SHEEP AND SHEPHERDS
These are the end-of-days when men’s hearts faint within them. While Christians wonder if we are in the Tribulation, they are at the same time often mislead and devoured by those who call themselves shepherds of the flock. But, beloved, there is only one Shepherd over one church. That shepherd’s name is Jesus! In this hour God is raising up an army of believers in the spirit who know their God and who are known by God. Even now their heart cry is “the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” They no longer desire the teachings of man, nor his doctrine, nor his religious format for the Lord Himself leads and guides them into pastures green, restoring their soul and causing their cup to run over. The Apostle Paul was very keen on the ensuing deception that would pervade the Body of Christ. Consequently he spent many hours deliberating, praying and warning believers of the coming of the false and apostate. In fact most of Paul’s message can be summed up in two themes. First and foremost, the mystery of the gospel that has been hid from the ages, which is of course, Christ in you, the hope of glory. Specifically, that Christ coming in the flesh, has now given His Spirit to “dwell in our hearts by faith” (Eph. 3:17) so that “we might grow up into all things, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15), so that we might “be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 4:19). Though hid from the ages, this spiritual understanding is now being revealed to many by the Spirit of God. The doctrines and traditions of even the best preachers have fallen short for they emphasize the place you are called to keep. Usually this place they see for you is “under their authority.” But beloved, our dear brother Paul knew that there would be those who would creep in and attempt to prevent and pervert the blessed gospel of “Christ being formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Hence, his second theme or second most frequently preached, taught, and written word was one of warning. It was a message preparing the Body of Christ for the onslaught of so called ministers that would come in and try to lead the sheep astray. God has burdened my heart to write to you now to elaborate on this second and often overlooked aspect of Paul’s message to the church.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
2 Corinthians 11:1-16: “I only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me. But of course: you are tolerant toward me. You see the jealousy that I feel for you is God’s own jealousy: I arranged for you to marry Christ so that I might give you away as a chaste virgin to this one husband. But the serpent, with his cunning seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any newcomer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms. As far as I can tell, these archapostles have nothing more than I have. I may not be a polished speechmaker, but as for knowledge, that is a different matter; surely we have made this plain, speaking on every subject in front of all of you. Or was I wrong, lowering myself so as to lift you high, by preaching the gospel of God to you and taking no fee for it? I was robbing other churches, living on them so that I could serve you. When I was with you and ran out of money, I was no burden to anyone; the brothers who came from Macedonia provided me with everything I wanted. I was very careful, and I always shall be, not to be a burden to you in any way, and by Christ’s truth in me, this cause of boasting will never be taken from me in the region of Achaia. Would I do that if I did not love you? God knows I do. I intend to go on doing what I am doing – leaving no opportunity to claim equality with us in what they boast of. These people are counterfeit apostles, they are dishonest workmen disguised as apostles of Christ. There is nothing unexpected about that; if Satan himself goes undisguised as an angel of light, there is no need to be surprised when his servants, too, disguise themselves as the servants of righteousness. They will come to the end that they deserve.” (The Jerusalem Bible, 1968)
How strong Paul’s words are! And yet as we read this passage we note a very obvious and striking difference between Paul and those false “apostles of Christ.” It has to do with the realm of money, of finance, of capital! Paul came to these believers to serve them the bread of heaven, to deliver to them the mystery of the gospel, to pray for them night and day that the eyes of their understanding be enlightened to know the HOPE OF THEIR CALLING (Eph. 1:18), which is of course to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), to be seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6), to be found IN HIM (Phil. 3:9), to be crucified with Christ and yet have Christ be fully seen in them (Gal. 2:20). But notice, he took no money or wages for this service to them. Was he entitled to their money? Of course, for we read in 1Corinthians 9:9-12: “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out of the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel.” …And yet reading on a little further we find in verse 15: “But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.”
So then, beloved, Paul came to the Corinthian Church with the ‘right’ according to the Law to take up tithes and offerings for the furtherance of the gospel. And yet he didn’t use the right. Why? In fact in verse 15 he says it would be better for him to die than take their money. He did this not just so that he wouldn’t be a burden to them financially for it is obvious that he accepted the gifts of the Macedonian/Philippian believers. He didn’t take their money because he didn’t want the gospel blamed (I Cor. 9:23). “And this I do I do for the gospel’s sake.” In the same chapter, verse 24, he identifies his reward: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but ONE receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible.” The crown is eternal life and the prize is Jesus…fully formed within him and in the whole body of Christ (1 Cor. 9:29). That’s why he says only ONE wins. The one who wins is Christ. He endeavors in this race so that we may all be found IN HIM. So that we may all be one as Christ prayed in John 17. One in Him as He is one with the Father. Yes, Paul’s reward was the knowledge and reality of Oneness with Christ. He continued in this race that we might enter into this same union.
