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My Critical Thoughts on New Spring

This past week we saw the resignation of Perry Noble from New Spring Church.  New Spring is the largest church in South Carolina (where I live) with over 30,000 people on various “campuses” throughout the state.  There is a church near me as I write this.  I am reluctant to call it a church but I will.

It amazed me from the start that people enjoyed Perry Noble.  I was not a fan.  When I first heard of him I took a listen to one of his “sermons” and instantly thought it was shallow, seeker sensitive and lacked biblical truth.  It was clear that Noble was not a theologian and he just proof texted his sermons.  Every single talk I heard from Noble was topical.  Noble was often shown to be a gifted speaker but I found it lacking in many ways.  Noble was more about entertaining the crowd than actually teaching the Word of God which is the duty of the elders of the Lord’s church (1 Timothy 3:2).  Paul’s admonishment in Acts 20:28-32 is worth reading and noticing that most of the seeker guys don’t come close to abiding in this.

New Spring always boasted of reaching “thousands” with the gospel.  I never heard the gospel from them.  I have listened to many, many talks from New Spring but the gospel is missing unless you mean “bow your heads and close your eyes.”  The “sinner’s prayer” is not the gospel.  Getting people to raise a hand and say a prayer is not the gospel.  Just getting people to be baptized is not the gospel.  The gospel is clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. New Spring would proclaim “833 saved in all our campuses this weekend” but the “gospel” was noting more than “bow your head, close your eyes, repeat this prayer.”

Having talked to New Spring people on the streets, I learned early on that these people didn’t have a clue about the gospel.  I would share with them the law of God to convict them of their sins and their eyes would be opened to their need to repent and believe the gospel but in my presence, none did.  They always believed they were right with God because they “said the prayer.”  When I would talk to them about repentance, they didn’t have a clue.  Noble would mention sin but repentance was often lacking in his talks.

I found that New Spring had an idolatrous view of Perry Noble.  He was their superstar.  He was their everything.  People went to hear the “kicking praise band” and the great motivational talk from Noble.  Now that Noble is gone, the void of the superstar will be seen.  I suspect that Clayton King will fill that roll.  While King seemed to be more “biblical” he still has a long way to go to be a true biblical preacher of the gospel.  King shares Noble’s pragmatism, his love of shocking “Christians” and he shares in Noble’s “sinner prayer” salvation methodology.

Having interacted with a few New Spring folks, I found the church to be shallow, prayerless, and lacking the gospel.  Sadly, I knew a few Arminian brothers who thought that New Spring was a great model for churches.  I disagreed with them publicly and was clear that I would never follow Noble nor the New Spring model.  Why not just follow the Bible instead?  Why be pragmatic and always looking for the newest, best model for drawing in money people.

For those who truly did repent because of God’s grace and mercy at New Spring, I often have prayed that they would leave and find a biblical church that is preaching the Word of God faithfully.  Noble often attacked those who loved theology and he ridiculed those who wanted to “go deeper” in their study of the Bible.  New Spring claimed to be “all about souls” and their passion, claimed Noble, was for people to be saved.  Yet week after week, Noble would rise up, give a TED talk, ask people to say a prayer and proclaim by the end of the day via Twitter how many people had “prayed to receive Christ.”

Here is my prayer for New Spring: that the elders would repent and denounce the pragmatism brought to them by their founder Perry Noble.  That Clayton King (if he is the man who takes over) would repent and preach the gospel (and not the sinner’s prayer model).  I pray that holiness would be preached and practiced.  I pray that prayer, revival, passion for the gospel, truth, and sound doctrine would reign over New Spring.  I pray the focus would not be on numbers but on pleasing the Lord.  Faithfulness to God is what matters the most in serving the King (2 Timothy 2:2).

I know these are my own thoughts and I don’t claim to speak for anyone.  I know that I am critical of New Spring and have been since I first heard of them.  When I first heard of them, I heard that people were coming to faith in Christ by the hundreds at a Baptist church in Anderson, SC.  I thought, “Wow, maybe this is a biblical church preaching the gospel.”  How sad I was when I first heard Noble give a talk.  I thought back to 2 Timothy 4:2-3 and realized that Noble was just that.  The “thousands” coming to faith in Christ were nothing more than people saying a magical prayer not found in the Bible.

