A Reader’s Digest of Lamb’s Reign: January 2020

Just wrapping up the month here, for the Lamb’s Reign blog.

My initial plan was to do everything up to this date (Feb 9, 2020): but there’s a lot more stuff there than what I thought. (Hooray!) If I want to continue the Reader’s Digests, I will have to do it on a monthly basis.

Public Justice, Public Law, Public Religion

Politics and religion are inseparable.

This fact alone accounts for the persecution of the early Church by the Roman State. Francis Legge stated the matter clearly when he said that “The officials of the Roman Empire in time of persecution sought to force the Christians to sacrifice, not to any of the heathen gods, but to the Genius of the Emperor and the Fortune of the city of Rome; and at all times the Christians’ refusal was looked upon not as a religious but as a political offence.”

At the trial of Christ the chief priests of the Jews said to the officials of the Roman Empire: “We have no king but Caesar” ( Jn 19:15). The early Christians, when faced with the same question, replied: “We have another King: the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Romans understood what this meant: either Jesus would bow the knee to Caesar or Caesar would have to bow the knee to Jesus (cf. Jn 19:12).

The Church faces this same question again today, and in a way that she has not had to face it since the days of the Roman emperors. Who is Lord: Christ or Caesar? Christ or the modern secular State? There was, and is, no third option, no “third way.” This was, and still is, a political issue. Jesus Christ was victorious in his struggle with the Roman State. He will be victorious in his struggle with the modern secular State. The only question that remains is this: on whose side will you stand? Whom are you for? Whom will you obey? The Lord Jesus Christ or the modern idolatrous secular State?

Christianity is the True Politics by Stephen C. Perks — January 2, 2020

So long as God is focused on issues of public justice, then to that extent religion — the Christian religion, anyways — is going to get involved in politics.

That’s just the way it is.

The Church in the twenty-first century must recognise this truth and begin living in terms of it, as did the early Church, by challenging the political idolatry that is destroying the Western world today. Only when the Church awakens from the deadening slumber that has overtaken her and proclaims once more the lordship and sovereignty of Jesus Christ over the whole of life, including the political realm, will the world be delivered from its slavery and bondage to sin as manifested today in the politics of rebellion against God; and only then will the world experience real freedom, the glorious liberty that the gospel of God brings to all nations that submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

The law and gospel of God is a public truth, a light not only for man’s personal devotions but also for the government of the nations. This is not a new doctrine, it is the established orthodox teaching of the Christian faith.

Christianity is the True Politics by Stephen C. Perks — January 2, 2020

Slaves love their chains… but free men can’t tolerate them forever. To the extent that they cry out to God, to that extent God will move to free them.

But they have to cry out to God.

Formal American slavery ran from 1619 to 1865: that’s 246 years of crying out. Not as long as the 400 years the Jews were kept under the lash of Pharaoh, but it was bad enough.

If Christian men wish to be free, they need to cry out to God… and also, to repent of their own evil, the evil that allowed the chains to latch onto them in the first place. Otherwise, once freed, we will merely exchange one set of chains for another.

Just as Black Americans live in fear of each other and the police now, not of Jim Crow or the KKK… or some whip-bearing master looking for profits and pleasure.

Cry our, and repent, and there will be deliverance. Probably from an unexpected quarter.

f this is to happen the law and gospel of God must inform all that we think, say and do, as individuals and as a nation. Only when submission to the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a reality in the life of the nations of the earth can it be said that the Great Commission is being fulfilled, since the Great Commission is not a command to disciple individuals from among the nations, but a command to disciple the very nations themselves—i.e. to make Christian nations.

Christianity is the True Politics by Stephen C. Perks — January 2, 2020

Christian nations, filled with Christian people, covering the world. That is the goal.

(I say that such a would would make “a good beginning” in this galaxy. But we need to at least reach the level Christ set for us, if we are going to get anything more!

You can’t just jump to level eighty-four when you are still struggling to get to level three in righteousness, knowledge, holiness, and authority!)

It is my contention that only the Christian religion can provide a true, stable and lasting foundation for civilisation, and that the abandonment of Christianity as public truth in the twentieth century has led the world into chaos. The answer to the chaos that the modern world faces is therefore the revival of Christianity as public truth, i.e. as the religious foundation of our civilisation, in terms of which both individual men and nations, with their civil governments, must organise their whole life by conforming to the precepts and teachings of the Bible. In other words Christianity must be the established religion of all nations.

This is precisely what the Great Commission calls for. But this brings us to another equally important point, namely that the fulfillment of the Great Commission will not be possible without the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in the lives of both individual Christians and the Christian communities of all nations as a concrete social order that models to the world what true society should be, and by doing this calls the world to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without the manifestation on earth in tangible form of this prophetic social order the world will not be won for Christ. The Christian community is to be a light to the world. Only as that light is seen, i.e. only as Christians are seen living as a real social order that transforms the whole life of man, will the world be drawn to it:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many peoples: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up swords against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is. 2:2–4).