But our Brother Paul is even bolder in his writings to Timothy. He speaks to him openly about setting up and establishing elders, bishops, deacons, etc. in leadership in the Body of Christ. Again Paul elaborates the requirements of these spiritual leaders and he requires that they not receive money for preaching the gospel. “Not given to wine, no striker, not GREEDY of FILTHY LUCRE; but patient, not a brawler, not COVETOUS;” (I Tim. 3:3) “Likewise must a deacon be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, NOT GREEDY of FILTHY LUCRE;” (I Tim. 3:8). Filthy lucre, that means preaching the gospel for the sake of money. In fact Paul identifies the basis for this perversion: “Perverse disputers of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing THAT GAIN IS GODLINESS: FROM SUCH WITHDRAW THYSELF (I Tim. 6:5).
Here is the warning beloved, that there are those who have crept in who think that if you have financial assets you must be blessed by God. These perverse disputers or argumentative types believe that they are appointed to oversee and rule over you because they have been “monetarily blessed.” They confuse GAIN and GODLINESS. But, beloved, godliness IS gain. Godliness is its own reward; for godliness is the life of God within. Godliness suggests that the nature of God is being evidenced and manifest. What does that have to do with money? Paul goes on to give us some good advice, which is… “to be content with food and raiment” and he identifies that… “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10). But listen to the rest of the verse in case you think I’m referring to the ungodly, “…which while some coveted after they have erred from the faith.” Even today many ministers preach because they perceive this to be their job. This is how they make their living. In fact many are trying to get rich preaching the gospel. Some covet it while disguising themselves as your apostle. These so called ministers tell us how you can apply “Biblical principles” and get your needs met. They tell how we can make God work for us. But beloved, this line of thinking is not from God. Paul admonishes us to withdraw from those who preach this way. The gospel is not something we can harness and put to work for us. God is not our employee! But rather, the good news comes, sets us free from the powers of darkness and we present our bodies a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). Hence we become bond slaves or love slaves to Him. It’s not what the gospel can do for me, nor what I can do for the gospel, it’s how the gospel or Good News consumes me!
Using the gospel as a formula for financial success is truly a form of godliness but denies the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5). Do these preachers deny the power of God to save, heal, deliver, raise the dead, or fill with His Spirit? NO! Instead we are warned in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 that in the end times there will come COVETOUS boasters, who love pleasure more than God. And the form of godliness is that they act, say, and believe just like you and I except for one thing. They don’t believe in the power of Jesus to POSSESS YOU and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness (or godliness).
THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST
Beloved, this is His work, not ours. All of my money and righteousness is as filthy rags before Him. Only the indwelling life of Christ is the PEARL of GREAT PRICE (Matt. 13:46) for which a man sells all he has and follows after. Jesus had a lot to say about money. “No man can serve two masters, he will either love the one, and hate the other…” (Mat. 6:24). But pay careful attention. Jesus did not identify the two masters as God and the devil, sin or godliness, Republican or Democrat. NO! He said they were God or MAMMON. Mammon is the riches of this “present world.” It could be money or all the things money can buy. Obviously this tide of seeking riches has crept into the church and is masquerading as a “great move of God.” Our Savior has become to many an advertising gimmick or a formula for financial success.
Jesus was so incensed by this marketing and racketeering in the house of God that we read in John 2:15: “And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;” In Luke 12:20-34 we see what Jesus said about the one who rests in his riches: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? …But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus even said that at the end of the age there would come those saying “Lord, did not we prophesy in your name, do miracles, etc” (Matt. 7:22-23). But the Lord will say “I never knew you.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is not about how we can use God to live a problem free, financially solvent, and lucrative life. Instead it is how we can be set free from sin, sickness, despair, death, and a sentence of hell. The gospel is not about how we can produce gain for God but how He can produce godliness in us!
Paul’s argument reinforcing Christ’s words is found in Titus 1:7-9. Again he identifies that a bishop must not be given to filthy lucre, but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, temperate. In fact he goes on to say that with such a testimony they will be able to convince the “gainsayers.” Gainsayers are people who live their lives for gain. This is the way of the world. How can a person who is appointed by God to instruct the Body of Christ then convince the gainsayers if they themselves preach for filthy lucre? That is exactly the point that Paul goes on to make in verse 10 and 11. “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision (legalists, literalists) whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake.”
THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLE JUDE
Perhaps there are many believers who say, “Yes, but these are isolated scriptures. We don’t have similar circumstances today.” Listen then to the writings of Brother Jude: Verse 4: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 5: I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.”
This verse is often used by “filthy lucre preachers” who say, “see, if you don’t submit to me, God’s appointed, you will be destroyed like the children of Israel in the wilderness.” They emphasize submission teaching and call those that leave their flock – “rebellious.” But notice the text points out that it was not their leadership that saved them; it was not their submissiveness that saved them; but the LORD Himself. In fact, like examples are cited in verse 6 identifying the falling away of the angels, and verse 7, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But why? Why a falling away? Because certain men had crept in unawares (verse 4) and led ALL TOO SUBMISSIVE believers away from their true Shepherd. And what identifies these certain men that have crept in? Verse 11: “…they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” The overwhelming common denominator of these evil disputers of the truth is that they sneak into the Body of Christ, call themselves sheep leaders, and seek Personal Prosperity, Position, Power and Prestige! They say their goal is to gain the multitude for God and to do that they need your financial help. Of course this involves supporting their church mortgages, their radio and TV ministries; to say nothing of their posh parsonages, overseas vacations, recreation vehicles, and diamond studded jewelry. But why CAIN, CORE AND BALAAM?
CAIN is a significant example because he demonstrates a rejection of the blood sacrifice, (God’s provision), and an attempt to please God with the works of his hands. Cain knew full well that the life was in the blood (Lev. 17:11), and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22). Both he and his brother Abel were taught the importance of God’s provision to atone for sin by their parents. How do we know this? Because it was God Himself who taught Adam and Eve their need for a blood sacrifice, for after they sinned, the Lord killed animals to clothe them (Gen. 3:21). We can also conclude that Cain was acting in rebellion with his sacrifice of fruits and vegetables and not ignorance for his own brother Abel cherished the significance of a blood sacrifice, even to the point of losing his own life (Gen. 4:4-8). Today there are many ministries who only pay lip service to the blood of Jesus. It’s good enough to save you but when it comes to pleasing God, they demand you work for them with the fruit of your hands to help them establish their ministry. Beloved, this is a lie from the father of lies and the spirit behind this deception is murder itself. The same spirit that provoked Cain to slay Abel provokes many a money minded minister to murder the spiritual lives of the newborn believers. This they do by yoking the harness of so called “church-work” to the believer’s desire for spiritual maturity. Modern religious zealots will also persecute those who ardently cling not to their money, nor abilities, but to the precious blood of Jesus as their total sufficiency.
In Numbers 22 we read how God specifically spoke to the prophet, BALAAM, not to go with the Moabites and curse the children of Israel (verse 12). However, when they enticed him with money and honors Balaam entreated the Lord a second time to reconsider. The Lord then allowed him to go with the Moabites but demonstrated His fierce anger toward Balaam as he “was rebuked for his iniquity by a dumb ass speaking with a man’s voice, forbading the madness of the prophet” (2 Pet. 2:15). Balaam’s donkey was halted by the sight of the angel of the Lord holding a fiery sword, and despite brutal beatings, could no longer follow Balaam’s command. Likewise, God is now granting prophetic power to once thought “dumb-ass servants” who having obtained a heavenly vision of their CALLING and are incapable of pursuing the monetary mission.
The last example cited by Jude is the case of CORE (Old Testament spelling – Korah). We read about the gainsaying of Core in Numbers chapter 16, and how his crafty logic sought to patronize Moses and seek a position of advantage. Sad to report that this story is also often used by teachers of “headship doctrines,” while attempting to reinforce their leadership position as the “appointed-anointed.” Frequently they correlate church leadership to Moses, and all those who do not submit to their Rules and Revelations are Rebellious. Like as Core was swallowed up by the earth (Num. 16:32-33), so too, they say, will you be engulfed in the ways of the world unless you submit to them. But, Beloved, this denominational doctrine is not only diabolical but demonic in origin. Moses is not a type and shadow of your pastor, but of Christ Himself, the one true Shepherd of your soul. For example, as Moses was sought by Pharaoh as an infant, so too Herod decreed the death of all male infants to insure the Messiah’s destruction. As “Moses forsook the treasures of Egypt, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God” (Heb. 11: 24, 25) so too Christ, the Son of God, became “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). As Moses wandered in the desert herding sheep 40 years before leading the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land, so too Jesus was tempted 40 days in the wilderness before His release to publicly demolish the powers of darkness and lead us to eternal life. Even Jesus compared Himself to the ministry of Moses when He said “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up” (Jn. 3:14). We could go on and on about these comparisons. But, the point is that you and I are not behaving like Core when we don’t go along with preachers in the pulpit. In fact, scripture points out that Core was a Levite priest. He was a BIG SHOT in the religious system who wanted to have some of the authority of Moses. Beloved, Moses is a type of Christ, and just as Moses had all the Authority, did all the Leading, and was the Mediator between Jehovah and the Israelites, so too all AUTHORITY has been given to Jesus who gives His Spirit to LEAD you. He is the only MEDIATOR you will ever need between you and God. Indeed, there are many like Core in the pulpit today. These covet our Savior’s position when they attempt to exercise authority over you; telling you who to marry or divorce, where and when to buy and sell property, where to go to school or have your children educated. Some are even so blatant as to “mediate” your sins from a confession booth or pastor’s study. And still others pass themselves off as sent from God to instruct you in the “fundamental truths.” “Take this course, go to this seminar, be at this convention” they say. But Jesus said, “The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you ALL things, and bring ALL things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (Jn. 14:26).
THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLE PETER
The Apostle Peter was also moved by this same infiltration of perversion. In his second letter to the Church, chapter 5, he reiterates Jude’s concerns almost verbatim. Re-read and compare these two texts. They’re almost identical. Peter even goes so far as to identify their motivation for evangelizing you: “to make merchandise of you” (verse 4). That’s right, in the eyes of God these filthy lucre preachers make you and I the commodity and produce, while they are the dealers and distributors. We’re talking about BIG BUSINESS with HIGH STAKES. A high profit margin can only be insured with good advertising and media promotion. Get rich, successful and famous quick are the schemes that hope to allure the feeble minded. Some, when they see you, say inwardly “how can I use this babe to better my ministry.” And so “with feigned (or enticing and lovely) words” (verse 3) these false prophets (verse 1) make merchandise of the sheep. How often have we heard, “oh sister you have such a special gift with children, God has called you to be the Sunday school teacher, “ or “brother, you have such a special talent with a brush, God revealed to me you are to paint our church.” But rest assured these con artists will not be able to continue in their devices forever. Jesus Christ himself will come with a shout, with the sound of the trumpet (I Cor. 15:52), with you and I and 10,000 of His saints to execute judgment upon all those ungodly AMONG THEM (Jd. 14-15). This means judgment upon the ungodly who have crept into the ranks of the Godly. This means judgment to every religious system that has run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. No wonder Peter says it is because of these filthy lucre leaders, “the way of truth shall be evil spoken of “ (2 Pet. 2:2). In other words, when the world hears the gospel they are turned off. Why? Because of power hungry, popularity seeking, prosperity preaching professionals who line their pockets with profit. Now we can see why Paul felt it was so important not to take offerings which he rightly deserved. “All things for me are lawful, but not all things are expedient” (2 Cor. 6:12). In fact he not only supported himself as a tent maker but also gladly suffered the loss of all things. He endured beatings, shipwreck, being thrown to beasts at Ephesus, ridicule, persecution, hunger, nakedness, imprisonment, etc. (2 Cor. 11:23-27). All of this because he said of these money minded ministers, “their mouths must be stopped.”
In Acts 6:3-4, we find a scripture that is often used to substantiate the sacrifice of money by profiteering preachers. “Wherefore brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and ministry of the word.” No doubt these men were set aside to glean truths from the Word of God and may have derived financial support in exchange. Praise God. I pray to God that this same SPIRIT OF GIVING would enter the Body of Christ in this hour. But again take careful note and warning. These Apostles Peter, James, John, etc. did not get rich off the labor of others. Even Paul (who spent time with Peter) advises us, “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10). We read in Acts 3:6 that Peter with John passing by a cripple at the ‘Gate Beautiful’ said “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Despite the fact that these men may have been supported by the Body of Christ, they could gladly boast of no money. Most modern day preachers often cannot make this same boast. However, neither can many say take up your bed and walk.
Given the light and understanding of modern day Balaams in a Babylonian church system, we might well question any and all giving to ministry. But what about the tithe? Doesn’t the Bible teach that the tenth belong to God? And rightly it does according to Malachi 3:10: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith,” sayeth the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Some who walk in error might say …Yes, but Jesus did away with the law and the tithe in the New Testament. However we read in Luke 11:42: “But woe unto you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass off the judgment and love of God; these ought you to have done and not leave the other undone.” So we see then that Jesus did not come to do away with the law. He didn’t do away with the tithe. Neither did he do away with other laws like forbidding murder and adultery. In fact, Jesus clarified the law in such a way and shed such tremendous light on the law that He even went so far as to say, “If a man lusteth in his heart he has already committed adultery” and again, “If a man hates his brother he has already committed murder.” How foolish we would all appear if we stood before the world and our Christian brothers and said, “we have never had lust or hate in our hearts.” In fact, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). Jesus exposed this reality of the law so that we would soon recognize our desperate inability to keep it; so that we might choose an alternate route to God and Godliness. The alternate route to Godliness is not through the truth of the LAW, but through Jesus by the Spirit of Truth.
