Shadow on Concrete Wall

Research Challenge

In the ONE Trilogy: One Ekklesia, One Truth, and One Life & Glory, there are significant new insights and fresh discoveries. These insights are predicated upon major portions of Scripture which have been obscured concerning the issue of the Lord’s ekklesia (mistranslated as “church”). God’s eternal plan and purpose clearly focuses on His ekklesia, which Jesus Christ said He would build in Matthew 16:18—based upon the revelation that He is the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the Living God. It is this ekklesia that will defeat the gates of Hades—crushing under our feet the head of Satan (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:20; Gen. 3:15) while giving God all the glory (Eph. 3:21, 10).

His ekklesia has everything to do with the oneness of His people, the one Body of Christ—the expression of the One New Man, the United Kingdom of David and Temple of the Living God (Eph. 2:11-22; Acts 15:13-18); therefore, it is for this oneness Jesus prayed earnestly and desperately at the end of the last supper in John 17 prior to His betrayal and crucifixion. Therefore, within the spirit of every believer regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, there is an innate love for all other believers (1 John 3:14) and an organic oneness in Life within all believers in Christ—this oneness is our common spiritual DNA—our new nature, new creation (Eph. 4:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:16).

Failures of past unity movements

 

This God-given desire for unity has, in our past, been expressed in movements known as Restoration (recovery).  Theses “moves of the Spirit” are clearly seen in the 1800s with Stone-Campbell (Church of Christ/Christian Churches), where they taught the need for Christians to abandon denominationalism and become unified as the Body of Christ. In each subsequent movement, the major theme of the unity of the Body of Christ continued.

 

Notwithstanding their historic restoration of truth and practice, each one of these movements, overtime, though having a desire for unity, became sectarian—divisive, factious—separating themselves from other Christians who were not affiliated with their particular conviction. In other words, there was the talk of unity, but not the walk of unity.  These movements forsook the denominational system which have caused divisions (viz., I am of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas) but tragically found themselves embracing a most divisive entitlement: “I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:10-17).  Their vision for unity was commendable, but their practice of the oneness of the Body of Christ became the very source of division.

 

This has generally made the topic of unity unpleasant among Christian workers—compounded by “organizational ecumenical-style movements” which have tended toward compromise and “false unity.” The subject of unity has become a “can of worms” that most “Bible-believing Christians” would like to avoid—foremost in the minds of ardent believers in Christ is the inevitable “watering down” of the very gospel of the Grace of God which brought them salvation. Most Christians would defer this oneness until the time of the second advent of Christ since for 200 years many have tried and failed in this “inane pursuit.” What else can be done? What could we have missed in Scriptures in order to escape this cycle of restoration/unity and then disunity/sectarianism?

Will these new insights finally propel believers toward genuine oneness?

 

Below are some of the major points from Scripture which we believe have been reignited by the Spirit of God and made new to our understanding regarding the practical expression of our oneness in Christ. We believe these passages from Scripture facilitate the fulfillment of the vision of unity among believers. Although these points were not imparted to us by others, nor corroborated in our research, it doesn’t mean that biblical expositors and commentators throughout the centuries have not seen them and even written them down.

 

In order to help confirm these points or revelation illuminated by the Spirit of God upon the revealed Word of God, we are launching a “Research Challenge” to the general Body of Christ.  This somewhat unusual challenge is designed to encourage anyone interested in researching any writings before 2010 which clearly describe the same insights relating to specific Scriptures as outlined in the ONE Trilogy.  We will post the supporting books and credit the researchers in our website; additionally, a gift of appreciation will be awarded. We are not doing this as an expression of “fleshly pride” but as a sincere quest in opening up to God’s people to “search the Scriptures whether these things be so” (Acts 17:11). 

 

The following are major points of insight advanced in the message of ONE:

1.   God’s ekklesia, as patterned after the Greek ekklesia, requires that believers from differing “factions” to physically assemble. Additionally, each member has the right and privilege to practice “free speech” in the utilization of their spiritual gifts by speaking, testifying, prophesying Jesus Christ as Lord from their own perspectives and experiences. (1 Cor. 11:17 through to the end of 1 Cor. 14)

 

Significance: This would completely revamp and cause a rethinking of what the Lord’s ekklesia should look like—practically speaking, when “you come together as an ekklesia” (1 Cor. 11:18). Christians have been building ministries (churches) but neglecting the expression of the Lord’s ekklesia. Just about every group of believers has an aversion toward those with a contrary perspective—and more so, if it is “biblically” divergent from their own. Without coming to terms with this issue that the Lord’s ekklesia needs believers from differing factions, every minister, no matter how pure, if they are to build up a group of believers, will result in another division. Factions, not being “factious,” are “necessary” within the expression of the ekklesia—we are distinct, if you would, but not separated (1 Cor. 11:17-19). 

