Neither Experiment Nor Museum
Basket of Figs, May, 2007
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Ro 8:29 AV)
“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,” (Ga 4:19 AV)
The church is not to be an experimental laboratory for innovative and clever human ideas and initiatives, but neither is it to be a museum to preserve old and dying traditions It is the body of Christ and her ministers must call her to be conformed to the Lord Jesus.
Jesus Christ, the only model for His body, the church.
This is the inheritance of the saints. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1Pe 1:3-4 AV)
The inheritance is future and not past, although the promise is an old one from the Garden of Eden.
In Christ is the fullness of all things: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;” (Col 1:18-19 AV)
If an old tradition is not contained in Christ, then it is non-essential and may be changed when it no longer serves the church, and if it serves the mission of the church to change it. The church should not be disrupted for innovation’s sake alone.
Israel went astray when the promise of Christ became obscure, when they doubted the forgiveness of their sins, and when they turned to idols for help because they no longer trusted in God and His promises of redemption in Christ.
The church gets into trouble when the gospel of Christ becomes obscure, when she doubts the forgiveness of her sins, and when she turns to her own works and traditions for preservation, rather than to Christ.
The true distinctive of the church of Jesus Christ is her loyalty and love for Jesus Christ, just as the promise of Christ was the true distinctive of Israel. Israel’s distinction did not lie in her faithful observance of ceremonies but in the forgiveness of sins to which the ceremonies pointed. God had promised to put away their sins: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa 1:18 AV)
Jesus didn’t introduce a new principle of religion when he said, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mt 9:13 AV) Isaiah had declared that all their sacrifices and ceremonies were iniquity and worse than useless, if they did not “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isa 1:17 AV)
It is true that the observance of the ceremonies of the Old Testament were required to be meticulously observed, because of the promise to which they pointed: the promise of Christ would be obscured if the ceremonies were obscured. But Christ has now been plainly set before us and ceremonial religion has been abolished: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Col 2:16-17 AV) The only ceremonies that remain are those which emphasize that Christ is in heaven and is not to be sought on the earth, specifically Baptism in water which speaks of the cleansing of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord’s Supper, which speaks of the spiritual nourishment of the soul. In both, the carnal element must be separated in our minds from the spiritual reality if we are not to lapse into superstition. Jesus must be sought in heaven or He will not be found at all.
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior; --Titus 1:1-3
There is a faith that pertains to the elect of God. Only the Lord’s sheep have this faith, and it involves the “acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” The elect of God did not invent the content of this truth, because this truth originated in eternity, in the mind of God, who cannot lie. Even the apostle Paul himself did not invent the Gospel, because he recognized that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, and this apostleship was according “to the faith of God’s elect.”
Christians are called the “elect of God.” This means that they are the children of God by God’s election. If this means that God is chosen of them, then Paul would have said, “According to the faith of those who elect God.” This would not be true, of course, for they are Christians, not by their choice, but by God’s choice. Hence, they are called God’s elect. Faith is not the cause of the election, but the fruit of it. We are Christians, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” as Paul says later in this same epistle [Titus 3:5}
We are called to acknowledge this truth. We are not called to invent truth, or imagine truth, or choose “our truth,” but to acknowledge it. “Acknowledge” has the idea of complete and perfect knowledge. Men are called to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ as complete and perfect knowledge Of course this is beyond the reach of the natural man. Paul says in I Corinthians 2: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” This knowledge and this understanding is the gift of God, and must therefore be according to God’s election, for man will never choose it on his own.
This truth has been revealed to the world through preaching. God would humble man by bringing them to the truth by the ministry of men, appointed by Him, to preach this great Gospel. The Gospel was promised before the world began. This great Gospel began in the eternal counsels of the Holy Trinity, before God had ever created the heavens and the earth. Even the Lord Jesus, when He was on the earth, did not invent the Gospel. “Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16-17 AV)
There is no salvation apart from this truth. This truth is “after godliness.” The word godliness has the idea of piety or holiness. Only the truth preached by Jesus Christ and the Apostles is according to godliness and piety. Lying idols and doctrines do not bring godliness and cannot bring salvation. Lies may make people feel good, fulfilled, and very religious, but lies cannot bring godliness or the salvation of the soul.