Law and Grace in Church Clothing

There is an increasing trend towards becoming trendy at church, which is not always bad. We must make a distinction between faith and culture; culture is dynamic and flexible; faith has to be absolute. The problem rises when faith attempts to claim elements of culture in order to sacralize them and render them inflexible. When faith tries to do that, then the result is a legalistic religious system that is very fundamentalistic. These issues were earlier discussed here. However, grace is not lawless either. The New Testaments cautions us against those who attempt to turn the grace of God into license for evil (Jude 1:4, NET).

Take the Example of Clothing

Let’s begin at the pulpit and one immediately notes at least 5 variants:
1. Those who stick to orthodox robes and cassocks or sacralized color definitions (e.g. white)
2. Those who stress on wearing business suits or traditional suits
3. Those who like to wear designer and more trendy clothes
4. Those who like to wear casuals.
5. Those who are comfortable with two or more of the combinations above
    (a) Those who are comfortable with 1-4
    (b) Those who are comfortable with 2-4
    (c) Those who are comfortable with 1,2,4 but not 3
    (d) Those who are comfortable with 2,3,4 but not 1
    (e) Those who are comfortable with only 2 and 4.
    (f) Those who are comfortable with only 1 and 2.
    (g) Those who stick to 2 and 3 or 3 and 4.

It is not attempted to state here who is right and who is wrong. However, it will become evident to the reader by now that the issue of law and grace is basic even to the kind of dress we choose to wear to church.

Now, while it does seem that the sacralizers (1) are particularly legalistic, the fact is that even those who maintain that only casuals “ought” to be worn to church are not less legalistic. On the other hand, there are those who look at dress in a more instrumental manner, as something to be used to suit some purpose. The wiser instrumentalists also know that dress-forms as cultural forms also communicate meanings and are cautious how they dress up. There are also revolutionaries who dress up to explicitly and blatantly communicate their revolt against some legalistic system. Then, there are the popularists who dress up in order to have a trendy following or to create a brand.

“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” (Rom.12:2)

“those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. For the present shape of this world is passing away.”(1Cor.7:31)

“to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” (1Tim.2:9)

Suitable apparel refers to dress that suits the occasion and is comfortable to wear in the conditions. Modesty implies that the dress we wear must not be embarrassing and must protect shame, not be shameless and exposing privacy; dress must be honorable. Self-control means that our dress must not be provocative or appealing to the flesh but must exhibit self-control, temperance, and sound mind.

Christ the Anointed One

Published in Revive Magazine, Dec 23, 2016

THE titles “Christos” (Christ) in the Greek New Testament and “Mashiyach” (Messiah) in the Hebrew Old Testament mean “The Anointed One”. While there were many men who were anointed as prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament period, it is only Jesus who is particularly referred to as the Anointed One of God. Therefore, the title “Christ” or “Messiah” exclusively applies to Him alone. In this article, we will focus on an attempt to understand Christ as the Anointed One of God.

The Unity of Christ’s Anointing

A careful study of the Bible shows us the singularity and unity of Christ’s anointing as the Anointed Priest-Prophet-King of God—not three separate anointings, separate of each other, but one. He IS the Anointed One and His anointing includes all the offices of God’s work (of Mediatorship, of Manifestation, and of Mastership) through Him in the world. We can understand Him as the Priest-Prophet-King, the Divine Lord of the universe, the Image of the Invisible God (not made in the image, but is the image, Col.1:15), God, the Anointer, and the All-sufficient One.

The Anointed One is the Revelation of God (Prophet), the Ruler of all creation (Prince), and the Reconciler of all things (Priest) through whom and for whom is everything and in whom alone can all things be reconciled and be united (Col. 1:16; Eph.1:10). Therefore, we are saved, justified, can pray, and can have dominion in the Name of Jesus alone.

