“As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” [1 John 2:24]
What was this that they had heard from the beginning and from whom did they hear it?
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life-” [1 John 1:1]
John reiterates to these saints how he and his fellow companions (the other disciples) literally interacted with the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He was reminding them of how they (those he addresses as his little children) initially heard the truth and from whom, because many deceivers had even then gone out into the world. He was encouraging them to remain steadfast in those things they initially received from him and others and not to be swayed by falsehoods.
THIS IS THE MESSAGE WE HAVE HEARD FROM HIM
From 1 John 1:5 and through the remainder of this book, John emphasizes numerous truths and practices which are foundational to true Christian living. It is not intended to provide a totality of the truth, but to emphasize the manner in which Christians are to relate one to another in love. Interspersed within these, runs the theme that runs counter to the rest, the reality of false prophets and apostates that are attempting to deceive them.
We might ask ourselves, “What is the message we have heard from Him? and why is this so paramount as it concerns our service in Christ? (back to this in a moment)
Earlier this week, a friend and I were mutually lamenting about the sad reality of the lack of a witness of Jesus and Him Crucified in this world these days- not just the message of reconciliation through Jesus, but the practical expression of this work, His work via the cross in and through us. I believe this is due to God giving us each a basic understanding of something quite simple in itself that is echoed in the verse below where Jesus says;
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remain alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” [John 12:24]
Obviously Jesus was the “first” kernel of wheat that fell into the ground and died. But two verses later we read:
“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him”
Where do we meet Jesus? We meet Him in death. Was this not true at the moment of our conversion. Did we not accept the death of Another as the payment for our own debt? So be it, but now we must go further still. I must go the way of death, practically and daily myself, if I am to serve Jesus and bear much fruit.
The second aspect of our recent lament is that we rarely witness the supernatural power and unction of the Holy Spirit as in past days. Even though earlier I promised no answers to him regarding this obvious concern, I think I may have a clue as to “why” it seems God is so absent from us when we seem to need Him most these days.
Back to the two questions in red above.
What is the message we have heard from Him?
A brother recently forwarded a short note by someone else relating to Revelation 2:5 where the words REMOVE YOUR LAMPSTAND were used. This former famous “pastor” was making a comparison between what he claimed use to be “faithful churches” with filled pews to present day empty seats he equated with God’s judgment. He then attributed this change to those who needed to repent and “do the deeds they did at first” as the text states. The removal of their lampstand was what Jesus said would happen if these saints failed to repent and do this.
This sounds great, even scriptural, but there’s one really big concern with this man’s thinking. That’s discovering the proper understanding of what Jesus meant by “first deeds” which He was commanding them to return to. Is it possible that these “deeds” could be compared to something in our modern day, or might they rather coincide with something much earlier in history than that. I suggest to you that the answer is found in “what they had heard from the beginning.”
In response to my friend’s post and this concern over “deeds” I wrote:
“I think the answer may be found within David’s (the authors) own illustration of what he himself has written above. I agree that “the Spirit has departed,” these local groups of saints (what he calls churches) but the question that must be asked is WHY HAS THE SPIRIT DEPARTED?
In my opinion, and that’s all this part is, is that the first things are the first things that the original 12 apostles, namely Paul taught them to obey and observe- the things Paul taught regularly and which were binding upon every local ekklesia regardless of where they were to be found. These foundational truths and practices have been almost entirely overridden by modern day religious tradition and Old Covenant practices that were fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Himself. If the Spirit has and is departing, it is due to the rejection of the faith once delivered in doctrine and in the practice of those doctrines among the people of God. Where they met for fellowship isn’t the primary issue, although the typical church setting suppresses many a command and introduces traditions of men no where found in the scriptures. This is why “church” is so dangerous and misleading. I then proceeded to attach a new tract I wrote that explained my answer in more detail.
Why is this message so paramount as it concerns our service in Christ?
In the example above, the author made some obvious comparisons between what now is and what once was in these churches in which he once preached. Those comparisons are real, but the reasons for those comparisons are not real for one simple reason- his comparisons did not go back to the beginning, back to the original blueprint for how New Testament ekklesias were to be established. He made an assumption that because the churches were full that this equated to the participants being faithful and that simply cannot be proven. They may have been faithful to some extent, though they were not faithful from the beginning, from the bedrock of what Jesus Himself said he was and is building. Jesus is not the foundation stone of any man’s earthly creation (church) but exclusively of His heavenly and spiritual ekklesia. The reason these churches failed is because they were never meant to support the work of God to begin with, it is the ekklesia of the living God which is the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) and you cannot build this with bricks. Churches fail for one simple reason- they are not built upon Christ but upon sand. Over time, sand shifts and topples everything that has been built upon it. Isn’t that what Jesus says? (Matthew 7:26, 27)
Have you ever thought about some of God’s former builders and building plans? What about Noah and his ark? Would you say that Noah just did his own thing or did God direct the very details of the boat he was building? You can read the account in Genesis chapter 6. Take note of these two verses especially:
(Genesis 6:8) “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
(Genesis 6:22) “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.”
