By Peter Thompson B.Theo Grad Dip Theology
In Parts 1 and 2, we discerned some similarities in four different contexts where a church community was either exhorted to fully agree with one another by coming to one mind together, or actually achieved such a unanimous agreement.
Certain things, I believe, begin to emerge from these accounts:
- Coming to one mind, will and purpose in church community life is not an option, but is absolutely necessary if the Gospel is to continue to have its full, ongoing power and effect in the world;
- Because God works within the Christian community to make His will obvious to them by the Spirit, and to effect obedience to that will, arriving at one mind together is a supernatural affair where God partners with His people to direct and guide them for His own good pleasure;
- Church leadership structures do not make decisions for and on behalf of their congregation, and then impose those decisions upon them, because the only way for each church community to come to one mind is by God Himself (Father, Son and Spirit) making His mind, will and purpose blatantly obvious to everyone present at church assemblies; and
- Contemporary churches need to urgently reconsider changing the function of their leaders from hierarchical authority figures to servants who, as those who belong to the church and not vice versa, facilitate the presence of the risen Lord Jesus Christ in order for the mind, will and purpose of God to be clearly made known (compare Colossians 1:24-29).
Hindrance of Making the Bible an Idol
There are two theological issues, critical to this discussion, which I believe have tended to blind or hinder the contemporary church from understanding the God-given means for Christian communities across the world to arrive at one mind.
First, these days, the Bible tends to become an idol, what is called bibliolatry, because the Scriptures have become the primary and only truly authoritative means of hearing God speak today. This tendency has a number of serious problems, including:
- While most Christian leaders claim to be under the final authority of the Bible, there is still so much difference of opinion in interpreting and applying the biblical text, usually because of what each one brings to the text in trying to understand it;
- Different theologians and scholars with opposing theological perspectives tend to set themselves up as authorities over the Bible, becoming judges of what is acceptable and what may be discarded based upon what is relevant and meaningful to their own beliefs and understanding, which is usually based in each one’s particular denominational tradition;
- The Bible then usurps God’s place as the ultimate authority as mediated by the abiding presence of Jesus, the living Word (compare Matthew 28:18; John 1:14; 17:2-3; Colossians 2:10; 1 John 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 3:1-6); and
- This downgrades the role of the prophet and the 5 fold ministries are meant to be the foundation of operation.
- Jesus is not allowed to truly speak for Himself as the living Word and therefore challenge our interpretative approaches, beliefs and understanding (compare Luke 24:19-27).
Careful studies of the use of Old Testament Scripture in the New Testament clearly demonstrate that the narrative of God’s dynamic kingdom work in the experience of church communities was understood in tandem with the narrative of the Old Testament where both interpreted the other (as we have already seen occur in Acts 15). For instance:
- Paul himself received his Gospel by a direct revelation of Jesus Christ which he later confirmed to be the genuine Gospel through the apostles in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:11-20; 2:1-2);
- Jesus often reinterpreted the application of the law of Moses from His own experience of God’s activity, such as healing on the Sabbath (e.g., Mark 2:22-28 noting that nowhere does the OT actually speak of the Sabbath being made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath);
- Paul found God’s activity of the Holy Spirit coming upon uncircumcised Gentiles reinterpreted the law of circumcision to be a work of the Spirit rather than that of human hands (Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-12; Colossians 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:11-15; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:3-4); and
- The implementation of Jesus’ Last Supper as the Lord’s Table reinterpreted the significance of the Passover and the Day of Atonement (e.g., Mark 14:12, 22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 10:16-22; Hebrews 9:1-28; 10:1-22; 13:9-16).
The Bible as a written text through which the Spirit supposedly speaks is not the ultimate authority at all, because determining what is of the Spirit and what is not is deeply disputed today. The Bible was meant to guide the Christian community to experiencing the authority of the living Word, risen and present in their midst. Rather, the written biblical text has become a source of deep division because it is not properly coupled with what God is actively doing in the midst of His church globally today.
