Several months ago, as I was meditating upon the word of God during my normal time of evening devotions, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an important, biblical truth which instantly brought to my remembrance a humorous, job-site experience from many years in my past. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just finished installing a hardwood floor for a retired school teacher in the area who had given me several other jobs prior. Due to the fact that I also had come out of the school systems, over the years, we had become quite good acquaintances because of the numerous, similar stories we had shared. Good enough, as a matter of fact, that as I sat there writing out her invoice that day, the ever-present spirit of Dennis the Menace came suddenly upon me, and I decided to pull a prank!
One day prior, as I was hard at work putting down the flooring, she abruptly walked into the room holding within her hand the most tempting of all possible temptations: a piping hot plate of freshly-baked, straight out of the oven, chocolate-chip cookies! "OMG", I thought! Needless to say, down went the airgun and off went the tool belt, for Adam and Eve had nothing on me now! LOL! "My son makes them much better than I", she stated, as she joyfully held out the plate. "It's a recipe he found years ago in an old, retired cookbook, but he's currently off to college so these will have to do", she said. I gladly accepted her offer. One bite in, like no experience ever before, I was instantly spellbound! In fact, I was kind of hoping that she would have to run downtown for a few minutes so I could steal a couple more. These weren't your average "Toll-House" folks! Not even your want-to-be specialty shop at the local food plaza or shopping mall has ever come close. I had to have that recipe!
As I sat there on the couch writing out her invoice the next day, I took every single figure that we had originally agreed upon, and drastically bumped up the price. By the time I was finished, the grand total had exceeded the original, agreed upon price by nearly a thousand dollars! At the bottom of the page, however, just below her total, I drew a horizontal arrow pointing to the right side of the page and attached the words: "please see reverse side". Trying to hold a straight face, I quickly handed her the bill. As she walked into her kitchen to pick up her checkbook, I quietly retreated to her blue-plaid sofa, where I sat patiently by as I admired her recently purchased, wall-mounted, LCD flatscreen! They had just come out in those days. Though the local weatherman in front of me was hard at work making his daily, educated guess, he may as well have been saying nothing at all, for my complete and total attention was anxiously awaiting a response from the unsuspecting victim on the other side of the room. Silence was deafening; but finally, it came! After a couple, long minutes, suddenly, from the adjoining kitchen, thundered the biggest burst of laughter I had ever heard in my life! "Obviously, she had turned her invoice", I thought, as she quickly came back into view; for clearly recorded on the other side of the bill, were the cleverly handwritten words: "You may deduct a $1000 for immediate exchange of your CHOCOLATE-CHIP COOKIE RECIPE", LOL!
"I see you flipped the page", I chuckled, as she happily came through the walkway. "OMG", she laughed, "I thought I was going to have to get in the car and run down to the bank"! "Here!", she jokingly shouted, as she handed me a folded envelop. Low and behold, neatly tucked inside were two distinct items: a handwritten check for the actual amount of the job, and the greatest chocolate chip-cookie recipe ever conceived of man! Mission accomplished!!!
But what if……? What if after anxiously anticipating that delicious chocolate-chip cookie recipe that day, she would have walked through the doorway and handed me a cup of brown sugar and three, medium eggs (Put down your pens folks, you ain't getting my recipe! LOL!). But what if that's all I had received? Would there have been anything wrong with the brown sugar? Would there have been anything wrong with her handing me those three, medium eggs? Of course not! But my dilemma would have been, that I still wouldn't have had the complete recipe which would have allowed me to partake of the fullness of the cookie! So it is with present-day Christendom, my friends. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul recorded the following statement concerning the matter:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (EPH. 4:11-16)
"So how does this passage relate to our opening example?", you're probably asking. First of all, let's make sure that we're all on the same page here regarding a couple of the many goals that are clearly recorded within the passage. According to the apostle Paul, one of the first goals here is that the body of Christ be brought unto "perfection" in order that they (the body of Christ) can do the work of the ministry. So according our passage, if there's no one being brought to "perfection" within the church, then there's no possibility of the true work of the ministry through a perfect, many-membered man ever coming to pass! Throughout the Holy Scriptures, the word "perfection" for the most part has been grossly misunderstood. Many have been taught over the years, due to religious tradition, that it simply refers to the obtaining of a state of being in which we as believers will someday arrive at a point in our lives where we will never again "miss the mark", and be overcome by any sin of the flesh. Due to this belief, the majority of our church services are purposely orchestrated for the sole purpose of trying to feverishly curb the ongoing appetites of our old, fallen nature, rather than bringing to pass an unveiling of our true, biblical identity! They're preaching to the wrong man, my friends! Adam will never be tamed; he can only be replaced!