May the Lord give us all a heart for His truth, to call people to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).  Jesus alone saves by His grace alone through faith alone for His glory alone.  The crucified Christ is the one we need to preach (2 Corinthians 4:5) and not ourselves.  The Word of God must be preached for sinner’s to hear and be saved (Romans 10:17).  May the Church preach the gospel to all sinners (Luke 24:47).

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“God Called Me To Be A Pastor”

When I was in my last year of high school, I was right where most high school seniors are in terms of their future.  I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to go to college but even that was not easy.  My sister had attended a Lutheran university that was very liberal and a very sinful campus but I thought I wanted to attend there and perhaps try out for the baseball team.  The other part of me wanted to attend a Bible college in Florida.  In the end, because of money and time, I ended up at a local Bible college in my area (a fact I am still paying on years later!).  I graduated four years later with a BA in Bible with a minor in youth ministries.

Prior to all this, I thought the youth pastor life was excellent.  I mean you get to serve God in a local church, work with teenagers, play goofy games, go to concerts, youth retreats, camps, etc. all for the glory of the King. My youth pastor made it look fun and easy so I begin to pray about being “called into ministry.”  In my mind, I thought a light would shine around me and I would hear the voice of God telling me He needed me in His service.  I prayed and prayed for God to show me His will and to reveal to me His calling into the ministry.  And finally that day came.  No lights.  No smoke.  No glory.  No voice.  Just me reading 1 Timothy 1:12 and deciding that the Lord was indeed calling me into the “ministry.”  When the high school year books came out, I would write some message and always sign my name with 1 Timothy 1:12 under it.  This was my calling into the ministry.

They say that you must be called to preach.  I have been in youth meetings where the evangelist would say that this many got saved and this many were called to preach.  I am not sure how “called to preach” works other than people go by subjective experience to determine if they are called to preach.  Even cessationists that I know believe that God called them to preach.  When you ask them how, they typically reply in experiential terms such “Well, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else but serving God in full-time ministry.”  Most evangelical pastors will give you their testimony of their “calling to preach” and many can name the date and time when God called them to preach.

A couple of things about this.  First, there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that God calls men to preach.  In fact, the Bible calls all disciples to preach (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).  The Bible says that we all have been given this ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  1 Timothy 1:12, that I used back when I believed in this subjective experience, is Paul the Apostle’s own testimony to His calling.  Paul’s calling was unique (Acts 22:21).  Not one person in the New Testament can be shown to having been “called to preach” unless you twist the experiences of Paul the Apostle to make them fit your own.

Secondly, as a person who now works in the “secular” workforce, I find it offensive that I am not called to preach the gospel while a full-time, professional clergy is.  In fact, I would argue that people in the “secular” workplace preach more often than clergy.  I get to be around lost people all the time.  I get to share the gospel all the time.  When I was in full-time ministry, I could go days without talking to a lost person and had no real relationships with lost souls.  When I was in full-time ministry, my focus was always on Christians.  Now that I am no longer called (in terms of the clergy calling), I serve God more now with lost sinners than before.  The Bible is clear that we are all called (1 Peter 2:9-10).  Romans 8:29 tells us that all disciples are called.

The calling to leadership is a different story in the New Testament.  In fact, the leaders just lead.  In Acts 14:23 we read that the Apostles appointed elders.  My question is how did they know who the elders were?  Notice also that they appointed elders after leaving the saints and then coming back.  They didn’t preach the gospel, baptize disciples and then appoint elders all at the same time.  They allowed the Spirit of God to work in the lives of the disciples and the Spirit raised up the elders.  The apostles merely appointed whom the Spirit had already chosen (Titus 1:5).  In other words, leaders in the New Testament Church were already doing the work of the minister without official appointment.  They were serving already (1 Peter 5:1-4).

In our day, a person must have a subjective call to the ministry.  They go to Bible college or seminary and then come back to serve in a church.  None of this is found in the New Testament.

I don’t doubt that godly men love the Lord and want to serve Him.  I just question the “call” to ministry.  It seems very shaky to me, lacks biblical support, and hinders the other saints who serve God in “secular” jobs by making them feel they are not called to preach when in fact they are.  Instead of disciples going out and making disciples, people falsely believe that the pastor is to build the church and we bring people to our churches for the pastor to convert them, teach them, train them, etc.  This is not based on the Scriptures.  Disciples serving God in every area of life is better by far (1 Peter 4:10-11).