 

2.   In Roman 16, it was not Paul extending greetings (hellos and salutations) to the believers in Rome; rather, he was exhorting the believers in Rome to initiate fellowship with other believers who were not in their own immediate group in which they would normally associate. It is through this practice of indiscriminate reaching out for fellowship with those outside of one’s associated and comfortable group of believers that selfish ministers (“those who cause divisions”) are exposed and Satan is crushed (Rom. 16:17-20).

 

Significance: Believers usually only have fellowship with those in their own church or group. They become “homogeneous” but this segregation, though it may be comfortable, is divisive. Intentional, proactive, and continuous actions are needed to go visit and fellowship with believers who are not in their group of choice. Unlike ecumenism, which is unifying organizations or denominations, greeting is organic from person to person outside of any group affiliation. These encounters will stimulate our common fellowship we have in Jesus Christ giving expression to the oneness of the Body of Christ. This is the work of “the God peace” who empowers us, through this living fellowship, to crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20).

 

3.   A systematic development of Romans 9-16 as the gospel of peace to bring believers found in divided groups to come together into one ekklesia. Romans 1-8 presents the common salvation for individual believers no matter which distinct group in which they may have identified themselves—from man’s sinful condition to glorification. However, Romans 9-16 is needed to bring believers from divided groups (e.g., Jew and Gentile) to come together in order to give God the glory and simultaneously crushing the head of Satan, the Serpent (Gen. 3:15).

 

Significance: Though the gospel of the grace of God provides individual salvation has spread throughout the earth, it has also created more and more churches and divisions between Christians. The gospel of peace is now needed to be preached to all believers for repentance from considering ourselves more superior to others — “more highly than we ought to think” (Rom. 12:3-5). The gospel of peace is the second half of the gospel of Romans which when combined together is the gospel of the kingdom (Rom. 14:17) ushering in the completion of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:29).  It is time to preach a “completion gospel”—the Gospel of the Grace of God bringing salvation through the blood of His cross AND the Gospel of Peace—making of the two, One New Man, so making Peace—the very “Truth of the Gospel” (Acts 20:24; Eph. 2:14-15; Gal. 2:5, 14)—together this “completion gospel” constitutes the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17; Acts 28:31).

 

4.   Romans Chapters 9 through 11 have been used to cause some of the greatest theological debates and divisions among Christians. Chapters 9 are prominently used for the doctrines of predestination and sovereignty juxtaposed to free-will (“Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated”). Chapter 11 has tragically galvanized Replacement theologies against Dispensational theologies—contending that the “church replaces Israel” or giving the Jewish people a distinctly separate prophetical destiny apart from the “Church.” Contrariwise, these chapters were actually Paul’s way of demonstrating that any group of believers in Christ or followers of the One True God who consider themselves more superior to any other group of believers is in disobedience needing God’s mercy—for “God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32).

 

Significance: Rather than causing divisions among the People of God these chapters are revealing to us that no matter which doctrinal position a group of believers takes which separates them from other believers, they are in disobedience. Each group who consider themselves to be superior to another group of believers, using supporting Scriptures to buttress their contentions, must repent of such factious behavior; whereby, God shows mercy upon that believer making them ready to enter into the reality of the oneness of Body life as described in chapter 12—“present your bodies a living sacrifice” for His One Body—“…to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3).

 

5.   Three gifts were given in John 17 in order for God’s people to be perfected into one. These gifts are clearly delineated in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer: eternal life (vss. 2-3)—being kept in the Father’s name, God’s Word (truth—vss. 8, 14-17—Christ is the Word and Truth), and God’s glory (vss. 22-24—the expression/supply of the Spirit) are essential to enrich God’s people and build them up into one, as one as the Father and the Son are one. This oneness of fellowship shared within the Triune God is what we, His disciples, have been called into—this will cause the world to believe.

 

Significance: God’s people may have a spiritually innate desire to be one with each other; however, without being awakened to these three gifts, it is not possible to express His Oneness. The fallen, natural man is not capable of becoming one and loving others as the Lord loves. These three practical gifts enable believers to become divinely unified. Oneness among diverse people is the most powerful testimony causing the world to believe.  We didn’t save ourselves—the Deliverer saved us . . . nor can we engineer our own oneness unless we embrace these marvelous, divinely-committed gifts given to us that we might be One, as He is One with the Father.