Hindrance of Denial and/or Lack of Genuine Practice of Charismatic Gifts
Secondly, today, the genuine charismatic giftings as articulated by Paul (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:6-8), are both poorly understood and rarely practised. However, in the early church, they were common place (e.g., Acts 5:12-14; Galatians 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). It is clear that these giftings were supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit beyond normal human capability and functioning, because:
- prophecies and other charismatic gifts of speaking had to be weighed and tested as ad hoc speech delivered on the spur of the moment (1 Corinthians 14:29-32; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21);
- charismatic gifts are always an expression of God’s gracious empowerment (for the word “charisma”, translated as “gifts”, stems from the Greek word for grace, “charis”), with God or the Spirit always being the subject (1 Corinthians 12:4-7; Romans 12:3-6; compare 1 Corinthians 4:6-7; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 6:10); and
- signs and wonders as demonstrations of God’s supernatural power were always associated with the charismatic gifts and the activity of Christian ministers (e.g., Hebrews 2:3-4; Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Acts 2:43; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 3:7; compare Acts 2:22; 10:38).
I have personally experienced or witnessed the genuine manifestation of these Spirit-gifted expressions of God’s supernatural intervention in human affairs, including many undeniable physical miracles and supernatural healings. Arguments that such supernatural encounters either can’t happen today, or only happen when God has a unique, major, world-changing purpose to effect, are completely rendered void by my own fairly extensive experiences, let alone the experiences of so many others today, and so many more throughout church history. None of the supernatural encounters I experienced were associated with ground-breaking major moves of God, but occurred amongst ordinary little church communities in provincial areas of Queensland or around the outskirts of Brisbane.
Simple Proposal for How Oneness of Mind, Will and Purpose Was Achieved by the Early Church
With this in mind, I propose that the early New Testament church achieved, or sought to achieve, oneness of mind and judgment together through the mind, will and purpose of the Father, Son and Spirit (i.e. the “mind of Christ”) being manifestly obvious to all present in assembly through the combination of:
- God’s ongoing gracious activity both in the midst of His church locally and world-wide, and out in the world, as properly confirmed to be genuine by Scripture; and
- the operation of the genuinely charismatic gifts of speech expressed through the whole congregation.
This is, in my understanding, the only clear way to comprehend the biblical injunctions to arrive at the same mind and judgment.
Further Biblical Support
- Jesus is Emmanuel, “God is with Us” (Matthew 1:23; compare Isaiah 7:14; 8:8-10);
- Apart from Christ, from dwelling in Him and utterly depending upon Him, the church can do nothing (John 15:5; compare Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:15-16);
- All true believers in God’s sheep-fold know and hear the shepherd’s voice (John 10:1-5, 14-16; compare John 18:37);
- Jesus is personally present in power in the midst of the Christian assembly (1 Corinthians 5:3-5; compare Matthew 18:19-20 noting how “agreement” forms the immediate context; John 12:26); and
- Jesus has been held to be personally present in the celebration of the Lord’s Table or Eucharist throughout church history.
Need for Urgent Change
It never ceases to amaze me why most contemporary Christian churches openly acknowledge the resurrection of Christ as a reality, but dismiss His ability to be personally present in the midst of Christian gatherings (and especially around the Eucharist) to express the one mind, will and purpose of the Father, Son and Spirit together through the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit in the community-wide expression of the charismatic gifts.
I have yet to find a church in Australia today that even remotely comes close to regularly experiencing the manifest presence of the risen Christ in their midst where Jesus Himself openly speaks and directs the congregation during their meetings and gatherings through the congregation-wide charismatic gifts. If the church is ever to come to one mind and judgment, this has to change, and rapidly so.
To review the studies included in the Framework and find out why we have concluded these things you will need to see the notes which are available by contacting us.
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Peter “Thommo” Thompson was born in 1958 in the bulldust of south-western Queensland in the region around the township of Mitchell. He was converted outside of the church through a supernatural encounter with the living God in Mackay, North Queensland, in February 1979, and embarked upon a long and arduous journey of God dealing with the figurative bulldust in his life. In 2012, he completed a Bachelor of Ministry & Theology double degree, and in 2013, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Theology, all at Tabor Adelaide. He currently lives with his two adult daughters in Ipswich, Queensland, and is writing a series of academic novels with the intent of hopefully helping to facilitate a church unifying movement through an unbranded form of Christianity in Australia.
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