Christianity is the True Politics by Stephen C. Perks — January 2, 2020

Christ has set a goal for His people – make disciples of all the nations – and we must do it.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines politics as “the art and science of government.” It is not pragmatism or “the art of the possible” as Otto von Bismarck famously claimed. Politics deals with how society should be governed.

What, then, is the relationship between politics and Christianity? Does Christianity have anything to do with politics? The correct answer to this question is that Christianity has a great deal to do with politics, indeed that the Christian religion is, by its very nature, a political faith. It is not merely that Christianity has a political dimension. Rather, in its purest form—i.e. when it appears unmixed with the compromising effects of syncretism with false religions and idolatrous spiritualities that are alien to its own principles—the Christianity faith is essentially political in nature.

Christianity is the true politics, and this is because the body of Christ, the Christian community, is the true society, just as the Kingdom of God is the true social order, in the sense that all societies that turn away from the covenant social order established by God’s word are idolatrous, the abandonment of God’s true purpose for mankind and therefore the corruption and defacing of what humanity and human society were meant to be in the divinely ordained order of Creation. Rebellion against God and rejection of the covenant social order revealed in his law is a move from life to death, from the true meaning of man’s life to a false meaning for life, from the true humanity to human corruption and depravity, from true society to social dysfunctionality and disintegration, with all the consequences that such apostasy entails. If the history of the human race has taught us anything it is surely this, since as Scripture declares, “he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Pr. 8:36).

Christianity is the True Politics by Stephen C. Perks — January 2, 2020

Christianity is by necessity political, because God demands public justice.

The State is not to control all things, as the secularist desires, but is bound to the limits God set for it: so far, and not a step farther.

What is the Source of the Law?

The words and will of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

All alternatives are merely some half-wit, moronically murderous kind of tyranny, theft, and lawless oppression.

Tyrants in Churchy Robes

Far too often, I have heard the idea that sinful commands limit the elder’s authority. Though this is true, their authority is much more limited than that. There are at least two things to consider when asking whether or not someone is exercising righteous authority:

1. Sin. Is the authority commanding you to sin? This question is rather non-controversial. We are to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

2. Jurisdiction. Is he commanding something that he has no right to command?

In the case of point one, we must disobey. In the case of point two, we can disobey. In the case of unlawful jurisdiction, we must weigh the disobedience with wisdom and other considerations. This check is not solely limited to commanding sin but also limits his jurisdiction. The same limitations apply to other realms of authority. Jurisdiction is defined by the purpose and function of the sphere of sovereignty. Elders have the right to rebuke sin and prophetically call others to repentance. In an action of the church, elders can also play a role in further sanctions leading up to and including excommunication. But elders do not have the right to control your life outside of that.

The Work of the Ecclesiastical Megalomaniac by John Reasnor — January 9, 2020

The article points to David Chilton’s lecture “The Work of the Ecclesiastical Megalomaniac”, which is available for download.

I will only add that, after breaking the power of religious tyrants, you might want to look into snapping the chains of political tyrants too.

Borders Determine Ownership. Free Movement? Not So Much

While debating immigration with fellow Christians, I have grown very used to seeing the same bad arguments over and over again. In addition to these five “biblical” reasons to oppose immigration, there is also more abstract reasoning such as common fear and xenophobia. However, out of the attempts to use scripture to justify strict border control, these arguments have been, by far, the most common.

God Ordains Borders

Much has been made of scripture respecting borders, and, frankly, scripture does make much of borders. Yes, God is Sovereign over boundaries (Jeremiah 31:17), and In fact, God’s Law condemns the man who dares tamper with the boundary markers of his neighbor. 

“You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” Deuteronomy 19:14

In a time before the widespread availability of accurate maps designed by professional surveyors, these landmarks were essential in determining the boundaries between family property lines, tribal territories, and national borders. To move these boundaries would necessarily be an act of theft or, perhaps, even national treason. The clear scriptural and theonomic view is that God respects and honors boundaries. 

We should be very clear about what we are discussing. Borders are objectively and indisputably necessary, but borders do not necessitate restricting the free travel of non-criminals. In essence, there is a categorical distinction between borders and border control. Borders form jurisdictional legal boundaries, while border control physically restricts free travel by the use of force or the threat of force. Borders are a crucial judicial tool in determining proper jurisdictions and, in the case of private boundaries, property rights. However, border control is a perpetual executive action. 

Some strongly feel that having borders without strict border control is untenable or downright bizarre. 

From history, however, we see that this was the standard legal position of most Western nations, including the United States, up until the last hundred and fifty years. The first immigration law passed in the USA was in 1882 and restricted the immigration of Chinese. This means that the USA, somehow, existed for over a hundred years with borders but without any notable border control. Crossing into Canada or Mexico was as easy as crossing from Kansas into Oklahoma. Europe was very much the same, so much so that the idea of presenting identification papers at a border was, for many years, considered a nefarious act associated with Nazi Germany as opposed to a normal part of life. Allowing the free travel of peoples across national borders is a far cry from disrespecting, disregarding, or negating the borders themselves. 