What about the tabernacle in the wilderness? As we know, God’s primary spokesman at this time was Moses. Moses, though faithful for the most part had his faults. He complained to God about his lack of ability (Exodus 4:10-13). He attempted to save God’s people in his own way and failed (Exodus 2:11, 12). He blatantly disobeyed God (Numbers 20:2-13). He questioned what God asked him to do. (Exodus 19:21-25) Despite all this, he was still called by God and he did eventually obey God as he was instructed. (Exodus 7:6)
(Exodus 25:1-31:11) This passage of scripture details the type of people who could contribute to the building, the type of people who could actually participate in building (Spirit led), the materials (furniture) that would supplement their worship, the manner they would dress, the consecration of the specific priests who were recognized, and those who could actually participate in the worship. Note what surrounds all of these instructions:
(Exodus 24:18) Moses alone with God for forty days and forty nights.
(Exodus 25:9) “According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it”
(Exodus 31:11)…..they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.
What about Solomon and his temple? It appears that despite the scriptures speaking specifically when this project began (1 Kings 6:1), the word of the Lord concerning it came to Solomon in the midst of its construction- not prior:
“Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in My statutes and execute My ordinances and keep all My commandments by walking in them, THEN I WILL CARRY OUT MY WORD WITH YOU (emphasis mine) which I spoke to David your father. I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.” [1 Kings 6:11, 12]
Keep in mind a couple of things now. Despite Solomon being the wisest man in the world, he did not seem to receive any specific instructions by God in building his temple. Unlike the tabernacle in the wilderness, Solomon seemed to have free reign with what he was building for God. He did bring in some master craftsman as Moses also did, he built the new furniture himself (1 Kings 7:48-50), then brought in the things dedicated by his father David and placed them in the treasuries. (1 Kings 7:51) God must have been pleased for we see that after the ark was placed in the holy of holies we read;
“It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” [1 Kings 8:10, 11] and
The Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” [1 Kings 9:3]
From the above we see that Solomon was merely following in the footsteps of his father David and fulfilling what God had said would be his own responsibility in building this temple. The outward appearance was of Solomon’s making, though the manner of worship remained the same as it was with the tabernacle above. (1 Kings 8:12-21) This is an important distinction as we shall see later on.
1. Noah’s legacy was that of a faithful man who obeyed God in all things. Moses obeyed God too, it just took him a little longer to trust God more than his own methods. Solomon seemed to start well, he had a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and yet here at the end of his life we read:
“For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” [1 Kings 11:4-6]
Solomon’s sin was this: He did not continue to do as the Lord commanded. In other words, he was no longer wholly devoted to the Lord his God. As a result, he was no longer qualified to lead the people and his actions had to be judged by God. In God’s second appearance to Solomon, this is exactly what was promised to him if either he or his sons turned away from Him. You can read this promise of God in 1 Kings 9:1-9.
It is also interesting to note that in the midst of Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple he stated what seemed to foreshadow an up and coming change:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house I have built!” [1 Kings 8:27]
A SHADOW OF A BUILDING or OF A PEOPLE GOD IS BUILDING?
Most people know that history has a tendency to repeat itself, sometimes for better and sometimes for the worse. The history of the people of God is no different, as in each generation men attempt their own building projects for God, most of which are copies of former things. Does God allow men, even religious men to build and then dedicate to God whatever derives in their own minds and imaginations? By the look of things it would certainly seem that way.
FULL STOP. Now, what are men building today in the name of Jesus? That’s right, churches! Where or when did anyone get the idea to build physical structures called temples where the people of God meet? Where are the instructions to do so, rather, where are the very detailed instructions like all of God’s other major building projects? Exactly, there are none. That my friends is no small matter, but a very, very, serious concern. For as you may have noticed, God’s presence and power accompanied all of these projects, and those who were commissioned to fulfill them. That is both exciting and terrifying!
Contrary to man’s modern misconceptions, God is not building churches or religious institutions to disseminate His truth. Jesus is building His ekklesia- He is bringing together specific individual Christians (what God deems to be living stones) in particular locales all over this world. This is not something new, it is the manner that Jesus has been working ever since New Testament times. It is both the invention of “church related activities” and the neglect of the above truth that has led men away from Jesus’ true intentions and as a result led to all manner of false doctrines, sectarian divisions and subsequently a lack of God’s direction and power among His people. The only hope of recovering the truth is to return to God’s heavenly revelation proclaimed through the instrument of His own choosing.
GOD’S NEW MAN AND MESSAGE
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the ekklesia of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” [Galatians 1:11-14]
It’s very easy for those of us as Christians to see this passage as making a comparison between the Paul’s former life as a Jewish zealot and his state as an apostle of Christ in this passage. Although this is true, many more significant concerns can be found throughout.
- What he preached was not taught to him by man (not by personal study, not in school or was it learned from any other person) He learned his gospel and that proper practice of that gospel from God Himself.
