Things Jesus Didn’t Tell Us
by Paul deParrie
Culture War Associates © 2004
It is a teaching that is very damaging. From the individual
believer who simply gives more credence to the “red-letter” passages
of the Bible, to the full-blown teaching that the Old Testament is irrelevant
and that Paul’s letters were a hijacking of the truths of Jesus, to the
idea that the specific words of Jesus are the sum total, or, at least
trump card, of the Word of God for the Christian not only stunts spiritual
growth, but can lead to bizarre, and sometimes heretical, teachings.
As usual, none of this is new. From the first century
Ebionites who believed that Christians were to keep the Law of Moses
and whose only accepted text was a warped Hebrew translation of the book
of Matthew, through certain ascetic and pacifist sects who regarded the
Sermon on the Mount as the summum bonum of the Way, to modern
attempts at reproducing the “first century church,” there is a troubling
recurrence of people and groups seeking to “simplify” the teaching of
the Word to the point of simplistic foolishness.
Well, I have news for those of you who are tending
toward this direction: Jesus simply did not tell us everything.
Does this sound like heresy?
Jesus Himself said to the disciples that he had not
Many Things To Say
In John 16: 12, Jesus says, “I have yet many things
to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”
This little-noticed verse opens the doors to all sorts
of things. Jesus further explained what He was saying in verses 13 and
when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:
for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that
shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto
Not only does Jesus say He has not told the disciples
everything (and He said a lot more than was recorded in the Gospels – more
on this later), but that after He leaves He will continue their education
via the Holy Spirit.
The clear result is that Jesus is telling us that
further revelation is yet to come. This clears the biblical way for God
to pen further teaching at the hands of Paul, Peter, John, James, and,
possibly others. (Immediately, though, I need to say that I am not saying
that the canon of Scripture is still open. Let’s get that issue clear.)
More mysterious yet is the part of this verse where
Jesus explains the reason why He could not tell them these things: “Ye
cannot bear them now.”
What’s that all about?
Conflicting Or Continuing Orders?
The verses above establish that it is not beyond our
Lord to withhold information from us for either our own good or for His
purposes and plans. It also indicates that His intention is to eventually
fully reveal those things – in the appropriate time and manner.
However, I do not wish to limit the scope of this
work solely to those things that Jesus did not tell the disciples before
His death, burial, and resurrection – things He later revealed through
holy men of God moved by the Holy Spirit.
I would also like to look at some of the apparent “conflicting” orders
Jesus gave either personally or through the Holy Spirit. As believers
who are to be able to hear the leading of the Holy Spirit, there are
things we need to understand about that.
There is a simplistic What-Would-Jesus-Do (WWJD) mentality
out there that creates more confusion than clarity. Some of the WWJD
adherents rely on emotional responses (often called “love”) as the basis
for what Jesus would have done, while others use a dry, formulaic search
of those things Jesus is recorded as having done.
The first, obviously, will lead to errors in tolerating
sin. The second proves unworkable – even within the confines of New Testament
An error that both approaches share is that they often
regard the Old Testament (OT) as not viable in a discussion of WWJD.
Of course, this is silly. The NT is clear on this.
In 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 we read:
scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Reading this, keep in mind that the only generally
available “Scripture” at the time Paul wrote this was the OT.
In addition, the believers were also minded to accept
the writings of the apostles as “Scripture” as well. At least Peter was
fully aware of the fact that Paul’s writings were such. He admonishes
his readers in 2 Peter 3: 15-16:
account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our
brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written
also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which
things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable
wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Peter classes Paul’s missives along with the “other
scriptures” – the OT. For a guy who allegedly “hijacked” Christianity,
Paul certainly had Peter hoodwinked.
So, while this work will initially focus on some of
those things that Jesus didn’t tell the disciples, it will go on to look
at how the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit work hand-in-hand to guide
our daily lives – if we are willing to let Him.
Living In A Jewish State Of Mind
In the Gospels, Jesus says that He was sent only to
the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15: 24)
This is significant, because the fulcrum of history
was about to see the moving of the kingdom of God from being purely a
Jewish enterprise to something that was open to all the nations. This
would be a foreign thought to the Jews, despite the scattered OT prophecies
indicating it would happen.
Jesus was very careful about these things because,
until the Spirit would indwell these very Jewish believers, such a thought
would be simply incomprehensible to them.
