Why do we do it the way we do it….

Though today the places we visit and the conditions we meet may be vastly different from those of the Scripture record, yet in principle the experience of the first apostles may well serve as a our example… Christianity has lost its original purity, and everything connected with it is in a false and confused state. Despite that fact, our work today is still the same as in the days of the early apostles – to found and build up local churches, the local expressions of the Body of Christ.

– Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Church Life” 1980.

 

Today if a man ventures to suggest that there may be something in the methods by which St. Paul attained such wonderful results worthy of our careful attention, and perhaps of our imitation, he is in danger of being accused of revolutionary tendencies… All I can say is, “This is the way of Christ and His apostles.” If any man answers, “That is out of date,” or “Times have changed” … I can only repeat, “This is the way of Christ and His apostles,” and leave him to face that issue.

– Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: “St. Paul’s or Ours?” 1962.

The above quotes came from the first chapter of Frank Viola’s latest book, “Finding Organic Church“. In this first chapter Frank writes,

To my mind, it’s a profound mistake to ignore what we find in the book of Acts concerning the manner in which Christian communities were birthed in the first century.

From there, He walks through the four models of planting churches found in the book of Acts. Any serious missional student, church planter, missionary, Pastor, seminary student, Christian, should read this book for the first chapter alone.

Thanx!

What’s Up With the Nicolaitans?

This is going to be a difficult post. Why? Because I know it could become somewhat controversial. So, please be patient with my exegesis. I am a learner. We are all learners. We must treat one another as such. With that in mind, I believe fully that Jesus wants and expects us to know His Truth. So, here I go…

But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

Revelation 2:6, NLT

But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Revelation 2:14-16, NLT

I have recently heard and read several different individuals concerning their view of the Nicolaitans, so I decided to start a discussion here.

The above passages are the only place we find this term in the New Testament. Jesus makes some very powerful assertions regarding the Nicolaitans which leave no question to how He feels about them. HE HATES THEIR DEEDS!! He commands urgent and immediate repentance from those who have succumbed to their deeds. Jesus is fully prepared and ready to defend His honor with His Truth (the sword of His mouth). I think we need to pay attention here!

So, what are the deeds? What is Jesus talking about here that demands such serious action? Who are the Nicolaitans? What is their teaching? From where did they come? Why is Jesus so ticked at them?

In His pointed address to the church at Pergamus, Jesus uses the teaching of Balaam as an illustration of the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Balaam was a “prophet-for-hire” who was being paid by Balak the King of the Moabites to call a cursing upon the invading army of Israel. Yahweh would not allow this cursing, but rather turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing on three separate occasions. Finally, Balaam gives up trying to speak a cursing over Israel and instead instructs Balak in how to trick the Israelites into calling a curse upon themselves. He does this by using the pagan temple prostitutes to go into the war camp at Mt. Peor and seduce the battle-weary soldiers into worshiping false gods by having sex with them. As a result, 24,000 Israelites died. It wasn’t a good time for Israel. (Check out these other passages concerning Balaam: Numbers 22-24; 31:8, 16; Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 13:22; 14:9-10; Nehemiah 13:2; Micah 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11.)

Now, I will share two interpretations:

  1. The first thought identifies “Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith)” (Acts 6:5) as the culprit, as in the “Nicolaitans” were following “Nicolas”. He was one of seven men chosen to run a food distribution program in the church at Jerusalem many years before. These men are regularly referred to as the first “deacons” within the church. (I don’t actually agree that sentiment within the context it is often used, but that is for another discussion.) The theory here is that Nicolas began holding to a teaching that would ultimately be referred to as “Gnosticism”. This teaching adopts a very twisted “hyper-grace” view of life. It basically says that once you are saved by grace, you can do whatever you like in your physical body. It doesn’t matter, just live it up. Give no heed to personal holiness, because that is just a legalistic illusion. Have fun! This, of course, is identified as the teaching of Balaam who caused the seduction of Israelite men away from Yahweh and into idol worhsip through sexual sin. This teaching did cause concern in early churches and Paul addressed these pagan teachings in several of his letters. Also, Jesus certainly would hate this type of teaching, because it truly runs contrary to His teachings. So, we can see the origin of this interpretation. But was that the intention of Jesus in this particular passage?
  2. The second line of thinking has more to do with the actual word “Nicolaitans”. It is derived from two Greek words: “nikao”, meaning to conquer or rule (where the word “Nike” comes from), and “laos”, meaning people (where the word “laity” comes from). When joined, the two words mean people conquerors or rulers. Also, it is interesting to note the actual meaning of Balaam’s name. His name is derived from two separate Hebrew terms: “bal”, meaning not, nothing, to wear out, consume, and “am”, which means people. Literally, the translation would be “not people”, and is usually thought to mean “not (of the) people”, or “foreigner”. An etymological study will reveal that the Hebrew name Balaam and the Greek word Nicolaitans can mean the same thing. The idea is that the “deeds of the Nicolaitans” didn’t necessarily have anything to do with moral corruption or “Gnosticism”, but rather was the emergence of the clergy/laity divide which has permeated nearly all of Christendom from “higher” forms of church (i.e. Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Orthodox, etc.) to “lower” forms of church (i.e. Baptist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, etc.). “Lower” and “higher” church being a reference more to church polity, governance, traditions, and structure, not necessarily doctrinal issues. Not only is the issue of the clergy/laity divide called into question in this view, but the fact that Balaam was a “prophet-for-hire” is poignantly pointed out by those who question the Scriptural veracity of the CEO pastoral role assumed by so many “professional” ministers today. No matter which tribe (denomination) is being considered, one thing is true, Christianity has been decisively divided between those with a “special” calling and those who are…well…just people (laity). It is as though the impetus of the Reformation has been forgotten, yet again: the literal priesthood of all believers. Whether these “offices” of leadership are referred to as ministers, bishops, cardinals, deacons, pastors, reverends, popes, or whatever, the divide is quite evident. Therefore, if this was what Jesus was pointing out, He is clearly stating that He hates this divide and the monetary gain in which it is encumbered.

So, these are the two basic interpretations as I understand them. Either way we go, we are given much to reflect upon and consider. I think that we must wrestle with this passage.

Please share your thoughts. I have many more passages of Scripture I could share along with my own ideas, but I invite the conversation. Please share Scripture, and play nice. I am not making any accusations here. I just simply want to pursue Truth. I am looking for well-thought-out, considerate conversation, not accusatory, reactionary, diatribe.

Thanx!

Provocative, Yet Quite Compelling

I must say that “Pagan Christianity?” was one of the most compelling books I have read in years. I didn’t realize until recently just how controversial this book really is. The following video is a “spoof” based on numerous critics and bloggers around the world who are attacking this book. The most interesting point to observe is the fact that the most outspoken of the critics have actually never read the book!

I will add that this is not a book I would recommend to just anyone. If you’ve got “it” all figured out, then this book will only serve to “mess” you up. This is not a book of mild convenience. It is dangerous and provocative. It uncovers layers of assumptions that grip too many Christians in lethargy and complacency.

Again, be warned…Read at your own risk!! 🙂

I would also like to share some interesting and disturbing quotes of interest:

I am not here attacking Christianity, but only the institutional mantle that cloaks it.

Pierre Berton

A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.

Dresden James

Experience supplies painful proof that traditions once called into being are first called useful, then they become necessary. At last they are too often made idols, and all must bow down to them or be punished. 

J. C. Ryle

I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow on the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? . . . A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

Franz Kafka

If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of [the twentieth] century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting. Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will not be one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom.

A.W. Tozer

Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convinced by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

Martin Luther

Finally, here is an interview with the authors of the book, Frank Viola and George Barna. (Click Here To Download)

I’ll look forward to your comments. 🙂

Thanx!