From Basic Principles to the Cross

1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

3 And this will we do, if God permit.

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Heb. 6:1-12

The meaning of this scripture is clear: the church must move on, on to maturity. It must not remain forever teaching the Christian basic principles of “baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”

The Bible says we must leave these. Moreover, the Bible relates our dwelling on these principles as a recipe for sinning against God. How is that so? Because these are basic principles in Christianity, and if we are not taught anything else beyond these, we will remain spiritual babes all our lives; and spiritual babes cannot stop sinning against God. If we do not progress beyond these principles, we shall be prone to constantly sin against God. And if we keep sinning, we risk dying spiritually.

7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

However, if we move on to maturity by being taught and holding onto the doctrine of maturity: “Jesus Christ and him crucified”, we shall arrive at the place where we are not sinning any more, and this is God’s perfect will for our lives. This was the doctrine that the early apostles taught in every church. This was the doctrine of which the Apostle Paul bound himself to know, and nothing else.

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2).

This was the doctrine that he taught the Corinthians and it made them to stop walking after the flesh and to begin walking in the Spirit (1 Corinthians chapters 2 and 3).

In the absence of this doctrine, the church quickly reverts to the flesh, for the power of God is no longer operating in their midst. The Bible declares that the doctrine of the cross is the power and wisdom of God.

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

“23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:23, 24)

That is why a believer should move on from the church he started in if it continues preaching the same doctrine into his 20th year. Some churches never change their teachings. There are some churches and ministries which are actually dedicated to teaching principles like faith in God, and they have been teaching faith and nothing else for decades.

In mainstream Pentecostalism, the basic teaching is – and should be – that God is love. That we are God’s children, and that all God wants to do is to bless us. That is the doctrine of faith, and we should believe it. But we ought to move on.

The Pauline epistles clearly indicate that, after we have been taught the basic principles of Christianity, we should move on and be taught to deny self, to take up our cross and follow Christ. That is the only way we are going to grow into spiritual maturity and:

  1. Stop forever acting like babies and become responsible heavenly subjects; and
  2. Walk in the perfection of God by not sinning against Him.

After the initial act of salvation, God has another work to do in us. We cannot be forever singing, “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good”. That can only be acceptable with God if we are doing God’s will in our lives. But we all know that doing God’s will cannot be accomplished by singing “God is good” all our lives. The Bible says:

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” (1 The. 4:3)

We must move on from learning these principles and begin doing God’s will by dealing with our flesh.

This is the purpose of this blog. This blog is dedicated to teaching the church the doctrine of the cross of Jesus Christ. Not that I, the writer, consider myself to be anything. I am nothing. But God has an agenda which He desires to communicate to us, His children. The Apostle Paul wrote:

“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (1 Cor. 15:11)

It does not matter the person through whom we receive this message: it is the Holy Spirit, after all, who delivers it. The important thing on our part is that we believe it.

[God’s Word directs us to move on to maturity through the revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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Itching Ears vs God’s Word – Part 1

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Tim. 4:1-4

[Before saying anything, let me express my heartfelt condolences and empathy to the victims and relatives of all who who were killed or injured during the Bastille Day terrorist attack this Thursday in France. Mine are not mere words, but my heart is torn apart by the violence that we are witnessing in every corner of the world on an almost daily basis. France has been hit particularly hard by terrorists, and my heart goes out to this lovely nation. May God bless and comfort you all.

All said and done, it is time for everyone to turn to God through believing the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.]

Now, to the main article…

The Apostle Paul wrote many warnings and many “charges”, or commandments, to his spiritual son Timothy. This was because Paul, being an apostle and a prophet, saw in the Spirit things that would happen in the future, and what he saw troubled him greatly. He saw a time of great apostasy within the church, when God’s people would shun the truth and hanker after doctrines that would cater to the flesh. And it was revealed to him that there would be no shortage of preachers to lead God’s people down that road.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy there would come “perilous” times (1 Tim. 3:1), and that these times would occur on Timothy’s watch. “Perilous” means dangerous. Dangerous times for the church would come in Timothy’s time.