Remember, that Jesus directed His sermons to people
who thought that they were the kingdom of God. He had to speak
in terms they could comprehend – and not run away thinking He was mad.
Jesus tenuously taught some things that would be greatly
expanded later by Paul.
Think about the parable of the good Samaritan. We
all shake our heads at the reaction of the Pharisees, but I assure you
that the disciples themselves were probably just as baffled. The one
thing that held them in place was that, by this time, they understood
at least that Jesus was sent by God and that when he said strange things
it was up to them to wait for the explanation.
This is what happened when he told the multitude of “believers” that
they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to be saved. About
5,000 left in horror and confusion. When asked if the disciples would
leave as well, Peter, answering for the others, said, “Where will we
go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6: 53-69)
Their minds and hearts were stretched to the limit – and
in the verse discussed earlier, Jesus acknowledges that there were things
He needed to tell them that went well beyond that limit. These things
He would wait to tell them by the Holy Spirit – and, by that same Spirit,
empower them to understand and “bear.”
The Words Of Jesus Only
Many believers, wishing to honor their Savior, place
emphasis on the words of Jesus – some even limit doctrine to those red-letter
words – to the point where the remainder of the NT as well as all of
the OT are virtually ignored. This seriously impairs spiritual growth.
Suppose Paul or Peter had done this? Neither would have written the letters
they did – especially not Paul with his radical “not under the Law” teaching
(which we will discuss later).
Probably one of the supreme examples I have heard
of taking Jesus words and ignoring those of the rest of Scripture is
on the subject of marriage and divorce.
Some people quote Jesus very limited words on this
topic as the sum total of the NT teaching on the subject, yet Paul’s
discourses on this are far more full and complete.
Jesus, speaking to Jews who all consider themselves
to be the only “believers,” addressed them on that basis. He did not,
as Paul did, speak of “the unbelieving” husband or wife. Such a reference
would have been utterly meaningless to the Jews. It would have been inconceivable
to a Jew that a believer would be married to an unbeliever. However,
when gentiles began to enter the ranks of the Church, very often a man
or woman would be born again while their spouse was not. This raised
a lot of questions that would never have come up among a solely Jewish
At one point, Paul speaks of a particular point:
1 Corinthians 7:10-11
unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife
from her husband:
and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her
and let not the husband put away his wife.
Now, I don’t know about you, but as I look through
the four gospels, I do not see any such quote by Jesus. So, is Paul just
making it up here?
No. It is evident that there were many things Jesus
said and did which were never written down. (John 21: 25) Indeed, I am
sure many additional direct quotes from Jesus were common currency in
the early Church. I am reminded of Paul saying in Acts 20: 35,
“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring
ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord
Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This
quote is not in the gospel accounts either.
I am certain that the words Paul says in Corinthians
are those of Jesus and are probably a direct quote from the Master.
It starts becoming strange when he follows up with
1 Corinthians 7:12-15
to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that
not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.
the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased
to dwell with her, let her not leave him.
the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving
is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but
now are they holy.
if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is
under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
This is the opening to a rather lengthy teaching on
marriage, divorce, and singleness. When he says, “the rest speak I, not
the Lord” I do not believe he is offering a private opinion. I believe
he is giving us God’s word on a matter beyond what Jesus specifically
said addressing issues that would have not been understood – or particularly
needed – in Judea or Galilee. I note that at the end of this discourse,
Paul wryly reminds them, “I think also that I have the Spirit of God.” (Verse
While Jesus says that no one may divorce except for
the cause of adultery and that remarriage without that cause results
in ongoing adultery, Paul acknowledges that liberty for those whose unbelieving
spouse abandons them.
For the “words of Jesus only” crowd, Paul is either
teaching false doctrine or his words are simply not allowed to be seen
on the same level as those of Jesus. This is not really an option, though.
Jesus did tell His disciples there would be unbearable (then) things
that the Holy Spirit would teach when He departed from them.
This, however, was not the only – or most shocking – new
Every Nation, Kindred, Tribe, and Tongue
There are a number of places in the OT where God makes
it clear that the gentiles – the “other” nations – will also be part
of His ultimate kingdom. Beginning with God’s promise to Abraham that “all
nations” would be blessed in his “seed” (Christ) and moving on to any
number of the promises in the books of the prophets, the plan was apparent – in
hindsight. The Jews, on the other hand, did not see those clearly. They
saw that God promised them a special status, that He said he would crush
all their enemies (those “other” nations) under their feet, and that
their Messiah – their Messiah – would rule all nations with a
rod of iron and they would rule with Him.
