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One By One





In this series on the Ekklesia’s practice, I’m hitting on a very sensitive aspect of “How is it then, brethren? If the whole EKKLESIA comes together in one place” as we are so encouraged to do? (1 Cor. 14:23, 26) This little “mix and match” of Scripture strikes at the core of our traditional and very familiar “controlled environments.” In the main, when Christians gather together “as per normal”—aka, the “pulpit-pew” or “ministry” models—prevail. Don’t get me wrong here – ministry and ministers are affirmatively spoken of in New Testament passages—but that is NOT our topic here. Just as so-called “gifted ones” given by the Head of His One Body are to “equip the saints to do the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12) . . . even so, “general members” of the Body of Messiah are enjoined to activate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; to wit: “Therefore if the WHOLE EKKLESIA come together in one place . . . if ALL PROPHESY, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is CONVINCED BY ALL, he is CONVICTED BY ALL . . . so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly AMONG YOU.” Oh, and by the way, that “uninformed” or “unbeliever” showed up at a Lord’s Table, you know, the saints were “breaking bread” – having communion and this person shows up who eventually exclaims: GOD IS TRULY AMONG YOU – and with that: “He will worship God!” STEVE SIMMS - “THE JOY OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY” Are you following here? WHOLE EKKLESIA, ALL PROPHESY, CONVINCED BY ALL, CONVICTED BY ALL, AMONG YOU—you see, everyone in the Ekklesia is in on it! This is “corporate evangelism” right in the midst of the Ekklesia. There’s no “big shot evangelist” giving an invitation—as much as that may be effective at times—no, this is the Ekklesia, the “called out ones” doing the evangelism. How? By ALL prophesying. Now, we’re not talking about everyone predicting California fires and earthquakes (even a clock is right twice a day around 12:00) . . . we’re talking about how each member of the Body is apt to share their portion of the Lord in their lives in an Ekklesia-style gathering . . . and ALL means ALL, as in EVERYONE when the whole Ekklesia comes together. So: “How is it then, brethren? WHENEVER you come together, EACH OF YOU HAS a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (“edification”). (1 Cor. 14:26) Forgive me – did you get that? EACH OF YOU HAS and if YOU HAS, then YOUs better get that out in the assembled and do so with others as in “let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret . . . let two or three prophets speak” (NOTE: You’re not the only guy who’s a prophet when the “whole Ekklesia” comes together). Are we getting the picture here? This is NOT the “big time minister” doing his/her thing but the Body edifying one another by twos and threes. And, if you’re not going to have “interpretation” of your tongue going on—better to “keep silent” and “if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent” when it comes to revelation. Now, I know you’re thinking, especially you pastors and teachers, WE’VE GOT TO KEEP THIS THING UNDER WRAPS lest it get out of control. But, the apostle Paul is adamant: “For you can all prophesy ONE BY ONE, that ALL may learn and ALL may be encouraged” (1 Cor. 14:31) . . . “and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). I’M NOT A CONTROL FREAK! Whoops! You may have read that: “. . . the spirits of those prophesying are subject to overlord-style prophets who are controlling those who are prophesying” – now, come on now, that’s NOT what it says! Clearly, you may have a stupendous gift as a prophet but STOP CONTROLLING those who are testifying/prophesying in the Ekklesia, where . . . the “spirits of those prophets” are subject, not to YOU (the big shot prophet) but to the very spirit of the one who is prophesying! I wish I could be more emphatic…but doesn’t every good orchestra have a Conductor? True, but it’s spelled with a capital “C” – take note! BRING AND SHARE YOUR PORTION OF THE “GOOD LAND” Yes, ONE BY ONE, and EACH ONE OF YOU HAS, and YOU CAN ALL PROPHESY! During the “feast days” described in Scripture, the children of Israel brought the produce and livestock of their labors off the land to offer to the Lord and to share with one another. Really, these gatherings were like a huge “tail-gate party” – a massive BBQ where everyone shared the “bounty of the Good Land” with one another. Somehow, we’ve got the notion that everything was a “whole burnt offering” and there was no BBQ—nonsense—there was both and all brought, and all enjoyed these massive feast days. Isaiah 25:6 displays exactly what the Almighty is preparing for us—why would it be any different today (well, on a smaller scale, of course): “In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.” (NLT) “TAILGATE PARTY” But can you imagine the Ekklesia in Corinth was having what appears to be a “weekly banquet” – as well – but it wasn’t to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-22) . . . “for in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk” . . . WHAT! – Yeah, you can stop right there: WHAT! Shaming those who have nothing (1 Cor. 11:22) isn’t a celebration of the Lord’s Supper . . . there should be food and drink for everyone . . . not just for a bunch of “fat cat” selfish guzzlers (aka, “It’s all about ME, isn’t it?”). This “Lord’s Table” is supposed to be a celebration