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Only God is the Shepherd

- Who is the Shepherd or Head? Who is the sole authority?

- Who alone deserves honor and glory?

- Whose only name is to be revered?

 

Feb 26, 1996

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Spiritual vs. Religious Fellowship

Posted by: Administrator on April 14, 1998 4:48:54 AM (4978 Reads)

- Who is the HEAD in Spiritual Fellowship? In Religious Fellowship?

- What is the presumption in Spiritual Fellowships?

- Can any congregation conduct Spiritual Fellowships?

 

SPIRITUAL VS. RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP

 

RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP

 

Religious fellowship is the binding force that unifies the members of every denomination. The set up depends on the size of the religious sect; thus, it may be divided into archdiocese, diocese, bishopric, and parishes, down to the smallest unit called cell groups. The basis for this is found in:

 

Hebrews 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

 

Heads or leaders at the different levels find support in the following verses:

 

1 Timothy 3: 2 "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

 

Philippians 1:1 "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi , with the bishops and deacons:"

 

The set up therefore is an organization where the bishop, pastor, or teacher, supported by the deacons, regulate and exercise authority over the congregation at the different levels.

 

1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."

 

The religious leader is called any of the following titles depending on the religious organization: "Father," "Pastor," "Head," "Director," "Teacher," "Shepherd,"or "Minister." The leader works full time for the congregation. He is therefore supported financially through tithes and offering of the members. This finds support in:

 

1 Corinthians 9:14 "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."

 

1 Cor 9:7 "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?"

 

1 Cor 9:9 "For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?"

 

As such, the leader is looked up as more than and above the rest in religious matters. He is perceived to be the intermediary between the members and God through His preaching of the word. He is the role model and therefore accorded honor and high respect. He is thus addressed with exalted titles as: Reverend, Eminence, Most Reverend, Holy Father. He is distinguished from the members by his attire, some signs like a cross, etc. In social and other occasions, the leader is accorded a special place of honor. This finds support in:

 

1 Timothy 5:17 "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

 

The leader, by virtue of his zealousness in the study of the word from formal education, gets the authority from the leaders of the denomination. These credentials not otherwise seen in the ordinary members of the church evidence his authority. All religious sects maintain their respective Seminaries to train such leaders of fellowships in different levels.

 

With this set up in the church there is order and harmony among the members. There is peace in the common belief systematized by doctrines. And there is joy for the intellectual and emotional refreshment from the word of God delivered by the leaders. The fellowship is conducted in some special place: in Chapels, Churches, and the more elaborate Cathedrals depending on the size of the congregation and denomination.

 

The activities take many forms: rituals and ceremonies in some denominations, preaching, Bible study conducted by the leader, praying, and singing of hymns. That in a nutshell is the generally accepted RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP of all Christian religious sects. Who can question the practice? Everything is fully supported by Bible verses.

 

 

SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP

 

Perhaps, only very few can see the difference between SPIRITUAL and RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIPS. Spiritual fellowship can be gleaned from the perfect Christianity during the time of Jesus Christ and His apostles. It is based on the following truth:

 

Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

 

Christ’s promise of being with His disciples is contained in the following:

 

Matthew 28:20 "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.Amen."

 

He proved it in the following:

 

Acts 18:10 " For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city."

 

God guides us in reading the Holy Bible to find the truth in our Lord’s promise:

 

Isaiah 28:10 "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:"

 

In the perfect Christianity of the 1 st century, our Lord was physically present with His disciples. Looking at the word literally, it is hard to imagine how that truth can be replicated in our time. Christ however gave the clue when He said, " the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63) ." While our Lord cannot be physically present, He can however be spiritually present when "two or three are gathered together in His name." Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). Is it impossible for the Truth not to be in the "midst of two or three who gather together in Jesus’ name? While the literal name of our Lord is JESUS CHRIST, His spiritual name is the " Word of God."

 

Revelation 19:13 "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."

 

Who can say now that the TRUTH and the WORD OF GOD cannot be in the midst of two or three that gather together for the sole purpose of attaining eternal life? Perhaps in the minds of many, FELLOWSHIP means many people. Our Lord said, only "two or three gathering together." It is therefore a choice between what is truth and what the mind and feeling dictate.