To the Jewish mind – even the best Jewish mind – it
would have been incomprehensible that any gentile would be anything but “hewers
of wood and a drawers of water” when they reigned as kings with their
Messiah. There was, in their minds, a God-ordained wall of separation
between them and all the other nations. Even the Law, embodied in the
Holiness, or Separation Code, made it nearly impossible for there to
be any connections.
Jesus did hint at the coming change.
Matthew 8: 11-12
I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall
sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness:
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I don’t think even the disciples understood that this
meant that gentiles would be enjoying the repast at the same table as
the patriarchs. I think they mentally filed it away under “Weird Saying
of the Master” and promptly forgot it. They were good at forgetting things.
(Matthew 16: 6-12)
Nor was this the only place Jesus veered off the expected “Jews
Rule the World” party line. He seemed to always crack the door of the
kingdom for some gentile like the Centurion, or the woman at the well,
or the Syrophenician woman. He even, as mentioned earlier, made a Samaritan
the hero in one of his stories. In toto, though, it wasn’t much.
What really started the ball rolling on this unbearable
doctrine of gentile inclusion in God’s kingdom was a hammer-to-the-head
miracle – or series of miracles.
Peter was a good Jew. While he had his failings, he
knew how to keep ceremonially clean by eating right and such. Maybe that’s
why God picked on him to start kicking down the barriers. Up to this
point, followers of The Way were all Jews. It never had occurred to anyone
to preach to a gentile – and these were the highly-touted, Spirit-filled,
First Century Christian Church people.
So, in Acts 10 we find Peter, taking a siesta in the
middle of the day while waiting for a meal to be prepared. Suddenly,
Peter sees a vision of a great vessel coming down from Heaven with all
sorts of creatures – clean and unclean – inside. The voice of God (Peter
had heard it before on the mount of transfiguration) speaks, “Rise, Peter.
Kill and eat.”
Peter recites an oxymoron, “No, Lord” and tries informing
the Lord of something God already knew. “I’ve never eaten anything unclean
God says, “Don’t call unclean, what I have cleansed.”
Again, this is all very mysterious to our Spirit-filled,
First Century Church, Personally-Chosen Apostle. If he’d been a Pentecostal,
he’d have been trying to cast the devil out of the sheet.
God patiently does it a second and a third time for
emphasis. What Peter doesn’t know, but is about to learn, is that some
time before all this, God sent an angel to a gentile dog named Cornelius.
As a result of that apparition, Cornelius sent men (more gentile dogs)
to Joppa to the exact house where Peter was to ask for Peter by name.
They are just walking up to the house when God tells Peter to go downstairs
and meet these men, invite them to spend the night, and go with these
gentiles without asking questions. By this time, Peter has it figured
out that God is up to something – but what?
Still, the unbearable thought cannot sink through
that thick cranium. (Allow me to pause here to say that I don’t think
any of us would fare much better in his place.)
He gets to Cornelius’ house and *gasp!* enters it.
Upon hearing Cornelius’ tale (for the second time), he finally relents
and preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ to this house full of gentiles.
It must have seemed to him like preaching to animals – but he did it
because those were the marching orders. Like a good soldier, he plunged
Next thing you know the whole crowd gets filled with
the Holy Spirit. Peter knew this was so because they were all speaking
Peter had no choice but to baptize them.
This, though, was only the beginning of the hurdle.
Peter was going to have to face the music with the rest of the apostles
and the Church back at headquarters. It didn’t take long for word to
spread that Peter was out there preaching to gentiles and the bickering
over it started immediately.
Peter had his work cut out for him in explaining this
unbearable truth. Fortunately, as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit was
on hand to guide into all Truth – first by demonstrating that gentiles
could be filled with the Holy Spirit, then by confirming the truth in
the hearts of the assembled apostles and other Church leaders.
The Holy Spirit had done precisely what Jesus had
said; He taught them an unbearable truth.
