Part II – Application to Reformed & Evangelical Theology
SUBPART A – THE REFORMATION
Article 1 – DOCTRINAL REDISCOVERY & THE KINGDOM OF GOD
a. The Question of the Kingdom of God
b. Natural Observation Urged by the Divine-Counsel
c. Christ and His Church as the True Sign to be Observed
d. Truth in a Restorative-Process
Article 1 – RECOVERY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
a. The Question of the Kingdom of God
Denominations typically separate themselves according to what they perceive as the valid experience constituting salvation, or upon a particular priority-of-emphasis of the same. Many denominations (particularly those evangelical) characterize salvation as an event – a perspective commonly expressed in terms of time and place, e.g. “I was saved on this date, and at this place”.
Historically, questions such as; What is “salvation”? What is “saving faith”? What is “regeneration”? What does it mean to “have the Holy Spirit”? What is the church? have historically been areas for disagreement and denominationalizing of the Christian belief-system. While faith in Jesus Christ and in the blood of His cross has always been the-accepted foundation for redemption, those things that stand reflexive to the cross, ie. the church’s entering-in to the kingdom of God, have constituted the area of substantial-controversy. This is particularly true among the more evangelical denominations wherein the event of being “saved” is often treated with little-more profundity than the closing-on-a-contract; as if one always had the right to act upon an option and (on such-and-such date) elected to exercise that option, with the result being; “I am now saved.” One joins the church, and leads an acceptably-moral life.
In this modern-era of religion, our concept of salvation has seemed to have become mundane; a concept bearing little similarity to the life and vibrancy of which we read about of the primitive-church. This would suggest that perhaps we have presumed a great deal in terms of our participation in the kingdom of God.
While the kingdom of God is a matter of spirit, and substance, and power, religion deals with spiritual-things in the theoretical. While the apostolic-witness occupied the realm of the former, the fifteen hundred years that followed consisted of a Christ-professing system occupying the realm of the latter – a period of darkness wherein little or nothing was known of the power of the kingdom of God. Nonetheless, presumption prevailed and religion was allowed to wear the façade of the true faith. The door of the kingdom remained shut.
The sixteenth-century Reformation represented the first cracking-open of that heavy door. This was accomplished through the recovery of certain vital truths, offering an avenue of escape from those superstitious and pagan practices of the dark ages that had blinded men to the gospel as the means of God’s revelation of Himself in the Person of Christ. And yet the Reformation was only that – a cracking of the door. Since that time the apostolic doctrines have been brought into very gradual and partial focus through the Spirit of God moving in men. With each recovery of an apostolic-truth there is often a witness of God to confirm the truth spoken.
The twentieth-century represented a particularly strong advance in the Apostolic-doctrine with the recovery of the Pentecostal-witness and the Pentecostal-doctrine. Particularly, I say, given that the principle of Pentecost itself represents the divine-agency (ie. power) to enter into the Kingdom of God. However, those discerning the present spiritual landscape will no doubt wonder what went wrong since Azusa Street! While there is evidence of the blowing of spiritual winds, one is hard-pressed to find the vital spiritual-governor of truth. We look upon a church that does not demonstrate aspirations for the things of heaven, nor exemplify the beauty of the kingdom of God that is her sanctification and the fruition of the Spirit’s baptism. Instead, we see an earthbound spectacle operating with the spirit of this world, wasted by egregious errors of doctrine and spirit. And if we speak frankly, the manifestation of demonic-personality seems to be commencing. Where there should be a light upon a lamp-stand and a city upon a hill, we see two fallen in a ditch – spiritual starvation, sickness, and death.
Nevertheless, the promises of God are true. Not only are they true but we have assurance from the Lord’s words:
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32
God desires His godly offspring. His good pleasure is that children be birthed into His eternal-kingdom. If; “this is the will of God, even your sanctification”, then are not even all things poised to bring this result? Is God aloof from the work that is His delight? “Shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?”
But as much as it is God’s will that we enter His kingdom, we cannot enter except by doing the will of God. It is God’s pleasure that we do His will. Jesus said:
Not every one that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matt. 7:21
And this should not be strange to our thinking. For the gospel is very clear that doing the will of God is the condition-precedent to receiving the promises of God.
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. Heb 10:36
Knowing the will of God comes through abiding in His Spirit. Our mind is thereby transformed into like-mindedness with Christ. In so doing we live (dwell) in the Spirit. Paul further urges us that:
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Gal 5:25
Through abiding in His Spirit we may do the will of God. This is the principle of eternal life.
And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides for ever. I John 2:17
Hence, we have the definition of salvation – the doing of the will of God. This is the kingdom of God.
If there seems something wanting in the modern-evangelical concept of saving-faith, this should cause us to investigate some underlying-issues as to what it is that is lacking in true gospel-doctrine leading to true gospel-light. Arguably it is this principle – that of regeneration that constitutes the critical-question. “What is it?” “When does it occur” “What is the evidence that it has occurred?” “What are the means of its procurement?” As this is the vital question for a groping-humanity (whether they perceive-it as such or not), it becomes the central-theme defining religious movements and denominations. Since Biblical-times the first events that resulted in these issues being raised with sufficient force so as to ultimately produce change and a new dawn of light are commonly considered to have occurred on October 31, 1517 at Wittenburg, Germany.