The Eternality of Christ’s Anointing

Under the Mosaic Law, the anointed priest (hakohen hamashiach) was one who was appointed in time, had to offer sacrifices for his own sins, and could be succeeded by another upon his death (Lev.6:20; 4:3; 6:22). The term of an earthly priest was finite; the rituals, repetitive; the effects, impermanent and imperfect. However, the office of Christ as the Anointed One of God is eternal, transcending the limits of time. Therefore, His one act of sacrifice was sufficient for eternity and His effects are absolute, permanent, perfect, and irreversible.

He incarnated as man in time. But as God, He is eternal. Therefore, His anointing is not contingent upon His humanity – i.e., one cannot say that Christ could not be called the Anointed One until after His incarnation as man. On the contrary, His anointing is independent of His humanity since He is the Source of all things and all things are through Him and for Him. It is because He is the Anointed One that He possessed the prerogative to incarnate as man and atone for the sins of the world. In that, His anointing preceded His incarnation. This is what Hebrews 1-2 is attempting to also teach us. Every time we have a heavenly declaration, we are told that He is the Son of God.

For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Heb 1:5-9)

Now, it is possible that someone will argue, “See, there is use of tense here! And, we are told that God anointed Jesus because He loved righteousness.”. But, one must not forget that this declaration is not in time, but in eternity. Though He is the Anointed One because of the anointing, this precedence of anointing is not chronological but logical in the same way that He is called the begotten Son of God, but this begetting is not chronological, for He eternally is the Son of God. The angels did not begin worshipping Him after His ascension, but He is the One they worshipped from the foundation of the world. Also, it is false to argue that God anointed Jesus as King only after His ascension. He is King eternally.

It is also wrong to think of Him as being anointed by the Holy Spirit only after His baptism. He was never without the fullness of the Holy Spirit. But, some may misunderstand the statement of Peter in Acts 10:38.

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Act 10:38)

It is important to understand that it is not the manifestation of the Spirit in Jesus that made Him the Anointed One. But, because He was the Anointed One, therefore, there was the manifestation of the Spirit in His work. Therefore, John could say only of Him:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Mat 3:11)

It was not that He received the baptism of the Holy Spirit first and then He became the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit; but, He is the Baptizer eternally.

The eternal Priest-King anointing of Christ is stated by the writer of Hebrews as being after the order of Melchizedek:

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God… first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually…. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” …. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:1-3, 15-17, 23-25)

The Finality of Christ’s Anointing

The earthly priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil and ministered in divinely ordered earthly systems; therefore, they had to be respected (1Chr.16:22 – “Do not touch My anointed ones”). However, Christ the Anointed One was anointed with the Holy Spirit, eternally speaking in logical precedence, and He is servant of heavenly things.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation…. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these [animal sacrifices], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb 9:11. 23-24)

Christ is the Final Revelation of God through whom God has spoken in these last days (Heb.1:1,2) and is the fulfillment of all prophetic revelation (1Pet.1:10,11; Rev.19:10). He is the King of kings whose kingdom shall never come to an end (Rev.19:16). He is the Eternal Priest of God whose priesthood continues forever by the power of His endless life (Heb.7:25). This points to the sufficiency and finality of Christ in all things so that we are complete in Him (Col.2:9). It also speaks about the heavenliness of God’s new and final order and the Kingdom that comes from heaven, without the help of any human hand (Dan 2:34,44,45). This turns our eyes towards heavenly things where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God and in whom is our life hidden (Col.3:1-3).

Davidic Line and the Melchizedek Order

The priesthood of Christ was not after the Levitical order of Aaron, for Jesus was born in the tribe of Judah and His priesthood was after the order of Melchizedek, i.e. eternal (Heb.7:14-17). However, the kingship was given to the line of David by a divine covenant (2 Sam.7:12-16). Thus, in the Old Testament, we find Messianic prophecies that refer to Christ as David. For instance,

There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. (Psa 132:17)
I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them– My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. (Eze 34:23)
David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. (Eze 37:24)

Yet, the Kingship of Christ preceded both Saul and David (1Sam. 8:7). Christ used a prophetic declaration made by David himself to prove to the Jews that the Messiah was not later but prior and above David.