Hold it, though. The lesson is not really over. The
apostles and the church at large were accustomed to some real low-life
people being saved, but those were low-life Jews. Now, Cornelius,
the gentile, was at least known as a “devout man, and one that feared
God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed
to God always” (Acts 10: 2). However, sooner or later, the Jewish believers
were going to have to deal with gentiles who were formerly fornicators,
idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind,
thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners who had been
washed in the blood of the Lamb. (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11)
It didn’t take long either. Already a man named Ananias
had laid hands on a radical convert named Saul, whom God had said would
bear His name before the gentiles. (Acts 9: 15) The stage had already
been set. Next thing they knew, the Jews of the Church in Jerusalem were
hearing about all kinds of gentiles calling upon the name of the Lord.
What To Do?
Now that the Jewish believers had a few gentiles coming
to repentance and being filled with the Holy Spirit, the next question
was: What do we do with these people?
Not all the Jewish believers were fully prepared to
accept gentiles on equal terms. A little dust-up occurred when the believing
Greek widows were being left out of the daily food distribution. (Acts
6) After Peter’s experience with Cornelius things were probably a lot
more amicable, but the Jews still weren’t sure how to handle these people
with their foreign ways.
A number of leading members decided that the gentiles
needed to convert to Judaism – be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses – in
order to be saved. It sounded reasonable. Even Jesus had said nothing
of any change in the Law. Unfortunately for them, they were missing something.
God’s covenant with Abraham – the covenant of blessing all nations
through the Messiah – did not include the Law. The Law was something
that came afterwards, and was not an addition to Abraham’s covenant.
(Galatians 3: 16-17)
Again, Jesus hinted at this change, but knew that
they were unable to bear it without the special teaching skills of the
indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus had pretty much undermined the sabbath
by saying that the sabbath was created for man’s benefit, and that man
was not created “for the sabbath.” (Mark 2: 27) He told the people that
it was not unclean foods entering through the mouth that defiled a man,
but unclean heart attitudes escaping through the mouth that defiled.
(Mark 7: 18-23)
When He said that the Law would not pass away until
all was fulfilled, the disciples themselves did not understand that Jesus’ death,
burial, and resurrection was all the fulfillment the Law needed to fade
way and disappear. (Matthew 5: 18; Hebrews 8: 13)
So the heaviest, most unbearable teaching Jesus had
for His disciples was that His disciples would no longer be “under the
Remember that the Law was not only the Jews’ religious
practice, it was their entire culture. The ritual washings, special
garments, special foods, special haircuts (and other cuts), were
all designed to separate them from gentiles as much as possible.
This was done in order to keep the lineage of the Messiah as clear and
pure as possible. (Galatians 4: 1-7; Hebrews 9: 10) Under the OT, the
only way for a gentile to get in touch with God was to convert to Judaism.
The separations imposed by the Law made it nearly impossible for the
Jews to be evangelical about their covenant. Since the Law was designed
to be temporary, this was a good thing. (Galatians 3: 19, 23-26)
The new covenant was different. It was designed
to be evangelical. It was designed to “break down the partition” between
Jew and gentile in Christ – in fact, this was the very mystery of the
Gospel that was hidden even from the holy prophets of old. (Ephesians
Can you imagine Jesus telling His Jewish audience, “You
are no longer under the Law, but under grace”? It may as well have come
from another planet. Everything they did in their lives was directly
related to the Law. He may as well have said, “Stop breathing.”
No, Jesus left that message for the Holy Spirit through
Paul. Having broken down the partition between Jew and gentile, the Spirit
would then lead Paul – a Law-man extraordinaire – to preach among the
gentiles and conclude that the Law was “passing away.” He withstood “Pope” Peter
(whoops! see Galatians 2: 11-14) “to the face” over the issue and brought
the issue to the Jerusalem council of elders. The council decided that
the gentiles, at least, were not required to circumcise themselves or
keep the Law of Moses. (Acts 15)
Confusing The Law With The Promise
Peter admonished his readers that Paul’s writings
were “sometimes hard to be understood.” (2 Peter 3: 16) This witness
is true. Paul’s teaching about the end of the Law of Moses and the beginning
of an age of grace have led to some confusion.
First, many today seem to equate the end of the specific
covenant with Israel through Moses with the end of the usefulness of
the OT as a source for learning about God’s will for today. Often, believers
will react to an admonition using OT Scripture with the rejoinder, “But
that’s Old Testament!”
