Rhema versus Logos
I have discussed in the preceeding pages the concept that when Jesus talked about "his word", he was referring to the words that the Holy Spirit would generate within the heart of the Host on his behalf as thoughts. Jesus talked about getting words from the Father and speaking them to his hearers. These words included the written scriptures,but I want to emphasize that they were not restricted exclusively to them. Peter himself pointed out in 1 Peter 1:19-21 the origin of the written scriptures:
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
In other words, the Holy Spirit spoke words to holy men of God who first spoke them to the people. Some wrote them down afterwards, such as Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. Others did not, but we know their words because others wrote it down for them, such as Elijah and Elisha. All such words came from the Holy Spirit moving holy men of God.
Here is 1 Timothy 3:15-17:
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Paul's terminology was that of the words being "given by inspiration of God". The word used for that five word phrase is Theopneustos, "God breathed". The imagery is one of God talking to someone while giving mouth-to-mouth respiration, and the imagery of Spirit is closely allied with that of the wind. In the first chapter of John, we see the gospel writer talking about Jesus being the Logos, the Word of God. How are words given? Why, they are breathed out. Spoken words, rhema, are vibratory impressions upon the air that are initiated by breathed wind. In a sense, the two are as tied together as the Holy Spirit is with Jesus within us. The wind bears the words but remains merely wind if there are no words to convey. The words bear the message (the logos), but cannot be communicated apart from the Wind. Of course, if there is wind bearing the words (rhema), there must be a speaker, from whom the words proceed and bear the thoughts (logos) of the speaker in the same way that a Son proceeds forth from His Father and bears His image. The fact that the word logos is different from that of rhema, an allied greek word that refers to the spoken word rather than to the essence of the meaning of that which is spoken, emphasizes the difference: Spirit bears logos in the same way that physical air bears rhema. and without Spirit/air, logos/rhema cannot be communicated. And at the same time, communication is not happening if there is only Spirit/air without logos/rhema. This inter-relationship/dependency between Spirit and logos means that the phrases "In Christ" and "Christ in us" virtually requires that the Spirit be present as the communicating medium within us. It also means that the presence of Jesus Christ within us is in the form of logos, the core intent and meaning that drives the selection and utterance of physical words. It is often the case that people can "hear" words without understanding them. They heard rhema, the physical speech, but not the logos that existed within the mind of the speaker that guided the generation of the spoken words, and which were uttered with the intent of re-creating that same logos within the mind of the hearer. It is that process of creating the Logos within the mind of the believer (and which, per the first chapter of the Gospel of John, is Jesus Christ) that is the main (but not sole) mission of the Holy Spirit.
I apologize for the preceeding descent into semi-mystical language, but the nature of the subject requires that I work within the context created by Jesus, John the Apostle, and Paul, if we are to get a feel for how they intended us to understand the few physical examples they gave us of this unique aspect of Deus.
What the Disciples Misunderstood
It is thus regrettable that, when the disciples heard Jesus talking about words, they misunderstood those words as being what the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the lawyers, and the Priests told them was the Word of God, which was exclusively the written scriptures interpreted by humans. This was probably to be expected, since up to the Ascension, they still labored under the belief they were taught from their youth by their Rabbis that the Messiah was to come once and physically deliver Israel from her physical enemies. It was probably made worse by a false interpretation of Jesus' use of the scriptures with his two disciples on their walk to Emmaus to explain that the Crucifixion and Resurrection had been predicted. His usage was consistent with this passage from John 5:39-40, where Jesus says:
39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
The purpose of the scriptures was always to testify of Jesus, just as the purpose of the Holy Spirit within us is to testify of Jesus. We regard the Gospels as an extension of the Scriptures, but it is often not noted how rarely Jesus is quoted as quoting scripture, preferring to summarize them prior to extending them or applying them to himself. They certainly are not as dense in quotations as the Book of Hebrews or the Letter to the Romans. Even when it is obvious that Jesus did quote scriptures extensively, such as to the disiciples on the way to Emmaus and to the Eleven later that same evening, the texts uncooperatively do not record what was said. So why is that?
I have quoted at the top of this page verses that refer to the origin of the Scriptures in the Moving of the Spirit. It is my belief that it was Jesus' intent to communicate, via the Holy Spirit, with each believer in the same way that God communicated, via the Holy Spirit, to the prophets the words that eventually were written down and became the scriptures. The latter set of communications came first and were written down, the former set came later and were not written down. It is my position that both are equally valid, equally scriptural, equally from God.
