What’s the Harm?

In Search of New Covenant Worship in Spirit & Truth

In his book, “Custom and Command”[1], Stan Firth’s stated purpose was this: “All I am trying to do in this book is to encourage dear friends in the unstructured churches that they are well within God’s framework in the way they are moving; and to re-assure dear friends in the ‘structured’ churches that those of us who have ‘gone unstructured’ have not gone off the rails, as they may have feared.” He also stated: “If you are a regular Sunday worshipper and an enthusiastic member of a local ‘structured’ fellowship, there is no reason why you should discontinue your custom, unless, of course, God were to bring a contrary conviction to you.”[2]

My main purpose here, as well as in my book, “A New & Living Way: A Collection of Articles Investigating New Covenant Worship in Spirit & Truth”,[3] has been to investigate the New Testament scriptures for answers to difficult questions I have had to ask myself, and to provide sound scriptural and theological reasons for moving beyond humanly structured church life in search of an expression of New Covenant worship in Spirit and Truth. I would say my purpose does go a bit beyond saying, “There is no harm done, if you want to continue in your conventional customs.”

A summary of the argument I present is this: The prescriptions that Christians throughout the church age must  “gather together”, take a “collection”, and “break bread” “on the first day of the week” are primary examples of “the elementary principles of the world”[4].   If one is able to accept that statement, then one must also acknowledge that, by definition, “the elementary principles of the world” are tools of the “powers and principalities”[5], which thus far have effectively kept the Church under the shadow of the Old Covenant with regards to its worship praxes and falling short of fulfilling its calling to gather and function as the Ecclesia of the Kingdom of God. In short, through “the elementary principles of the world”, the powers and principalities have deceived the Church to continue gathering for sacralized activities not in accord with “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”[6] rather than gathering to discuss and implement the affairs of the Kingdom of God, which is the nature, calling and purpose of the Ecclesia Jesus is building.       

I want to be clear; it is not the activities themselves which are problematic, it is the prescribing of those activities as being “normative”, separated, set apart, specified, humanly organized, and programmed which violates the essence of the New Covenant by:

  • ignoring the Holy Spirit
  • promoting a ministry “of the letter” rather than “of the Spirit”
  • keeping Christians serving under the shadow of the Old Covenant
  • and keeping gatherings of the Church (Ecclesia) preoccupied with ritual routine rather than the affairs of the Kingdom of God.

I believe that in God’s eyes this is nothing less than idolatry[7] in that we insist on putting humanly created things in the place that belongs only to God and putting humanly organized things in the place of the life organism of the Holy Spirit. This contradicts the Word of God and grieves the Spirit of God. It is antichrist in that, in practice, it denies Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of the New Covenant. The most insidious thing is – we ask God to accept and bless these practices which actually arise from our fallen human nature and have been instigated by “world forces of darkness”[8].

New Testament Sacramentalism:

Prescribing special gatherings in special places, at special times …

The idea of focusing on the presence and movement of God’s Spirit being relegated mainly to the “sanctuary” (holy place) and places which have been separated and set apart from everyday day life as designated places of “worship” is based squarely in the Old Covenant. Scheduling specified times like feast days and Sundays and Wednesday evenings for programmed times of “worship” is also a practice based in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant God is present and moving in the hearts and lives of His people every day, all day.[9]

To say there are “special” places and times for the presence and moving of God’s Spirit clearly defies the New Covenant, replacing “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” with “special” religious activities. This human systematizing, ordering, and programming of activities for the worship life of the church is one of the main examples of “the elementary principles of the world” which are instigated by “world forces of darkness” that are operating in the professing churches. The idea that such services are “sanctified” simply because we are Christians gathering in the name of the Lord in places which we have identified with His name is actually at the heart of the deception of these “world forces of darkness”. Am I implying that demonic beings are present in the “worship services” of the professing churches? From my experience, I would say sometimes they are, and more often they’re not. Also, from my experience, I know that, if He wants to, God is perfectly capable of “preparing a table before me in the presence of my enemies”[10]. But that is not the point I am making about the instigation of these “elementary principles of the world”. The point is: How does God want to be worshiped in the New Covenant? New Covenant worship is not to be influenced by “world forces of darkness”, but through the agency of Jesus Christ.[11]

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which … is choice and precious in the sight of God,  you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”[12]

If clearly understood, the implications of moving beyond separated, set apart, specified places and times, and humanly organized, programmed activities will be extremely radical – that is, a “laying of the axe at the root”[13] of these conventional worship praxes.