Why is this happening? Again, they do not understand the word "perfection"; but in verse fourteen of this passage we're given a major clue towards unraveling the mystery here: "That we henceforth be no more children…". Did you catch that? The word "perfection" is not being used here to denote a state of being where we will "never again fall into a sin", but rather to the attainment of "spiritual maturity"! Paul's desire was for the church to "grow up" so that they could fully arrive into Christ, and do the "work of the ministry"! So why isn't this happening? Why is it that for hundreds of years now, we've heard the same old sermons over and over again, but no one seems to be coming into maturity? Anybody? I humbly submit to you, my friends, that it's because the majority of our church governments within our established local assemblies have fallen grossly and haplessly short of the intended recipe for perfection which has clearly been prescribed here! Rather than the completed recipe, all that we seem to be getting these days are the brown sugar and the eggs! Allow me to explain.
In verses one through eleven of this passage, we are clearly told by the apostle Paul here that when Jesus ascended into the heavens, he divided himself into five separate ministry gifts: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. Through those five offices of ministry, the complete recipe was given through which the growing body of Christ could fully arrive and attain unto absolute "perfection" or "spiritual maturity", and thereby be established for the work of the ministry. Once again, however, we've only been given the brown sugar and the eggs! Now, for those of you who have not caught on yet as to where I'm heading, allow me to simplify things a bit by asking you a couple of questions. Who's giving the Apostolic oversight to your local congregation? Who's the prophetic voice in your church? Anyone? Without a doubt in my mind, nearly everyone reading this article could immediately shout out the name or names of their local pastor or pastors. Likewise, the majority of you could also point out the name or names of the particular missionaries or evangelists which you support; and to a much smaller degree, even the true teachers in your house. But where are the Apostles? Where are the Prophets? Why are our congregations for the most part only receiving two, or at best three of the ingredients for the recipe to "spiritual maturity"? Anybody? For if the whole (who is Christ) was clearly divided into five equal parts (ministries), then the fullness of the whole (Christ) can never again be experienced until all five ingredients have been thoroughly added to the mix!!! Are you now beginning to see the picture? The vast majority of government which is currently being exercised over the restless masses of present day Christendom, is nothing more and nothing less than a man-made, unbiblical, out-of-order ox-cart! An out-of-order ox-cart that's on a direct, destined pathway to its sudden moment of stumble!!! Why? Let's return to verse fourteen again.
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…" (EPH 4:11)
Notice what the result is here when the entire recipe to obtaining spiritual maturity is not thrown into the mix: "…That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine…". The apostle Paul is abundantly clear here, that those who fail to hear from each and every aspect of the fivefold ministry are absolutely destined for two specific outcomes. First, they will remain as spiritual children who run to and fro chasing every wind of doctrine; and secondly, as a result of this, they run the highest possible risk of being spiritually deceived! Why is this? I will explain in a moment, but first allow me to make something very clear. A deceived person has no earthly idea that they've strayed into error. During his days on the earth, the master teacher himself made the following comment in the Gospel of Matthew:
"…if therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Mat. 6: 23)
In other words, when you're walking in deception in a particular area spiritually because you have not yet attained to what the scriptures call "perfection", you actually believe that you're right on track spiritually, and that there's nothing wrong (the light that's within you is actually darkness)! The entire context of what Jesus was trying to get across in this passage, concerned the attainment of a particular "state of being" which he called "single eyedness", through which the body of each and every believer could be instantly flooded with divine light or revelation! The apostle Paul, however, clearly realized that this spiritual encounter would only be experienced by those who thirst! He clearly realized, that many believers, for whatever reason, would never leave the realm of spiritual childhood!
In First Thessalonians 5, Paul describes a people who are what he calls "asleep in the night", and clearly warns us that they're about to be suddenly awakened to the harsh reality that they've been deceitfully robbed! "How were they robbed?" you might ask. They were robbed by tradition, they were robbed by religion, they were robbed by those who have claimed to hear this and claimed to have seen that! Simply put, they were robbed!!! Why? Because they remained as children, and children will follow every wind of doctrine simply because they assume that what they are being told is always the truth! But here's the sad dilemma. Because all that most believers have ever heard from for the majority of their Christian lives are the offices of the evangelist, pastor, and in some cases the teacher; oftentimes it's not that what they have been told is necessarily wrong, but just incomplete! Incomplete, because the remaining ingredients for the recipe to "perfection" have never been added to the cup of brown sugar and three medium eggs!
You see, it's the job of the Evangelist to seek out the lost and bring spiritual babes into the kingdom! Once this happens, due to the fact that their carnal minds have yet to be dealt with through the transformational process by the Holy Spirit, it now becomes necessary that they be protected and shepherded by the office of the Pastor while this process is occurring. Next comes the teacher. While the primary responsibility of the Pastor is to guide and direct those who are still in the realm of childhood and adolescence, through feeding bread to the children and milk to the babes, the teacher plays a much different role. His primary job (which is often doubled-up on by pastors who carry both gifting), is to begin thoroughly grounding the believer into the deeper truths of the word of God, in order that at some point in time down the road, they can eventually bridge the gap and make a complete and total crossover from the realm of the life of the soul, to the ever-intended realm of life in the fullness of the spirit! But notice here again, my friends, that there's still something missing. Where is the Apostle? Where is the Prophet? Let's look at a particular passage for a moment that's sure to grab your attention.
