A good friend called this weekend and asked me about last week's post on the Acts Church. "How did I know they were immersed in the gospel, when it doesn't actually say that?" In case anyone else wondered about that, my response in brief, was that they were "devoted to the apostle's teaching." And everything else they were devoted to is their obvious response to the gospel. We know the apostles preached the gospel, as they were witnesses to it, we have the gospels that they wrote, and all their epistles. It would have been an exciting time to be a Christian.
The question for us now is: How can we realize this same type of church?
I believe the key is for us to realize just the right eschatology (God's final plans). Many Christians that under-realize God's plan still see mankind lost in sin, total depravity, and leave it all at the cross each week at church. Horton describes them as (1) "utterly indifferent to God's presence" in worship. Christians and churches with this under-realized eschatology tend to be very traditional, maintenance organizations, with little or no ministry inclinations, and may be safe in their salvation but missing out on the joy of the gospel. Boy, do I know a few people and churches like this!
Then there is to over-realize the end times. These believers are living as if the Lord has already had his second coming, are living totally in "ministry" mode, are busy building the New Jerusalem, and have no use whatsoever for the cross. They actually are very immature Christians who will topple and fall when trials come their way. (Been there, done that.) So what is the middle ground?
In reality, we are living in an age where both the old age before the cross and Resurrection, and the new age to come at His Second Coming are intersecting. The world is still lost in sin, but the Holy Spirit has come, and by grace, some of us have been saved. Our Christian experience is caught up in both ages, for now. Our Savior rules over this Age of Grace, so to speak, not yet the Age of Glory, at His second coming.
So what's the implication of living in this present age of grace? The right perspective will keep us centered on Christ and His cross, yet empowered by the Holy Spirit. This seems pretty elementary, but it is the crux of what is happening to the Body of Christ. Too many Christians are leaving the gospel message behind, and finding new ways to satisfy their souls, ministries, services, and outreaches, that are powerless. New gospels of prosperity and self-help, to name a couple. And seeker sensitive services that lack the gospel that de-sensitize the church, or just plain inward looking faith and worship services that reflect what we want, or what we think God wants, or an indifference to the mission that we have been trusted with, to name a few more. The whole traditional / contemporary worship debate is rooted in these two wrong eschatologies.
The proper "Christian walk" doesn't lead from the cross to the resurrection to the end times in a horizontal walk, but leads deeper into the center, knowing more and more about righteousness, how we need it, don't have it, and use Christ's righteousness in the face of our hopeless condition. And with His righteousness we can do all things. It's the "power" of the gospel. If our walk with Christ walks from faith into ministry, as in a line, then we miss the maturity of really knowing Him beyond the "buddy" stage. We need to really know Him, and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. That's something we can't do without Him. Ministry and worship will naturally flow out of our proper understanding of Christ, and really knowing Him.
(1) M. Horton A Better Way p. 134
(And no, I'm not bashing Calvin when I mention "depravity." My guess is that he would agree with me.)