“The Manifold Wisdom of God

made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities.”

 What’s the harm? If we continue practicing under the shadow of the Old Covenant, a veil remains over our hearts, and minds, and eyes:

“… for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains, it not being revealed that it is done away with in Christ.”[14]

Jesus established the New Covenant more than 2000 years ago, yet, I believe, it has not yet been sufficiently manifested in and through us. Isn’t this exactly what the powers of darkness would want to hinder through keeping us in bondage to “the elementary principles of the world”? They know the Father and the Son covenanted something glorious by the Eternal Spirit, although the powers themselves do not understand the “the mystery which for the ages has been hidden in God (that) might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[15]

What is that “manifold wisdom”? It is a “… wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”[16]

 The manifestation of this wisdom exceeds what we can think or imagine, but it can be revealed to us and through us by the Spirit[17], if we will come before the Lord and allow the Spirit to remove the veil.

“A Change is Gonna Come”

Actually, it has already come – we just need to walk into it. Here is just one insight into walking in the New Covenant: The writer to the Hebrews is distinguishing between Moses and Christ, between the tribe of Levi and the tribe of Judah, between the priesthood order of Levi and the priesthood order of Melchizedek, between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and he writes of A CHANGE:

For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also…. not on the basis of a law[18] of physical[19] requirement[20], but according to the power of an endless[21] life.”[22]

Allow me to offer a paraphrase based on some insights from W.E. Vine[23]: “When the priesthood is changed, of necessity the law changes also in this way … no longer on the basis of prescribing human prescriptions, but according to the power of the life of the Eternal One.”

 And so, we see that the writer to the Hebrews has the same message as the apostle Paul concerning New Covenant Worship in Spirit and Truth: “not according to the letter, but according to the Spirit”.[24]

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Free download: https://www.remarkablereplacementarmy.com/downloads/Custom-and-Command.pdf

[2]  Ibid, p 22

[3] Free download: https://www.atchriststable.org/ebooks/a-new-living-way/

[4] Galatians 4:1-10; Colossians 2:8-23. For an in-depth treatment of this subject, see my eBook “The Elementary Principles of the World Found in Worship Praxes – Past & Present”. Free download: https://www.atchriststable.org/ebooks/the-elementary-principles-of-the-world-found-in-worship-praxes-past-present-ebook/

[5] 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 6:12

[6] Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:6

[7] Cf. Amos 5:21

[8] Ephesians 6:12

[9] Cf. John 3:8; John 4:21-24

[10] Psalm 23:5

[11] Hebrews 13:15. “Through Jesus … “ Greek: dia, Strong’s # 1223,  “A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through.”

[12] 1 Peter 2:4-5

[13] Our English word, radical, comes from the Latin word, radix, which means root.

[14] 2 Corinthians 3:14, NASB (alternate reading).

[15] Ephesians 3:9-11

[16] 1 Corinthians 2:6-9

[17] Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21

[18] The word translated “law” is (Greek) nomos, Strong’s # 3551, indicates “prescriptive usage”.

[19] The word translated “physical” is (Greek) sarkeekos, Strong’s # 4561, indicates also “temporal”.

[20] The word translated “requirement” is (Greek) entole, Strong’s # 1785, indicates an “authoritative prescription”.

[21] The word translated “endless” is (Greek) akatalutos, Strong’s # 179, indicates an “indestructible, permanent”.

[22] Hebrews 7:12 & 16, Context: vv. 11-17.

[23] Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

[24] 2 Corinthians 3:6

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At Christ’s Table – ACTpublications

“Explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

© 2020

W.D. Furioso, Writer ~ Frances Furioso, Editor

At Christ’s Table Ministries ~ ACTpublications ~  https://www.AtChristsTable.org

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Quo Vadis

God is always moving forward in His kingdom plans and purposes. He never moves backward. And for those who love Him, He never stops moving in our lives for His glory. But to continue moving on with God “from glory to glory” requires our living “from faith to faith”. It takes an act of faith