I admit that I am making a rather unwarranted concession to the elevated stature of the written Scriptures. Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthinans 3, which I looked at on page 6 of this essay, uncompromisingly declares the superiority of Life in the Spirit over the Deadness of the Letter. Though Paul recommends the study of the Scriptures to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4: 13, he also reminds his student in verse 14 to not neglect the spiritual gift given to him when the body of elders laid their hands on him. Peter himself admits that the Spirit, speaking through Paul, qualified the latter's writings as being equal to scripture. Here is 2 Peter 3:15-16:
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
The Dangers of Misusing Scriptures
I am very much aware of the current position that the Written Scriptures, as embodied in the Old and New Testaments, hold in the Protestant tradition. The fate of the people who followed Jim Jones is but the latest example of many that are given when the validity and authority of the Scriptures is denied. And the Reformers' position of sola Scriptura was vitally necessary to begin the recovery of a more authentic Christianity. The tendency is either to exalt the Scriptures above the leading of the Spirit or to deny the validity of both. The middle path, where the Scriptures are used in conjunction with the leading of the Spirit, who speaks from those same Scriptures, is an option never considered. However, it is the middle path that I recommend for the moment, the details of walking therein to be given in my discussion of Stage 2. Here, I will address the flaws of the extrema.
In my view, the error of denying the validity of the Scriptures is obvious: if the records are not valid, from whence does Christianity gain its structure and belief system? I believe that the record shows that those who deny the validity of the Scriptures do so to impose a structure and belief system of their own making. These are those who seek to cash in on the hard-earned cachet of "Christianity" that they may push their own agenda "under its skirts" so to speak. To turn it into what C.S. Lewis called "christianity plus". In the light of the research results reported thus far on this website, I consider this position to be as thoroughly refuted in the same way that James' postulated "faith without works" was refuted by being shown as inferior in results to the faith that is "shown by my works".
It may seem heretical to suggest that the leading of the Spirit be taken above that of the scriptures, but the heresy is in the phrasing of the suggestion. Often, when somone is disputing that the Spirit's guidance is to be preferred to scriptures, they actually are fighting the Spirit's guidance in the face of a specific interpretation of the Scriptures being presented by them. I point out that Jim Jones built up his influence among his followers by first teaching from the Scriptures. Once that confidence was established, the scriptures eventually became a hindrance to his desire to take them in a different direction, leading to his public rejection of the Scriptures and those who opposed his new direction when it clearly contradicted those Scriptures. Because there are actual heretics and heresies out there is no reason, however, to believe every accusation of heresy when a cherished belief or doctrine is effectively contradicted and refuted. One can just as perniciously "wrap oneself in the Scriptures" as one can "wrap oneself in The Flag", and for similar reasons.
Of course, not all who champion the Scriptures as the be-all and end-all of Christian experience do so with evil intent. To be fair, it is rather hard to live by the Scriptures as interpreted by the Spirit if your belief is that the leading of the Spirit was confined to the Prophets and Apostles for the sole purpose of writing those Scriptures. If one is urged to walk by the Spirit (Romans 8), but one can't hear the words being generated by the Spirit in the course of that walk, then the next best thing to do is to fall back to walking by the words last given by that Spirit to someone else that you trust who heard that Spirit. That would be a good course of action if you knew how to adapt the words given to that person to your situation, but to do it right would require (surprise!) being led by the Spirit, which merely shoves the problem a level deeper. The desire to avoid an improper adaptation is why we tend to gravitate to bible characters whose situations and personality match our own, and thus whose words from the Spirit reflect advice that requires the least amount of adaptation. The problem, as I see it, is an extreme fixation on the Scriptures themselves rather than "following" the scriptures to let them lead us to that which they point.
This "pointer fixation" problem is familiar to owners of dogs and cats who occasionally interact with their pets by feeding them by hand: a tidbit is dropped, and the owner points at it to direct the animal's attention to it, but the animal sniffs at the finger pointing at the tidbit. "Pointer following" is a concept that doesn't enter into their thinking. In their minds, the finger is part of the hand from which earlier tidbits came, so it is regarded as the infallible source for all future tidbits, regardless of the fact that fingers have multiple uses, one of which happens to be pointing to tidbits.
Some may argue that this isn't always true for all dogs since police and military dogs are trained to attack targets that are designated when their handler "points" at the target. However, this actually proves my ultimate point which is that "pointer following" is not natural, and requires training of the "pointer follower" to recognize when a "pointing signal" is being given and to properly "follow" it.