and marvelous remembrance that we are “breaking the bread” of His ONE BODY; and drinking the CUP OF THE NEW COVENANT in His blood! (I Cor. 11:25) . . . I know, we remember Him, and we think of our sin covered by His precious blood—BUT WHAT ABOUT REMEMBERING HIS ONE BODY? What about the New Covenant in which “Jew and Gentile” have been made ONE through the blood of His cross? DISCERNING THE LORD’S BODY DISCERNING THE LORD’S BODY But since “it’s all about me, isn’t it?” mindset – then, it’s all about your sinful condition and you analyzing what a wretch you are as you meditate on your peculiar sins and ask the Lord to forgive you once again . . . while having little or no consciousness of anyone else at that Table, but you! Forbid, you’d ever consider “discerning the Lord’s Body” as in: “Lord, forgive me for not forgiving my brother or sister . . . Lord, I’ve not really reconciled with brother so-and-so—FORGIVE ME—O Lord, may I discern, not my own condition . . . not my own belly . . . but may I “wait for one another” and “discern Your One Body” more than “It’s all about me, isn’t it?” You see, when we come together as the Ekklesia, there’s got to be this sense of His One Body and how we’re “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5) – and, more so, we’re not the “only game in town” – that is, what about our “little Ekklesia’s” relationship with others in town? Could it be (probably is) we’re totally unconscious that there are others outside “our little group” who are just as vitally connected to the One Body as we are? Are we at peace and even in fellowship (if at all possible) with them? Have we, as Paul commends: “Greet the Ekklesia that is in their house” (Romans 16:5). (Oh, and by the way, there’s normally plenty of houses in most towns and some have God’s people in them!) Paul says that if we do not “discern the Lord’s Body . . . FOR THIS REASON many are weak and sick among you, and many ARE DEAD!” (1 Cor. 11:29-30). Wow! This business where “it’s all about me, isn’t it?” vs. “discerning the Lord’s Body” can be an horrific disconnect to the point that our “little body of believers” is sick, sick, sick! Even DEAD! We’re praying for healing, but healing is starring us right in the face when we’ve got all these hang-ups with other members of His Body. Remember Jesus’ Own words: Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt. 5:23-24) How about a “table meeting” where we get right with one another—let’s not make it some kind of a ceremony or show-off of our humility, but how can we sit there with grievances toward one another and toward other brethren not even in our midst—we’re proclaiming the Lord’s One Body, all the while we’ve got these divisions on-going! Brethren, we’ve got to become “Body conscious” rather than “me conscious” – I know, you’ve never seen a drunk at the Lord’s Supper, right? Believe me, there’s a whole lot more “drunks” at the Communion Table than you may surmise and a whole lot more gobbling up the goodies, stuffing ourselves because we’re so used to practicing “whose god is their belly” Christianity (or we chow down all the food before the table and have nothing to SHARE with anyone else when we arrive; and, again, some of us arrive drunk) . . . and a whole lot more of us are sick as a result . . . some are even DEAD! “Them’s tough words,” aren’t they? But that’s how serious it is “when the whole Ekklesia comes together.” When we view one of the rare insights into an “Ekklesia in action” in the New Testament, as seen in 1 Cor. 11-14, we get a wholesome glimpse at selfish behavior vs. caring for one another behavior. Having a “big bash” of a gathering does not for a vibrant Ekklesia make. Sharing your substance, sharing your experiences of Christ with others; forgiving your brothers and sisters in true reconciliation vs. “woe is me, I’m such a sinner” complex is how the Body of Christ is discerned. Remember, “this do in remembrance of Me” is NOT a therapy session where you get to vent your on-going crisis week after week. Maybe you should consider laying THAT at the altar and celebrate the fact your problems pale into oblivion compared to everyone else—besides, this gathering is to celebrate the New Covenant in His Blood! Trying to “get right with yourself” should be laid aside as you “try to get right with your brother or sister” - just sayin’. THE LORD’S SUPPER Let me be frank: THE LORD’S TABLE, the “Communion” (whatever you wish to call it) has everything to do with the New Covenant, which in turn not only testifies to you having Peace with God, but has within this “Blood Covenant” the words: “For He Himself is OUR PEACE, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation . . . so as to create in Himself ONE NEW MAN from the two, thus MAKING PEACE, and that He might reconcile them both to God in ONE BODY through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity . . . and He came and PREACHED PEACE to you who were afar off and to those who were near . . . for through Him we BOTH have access by ONE SPIRIT to the Father” (Eph. 2:14-18). That’s right – PEACE with one another. The Communion Table not only reminds us of His death and resurrection and coming again in glory (‘til He come) but testifies to the UNIVERSE we are ONE BODY – we have peace with one another through the “blood of the cross!” Let it sink into the depths of your soul: YOU HAVE PEACE WITH GOD and PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER through the blood of His cross? Celebrate it! And, if you’re