And so here we see Paul charging Timothy, and that before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to… “Preach the word”. Then he adds something else there: preach “sound doctrine”.

What is “the word”? The Word of God is scripture. In our case, it is the Bible. The Bible is the reference point of everything we say or do. This was the same Book that was there in the early church’s time, even if not in its entirety. Jesus Himself stuck to scripture.

Here Paul was therefore telling Timothy: “You must be a stickler to the holy scriptures”.

I love that with all my heart. Sticking to the Bible seems to be a problematic thing with believers in our day. People read out the Bible all right, but they cannot seem to align their words (and actions) to what the Word says. More so, sound doctrine is lacking in an even greater extent in today’s church. People prefer to hear things that tickle them. But, if we are to believe Paul’s words here (which we should), sound doctrine has been lacking in the church for a long, long time. Two thousand years, to be exact.

Do you believe that Timothy met with the state of affairs that Paul describes in his two letters to him? I believe he did.

And so, therefore, Paul commands Timothy to “preach the Word”. God’s Word would be the answer to the coming apostasy.

It is incredible how the Word of God has been compromised today. I once attended a burial service in our town and the preacher who was to deliver the sermon, a man whom I knew well, read a scripture from the Book of Philippians. There was a huge crowd there that day and when it came to hearing the Word of God, there was dead silence. In our country, people respect the Word of God. They may not necessarily believe it, but they have a primitive fear of God.

The air was absolutely clear and, as the man read the scripture, I could feel every word dropping into my heart. So much so that I could also feel the hairs on my body stand. The Word of God, when read under certain circumstances, is tremendously powerful. I am sure that God wanted to speak to the sea of people there that day, and that He gave the man that particular scripture to read. God loves His people, and He wanted to bless them.

But it was not to be. It is beyond belief what happened the minute the preacher began his sermon. The minute he closed his Bible and began preaching, the man of God shot off on a tangent and from the first sentence to the last, nothing he said had any connection with the powerful scripture he had just read.

Utterly deflated and shocked, I looked for some shade and sat down. But I was not entirely surprised. I had known for some time that many preachers today read the Word of God in church only as a formality, but what they speak afterwards is the fruit of their mind rather than obeying God’s command to “preach the word”.

Amongst the more progressive circles within the church today, motivational speaking takes the place of preaching the Word. Preachers say things which have no basis in the Word of God and they expand on them to invent doctrines. The Bible calls these things “fables”. Motivational speaking in church creates “fables”. And here we are talking of Pentecostal churches.

This was what Paul warned Timothy about. In other words, he commanded Timothy to stick to the Word. He instructed him not to give heed to fanciful ideas that might come from his head – and from a lustful heart.

Let me end by saying that if there was a way to force preachers to stick to the Word of God, many – very many – would drop from ministry. Probably out of every ten preachers only one would remain. The situation is that serious. This is because these preachers would find in the Word truths that they are currently not aware of, either due to a lack of revelation, or simply because they cannot “endure sound doctrine” and they deliberately ignore Biblical truth. They would find that there are many things that they cannot speak and do. They would find, for example, that the Word of God curtails the freedom that they exercise in formulating their own doctrines. They would find, too, that the church is not there to amass worldly wealth. The church is not to say, “We are blessed” simply because someone has purchased a new car or a new private jet.

In the early days of my salvation, in the 1990s, preachers were attracted to a Korean car called Musso Ssangyong. Urban-based preachers competed to own a Musso. That was the “blessing” in those years. Many years later I would meet with those same Mussos, now very old, spewing smoke on the road like furnaces, and dragging to one side.

Today’s “blessings” amongst preachers consist of private jets and private estates. They, too, will pass away.

True blessings, however, are of the Spirit. It says so in Ephesians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

You don’t see a private jet mentioned there, do you? That is the heart of God.