One final point about this.  I am not seeking to demean those who truly want to serve God as a pastor (shepherd).  I don’t doubt that many do take serious their passion for God, for His Church, for His Word.  I don’t doubt that godly men have served God faithfully in the local church.  I am simply trying to help us to see that the priesthood of the saints is a vital doctrine.  All of us, because of Christ, are called to serve Him and can approach the throne of God through Him (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire church can serve God and should serve God (1 Corinthians 12:7).  Christ is head of His Church (Colossians 1:18) and all of us who are His disciples can serve Him for His glory.  I fear that this is lost when we place emphasis on “Christian ministry” calling versus “secular job” calling.  All of us are to serve God where we are because all of us who are true disciples of Jesus are His temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/19/2014 at 12:00 PM

Biblical Leadership

In my previous post I wrote on the amazing lack of leadership we see in the New Testament Church.  I pointed out that the church at Corinth was full of problems yet Paul dealt with the entire church rather than writing to a single pastor (“lead pastor” in our day) or even a group or board.  He wrote  to the entire church (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Out of twenty-seven New Testament books, only Philippians opens with a reference to leaders and that only after Paul greets the saints first (Philippians 1:1).  Not one book in the New Testament is addressed to one leader other than Timothy and Titus who were not singular pastors but apostles.

My point in all this is not to deny that there are leaders in the Church.  Ephesians 4:11-16 is clear that there are gifted saints given to the Church to help her.  1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are clear about elders and deacons in the Church.  In Acts 20:17 Paul called the leaders of the church at Ephesus to himself.  Hebrews 13:7, 17 mention leaders.  1 Peter 5:1-4 mentions elders.  It is obvious that leaders are there in the Church but they simply don’t play the prominent role that they do in the modern institutional church.  In the modern church, the pastors are the leaders and they play the most prominent roles.  Who’s name is on the marquee?  It is not the janitor.  It is not the prayer leaders.  It is the senior pastor.  The senior pastor casts the vision, gets the most money from the church, sets up the budgets, visits the sick, prays, preaches, etc.

By the way, in passing, the pastorate also has the single highest burnout rate.  Consider the following stats:

13% of active pastors are divorced.
23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
25% don’t know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue.
25% of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
70% don’t have any close friends.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
90% work more than 50 hours a week.
94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.

That is pretty telling.  And why do pastors feel this way?  Why the struggles?  Some would argue because Satan opposes them.  I would concur but I would also argue that they are doing something God has not given them to do in His Word.  Again, the modern pastorate is missing from the New Testament.

Biblical leadership is very different.  Consider the Lord Jesus who set the example of leadership.  Jesus said that He came to serve (Mark 10:45) and Jesus told His own disciples not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles leaders do (Matthew 20:20-28).  Jesus’ example was service (John 13:1-17).  Peter the Apostle tells us that elders are to be examples to the flock under the control of the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:3).  Notice also that Peter tells the elders to shepherd the flock among you (1 Peter 5:2) and not under them.  The elders themselves were part of the sheep.  This was not a clergy-laity division.

I believe that we have lost the understanding that the Holy Spirit is in control of His Church.  We tend to think that we need a pastor to lead us.  We have a pastor in Jesus (John 10:14) and we can hear His voice (John 10:27).  Jesus leads His Church by His Word that everyone can hear Him speak from (John 8:47).  God is still speaking to His people (Hebrews 12:25).  He speaks to all of us by His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  While I do agree that we need godly teachers to teach us His Word (Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1), all of God’s saints have equal right to come to the Word of God and feed off it.  We don’t need to wait for the Bible teacher for the Spirit to teach us.  Further, the elders are our examples (Hebrews 13:7) and not as lords over us.

How radically different the church would look if elders led the saints by their examples and the entire church worked together for the kingdom of God!  Imagine 1 Corinthians 14:26 being worked out in your local church.  Could it be done or would the professional pastors halt it?  The New Testament has 52 “one another” passages.  Can your church obey those?  Or is your church’s traditions (professional pastors for example) robbing the word of God of its power (Mark 7:1-13)?

My prayer is that God will raise up godly leaders who serve among us.  The Lord is going great things through His Church all over the world and I rejoice in that!  I rejoice that souls are being saved and the Lord is opening eyes to the truth that He can faithfully lead His bride.  I pray that many godly pastors will search the Scriptures and will transition from the Catholic model of leadership to the biblical model of leadership.

