THE NEW REFORMATION

ITS SPIRIT & STRUCTURE

Part 1 of 2

"…until a time of reformation"   Heb 9:10

Part 1 of this teaching will explore the spirit of the New Reformation and Part 2 the structure.

Christ's coming triggered a 'reformation', inaugurating a new order.

The letter to the Hebrews is a transitional and therefore reformational book. Using both comparison and contrast, it shows the superiority of the new over the old, calling the believing Hebrews into complete transition. With a foot in both camps, they were caught in the external requirements of the old, despite having put their faith in Christ in the new.

The Greek word 'reformation' in our text (Hebrews 9:10) is 'diorthosis', meaning 'a making straight, a rectification, correction'. But what was the nature of this 'reformation' – what was it rectifying or correcting?

The "Appointed Time"

The answer to this will provide the DNA of every future reformation. Beginning with Christ's first coming there have been various 'times of reformation' in the history of the church.

The word for 'time' in our text is 'kairos', which is qualitative time, referring to a critical moment, which may not recur, in which certain events and actions must occur. It therefore carries with it a sense of urgency and destiny. This is in contrast to 'chronos', referring to quantitative time, to its general flow.

'Kairos' moments are 'appointed times' in history:

      You will arise and have compassion on Zion; For it is time to be gracious to her, For the appointed time has come.

      Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones And feel pity for her dust.

      So the nations will fear the name of the LORD And all the kings of the earth Your glory.

      For the LORD has built up Zion; He has appeared in His glory.  Psa 102:13-16

They are times of restoration, rebuilding, and increased revelation of God's glory.

They are also prophetically foreshadowed, demanding great patience until their time arrives:

      "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. Hab 2:3 

Prophets and seers, having seen the vision of an 'appointed time' are called to wait for God in the face of delays and disappointments. A prophetic delay tests the prophet, reducing them and ensuring the fulfilment is of God.

Even so, once the window arrives they demand response. God has appointed 'times of reformation' – moments of destiny, calling forth a 'rectification and correction'. Jesus came bringing a correction to the old order, setting the pattern for every future reformation.

Like the Hebrews of the first century this is a transitional generation. In my estimation the period 1950-2025 approximates a new hinge in history – one on which a re-formed and restored Christianity swings, which having been reached will fill the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. We are again in a season of radical reformation, an 'appointed time', when root issues are being unearthed and a new obedience is being call forth. A time when every plant that the Father has not planted will be plucked up, and when the spirit of Elijah will be crying out in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord."

Continuities & Discontinuities

The 'kairos' moment unequivocally brings a sword and not peace (see Mtt 10:34). While the transition to a new order reflects both continuities and discontinuities, the latter far outweigh the former. The scribe of the kingdom draws out things both old and new (see Mtt 13:52), but the movement is inexorably toward the new. Jesus put it plainly,

      "No one sews a patch of unshrunk (new) cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results."  Mark 2:21

While there is continuity in terms of 'chronos' (the general flow of history), there is discontinuity in tems of 'kairos' (the moment of destiny). The new, in that moment, inevitably separates from and supersedes the old.

A Fundamental Flaw – the Basis of the Reformation

It flies in the face of tradition and the established order. However, why is this? Because of a fundamental flaw demanding rectification. This is germane to every reformation.

Until this flaw is recognised our best attempts at developing new wineskins will only produce hybrid and bastardised versions of the true. This is tragically the case in much of the contemporary church, including the 'emerging church' and the 'new apostolic movement'. Like the Hebrew believers we have a foot in both camps. We want the new, like Jonathan, but cannot make the break from Saul's house, his values and mindsets, to pursue David in the wilderness. This phenomenon surfaced in the tension between the mainstream Reformers such as Luther and Calvin and the radical arm of the Reformation (the Anabaptists), but more of that in Part 2. Therefore, we fall short, ultimately proving to be spiritually impotent. We unwittingly pour old wine into new wineskins.

But what is the old wine?