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit…" (Eph. 3:1-6)
Now, my friends, we definitely have something worth talking about. In our opening passage from Ephesians 4, we clearly discovered that first and foremost, the purpose for the fivefold ministry was to bring the saints of God into "spiritual perfection", in order that they (the saints) may attain to the work of the ministry. However, if we were to continue on with that passage, we would also have discovered that the purpose for the saints doing the work of the ministry, was so that the body could be built up unto one perfect man: who is Christ! Interesting indeed, but wait a minute. Didn't Paul just tell us in Ephesians 3:1-6, above, that there were some "mysteries" involved regarding the revelation of Christ which had to be clearly understood through revelation before that many-membered body could be built up as one? Likewise, didn't he also go on to explain there that it was only to the Apostles and Prophets that the responsibility was given of stewarding over us these mysteries? The answer in both cases here, my friends, is absolutely yes!!!
So with that clearly understood, is it not then relatively easy to see why the church-world has yet to come to "perfection" and as a result, failed to grow up into the one mature body, who is Christ? Absolutely, but the truth is, however….. They Can't!!! It's absolutely impossible for anyone to have an understanding of any mystery without it first being unveiled or revealed to them by the ones who hold the keys to explaining that mystery, and according to the scriptures, the only two ministry gifts which have ever been chosen for this important calling are those of the Apostle and the Prophet. It has never been the responsibility of the Pastor, Teacher, or Evangelist to unveil and unleash the marvelous mysteries of the Kingdom of God….. Never! Because of this, it's not too difficult therefore, to thoroughly understand why that for the most part, the vast majority of Christendom, including the spirit-filled ranks, have yet to fully attain to the complete and total effectiveness which our Heavenly Father desires; for they've never been permitted to hear from the God ordained offices of the Apostle and Prophet, which are currently carrying the burden of bringing spiritual maturity to the believer!
Immediately after the ascension, the Christ of God completely divided himself into five specific ministry gifts, each of which carrying their own unique aspect of the complete and total whole! Until all five components are BOTH believed in and recognized by the church, the whole (who is the fullness of Christ) will never again be formed, heard from, or seen in the mainstream systems of organized Christendom! The days of the one man band standing week after week over Gods beloved children are over, folks! While they may not see nor understand this important necessity, because they are currently walking by the strictly instilled virtues of mainstream Christendom's most prolific colleges and seminaries, for those who refuse to change and accept the divine order of God, an unavoidable destiny looms just around the corner:
"And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord,
So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord." (1Kings 8:10-11)
Yes indeed, my friends, for those who refuse to change and get their houses (congregations) in proper governmental order, there's soon coming a day that when his glory shows up (the manifestation of the mature Sons of God), they themselves will no longer be able to stand to minister! The Apostolic/Prophetic burden has but one prevailing message of operation, to bring each and every believer unto complete and total perfection that they might fully grow up into Christ! (Galatians 4:19)
With all that's been said to this point, let me now attempt to add a word of balance to the picture. Is this to say that the other three offices can never be used of the Lord to stand behind a pulpit and trumpet out the mystery of Christ? Absolutely not, my friends, but that now leads us into another area of discussion here. We must understand, that not every local congregation will have all five of the ministry gifts available at their weekly disposal. Not every church will have within its midst a ministry gift for each of the five offices. While one church may have only a pastor and teacher in its presence, another down the street may have three or four of the gifting within its walls. Does that mean that a church with only a pastor can never function or succeed? Of course not, but here's what needs to happen. Along with the established truth that the children of God are to be brought to spiritual perfection through constant association with all five ministry offices, lies one more governmental principle which is sure to help the fellowships who currently lack in one or more of these areas. Listen to what Paul has to say regarding proper spiritual flow within the local assembly.
"And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." (1 Cor. 12:28)
How many of you are beginning to see here how the church has gotten way off the tracks over the years? Read through the Book of Acts, my friends, and pay real close attention as to how the New Testament church was originally set up. Really, if you do so, you will instantly discover that from the first church at Jerusalem on, the local assemblies were always set up and established by the Apostles and Prophets first, and then an overseer (which in most cases were pastors or teachers) was given charge in order to maintain and continue the established teaching of the "Apostles Doctrine"! Yes, my friends, the Apostles and Prophets, the ones who are carrying the mysteries of the kingdom of God, which will bring the body of Christ into perfection, are supposed to be established first! Notice the word "continued" in the passage below. This clearly tells us that the local congregation there had already been set up by Apostolic and Prophetic ministries: God's Divine Order!