[This is one of my favorite songs. I hope you enjoy it]

The Apostolic Message (Part 2)

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Gal. 1:8-9

Again, here, before we talk about the apostle and his message, let me state what an apostle is not. There are many things that a true apostle of Jesus Christ is not. But for fear of getting bogged down with these explanations, I will cut through to the heart of the matter and mention the two most important things that an apostle is not, beginning with number two.

The secondary explanation of what an apostle is not is that an apostle is not a person who peddles the Word of God for monetary or any other worldly gain – fame, position, etc.

In 2 Cor. 2:17 the Apostle Paul writes, For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”

‘Corruption’ here means to twist, or to dilute the Word of God for carnal gain.

Now, unless you are an alien just dropped in from Mars, you most certainly are aware that in the church today there are many preachers who are doing just that – twisting scripture for their personal gain. These are, in effect, crooks. But the church is so blind it holds these villains in the highest esteem. It is no secret that many of the most highly regarded preachers today, whether in Africa, Europe or the U.S., are in this category; but again, if one does not see, they do not see.

People flow to these churches like the Nile River.

But, in his day, the Apostle Paul saw in the Spirit and exposed these villains for who they were. He said of them: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13).

Let us move on and see even further. Let us see the really important description of what an apostle is not.

The primary description of what a true apostle of Jesus Christ is not is SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL THAT THE APOSTLE PAUL PREACHED. This is who a true apostle is not. Any ‘apostle’ who does not carry the message that the Apostle Paul carried is a false apostle. Paul himself says as much in Galatians 1:8-9:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

This is our primary scripture in this second part of this series. Notice the emphasis that Paul lays on this particular aspect of his ministry… the gospel that he preached. It points to the importance that he attached to the particular message that he carried.

This is a subject that needs to be laid to rest within the church once and for all. Just as in Paul’s day, today there is an influx into the church of people calling themselves apostles. But in the scripture we just saw in 2 Corinthians 2:17, the Apostle Paul says that not a few of these, but “many… corrupt the word of God.

And how come these ‘corrupters’ are so many? They say supply goes with demand. It means there is a demand by God’s people for this corruption. When there is a lack of spiritual revelation within the church as the early church had, people see only the world, and in that kind of atmosphere these kinds of preachers slide into the church as naturally as breathing air. Actually, the church welcomes them in with open arms.

In our final instalment in this series, following, we will look at the message that the first apostles and the early church carried.

[In a humble café in rural Singida, a man enjoys his early morning breakfast of ‘chapati’, beans and black tea]

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A Time for Sound Doctrine

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Tim. 4:1-4

The Apostle Paul laid out this charge in the most serious manner he could to his young ward, Timothy, because in the Spirit he foresaw a time of great apostasy coming to the church. The Book of Timothy is there in the Bible because the Holy Spirit also foresaw our times and He knew that they would be exactly as they were to be during Timothy’s tenure of ministry.

There is an incredibly large number of fake “ministers of the Word” today. It is so clear that these men and women are false ministers of the gospel. Everyone can see it. Even a drunk seated at a bar can clearly tell that many ministers masquerading in church today are not true ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone and everything in the world is screaming out aloud that there is something amiss within the church!

And yet, strange as it may seem, you will find genuine born-again believers seated in these same churches, watching and listening to these preachers. More extraordinarily, however, is that you will find these born-again believers enjoying themselves immensely in such churches.

Just to give an example, I recently saw on TV a young African preacher teaching that the gospel is a mystery. That sounded scriptural all right, so I sat down to listen. Then this young preacher started “doing things”. He began explaining that one way in which God is a mystery is that He can play with babies in their mothers’ tummies. And right there he began singing, “Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit…” – and immediately, all the pregnant women in that church began moving their tummies and waists in a decidedly obscene manner.

But the truly amazing thing is that although that church was packed to capacity with people whom you could gauge were of sound minds, yet not one of them stood up and did the least that anyone could have done in such a situation, which was to walk out. Instead, these people sat there and they clearly were enjoying the explicitly lewd show that was going on in their midst, laughing and cheering at the gyrating tummies..

