Let’s move from theory to some real practical matters.
I want to work with two passages of Scripture today. I’m going to list them, and then I’m just going to refer back to what they say without referencing them a second time:
He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers to perfect the saints for the work of service and for the building up of the body of Christ until we all come into the unity of the faith, of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the full stature of the King. The purpose of all this is that we do not remain children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of teaching, by the sleight of hand performed with cunning craftiness by men who lie in wait to deceive. Instead, we will speak the truth in love and grow up in everything into him who is the head, the King, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, as each part effectively gives what it has, causes growth of the body so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:11-16)
I have written these things [his letter to that point] to you [plural!] about those who are trying to seduce you. But the anointing which you have received from him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, as the anointing teaches you about everything, and is true and not a lie, just as it has taught you, you will remain in him. (1 Jn. 2:26-27)
We use these passages, especially the one from Ephesians 4, but in practice we miss its main teaching. We don’t miss the main teaching in interpretation. We just miss it in practice.
So, what I am about to say will not seem new to most of you. I just want to point out that almost no one is doing the Word of God contained in these passages, and then I want to ask you to start doing it.
It could change everything.
Speaking the Truth in Love
We like verses 11 and 12 of Ephesians 4. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (or possibly, though unlikely, shepherd/teachers) train the saints to serve and to build the body of Jesus, and everything is wonderful.
Perhaps there are countries where that would be enough.
In the USA, it is not nearly enough.
We’re pretty wimpy. We think Jesus, who was not only full of love, but was love incarnate, was sweet, syrupy, and understanding. And, in fact, to the adulteress that was about to be stoned, his rescue of her could certainly be described as sweet and understanding, as well as heroic. It was certainly full of mercy.
Jesus wasn’t always like that. With his closest comrades he was nothing like that.
- “Get behind me, satan. You are offensive to me. You don’t understand the God’s things but men’s” (Matt. 16:23).
- “Oh faithless and corrupt generation! How long do I have to be with you and put up with you?” (Luke 9:41).
- “Oh, you of little faith! Why are you deliberating about having brought no bread? Do you not yet understand?” (Matt. 16:8-9)
Jesus wants us to learn from him.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him.” (Luke 17:3)
So does Paul:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproving, correction, and instruction in righteousness … (2 Tim. 3:16)
One of their own … said, “The Cretians are always liars, wild animals, and gluttons.” This testimony is true; therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they may become healthy in their faith. (Tit. 1:12-13)
In the United States, there are things we just don’t talk about. We are so concerned about “political correctness” that we have an acronym for it!
That doesn’t work in the church.
I’ve attended a number of black churches (though I mourn the fact that there could be black or white churches) in my time, a couple on a regular basis. It’s not uncommon for a pastor to interrupt his own sermon to say, “Now I’m meddlin’.”
He means he’s talking about things that the typical church member doesn’t like to bring into the light or talk about openly.
Usually, though, that statement is greeted with whoops and hollerin’, as the congregation knows that we need “meddlin’.”
That meddlin’, however, should not come from the shepherd. The shepherd(s) should be training the saints to do the work of service and to build up Jesus’ body, making it healthy so that it grows to the stature that it’s supposed to have. We are the ones who are supposed to speak the truth in love and effectively play our part (cf. also 1 Pet. 4:10-11; Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-12).
The results promised for the saints doing the work of service, building up Jesus’ body, and speaking truth to one another as they are equipped by God to do so are phenomenal. We will dodge the doctrinal sleight of hand done by the cunning ones, sent by the devil to prevent the church from growing into its terrifying fullness, and we will not wander this way and that as various teachers and teachings come through. In fact, we will grow, together, and we will grow into “the full measure of the stature of the King.” In other words, Jesus’ body will grow up into the full, strong man that he should be on the earth.
If we do our part.
Not playing your part will stunt our growth.
1 John 2:26-27
The other great promise to the church concerning those that would lead us astray is 1 John 2:26-27. “We” don’t even need anyone to teach us! The anointing that he gives us will teach us everything we need, and it will be true and not a lie!
All the you’s in 1 John 2:26-27 are plural. It is not addressed to individuals, but to the church. It is good to at least own a KJV translation because in it you can tell the difference between plural and singular you’s. Thou, thee, and thine are singular; ye, you, and your are plural. The idea that “thou” is somehow holier than “you” is false. It is simply more singular than you!
For most Christians, however, that promise falls into the “too good to be true” category. Where has it every worked?
It has worked wherever the church has existed. I can name some: The catholic churches prior to Constantine; the early Anabaptists (the Radical Reformation); the early Quakers (Societies of Friends); the Moravian Brethren. I’m sure there’s more that I could list if I took more time to think about it.
At Rose Creek Village, we have gathered people from most streams of western Christianity (Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Amish, Mennonite, Methodist, “non-denominational,” charismatic, International Church of Christ, and the Lord’s Recovery) along with former atheists, patriot movement members, National Organization of Women members, and several that wouldn’t fit into any of those categories, into one body, developing one heart, one mind, and one way, whose members are filled with the Holy Spirit and love.
That was no small task. In fact, it is an utterly impossible task without the intervention of God.
For us, 1 John 2:27 was not too good to be true.
I could run this post up to 5,000 words telling you about modern churches that have believed the passages I began this post with, and who prospered doing so. I could also tell you about the immense effort the devil expends trying to make sure such churches do not continue to exist. (My booklet, How to Make a Church Fail, exposes the 200-year effort that produces such a great apostasy during the time of Constantine.)
I’ll limit myself to what I’ve experienced. How did Rose Creek Village bring such a diverse group of people together and have them stay together? Well, three things:
- We built on the right foundation: “The Lord knows those who are his, and let those who name the name of the King depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19).
- We made the Spirit a priority over our opinions: “Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit … until you come to the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:3).
- We believed that if we did our part, speaking the truth to one another in love, then the anointing would really lead us (not individuals) into what is true and not a lie.