Copyright © 2007 Ron Schwartz
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Here A Little, And There A Little

Part 1

 

January 29, 2007

Ron Schwartz  

 

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Isaiah 28:9-13 KJV

9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.

10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.

12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

 

Among other things, this prophecy foretold the birth of the New Testament Church.  It began on the day of Pentecost with stammering lips and other tongues just as this prophecy foretold.  But what of the rest of this prophecy?  What did it mean?

 

Unlike the Old Testament, which was all given at one time in its entirety to a single man (Moses), God made it clear through this prophecy that the New Testament would come in parts, like series of building blocks.  It would come “precept upon precept, line upon line.”  The word translated “precept” is tsav (Hebrew) meaning “commandment,” and the word translated “line” is qav (Hebrew) “a cord (as means of measuring).”  Thus this verse foretold the New Covenant, its statutes and measure would come over the course of time through many people.   It would literally be “here a little, and there a little.  Paul described it “as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon (1 Corinthians 3:10).” 

 

There is an inherent weakness in this form of structure: anyone can claim to have part of that revelation and set forth statutes that are contrary to true revelation.   To counter this, God sent two messengers, the prophet John the Baptist and His Son Jesus Christ, to preach the message of the kingdom.   Their ministries set in place the fundamentals and foundational doctrine of the New Testament.  It was meant that others would follow and build (“precept upon precept, line upon line”) upon this foundation, not try to replace it.  As Paul wrote, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).   It is clear that the original disciples understood this.  Both the example and the words of Jesus were to be the foundation.  What the apostles did and spoke was only to build upon it.   Everything about Christianity should be traceable back to the fundamental teaching of Christ.  Therefore, following the Day of Pentecost the Church immediately began to practice the teaching of Jesus.

 

Acts 2:42-47 KJV

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

 

In the beginning, the precepts of the church were uncomplicated: they simply embraced the teachings of Jesus.  For instance, Jesus taught, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).  The church embraced this teaching in its simplicity in that “all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.  Jesus taught brotherhood and equality among all his disciples when He said that “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35),” and “for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren (Matthew 23:8).”   So “they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple... with gladness and singleness of heart.  Also Jesus, when serving the last supper, told His disciples “This do in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).  As a result, they went forth “breaking bread from house to house.

 

In short, everything they did, everything they practiced, and everything they believed was directly influenced by the words of Jesus.  The early church broke forth as a mighty river, consuming everything in its path and having only the teachings of Jesus as their foundation.  His words reflected in everything they did.

 

There was something more that these men had beyond just the teachings of Jesus.  They knew His lifestyle.  God knew that the hearts of men are individualistic in nature and therefore divisive.  So Christ demonstrated how He wanted them to operate.  He kept them together for more than three years.  They traveled together, they served together, they slept together, and they ate together.  So when Jesus left, they continued to follow His example as well as His teachings.  They simply stayed together.  They saw no reason to change.  Jesus had done it this way, so they continued in His practices.  They prayerfully searched the scripture and considered the words of Jesus to understand this New Covenant.  The benefit provided by staying together and searching together is that as the Spirit moved on each of them here a little, and there a little,” they were able to act as balances for one another.

 

We find, then, in the beginning a powerful church.  It was a church that was founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ alone, and it grew into a brotherhood of believers.  It grew copiously!  It seemed that nothing could prevent it.  So what happened?

 

 

Disparity

 

What happened to the once powerful church is that it began to stray from the teaching of Christ as its foundation.   Divisions began to occur among its leaders.

 

1 Corinthians 1:12-13 KJV

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

 

As time went on, more and more leaders began to emerge.  Questions regarding the law, church leadership, giving, and even morality began to arise.  Many of these leaders, most of whom did not have the benefit of the teaching of Christ, used reasoning and Old Testament teaching to derive an answer.   As a result, the foundational teaching of Christ began to erode, giving way to a host of other ideas and teaching.  The brotherhood of believers fractured into denominational parts, following after the influence of men.

 

Luke describes one such event in the following:

 

Acts 15:2-7 KJV

2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe…

 

In this example, the division that was beginning to separate the church was over the conflicting teaching of two very power and influential men.  Paul, an apostle chosen of the Lord and sent with Barnabas to deliver the gospel to the Gentiles, became the author and primary proponent to a doctrine of salvation by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).   This flew in the face of James, the half brother of Jesus, who was quickly becoming the most powerful Christian leader in Jerusalem.  He was considered by many to be the leader of the church in Jerusalem.   It appears that James did not approve of the fact that Paul taught the Gentile Christians they were free from the need to observe the law.  He insisted that grace is proven by its works and therefore insufficient in and of itself (James 2:15-26).  Clearly, neither of them was about to budge from his position.  The teaching of Christ as the foundation of the church was ready to crumble as these two powerful men collided.  This is only one example of disparity between first generation believers.  There were many others. 