The pages that follow (and which constitute Part II of this treatise) will provide some context for the Lamp-Stand model we constructed and examined in Part I. For it is the lamp-stand design given to Moses which itself describes the Apostolic-doctrine relating to the work of the Holy Spirit which has been lost for so long and is now the subject of the restorative work of God.
b. Natural Observation Urged by the Divine-Counsel
We have the encouragement of the Lord Jesus Christ to simply apply our faculties of observation and reason or order to discern the times we are in. The gospel of Matthew recounts that upon His arrival by boat to the coast of Magdala . . .
The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that he would show them a sign from heaven. He answered & said unto them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.’ & in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O you hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky; but can you not discern the signs of the times? Matt. 16:2-3
Rather than looking for a divine sign, we are told to look to that which is merely natural, normative, and evident and to apply even natural faculties of reason. If God cannot speak to us here, a divine-sign will not go very far either (as we know from the parable of Lazarus). There will be miraculous signs, but alas, many of them shall be performed by false apostles and false prophets.
For there shall arise false christs, & false prophets, & shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matt. 24:24
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Mat 7:15
Their true-carnality is hidden behind a profession of faith in Christ. Their doctrine might even be orthodox. But while we are looking at them, we will not have our attention upon Jesus Christ and our responses as to the true stirrings of His Holy Spirit. Therefore we have the divine-warrant to use our natural faculties and discern the times in which we live that we may take warning or action as discernment requires. This would logically include a context for the times in which we live as well – something only history can provide.
c. Christ and His Church as the True Sign to be Observed
The prophecy of Isaiah includes a word of counsel for those looking for a sign from God:
“Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.” Is. 8:18
The context, again, is the “Lord of Hosts”, which is in reference to the sanctifying work of Christ Jesus. Therefore the writer to the Hebrews himself interprets this verse as meaning the following:
For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, . . Heb. 2:11
Clearly, Isaiah’s reference is to Jesus Christ and those sanctified in Himself as constituting “signs and wonders in Israel”. They are those who through the sanctification of the Spirit are brought into agreement with the Spirit of God and do the will of God.
And he answered and said unto them, “My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it. Luke 8:21
Recall God’s words to Abraham concerning his children:
And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendents be.” Gen. 15:5
Recall now the Creator’s expressed purpose in creating the stars of heaven:
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, & let them be for signs, & for seasons, & for days & years; Gen 1:14
Isaiah’s prophecy reads; “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel”. This is an extremely important concept to understand if we are to resist the false manifestations that may arise in the future. What are these “signs and wonders” represented in the statement; “I and the children whom the Lord has given me”? The answer is the miracle that is innate to the very meaning of sanctification in Christ! Recall that the prophecy provides two objects that are “for signs and wonders”. As to Christ, Jesus Himself declared to the Jews what sign they would be allowed:
“An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; & yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth.” Matt 12:39-40
The Lord was repeating what was declared through Isaiah; This is the sign you will be given! For this is the issue of faith! The “sign” will be My life, My death, and My resurrection. These are the signs that are manifested to the heart by the Holy Spirit. This is even the purpose of prophecy, which repeatedly urges us to “behold” (ie. Christ) with the eyes of our heart; “Behold . . .
– a virgin shall conceive (Is. 7:14)
– I lay in Zion . . . a foundation a stone (Is. 28:16)
– a king shall reign in righteousness (Is. 32:1)
– I have given him for a witness to the people (Is. 55:4)
Did those to whom the sign was given believe that God “is,” and that God has provided salvation even in Himself? Could they comprehend that even God Himself would be the surety of our salvation? If not, no miraculous sign would suffice to change the fundamental problem; the absence of faith.
The evidence of the Spirit’s work in the church is a valid sign attesting to the work of God and truth of Jesus Christ allowing the world to believe so as to be saved. This hope of righteousness constitutes the salvation of God for those He has called. This is the faith of the apostles:
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Gal 5:5
With the understanding that it is Jesus Christ and His body the church that constitute the true sign to be believed it does not seem unreasonable to consider the last five hundred years of how the Holy Spirit has moved upon men in the way of spirit and truth.
d. Truth in a Restorative-Process
While some will suppose we occupy a period of church-history wherein the gospel has been restored, it would seem much more accurate to describe our period as a time in which the apostolic gospel is in the process of restoration. This point would seem clear if we consider the last five hundred years of church-history.
We occupy a period of time that itself follows a period of over fourteen centuries of abject darkness in which the gospel was virtually absent but for the fragments of names, places, and events upon which western-culture could build a system of superstitious and pagan ritual. This inexplicable period of darkness since the first century finally had its bare substratum uncovered through the Reformation. Since that time the apostolic-doctrines have undergone a methodical-process of re-assemblage, aided along the way through spiritual awakenings and movements of God that have occurred from time to time throughout.