In fact, a closer analysis of the training process shows us the exact point at which "bible pointer following" fails. Attack dogs are never trained to eat the target. Rather, they are breeds with a high enough intelligence to be trainable by "deferred gratification", where they know they have to attack the target before they are rewarded, either by tidbits or by praise. When it comes to direct feeding of tidbits, the house pet sees the hand as the source of tidbits, and thus pays attention to the hand itself, rather than to its configuration that indicates that it is pointing at a tidbit.
There is utterly no doubt in my mind that the Scriptures are a source of comfort, strength, and wisdom. The Psalms have spiritually fed millions for millenia, while wrestling with the Proverbs have made many a person wiser than their teachers. The Prophecies have always given people a "heads up" of what was to come, despite the fact that the warnings were rarely ever heeded. I myself enthusiastically testify to the blessings that are available through the promises contained in the scriptures (when properly understood and believed). The intellectual rise of the Jews after the return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity can be traced to the codification and systematic propagation of the Old Testament by Ezra the Scribe through the synagogues. An impressive demonstration of the power of the Scriptures that has been successfully repeated so many times that I consider it a virtual proof of their divine origin (including that of the much maligned 'wisdom' literature) is what could be called the "Krell Mind Machine" effect: As a former college professor, I have had several students come to me for help on the subject that I was teaching express a sense of frustration about their academic performance in general. In response, I would give my personal account of how my Grade Point Average jumped in High school from C's to straight A's after I had begun a systematic study of the Bible. I then recommended that they use the "Daily Proverbs" study program to see if what happened to me would work for them. That program consists of studying the chapter in Proverbs whose chapter number is identical to the day of the month of that day (March 17=>Proverbs 17, April 2=>Proverbs 2, May 31=>Proverbs 31, etc.). Every student that I gave this counsel to followed it, and they always later came back at the end of that academic period to tell me that their academic performance had dramatically turned around, and thanking me for giving them the most valuable piece of advice they had ever received during high school or college. Dr. Marjorie Dobbins of Brewton-Parker College heard this testimony, replicated the experiment in her "dumbell English" class, and came back reporting similar results.
Without any doubt whatsoever, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!"
Yet, it is this aspect of the Scriptures that causes pointer following failure. Having been a source of blessing to us, we have elevated it to being the sole source of blessing, with the obvious implication that the only blessings that we can obtain are only those provided by it. This is fundamentally incorrect: the real effectiveness of the Scriptures comes from the fact that they are the words of a trustworthy God who personally and cooperatively responds to those who believe in Him. Where the specifics of that belief are expressed by words in the Bible, then belief in the Bible is an act of cooperation with God. Where the specifics of that belief are expressed by a stream of mental words created within the mind of the believer by the Spirit of God, then following those words is also an act of cooperation with God. Abraham had no scriptures, yet he is called the Father of the Faithful, and it is through the Covenant that he made with God that all peoples of the earth are blessed. The power of the Scriptures is not inherent within the words of the text itself, for then we would be obliged to believe in oral magic. Rather, the power comes from the One who spoke the words that eventually got scribed into text. Take two men who swear to do something, with both using the exact same words, yet we will trust one and not the other. Hypocrisy? Favoritism? A double standard? Not at all, for experience teaches us that words are cheap. Our trust (and distrust) is based on our knowledge of the characters of the two men which leads us to put our trust and confidence in the one whose track record shows that he consistently follows through on the words he says.
The Right Use of Scripture
When Paul counseled Timothy to rightly divide the Word of God, he trusted his protoge to know that "there is more than one way to skin a cat." For my purpose, I propose that we "skin the Scripture cat" via the employment of some elementary principles derived from military science. We will classify its use in terms of logistics, strategy, and tactics.