Getting back to the tithe, we see also that Jesus made full exposure of our feeble attempts to keep this law for He says, “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (Lk. 18:22). Once again we see that Jesus did not come preaching some “principle method” or way to keep the law. He set out to fully reveal that is was TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE to keep it. Even James says; “for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Are we then advocating for or against the tithe? Neither! Beloved, our point is this: that there are many, many, not a few, but many (Matt. 7:22) false prophets, teachers and preachers who know full well the condemnation you and I have just come out of by accepting the blood of Jesus for the atonement of our sin. They also know how susceptible you and I are to preaching about how to best please the Lord. WHY NOT CAPITALIZE ON OUR WEAKNESS AND STAND ON THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT THE TITHE, (meanwhile they get rich).
No, Jesus did not come to do away with the tithe, but He came to establish a NEW order, dawn a NEW day, preach the good NEWS. And this message closed out the old order of Pharisees, ended the old covenant, put to silence those that rested on the power of the Law. Today, as in the time of Jesus, many lay claim to the power of God, to the authority that comes from God. They demand your tithe or you will miss out on the blessing of God. There is no doubt that, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). However, through the precious blood of Jesus the blessing of God HAS already been provided for you. You can’t earn it, you can’t buy it, you can’t build it, you can’t sell it. It is free! It is called Grace or unmerited favor. It’s yours and mine for the asking. If you tithe or even sell all that you have: “let it be as unto the Lord and not unto man” (Col. 3:23). Do not be led down a pathway of works, and insult God’s Grace by believing you contribute to the kingdom of God with your money. “The kingdom of God is not meat or drink but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). Jesus establishes his kingdom in us by His Spirit, not with our money. His life, his character, His divine nature is that kingdom. If you have entered INTO CHRIST and Christ has entered INTO YOU, then you are the kingdom of God. You are under God’s domain. You are led by the Spirit of God. You are a Son of God. For scripture states, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the Sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). These Sons of God are one with God. They are conformed to the image of God.
Yes, God may pull on our purse strings from time to time and require us to give here or there. In fact, a Spirit of Giving may come upon us and a deep desire to share financially may even overcome us. Praise God for these leadings. But the dealing with our riches cannot compare with the bounty of riches that has been bestowed on us freely by the blood of Jesus. How often the people of God are asked in congregations to give offerings to bless this preacher or help finance a “good work.” But Beloved, Jesus has made an offering! Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice. He went far beyond giving a tenth. “For by ONE offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). That offering was His BODY, His BLOOD , His SPIRIT, and it was given that you and I might enter into the Holy of Holies (the presence of God), into Oneness with God, into full Communion with God. But make no mistake, there are those, “who have trodden underfoot the Son of God and have counted the blood covenant an unholy thing and done despite to the Spirit of Grace” (Heb. 10:29). Rather than encourage you to be led in your giving, these provoke you to enter into “pacts of blessing,” or “contractual agreements” and they extort “pledges” in return for your miracle. These extortionists count the blood insignificant and despise grace by mentioning without fail, the role of YOUR money in the scheme of God’s plan. Flee from these people and their preaching and leave them to God for: “The Lord shall judge His people,” …for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” (And while you cast out the ‘for profit preachers’ with their tax exempt I.D. numbers), “cast not away your confidence (faith in God’s grace) which has great recompense of reward” for “the just shall live by faith” NOT MONEY (Heb. 10:30, 31, 35, 38).
It is clear from scripture that God desires that we share our goods out of our abundance, but with who? That we should assume a responsibility for the poor, there is no doubt. But what about financial responsibility for the clergy? Is the tithe His method of perpetuating a religious class of Bible school graduates who see it their responsibility to evangelize, disciple, and direct a people to and for God. We read in Revelation about the Church at Pergamos who held to the doctrine or teachings of the Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2:15). Jesus is quite emphatic for He says of this teaching and its practices that it is something He HATES! (Rev. 2:6). But what was this doctrine? The word has been left in its original form, untranslated so that it would appear to be a reference to an individual or group who committed some evil deed or endorsed and evil doctrine in the early church. However, most translation authorities now recognize that it was not translated because it is essentially interpreted: CLERGY; – and it has been the clergy who have provided us with most translations. If the clerical translators interpreted the word nicolaitane as clergy, it would obviously portray them in an unfavorable light. The Greek meaning of the word is two-fold. NICO: meaning to conquer, and LAITANE: meaning the people, from which we derive the word LAITY. Literally this word means “to conquer or rule over the people.” Specifically it is in reference to a class of people who exercise authority over the laity, or laymen. There is of course only one class of people who fit this description: the CLERGY!