"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42)
In lieu of this divine order, let's reminisce for a moment as we seek to discover the governmental blueprint by which the majority of today's churches are established. First, we have Seminaries who train up our young, energetic, enthusiastic children, and tell them that whenever possible, they should always seek to "literally interpret" the scriptures (I HAVE THIS IN WRITING FOLKS!) rather than "spiritually interpret" them through "revelation knowledge" as the apostles did. Once this is completed, and an army of clones has been created by each denominational and non-denominational headquarters, an agreement is then made, that in exchange for a frivolous retirement package at some point-in-time down the road, there established system of literally derived beliefs will be strictly taught and maintained for a set number of years. Once this agreement is made, the label which they would instantly acquire of course would be that of the "Pastor"; and for the more fortunate ones who were chosen to shepherd large congregations, well, lo and behold, they gain the extra special title of "Senior Pastor", with the additional right to hire a "Music Pastor", "Youth Pastor", "Children's Pastor", "Women's Pastor", "Nursery Pastor", "Baptismal Pastor", "Overflow Parking Pastor", and "Head Soup-Kitchen Pastor" LOL!!!!! Please help me Jesus! I know I'm being facetious here, folks, but you know it's the God honest truth! Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor, Pastor! That's not Divine, Governmental Order, and it will never bring anyone to completion spiritually!!! Why is it set up this way? Because religious Babylon has become nothing more and nothing less than a "Big Money Business"; and if their denominational or non-denominational headquarters can keep all of its governmental operations beneath the single, solitary position of just one man or office whom they can tightly keep the pressure on, their money flow continues!
Fortunately, however, as many began to see and understand what was happening, especially in the 1970's and 80's, a spiritual movement began where hundreds of congregations, especially in the spirit-filled ranks, started to break away from their established headquarters and independent congregations were formed all across our planet! The problem with this movement, however, was that nothing changed governmentally! They took the exact same system of government that they were previously operating by, and did nothing different except bypass their headquarters! What do we have to show for it? Droves and droves of Charismatic and Pentecostal playpens throughout our land which are absolutely filled with wonderful plans and programs, but no understanding whatsoever of the original purpose for the Apostles' Doctrine: to bring each and every believer into "spiritual perfection"! And to be quite frank and honest, folks, most of them really don't care! They couldn't care the least little bit, for after all, why should they? Money's flowing into these places by the bucketfuls! It's competitive, "Big-Money Business" at its absolute finest! "Come visit us", they say, "we've got a full-size gymnasium, heated whirlpools in the locker rooms, laser-light and fog show during worship, and a donut and latte bar in the lobby. You'll love it here"! Wonderful, isn't it, my friends, and while they come and dine by the droves week after week to hear the present-day Gospel of "Partial Salvation", there's still no Apostles, and still no Prophets! No one being brought unto spiritual maturity!
They only way that this is ever going to change, my friends, in local congregations which have been founded and established by Pastors, Evangelists, and Teachers, rather than Apostles and Prophets, is if that group of leadership decides to meaningfully unite themselves to Apostolic and Prophetic oversight until they themselves gain a legitimate understanding of the Apostles' Doctrine. Until that begins to happen, present-day believers may as well settle themselves in for a steady, ongoing diet of brown sugar and eggs, for that's all they're going to receive! Week, after week, after week, our Pentecostal and Charismatic brethren exchange hours of the their time, and handfuls of their finance, for what present-day Christendom calls the "fullness of the spirit", not realizing of course that the scriptures clearly tell us that second-day Christianity is only the "firstfruits of the spirit", and the "earnest of our inheritance"! Their once-a-month experience of receiving a brief move of the spirit or a sudden, spiritual goose bump, has become all that is necessary to thoroughly convince them that all is good and well; not realizing, of course, that there's an entire, unseen dimension where of the fullness of the spirit patiently awaits! Not realizing, of course, that there will soon be a moment in which they will bewilderedly declare the following statement:
"Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Mat. 7:24)
Unfortunately, however, their bewildered statement will be swiftly and suddenly replied to with an immediate, shocking response: "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."(Mat. 7:23). Sad to say it, but from the isle of Patmos in the Book of Revelation, John clearly reveals to us that there's a mixed-up, out-of-order, religious church system firmly in place called "Mystery Babylon" (Rev. 17:5). A mystery, my friends, which in due season, will not be unveiled without the anointed assistance of his Apostles and Prophets, the only offices which have been fully entrusted with this extremely daunting task! Until that happens, however, the unbridled masses of religious Christendom, will have to continuously put their trust upon the incomplete recipe, of a cup of brown sugar and three, medium eggs! Selah!