 

 

Place of fellowship

 

Following the TRUTH, Christ did not need an elaborate place for fellowship: in the synagogues, houses, in the mountains, along the seashore:

 

Matthew 13:54 "And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue…"

 

Mark 2:1 "And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them."

 

Mark 4:1 "And he began again to teach by the sea side:…"

 

John 6:2 "And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples…"

 

Perhaps one may argue Jesus Christ did not have enough time in His ministry to build chapels, churches, and cathedrals. His apostles, however, who did not have this problem followed the Way shown by our Lord. For details, read the article CHAPELS, CHURCHES, AND CATHEDRALS.

 

Acts 9:20 "And straightway he (Paul) preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God."

 

Acts 16:13 "And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down…"

 

Acts 20:20 "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,"

 

Christ and His apostles concentrated on building the spiritual "place" for the residence of God:

 

1 Corinthians 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God , and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

 

1 Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

 

This alone already separates the spiritual from the literal-physical word of God. If Jesus grew in Nazareth and worked as a CARPENTER building houses; spiritually, His entire ministry was depicted erecting spiritual houses. They were the disciples, the real believers. For details, read the article JESUS THE CARPENTER.

 

 

God’s servants

 

Ever since, it was God Who had been choosing His servants. In the New Testament, this was continued in:

 

Ephesians 4:11 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;"

 

God speaks through His servants. Never did the servants have authority of their own. Doctrines come from God. The servants did not even understand without God explaining everything to them. They only enunciate it. God was the one speaking over the microphone and they acted only as the speaker system. Just as hum and hiss originating from the speaker system is noise and a nuisance, so are the words originating only from the servants. For the servants to speak on their own, they would have degenerated into false prophets.

Since God is the one speaking over the "microphone," and the servants are only the "speaker system," spiritual knowledge and wisdom should not come from human capability. Thus,

 

James 1:5-8 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."

 

1 John 2:27 "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth…"

 

No wonder we always heard prophets say, "Thus, saith the Lord." This truth will separate the human from the divine and the earthly from the heavenly. Paul became an apostle after Christ physically ascended into heaven.

 

Romans 1:1 "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,"

 

Yet he said, Christ taught him:

 

Galatians 1: 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

 

If the " spiritual" Christ was able to appoint Paul as an apostle in the 1 st century, cannot the same Christ replicate that feat? Is not "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrew 13:8)?" Can many people believe and trust our Lord that He can still do it? Then the line separating human efforts from the divine power of God in the appointment of God’s servants must be drawn.

 

Who are the real servants in the eyes of God? Who are the servants of God in the eyes of the people? Can people distinguish them? If ever they do, do they have the will to follow the TRUTH? Is not JESUS CHRIST the TRUTH? How easy or hard to accept and follow Christ?

 

How many "servants" of God today can truly claim they were appointed by Christ? Taught by Christ? Perhaps the word of God heard in the 1 st century reverberates in our time. How many can hear it?

 

Matthew 23:8 "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters : for one is your Master, even Christ."

 

Psalms 111:9 "He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name."

 

Do religious leaders today heed the admonition of our Lord given to their counterparts?

 

Matthew 23:5 "But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi (or master or teacher or leader) ."

 

 

Women forbidden to speak

 

How could God be so biased against women as to forbid them to speak in the churches?

 

1 Corinthians 14:34 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak…"

 

That is what human understanding perceives of the word of God. However, God is speaking "spiritual things." Who is the MAN and who is the WOMAN in the eyes of God?

 

Isaiah 54:5 "For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name…"

 

Does God make a distinction between gender?

 

Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

 

God explains His words! The MAN is God Himself. The "other man" trying to win the WOMAN is Satan. The spiritual WOMAN are the people, both male and female. People therefore are not supposed "to speak" in the churches. Only God is authorized "to speak." God is the sole authority, the leader, the "Father," the "Rabbi or Teacher or Master." God is represented by His words. It is the Word therefore that must "lead" and be "looked up or extolled" and not anyone else.