5 Terrible “Biblical” Arguments For Border Control by John Reasnor — January 10, 2020

It’s been a long, long time since the argument “we shouldn’t do it because the Nazi oppressors did it” held water.

That isn’t because the Nazi’s change, and it isn’t because what they did was any less tyrannical or less heinous.

It’s because we, and our societies, are far closer to the Nazi level of control, centralized power, arbitrary authoritarian lawlessness — “Went to an airport in the last decade or so?” — and the ‘government-business partnership’ economic structure than the West was 40 years ago.

No jackboots in the streets, though, so All Is Well.

Anyways…

The respect God gives to borders is the only argument that a hard-core Biblicalist needs to worry about, and a concern that Reasnor addresses well. in sum, “Borders” is not the same as “Border Control.”

I am quite satisfied, for example, that the United Kingdom has been freed from the control, ownership, and domination of Brussels. This is true even though I know that the main driver for this was the fear of immigration.

That being said, I would rather leave the borders open and merely 1) restrict the voting franchise to believing Trinitarian Christians and 2) end the welfare state, and so any possible ‘theft of the public purse’ by immigrants. This is more Biblical than raising up border controls, while leaving in place the welfare state and pagan influence on British politics.

But at least, with Britain out of the EU, the locals have the possibility of putting in place Biblical forms of government and a Biblically-grounded legal system. Three cheers, just for the freedom to do that!

There are four other, far more obviously bad reasons for border control:

Following the pagan example of the enemies of God: the Edomites, Moabites, etc.

“Really?”

The Gibeonite Vetting of Joshua 9

“Umm… the Gibeonites were not immigrants.”

Sojourner vs. Foreigner

The word “ger” merely means that you are living on someone elses’ land. It does not mean that you needed official permission to live there.

The Walls of Jerusalem…

…were used as military fortifications against an army, not to control assorted bands of disorganized civilians going here and there.

Immigration can be a very contentious issue. Far too often, fear is used against the Church and far too often we are naive and gullible. Party politics and tribalism play too much of a role as well, while instead, we are called to be Christians first. Whatever view we take on immigration, we should be looking to God’s Word as our standard. Although I could spend pages writing about terrorism, economics, xenophobia, fear, and on and so on, there are only two questions that must be answered.

What is our standard?

and

What is the Biblical prescription for closed borders?

These common arguments fail to answer that question and fail miserably. 

5 Terrible “Biblical” Arguments For Border Control by John Reasnor — January 10, 2020

Tragic Failures

What God says in Romans 1 about godless humanity is true. Despite outward appearances, inwardly we are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. We are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though we know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, we not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

At times in history, God has to even intervene to wipe out mankind, or entire nations because of their inter-generationally ingrained treachery. Despite all of her wealth, America is in danger of this today. Self-styled do-gooders (or those who think they are) have existed in every evil civilization in human history. Convinced of their inherent goodness and pursuing a standard of justice tied inextricably to what seems right in their own eyes (that month) while completely untethered from any objective morality they flail about after some kind of justice in society. America today is full of such people. The ultimate end of all their efforts without Christ is ruin. The history of mankind apart from fidelity to God’s law bears this out. It is a record of genocide, devastation, subjugation, enslavement, destroyed family and the slaughter of children.

What God does for mankind in the Gospel is to convict people of sin, grant repentance, provide atonement in Christ, free us from guilt and shame, and pour out his Spirit so we are liberated from the curse to obey his law. In so doing, we become part of the project Christ undertook to restore mankind to become faithful stewards of the earth. To secure his inheritance which is the obedience and worship of the nations through the great commission – where Christ is the hero of the story and he gets all the glory.

It is only after a society has been taken over by regenerated hearts that we will see any real lasting change in society. The difficult truth is that ultimately, the godless do-gooder who rejects Christ is on the team which is working to destroy himself, his family, his neighborhood, his state, his country and the entire the earth whether he knows it or not.

Unbelievers Will Never Create a Just Society by Jordan Wilson — January 11, 2020

Men can’t build heaven on earth apart from God.

The only reason why Christians can, to a good (but not conclusive) level, is because we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, putting our hearts and and hands and minds in His service.

And, despite all our good works, we still need Jesus Christ to complete the work, to truly bring heaven to earth, justice for all (the living and the dead), and bring in the New Creation.

That said, we have to admit that even strangers to the covenant sometimes do what is right. To our shame, sometimes they even get things right that professing Christians get wrong. By the standard the world lays down, they are “good people”.

What we need to understand is that there are many people who reject Christ as Lord who do lots of “good” things. They perform successful surgeries. They land the plane with care. They fix your plumbing. They give up their place in line. They hold the door. They co-operate. They tip the waitress well. They give to charity. They go out of their way to help you find a job. They’ll show you hospitality. They’ll plant a tree. But what matters in the final analysis is whether they are doing all these things in the service of God or an idol. Who’s kingdom do they represent? Christ’s or Satan’s?

If they do not have the Spirit of God living within them to guide them into all righteousness the nations they inhibit will never become more than failed attempts at human flourishing and social justice. A conglomerate of unhinged people wildly vacillating between great evils and occasional bits of temporary success and justice.