I sat there and wondered: where is any of this in the Bible? And where did this young man come from?

But I probably shouldn’t have been so naïve, for the Bible expressly says that in the latter times God’s people “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

In other words, the Bible is saying that it is the people of God themselves who will bring in and egg on these preachers to do these kind of things, so they can “have a good time” in church.

The fact is, people today just love these kinds of things. They are not interested in whatever God calls the truth anymore. People – believers – today love their own selves more than they love God, and they are actually in church to pleasure their flesh. They go to church to satisfy the lusts of their own flesh, and their itching ears. And if an obscene act is carried out in church in the name of the gospel, so much the better!

But the Apostle Paul charges Timothy: “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (v.5)

A carnal believer would never love affliction. Nor would he want to be engaged in any “watching”. No. The flesh loves the good life. It loves the soft life.

In other words, Paul was warning Timothy that in days to come, a literal tsunami of the flesh would descend upon the church and that therefore he, as a young preacher, ought to be prepared for this.

In the days that we are living, the words of the Apostle Paul concerning the church have proved to be doubly true. All the more reason for the true men of God to rise up and preach the true gospel, the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ, without thinking of being too “politically correct” within a dying church.

[In the African savannah, the acacia tree is king!]

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Seducing Spirits and Doctrines of Devils – Part 2

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 1 Tim. 4:1-6

Have you ever heard of cluster bombs? They are bombs that are released from a single ‘mother’ bomb (I suppose), and they scatter all over the place. They do much more damage than a single bomb would.

In the spirit, cluster bombs are what people of God come against when they depart from the faith. Notice in the scripture above that it is not people giving heed to a seducing spirit or to a doctrine of a devil, no. On the contrary, there is a multitude of demons out there, all with the singular purpose of dispersing many wrong doctrines, and spreading much deception.

And how do God’s people become ensnared by these demonic doctrines? It is when they depart from the truth. There is a departing from the truth. And the Bible says that a time will come when God’s people will depart from following the truth.

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The Bible declares that we have loved the lie more than the truth. And you do not have to be demon-possessed to believe in demonically-inspired doctrines.

Today in Christendom, apart from those demonic doctrines that Paul mentions in the above scripture (forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats), there are many more that the devil has released from his arsenal.

In mainstream Pentecostalism, the prosperity gospel probably tops the list of suspect ‘faiths’. This gospel is more widely accepted than any other false teachings because it caters so well to the flesh. Who does not love the good life?

But you will not find this teaching in the New Testament, not an iota of it. All the Bible says is that if we have food and clothing, these things are sufficient for us and that true riches constitute being content with them (1 Tim. 6:5-10) as long as we are living Godly lives. That is as far as the Bible goes with material or worldly “prosperity”.

Material and financial riches are all right, if God chooses to bless us with them. But they do not form any part of the New Testament teachings. And they are certainly not the spiritual blessings that God promised Abraham, our father of faith. The Bible talks of our father Abraham, who was rich in worldly possessions, in this manner:

“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

If we were to agree with the proponents of the prosperity message, we would not be in league with the Old Testament partriarchs, the OT prophets, our Lord Jesus Himself, the Early Church, nor the apostles of Christ.

The minute the church leaves the central message of Jesus of denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ (Mat. 16:24), we throw ourselves wide open for the devil to attack and defeat us because we have given him the one weapon he needs to defeat us – our flesh.

The first man, Adam, had a problem. The Bible says,

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).

The flesh was alive in Eve and Adam, and sin found a foothold.

In the second Adam, Christ, the flesh has been crucified. At the cross Christ completely and utterly defeated Satan through defeating sin – by crucifying the body of sinful flesh..

“3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).

The cross is the only place where we can crucify the flesh and defeat the devil. The truth of the Bible is the cross.