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him `Lord,’ saying: `The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool ‘? If David then calls Him `Lord,’ how is He his Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore. (Mat 22:41-46)

Conclusion

There is a danger in the Church of turning the eyes from the Anointed One to so-called “anointed” ones. Remember, even the devil was called an anointed cherub (Eze.28:14), but that anointing or chosenness didn’t make him spiritually flawless and perfect. He became puffed up with pride and fell from the glory of God. It is important for the Church to focus her eyes on Christ, the Anointed One of God, her Head, her Groom. In the New Testament, there is no anointing apart from the Spirit of Christ in us (1Jn.2:27). Because we belong to Christ and His Spirit is in us, therefore, we are witnesses of Christ the fulfillment of all prophecy, and we are kings and priests with Him.

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Rev 1:5-6)

Vacuums, Covetousness, Temptation, and Victory

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psa 23:1)
You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col 2:10)

Covetousness is the desire-call of false and godless vacuum. Covetousness never desires God to fill its emptiness, boredom, greed, or desire because its hunger is false and godless. Covetousness looks for something more, something different, something other and is easily deceived into taking the unreal for real.

There are at least 3 kinds of vacuums:


1. Original Vacuum. This is the vacuum of infinity within the human spirit (Eccl.3:11). It can only be resolved by faith in the Infinite God and loving devotion to Him. A life without Truth, without God is a bottomless pit, infinitely empty, and that is hell. This vacuum manifests as meaninglessness, purposelessness, hopelessness. People try to cover it up by a false belief in either the immortality of personal soul or a recourse to nihilism (or nothingness, absurdity, meaninglessness, pointlessness).

2. Illusory Vacuum. This is a false vacuum created by false ideas, ideals, and allurements. Advertisements, for instance, are well known for creating a need where no such need is real. People buy an advertised object not because they need it but because the advertisement makes them unfulfilled without such an object and they desire fulfillment. The devil told Eve that she lacked something, though she lacked nothing; this false and illusory vacuum in her was her deception. She desired for the forbidden fruit because it was falsely projected to her that this was really desirable. This is how products are sold. The allurement was so strong that she felt bad that she, in her innocence, was kept away from this “good” thing. The allurement reeked with vile thoughts of suspicion, egoism, rebellion, and idolatry. She listened to the devil and forsook the commandment of God. Any mind that doesn’t keep the Word of God before it and listens credulously to any other voice that makes it feel unfulfilled or lacking is susceptible to fall. In the illusory state, the mind is deceived and turns to false things in order to fill a false vacuum. The resulting action is always covetousness, unfaithfulness, disobedience, and rebellion.

3. Addictive Vacuum. This is bondage. It is recurrent. It portrays a pattern. Addiction to drugs is one example of addictive vacuum. The bondage is intolerably strong and inescapable. There are also other addictions like addiction to self (narcissism), addiction to sex, addiction to silver, addiction to societal living, addiction to shopping, etc. Addictive vacuum is not just false, it becomes systemic warping the personality of the person. It enslaves the mind and will and emotion of the person and destroys his spirit. Therefore, deliverance is urgent.

Deliverance: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

1. Knowledge of the Truth about the deception and about the bondage comes first.
2. Knowledge of the Deliverer, Christ, is crucial. Not just mental knowledge, but faith and commitment to and total submission to. The Son sets us free.
3. Reject all False Vacuum, covetous allurements, and anything that attempts to turn you from the Truth of God. They are all false and unreal and attempt to suck us away from the reality of God.
4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs [confessing to others complete satisfaction in God], singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord [rejoicing in His goodness all the time even when alone], giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [always filled with gratitude for the gifts of God that makes us lack nothing, doubting nothing, being certain that God has given us all the best for us, not fearing anything], submitting to one another in the fear of God [honoring the true godly connections in life].” (Eph 5:19-21). The Spirit is Reality. The Spiritual is the True Real.
5. Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Gal 5:16)

Family Leadership

There are different models of Leadership:
1. Pyramid Leadership (Military, Hierarchial)
2. Functional Leadership (Team Playing)
3. Situational Leadership (Rising for the Situation)
4. Servant Leadership (Focuses on Serving)
5. Shepherd Leadership (Focuses on Leading, Protecting, Providing, Teaching)
6. Family Leadership (Leadership in the Father-Son Model)

Jesus gave us a picture of Family Leadership when He spoke about ministry and mission in the Divine Family. It was not a King who sent an Ambassador, but the Father who gave His only begotten Son. The Son learnt from the Father and obeyed His will.

