Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Developing Revelation

How do I know that God hasn't given a word to one of these pastors to renovate His church and establish a new way of worshiping? 

Quite simply, I don't. 

The idea that we're talking about here is the idea of "developing revelation" - the notion that God speaks to His people in seasons in and effort to develop across time the gloriousness of His plan in the world. This is how we got to the church in the first place - by tracking God's developing revelation all the way from "in the beginning" through Egypt to the tabernacle in the wilderness to the Temple in Jerusalem to exile and all the way to the Roman Empire, where Jesus revealed the church to us as God's design for His people under grace. Without developing revelation, without everything that came before it, we would have no way of understanding Jesus or the church. That's just how God works.

Then sometime, many many many years after Jesus, a bunch of religious professionals got together and decided that God was done speaking to His people and that nothing new was going to come from His mouth. Revelation, they said, was closed. 

Now, I'm not so sure about that. I don't think that a God who has spoken to His people in every culture and every historical era across time suddenly just stops and forces everyone to figure out what His Word to a people under Roman rule has to say to us in a world of smartphones and automatic weapons. I think He's still speaking to us, giving us a message that makes sense. If that weren't true, we wouldn't have so many Christian living books being published telling us what God wants us to know about our lives today

But the standard for new revelation has got to be high. If we are a people who believe that God's entire history was leading us to Jesus, then anything that we claim that changes a single thing about Jesus has an extremely high burden of proof. 

That includes changing the nature of the church. 

If Jesus Himself told us about the church and built it, if He's the one who established it, if He's the one who spent His life and ministry telling us how things work in the community of God and calling us to go make disciples and to love one another, then anyone claiming that the church is not that important or that Jesus doesn't love His church has to prove that that's God talking and not them. 

So far, none of them have. 

Listen, we already have in Revelation the way that God responds to a broken church. Seven of them, actually. We have already seen how God responds to the model that is carried out fallibly by broken persons in a fallen world. Not once does God say, "Wow. This church thing was a bad idea." Not once does He say, "Man, you guys are getting this so wrong that I'm going to have to rethink My plan." No, what He keeps saying is, "You aren't perfect, but keep loving Me, and I will keep perfecting you." "You're doing some things well, but there's some stuff you still need to work on." And He keeps repeating His call to love one another, to never stop meeting together, to not neglect the community of the church. 

And if God, seeing how broken the church can be, still thinks the church is the plan, then the church is the plan, period. No matter how chic it may be to start proclaiming otherwise. 

And as much as these pastors who spend their ministry tearing down the church try to tell you that they're just like Jesus, that you can find their kind of ministry all through the pages of the Bible, they're half-right. You can. 

But it's not where they claim it is. 

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