The Leaven of the Pharisees

Jesus, in bringing the 'rectification' to the old order, consistently warned about the 'leaven of the Pharisees' (see Mtt 16:6, 11; Mk 8:15; Lk 12:1). This is the foundational flaw of the old order, both then and now.

The old wine is the leaven of the Pharisees, and their teaching:

      "Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."  Mat 16:12 NASB

But what did the Pharisees teach? The 'traditions of men'.

      For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders;

      and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)

      The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?"

      And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.

      'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'

      "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." Mar 7:3-8 NASB

So, what are these traditions and teachings?

The 'Rules of the Flesh'

According to our headquarters text (Heb 9:10) the old consists of the 'rules of the flesh'. It was these that required 'rectification'. They are the "tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world" (Col 2:8). These, in terms of Judaism, related to certain external ritual protocols but for us today can refer to any emphasis on 'external protocols'. How does this work?

The Pharisees' emphasis on externals became a religious system and stronghold of which Jesus warned, describing it as 'leaven'. It is therefore insidious and subtle in its workings. These influences are not out in the open, they are not obvious to the naked eye. Even so, as leaven, it is ultimately all-encompassing, infiltrating and influencing the whole person or group.

When this dynamic is active the 'rules of the flesh' gradually overtake the "commandment of God", replacing the "law of the Spirit of life" (Rom 8:2) with human rules. Despite operating in the church of God, in reality they are the 'principles of this world'.

Humanly derived rules of membership to the group take over. These can be written or unwritten requirements – certain measurements of success, knowing the right people, having the right sized church, or a certain worship style, having the appearance of success or celebrity. It might be whether you pay tithes or attend certain meetings and support the church programme. For every group there are certain 'shibboleths' or protocols for entry. In essence, they become a worldly value system based on outward appearance. As the Lord said to Samuel, "Man looks at the outward, but God looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:7).

The Leaven of Pride & Reputation

Now, what is the active agent of this leaven? Pride. The core disease of pride is revealed in our desire for reputation – for being well thought of and accepted by men. We consequently wear masks to build an image, to present to those around us a face of popularity – of success and spirituality. It is what Jesus called hypocrisy, which is by definition acting, or playing a part.

      "… 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

      'But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.'" Luk 12:1-2 NASB

      "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."   Mat 6:2 NASB

      "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. "  Mat 6:5 NASB

      "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.     Mat 6:16 NASB

It is significant that all the activities Jesus described were spiritual: giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. Nevertheless, they were done to be "noticed by men", to build a reputation.

This is the animating spirit behind Babylon:

      "They said, 'Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.'" Gen 11:4 NASB

The Driving Force Behind Ministry

Therefore, the leaven of the Pharisees is very often the driving force behind seemingly spiritual activity – planting and building churches, growing our movements and ministries, evangelising, pastoring, and even feeding the poor. Beneath all the activity lies a hidden desire to build a reputation, "a name for ourselves".

It is what the writer to the Hebrews calls "dead works" (Heb 6:1). Remember, the believing Hebrews were caught between the old and the new. With one foot in the new order they were still operating out of works-righteousness, which is always rooted in self, in self-effort and self-promotion. Any righteousness derived from ourselves, through our activity, even in ministry, is self-righteousness and therefore Pharisaic.

The Stronghold of Ministry

This is the substance of a stronghold. In military terms, a stronghold or fortress is constructed for self-defence. According to Paul, our own "reasonings" (Gr logismos – computations) are mental building blocks thrown up to establish a high place (see 2 Cor 10:1-5). But what kind of reasonings? Those that defend us – our practices, performance, perspectives, or position.  Any argument of self-justification is symptomatic of a stronghold and is at heart the spirit of anti-Christ. "Anti-Christ" literally means 'in the place of Christ'. Self-justification inevitably stands in the place of Christ's justification, which comes only by faith, not by works. This explains why the Pharisaic spirit is so antagonistic to the spirit of Christ and so given to activity. It drives the religious machine and builds towers to heaven. It can possess to whatever degree individuals, churches, movements, and religious organisations. Lying at the root of this religious stronghold is a deep unresolved spirit of independence, pride, and rebellion.