For more information on biblical leadership, I recommend the website: New Testament Reformation Foundation.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/18/2014 at 10:50 AM

How The Clergy-Laity System Prevents Biblical Doctrine

In our day, pragmatism reigns.  Leonard Ravenhill use to say that if you let him hear a man preach for five minutes, he could tell you what books the man had been reading.  Sadly, brother Len was right.  I watch as pastor after pastor copies other pastors (usually over success more than character) and they seek to imitate the latest large church growth fads.  In our area, they copy the large seeker churches in hopes they their churches will someday be as large as those churches.  Pastors sit and dream of pastoring large mega-churches with satellite campuses all over the city.  Oh yes, they would gladly say that this is their passion for Jesus to be known and for souls to be saved but most of it is pride and money.

I know I am making some large blanket statements there.  I will begin up front by saying that I am thankful to God that I get to serve Him by driving a truck.  I am surrounded by lost guys.  I am daily getting to know lost sinners and I long to see them saved.  For me, my motivation has nothing to do with building a church or getting their money.  I just want to see souls saved.  I want 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 to be true of me.  I pray that there are many others out there like me.

On the other side are professional pastors.  I once was there myself.  I worked full time in the “ministry” for just over 10 years.  I don’t regret leaving it behind.  In fact, I now serve the Lord better than when I was in full-time “ministry.”  For professional clergy, ministry is both a blessing and a curse.  I don’t doubt that many go into ministry with their hearts set on pleasing the Lord.  Most, including myself, start out with pride being their biggest struggle.  Over time (and many failures), they see that they better trust in Christ or their will indeed fail.  Few reach the level of success that many of the seeker churches have obtained but sadly, the drive to build a big church turns many pastors toward seeker churches.  Seeker churches are driven by pragmatism.  What reigns in a seeker church is not the Word of God but a conviction that the church is for the lost.  The seeker church is designed to attract and keep the “unchurched” coming.  The “sermons” are designed to keep your attention, the music service is full of lights, smoke, flare, and shallow songs designed to keep you excited and coming.  Everything rotates around the conviction that church needs to be cool and attractive.  There is little to no emphasis on verse by verse teaching of the Bible, little to no emphasis on sound doctrine, little to no emphasis on creating an environment of evangelism and prayer.  Instead the focus is singular: the consumer.

For quickly, a biblical understanding of the church is that the church is composed of disciples who meet to build each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).  If you read 1 Corinthians 14:26 and then consider most churches, few to none actually obey the text.  In most churches, the pastors do everything.  You might have a music pastor, a youth pastor, a children’s pastor, a senior pastor (or the new phrase is “lead pastor”).  They do all the “ministry” of 1 Corinthians 14:26.  The thought of “each one” doing this is unheard of unless you are in a small setting.  A house church can accommodate this text.  The church is to come together to edify each other and in turn the saints are equipped (Ephesians 4:11-16) to do the work of the ministry.  The church goes out to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and does not sit waiting on people to come to them.  1 Corinthians 12:13 is clear that only disciples compose the church.  I heard one brother put it this way, “In the Old Testament, God gave the world Israel and said ‘Come and see’ but in the New Testament, He gave the world the church and said, ‘Go and tell.'”  The Church is not a building as in the Old Testament where God met with His people at His chosen place (Deuteronomy 14:23) but the Church is wherever saints of God meet.  It could be a house.  It could be an office building.  It could be a field.  It could be in a prison.  God is not limited by a building.

I believe the modern pastorate hurts the spread of sound doctrine in many ways.  Pastors struggle with busy schedules as is and yet one man is told to build the church when this is not found in the Bible.  Not one singular pastor is found in the Bible but Jesus Christ (John 10:14).  Jesus is the single head of His Church (Colossians 1:18).  On most churches, they oddly put the name of one person and that is the pastor.  I have often wondered why they only choose one person to place on the name of the marquee.  Why not other gifted people in the church?  Further, where is just one pastor in the Bible?  The word “pastor” only occurs in most English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 but even there it is not a good translation. The ESV correctly translates it “shepherd” for that is the Greek word used here.  Jesus is called “the chief shepherd” in 1 Peter 5:4.  While it would not be a good translation, one could substitute “pastor” for “shepherd” in John 10:14 or 1 Peter 2:25 or 1 Peter 5:4 and one can see that Jesus is our pastor, He is the lead pastor.