We also find an example of Family Leadership in Paul’s mentoring of Timothy. Paul was not a boss, or a teacher, or a team-leader, or even a senior pastor to Timothy; he was a spiritual father to him.

The modern cry of the youth is for true spiritual fathers who can set an example, who can teach and also correct with authority, who can mentor them. The cry is not for celebrity figures and mass events. The cry is for a personal touch. For personal discipleship.

The Church is not a business or an organization; the Church is a family whose Head is God.

Preaching Before Experiencing

The general rule is that one must not preach what one doesn’t practice and one can’t know in order to share something unless one experiences it. But, especially, if someone knows the truth and preaches it but doesn’t practice it, not because he can’t but because he doesn’t want to, that constitutes rebellion. However, this doesn’t mean that if a person doesn’t practice what he preaches, one must reject what he says. Jesus warned us against this.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. (Mat 23:1-3 NLT)

Certainly, whether one practices or does not, truth is still truth. Principles never change. However, Jesus also made it clear that only those who really seek to obey God will be able to know the will of God and recognize the revelation of God.

Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. (John 7:17 NLT)

The Pharisees certainly missed on this. They had no desire for true righteousness that comes by faith in the revelation of God. They were motivated by pride and the desire for honor from men.

“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (Joh 5:44 NKJ)

But, when one has a deep desire for God’s truth, God will reward those who seek Him in faith.

In this, the desire to experience the will of God and to practice His word is a prerequisite to a life lived by the living word of God. In such situations, preaching before experiencing is not discouraged because of the presence of this deep desire for righteousness of faith and the longing for God.

For instance, we have not been to heaven yet, but we know of it from God’s word and long for it. We have not experienced immortality yet, but we preach it and we long for it (2Cor.5:2; Rom.8:23). This longing is the part that leads to the recognizing and the receiving by faith. It’s like a baby that knows (not intellectually nor empirically) that pure milk is what she really longs for and when she is given the milk, she finds rest. This desire to have or will to obey is on the same path of the experience of having and the practice of obedience. The seed and the fruit belong together. It is like the confessing of faith with the deep assurance of the evidence of things unseen.

Now, there is some vicarious aspect of common human experience that validates speaking on something even if we have not experienced it. For instance, how is it that one weeps or may experience increased heartbeat or fear while watching a movie story even though what’s happening in the story is not actually happening with him? Also, there is an aspect of imagination that can infer from previous understanding and try to conceive of an experience in real terms: for instance, the depiction of sea experience by Shakespeare though he himself is said to have never been at sea. Some form of such imagination is part of what our minds also do when trying to understand the Bible. However, much is clarified, corrected, and improved as we continue in the studies and learn to interpret as we listen to the voice of the Spirit.

But, then there are cases where preaching has preceded experience.

Let me quote just two examples from Church history, one from the life of John Wesley and the other from Charles Parham.

JOHN WESLEY PREACHED FAITH BEFORE HE COULD HAVE FAITH
(From Basil Miller, John Wesley (Minn: Bethany House, 1943), 57-61)

“I found my brother at Oxford … and with him Peter Bohler,” John enters in his Journal under date of March 4, “by whom I was on Sunday, the fifth, clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of faith whereby alone we are saved.”

This turbulency of soul caused John to despair of ever preaching again, and he told Bohler that he would “leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith in yourself?” Bohler urged him to continue his gospel work, to which John retorted, “But what can I preach?”

“Preach faith until you have it; and then because you have it, you will preach faith,” came the Moravian’s response.

John was not long in starting on this adventure, for he says, “Accordingly, Monday 6, I began preaching this new doctrine, though my soul started back from the work. The first person to whom I offered salvation by faith alone was a prisoner under sentence of death.”