According to Paul though, "the weapons of our warfare are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Cor 10:4). But what are these weapons? In the context of Paul's statement they are the weapons of the cross – of brokenness and humility. The Corinthians, and more particularly the super-apostles (2 Cor 11:5, 13), were boasting among themselves and "comparing themselves with themselves" (2 Cor 10:12). They were saying that Paul was "unimpressive in person and that his speaking amounted to nothing" (2 Cor 10:10). They, like us, had received "another spirit" (2 Cor 11:4), "boasting as the world does" (2 Cor 11:18), self-promoting and exploiting the people (2 Cor 11:20). Like passive smokers, they had imbibed a false value system from the surrounding culture and were operating according to the "elementary principles of this world".

Consequently, Paul operating in the opposite spirit, boasted only of his sufferings and weaknesses (2 Cor 11:21-30).

The Spirit of the New Reformation

This is the spirit of the new reformation. It comes from a "broken and contrite heart" which God will never despise (Psa 51:17). He looks to the person or group with this spirit and dwells with them (Isa 57:15; 66:2).

So what is the message to the transitional generation between two orders? For the Hebrew believers, stepping into the new order cried out for the 'rectification' of the old. This demanded a heart-rending transaction – "repentance from dead works" (Heb 6:1).

For us, this demands recognition of our congenital rebellion against God and the deep spirit of pride driving our activity. It is time to strip away the religious cloak and expose our hearts to the light. Without this, we will continue to build religious towers to heaven, creating meaningless reputations for our churches, movements, and ministries, inviting the displeasure of God.

The new reformation is first a reformation of the heart. Only then will God release us to re-form structures.

Now is the 'appointed time' – it is time to turn from our dead works – from our worldly value systems and put our faith in God.

 

THE NEW REFORMATION

ITS SPIRIT & STRUCTURE

Part 2of 2  

"…until a time of reformation"  Heb 9:10

In Part 1, we saw that the new reformation demands a heart-rectification. 

Before we can attempt any reformation of structures our spirit must be clean. Only by turning from dead works – from every humanly derived activity – from our innate rebellion and independence – will we be released by God into the reformation of structures.

Without this deep work of the Spirit we will only replicate the past. The rivers of reformation only ever flow from the deep wells of regeneration. For this reason Jesus refers to the final rectification and revolution of His kingdom as "the regeneration" (see Mtt 19:28). 

Having established the deeply personal heart-foundation of reformation let us move from the individual to the corporate – from the new wine of the processed heart to the wineskin of corporate life.

Like the Reformation of the 1500's the new reformation will be triggered through the revelation of truth.

However, the unfolding of truth in its restoration is progressive – "The path of the just is as a shining light shining more and more to the perfect day". Jesus explained that, "Man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God" (Mtt 4:4). The verb "proceeding" is present tense. There is always a 'present and proceeding' word for every generation. Martin Luther received it concerning 'justification by faith', John Wesley 'holiness', and the Pentecostals the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit'. But what is the word for this generation? God give us an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today!

Priest, Prophet, & King

As the consummate and final word of God, Jesus is revealed in three dimensions: as Priest, Prophet, and King.

He showed Himself in the historic Reformation as our 'Great High Priest', resulting in the recovery of 'justification by faith', the 'priesthood of the believer', 'water baptism'; and two centuries later through Wesley, 'sanctification'. The ascension-gift ministries restored in this time were that of the teacher, pastor, and evangelist.

In the revivals of the 20th Century, particularly in the mid-century outpourings, Christ was revealed as 'Prophet', resulting in the recovery of 'the laying on of hands' and the ascension-gift ministry of the prophet.

And now, in the coming outpouring Christ will be revealed as 'King'. Through this last great outpouring of the Spirit the ascension-gift ministry of the apostle will be restored hand-in-glove with 'resurrection life and eternal judgement'. The body of Christ will finally come to maturity – to the "full measure of the stature of Christ" (see Eph 4:11-13 & Heb 6:1-3).