 

 

The Solution

 

Just as Paul and James were divided, Christianity today is heavily divided over many things.  Surprisingly, nearly everything that divides the church can be traced back to either the Old Testament or the epistles of New Testament authors.  The division arises from the practice of weighing all scripture as equal.  All you need to do is to find some obscure verse, and you can establish a new doctrine based on it.  You can find justification for any doctrine if you weigh all scripture the same.  We do not believe that this was God’s intention.  We believe that God intended for Jesus’ teachings to act as a foundation for other teachings.   That is why the words and example of Jesus was given to us in four books (for validation).  But if you weigh all scripture the same, and two parties are divided over two seemingly conflicting scriptures, there is no hope for unity.  Therefore, what we must do is what the disciples did in the beginning, when the church was strong and unified, we must go back to the teachings of Jesus as our foundation.  You have heard it before: “Read the red!” 

 

It’s interesting that the slow spiritual spiral downward that the early church took was directly proportional to the theological writings that followed.  What would have happened if the church had kept its original passion and vision for the words of Jesus?  There is far too much weight placed on the epistles and far too little on the words of Jesus.  This weight has led many (without realizing it) to deify great men like Paul.  Their writings become sacred rather than simply recognized as the epistles of godly men who were deeply anointed and passionate for God.  None of their writings must be placed above the words of Jesus.

 

 

Conclusion

 

What we find today is a church so deeply divided that there is no hope of reconstitution.  Contemporary authors base much of their writing on the established writings of prominent men like Calvin, Wesley, and Finney.   These men based their ideas on even earlier authors who in turn based their theology on both Old and New Testament authors.   It is very much like making copies of copies.  Eventually, you cannot make out much of the detail.

 

In the first part of this note, we wrote: There is an inherent weakness in this form of structure: anyone can claim to have part of that revelation and set forth statutes that are contrary to true revelation.   To counter this, God sent two messengers, the prophet John the Baptist and His Son Jesus Christ, to preach the message of the kingdom.  For this reason, we need to once again embrace the teachings of Jesus as never before.  We cannot weigh contemporary Christian literature to the epistles.  They must be weighed against the original foundational teachings of Christ.  We are not suggesting that we dismiss scripture.  We are saying that we must interpret scripture by the gospels instead of re-interpreting the gospels by other scripture.  In other words, allow the gospels to be a filter to determine how certain (vague) scriptures should be understood.  It is obvious that the words and teachings of Jesus held center stage for the first church, and it must do so again today.

 

A few weeks ago, as I drove home, I was deeply troubled by the division I see among Christian brothers and churches.  Each church and each brother claims to have solid scriptural foundation for their beliefs.  I cried out to God, “Why?  You must have known this would happen.  Why allow a Bible to come together that divides Your people?  Why?”

 

I didn’t hear anything then, but in the days that followed, God spoke very clearly to my heart: “I’m not the one who has caused division, you (the church) are.  You (the church) deified men into gods.  I came and taught you My will and My ways for over three years.   Why don’t you listen to Me?

 

We realize that the church will never again be the wild river of unbridled passion for God that it once was as long as it remains divided.  Its focus will remain as it has for two thousand years: fighting internal civil wars and continuing toward self-destruction.  For it to become what it once was, Christian leaders must come down from their deified pedestals of authority to live by Jesus’ example and teachings instead of their doctrinal distinctiveness.

 

Do we have a prayer of seeing this?  Not in our Western culture, but perhaps there is still a chance for third and fourth world nations where Western Christianity has not yet spoiled men away from the foundational teachings of Jesus.

 

Stop looking to men.  At best, they have “here a little, and there a little” of the revelation of God.  Anyone who claims to have it all is probably the leader of a cult.  Stay away from them.  That is not how God has chosen to operate in the New Testament.  Instead, start looking toward Christ.  He does have all the answers.  Weigh everything you hear against His words.

 

Instead of reading all the books in your local Christian bookstore, try living by the words of Jesus.  There are no more challenging words ever written to the Church than His.  Set aside your commentaries and books by contemporary authors, and reread what Jesus had to say.  To even get close to His standards will require more courage and prayer than you have ever known.  What would happen to us if we would simply weigh our differences against the teaching of Jesus, who said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:12)?”

 

Amen.

ron@ronschwartz.net

 

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