It is as if no OT verse reflects the will of the Father
any more. Some, carry this cutting off of the OT to the point of almost
saying that it was God Himself who changed when Jesus died and
rose from the dead – that the OT God was mean and judgmental, but the
NT God got “saved” by Jesus sacrifice and is now nice and tolerant of
our foibles (sins).
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. God
does not change (Malachi 3: 6; Hebrews 13: 8) – neither does His definition
of and attitude toward sin. Remember, our sins (even the “little” ones)
cost Him His Son on the cross.
Earlier I quoted 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 and it is well
scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
While writing this, Paul knew that the only “scripture” available
to the body of Christ was the OT. He did not say this (or anything else
in his writings) by accident.
The teaching of Paul was that we were not under the
Law of Moses – that is, this covenant made on stones was not the covenant
of promise to Abraham. They were two different things. So, saying this,
he was teaching that we were not justified by circumcision, sabbath-keeping,
kosher diets, offering sacrifices, wearing of tassels, or any of the
other multitude of requirements of the Law of Moses. Not only were we
not justified by these, we were not required to keep them after
we were justified as a means of righteousness.
Paul strenuously warned against any kind of creeping
Law-keeping for justification or righteousness as an abandonment of the
work of Jesus Christ on the cross. (Galatians 2: 21 and 5: 4; Romans
10: 4-5; James 2: 10)
None of this means that God’s opinion of adultery,
homosexuality, theft, lying, divorce, covetousness, or any other ungodly
thing has changed. The age of grace did not usher in an age of tolerance
for sin within (or without) the Church.
In the OT, God authorized the governments of the world
to punish evildoers – even unto capital punishment. He is still of that
opinion. The use of the OT to show that God permits such a punishment
did not change suddenly when Jesus died.
The Law of Moses is not the sum total of the OT. God’s
heart is boldly revealed in the OT in things that will be forever part
of His character.
Different Strokes For Different Blokes Or “WWJD?”
The Scripture establishes that God does not change.
However, there is a question about whether God changes His mind.
A number of verses declare that God has changed His mind. (Exodus 32:
14; 2 Samuel 24: 16; Jeremiah 26: 19; Jonah 3: 10 as examples) Of course,
that action which God originally said He planned to do to bring evil
upon someone for judgment, and the action He finally took in showing
mercy were both righteous in character. As such, there was no change
in God Himself.
A similar question comes to mind about how God directs
His people. Does God always follow the same instruction in what to do
in various situations?
Today, many people are under the impression that God
wants all of His people to slavishly follow exactly what Jesus did in
every circumstance. To those I would ask: Can you die as an atonement
for the sins of another? If not, maybe you should reconsider this proposition.
A good example from Scripture would be to contrast
and compare how Jesus and how Paul handled similar situations – a trial
for their lives.
Jesus, it is well known, did not answer the accusations
against Him. Through most of the processes He was taken through, He remained
silent. His willingness to not put up a defense led to His death.
Here is a perfect example of WWJD? in the face of
court accusations against His ministry. Is this what every Christian
should do in every case? Adopting the simplistically popular “theology” of
WWJD?, it would appear that this would be the case – but I don’t think
Paul faced a trial as well. The Jews wanted him dead.
When Paul was brought before officials for judgment you couldn’t shut
him up. He vigorously defended himself and his ministry. We don’t see
him asking WWJD? in that situation.
Why the difference?
It is simple. Jesus and Paul had different missions
on earth. Jesus came specifically to die for our sins. He refused to
be delivered out of the hands of the murdering Jews and Romans when the
time was right for Him to fulfill that mission. Paul’s mission, as described
in his encounter with the risen Christ and the orders he received from
Him, was to preach the gospel to the gentiles all over the world. To
do that, he needed to be alive. Had he been possessed of a “martyr complex” he
could have exercised that option of surrendering to murderers many times
during his journeys. That was not God’s course for him, and he knew it.
The mission of each believer is revealed to him as
he follows the Spirit of God. Some roads lead to silent acquiescence,
others to vigorous defense. Sometimes it is worth asking WWPD?
So, the mission God has for each believer will determine
the actions they must follow. Yet another thing plays into this: The
Recall that Jesus once instructed His disciples:
Luke 9: 2-6
he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor
scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.
whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake
off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and
healing every where.