Parenthetically, I might add that the restoration of the ascension-gift ministries has only been in measure. We view them very much through 1,900 years of tradition and Greek worldview. Their fullness awaits that time when Christ, who is the "Apostle and High Priest of our calling", reveals himself in full measure to the church. At that time He will release mature apostleship as pivotal to the full emergence of the other ascension-gift ministries.

The Crux of the Current Reformation

The spiritual unveiling of Christ as Priest triggered revolutionary structural reformation, likewise the revelation of Christ as King. Christ revealed as Priest cut off the human priesthood at the knees, and so the revelation of Christ as King will cut off the human kingship at the neck.

This is the crux of the current reformation.

Through the prophet God protests, "They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval…" (Hos 8:4). This is alluding to 's rejection of Samuel for a king. They had relinquished the Priesthood to Aaron but now they went the next step, tragically relinquishing the Kingship to Saul. The old covenant church (ancient Israel) had been called out from the nations to be corporately a "kingdom of priests" (Ex 19:5-6) – to be God's vice-regents spreading the knowledge of the glory of the Lord throughout the earth by a personal and intimate knowledge of the true God. But now through her rebellion and rejection of this knowledge of God she sold her calling, losing it to a separate caste of kings and priests.

As a type this foreshadowed the greatest miss-development in the entire new covenant church's history – her relinquishing of the 'royal priesthood' (1 Pet 2:9) to a separate caste of kings and priests – the clergy – and therefore, to human control. The second and third centuries saw the rise of the 'monarchical bishop'. As did ancient , the church effectively declared, "Give us a king like all the other nations" (1 Sam 8:5). Rejecting the Samuels, the men of the Spirit (apostles and prophets), they were replaced with a human office – the 'monarchical bishop', the direct equivalent of 'senior minister' (pastor) in today's church. Authority gradually shifted from a relational and spiritual base to a hierarchical and organisational one, plunging the church into progressive idolatry and spiritual decline.

Confusion between Secular & Spiritual Authority

This was accelerated by state patronage of the church under Constantine and subsequent emperors. The pagan role of the Emperor as high priest, as Pontifex Maximus, was used to legitimise his interference in the church. The lines between secular and spiritual authority became completely blurred as the Emperor presided over church affairs and bishops acquired civil jurisdiction. Spiritual authority was effectively replaced by hierarchical authority.

The teaching of Jesus on this issue was ignored resulting in confusion between secular and spiritual authority. They are two completely different kinds of authority relating to two separate spheres. Jesus taught this when He said,

      "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  

      It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant" 

       Mtt 20:25-26; also Mk 10:42-43

One is 'secular' relating to the civil/business sphere (the Gentiles) and the other is 'spiritual' relating to the house of God (it is not this way among you ). The former is organisational and hierarchical (lord it over you), the latter is relational and spiritual (greatest shall be your servant). 

The former is upheld by the "sword of the magistrate", by legal, organisational, and ultimately coercive means (eg police, courts, laws, rules, constitutions etc) and the latter by the "sword of truth and love" (the word of God and conscience only). The former is reflected, for example, in the employer/employee relationship requiring obedience to a position of authority. This does not imply that the person who occupies the position may not be a good or kind employer. If so, they are merely functioning as a 'benevolent despot'. 

And so the same applies in traditional church authority. There are many fine men and women of God who occupy traditional positions of authority, whether they are called pastor, apostle, bishop, superintendent etc. The descriptor of the 'position' is not so much the issue, although it is when it becomes a title – a proper-noun rather than an adjective (i.e. 'Apostle Bill' instead of 'Bill the apostle', or 'Bill is apostolic'). The issue, however, is that we unconsciously view the ministry described as a 'position' rather than an anointing. And once we do this it is accompanied with an official authority and title. This is despite Jesus' clear teaching that we were not to carry honorific titles:  

      "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 

      Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

      Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ."  Mtt 23:8-10 NASB  

The contemporary 'apostolic movement' is falling foul of Jesus' teaching at this point. Its fondness for titles (e.g. 'Apostle Bill', or 'Pastor Jack') is only symptomatic of a deeper Constantinian and non-reformational view of authority. Without distinguishing between spiritual and secular authority it will only replicate history – more control, abuse and spiritual confusion. 