All attempts at reaching heaven from earth without Christ and the regenerating Spirit of God are nothing more than doomed Tower of Babel projects.

Let’s call it what it is.

Unbelievers Will Never Create a Just Society by Jordan Wilson — January 11, 2020

The Cultural Mandate

Culture is simply human interaction with God’s physical creation.[1] When God created the earth it was good, but it wasn’t best. To make His creation even more glorious, God made creatures who would reflect His creative nature by cultivating the physical realm. The term “culture” can refer to just about any human activity. It can refer to tilling dirt in preparation for crops; organizing sound waves into musical songs; or cutting stone and trees for infrastructure. It applies to human procreation as well. Families multiply into more families which eventually creates societies. This is what God created mankind to do—to take dominion over the earth for cultivation as image bearers of Himself.

The first humans failed at this task by rebelling against God’s law. Despite their failure, God never rescinded His commission, in fact, He reinstated it with His Old Testament saints. However, like Adam, they would also fail at the task until the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45) would come to succeed on behalf of the human race. As mankind’s redeemer and one who now possesses ultimate dominion in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18), Jesus reinstates the cultural mandate as the mission of his church, only now the multiplication comes in the form of discipleship and baptism in the name of the Triune God, and subduing comes by teaching the commandments of Christ which manifests as culture. To make things easy, we will merge the two examined shorthand terms together and refer to the view that the Great Commission is the Cultural Mandate reinstated as the “cultural commission” (I’m sure others have used this term before so I’m not claiming to have coined it).

The Great Commission is the Cultural Mandate Reinstated in Christ by Benjamin Moore — January 18, 2020

We were made to build up Christ’s Kingdom, to make ever more just and holy and fruitful, forever, in time and on earth.

Christ forever fulfills the cultural mandate

So far in the redemptive narrative we have seen God reiterate the cultural mandate time and time again with His people. The progress report of their attempts at God’s calling can be summed up in one word—failure. Not one person or peoples that God made a covenant with could fulfill the original calling that was given to Adam in the garden. None except Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the priest-king that Adam was supposed to be. It was Adam who was supposed to take dominion as a king but lost it (Gen 1:26, 28); It is Jesus on the other hand to whom belongs all dominion both now and forever (Eph 1:21; 1 Pet 4:11; 5:11; Jude 1:25; Rev 1:6). Adam as priest should have expelled the serpent from the garden but instead let it deceive him; by contrast, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head and cast him out (Gen 3:15; John 12:31-32). Adam brought death in the old creation; Jesus brought life in the new (1 Cor 15:22). Adam was disobedient in the garden of Eden; Jesus was obedient in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). Jesus is called the “final Adam” (1 Cor 15:45) for the reason that he will succeed in God’s cultural calling, thus, never again will there be a need for another Adam-like figure.

The cultural mandate reinstated in the New Covenant 

The Final instance in which the cultural mandate is reinstated occurs during the end of the Gospel narratives where Jesus himself commissions his followers to go into all the world to disciple the nations. Echoes of the first commission in Genesis are clearly present. Just as the first cultural commission to Adam was announced in Eden located on a mountain (Eze 28:14,16), Jesus gave his commission to the disciples also on a mountain (Matt 28:16). God blessed Adam to carry out his mission (Gen 1:28); Jesus blessed his disciples to carry out theirs (Luke 24:50). The commission in Eden was to be fruitful and multiply; Jesus commissioned the Apostles to multiply his disciples, and multiply they did (Acts 6:7; 9:31; 12:24). Adam was to subdue the earth; the Apostles were told to teach new believers to observe all he commanded. Obedience to King Jesus in all areas of life is how Christians subdue the earth through him in the New Covenant.

Jesus’ reinstatement of the cultural mandate would be different from the rest for the reason that God’s presence would remain with his people. Jesus’ solidifies his commission by assuring his disciples that he would be with them always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:20). This was the sanctuary that would remain with God’s people forever (Eze 37:26). Jesus himself is the temple (John 2:19-22) and because his presence is now with us and in us (Gal 2:20), we are also God’s temple (Eph 2:19-22; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 6:16; Rev 21:3). Where ever we go and whatever we touch/cultivate, the world is experiencing the presence of God through his people. The fact that Christ and his church are God’s temple should be a constant reminder of our cultural mission just as the Old Testament temple and its garden decor was to Israel.

The Great Commission is the Cultural Mandate Reinstated in Christ by Benjamin Moore — January 18, 2020

Christ succeeded where Adam failed.

So, as Christ opened the door to the redemption of the world, in every sphere of life, in every good and just manner, let us go forth and do it!

Richmond Second Amendment Rally Peaceful and Succesful

Because they see a Democrat presidential candidate to the left of Trump on gun control, Trump automatically becomes the de facto hero. Despite the success of the day, it would be good for Americans to break out of the defunct two-party mindset and see the compromises of Conservative politicians as part of the problem as opposed to only “better than the next guy.” 

