying to tear down the old as we see God making way for the new. (It will disintegrate of its own accord.) We just want to associate with brethren who have caught the vision of what God is doing... and God forbid that we should rejoice over any distress that may come into the ranks of those who remain in the old ecclesiastical order. Many even now are at the cross-roads... what shall we do? All we can say is, "Hear the Shepherds Voice..." and when He speaks, have courage to follow at His call. You are not being rebellious, nor are you rising up against established authority, if He who is the Author of all Authority has called you to move forward with Himself.
A Solemn Lesson From A Misguided Prophet
This is a rather tragic story. It is the story of a prophet of God who had a clear Word from God, but acted contrary to it on the advice of another prophet. He had been sent to Bethel out of Judah to cry against the idolatrous practices of King Jeroboam, and his prophecy was confirmed right before his eyes. As the king who resisted him reached forth his hand, his hand shrivelled, and the idolatrous altar split asunder, pouring the ashes on the ground.
But there was another prophet of God living in Bethel at the time, and naturally when he heard about all that had happened, he wanted to have a little fellowship with the man of God who came from Judah. So he saddled the ass and went down to meet the Judaean prophet, who had already started for home by another route, as the Lord had commanded... and sought to bring him back home for lunch. "But I cant do that," said the prophet from Judah, "Because God told me not to eat bread or to drink water in this place, and not to return home by the same road." "But wait a minute," said the old prophet of Bethel, "I am a prophet too, and God told me to bring you back for some lunch, and to have a little fellowship." So the prophet from Judah went back. And as they sat at the table the WORD of the Lord came to the old prophet of Bethel, and he cried out: "Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, but camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers" (1 Kings 13:21,22). The prophet of Judah then went on his way, and shortly afterwards a lion sprang out of the bush and slew him... tragically fulfilling the true prophecy of a lying prophet.
These things may sound strange to our ears; but God wants us to know that when He speaks to your heart and mine, and we know it is the LORD... there is no prophet, no apostle, no priest, and no king that has authority to change what God has made clear to you. Counsel and fellowship with one another is good and profitable... and we are to "submit" ourselves one to another as we recognize the voice of the Lord... but the will of God for your life is part of your own individual inheritance from God; and when God indicates His will for you, no man has any right to intrude into this holy place.
A Lesson From A Righteous Prophet
What we have mentioned might indeed be considered to be a very extreme situation... and we do not anticipate things like that happening among true brethren. This may be so; but you and I have a personal responsibility in the matter, to pursue the will of God for ourselves, and this does not depend on whether the apostle or prophet that I am in fellowship with is true or false. In either case, when God indicates His will for you, this is final. Let us learn a lesson from Jeremiah, and his dealings with the Rechabites.
By the Word of the LORD Jeremiah went down to the house of the Rechabites, brought them into one of the chambers of the Temple, set wine before them, and said to them: "Drink ye wine..." He wasnt laying a trap for them. he was simply doing what God told him to do. But the Rechabites had other convictions. God knew this; but we have no reason to believe that Jeremiah knew anything about it. It must have been quite a test for these men, for they certainly recognized Jeremiah as a man sent from God, and did not hesitate to come to the Temple when the man of God asked them to do so. What would they do then about this command? Perhaps somewhat apologetically, but without hesitation, they replied: "We will not do it..." and they explained why. Their father had taught them among other things to leave wine alone. They were grown men now, and on their own--but they still respected the teaching they had received from their childhood days.
Then, after the Rechabites had refused to go along with the prophet, the Word of the LORD came to Jeremiah again saying, "Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD..." Then he went on to show how one godly man had so instructed his sons in the ways of righteousness that his sons embraced it, and clung to it, and nothing could shake them from their convictions not even the Word of the LORD through Jeremiah... whereas God had been rising up early and sending the prophets to His people, saying, "Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings... but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me." (See Jeremiah 35:13-15.) Let us notice the end of the story. God pronounced a blessing on the house of the Rechabites for all generations to come, for their courage and their stalwart stand for what they believed was RIGHT. And we may conclude, as a result of this blessing, that there must be somewhere in the earth today descendants of the Rechabites who are serving the Lord Jesus Christ... and it can be attributed to the fact that many centuries ago a man by the name of Jonadab taught his sons in the ways of truth, and they in turn had the courage to disobey the prophet of the LORD who unwittingly gave commands that were contrary to their convictions.
Freedom To Do The Will Of God
Now this matter of knowing the will of God and doing it is one of the most vital of all aspects of Truth in the Word of God. For "he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:17). It is very important then to have the assurance that we are doing the will of God, and we cannot allow anything to come in between that would hinder us from pursuing the fulness of Gods intention for our lives. I may receive help from my brethren in this area, as we have fellowship together. I may know of faithful men in the ministry that will give good counsel and advice. But in the final analysis we all must "prove, what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1,2). Notice that there is progression in this realm also: (1) That which is GOOD. (2) That which is ACCEPTABLE (or rather, WELL-PLEASING). (3) That which is PERFECT. You and I may be in the will of God now. But we cannot settle for that. There must be a going on into perfection in this area also... as God leads us from one phase of his dealings to another, and as we partake more and more of His nature and character. And let us remember that the will of God is primarily a SPIRITUAL LOCATION IN GOD, and not a geographical location. True, as we walk in His will it is important that we find ourselves in that particular geographical location that God would have us to be... but this is only incidental. To be spiritually located in the Land of our Inheritance, is most important... and from then on the earthly and the material matters relative to the will of God find their proper sequence.