 

6.   The third gift of glory which the Lord Jesus received from the Father was received as an “incarnate man” (“coming in the likeness of men”)-- who went through crucifixion and resurrection. This glory given to Him in resurrection empowers believers to be a humble servant as Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11, 14-16). It is not possible to be one with contending believers without this power to become as nothing in order to serve and to love others, even one’s enemies; especially, “religious enemies.”

 

Significance: Pride is a major source of division among believers. How can the greater be a servant to all? It takes the power of His glory in order to have humility in service, ministry. When believers do not employ this glory then pride surfaces, which is a leading cause obstructing the unity of God’s people. It is this glory which enables the bearing of the cross and the denying of the self in order to produce much fruit for God’s glory. It is in this kind of service the ekklesia can be built-up into one as a Holy Temple in the Lord—“built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).

7.   The apostle Paul said that when the Lord’s ekklesia gathers, factions are necessary (should be anticipated, even welcomed) in order that those approved may be manifested or recognized (1 Cor. 11:19). These approved brethren are peacemakers, they are not factious.  They are able to bring into fellowship those from different, even opposing, factions. Having the Lord’s supper in the ekklesia expresses our oneness we have in Christ wherein each believer attests to the blessed fact through repenting of any factious attitude or behavior whereby they approve themselves in order to partake of the One Body of Christ.  The “sin” from which we are encouraged to repent is the “sin of division”—for we are One Body in Christ!

 

Significance: Without peacemakers present among us, a gathering of believers from contrary factions will disintegrate into cliques or arguments. Those so approved are needed to serve in the way of the kingdom of God: righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17-19). Traditionally, Christians have focused on leadership or eldership whenever a group gathers, which tragically constitutes another source of division (“I am of Paul, etc.”); rather, what is essential is more peace-makers as patterns for all divided believers.  Such peacemakers are “uniters” – who have the “growth in Life” – are mature in Christ and demonstrate their maturity by “attain to the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13).

 

8.   The Lord’s ekklesia cannot be built by only one minister/ministry. Even the greatest apostle needed to team-up with Apollos (and Cephas) to build up the ekklesia at Corinth (1 Cor. 3:6). While ministries can only have one clear leadership (Acts 15:39), the Lord’s ekklesia needs the teaming-up of various independent ministries. No one can and should be allowed to dominate or “control” the Lord’s ekklesia (1Cor. 14:30-31).

 

Significance: A clear distinction and separation is needed between ministries and the Lord’s ekklesia. Generally speaking, pastors/ministers like to protect their own “flock” (i.e., “ministry participants”) by providing clearly defined leadership. However, for the ekklesia pastors/ministers need to let their people go into the ekklesia where they can participate and contribute to the Body . . . thus becoming one “with all saints” (Eph. 4:11-13). In the Lord’s ekklesia there cannot be one person or ministry dominating the whole; then the Holy Spirit can move and speak, prophesy, through all believers—then, Christ becomes the Head of His Body—“For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged” (1 Cor. 14:31).

 

9.   Keeping the original definition of church being inorganic buildings and defining the Lord’s ekklesia according to the original Greek usage of democracy—by and for the people. All buildings have ownerships, which in turn define what is taught and practiced in their buildings. Whereas the Lord’s ekklesia (as a “democratic legislative assembly or polity”) does not belong to any particular ministry but is wholly God’s, belonging to the Family of God, His children.

 

Significance: Restoration teachings and groups including “house churches” or “organic churches” are movements which have traditionally criticized institutional churches for their organizational structure and hierarchy, which in turn has caused more divisions among believers. By keeping to these original meanings, we can rejoice as Paul did even over those preaching Christ out of rivalry (Phil. 1:15-18). Churches can continue their ministries while the oneness of God’s people as His ekklesia needs to be unveiled and manifested. Instead of criticizing ministries (churches), lets learn to team-up and build up the Lord’s ekklesia together—“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together (“as a team” ICB—Int’l Children’s Bible) for the faith of the gospel, and not terrified by your adversaries, which (“together like a team”) is to them a proof of (their) perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God (Free Translation – Phil. 1:27-28).  Therefore, the ministers of ministries are admonished to work together “striving side by side” (TLV—Tree of Life Version) to fight their adversaries, not fight against one another.

 

These fresh understanding of ekklesia has opened much more of God’s Word leading to rich experiences of Christ with His people. Most Christians will find fresh insight from the Scriptures in just about every chapter of the ONE Trilogy. Happy exploring the depth of God’s Word.