I have already discussed the logistical aspects (and benefits) of the Word of God several paragraphs earlier. While Muslims claim that the veracity of the Koran lies in its exquisite literary style as expressed in the Arabic text, I claim that the veracity of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures as a whole lie in this logistical aspect of its use as a real source of aid and comfort. Many critics of the bible continue to be confounded by the continued persistence of any reverence for what they consider to be outmoded and ancient texts, not realizing that their attitude toward them affects their ability to see that they supply power and ability to those willing to take the time and effort to acquire and wield them. Yet, like the weapons and supplies received by any army in the field, some of the stuff is easy to use while others requires more skill and knowledge to make their use truly effective. Similarly, certain capabilities and benefits outlined in the Bible require more skill and knowledge to use than others. With some weaponry, quantity brings its own unique quality, while others need a great deal of thought before one even thinks of using it. In the same way, some capabilites that look weak in isolation (such as prayer) gain immense power in their own right if universally adopted. And like in any modern army, those proposing new weaponry often find their creations totally useless when put in the field, while other weaponry that would prove immensely effective may be rejected out of hand by those in the field. The best army continues to be the one that remains the most flexible and creative with the stuff that is given to it, and best expresses to the "home front" their exact needs. In the same way, many teachers in Christendom tend to be pre-emptory in their dismissal of the validity of some capabilites that prove their vality and immense benefit to those practitioners who prove themselves more open and persistent in learning and wielding them.
One would rightly conclude that doctrine comprises the strategic aspect of the Word of God, and they would be correct. However, strategy embraces more than setting the rules of engagement (10 commandments, the Golden Rule, definitions of the fruit of the spirit). What is often missed is that strategy dictates the alliances one must make in the course of fighting the larger war. A brilliant strategist knows where his own forces come up short, and so works to seek out companions and allies whose contributions would make the difference between victory and defeat. Strategy dictates that one must modify one's behavior, attitudes, laws, tactics, logistics, and use of materiel and personnel to amplify the benefits that the allies bring to the table, as well as win and maintain their approval and support. It is here that the thoughtful reader may see the similarity in war between a weak nation making a strategic alliance with a far stronger nation and the similarity in Spiritual warfare of a totally powerless humanity joining itself in a symbiotic alliance with Diety that is proposed and effected by the latter. The scriptures persistently teach the utter weakness and inability of Homo Sapiens to fight a corrupt variety of Spiritus (the Devil) in a hostile battlefield (the world) while saddled with influential traitors within (the flesh/heart). The essays on this website show how the scripture calls for Homo to join itself symbiotically with Deus to form, out of strategic necessity, a logistically and tactically superior species, and sketch an outline of the conditions, battlefield protocols, and rules of engagement that would enable the conjoined participants to leverage the unique advantages and capabilities made available by that alliance. However, the benefits of such an alliance would be rendered null and void for all those who are ignorant of it and of its benefits, and thus who continue to plan and fight without them.
It is the tactical aspect of the Scriptures that give us the most trouble, since the current fashion is to confuse tactics with strategy. There are those who teach a pacifist Christ, and counsel turning the other cheek in all cases, but pointedly ignore the Christ who drove out the money changers and knocked Saul off his high horse. They applaud the Jesus who said "Judge not", but hope nobody notices that Jesus also said "Judge not according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement." They love the Paul of 1 Corinthians 13, but are uncomfortable with the Saul who blinded Elymas. Paul Coughlin's latest book, "Unleashing Courageous Faith", while an excellent call to living a courageous life, cannot seem to muster an argument against such misuse of scripture other than to say "But if we do nothing, the bad guys will win!" To that argument, his opponents will merely smile and say "Well, it didn't look as if Jesus won on the cross either, but appearances are deceiving, you poor deceived-by-appearances person!"
The real solution is to insist that the Scripture supports all of the above tactics, but that disaster will surely come if we insist on elevating a specific tactic to a strategy. Our strategy is to be firm, consistent, and unchanging regardless of the circumstances. Our tactics, on the other hand, must be selected based on the circumstances facing us, the resources and abilities we have available, and on what the enemy is doing with what he has. And when it comes to selecting tactics, solid and actionable intelligence on the reality of the situation and the likely consequences of various possible actions is worth an Army Corps. This is where we have to swallow our pride and call on our Deus Ally within to tell us what tactic to use in every situation and how to use it. Consider this a plug for the vital necessity of hearing and obeying the words that the work of God the Holy Spirit generates within our heart.
