by Mike Ratliff
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:14-18 (NASB)
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 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
12 Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” Matthew 15:10-20 (NASB)
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.
As you meditate on that, follow this link to an article written in 2011 about an alternative to the church growth movement. The writer of that piece admits to 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!