"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Normal Practices of a New Covenant Church

Many "reformed" churches are dying. The authoritarian male elders have no idea why. They think it is "because most people today don't accept the clear teaching of Scripture." The reality is those church elders are stuck in a Hebrew Old Covenant rule of law. The vapor of death descends from the law-oriented lips of leaders who believe they have "spiritual authority" over people.  Their demand for obedience from God's people is the natural outgrowth of their false belief that they are God's appointed vicars to His church.

More than a few church elders today seek to "rule over" Christ's people in the manner Moses and the Hebrew priests and prophets ruled over Israel. Even worse, these men actually believe God wants them to rule over His people. The biblical truth that the Old Covenant system of worship, including authoritarian elders, has become obsolete to God (Hebrews 8:13) is a foreign language to them. 

For those men who wish to rule like Old Covenant leaders in Israel, I have a simple question. 

In I Kings 1, King David of Israel is dying. He already has four wives (including Bathsheeba, Deborah and Haggith), and many concubines. As King David lies on his death bed, the elders of Israel search the country far and wide for a "beautiful young woman" to "lie with the king" and "keep him warm" (v. 2). The cultural custom of Old Covenant Israel was that the kings of Israel could have many wives and many concubines. Kings of nations in Old Testament times must be virile and able reproduce many sons. 

Here is my question: When a Christian pastor is sick and lying on his death bed, do the church elders call for "a young, beautiful woman to strip and lie beside him in bed to keep him warm?" If not, why not? This practice was as much a part of Old Covenant Israel as worship on the Sabbath, paying tithes to the Temple, etc.... Why do church elders today pick and choose which laws and practices of the Old Covenant Scriptures they will follow? 

Not one Hebraic civil, ceremonial or moral law is binding on a Christian. Every one of the Old Covenant practices of Israel pointed to the coming Messiah but is now obsolete when it comes to the people of God.

Jesus Christ has come. 

The revelation of God in "the law of Israel" has progressed to the full and final revelation of truth in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. All the ceremonies, civil ordinances and legal commands of the Old Covenant way of life have now been made obsolete. The righteousness that sinners need must be received as a gift from God through faith in Who Jesus is and what the Christ has done (Philippians 3:9). 

So what "law" do we believers in Christ have over us?

Only one. It's called the Royal Law of love.
"A new commandment I give you: Love one another as I have loved you. In this manner, you must love one another. By this love will all know that you are My disciples."   (John 13:34-35).
Think about this for a moment. Are you truly loving someone else as Jesus loves you? That means are you thinking selflessly, serving sacrificially, doing what you do for the ultimate good of the one being loved, without regard for your own welfare, benefit or reputation? If you can answer that question with "Yes, I am!" then do what you are doing, and don't worry what others say. If not, then stop doing what you are doing. It's that simple.

That's how sin is defined for the Christian. We don't need any other law. For example, you can't take another woman as your own and truly love your wife the way Jesus loves you. You only need one law to understand what sin is, and that is the Royal Law of love.

Of course, we all fail the Royal Law. But when that happens we own our sin rather than point our finger at someone else. We humbly seek forgiveness for not loving as we are loved by Jesus. We quickly and easily seek forgiveness of others because we've learned to rest in the forgiveness we have from Him who loves us. We don't draw our identity from our failure. We are who we are because of His victory.

That's New Covenant living.

Jesus told us that "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall never pass away" (Matthew 24:35). In Biblical language, "heaven and earth" is Old Covenant Israel. The law of Israel has passed away. Any Christian church which bases its governmental structure and principles of operation along the same lines Hebrew leaders governed and led Old Covenant Israel is missing the Spirit of God and will die a legal death.



So what should be the normal practices of a New Covenant Church?

I will list them:

New Covenant Primacy

On top of the Mount of Transfiguration, the mountain shook, the glory of God descended, and Moses (the Old Covenant Lawgiver) and Elijah (the Old Covenant Prophet) disappeared, and only the transfigured Jesus remained. Then the voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, acouete auton (hear Him!).” Any church that emphasizes to followers of Jesus instructions on how to live from the Old Testament Law and/or Prophets will be a church that teaches, “if you will…THEN GOD will.” Indeed, the Old Covenant is conditional. But Jesus is “the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets,” all the blessings and promises of God are “yes and amen in Christ" (II Corinthians 1:20). Therefore, our desire this side of the cross should be “to know Him, and the power of His resurrection” and to “rest in His righteousness, and not my own that comes from my obedience to any law” (Philippians 3:7-11). In other words, we are to get our identity, and our marching orders,  from Jesus Christ, who told us, “By this will everyone know that you are mine, if you love one another as I love you.” (John 13:35). For more information read Radically New (2016).