 

Let us remember it is God Who is supposed "to speak over the microphone," and the chosen servants (apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, and teachers) are only the "speaker system." From this view must we hear God’s servants speaking, "Thus saith the Lord," "Verily, verily, I say unto you," "It is written," "I speak not of myself." In all humility, they must not see themselves as above the rest. John the Baptist said, "He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30 ). Paul said:

 

1 Corinthians 15:9 "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle…"

 

2 Corinthians 12:5 "… of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…"

 

Never did we hear servants of God appropriating exalted titles like, "Father, "Teacher or Rabbi," "Head or Master," "Shepherd," "Pastor," "Prophet," "Apostle," "Evangelist," "Reverend," "Eminence," "Holy," or "Holy Father" to themselves. Paul, when he was looked up by the people, tore his clothes to show and convince them of his lowliness:

 

Acts 14:11 "And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. 12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you …"

 

Servants of God are accorded "double honor," not with the position they hold, but by the function they perform. "Double honor" is their reward for their example in following and living by the gospel that they preach:

 

1 Timothy 5:17 "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

 

This can be gleaned from what Paul wrote about himself who took "pride" in following the footsteps of the model, our Lord Jesus Christ as human being:

 

1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."

 

True to what our Lord said, "all ye are brethren." No one among His disciples was ever looked up by the others. "Double honour" goes to the "elder" who is the humblest of them who, by being a "little child," is given the spiritual strength to follow the Way shown by our Lord as model. This is the result of the revelation of God’s words not otherwise given to the wise and prudent.

 

Matthew 11:25 "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

 

Psalms 8:2 "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."

 

Peter, James, and John who were "looked up" by the disciples as pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9) were the very ones whose frailty was exposed:

 

Mathew 26:34 "Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee…" (Who was telling the truth, Peter or our Lord?)

 

Mark 10:35 "And James and John came to him… saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. 36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? 37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask…" 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John."

 

Here is a rebuke to the disciples:

 

Luke 22:25 "And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

 

Our Lord showed the way of humility by example. His apostles followed the Way. How does Christianity Today, represented by the 1001 denominations, follow the Way? Jesus Christ is the Way and the Truth!

 

Matthew 23:12 "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."

 

 

Spiritual fellowship replicated

 

Jesus Christ met His chosen few in houses, in the mountain, along the river bank, and in the synagogues. Did He need many? Matthew 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen." He said:

 

Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

 

The apostles were found where our Lord was: in houses, along the river bank, in the synagogues, and other appropriate places. Was Christ in the midst of them as promised? Literally He was nowhere to be found for He was physically absent. But true to His words, our Lord who is the TRUTH was indeed in the midst of them. What did they gather for? Our Lord said, "In My NAME." Truly so, they were gathered in the powerful name of our Lord, which is the Word of God:

 

Revelation 19:13 "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."

 

Who "spoke" in the spiritual fellowship? They were Paul, Peter, John, James, Timothy, Titus, and other apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, and teachers who were all appointed by our Lord:

 

Ephesians 4:11 "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;"

 

Very clearly therefore, the spiritual fellowship was conducted in any appropriate places by the servants appointed by our Lord. And true to our Lord’s promised, He was in their midst for He is the Spirit:

 

2 Corinthians 3:17 " Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

 

What was the purpose of their gathering? Our Lord said, " In my name." Literally, it must have been the name Jesus Christ. Spiritually however, it was by the powerful word of truth:

 

1 Peter 2:2 "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:"

 

Psalms 119:103 "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"

 

Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

 

Jeremiah 23:29 "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?"

 

In the SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP the chosen few are gathered together:

  1. To "drink" the word of God like milk that they may grow to salvation;
  2. To joyfully "eat" the sweet word of God like honey for inspiration and strength;
  3. To accept the sharpness of the word of God, like a two-edged sword, to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart that any hypocrisy in them will be exposed;
  4. To submit to the powerful force of the word like hammer to break the hardness of "soulishness" in each of the participants.