People in churches such as this one above look to one person to lead the church: the pastor.  They don’t look to the Bible per se or to the Spirit to lead them (as He did in Acts 13:2) but to the vision of the pastor.  The pastor, for better or worse, leads them to where he wants to go.  Some pastors do well and lead the church toward Christ and His kingdom.  Others push their own agenda (or usually someone else’s agenda that they admire).  What all pastors rely on is the money of the people and this can be a tough issue.  Some pastors are controlled by a board of deacons or an elder board.  Some pastors have a big giver in the church who controls them.  Other pastors have to be bi-vocational but long for the day that they can work full time in the “ministry.”

Now let me change that all up for you.  Suppose there were no pastors.  What would the church look like?  It would not go away as some quickly think.  Consider the book of Acts.  There were no full-time pastors in the New Testament Church and they did just fine.  Not once in the New Testament is one pastor referred to.  Only once does a book of the New Testament even begin by mentioning leaders and that is Philippians and they are mentioned only after Paul addressed the saints first.  In our day, a letter to a church would always begin by addressing the senior pastor and no one would think of writing a church in our day and never mention the leaders but only one book out of twenty-seven New Testament books evens begin by mentioning the leaders.  The lack of leadership is what is amazing in the New Testament books.  It was as if the Spirit of God was really leading His Church.

The book of 1 Corinthians is a case study unto itself.  Here is a sinful church.  A church that is divided, that has much sin going on in it and much chaos.  Yet Paul the Apostle never addresses the leaders.  He never mentions that leaders should bring the Corinthians under their control.  He never writes to pastors.  He never addresses the elders.  Instead, he calls the church to take care of these issues.  The church as a whole is to do the work.  In our day, we would expect Paul to address the senior leadership and tell them to do this or that to get the Corinthians back in line yet Paul never does this.  He calls them all to repent and take care of the church themselves.  In our day, we look to the pastors to do everything, to take care of problems.  Not so in the New Testament Church!

This view of mine is not to scare pastors.  I know some pastors will feel threatened and they fear having to go and get a “secular” job.  I remember those fears myself.  I actually want to free you pastors.  Not a day goes by that I don’t rejoice that I am not in the ministry anymore.  Yet I praise God that I work a “secular” job that allows me to serve Jesus and not be controlled be a clergy-laity system.  I can preach what I want to preach and not fear that someone is going to get mad and leave.  I can evangelize as I desire without fear of scarring off people who might attend.  I work for 50 hours or more a week, receive my compensation for my work, and then I serve the Lord both on my job and off.  I never fear of losing my position in the “ministry.”  I never fear of having to make church attractive for the lost.  I never worry about having to compete with other churches.  I have one focus: on living a life that honors the Lord (1 Peter 1:15-16).  I am not controlled by money.  I am not controlled by a denomination.  I want to be like the Apostles who called themselves “slaves of Christ” (Romans 1:1 etc.).  A slave doesn’t expect much (Luke 17:7-10).

Traditional pastors have to worry about money.  About people.  About boards.  About programs.  About fads.  About what to preach and what not to preach.  About how not to offend people.  About how much time to devote to family, to prayer, to the Word and yet still pastor people.  About competition with other churches.  About whether the small crowd this Sunday will mean less money.  About how to leave the ministry and make a living.

And none of that is based on the New Testament.

For more information on all this, I encourage you to read Frank Viola’s excellent book, Reimagining Church.  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/17/2014 at 11:24 AM

One Pragmatic Church Quote I Agree With

“What you win them with is what you win them to.”

This is absolutely true.  So pragmatic church, bear in mind that when you seek to win the people in your community with goofy skits, sermons on movies and television programs that people should not watch anyway, moralistic sermon series’ designed to take people to a new level, rock concerts full of smoke and lights that you call your “worship service,” and other pragmatic schemes of men that you devise to “win” the crowds, that is what you win them to.

But I ask, “Where is Jesus in all this?”  Where is the Bible being preached, proclaimed, and exegeted before the people?  Where is the call to holiness, to repentance, to self-sacrifice in an age of narcism?  Where is the glory of God being manifested?  Where is the labor in prayer, in evangelism (and by that I don’t mean inviting people to your seeker church so that they can get comfortable with God but I am talking about true evangelism where the gospel is proclaimed and people are called to repent)?  Where is the weeping for the lost?  Where is the passion for the gospel to be preached, obeyed, lived, taught, and preached in the world?