We have a choice. We could choose to ally ourselves with the victory that Christ got on the cross, by crucifying the deeds of our flesh; or we could ally ourselves with the flesh – and become susceptible to every new doctrine the devil brings in through his seducing spirits and devils.

And demonic doctrines play havoc with people’s lives. There is no questioning the fact that the doctrine of “forbidding to marry”, in particular, has wrought incredible destruction in the lives of men, women and children. Having been swept under the carpet through the centuries, today that damage is headline news even in the secular world.

Likewise, the prosperity gospel has wreaked havoc in the lives of men and women. This is especially so in Third World countries where poverty is rife. Unscrupulous preachers have used this gospel to enrich themselves at the expense of poor believers. The preachers tell their flock to bring in all their wealth, with the promise of “reaping a hundredfold”, and other false promises.

Moreover, today material and financial “gain” is touted as godliness in church. The wealthier one is “in Christ”, the more spiritual they are considered. But notice Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:5: “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself”.

“From such withdraw thyself”. Withdraw yourself from whom? From men who suppose that gain is godliness. Withdraw yourself from men who teach that the more prosperous you are materially, the closer you are to God. That is the spirit of the world. In the world, the closer you get to the center of power, the more affluent you become.

“From such withdraw thyself”. That’s the final nail in the prosperity gospel’s coffin.

There are many other virulent doctrines within the church today, but we do not have the opportunity to deal with them here.

The bottom line is that these doctrines do not deal with sin. They do nothing to transform men and women into the image of Jesus Christ. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is about a transformation. The message of a transformed life was the singular gospel that the Early Church heard and preached.

And tragedy of it all is that the minute we leave off following this message of transformation, as the scriptures so clearly warn us, we throw ourselves wide open to deception.

[Below: “Oh, happy day!”]

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Seducing Spirits and Doctrines of Devils – Part 1

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 1 Tim. 4:1-5

There is no single word, or combination of words, in any language, that could possibly convey the astonishment and the horror of how a ‘Christian’ denomination or sect that is clearly un-Biblical can be brought about and instituted on a worldwide scale through people giving heed to “seducing spirits” and “devils”. In other words, how the danger of a lack of spiritual revelation can lead to the birthing of ‘Christian’ denominations which carry demonic doctrines, and how these doctrines can become acceptable to so many believers.

It is a truly incomprehensible.

But this danger is exactly what Paul warns Timothy about in this scripture. “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats were teachings that were not there in Paul’s day. But the Holy Spirit through Paul spoke of the emergence of these doctrines “in the latter times”. Today, these very doctrines have the majority of God’s people in their grip. Paul’s prophecy has clearly been fulfilled and we are living in the very times.

Had you told someone in Paul’s time that there were such denominations around, they would have had a hard time finding them. But we cannot say that today. Today, these denominations are the vanguard of what is considered Christian in today’s world.

What a farcical turnaround!

The cold fact is that people have deliberately cast aside the truth of God, and have willingly embraced deception.

I want to use this post (and probably the next two) to show how easily the remnant church (for today’s true church is only a remnant) can also be easily ensnared by false teachings and find themselves following after false teachings, bearing in mind always that the Bible here warns us that in the last days there will be seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.

Paul did not write to Timothy things which he knew would not affect the church. He knew there were doctrinal dangers that would become all too real to the true church of Christ. That is why he tells him,

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (v. 6).

In other words, Timothy had become such a good follower of Paul that he had “attained” to an understanding of “the words of faith and of good doctrine” which Paul carried.

Clearly, many had not. Some had fallen by the way, of whom were Hymenaeus, Alexander, Demas and others (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 4:10).

Many more were trudging wearily along, not fully committed. Not once did the Apostle Paul find himself all alone, with only a handful of disciples willing to identify with his situation and the doctrine that he carried.

In the light of the false doctrines that we take so lightly today, I believe it is time to warn the church to beware lest they find themselves missing the mark, and taking a different road than the road that leads us to an attainment of the maturity and perfection and unity in Christ, which is the three-fold purpose for which the gospel has been preached to us.