Lastly, it is vital for Virginians and all people to fully understand that the right to protect their life, liberty, and property does not come from the Constitution, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the State, or the Governor. It comes from God. Although it is good to be actively and politically opposed to state and national gun control measures, ultimately, we are not bound to comply with unjust laws no matter the legislative outcome. Over a hundred Virginian cities and counties have declared themselves as Sanctuary Counties for the sake of fundamental Second Amendment rights. Now is the time for Virginians to remember that although we will certainly put pressure on Richmond, it should not matter what Richmond decides to do. The Democrats still have the votes, so we need to be ready to assert these sanctuary statuses. But do not forget, believers, that our rights also do not come from the counties. Our appeal is to heaven. 

Richmond Second Amendment Rally Peaceful and Succesful by John Reasnor — January 22, 2020

One step at a time, one day at a time.

That’s how you get to the Promised Land of liberty and freedom.

Supporting the Lamb’s Reign Blog

Within the next several weeks, the Lamb’s Reign Blog will be transforming into Lamb’s Reign Media. Many things will stay the same, but some significant changes are also on the way. We will continue to publish the same high caliber of articles, but we will also be incorporating Cross and Crown Radio officially as well as producing exclusive and regular video content. We will also be offering more digital content, such as e-books. 

All of our content will continue to be aimed at seeking to edify the body of Christ towards redeemed servant-hood in the kingdom of God. 

Over the last few months, several generous individuals have asked us how they can support our work. For the most part, we have been focused on proving ourselves and content creation, but we also want to provide an easy and secure way for our readers and friends to support our work. 

So, if you have enjoyed and appreciated the content we have produced over the last few months, and if you are looking forward to future Lamb’s Reign Media projects, we are asking you to support us. We love doing what we do, and your generous giving will allow us to continue paying the bills and rolling out our high quality and God-glorifying content.

Become a Lamb’s Reign Patron by The Editors — January 22, 2020

I gave money to them.

You should too!

Mystery Religions

Temple Time!
Taken directly from the blog: An Image really can be worth a thousand words!

Really, the image tells you all you need to know.

But just in case:

The lesson here isn’t that we need a more dingy, somber outlook so we won’t be enamored by the shiny objects. We actually need more quality art produced by the church universal. In its proper place and function, I personally love architecture, fine clothing, and beautiful paintings full of rich symbolism. If we want to build a beautiful museum or auditorium let’s do it – but this is a byproduct of a healthy theology around the dominion mandate. These aren’t blueprints for the underlying patterns of what makes a great local church. We also aren’t saying that we need to abandon the local church and head for the exits. The lesson here is we have an unbiblical temple mindset, even in our regular-old “solid” local churches. This model is consciously or unconsciously drilled into our heads week after week by church leaders. This is precisely the reason why “high churchy” options seem all the more attractive to those currently doing “high church lite” but with a temple model understanding of what the local church is. We need a wake up call.

The morally degraded state of affairs in America and the marginalization of Christianity is exactly what you would expect given much of the theology, organization and practice of her churches.

Brothers and sisters, we as the Church of Jesus Christ, are not in the business of planting, advancing and sustaining mini-temples. We are in the the business of planting, advancing and sustaining Christian civilization. The Fellowship of Christian Reconstructionist Churches nails this on the head.

If you’re hearing this for the first time and you have no idea that this problem exists, even in good “solid” local churches, read on. By design, it’s not supposed to be obvious. But it’s effects are monumental and tragic.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

If you are going to take on the guilds, then you will have to take on the temples… and the temple priesthood.

We must spend a little more time here because we need to disentangle the amalgamation of the concepts of the local church and the kingdom by modern Bible teachers as if they were synonymous terms. This fusing wreaks havoc on the church, contributes to reductionism present in Christian circles and buttresses the local church as a temple mindset. This conflation is an easy mistake to make since the church and the kingdom are so closely related. The local church and the church itself are related to the kingdom but they are not the same thing and the difference matters immensely.

Whereas the “church” focuses on the identity of God’s people, and the “temple” focuses on the presence of God, the “kingdom” is fundamentally an emphasis on the inherited, royal, reign of the Messiah over the earth and the nations within it. This reign of the Messiah begins with the ascension (Matt. 28:18) and ends when the kingdom is handed over to the Father at the consummation (1st Cor. 15:24). It is distinguished from the broader sovereignty of the Godhead over all creation which has always existed and will never end.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

Distinctions that matter.

A LOT.

This is why Stephen Perks says it best when he describes the true nature of the Kingdom – what it was always supposed to be.

The kingdom of God is a counter revolutionary prophetic social order structured by the covenant of grace—the true society that God intends for mankind. This social order is what all Christians are commanded to seek now, on earth, first, before all else. It is not something that we merely look forward to in the resurrection, but something we are to seek to make a reality on earth now. Without this being the central goal of our life the assemblies of Christians, i.e. the Church, becomes merely a Christian mystery cult—which alas is what has happened today. Therefore, the most important thing we are to seek as Christians in this life is the establishing of this social order as a real community, a real society. Nothing else in our life comes before this according to Jesus, since he tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

The Kingdom of God is a social order. A way of life. A guide public justice, private justice, peace, prosperity, and growth in all good and God-exalting ways.