The root problem was not fully addressed by the Reformation. Despite the recovery at an individual level of the 'priesthood of the believer', at a corporate level priests were merely replaced by pastors. A 'protestant priesthood' with official powers was the inevitable result of the reformer's refusal to distinguish between spiritual and secular authority. The confusion between the two legitimised the Inquisition prior to the Reformation, and the drowning of Anabaptists by the thousands under the watchful eye of the Reformer's during it. In both cases the church (whether Protestant or Catholic) self-consciously used the secular/civil arm. Because of the Constantinian confusion of authorities great abuse was perpetrated on the people of God.

To transfer the same concept of authority from pastors to apostles, often under the term 'covering', is to miss the heart of the reformation. It only serves to perpetuate the historic problem of a human intermediary between Christ and His congregation. And as such it can only be defined as 'anti-Christ' which by definition means 'to be in the place of Christ'. This is a serious indictment on the current 'apostolic movement' and more broadly on both traditional and contemporary church structures. To take the place of Christ over God's inheritance is to invite the displeasure of God.

In the light of the above miss-development, the revelation of the 'priesthood of the believer', and new covenant freedom it demands repentance and rectification. The fear of the Lord is about to fall on the church. Many leaders will see the error of their ways and turn to the Lord. 

The Two Streams

There are two streams apparent in the current reformation. One flows on the surface and the other in the depths.

The former, flowing on the surface is more visible, but prone to contamination. It pursues a profile and is more accommodating to man's ways and methods usually appealing to the cognitive. It is usually identifiable with particular men or movements.

The latter is hidden, flowing underground and is free from contamination. It is deep calling to deep. It pursues a deep spirituality and doesn't seek a public profile or man's recognition – it does not yield to man's ways or methods. It is more intuitive pursuing the ways of the Spirit. It is impossible to identify this stream with any particular man or movement.

The surface stream was seen in the mainstream Reformers such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. They were given great profile which allowed the Reformation to survive and indeed spread in the face of great opposition. However, this profile led Luther to trade his earlier call for freedom for the patronage and protection of the German princes. The stream was contaminated. Secular and spiritual authority was again mixed and the Reformation retarded.

However, the underground stream refused to compromise on this very point. What has been commonly recognised as the 'medieval underground', a broad-based faceless movement of dissent and spiritual renewal dating back 1,000 years, surfaced almost contemporaneously with Luther. They became known during the Reformation as the Anabaptists. So named for their commitment to rebaptism coming out of the revelation that the church (ecclesia) are the 'called out ones' – a 'gathered community' distinct from the unbelieving one.

This was in stark contrast to Christendom – a prevailing monolithic system consisting of an unholy alliance between secular and spiritual authorities. Entry to this system was by physical birth and infant baptism. One was simply born into Christendom. To be rebaptised as a believing adult was therefore viewed as a declaration of war on the old system and was deeply subversive – both socially and politically. From Constantine onwards Christianity, as the state religion, had been politically used as social cement.

This prophetic posture of the underground in rebaptism, separating secular and spiritual spheres, paved the way for the separation of church and state and the religious freedom now enjoyed in the and most Western nations.

The Ultimatum

However, the ultimatum is this: if the underground stream does not take the reformation to the next level by redefining the nature and function of authority within the church even the religious freedoms that have already been won out in the state will be lost. In fact, the state will either revert to Christendom where Christianity, as a defacto state religion, is used as social cement or to occult paganism for the same reason. To whom much is given much is required.

We have the separation of church and state. But it is now time for the separation of secular and spiritual styles of leadership within the church – for the exorcism of hierarchical and indeed 'Gentilic' authority from the house of God.

Pastors and leaders now is the time to humble ourselves and seek the Lord. He will not share His glory with another.

It is time to relinquish what belongs only to Him.