Yes, that’s exactly right. Jesus hates those teachings and practices that suggest the need for a ruling class over His Body. He says He is the Shepherd. He sends His Spirit to lead and guide into all truth, not a stranger (Jn. 14:26). God the Father sent His only begotten Son Jesus, to die on a cruel cross to do away with the need for an intermediary. In fact, the spiritual significance of His death was symbolically represented to the Israelites when the “veil of the temple was rent in twain” (Mk. 15:38). This meant that you and I could now go directly to God in faith for all our needs (Heb. 10:19). This meant that access was now available for “whosoever” into the Holy of Holies (His presence). The need for a priesthood that mediated our sin with God was eliminated when Christ came and died in the flesh. Jesus Christ is now identified as our Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Heb. 3:1). The need for a religious class of people that officiate Christian ceremony and tradition defies the effectiveness of Christ’s death by seeking to re-establish Juadaism and a Levitical priesthood. This idea is against God. It is against Christ; or it is Anti-Christ (I John 4:3). Jesus said in Rev. 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” He spoke this to believers. Why? Because He had been kicked out of their fellowship and replaced by visible, tangible leaders. He said you think you are rich but you are poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). Maybe they thought they were in the midst of a rich revival. Maybe all their BIG church plans were succeeding and their numbers were growing. Maybe they considered themselves rich because they sat under the best preaching they had ever heard. It didn’t matter because they had left Jesus outside, still knocking, asking to come in. In this passage He is no longer making an appeal to the whole body of believers, but is simply now saying “If ANY man hear my voice…” He had given up on that fellowship at large and was making a last ditch effort to any individual.
But just like in the days when Israel demanded a king, so too many believers today think they must be led into battle by the arm of flesh. The Lord granted the Israelites Saul as their king after two requests but they were also given leanness of soul. God told Samuel not to take this request for a king as a personal insult “for the Lord said they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me that I should reign over them” (I Sam. 8:7). In less than a generation we read how King Saul exacted the best from every household including herds, goods, grains, and even children (I Sam. 11:18). They were constantly led into unnecessary wars and even provoked to war against God’s own anointed, David. Even today the madness of many ministers is kindled to jealousy when God sends into their congregations those with a prophetic voice or an apostolic vision. These are branded as rebellious because they boldly proclaim in the congregations the authority of none other than Jesus, their true Shepherd.
THE FIVE FOLD MINISTRY
But what about the fivefold ministry? What about the apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and teachers? Truly these offices have been given to the Body of Christ. But for what purpose? To establish God’s order of authority and divine government? NO! “The government shall be upon His shoulder” (Isa. 9:6). To bring about a recognition of the “BIG SHOTS” in God? NO again! “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2: 5 & 7). Or was it to establish a pecking order so we could all easily discern the least to the greatest? A THOUSAND TIMES …NO! God gave these ministries “…for the perfecting of the saints, for the working of the ministry, for the edifying of the body” (Eph. 4:12). How long will these office gifts be needed in the body? “…Til we all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Hence we realize that these ministry gifts are temporal; they are confined to this present age. Frequently we refer to those operating under the anointing of these ministry gifts as the “called of God.” That these ministry gifts require a calling, there is no doubt. But Beloved, there is a HIGH CALL of God in Christ Jesus that goes beyond the confines of this present age (Phil. 3: 14). To be found IN CHRIST and have CHRIST HID IN YOU goes far beyond a preachers highest hopes of walking like an apostle. Indeed, this high call is only for the elect, for those He has foreknown, for those He has predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus (Rom. 8:29). Not conformed to the image of the world, your pastor that preaches, nor your Sunday school teacher that teaches, but conformed to the image of Jesus Christ Himself. This is your calling! This is the ETERNAL CALL of God on every believer.
But how can we tell if a person is operating in one of these “ministry gifts?” Jesus said, “He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). That means taking the back seat, not the front stage. Jesus warns about those who would come in and demand the best seats (Mk. 12:38, 39 & 40). How embarrassing it will be for them when Jesus usurps their man-made rite of passage, with their divinity doctorates and degrees, and manifests His GLORY IN and ON some prayerful saint on the sidelines (Lk. 14:7-10). You and I beloved, have not been called to the “ordination of man.” Instead Jesus said: “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you and ORDAINED you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16). In fact we have been foreordained to bear fruit; fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is the character of Jesus, or the DIVINE NATURE (2 Pet. 1:4).
THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND REVELATION
The “King Saul” preachers of our day advocate we wrestle against flesh and blood. They say, why not fight fire with fire (and use carnal weapons). Let’s picket and bomb abortion clinics; lets muster the majority and legislate morality; write letters to the editor and your congressman (since God’s hand seems to be shortened). Despite all of this clamor and these desperate pleas for Christians to action, God is raising up a people who are not intimidated by the evil of the hour. These have caught a glimpse of the heavenly vision. They know deep by the Spirit the words of Isaiah to be true: “Darkness shall cover the earth, …and gross darkness the people. But the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles (heathen) shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isa. 60: 2, 3). It will take nothing less than a divine impartation with a special anointing to prevent the panic ridden Christian from getting out there and trying to do everything they’re told to do by a cultist, antichrist clergy. No wonder Paul was so fervent in Ephesians 1:17, praying for that church and us as well to receive the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the knowledge of Him. This is that same Spirit and impartation that was so desperately sought by Solomon. This impartation also rested on Jesus. Even Paul was taught of this Spirit three years in the Arabian desert. He surfaced a preacher of the “mystery of the gospel” which had been hid from the ages. This mystery is “Christ in You the Hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27). Do not confuse the preaching of the gospel (good news) to the unbeliever, with the mystery of the gospel, which is revealed to the saints.
This same Spirit or impartation is THE SPIRIT and TRUTH that Jesus spoke of when he said “the hour comes when the true worshipers shall worship in Spirit and in Truth” (Jn 4: 23). Moreover, this impartation is understood experientially and by way of divine revelation. It is He (the Holy Spirit) that leads and guides into all truth. Lean on Him. Rely on Him to feed you. Your preacher may teach you principles about soul winning, Bible studies, church attendance, submission, Jewish missions, Communists and the Catholic Church, but he can’t satisfy the longing of your soul for manna from heaven. Only the enlightening experience of the Holy Ghost can cause the eyes of your understanding to be opened. It is then that the preacher’s principles fade into insignificance and we begin to see the true hope of our calling. To know Him as we are known by Him (I Cor. 13:12). To enter into a Oneness and unity with Him that Jesus demonstrated for us while on earth for “He is the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). You and I are called to be “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Heirs of the same relationship with the Father that Jesus had. For He says, “That where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:3).
PERFECTING OF THE SAINTS
Nobody who truly loves the Lord disputes this to be our ultimate destination. But many who seek to sidetrack the faithful say “yes, but we’ll never come into this relationship in our life time;….nobody’s perfect…right?” If this is the case why did Jesus say: “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48); or the writer of Hebrews: “Let us go on to perfection….” (Heb. 6:1). The same Greek word for perfection is used in both instances hence the word cannot be translated maturity as some would suggest. Maturity to many implies some kind of Anglo-Saxon etiquette taught by gracious Victorian Christians. But, beloved, as Jesus was not referring to His Father as mature, neither does the writer of Hebrews call us to maturity, but to perfection. We are called to be conformed to the image of Christ. We have been predestined to the glory of the Father revealed in us, through us, and upon us in this lifetime. Many believers and especially preachers argue against this concept by saying, “even Paul was not perfect,” referring to Philippians 3:12-14. “…not as though I had attained either were already perfect…I press toward the mark of the prize of the high call of God in Christ Jesus.” But a careful examination of the text is very revealing. Reading the next verse: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Here we see then that even brother Paul admits he is perfect. And not only he, for he says AS MANY as be perfect. But what does he mean to be thus minded? Verse 13: “Brethren, I COUNT NOT myself to have apprehended,” or verse 12: “Not AS THOUGH I had already attained.” Paul had been made perfect in Christ Jesus but he did not count himself to have attained. He didn’t boast about it. He walked in humility, JUST LIKE JESUS! Our Savior was the Son of God but never claimed to be anything but the son of man. He made Himself of no reputation. “As many as be perfect be thus minded.” And what mind is that? “Let this mind be in you that also was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). It is obvious that Paul was walking in this relationship as a Son of God. It wasn’t just by blind faith, some day, in the great by and by. It was a living reality in his life. He was thrown to beasts at Ephesus and yet walked away after they devoured him (I Cor. 15:32). Literally this passage is understood in its translation, “If the dead are not raised why did I bother to get thrown to ferocious beasts at Ephesus.” Again in 2 Corinthians 11:25 he says he was even stoned three times and left for dead. Were those throwing the rocks bad shots? Did they all have bad aim? Hardly! The whole city and even all of the disciples THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD! (Acts 14:19) Couldn’t they tell in those days whether or not someone was dead? Of course they could. But the resurrection power of the risen Savior had possessed our brother Paul. He had died several years before these stonings on the backside of a desert. He died to all of his personal aims, ambitions, wishes and goals. He was crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lived. Yet it was not Paul’s life anymore, but it was Christ who was living in him and through him (Gal. 2:20). He was no longer Saul of Tarsus. It was Jesus you came in touch with when you met brother Paul. No wonder beasts or stonings or shipwrecks couldn’t hold him from the course God had established for him. By his own confession Paul says he had been in “deaths oft” or died many times (2 Cor. 11:23). And yet in Philippians 3:11 he says: “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” He who had already attained to the resurrection was once again, “counting himself not have apprehended” (Phil. 3:13).
THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLE JOHN
It is clear from the example of Paul’s life that much more awaits us in this lifetime than we have ever been taught. God is even now raising up a people who will come forth in His own image, a perfect and holy people upon whom the glory and anointing of God’s FULLNESS shall rest (Eph. 3:19). Obadiah prophesied of these coming in verse 21: “And SAVIOURS shall come upon mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau (flesh); and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” These are the overcomers in the Revelation to John. They have overcome the SIN of the seven churches (Rev. 1-3). This sin is a clinging to, and a dependence on an apostate clergy that was begotten by a Babylonian world system (Rev. 17:5-6). Are you looking to your preacher for the word of direction instead of the Holy Spirit, and thereby “left your first love” (Rev. 2:4)? Does your preacher and Sunday school picnics equate to your spiritual wealth? If so, you have become like a Laodicean (Rev. 3:14-17): poor and wretched, and in need of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46). Has the doctrine of Jezebel (Rev. 2:20-23) infiltrated your thinking? Jezebel coerced God’s people to a dedication unto the idols of Baal, like preachers who demand devotion to building projects. She chased true prophets like Elijah into the desert. But the Spirit is bidding the bride to come higher IN HIM (Rev. 11:12), for out of the wilderness of the church system a MANCHILD COMPANY (Rec. 12) shall come forth as Christ, (and speak an end to these Jezebels, these Balaams, these Nicolaitanes.
The word for overcomers in the Greek is NICON. These are conquerors. Contrast these to NICOLAITANES who conquer the laity. Nicolaitanes are clergy who have gone the way of Balaam, pursuing personal advantage. They encourage a type of spiritual fornication for they demand your love and intercourse with their programs.They demand you feast on building projects which is nothing more than making you food for idol worship (see Rev. 2:14, 15). But praise God. He is raising up the NICON. This is the conquering army of the Lord. No fornication or feast of idol worship here. These have found their FIRST LOVE and are even now feasting on the TREE OF LIFE (Rev. 2:7). These have gone the way of the cross so that the life of Christ may become real in them.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE SAINTS
The day awaits and draws nigh upon us when these overcomers shall be revealed and manifested as Sons of God (Rom. 8:9). In that day: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and ALL flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Isa. 40:5). Indeed, this “glory shall be revealed IN US” (Rom. 8:18). This event shall occur even as Jesus spoke for He said: “As lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:27). For: “He shall come to be glorified IN His saints and to be admired IN all them that believe in that day” (I Thes. 1:10). Unfortunately, many are looking to some desert, or to some mountain-temple in the Middle East for the coming again of our Lord. But we are reminded of His warning: “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, or there; believe it not…..Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: he is in the secret chambers; believe it not” (Matt. 24: 23, 26). He will come to be revealed in His saints. He will come in us as a CORPORATE MANY MEMBERED BODY (I Cor. 12: 27) manifesting his Shekinah Glory. The name of this Body is of course: “Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15). The lightning that shines from the East to the West is an anticipated event described in Romans 8:19 as the Manifestation of the Sons of God. Should we then aspire to be God? NO! Rather, God desires to be Himself IN US and THROUGH US. Yielding to His desire produces the unity of the faith (Eph. 4:13), the Oneness that Jesus agonized for, with droplets like as blood, when He prayed in Gethsemene: “that they also may be one IN US…and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them….that the love thou hast loved me may be IN them, and I IN them” (Jn. 17:21, 22, 26). In that day you and I are commanded together to: “lift up our voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; and say unto the cities of Judah: BEHOLD YOUR GOD” (Isa. 40:9).