[Below: A bus bound for Arusha. The city of Arusha is the main tourist destination in Tanzania, mainly because of the major natural attractions surrounding it: the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro, amongst many others]

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God’s One Church

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours 1 Cor. 1:1-2

“The church of God which is at Corinth”. Have you heard that kind of language lately? No – unless you just dropped from Mars. But that is the language that needs to come back into the church today.

Notice that the Corinthian church was not someone’s church. Paul does not say, “My church”, although he was the one who birthed the Corinthian church in the Spirit (Acts 18; 1 Cor. 4:15). Actually, Paul never claimed to own any church, although all these churches were the fruit of his labors. He only defended the gospel of Christ and God’s people.

And therefore Paul through the Holy Spirit informs the striving Corinthians that the church is God’s property.

Today there are people who own churches, duly registered in their names, and no one is allowed to raise a finger or a voice in these churches without their permission. These churches and ‘ministries’ are their own private property and “trespassers will be prosecuted”!

The word “church” has largely lost meaning in today’s context.

And here Paul was writing to just such a divided church and he chose his words carefully.

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours”.

This statement reveals the spiritual calibre of the Apostle Paul. I think the word “calibre” is often associated with the power a gun can pack. Paul was a man of the greatest calibre. Not everyone could say those words in exactly the way Paul said them. But even much fewer people could live them. Paul both stated and lived them fully.

In a single phrase, Paul put everyone on the same pedestal. Here he does not address the ‘Apollo-nians’, the ‘Paul-ites’, the ‘Cephas-ites’ nor the ‘Christ-ianites’ (v.12). Instead, he addresses “the church of God at Corinth”. In a single word – church – Paul manages to bring out the fact that they are one. Moreover, he says, it is not just them, but this union is inclusive of all who in any place call on the name of the Lord; in other words, everyone the world over who has been born of the Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ. He tells them that Jesus is Lord equally to every believer: “Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours”.

What a humble heart this is! Paul here reveals the universality of Christ’s church. How much below this standard can we be if we cannot even bond with the brethren we are with in the same church?

Have you ever seen a complete stranger calling upon the name of Jesus Christ? In years gone by, if you met with a saved person, you never enquired any further about them. The minute you learned they were saved, they became family.

Granted, today there are all sorts of crooks masquerading as Christians, and one needs to be careful. But we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we can always tell the counterfeit from the genuine.

But, even much closer home, how about that brother or sister with whom you worship together in the same church – is there a testimony in your heart that they acknowledge Jesus as Lord in their lives? Or even your wife or husband, or children. The people closest to us are the people that we mostly take for granted.

If these people call upon Jesus as Lord, then right here the Bible declares that Jesus is as much their Lord as He is ours. There is no difference between them and us. Actually, what makes us think of ourselves more highly than others in any situation is always – always – human pride. A true, born-again believer is humble to the extent that the next person is always – always – better than they.

Our Lord Jesus Christ laid out the example to follow when He, being God, humbled himself and “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:7-8

Humility is the only key that can bring about this view of a universal church to our hearts. And Paul the humble servant became the ultimate universal preacher. His sense of church encompassed every believer. In fact, if you read some of Paul’s other epistles you will find that he took in people whom we probably wouldn’t be willing to consider as part of God’s church.

That was why he could work with anyone in the ministry, as long as he could establish that the person was called of God.

One of the results of the lack of this revelation in the church today is that people become protective of such things as ‘their’ flock, ‘their’ positions, ‘their’ ministries, ‘their’ church names, and many other things which in their pride they have personalized. They have no idea of how God works to feed and nurture His church. In this kind of environment, there is no idea of unity, and no vision of teamwork.

But the worst result is that the church remains dis-united, fragmented along fickle denominational and other human fault lines.

With such a carnal frame of mind, the church of Jesus Christ will never grow beyond toddler stage, and that’s a fact.

We need a revelation in our hearts – a revelation of the universality of the church, built on that one foundation of Christ, and Him crucified.

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