This instruction was very specific for a specific
season in the lives and training of the disciples. These verses have
lead many a zealous believer to the life of an ascetic. Some have gone
so far as to say that this is a permanent lifestyle instruction for all
believers at all times.
I am not saying that God does not call some people
to this kind of life. Only God makes that call. However, I will say that
this was not the end of the matter for the disciples. There was another
season to come for the very people who received this word.
he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes,
lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.
said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it,
and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his
and buy one.
As Jesus prepared them for their future work after
His departure, He reversed His previous marching orders. He did not say
that God would not make provision, only that it would be different this
time – that they would have to make preparations for provision such as
they were able. God may provide, He seemed to be saying, but it will
be done by another means most of the time.
This example also illustrates that God may lead a
person to do one thing during one season, then change it completely the
next. They don’t call Him “Lord” for nothing.
The New Testament Church Myth
An error that sometimes accompanies the “words of
Jesus only” doctrine is the myth of the perfection of the early Church – the
search to revive The New testament Church.
It is a common human yearning to look back to some
kind of Golden Age and look for some way to return. Often times there
are many real “golden” aspects of that age worthy of revival, but there
is also a corresponding self-imposed blindness to some of the things
that were not so golden.
So it is with the “Early Church” – especially that
portrayed in Acts. Over the centuries, there have been many movements
attempting a return. Of course, much of what they hope to return to must
be culled from faulty or incomplete understandings of what we see in
the Bible – and perhaps, in the writings of early Church leaders.
Some will look at the Jerusalem Church and see a completely
communal life, while others do not. Some see a unity and love between
all members that seems surreal.
There is simply no denying that the Spirit of God
was active in ways we do not see today.
Perhaps, we think, if we can replicate that early
Church, the Spirit will once again move so powerfully.
However, close inspection does not bear up the myth
of this totally unified, loving group – at least not to the extent we
imagine. The Spirit was still working with fallible people, some of whom
were moved to extraordinary acts of compassion.
Still we also see the vainglorious Ananias and Sapphira
vying for recognition and position. We see people whose Jewish-separatist
notions are so strong that Greek widows are not even getting food. Believers
cower in fear when Peter is arrested and are nowhere seen while Stephen
is stoned. We see great disputations arise over Peter even preaching
to a gentile. Paul confronts Peter for his hypocrisy when he abandoned
his gentile hosts’ dinner in favor of the Judaizers. Paul and Barnabas
squabble over whether to take John Mark on their missionary trip – both
leaving in a huff, and in different directions. Later, we see a church
in Corinth actually proud of their tolerance for a man sleeping with
his father’s wife – all the while dividing themselves between followers
of Paul, or Peter, or Apollos. The believers in Galatia are ready to
return to the law of Moses for their righteousness.
These are all part of The New Testament Church. These
are the Holy Ghost-filled, new believers fresh after the time when Jesus
walked in their midst. It sounds a lot like my Church. It sounds a lot
Life Lived In His Presence
To me, when I consider the Word of God, and when I
look at how the Spirit has guided me, I am amazed. Walking with God involves
both the Word and the Spirit. The Word alone leaves us dry, bound to
written codes faintly understood by all-too-human minds, and limited
in our ability to relate with God. Those who claim to follow only the
spirit all too often fall into being shunted to and fro by emotional
waves and without any anchor or boundary to stabilize them.
God has always truly wanted a people who, one-by-one,
were willing to listen for His voice – even when it seemed strange or
outlandish, even when it might result in alienation from those we call
brothers and sisters.
Just as Jesus didn’t tell His disciples everything,
He, likewise, does not tell us. Some of what He could tell us would frighten
or offend us if told before we were prepared.
Indeed, there is even a corporate principle to this
business of Jesus withholding. The Church of Jesus Christ has grown in
its understanding of God’s heart over the centuries.
No, I’m not saying that the Word has changed. We have,
though, come to understand it better. The early Church writers had much
good to pass on to us, but not all that they wrote was in agreement with
the Word of God. This requires careful discernment.
What I am saying is that we need to be prepared to
be surprised by God. Things are not always as they seem, or as they appear,
or even as all of the past ages of believers thought. Sometimes, God
is ready to teach us something we would not have been able to bear just
a few years ago.