Our abbreviated review of the last five hundred years of this history is by no means adequate. There are many wonderful books that would provide a much more detailed account of church history – some of which have been looked to in the preparation of this review. The purpose here is to provide a rough historical context in which to present the Lampstand model. Bear in mind that the intent is not to recite the broad and general history of church doctrine, but rather to follow best we can that vein of the progress of consequential doctrine that tends to approximate the movement of the Spirit of God and that runs a path along which religious-movements arise, leaving new denominations in their wake. These movements do not always nor necessarily represent an advancement in doctrine, but they do represent distinctive movements that stand significant and merit our consideration in the attempt to understand how and why doctrine progressed as it did. However, at various-points we may perceive occasions wherein it appears the apostolic doctrine was truly-advanced in such a way that for one to maintain a way of truth would have required the acceptance-of and participation-in the attending-movement.
The first example would be the sixteenth-century Protestant reformation, in which a fundamental truth obscured in the darkness of nearly fourteen-hundred years was suddenly put-forward and advanced in such a way as to be either stood for or resisted, so as to give occasion for the Lord’s words:
He that is not with Me is against Me; & he that gathers not with Me, scatters abroad. Mat 12:30
The purpose of this review is two-fold, that being to provide an historical-context of where we are today in terms of doctrinal truth, and also to diagram the mechanics of these reassembled-doctrinal principles. Typically, those that have some familiarity with these concepts, will be pre-committed to a doctrinal-position. Therefore a rehearsal of history and review of its doctrinal-struggles seems critical to a perspective on where we stand in the present-day. It might also be added that because an apostolic truth may be missing or neglected does not mean the truth itself, its effect, or manifestation is missing or non-effectual. However, it seems clear from history that true experience tends to follow true doctrine.
In the course of the last five hundred years there have arisen movements of true religion that seem to have advanced some important truth not widely-received since the apostolic-times. It is arguable that there have also arisen pseudo-movements of religion that seem to have undermined truth’s-advance. But in either case, men are presented with very real and stark choices as to how to align their minds and their hearts; whether toward a full embracing of the message brought, or whether toward disbelief, and which (assuming the work to be of God) inevitably leads to a despising of the message, its messenger and its source. Paul expresses this principle when he quotes from the prophecy of Habakkuk:
“Behold you scoffers, & marvel & perish; For I am accomplishing a work in your days, A work which you will never believe though someone should describe it to you.” Acts 13:41
At a time when the Holy Spirit was bringing the truth that would advance the kingdom of God, there was a common reaction among the perishing who heard the Word-preached, saw the works of the Spirit of God testifying of Christ, and yet did not join God’s Spirit in agreement as to what was the “good thing” He would have made known and given men – that wonderfully awesome gift given to Abraham through a promise – the gift of Himself – in the Person of Christ.
“Fear not Abram; I am thy shield, & thy exceeding great reward.” Gen. 15:1
With the herald of this promise we also have the apostolic warning; “Behold you scoffers, & marvel & perish”. And why are they to perish? This is the work of God; “a work which you will never believe though someone should describe it to you.” This is the gospel; the herald of a work that God shall do by faith to bring man into unity with Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. Therefore here is the dilemma faced by “those to whom the Word of God came” of every generation since the ministry of John the Baptist and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As the recipients of the true doctrine sealed their testimony in blood, so has true doctrine been restored by this means. After over a thousand years of idol veneration, superstitious ritual, vain and incomprehensible religious services conducted in Latin, and robed clerics calling themselves “the Church” while clamoring after earthly-power, truth did not come easy. We should remind ourselves of the darkness that preceded the reformation and the suffering required before some constancy of doctrinal truth was restored. This reminder is particularly-necessary in this day when we are prone to the assumption that doctrine has always been what it is! It has not! And history will indicate that the gospel is in a reparative process, and that the prophecy of Isaiah is very relevant to us today:
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. Is. 61:4
For many generations God’s word was not accessible to the common people. Until shortly before the Reformation, the Bible was not even allowed to be translated into the common languages. In fact, the institutional “Church” taught that the true “Church” was the clergy, and not the laity. And since the clergy made up the true body of Christ, it was sufficient that the clergy be able to read and understand holy Scripture as it was primarily concerned with themselves. Thus when John Wcyliffe had the audacity to translate the New Testament into the common English, the famous cry went out; “The jewel of the clergy has become the toy of the laity.” And so we begin with this very early reformer, John Wycliffe and those that spent their liberty and their blood for the cause of restoring the true doctrine of Scripture to mankind.
 I Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.”
 Acts 1:5 . . they asked Him, saying, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel”
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.”
 Malachi 2:15 “. . that he might seek a godly seed”
 I Thessalonians 4:3
 Isaiah 66:9
 Luke 16:31 “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
 John 10:35
 Wikipedia from the biography of John Wycliffe.