Similar to the church universal, the “local church” has primary reference to the identity of members of the one body of Christ, though in a specific region. The local church is a communal, geographic expression of the one covenanted body of God’s people specific to geographic location and local community.

The local church differs from the church universal in several other ways.

Firstly, unlike the church universal, the local church is made up entirely of those in the church militant and thus is not inherently permanent. Unlike the church universal which lasts forever, individual churches may last for hundreds of years or more yet they may dissolve, be wiped out, die off or apostatize.

Secondly, unlike the church universal, the local church cannot be referred to as “the body”, or even “a body” itself. It is a localized expression of the one body of Christ confined to a geographic location and community. The universal church is not comprised of thousands upon thousands of individual “local church bodies”. To the contrary, there is one body with many members. “Members” does not refer to local churches but to individual Christians.

Thirdly, unlike the church universal, membership in the local church is not mitigated directly but indirectly. In other words, no one local church has been given any unique standard for local church membership based on any criterion other than the criteria for membership in the church universal.  Local churches are not a law unto themselves and are nowhere permitted to admit into membership those whom Christ rejects or reject those whom Christ admits. If a person is denied membership into the local church, the local church is obligated to declare such a person as excommunicated and disfellowship from them.  Similarly, local churches must not create any standard of membership requirements which demand more than what is required for membership in the church universal. Local church membership is about recognizing Christians who are already in covenantal union with Christ, not creating a new covenant with stipulations beyond what Christ himself requires.  

Fourthly, unlike universal church membership,local church membership is not necessary for salvation, nor is it a requirement for salvation. Without going into detail, there are a litany of scenarios why a truly regenerate believer might not currently be a recognized member of a local church. If someone despises the local church, wants no part in it, and thinks he’s better off with a “just me and Jesus” mindset could this be indicative of an unregenerate heart? Of course! Generally speaking is it wise, helpful, normative and good for Christians to be recognized members of a local church? Absolutely. Is it a requirement for salvation? Of course not.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

And here we are.

As Joel McDurmon helpfully discusses in his book “A Consuming Fire”, after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden, the rest of scripture is the story of how God’s people could come back near to God into his most holy presence without dying. After the expulsion from the garden, we see animal sacrifice repeated with Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job (they continue to act as priests) and others even before the levitical priesthood and the attendant sacrificial system was initiated. But even during the days of the levitical priesthood, the whole nation of Israel, not just the levites, were to be a kingdom of royal priests. In order to realize this promise however, Christ’s New Covenant would need to be ushered in. With the levitical priesthood now superseded by Christ, all believers in Christ are restored to our originally purposed function as priest-kings.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

Or even as lawful priestess-queens, in regard to the faithful women of God!

In the new covenant, though Pastors and Elders may carry similar duties to some activities which the levitical priests carried out (teaching, dispute resolution etc) they are not collectively-speaking a priesthood order as Melchizedek or Levi was. They are not appointed by a familial line as per the Levites. They do not function as a new covenant equivalent of the levitical priesthood according to the ceremonial aspects of the levitical priesthood duties. They possess no special access to God, carry no unique favor with God and are not specially authorized to do anything that other Christians cannot (we will get more into that later), though in practice, they may routinely perform certain roles for other legitimate reasons (sermons, baptism, administering the Lord’s Supper).

In the New Testament, an elder is not something that every mature Christian automatically becomes when they get old. In the sense that not every mature Christian was to be *appointed* an elder in the scriptures. The instructions to the churches to appoint elders from among themselves was nonetheless carried out under the guidance of the Holy Spirit according to the qualifications for elder and according to what seemed good to the churches to provide for the order and service of the kingdom.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

Pastors and Elders are not priests. At least, no more than any God-fearing member of the congregation.

Next we will survey seven examples within local church contexts where this subtle temple mindset creeps in. The degree to which this mindset exists in various local churches varies, but they exist to one degree or another in most protestant and reformed churches today.

1. Local churches that treat their buildings as if they were physical temples

“This is a house of God, you can’t do xyz in here!”

“We can’t engage in commerce in here, don’t you know Jesus’s flipped the tables for this?”

[…]

2. Local churches that compare Levitical tithing to the funding of their local church

[…]

But the tithe was rendered to the temple system which pointed forward to the church universal, not the local church. Yet if we follow the logic of so many local church pastors, they act like the tithe for today is owed to the local church. Unlike under the Levitical order, Christians today actually have freedom to determine where their tithes will go.

[…]

3. Local churches functioning as temple events not social orders

American local church life is highly limited and centered around the activities of attendance of a Sunday gathering where one can sing in worship, receive communion and be “washed” with the water of the word in a sermon.  Much like the temple mindset, it is about going to an event, partaking in ceremony (meaningful as it may be) and then reconnecting into the rest of life. Yes you have some attendance at prayer groups and the like but relationships in the church don’t revolve around shared activity in Christian businesses, schools, media, medicine, nutrition, loans, welfare programs and the like.  Not enough to create an actual rival social order and Christian civilization.