Limited Pastoral Authority

Contrary to the Old Testament, leadership in the New Covenant is based on a person’s giftings by the Holy Spirit. I believe the New Testament teaches there is no inherent spiritual authority in church position or office. Jesus Christ has all spiritual authority and those who know Him serve one another in the power and grace of His Spirit within us. Old Covenant style leadership fights for control; New Covenant style leadership serves in love. In a modern culture where governments grant tax exemption and legal requirements for churches, pastors may have legal authority, but the notion there is a position of spiritual authority over anyone is not a practice Jesus taught (see Matthew 20:25-26). For more information read Fraudulent Authority (2017)

Broad Evangelical Unity

In my experience, very little good is done when we evangelicals make it a priority to tell others what we are against. The Gospel is Good News. Gospel preachers are neither moralizers nor motivators. We are called to proclaim as broadcasters the Good News in the highways and hedges of life. We in the church are to only report the Good News, we are not called to make it (see John 17:23). I’d rather the world and culture know me for what I’m for (the person and work of Jesus Christ) than for what I’m against. For more information read Hardball Religion (2010).

Full Gender Equality

In the New Covenant Church, men and women are equals. What distinguishes us from one another is our giftedness. Jesus Christ is the sole authority over His church, for “there is Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28).  We are the collective body of Christ; He alone is our Head. In a New Covenant Church, servant leadership is determined by giftings, not gender. For more information read What’s with Paul and Women (2014).

Shared Grace Theology

Those whose lives have been changed by the Gospel will tell you the most transformative truth is “The Gospel message of God's grace in Jesus Christ." This also should be the message of every Christian teacher. It should be the theme of every Christian church. It should be the philosophy of every Christian ministry. Christians must know grace to know Christ. Therefore, if you want to get a feel for whether or not a church shares the grace theology of the New Testament, ask yourself how many prisoners, down-and-out, homeless and helpless, invalid and disabled, needy persons the Christians who gather at that building are reaching in the community - not only on Sundays but throughout the week. The message of grace first transforms what a person thinks and feels; then it will transform how a person lives and loves. For more information see Happiness Doesn’t Just Happen (2002). 

I recently heard that a group of church elders read my above statements regarding "The Normal Practices of a New Covenant Church,"  and responded, "That's so opposite of the way we practice things at our church."

I'm glad that my writing was clear and understandable to the point they could see the differences. Their lack of implementing New Covenant principles, as well as their emphasis on Old Covenant authoritarian leadership, may be a couple reasons their church will continue to decline in Kingdom influence. 

29 comments:

Jerry Schultz said...

While I also have concerns about legalistic, authoritarian leadership in the church, I believe you have chosen a poor example to illustrate your point and made some very unfortunate claims about the Old Testament. Here is a link to my response http://thetrustworthyword.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-response-to-wade-burlesons-claim-that.html

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, Jerry. Appreciate the comment and the well-written blog.

I always appreciate Christ followers who give a counter-point to my point. It allows for healthy dialogue and for Christians to determine for themselves the truth of Scripture.

Blessings,

Wade

Aussie John said...

Wade,

My whole-hearted agreement for a great article. I appreciated the tone of your reply to Jerry. Having read Jerry's words, I would suggest our brother needs to have a closer look at some of his quotes and the context in which they were written, especially Matthew 5:17. Hebrews 8 is worth a careful close look!

Christiane said...

Wade writes "Think about this for a moment. Are you truly loving someone else as Jesus loves you? That means are you thinking selflessly, serving sacrificially, doing what you do for the ultimate good of the one being loved, without regard for your own welfare, benefit or reputation? If you can answer that question with "Yes, I am!" then do what you are doing, and don't worry what others say. If not, then stop doing what you are doing. It's that simple."

I can see from his advocacy of people in the SBC who were being persecuted that Wade lives this out in his own ministry and life.

In Judaism, some say that unkindness is the only sin. Maybe what Wade wrote gives some insight into the meaning of this Jewish saying: the absence of loving-kindness as the basis for being inhumane to others?

I also note the idea that Wade brings up of 'disinterested' love: we care for others without thought of our own benefit, we don't need 'credit', we may even suffer for helping others or taking a stand with them against those who persecute them ..... but that is at the heart of our Christian faith: the self-giving without thought of gain ..... to love another for THEIR sake, not ours.

This mirrors the kind of love at the core of the Holy Trinity, the very love of God into which we are invited when we live 'in Christ'.

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you Christiane!

RRR said...

I enjoyed reading Wade's perspective on the Old Testament's status in the life of Jesus followers and the response on the blog of Jerry Schultz. My take was that Wade said the Old Testament's Laws were obsolete and not relevant in the New Testament age and Jerry was saying that God's laws are eternal and never change; or something close to that; at least, that what I think they were saying.