We mentioned that the individual in Canaan received his inheritance "by lot." But this did not imply that it was a game of "chance." This was Gods way of assuring you and I that He alone can choose and ordain the pathway in which He would have us walk. That is really what is meant by the word "predestination." He marks out beforehand the whole sphere of life pertaining to His chosen ones. The "lot" is cast... and so much of our life seems to be mere "chance," but God is faithfully preparing the way before His own... having in mind, and having for His objective, nothing less than conformity to the image of His Son. The "lot" that was cast was not a set of dice, or something of that nature. It was something God ordained... and no doubt refers to Urim and Thummim, that unknown something called "LIGHTS AND PERFECTIONS" that were in the breastplate of the High Priest. This precious gift of God would give unerring, infallible direction according to the will of God. The High Priest was only the minister whom God used to place his hand over these precious gems... or whatever they were. (We do not even seek to know what they were... for the "secret of the LORD" is to them that fear Him, and God has deliberately shrouded these precious provisions of His grace in secrecy, as a fitting type of the hidden wisdom and knowledge and mind of the Lord that He imparts to those who love Him and walk with Him in the secret place.) And if, perchance, there was disobedience on the part of the one who sought counsel from the LORD... then even the Urim and Thummim gave no answer, and the High Priest was helpless to do anything about it.
It is absolutely necessary for any man or woman who sincerely desires to go on with the LORD, to walk in obedience before Him, and in the light of His Word, in personal union with Christ. Get what help you can from this minister or that, from this brother or that... but the true shepherd will seek to illumine the Urim and Thummim in your own spirit that you might be able to say for yourself: "This is the Way, I must walk in it." Fellowship and union with our brethren in the Body of Christ does not, cannot, take the place of this inward awareness and consciousness of Gods desire for you.
Paul Set His Face As A Flint
The apostle Paul had clear direction from the Lord. He was to go to Jerusalem to attend one of the feasts of the Jews; and then after that he was to see Rome. We read, "Paul purposed in the spirit (it could have been written Spirit) when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome" (Acts 19:2 1). As he went on his way in ministry, he left Ephesus, passed on through Macedonia, then on to Greece, back again through Macedonia... stopping here and there on his return trip home... pressed in his spirit to get to Jerusalem. All along the way, in just about every city where he ministered, there were prophecies and utterances to the effect that he was heading straight for imprisonment and trouble. As he talked to the elders of Ephesus who had come down to Miletus to receive a parting word from the man who had given them such tremendous help and encouragement, he reminded them: "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit (Spirit) unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide (await) me" (Acts 20:22). But none of these things moved him... he knew that all these things were part of the "course" that he must finish, and the ministry that he must fulfill. The Lord had already shown him in times past "how great things he would suffer for His Names sake."
When he landed at Tyre, and gathered with the disciples, the same thing occurred again. The Spirit revealed that he was heading for trouble if he went to Jerusalem. The disciples said to Paul "through" the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem (Acts 2 1:4). It was their own good counsel, but it was "through" the revelation that they had received by the Spirit that Paul was heading for trouble. The next stop was at Caesarea, and here it was that a prophet of God shows Paul very clearly by sign language that he would be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Again there were all kinds of good counsel: from Luke, from the disciples of Caesarea, and others of Pauls company... perhaps Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timotheus, Tychicus, and Trophimus. (These men had been with him earlier on the trip, and some of them at least may have accompanied him to Jerusalem) "Dont do it Paul... God has warned you what is going to happen." They wept, as they tried to persuade him to pay heed to all the warnings that he had received along the way. But Paul answered, "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13). And how did the brethren respond to this? "We ceased, saying, THE WILL OF THE LORD BE DONE." After all their good advice and counsel had been rejected, they finally had to confess that Paul was doing the will of God. And what did the Lord Himself have to say about it all, after Paul began to enter into his troubles, which he might have avoided had he taken the counsel of the brethren? "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11). This is exactly what the Spirit had impressed upon Paul months earlier: "I must go to Jerusalem... after that I must see Rome." (Some, of course, will argue to this day that Paul was wrong in not yielding to the other brethren, because of all the trouble he got into. But these troubles were all part of Gods plan for this man of God who was called upon to suffer "great things" for His Names sake. And out of these sufferings there has come forth the great Church epistles of the apostle Paul some of which were penned in a prison cell in Rome... but released to the Church of his day, as well as to the Church of every generation thereafter... epistles of truth which we would not have if the apostle Paul had yielded to the well-meaning but misguided counsel of his brethren.
It is right and proper to be yielding and submissive and cooperative with fellow ministers in the Body of Christ. But there is a place where you have to stand alone, and resist every brother and every minister who would seek to hinder you from walking in the pathway that God has clearly defined before your eyes.
Chapter 6 - New Wine in New Wineskins
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