[…]

4. Local churches that cause the kingdom to orbit around supporting temple activity

In the Old Covenant days of the temple, the Levitical Priests had very well defined duties too. The worship of the people Israel was entirely centered around the temple and the actions of the Levitical Priests. The Priests were to administer the temple rituals and guard the temple from any who did not belong. Can we really say that in practice, this is all that different from the culture of local churches today?

“The church’s fundamental duty is to preach the word, administer the sacraments and enact church discipline”.

If you are in a reformed church, you have probably heard this about a thousand times. What’s common about all three of these activities? These same churches prescribe that these duties be led and carried out virtually exclusively by ordained officers of the church. The main function, activity and focus of the church then orbits around the duties of the elders and their functions in “temple keeping”.

What did the temple priests do? Teach. Administer Rituals. Guard the temple from intruders.

We’ve simply copied this pattern to the local church with the focus of the officer of the church.

They teach. They administer rituals. They guard the table.

This is impossible to miss.

[…]

5. Local Churches that put the focus of worship on temple ritual rather than service   

At the typical protestant local church, worship is commonly understood to be centered around the part of the Sunday morning event where the congregation sings songs of praise to God.

During the days of the old covenant and the temple system, worship existed both in the temple with things like animal sacrifices and outside the temple in a more decentralized, less regulated fashion. Those who truly understood what the temple worship was pointing forward to understood that it was a shadow of the substance to come which centered around ethics and good works for the Lord (Hosea 6:6).

In local church culture we have done the opposite. We have made the concept of worship center around congregational singing and given less emphasis to worship as obedience to God’s law and the spurring one another on to good works. 

[…]

6. Local churches where only their temple officials can fence and administer the table

[…]

Nowhere in scripture is it stated that only elders can administer baptism or the Lord’s supper.  In fact, scripture makes clear that it is the church that owns excommunication (1st Cor 5) as the task of excommunication is given to the covenant community as a whole not the elders. This is confirmation of the fact that the keys of the Kingdom (Matthew 16) were given, not to Peter exclusively or as an office of apostle, nor to a special class of elders within the church, but to the church itself. How else would the church possess authority to expel evil persons from their midst?

[…]

7. Local Churches that treat the Lord’s supper as if it were a temple ritual

We have so lost the true meaning and function of the Lord’s supper that we have completely lost its purpose. The Lord’s supper is to be a regular meal which Christians partake of together to fellowship in the name of Christ in order to remember his covenant with us and enjoy unity together as a covenant community.

In the protestant church, we have completely disconnected it from an actual fellowship meal which Jude 1:12 refers to as a “love feast”. It’s about Christ’s love for us in laying down his body and shedding his blood for us and our love in turn for him and each other. His acts in enacting his covenant with us are represented by the breaking of bread as was his body broken for us and the drinking from the cup as his blood was shed for us. In scripture we read that in the midst of dinner, Christ took the cup and instituted the first Lord’s supper. It was a fellowship meal, not a ritual. Yes there is symbolism, but we have turned this love feast of fellowship and celebration of Christ and his covenant into a solemn and cold individualistic ritual.

Effects

The sum total effect of all of these practices cannot be understated. The temple model of local church warps our understanding of so many activities in the local church: Buildings, budget, mission, fellowship, service, discipline, giving and more. The result is to drive the church inward with a reductionistic focus. It reduces our impact on the world by creating an environment where Christendom is reduced to so called “temple” activities. To make us obsessed with the shadows and neglect the substance which was always about ethics. The bulk of our energies become devoted toward “spiritual” activities almost exclusively tried up inwardly in the local church. The culture that is created also lends itself towards the creation of certain “taboo” subjects which cannot be discussed because they are not seen as central to temple activities. The hyper-narrow focus of the temple culture also creates a perfect environment for an overreaching statism to run rampant. Into this self created vacuum pagan and secular worldviews will step in (education, science, history, medicine, business). The fruit of this approach in our culture today is obvious. In the spirit of the protestant reformation, we need to keep reforming and not remain stuck in this rut indefinitely.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

Now, that’s a lot of reading!

And a lot of stuff that will have to be shoved aside.

So what are some practical actions that local churches can take in the short term in order to shed the local church as a temple mindset? These suggestions are by no means exhaustive. It’s a start and a means of getting your cognitive wheels turning. […]

Buildings & Finances

* Flip the budget. Instead of 90% of spending going to local church temple-centric expenses, pursue a long term strategy that will lead you to 60% of spending going toward impact in the local community both inside and outside the local church (think privately distributed Christian school vouchers for single mothers or private food vouchers for the poor). This won’t happen overnight, but there are significant changes that can be made quickly which will catapult a local church towards that goal. A culture change will have to take place as well. The local church has a mission to the world which Christ already retains total authority over as King. Therefore, the local church must serve the kingdom, the kingdom doesn’t serve the local church.