The Kingdom of God
I have mentioned before the strategic choice made by Jesus that he and the New Species, of which he was the Master Template and First Member, was to duke it out with the Devil and his minions, both spiritual and worldly. The name given to the collective New Species, including Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, is the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God. It is thus unfortunate that the disciples continued to be influenced by the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Here is Acts 1:1-9:
1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Jesus continued to talk about the Kingdom of God, as shown in the green mark-up of verse 3. Yet, the yellow mark-up in verse 6 shows that the disciples continued to talk about the worldly kingdom of Israel being re-established. Though the pharisees and priests were correct that the Old Testament predicted a restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, that kingdom and the Kingdome of God are two different kingdoms. The citizenship of one is by blood and birth, while the citizenship of the other is by the Spirit coming. Jesus, in the blue mark-up, notes that the timing of the establishment of the Davidic kingdom was a matter within the purview of God the Father, and would be established "in his own power" (exousia, power of authority). In contrast, the Kingdom of God would be marked by the earthly members, the disciples receiving power (dunamis, power of ability) after the Holy Ghost would come upon them, after which they were sent to be witnesses of him to the entire world. This is part of the great commission, given in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The word "power" in verse 18 is exousia, the power of authority, and is given to Jesus. In turn, Jesus told them they would have power, dunamis, or power of ability, in Acts 1:8. This is the standard process of power delegation in a Kingdom, for it is the head of the Kindom that has authority, while it is his military that is given the permission to project literal military power in the form of physical bombs and bullets, in the interests of the Kingdom. The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the military forces of the United States, yet literally does not carry a pistol or other weapon on his person. He has exousia, however, through and by his position as the Commander in Chief to direct the dunamis of the military. In fact, it is doubtful that any member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff carry a weapon themselves, except as ornamentation. The ones who actually pilot the weapons of power (dunamis) and pull the triggers or push the buttons that unleash that power, are the ones at the bottom of the military organization. That is, the citizen solders drawn from the people of the United States itself who makes airpower and seapower effective by "putting boots on the ground". Yet, in a stunning misapplication of the basics of establishing a kingdom, the Church had reserved the exercise of power to the disciples who didn't work to put spiritual power in the hands of the church members. This left the entire body of Christ defenseless in the face of certain persecution.
Am I too hard on the leadership of the Church? Here is the most shameful passage of Acts:
Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
"Except the apostles." "Except the apostles." I don't think Saul of Tarsus was an ignorant persecutor. His persecution was done with the full awareness that attacking the apostles would have been, ahh, "counterproductive". He knew they did miracles. He knew Stephen did miracles and wonders. He knew what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. He knew of the jailbreak of the apostles. I believe that the stoning of Stephen, with no spiritual response from the victim or the apostles, encouraged him. He avoided the apostles and persecuted "the little people", and the apostles did nothing. This wasn't fortuitous: Saul was counting on their inaction, and on their decision not to explicitly empower the laity of the Church.
Were the apostles supposed to "turn the other cheek", as "Christian" pacifists and "peacemakers" counsel us today? Well, WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) You have to ask? We don't have to ask. We KNOW What Jesus Did!
What We Have To Do is answer a simple question: why did Jesus wait until Saul got to Damascus to act? I think it is rather obvious: He had all authority in heaven and earth, gave it to them to "bind and loose" (twice), and waited for them to do something with it. What they did with it was SQUAT. not only not bothering to grow dunamis in "the little people", but not even having the guts to use what dunamis they had to defend them. When it was obvious that they weren't going to do anything, and were doubtless breathing a sigh of relief when Saul had left Jerusalem to go after "the little people" in Damascus, Jesus intervened Himself, giving Ananias the "gift" that people who claim to know the Bible declare is "only reserved for the apostles", so that Saul could receive the Holy Spirit from one of "the little people" he was persecuting, as well as recover his sight. People who argue that the apostles had no authority or ability to act ignore the fact that Saul/Paul later blinds Elymas "without authority", demonstrating a Homo/Deus capability that the apostles could have used to stop him, as well as ignoring the fact that Jesus blinding Saul did stop him. (It is my belief that Paul's non-regard for the Apostles is based on their cowardly inaction to his persecution. I further believe that this eventually translated into a disgust of them that led him not to initially humble himself and go to them for the removal of the Thorn in the Flesh that God allowed Satan to impose on him.
