by Mike Ratliff
14 And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. and we gazed upon his glory, glory as of the only one from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified about him and cried out saying, “This one was he whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks before me because he was prior to me.'”) 16 And from his fullness, we all received, even grace on top of grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, The one being in the bosom of the Father, that one explained him. (John 1:14-18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
In John 1:18 the Apostle tells us that no one has ever seen God, but the Word who became flesh and tabernacled among us, that one, explained him. What got Jesus in hot water with the religious Jews during his earthly ministry? It was when he did that very thing and it was always in opposition to the presuppositions according to which the Scribes and Pharisees operated. They continually opposed our Lord’s ministry because they could not or would not see the true intent of God’s will as our Lord revealed as taught in the Old Testament. Because of this “blindness” our Lord called them blind guides and hypocrites. Let’s look at Matthew 15:10-20 then we will look at a current example of this same sort of blindness brought about by clinging to man-made presuppositions rather than obeying the Gospel and looking to the Word of God alone for God’s authoritative will for His church.
10 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τὸν ὄχλον εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ἀκούετε καὶ συνίετε· 11 οὐ τὸ εἰσερχόμενον εἰς τὸ στόμα κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἐκπορευόμενον ἐκ τοῦ στόματος τοῦτο κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον. 12 Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· οἶδας ὅτι οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον ἐσκανδαλίσθησαν; 13 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· πᾶσα φυτεία ἣν οὐκ ἐφύτευσεν ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ἐκριζωθήσεται. 14 ἄφετε αὐτούς· τυφλοί εἰσιν ὁδηγοὶ [τυφλῶν]· τυφλὸς δὲ τυφλὸν ἐὰν ὁδηγῇ, ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον πεσοῦνται. 15 Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ· φράσον ἡμῖν τὴν παραβολὴν [ταύτην]. 16 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· ἀκμὴν καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀσύνετοί ἐστε; 17 οὐ νοεῖτε ὅτι πᾶν τὸ εἰσπορευόμενον εἰς τὸ στόμα εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν χωρεῖ καὶ εἰς ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκβάλλεται; 18 τὰ δὲ ἐκπορευόμενα ἐκ τοῦ στόματος ἐκ τῆς καρδίας ἐξέρχεται, κἀκεῖνα κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον. 19 ἐκ γὰρ τῆς καρδίας ἐξέρχονται διαλογισμοὶ πονηροί, φόνοι, μοιχεῖαι, πορνεῖαι, κλοπαί, ψευδομαρτυρίαι, βλασφημίαι. 20 ταῦτά ἐστιν τὰ κοινοῦντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον, τὸ δὲ ἀνίπτοις χερσὶν φαγεῖν οὐ κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον. (Matthew 15:10-20 NA27)
10 And having summoned the crowd, he said to them, “Listen and understand. 11 It is not the thing entering into the mouth which defiles the man, but the thing going out from the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then having approached, the disciples said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees, having heard the Word, have taken offense?” 13 But he answered saying, “Every plant which my Heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. 14 Leave them. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 And having answered, Peter said to him, “Explain to us this parable.” 16 And he said, “Are you still without understanding? 17 Do you knot know that every thing entering into the mouth goes into the stomach and passes into a latrine? 18 But the things coming out from the mouth come out from the heart, and that defiles the man. 19 For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, and blasphemies. 20 These are the things defiling the man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (Matthew 15:10-20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
The Pharisees were accusing Jesus and his disciples of breaking the law for eating without ceremonially washing their hands first (Matthew 15:1-9). However, Jesus did not give in just to get along. Instead, he made sure that everyone understood what really defiles people. What is it? It is the sin that all of are born with. That is why we need a Saviour. The Pharisees stubbornly clung to an aberration of the Mosaic Law in which they actually taught the people it was possible to be right before God by keeping the ceremonial Law. They had added a lot to it in order to make it easier to keep or at least to make it easier for the people “to think” they were keeping it, but Paul was right in his treatise in Romans, no one can keep the Law. No one is right before God in by any works we can do on our own. That is why we have the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and why it is Good News. Jesus kept the Law for us and on the Cross, our sins were imputed to him and he paid their penalty. In our Justification, His righteousness is imputed to our account.
Now what is purpose of the Church? We are to make disciples from all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20). We gather to hear preaching by pastors, to pray together, to disciple and be discipled, to take the Lord’s Supper and witness Baptism(s). The Church is not a business. It isn’t a social network. It isn’t about entertainment. It’s not a money making concern. A pastor and a few elders could probably take care of a maximum of a couple of hundred people. Beyond that, they cannot PASTOR them. They could “manage” more, but is that pastoring? No!
You know that we have taken a strong stance against the Church Growth paradigm and that includes all forms of what is called the Seeker Sensitive movement. Why? If you compare what its presuppositions are compared to the paragraph above you will see very quickly that there is absolutely no commonality. Those in that paradigm are all about growing large churches, packing them in, and keeping them coming. It does not matter that they have just as many leaving by the back door as long as they keep them coming in through the front door. They use techniques that are totally flesh based. The Word of God clearly says that there is nothing in the flesh we can do to please God (Romans 8:8). Think about that. Using fleshly means to grow a church is of the world not of God.
A friend sent me this link today. The writer of that piece admits at first the complete bankruptcy of the Rick Warren or Seeker-Sensitive way of growing a church. I read that part and was waiting for him to make the repentant turn to move away from man-focused fleshly nonsense, forgetting all about “growth” as the primary goal while seeking God’s glory first in all things, but was totally let down as he came up with just another man-focused paradigm for church growth where the pastor should seek what the people want and then do that in order to seriously grow the church. Of course, what he suggested is a major improvement over the emergent nonsense with all the mysticism, gospel contextualization, and cultural relevance we have seen lately, but still, why not do things God’s way? Preach the Gospel and minister to people by discipling them as you administer the sacraments. You may lose some who “don’t like that sort of thing,” but God will bring in those who are his, in this he is faithful.
As long as the visible church continues to attempt to function primarily by being man-pleasers, its leaders reveal that they are simply blind guides leading the blind.
Soli Deo Gloria!