* Stop paying massive building rental or lease payments and begin meeting in homes. If you are a big church, break up into four smaller local churches based on geographical proximity. If there is a lack of gifted shepherds and teachers with time to spare, have them rotate amongst the smaller churches and have the congregants pray and do Bible studies on Sundays where no preacher is available.

* Cancel any building plans which commit significant resources towards the purchase of a building that cannot be financially self sustaining. Don’t suck up funds for a building that is a net drain on limited kingdom resources. Otherwise continue meeting in homes or find an a Christian with an established business that will give out space for your church to meet

* If you already have a “church building” sell it to the congregation or a group within the congregation for the purposes of converting it into a sustainable for-profit business. Community centers are usually the natural option. Other options for conversion can be private offices, health & fitness centers, private Christian schools & day cares, homeschool and homeschool co-op meet up center etc. Sublease to other businesses. What does your local community need and what will they pay to use? You can always still find a way to meet there during the week.

* One of the most strategic and kingdom minded actions a local church who already owns a building can take is for members of the church to start a for-profit, self-sustaining Christian school business and work to provide as many free “church vouchers” for families who wish they could give their children a Christian education but don’t see how they can afford it. Hold the Sunday services in the school. Leverage the many men and woman with various giftings who are already part of the church to this end. Use it as a community hub (host civil meetings, sub-lease office space to business owners etc.). Re-think the idea that every congregation needs to build a “church building”. Not saying it’s never ok, but I think we can be better stewards generally speaking, more creative and more strategic. Be careful about having a “church” school rather than a private school business because this can cause problems with jurisdictional clashes between parents and church elders.

* If a church does have a building and property, ensure it is open for civic events such as elections, debates & conferences, food banks, private or homeschool graduation ceremonies, little league sports. Anything that puts your church’s activity at the center of the community.

Church Membership, Baptism & the Lord’s Supper

* Baptism is a function of the church so it can be a good symbol for an officer of the church to administer the baptism. It’s a good general practice. But don’t feel the need to have have all baptisms conducted by the senior pastor or an elder. Any Christian is a candidate to baptize any other new Christian in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The pastors and elders are not Levitical Priests who alone have been given sole ritualistic responsibility.

* End any requirements for local church membership which go beyond requirements for membership in the Church universal. For the segment of Baptist churches that deny membership to practices paedobaptists who were baptized as infants, cease all such practices. Only deny membership to someone if they meet the 1st Cor 5 qualifications for dis-fellowship from the universal church.

* Rather than having a ritualistic emphasis on the Lord’s supper, begin a communal meal with wine and bread, pray over it as you normally would at any Lord’s supper and then declare the rest of the meal a continuation of the communion meal, not two separate meals.

Pastoring, Eldering & Teaching

* Encourage that there be no more than one paid staff member per church which will normatively be a pastor. Even then the pastor ideally would be bi-vocational. Not only will this free up more funds for the kingdom, the financial model of many churches create conflicts of interest where the pastor is resistant to certain courses of action not based on scripture but based on what may benefit him financially. This may include avoiding certain sins that need to be addressed or focusing on any one doctrine to the exclusion of others. Exceptions to this may include funding additional pastors to plant new churches especially in foreign countries where little support would be available.

* Dispense with any teaching which reduces the great commission to evangelism only, reduces the mission of the church to the elder led functions only and reduces the comprehensiveness of the Gospel message and its applicability toward current events and issues.

* Beware of the seminary to elder pipeline that often foists debt laden, inexperienced twenty-something year old men into local church eldership before they are ready. They are not only financially pre-disposed to maintain the status quo temple dynamic, they haven’t matured in the context of serving the kingdom outside the local church setting and are thus marginally qualified to serve those who serve the kingdom mainly outside of the context of the local church.

* Share the load. Levitical priests were to be experts in a bazillion details regarding temple worship. One wrong move and zap, they were dead. Since they became experts, people revered them for their expertise. We aren’t in that era anymore. Don’t create a culture where you and the other elders are seen as the “holy men” of the church who have a monopoly on expertise in theology or the ability to teach others the word. Instead create a Berean culture where everyone is becoming adept at teaching each other in various contexts.

We could multiply suggestions, but these will get us started.

Churches: We Are Not Mini-Temples by Jordan Wilson — January 23, 2020

I understand if you need to take a ten-minute break from all this heavy-duty lifting.

Fighting Abuse in the Church

In an encouraging development, the Chalcedon Foundation has released a superb new lecture series (start here) by Martin Selbrede on a much needed topic – abuse and the church.

Watching this lecture series was personally very edifying and helped my wife and I process pastoral abuse we had faced at our previous church. Though the abuse we faced was not of the nature of physical or sexual abuse, all kinds of abuse is addressed in this series and it will be helpful for almost anyone.

Beyond that the church really needs to hear this difficult message. Pastors, elders and those in authority especially. Both so they can identify current injustices and so that they can avoid future pitfalls.

Abuse & The Church – Chalcedon Releases Important Lecture Series by Jordan Wilson — January 30, 2020

You can’t break the power of Satan, till you can see the chains.

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