- What he previously learned in Judaism conflicted with what Jesus Himself was teaching which led to him persecuting those who called themselves Christians before his conversion.
- His advancement in Judaism included a zeal for “religious traditions”
As Christians we know that in history past God chose a specific nation He created, Israel, to be His representatives here upon this earth and to display his character and glory through them. God dealt with this nation through a covenant of law, a series of laws that would govern their behavior and to which they promised to fulfill. What often coincided with God’s law were “religious traditions” that were added to God’s law as if they were also a part of divinely instituted truth. Keep this in mind. The proof of this can be found here: Mark 7:9-13.
A SHADOW AND MYSTERY MADE REALITY
In past days and under the Law and in relation to this old covenant, specific priests were called by God for what?
“Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary” [Hebrews 9:1]
Now most of us as Christians understand that God has done away with the ceremonial law as found here in Hebrews 9 which consisted of an outer tabernacle and specific instructions for proper worship. What they don’t seem to understand is this included a specific physical place where God would meet them, special mediators between God and men and in the process “cut off” the religious traditions that men had added to the Old Covenant. If this is so, and Jesus has become the mediator of a new and better covenant through His own blood, that which is enacted on better promises (The I WILL of God verses “If you obey”) then why are religious men today still promoting and endorsing that which is below:
If you are even remotely familiar with your Bible, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where did religious men get the idea to have a special building and special religious furniture where they get together to worship God, call it by a formal name and recruit followers to become known by that name? Does God sanction the designations of “clergy” and “laity?”
- Where did religious men get the idea that God sanctions or allows hierarchy of any kind among His children?
- Where did religious men get the idea to join the people of God to a secular government institution (501c3) to gain tax exempt status, form a business bank account for that organization and seek out monies from Christians to support “it.”
- Where did religious men get the idea that professional trained clergy are to become the visionaries of what God is doing among His people or that God actually needs professional Christians?
- Where did religious men get the idea for their fancy formal religious attire that makes them stand out as different than other believers?
- Where did religious men get the idea that they can make decisions for the other saints?
- Where did religious men get the idea that they can receive monies from others saints, even commanding monies they say is due them?
- Where did religious men get the idea to appoint certain people to be the leaders and mediators over other Christians, grant them religious titles forbidden in scripture and give them spiritual titles in religious institutions?
- Where did religious men get the idea to make rules that all Christians are supposed to follow and as a basis for membership among other believers?
- Where did religious men get the idea to dress up when they meet for special worship times?
- Where did religious men get the idea that certain people among them were to hear the word of the Lord for the other saints and teach them to be dependent upon the creations and wisdom of men?
- Where did religious men get the idea that they can reject other Christians for any reason outside of them truly being converted by Christ?
And finally, where did religious men get the idea that they can disobey God in all of the ways above and many more and still think they are Christians and called by God to promote these things!!!!!
Answer: The Old Covenant that God made with Israel (found in blue type). When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.” [Hebrews 8:13]
So this begs the question: If God has made the covenant and that manner of practicing the faith obsolete, “Why are the majority of professing Christians still practicing that for which God has done away with?”
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. [Hebrews 8:1, 2]
Here we find the sad reality of our day. While the whole world of religious men go about pitching their own churches, religious institutions, visions, programs and “ministries” galore, then adding their own religious traditions as well (red type above), God is not in them nor do they please Him. One is either living in the shadows of what once was, or living in the reality of what now is. God is not mocked, and men will reap exactly as they have and continue to sow in their own lives for better or for worse.
It is only when religious men refuse to believe in what Jesus has said and has done that they continue to promote what He says is no longer necessary nor valid. It is not part of the Old Covenant that has been superseded, but all of it, a new and living way in Jesus taking its place.
After relaying to the Roman assembly the major foundational doctrines of the faith once delivered and sharing how the saints were to interact one with another, then he warned them with these words:
“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye of those who cause dissentions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned (from the beginning of Jesus and Him Crucified), and turn away from them” [Romans 16:17]
Shortly thereafter, Paul summarizes what needs to remain central in their thinking and actions:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures and the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to the obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen”
As beneficial as the shadows and the lessons of the Old Covenant may still be, it is imperative that every Christian sees their history as having begun in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The revelation of this gospel was both proclaimed and practiced by the Christians who comprised the various ekklesias that we read about in the New Testament. It is our responsibility, it is our mandate to follow Paul’s example and no other.
Just as there is one gospel to be believed and proclaimed, so is there one practice of that gospel outlined within the pages of the New Testament scriptures. If Christians are promised that they are complete in Christ and have everything they need for life and godliness- well, then that’s exactly what they do have. The only reason those spiritual blessings can appear to be absent is where men refuse to acknowledge what God has said herein and determine to know nothing but Jesus and Him Crucified in themselves and among the family of God.
This is the heart and desire of our Father, that we each would walk in the new and living way of His beloved Son.