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Building from the Inside Out
- Part I:
Defining the New Testament Church
August 23, 1988
Truly it seems that the “stones’ are beginning to come in from the quarry as the Lord joins the temple of His People together in the simplicity of relationship. Old structures are passing away as new diverse gatherings of hungry believers are beginning to pop up in different places. And even within some of the old structures the Lord is stirring up a new “moving out of Egypt.”
Sure—there is still a lot of crusty thinking around as old conceptions of the Church remain with many of us who are moving into that new flow. But I’m not concerned about it because I believe it is loose enough to fall off as people keep moving with the new flow. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”
Yes. This is precisely what we are beginning to see. We are starting to see the Lord build for a change. Just exactly what is it like when the Lord builds? What are we seeing that we haven’t seen before that shows us the Lord is building and not man? That is my first topic for you today….
Building From the Inside Out
Take a look with me at the obscure story of Bezaleel and Aholiab in Ex. 31:2-6 and 36:1-2. These are the men God appointed to build the tabernacle. Here is what it says:
2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee…
1 Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the LORD put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the LORD had commanded. 2 And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it:
Do you see from this story how the Lord builds His Tabernacle? When God was ready to build, He filled the leadership with His Spirit and He stirred up by His Spirit the hearts of the people. This is building from the inside-out.
Without the stirring and filling of God’s Spirit, Bezaleel and the people could not have built the tabernacle. Or they could have tried to, but it would have been a far cry from fulfilling what the pattern called for. Without that stirring of Spirit, they could do nothing (compare to Jn. 15;5).
Now the tabernacle is a type of the church. Today we are God’s Tabernacle. What was true about how God built the Tabernacle is true now about how God builds the church. God builds from the inside out. He stirs in the hearts of people to commitment to the work of God. He stirs in them to give, to sacrifice, to labour of heart and hand.
When God builds His People, no artificial methods or motivations to commitment are needed. People come and give of themselves willingly—to the degree they are stirred—no less, no more. No artificial expectations are laid on them. This is a work of liberty.
You see, to lay expectations of any kind on people to give themselves to the body is profitless. Unless the Spirit is working in them to fulfil such expectations, they can’t fulfill them. They only end up making vows of commitments they can’t keep. On the other hand, if the Spirit is working in them, expectations on them are unnecessary! They do from the heart what God lays on them—no more, no less.
And that is how God builds the Church. Please notice that in Exodus, God’s Spirit was given for “all manner of workmanship.” Again then, we see that the Spirit today is the Equipper and Motivator for every function in the body (--not just the obvious ones.)
So this is what we are starting to see here in the Maritimes. There is a new stirring in hearts unto the building of the Body. This is God’s doing—and it is marvelous in our eyes. The artificial methods of stirring people that range from “church membership” to human “covenants”—these are passing away.
And the artificial expectations (law) that are being laid on people from interpretations of church functions in scripture to the personal visions of pastors for their bodies of people—these too are passing away. As God continues to build from the inside out all artificial expectations and motivations to fulfil those expectations by authority figures shall prove their irrelevance.
The work of God through the hearts of people is something so great that nobody can control it by their position or second-guess it by their own personal vision of what is to happen. We must all keep to this humility if we want to remain in the flow of God’s building.
What Is A “New Testament Church?”
A minute ago, I said that there is a typical relationship between the way God built a tabernacle and the way He builds the Church. But at the same time, there is a monumental difference. The tabernacle, you see, was given to be built according to a specific pattern given to Moses. The men were stirred and filled of God. But there was a pattern to follow.
Not so however for the church. The apostles were given no pattern—no law—to follow. Instead, the life came first, and then took definition as it was expressed. Problems were dealt with as they arose. (ex—see Acts 6 and Acts 15, also the whole letter of I Corinthians).
In other words, structure followed life, not vice versa as with the tabernacle. As God’s Life expressed itself through humanity and clashes with certain aspects of sinful humanity ensued, the leadership was given immediate on-site revelation for the structural guidance of that life for that situation.
But we have not followed this example. What we have done is to take the structures that arose from those initial expressions of life and sought to establish and Old Testament-style pattern based on them and then call it a “New Testament Church.”
Perhaps you have been to such churches where it is said, “In the New Testament they did this... and we do this… therefore we are a New Testament Church.” (Actually, every church believes its particular pattern is the pattern of the New Testament Church.)
But actually, if we look through to the reality of it, any church based on a previously established pattern is not a New testament Church, but an Old Testament church—even if the pattern is derived from New Testament practice! (wow!)
Then what is a New Testament Church? A New Testament Church is not one that copies a pattern of practice from the first century, but that copies the example of the first century church in allowing God’s life to define itself for the present hour. We must allow life to flow first and then allow the Spirit-filled leadership to give it regulatory guidance for that generation.
Now that a new wave of God’s life is beginning to flow, we have a new opportunity in our generation to learn this reality. Each generation fails at the point it seeks to harness a new manifestation of God’s Life because that manifestation violates their understanding of some first century practice (even through the truth is that nobody follows all the first century practices! [like foot washings and holy kisses!])
So someone says to me “that’s dangerous teaching brother. What does that leave us to go by?”
Well friends, all I can say is, if it wasn’t dangerous for the first century church who also had no pattern, it isn’t dangerous for us. To assume that if we don’t go by a certain pattern we have nothing to go by just shows how little we really know the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said He gave us the Spirit to guide us into all truth—that was all. Obviously He expected us to be able to recognize the Spirit or He couldn’t have said what He said. He would have to have said He gave us the Spirit plus some pattern, or the Spirit plus the apostles…etc, etc.
Folks, let’s not be afraid of the Spirit and spiritual reality. Let’s not let our ignorance of the Spirit be our excuse for functioning in Old Testament ways, but rather let it be our challenge to know the Spirit wherever we don’t so we can function with the Spirit as our ultimate reference point for Truth and reality—as they did in the NewTtestament!
Why do I say this? Why talk about this at all? The answer is simple. We have in our generation the opportunity to not repeat religious history.
You see, as God brings in his next wave of Life to our generation, it will build on what has gone before—but it will also advance into new ground never taken before for which there is no previous established pattern either in history or Scripture. When that happens, if you try to judge the Life of God according to your knowledge of an earlier pattern rather than by our knowledge of the Word of God, you will have trouble flowing with it. You may even REJECT it and repeat religious history.
I love you and I don’t want that to happen to you. That is why I’m sharing this with you. Learn now how to let God be God. Start improving your sensitivity to the Spirit of Truth and your acquaintance with the Presence of God. Most of you have fed your mind very well through your Bible School training or your Scripture study and reading of books. That’s very good.
But if you are to appreciate any of that from the true mind of the Spirit, you’re going to have to start feeding your spirit on the Spirit of Truth through long uninterrupted times of meditation, praise and worship in the Presence of God. If you don’t do this, you will be caught short and the glory starts rolling in and crashes your understanding of scripture just as it has in every generation.
written from Pleasant Valley, Prince Edward Island, Canada
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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