I have talked before about writing a "Pentecost crash report", outlining what the disciples did wrong after the Acension. It is my belief, based on the above discussion that goes back to the third temptation, that one of the reasons we have a mostly powerless church today is because the disciples failed to follow the teaching example of Jesus Christ. While they should have preached after Pentecost, they should have done it the way Jesus did by splitting up the 109 other disciples that were also in the upper room, and who had also received the Spirit of God in the form of tounges of fire, among themselves. They would have trained those disciples in the same way they were trained by Jesus, and then split them up after a three year training period so that they would also form-up groups of 9 to 12. Assuming a group of 10 apprentices to one disciple/instructor, and assuming a one-time fork-off (no instructor takes on subsequent sets of 10 apprentices, an unreasonable assumption), and 10 teaching disciples to start with (to make the math easier) there would be 110 instructor/disciples after 3 years, 1110 after another 3, 11110 after another 3, 111110 after another 3, and 1111110 after another 3. Obviously, there would be attrition from persecution, but I also point out that these Disciple/apprentice groups would have been preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as part of the instruction process, creating more followers of Jesus Christ, so the actual size of the Church at the end of 15 years would have been considerably larger than just the 1 million plus instructors that the process would have generated in the same period of time. These converts, obviously, become the pool from which instructors draw their apprentices. Clearly, such a cadre with each as capable of working miracles as the original 11 (if not the greater works Jesus promised), would have sealed this teaching tradition into the church and left an even larger footprint in history than what actually happened. I leave the development and writing of alternative histories as an exercise to the reader, with a note that this would probably be a lucrative book series, and that this essay is in the public domain.
Another possible reason for the failure of the Church was due, I believe, to the continued working of the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees regarding the nature of the Messianic Kingdom. Simply put, it appears from the account in Acts 1 that the disciples were not entirely free from the belief that the Messianic Kingdom was to be a literal one. Both they and Paul continue to talk about the Kingdom of God as a literal physical kingdom yet to come with God as the leader. This ignores the entire process of Kingdom Generation demonstrated by God in Genesis and Exodus: God's Kingdom always begins with having a people, with the armies (drawn from that people) next, followed by a taking of the land, and ending with a government and the recognition by other nations of being a nation. As an illustration, I point out that there was an American people in North America before there was a nation called the United States whose purpose was to protect that people. This fundamental misunderstanding led the Disciples, and Paul, to believe that Jesus, as the Messiah, would come quickly in their day, founding their belief on Jesus' core teaching, which was that "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" This misses the fact that The Kindom of Heaven came at Pentecost, and started by creating a new people, in the form of a new species of human being. Part of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees was the belief that perfect living in accordance to the Law and their traditions would eventually lead to the re-establishment of the Davidic/Messianic Kingdom of Israel. Doubtless, the disciples themselves thought that the leaders were wrong on the details, but right in the overall thrust "The leaders are just wrong about the traditions and the identity of the messiah./ What counts is the actual biblical requirements, which the Holy Spirit can enable people to perfectly live. We have what it takes to do what the religious leaders cannot do, which is bring about a pure nation of Jews that would cause Jesus to return to earth!"
I am led to this belief based on the passage from Galatians 2:1-10 where Paul recounts going to Jerusalem 14 years after his conversion to lay out to the Apostles his understanding of the Gospel. Note that verse 9 contains the following enigmatic passage "that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision." This seems to imply that the disciples in Jerusalem were of the belief that their mission was to bring Jesus Christ to Judaism, while Paul's was to go to everyone else. If the problem they saw was just to convince the Jews to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, then dedicating themselves to converting Israel by staying in the Heart of Judaism, Jerusalem, would very likely have worked without the million plus instructor cadre I postulated they could have grown in the 14 years cited by Paul.
This attempt to work within Judaism to reform it, rather than take the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven to the entire world, is also illustrated with the one fatal mistake that terminated Paul's work, and which could have been avoided if the proper mental attitude necessary to develop the instructor cadre had been present. In a sense, the apostles did not trust their converts to be good instructors/disciple as much as Jesus trusted John the Baptist's converts (themselves!) to be good disciples/apostles. Perhaps they realized that they were flakes and figured that everyone else was in the same spiritual situation than they were, but Paul and his ministry showed that they were wrong. Yet, at the close of his third missionary journey, the Spirit moved through the Gentile Churches to warn Paul of the threats he faced if he returned to Jerusalem. They used this knowledge to urge him not to go, but he disregarded this advice. I transition to the narrative in Acts 21:17 - 26:
17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
Paul goes along with this "kabuki dance" to appease the Jews, winding up in the Temple on the seventh day of the purification process when some Asian Jews familiar with him, but whose opposition to his work is the reason for the discontent of the Jewish Christians cited in verses 20 and 21, recognize him in the temple, make a wild accusation, and start the riot that gets him arrested. The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees continues its work of trying to convince people that works according to the Law, rather than works provoked by the Spirit Within, is what God desires and whose manifestation will lead God to usher in The Promised Kingdom on this earth.
This leaven continues its work today.
We will not be able to reboot Pentecost until it is thoroughly purged from among us.
I will now close this essay with a summary and some concluding personal commentary.
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