Where are the elders in the church of God who will be serious about Christ?  Where are the elders who can faithfully fulfill 1 Timothy 3:1-7?  Where are the elders who obey 1 Peter 5:1-5?  Where are the elders who obey Hebrews 13:7, 17?  Oh God, give us men of God!

What you are winning people to is not the Word of God.  It is not to the Lordship of Christ.  It is not to the glory of God.  It is not to the exaltation of the gospel.  It is pure pragmatism and it is producing countless false converts who do not begin to know the truth of the Word of God nor of God’s salvation in His beloved Son (Matthew 7:21-23; Titus 1:16; 2 John 8-9).

I urge you my seeker, pragmatic lead pastor of such and such community church: repent and cry out to this generation that they must repent or they will face the holy wrath of God (John 3:36; Hebrews 12:29). Rise up and shake off the chains of religion, of man-made traditions that rob God of His glory (Mark 7:1-13).  Rise up and get on your face and cry out to God for Him to be glorified in you even if He takes away all your fame and fortune you have accumulated from your seeker church.  Rise up and pray like never before, like your Master whom you say you love and adore (Luke 11:1).  Rise up and be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Rise up and preach the Word of God verse by verse, line upon line (2 Timothy 4:1-6).  Warn this generation of the coming judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27-28) and warn them that their only hope is not found in this world nor in chasing the flesh but in Jesus Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

May God be glorified in His holy Church (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/12/2014 at 11:00 AM

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saints (Part Two)

In my previous post on the Levites, I noted the promises that God gave to them about Him being their lot, Him being their portion.  God Himself said that the Levites were to be consecrated unto Him (Numbers 3:11-13).  The Lord told the children of Israel that the Levites were to be His priests to approach Him on their behalf (Numbers 3:5-10).

Deuteronomy 18:1-2 was clear about the Levites and the Lord being their portion:

“The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them.

When the children of Israel finally entered into the promise land, the Levites did not inherit the land as God would again be their portion.  Joshua 13:14 reads,

To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.

How does this picture the NT saint?

First, we are chosen in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-14).  Those who are in Christ Jesus by faith are His elect (1 Timothy 4:10).

Secondly, in Christ we are all priests before God.  1 Peter 2:9 reads,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Notice that the disciple of Jesus is a royal priesthood.  All disciples are priests unto God in Christ Jesus (Revelation 1:6).  Through Christ we are all equally able to come into God’s presence because of the work of Christ, our faithful High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  As Hebrews 13:15 reminds us:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Thirdly, there no longer remains a special group of people who do the priestly duties.  The Roman Catholic Church incorrectly carried over both the Levitical priesthood and combined it with paganism.  The Protestant Reformers did not go further enough to not just preach salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone but they failed to dethrone men from the pope’s chair.  In exchange for one pope, the Protestants, in some ways, now have thousands.  The modern clergy-laity system does not find its roots in the New Testament but in the Old Testament with the Levites and with the Roman Catholics.

We need to see that our faithful high priest is Jesus and He is also our faithful pastor (John 10:11).  While the Church does have leaders, Jesus is the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) and He is our shepherd and guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  Leaders are not there to rule over the people of God but to serve alongside them (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  There is not one NT example of one man leading one church.  There are always elders leading (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5) but not one elder.  Furthermore, there is never named one pastor.  Ironically, what is amazing in the NT letters is the lack of leadership as compared to the modern clergy-laity driven church model.  Only Philippians (1:1) mentions leaders at the start of the letter.  Only Philippians.

I am not advocating no leadership.  Jesus said we would have leaders but His example was one of servant leaders and not worldly leaders (Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:1-20).  We are to imitate our leaders (Hebrews 13:7) and their example is Jesus and not a worldly CEO.  We are to submit to such leaders (Hebrews 13:17 and notice the emphasis on plurality).

My point here is that clergy do not have special access to God.  Clergy may know more about the Bible only because of their training but this doesn’t have to be the case nor should be the rule.  All of us are equal at the cross (Galatians 3:26-29).  We have different gifts and roles but we all are able to come boldly before the Lord because of Christ.  Christ has fulfilled the Law and the old types is now complete in Him (Hebrews 10:1-4).  We have a new covenant in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:13).  This new covenant enables all of God’s people to come before Him now through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need a priest or a special place to worship God (nor even a special day as opposed to Sabbath keepers).  We can now worship, adore, praise, proclaim, and exalt the one true God at any time and any place.  He will never leave us nor forsake us for He is our portion and our delight.