Can there be another Peter, James, John, Titus, Timothy or the other servants in our time? If our Lord Jesus Christ were able to appoint PAUL in His physical absence, can He not do it in our time? Is He not the Spirit? In RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP, who appoint the modern apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, and teachers? (For details, read the article APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION DOCTRINE.)

 

Again for purposes of comparison, how and from Whom did Peter, James, John, Titus, Tmothy and other servants of our Lord get their spiritual knowledge and wisdom?

 

James 1:5-8 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."

 

Galatians 1:11 "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

 

1 John 2:27 "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth…"

 

How do modern apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers get their religious knowledge? It is up to the individual to believe and accept the truth and to drop any false teachings and practices.

 

 

PRESUMPTION IN SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP

 

The presumption in Spiritual Fellowship is that all participants are REAL BELIEVERS who recognize God and Jesus Christ. The rebuke of our Lord to the religious people during His time should not have applied:

 

John 8:19 "… Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also."

 

John 8:54-55 "Jesus answered… it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known him…"

 

In Spiritual Fellowship it is presumed that the participants "know the Lord" (Hebrew 8:11 ), that they understand the words, for God is represented by His words.

 

In SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP therefore, there is no particular person who occupies the supreme position of a preacher and teacher. The person, who in the eyes of our Lord is a spiritual babe in humility, is the one given the spiritual words of wisdom. He may be the least and the last among them. God is no respecter of person:

 

Acts 10:34 "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:"

 

Romans 12:5 "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."

 

The person endowed with wisdom at the moment is the "mouth of the body." He performs the FUNCTION of the "pastor or teacher."

 

Romans 12:4 "For as we have any members in one body, and all members have not the same office:"

 

1 Corinthians 12:12 "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."

 

The "spiritual mouth" among the participants performs the function of the "pastor or teacher." He is not aware of the position or title for he knows that everything came from God and not from his own personal capability. He simply performs the function by enunciating the revelation of God in His words. So, how could he appropriate glory and honor for himself? With this divine set up, there is harmony and peace among the participants. Everybody submit to the authority of the Word. The words of God guide them to the Truth. There is no particular person to look at, much less to exalt. All glory and honor belong to God Who is represented by the Word. Thus,

 

Philippians 2:2 "Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."

 

Romans 15:6 "That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God…"

 

The appointed "pastor or teacher" only acts as the "speaker system." God is the one speaking over the "microphone." The participants can discern whether the words came from the chosen’s own personal wisdom, for it is like hiss and hum from the speaker system that is hard to the ears. If the words came from God, the message is clear, no contradiction to what is written, and very powerful.

 

In SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP the participants look at themselves as humble sinners who do not even deserve the love of God. But with God’s mercy, they are taken to the fold under one Shepherd. They recognize the Shepherd, they hear His voice, and they run away from strangers.

 

John 10:4 " And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice."

 

John 10:5 " And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."

 

John 10:8 " All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them."

 

John 10:16 " And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."

 

God chooses only a few; but the people follow the many. This pattern had been true all the time. In the Old Testament, since the Great Deluge, God had shown that only few truly believed in Him. Thus,

 

Deuteronomy 7:6 "For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:"

 

Jeremiah 3:14 "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family…"

 

When "God manifested Himself in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV), He also showed that the "truth in number" had not passed away. Our Lord Jesus Christ fed 4,000 men in one occasion and 5,000 in another? He performed many miracles witnessed by many people (although the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees did not see these for they were still looking for signs from heaven)? How many truly believed in Him that were worthy to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?

 

Acts 2:1 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them."

 

Acts 1:15 "And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)"

 

 

The Last Supper

 

SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP is the Last Supper in action. In the Last Supper it was Christ Who broke the bread and distributed it to His disciples. The disciples simply accepted the "broken bread" for their "food." Bread symbolizes the Word of God (Jeremiah 15:16 ). Breaking of bread is "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15 ). Not only "bread" did the apostles eat. Our Lord also gave them "wine" to drink. Wine symbolizes the blood of our Lord. The shedding of blood marked the availability of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Bread and Wine taken by the apostles symbolize the SPIRITUAL WORD that serves as spiritual food of the real believers. In the Last Supper not one of the apostles took an exalted position over the others.