struggling with the pragmatics of that peace with God and with your other brethren – then RESET, go back to the major tenets of the New Covenant in His blood and get it right before “God and man!” “This IS the blood of the New Covenant!” We cannot do this on our own . . . it takes the “whole Ekklesia” to “pull it off” – show me how you can reconcile yourself to your brother or sister up in some wilderness in a monk-like state – an “isolation ward” is NOT the experience of the Body of Christ—that Table loudly proclaims to us all, to the world, and to principalities and powers in high places: WE ARE ONE BODY – we refuse to be a sickly body but cry out to God Almighty that we boldly affirm we are truly ONE with God and with ALL HIS PEOPLE! And, for you DOCTRINAIRES (for “I are one”) we got some real issues with folks who don’t see “eye-to-eye” with our interpretation of the Scripture, now, don’t we? I just had a conference with some believers—many of whom say the Bible’s cosmology conforms to a “flat earth” . . . and these bros. are serious! Well, that ain’t even on my radar . . . and I can’t even go there, even if I tried! Enough folks think I’m a little off the chart anyway (no pun intended). But for four days I “broke bread” with some of the most precious brethren I’ve had the good fortune to ever meet and greet! Why do we let these “doctrines” become so divisive and allow factions to develop - “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” . . . “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things” (Romans 14:5, 1)? A flat or globed earth never saved anyone—a Person did, and I think you know His Name! AND WHAT DO WE HAVE, ONE BY ONE? ONE BY ONE - EACH ONE HAS First of all, if we don’t recognize that everyone in the Ekklesia HAS and that whatever each one has is supposed to be shared with the “whole Ekklesia” - one by one and preferably in twos and threes – then right out the chute we have a problem. Why? Because if you think some have more than others—then, you’re probably looking for someone’s ministry, not BODY MINISTRY where a whole lot of folks are sharing, not just some charismatic leader-type brother or sister with or without a whole string of credentials, even experience, behind their name! Once you think that brother so and so is NOT qualified –well, as they say: Kiss that Ekklesia GOOD-BYE! You say: But every time sister Betty “shares” it’s always (in your eyes) some “superficial” whatever – a little tidbit from the Scripture or something in her life where Jesus shows up somehow – and she drones on and on about it. Well, congratulations, sounds like you and Betty need to “discern the Body” – You, because you’re looking down your nose at little sister Betty, and Betty needs to be more “Body conscious” because it sounds like others have little tidbits to share, not just Betty? As big a mess as the Church in Corinth was—they still ALL HAVE/HAD; and, as chaotic their meetings were (drunks included), they were still encouraged to prophesy ONE BY ONE and to do so “decently and in order” because “God is not the author of disorder but of PEACE” (1 Cor. 14:40, 33); and don’t think this was focused only on the Ekklesia in Corinth but “as in all the Ekklesia of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). What we have here, and since I hail from the US Army, is known as SOP: Standard Operating Procedures . . . all “units” (all Ekklesia) should operate like this. Listen up: “God is NOT the author of confusion” – this is NOT a drunken brawl (sorry to keep bringing up these drunks, but Corinth had issues here—there was plenty of confusion) – only the God of ORDER and PEACE could keep these saints together – center on Christ, His New Covenant, His reconciliation through the Cross – so that when they came together, here’s what happened: Each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation” . . . brethren, this IS the Body of Christ where there’s allotments, diversity, differences, activities that differ: “There are allotments of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all things in . . . but the administration of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Cor. 12:4-7). So, at the Ekklesia God is “working all things in” – yes, into a beautiful tapestry of sundry allotments of gifts, different ministries are going on, diverse activities are taking place, everyone has an allotment (just like the children of Israel were given various allotments in the Good Land upon which to labor)—there’s NO SEPARATION, but there’s a whole lot of MANIFESTATIONS—get used to variety big time! You know what Einstein once said: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity – THAT’S CONFUSION – just look at the overabundance of variety in creation: THAT’S GOD! Sure, the way most “communion services” go down looks like we’ve got it altogether—sort of a “private affair” made public—nothing confusing going on here . . . so we think . . . we’re in, we’re out, and no harm was done . . . I did my part, some others showed up, but little, if any, expression of the Oneness of the Body of Christ—because nearly everyone kept their mouth shut (except when we took “the elements”), except the priest, the minister, the deacon or whoever was serving us communion, the table, the mass. GOD IS THE GOD OF VARIETY VARIETY IN CREATION What’s the difference between a “word of wisdom” and a “revelation” (1 Cor. 12:8; 14:26)—I’m sure someone’s figured it out but don’t you like surprises? I do, and such revelations and words of wisdom sound surprising to me—WE NEED THEM in the Body of Christ! We need them VERBALLY EXPRESSED! And, if you’re deaf and unable to speak—find Aaron and have him do the honors! VARIETY! “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” HOW DULL IT WOULD BE IF OUR “ALL” WAS ALL THE SAME THING!! (1 Cor. 12:29-30) Imagine – the Body of Christ coming together where the same Spirit operating in various members of the Body will manifest the “gifts of healing,” another will, by the same Spirit pull off some miracles (can’t imagine that, but there it is) – someone else (notice, not the same person all the time) will be “discerning of spirits” – and then “tongues and interpretation of tongues!”