I venture to say that my position would be compatible with both perspectives and I suspect that Jerry's and Wade's intent are the same, or close to it. I believe we all believe that God's moral position and righteous heart do not change with the coming of the Messiah. Neither does His intent for us to live according to those laws prescribed in Old Testament passages. However, with the entry of the Messiah, it is prescribed that we kick things up to a much higher level than that portrayed in the Old Testament and begin living according to the "heart" of The Law and not simply being obedient to its behavioral mandates.

Jesus taught us to treat others in the way that we want to be treated and He said, "In this, you fulfill ALL of the laws and prophets." (Matthew 7:12) Throughout the "Sermon on the Mount" discourse He describes what that looks like. I am sure that both Jerry and Wade fully accept that presentation.

Wade Burleson said...

Well said, RRR.

I say "When Christ changes the heart, softens it into a heart of love, the righteousness of that person 'exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.'"

Thanks for your comment.

Pege' said...

HIGH FIVE MY BROTHER WADE!!!!!!!!

Dale Rudiger said...

Eyes on Jesus. Led by the Spirit. Doers of the royal law, the law of love. Freed from the bondage and penalties of the Law of Sinai. Residents of the Heavenly Zion. Ambassadors of reconciliation. Defenders of the Good News of salvation by faith alone in Christian alone. Loving, joyful, at peace with our Father, patient and humble and kind to others, doers of good, people of integrity, understanding, and prudent. Most of all, forgiven. Happy to submit to Jesus and His authority and will for our lives. Grateful.

Dale Rudiger said...

Christ alone, not "Christian alone." Oh, and prayerfully reliant on Him who loves us.

Wade Burleson said...

Dale - VERY well stated.

Pege - thanks!

RRR said...

Wade said; "I say 'When Christ changes the heart, softens it into a heart of love, the righteousness of that person 'exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.'"

I know, Wade. Not sure, but I "think" that's what Jerry Schultz thinks too. Transforming power of God's love as opposed to man's feeble efforts to control his Dopamines!

Anonymous said...

Okay I ordered the book.

Jeff "Miztah" Rogers

Wade Burleson said...

Jeff,

About time! :) Laughing.

Anonymous said...

Isn't our own righteousness like filthy rags?

And Paul, when he was Saul, was the most law abiding of Jews. Upon his encounter with Christ, he stated he was chief among sinners.

Now, if you want to pull any Old Testament laws into the New Covenant to follow, the Bible says you have fallen from Grace and Christ profits you nothing.

A lot of folks want to have laws to follow, but that would mean you have to add your own works in with what Jesus has done on the cross. He finished it. You can add nothing to it.

Law and Grace are oil and vinegar and legalism is poison to your soul.

Jerry Schultz said...

Lots of great comments here. I've been reading in Hebrews 8 as suggested by Aussie John and it does say that the Old Covenant was becoming obsolete which we all know, but in describing the New Covenant it also says in that same chapter and then summarizes in 10:16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after those days the Lord says, I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, and I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts." So the New Covenant also includes God's moral laws and commandments, but our salvation is not dependant on following them, it's based on our relationship with Jesus and the punishment he endured in our place. Jesus said that He who loves me keeps my commandments. We follow God's just instructions out of love for Him and love for our fellow man, not fear. Most of the law had to do with how we treat other people and it was meant to prevent us from hurting each other, to teach us how to be fair and just to our fellow man. The whole paradigm has been flipped. We don't obey God's laws to earn salvation, we obey them as a sign of gratitude for the salvation we have been so freely given. So the natural response of a redeemed heart should be to love our fellow man and go far beyond rule following, and to begin loving people as Jesus loved them. The old law was external and written down, the new law is internal. It should be the desire of our heart to live up to God's moral code and to treat one another the way Jesus would. And when we fail, he graciously forgives us. Under the New Covenant, he has made us all priests. The law of love helps us to be better ministers to one another.

Tom Ross said...

The principles spoken about Leadership in this Blog can also be found in the Old Testament, where the “Old Covenant” model, i.e. the Mosaic Covenant, dominates the behaviour of the people, the Nation of Israel. When Old Testament leaders became self-centred, the “wheels” fell of their leadership style and trouble and disharmony resulted.

When we become dogmatic about operating under a “New Covenant” model, we have reverted to a “New Law” model with respect to our relationship with God. It is so much easier to gauge our relationship with God because we can measure our performance with respect to our relationship with God. Sadly, this is just another form of self-centeredness.

When New Testament leaders became self-centred, the “wheels” fall of their leadership style and trouble and disharmony resulted.