 

 

Demonstration of Spiritual Fellowship

 

Five real Christians conduct a Spiritual Fellowship in a house: they are A , B, C, D and E who call each other Brethren. Their meeting is informal. They talk as in ordinary conversation, without anyone of them being looked up as above the rest.

 

Case No. 1

 

After the usual greetings, A began by asking the role of man in salvation, quoting:

 

Philippians 2:12 "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

 

From the way the brethren speak, they are "exposed" who among them is the chosen pastor or teacher. B quoted John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Expounding on the verse, B said, "Believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and, as it is written, one will be saved. Concluding, therefore the role of man is to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

C found contradiction to what "is written" in B’s answer, said: "I can see that there are many who believe in our Lord even to the extent of dying for that belief. Where then is Matthew 7:14 "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." B quoted a verse justifying John 3:16 where many may enter the kingdom of God : Luke 3:6 "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God," and further supporting with "is not God love"? (1 John 4:8)."

 

D proposed another answer by saying, "Obey the commandments of God" as it is written. E interjected, saying, "The Rich Young Man, according to him, obeyed the commandments since childhood, but was rejected by our Lord in following Him (Luke 18:18 -23.)" E cited James 2:10 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

 

All of the speakers are quoting Bible verses! How is the question now being resolved? How does one work out for his salvation? Are there really many or only a few that will be saved? True to what our Lord said, Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Our Lord is the TRUTH. His NAME is the Word of God. A cited the following verse saying, "I can see that our Lord gave the "key" for one to "work out for his own salvation."

 

Matthew 18:3 "… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

 

Converting oneself into a "little child" cannot be literal-physical. It must have been spiritual for Christ’s disciples were addressed as such:

 

John 13:33 "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and…"

 

A continued further by citing the verse revealing the age of a literal-physical little child who should find its counterpart spiritually.

 

Isaiah 28:9 "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts."

 

A quoted verses for the need of such spiritual conversion:

 

Matthew 11:25 "…Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

 

2 Timothy 3:15 "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

 

A expounded further by saying, "Nicodemus, a great preacher in Israel before his spiritual conversion into a little child, did not understand what our Lord was saying. Our Lord gave the "passport" to the eternal kingdom: John 3:3 "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

 

John 3:4 "Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"

 

"On asking that question, Nicodemus showed that he was not only a physical but a "spiritual" adult as well for trying to understand with his intellect what our Lord was saying. Was he given spiritual wisdom? Of course not! He was "wise and prudent in the eyes of our Lord." Only the "babes" are given the great revelations of God. Before our Lord called up Peter, John, James, Saul of Tarsus (known as Paul), they were not only physical but "spiritual" adults.

 

A continuing his/her revelation: "However, the apostles by humbling themselves before our Lord and not leaning on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), began to perceive the great message of God’s words, which are expressed in parables. Peter recognized Jesus ‘not with his flesh and blood, but by the revelation of the Father (Matthew 16:15 -17). Recognition of the Son follows the clear identity of the Father (John 8:19 ). And clear recognition and identity of God is the prerequisite to LOVE (Mark 12:29 -31)."

 

It is quite clear that of the 5 participants in the Spiritual Fellowship, A was the chosen "pastor or teacher" for the moment. He/she performed the FUNCTION, but was not even aware of the TITLE, much more the honor and glory attached to it.

 

For one to work out for his salvation, he has to humble himself before our Lord like a little child. As such, he will be given knowledge and wisdom and strength to follow the Way. That is how different Bible characters in the Old and New Testament became close to God. How many people can do this? As it is written, only a few. These do not contradict what is written and, therefore, considered the TRUTH. Who can refute this but human wisdom and rational sentiment of man? But God condemns these things:

 

1 Corinthians 3:18 "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (on spiritual matters). For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness."

 

1 Corinthians 1:19 "…I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe…hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world (on spiritual matters)? 21 For after that…the world by wisdom knew not God …" (do the very people teaching the words of God not openly declare God is a mystery?)