The Levites: Picture of the NT Saint (Part One)

I have been reading through the Old Testament in my devotional reading and recently went through Deuteronomy.  I was struck by the Levites.  These Jews were selected by God Himself to serve Him in His holy place (Deuteronomy 10:8).  In fact, Yahweh said about the Levites in Numbers 3:12-13 (NKJV):

12 “Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, 13 because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the Lord.”

God claimed the Levites for His own.  They were to serve Him and He was to be their portion in the land.  While the other Israelites were to settle into the land of promise and obtain cities and farmland, the Levites, even among their fellow Jews, were to be consecrated unto the Lord.  Outsiders were not allowed into the Lord’s presence (Numbers 3:10) and God was to be the Levites reward for their sanctification.  Numbers 18:20 (NKJV) reads:

Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.

Joshua, after dividing up the land for the Israelites, proclaimed in Joshua 13:33 (NKJV):

But to the tribe of Levi Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them.

The Open Study Bible gives the following information about the Levites.  Their duties were:

  • Serve the LORD (Deut. 10:8)
  • Serve the priesthood (Num. 3:5-9)
  • Attend the sanctuary duties (Num. 18:3)
  • Distribute the tithe (2 Chronicles 31:11-19)
  • Prepare sacrifices for priests (2 Chronicles 35:10-14)
  • Teach the people (2 Chronicles 17:8-11)
  • Declare the verdicts of Law (Deut. 17:9-11)
  • Protect the king (2 Chronicles 23:2-10)
  • Perform music (1 Chronicles 25:1-7)
  • Precede the army (2 Chronicles 20:19-21, 28)

The Levites were chosen by God’s sovereign choice (Numbers 17:7-11).

As New Testament disciples, we no longer have a special group of people who are priests unto the Lord while we laity are not.  God no longer has a priesthood other than the fact that Jesus Christ is our faithful high priest (Hebrews 4:14).  Jesus stands before a holy God for us and He makes intercession for us (Hebrews 4:15; 7:25).  Jesus rises even above the Levitical priesthood for two main reasons.  First, unlike the Levites, Jesus was absolutely perfect and holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15).  Jesus died for us and He didn’t need any blood shed for His forgiveness before God because He never sinned.  Jesus lived a perfect life under the Law and He fulfilled the Law for us (Galatians 3:13-14).  Hebrews 7:24-28 (NKJV) is powerful at this point:

24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.

Notice that the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the human priests (other than Jesus) have to offer sacrifices for their own sins but not so with Christ.  He was perfect before God and He was able to fulfill Isaiah 53:4-6 and offer Himself to God for our sins.

Secondly, Hebrews 7:4-10 speaks of the Melchizedek priesthood which Jesus fulfilled.  The writer of Hebrews shows that the Melchizedek priesthood was superior to the Levitical priesthood in the foreshadowing of Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20).  Hebrews 7:11-24 speaks of the failure of the Levitical priesthood in that it featured a sinful priest and the priest died but not so with Jesus on either points.  Jesus was perfect and He lives forever (Hebrews 7:21).  Because Jesus lives forever, He is able to make intercession for us forever (Romans 8:34).

While the Levites in the Old Testament were sanctified by God to serve Him, the Lord Jesus was chosen by God to serve Him (1 Peter 1:20).  The writer of Hebrews repeats this over and over again citing Psalm 110:4 four times in the book of Hebrews to stress that the Lord Jesus was chosen by God to serve Him as our faithful high priest.  We now no longer look to earthly priests or temples or holy places or to animal sacrifices for our salvation but we look to our faithful high priest who has done the work of redemption for us.  When Jesus uttered “It is finished” in John 19:30, He was saying that the work of redemption was complete.  The perfect Lamb of God had given His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  At that very moment, all earthly priests were now done.  Jesus and only Jesus would now be our faithful high priest.

Next we will look at how, through Christ, we are now priests unto God.  All of us.  There are no special priests in the kingdom of God.  There is only Jesus our Savior and faithful high priest who lives to make intercession for the saints of God and there are priests in His house who serve Him.  While we all have different gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7), all of us are equal before the Lord in terms of service unto Him and in terms of being His priests.  This is the wonder of God’s great salvation that He brought about through Christ alone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/02/2014 at 6:48 PM

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