All “Leaders” fail when they forget/lose the source of their anointing to lead.

Tom Ross said...

Oh, how our translations of the original Greek have skewered our understanding of the “Covenant” that God desires to have with the people who love Him and keep is statutes.

There were two covenants made at Mt. Sinai, by God. The first, was a Nation of Priests Covenant: –

Exodus 19:1-9: - 19:1 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.

3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

7 So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord. 9 And the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever."

So Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.

Then God set out the terms of the covenant, as recorded in Exodus 20-23 and in Exodus 24 we have the following recorded: -

Exodus 24:3-8: – 3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, "All the words which the Lord has said we will do." 4 And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient." 8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words."

Continued in my next post: -

Tom Ross said...

Continued from my last post: -

This is the same Covenant that God intends to renew with the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-40 in our near future when He establishes His Everlasting Kingdom as it is the same Covenant that the Nation of Israel rebelled against while Moses was up on the Mountain speaking face to face with the Lord giving instruction on the establishment of a model of a High Priest, Priesthood and Tabernacle to be followed here on the earth. This same model will be followed in Heaven, in our near future, when God establishes His Everlasting Kingdom during the time of those Kings mentioned in Daniel 2:44-45a and as outlined in John’s vision in Revelation 20:4-6.

The Covenant is the same, Yesterday, Today and in our Future, but the Atonement Process has changed with the newest Atonement Process changed and established when Jesus willingly went to the cross, around 2,000 years ago.

After Moses intercedes for the people of Israel, God establishes another/a second covenant with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, with more statutes and regulations than the first Covenant that the Nation had rebelled against. This covenant is often referred to as the Mosaic Covenant as God establishes this covenant with Moses and Moses then establishes the covenant with the nation of Israel. The initial bases of this covenant is found in Exodus 34:10-28.

The regulation of the Mosaic Covenant were added and is the burden of the Law.

God is looking for a circumcised heart rather sacrifices and as such he wants us to renew our heart and then to put on the renewed man: -

Ephesians 4:20-24: – 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed (ananeousthai) in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the renewed (kainon) man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

This “renewed” man is fashioned on the “renewed” Covenant with God.

Shalom

Anonymous said...

Tom Ross,

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

And

"If you have not Christ, you have not God."

~ Read Galatians 3 to understand who is the Israel of God.

You may want to brush up on the Synagogue of satan while you're at it.





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Rex Ray said...

Wade,

“…for a beautiful young woman to lie with the King and keep him warm. 1Kings 1:2”

Paul Harvey would tell “The rest of the story”; Verse 4:

“…but the King knew her not.” (KJ)
“…he was not intimate with her.” (Holman)
“...But the king had no sexual relations with her.” (NLT)

I believe sex was what David’s friends had in mind and not just a warm body.

http://www.topsecretwriters.com/2011/07/8-worst-nazi-human-experiments-you-never-knew-about/

My father told me the experiments above included how frozen a man had to be before refusing sex.

Christiane said...

from my own perspective, I think all human persons are given a moral guide from God in the form of a conscience, which lets them know when they are 'troubled'

This 'conscience' IS for me, 'the place' where God helps me to personally know what is right and what is wrong.

In Christian formation, we ask to be formed according to the mind and heart of Christ. And that means, we hope to be touched by the prompting of the Holy Spirit when we come to those decisions and choices where we are obligated to listen to our hearts, which we have raised up to Him in prayer. So we were not left alone, without help. If we get it right, we are at peace. If we turn against the voice of our conscience, we will experience a troubled spirit and we will suffer accordingly.

'Rules' ? from 631 intially, then to 10 in the OT, then to 1 in the NT .... this was a training that progressed, not in the amount of the numbers, so much as in the comprehension and understanding of what was 'right', and in the final 'rule', we arrive at the core of what God wants for us to focus on: 'love' .... the love that is self-giving and seeks no personal gain, but wants the good of the 'other'

Augustine said 'love ... and do what you will'
and most certainly, he was NOT saying to sin, but that if you loved, you would do what is right as a corollary to 'love'

I think it's what was meant by the original angelic announcement of the coming of Our Lord: good news for all who are of 'good will'
'Glória in excélsis Deo: et in terra pax homínibus bonæ voluntátis.'
:)

to be 'of good will' and to have the 'peace of Christ' are both deeply rooted in the same gift of grace that enables us to be self-giving without thought of personal gain, yes

Christiane said...

Hi REX RAY,
Oh, that's funny! I enjoy your stories so much.

Rex Ray said...

Hi CHRISTIANE,

Your comment on “love” is one of the best descriptions I’ve heard.

Tom Ross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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I have a confidential question for you if you don't mind my asking.

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