 

A is the appointed " pastor or teacher" (Ephesians 4:11 ) from whom the "voice" of the Pastor or Shepherd is heard. The Pastor or Shepherd is our Lord Who "spoke" over the "spiritual microphone." A simply acted as the "speaker system." He/she is the pastor or teacher appointed by our Lord for the moment. He/she performed the FUNCTION, but never was he/she aware of the TITLE. Where now is the honor and glory focussed? To A or to the Word and Truth!

 

It is in that light that servants of God, both in the Old and New Testament, are chosen. Men do not teach them, neither are they being appointed by them. They are chosen by virtue of their HUMILITY in the eyes of God. Examples:

 

ABRAHAM: When God told him to leave his country and relatives (Genesis 12:1), he never asked God what, how, and why. God saw him to be a spiritual babe who knew nothing and could do nothing. It was God who taught, guided and gave strength to do whatever he was told to do.

MOSES: When God chose Moses to lead His people out of slavery, he acted like a babe who knew nothing and could do nothing.

 

Exodus 3:11 ‘And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt ?"

 

Exodus 4:10 "And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."

 

JEREMIAH: When God told him to speak for Him, he acted like a babe who knew nothing and could do nothing:

 

Jeremiah 1:6 "Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child."

 

SOLOMON: Like Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah, Solomon saw himself like a little child before God:

 

1 Kings 3:7 "And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in."

 

PETER, JOHN and the other apostles: As fishermen and of lowly status in life, they did not see themselves as capable and worthy to speak for God. Our Lord called them "My little children" (John 13:33 ), for they were so in His eyes humbling themselves like Him as model. As model, our Lord showed the Way to real spiritual humility:

 

John 5:19 "… Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself…"

 

John 5:30 "I can of mine own self do nothing…"

 

In Spiritual Fellowship where there are more believers or participants, the Way remains the same. Whoever humbles himself as a "little child" in the eyes of God is the one "anointed and appointed" at the moment. It does not mean that the person appointed will perform the function all the time. The TRUTH remains -- anyone among the believers seen by God as the humblest is the person to be endowed with knowledge. He/she will therefore act as the "pastor or teacher" from whom the "voice" of God is heard. God is speaking over the microphone the chosen servant acts simply as the speaker system.

 

The "voice" of God, or the TRUTH, is not only supported by Bible verses, but foremost is the harmony or non-contradiction to what is written. It may be contradictory to the rational thinking of man for that is what the Word is. In fact, "it is foolishness to the Natural Man (1 Corinthians 2:14 )." Even Christ’s disciples did not understand the words of God before being expounded by our Lord (Mark 4:34 ).

 

The events are spiritually relived, and real believers see themselves in the characters in the stories and parables. It shows "life" in the word proving what our Lord said.

 

Matthew 5:17 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

 

To the Spiritual Man (1 Corinthians 2:16 ), the "voice" of God is clear, simple, but perfect and powerful. It is "sweet as honey in the mouth" for the participants will rejoice at the great message (Revelation 10:9). It, however, turns "bitter in the stomach" for it finds its mark in the life of the participants (Revelation 10:10 ). It is "sharp as a two-edged sword" (Hebrew 4:12 ), and hard and "strong as hammer (Jeremiah 23:29 )" breaking whatever intellectual and emotional resistance there is in the believers.

 

Case No. 2

 

After the question of the "role of man" in salvation" was resolved by God, A brought the topic of "faith as big as mustard seed" with the power to "move a mountain to the sea," citing the following verses:

 

Mathew17:20 "And Jesus said unto them… for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

 

Matthew 21:21 "Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not… ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done."

 

Here again, any one of them may speak. But God is the giver of knowledge to whoever will humble himself like a "little child." Any one speaking only on his own or of another person’s authority will be exposed as a pretender.

 

B raised his hand and said, "a person who has faith can solve his problems in life no matter how big and many they are. So, let us all have faith in God. He cited instances where personal deliverance from many problems in his life was made by God." D countered by saying, "Faith must be based on truth, for people may have a counterfeit faith in some other gods." There was silence among them pondering on what they heard from B and D.