—so much for cessation (1 Cor. 12:8-10). THE PERENNIAL “CONTROL FREAK” – THE ALPHA MALE (OR JEZEBEL) “I’M IN CONTROL” Now the hard part for the “control freaks” out there: But one and the same Spirit works all these things (not the “control meister”), distributing to EACH ONE INDIVIDUALLY AS HE WILLS” (1 Cor. 12:11) – OUCH! That one hurt! Why? Because not only do we like to control the meeting (or assign some to do the same) – we’d like to think that “we’re in control” distributing to people we think are deserving of whatever gifts or talents we think they should manifest as in: “Brother so and so, you are gifted in music—why not give us a Psalm . . . Sister Surely, isn’t it time for you to discern the spirit of this situation with so-and-so?” Why can’t we let the SAME SPIRIT do the distribution, instead of Mr. Control Freak? That’s because we can’t trust the Spirit of God to do the manifestation—“Individually as HE WILLS.” Forbid this “thing” gets out of control! Yes, we want to see everyone functioning, sharing, prophesying—but there’s a thin line between allowing the same Spirit distributing and manifesting vs. manipulating God’s people to come out of their hiding places and join in on the feast . . . the Spirit of God must be in “operation” where the “spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” – meaning, everyone has a human spirit which is controlled by that individual not by some individual in the room controlling everyone’s spirit! Let’s be honest now: When was the last time you heard a pastor-teacher expounding on an Ekklesia-style gathering like this—good grief, might put the guy out of a job—but isn’t that the ultimate goal wherein all the members of the same Body are prophesying and thereby expressing MEMBERS INDIVIDUALLY—”distributing to each one individually as He wills”? Forgive me if I sound like I’m beating a dead horse—“you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” The initiative for such a display of an Ekklesia is NOT in the hands of the “elder” in the group, or “group leaders” or the “host” of the Ekklesia—it’s the SAME SPIRIT Who’s supposed to be in control. The saints may need some instruction from a Paul or whoever, but once they “get the knack of it” – they (the saints) should be up and running without anyone’s interference. Now, THAT’S being a real pastor-teacher! WE’VE GOT THIS “THING” UNDER CONTROL… But, isn’t a “controlled environment” such as the traditional “Christian Service” where everyone files in, sits down, listens to some special worship-style music, some announcements, takes in a special prayer time, greets other folks in the pews nearby, and then listens to the same preacher week after week (with some variations when an outside speaker steps in—just keep it short, we’ve got lots of plans today); then there’s something called a wrap-up or an offering and then we go home—YES! No casualties – everything is done “decently and in order” and nothing weird really goes down—it all happens just as it’s always happened—“safety, certainty” with a little bit of enjoyment (sort of) but you really can’t wait to get a bite to eat and/or watch some football game . . . it’s methodical, and no one’s “out of order” – well, even a graveyard has a lot of “decently and in order” going on – really? Yep – “there’s no there, there” because nothing’s happening aside from the fact they’re “dying to get in!” ENDING ON A “HAPPY NOTE” I’d like to end on a happy note, let me close by saying PRACTICING EKKLESIA is a whole lot more difficult today than it was back in Paul’s day because the Greeks in Corinth had around 600 years to practice what a “civil ekklesia” looked like . . . the closest thing we have today here in America is a “town-hall meeting” (and these can become quite spirited, even rowdy). The Greeks knew the rules of the game – but this “I will build My Ekklesia” was very different: THIS WAS THE LORD’S EKKLESIA He was building . . . the similarities stopped at the word EKKLESIA but it did have one thing in common—they all had to come together and all could participate . . . eventually, when a vote was taken, the majority decision was made for the benefit of the community (hopefully). EPHESIANS 4:4-7 Well, our consensus (actually, unanimous) vote must conclude: JESUS IS LORD – we all agree, there is “ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT, ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING, ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to EACH ONE of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:4-7) . . . therefore: “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3-5) we press on as His EKKLESIA which shall prevail against the “gates of Hades” and shall shortly “crush Satan under our feet!” (Rom. 16:20)

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