The condemned man arose from prayer and exclaimed, “I am now ready to die. I know Christ has taken away my sins, and there is no condemnation for me.”
….
Week by week John continued his preaching as Sundays rolled around, and meantime his searching went on with diligence….

…he wrote to a friend, “Let no one deceive us by vain words, as if we had already attained unto this faith. By its fruits we shall know. Do we already feel peace with God and joy in the Holy Ghost?… Does the Spirit bear witness?… Alas with mine he does not….”

He was on a soul search which should cease only when he had found this glorious peace. His spiritual quest went on by the hour until Wednesday, May 24, arrived. Let him tell the story:

“We. May 24 – I think it was about five this morning that I opened my Testament on these words, ‘There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.’

“Just as I went out, I opened it again on those words, ‘Thou art not far from the kingdom.’

“In the afternoon I was asked to go to St. Paul’s. The Anthem was, ‘Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord… O Israel, trust in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy…’”

During that memorable soul-shaping day everything seemed to point John to one thing – redemption as a soon-wrought work in his life. When evening came down Aldersgate Street not far from St. Paul’s, John was unwillingly dragged to a meeting.

“In the evening,” he says, “I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before ning, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed…”

“I felt I did trust in Christ,” he goes on to relate, “Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

CHARLES PARHAM PREACHED HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM BEFORE HE RECEIVED IT
(From http://www.revival-library.org/pensketches/am_pentecostals/parham.html. Retrieved August 22, 2016. Bold emphatics, mine)

In December of 1900 examinations were held on the subjects of repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing, and the soon coming of the Lord. But there was the problem of the book of Acts. Parham had always felt that missionaries to foreign lands needed to preach in the native language. Having heard so much about this subject during his recent travels Parham set the forty students an assignment to determine the Biblical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and report on their findings in three days, while he was away in Kansas City. He returned on the morning preceding the watch night service 1900-1901.

Parham was astonished when the students reported their findings that, while there were different things that occurred when the Pentecostal blessing fell, the indisputable proof on each occasion was that they spoke in other tongues.

About seventy-five people (probably locals) gathered with the forty students for the watch night service and there was an intense power of the Lord present.
It was here that a student, Agnes Ozman, (later LaBerge) asked that hands might be laid upon her to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She believed she was called to the mission field and wanted to be equipped accordingly. At first Parham refused, as he himself never had the experience. Nevertheless, she persisted and Parham laid his hands upon her head.

“I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days. When she tried to write in English… she wrote in Chinese, copies of which we still have in newspapers printed at that time”
Ozman’s later testimony claimed that she had already received a few of these words while in the Prayer Tower but when Parham laid hands on her, she was completely overwhelmed with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

After this incredible deluge of the Holy Spirit, the students moved their beds from the upper dormitory on the upper floor and waited on God for two nights and three days, as an entire body.

On the night of January 3rd 1901, Parham preached at a Free Methodist Church in Topeka, telling them what had happened and that he expected the entire school to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. On returning to the school with one of the students they heard the most wonderful sounds coming from the prayer room. “The room was filled with a sheen of white light above the brightness of the lamps.” There were twelve denominational ministers who had received the Holy Spirit baptism and were speaking in other tongues. Some were gently trembling under the power of the glory that had filled them. Sister Stanley, an elderly lady, came to Parham, and shared that she saw “tongues of fire” sitting above their heads just moments before his arrival.

“My heart was melted in gratitude to God for my eyes had seen….. I fell to my knees behind a table unnoticed by those on whom the power of Pentecost had fallen to pour out my heart to God in thanksgiving”

Then he asked God for the same blessing, and when he did, Parham distinctly heard God’s calling to declare “this mighty truth to the world. And if I was willing to stand for it, with all the persecutions, hardships, trials, slander, scandal that it would entailed, He would give me the blessing.” It was then that Charles Parham himself was filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke in other tongues. “Right then and there came a slight twist in my throat, a glory fell over me and I began to worship God in a Swedish tongue, which later changed to other languages and continued so until the morning”