 

E who hardly opened his mouth before, said, "I feel it must be God who should explain everything through His words for He is represented by His words, citing:

 

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

 

Revelation 19:13 "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."

 

I read that FAITH is gift and a fruit of the Holy Spirit in:"

 

Galatians 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance…"

 

E continuing said: "It is a gift from God: 1 Corinthians 12:9 ‘To another faith by the same Spirit…’ While we heard our Lord say, ‘Have faith,’ ‘If you have faith, etc.,’ this is given to the believer when he is ‘converted into a little child.’ That is why we heard His disciples say: Luke 17:5 ‘ And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.’ Faith therefore comes from our Lord, concluded E."

 

E further said: "It is small as a mustard seed because faith is not for anyone to show and for anybody to see, but to God Who alone can discern it. Faith is not for the possessor to be proud of as to be exalted. It is a private matter between the believer and God." E cited the following:"

 

"God is speaking His spiritual language. One reference to mountain is man himself:

 

Judges 9:36 "…the shadow of the mountains as if they were men."

 

"Sea" may refer to way of the Lord:

 

Psalms 77:19 "Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

 

E concluded, "therefore the great message of the parable is: If we are converted into "little children," God will give us faith. The faith cannot even be discernible by people for it is small like a mustard seed. Faith is a matter between God and the person. But that faith will lead the believer to the Way of the Lord. Are we not reminded of the Pharisee and the Publican in the temple praying to God? Perhaps the topic clearly applies to the Publican.

Luke 18:10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

 

E definitely was the person appointed as the "pastor or teacher" among the many participants in the Spiritual Fellowship. His answer to the question is definite, clear, and powerful. It truly serves as spiritual food for the believers.

 

The conclusion of E finds support in the following truth:

  1. Our Lord came down on earth to show the Way, and for that He is called "Way" (John 14:6).
  2. He is called the eldest Son of God because He was to serve as the example for His brethren (Roman 8:29 ).
  3. He humbled Himself before the Father like a "little child" (John 8:19 , 30).
  4. He emphasized the salvation of the soul over the body (Matthew 10:28 ).
  5. He spoke "spiritual things" not otherwise understood by everybody, including His disciples. When He was alone with His disciples though, He explained everything to them" (Mark 4:34 ).
  6. From the demonstrations, our Lord showed that He is truly the sole authority to appoint God’s servants; not anyone else (Ephesians 4:11 ). (For details, read the articles, THE SHEPHERD, THE APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION DOCTRINE, and THE ORIGIN OF THE PASTORAL SYSTEM.)

It is from this TRUTH that Paul, a noted apostle, perceived SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP to be:

 

Romans 1:11 "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me ."

 

In SPIRITUAL FELLOWSHIP, it is God represented by His words Who acts as the Shepherd, the Pastor and the Teacher. Focus therefore is on the Word of God. This is Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:13 ). The participants are equal, simply called brethren, in the eyes of God. They are the BODY composed of parts. No particular part can claim superiority over the other parts. Thus,

 

James 2:9 "But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors."

 

One part missing makes the body imperfect. It is God Who can discern the function of the parts. The parts simply reflect what comes from God. The designated part is not the authority over the body. This is only the speaker system amplifying the voice from the microphone.

It is in this light that the apostles enjoined the believers to have fellowships:

 

Philippians 1:5 "For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;"

 

1 John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

 

We cannot see this in RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIP where there is a human leader. The leader acquires religious knowledge from human authorities. As such, the leader is looked up as an authority. He is therefore above the rest in religious matter. The leader sports exalted titles as: Father, Teacher or Master or Pastor for Rabbi . Some leaders even appropriate the supreme epithet of " Holy" and " Reverend," God alone deserves to have.

In RELIGIOUS FELLOWSHIPS, it necessitates full time work for the leaders. The members should therefore financially and materially support them. We have not seen this in Paul who saw it in our Lord as model. Thus he said:

 

1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."

 

Acts 20:33 "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me."

 

Paul worked as a tent maker (Acts 18:3), while our Lord Jesus Christ worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). For details read the article TITHES & OFFERING.

 

Micah 4:2 "And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths…"

 

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