The most vital resource this world has is something that does not even belong to this world, but to God. The Church is the most crucial resource in the world, because she is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” What does this mean?
Before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples (students) to make disciples to themselves and teach them everything that He had taught them. In three years’ time, what had He taught them? Only what we have in the gospels? Not likely- Once you factor out the parables and His words with the Pharisees there’s not much more that a couple of sermons!
But wait: At the very start of His teaching He said that His mission was to defend and fulfill everything written in the Old Testament, and at the end He explained the connections between those Scriptures and His own identity; so I think it’s wise to say that the whole package of Scripture is included in the “material” He assign the Church to be teaching. A good number of statements in the rest of the New Testament tell us that the Apostles got that message, too.
I’m just now finishing up a fifteen week crash course in Church history, so I won’t fill up space here with the particulars, but the short version is about this: We assume that the churches the Apostles founded had the whole story. We assume that we have the whole story because our churches are modeled after those early ones, aren’t they? After all- we read Acts 2 about how they did things, and 2nd Corin. 11 talks about “simplicity,” so what are we missing? Well, there might be a few things.
1.For one, we don’t speak their language, or live in their culture, so we’re not living in the same context as the folks who first heard the message from Peter or Paul.
2.They didn’t have all the answers. For example, while the Trinity appears all through Scripture the Church had to Christian-ise their Greek language over three hundred years to create words to begin explaining ideas like “personhood” and “substance” in ways to deal with that basic understanding of God’s nature, and our own.
3.Our own context is so saturated with the philosophy of the world around us, and a near-sighted view of our own history as the work of God in this world, that we have blinded ourselves to major parts of what it meant to be the Church for the first ¾ of our history, including the very beginnings we think we’re emulating.
So what do we do?
1.Sometimes we need to read our Bibles with a conscious, prayerful, effort to let the Holy Spirit do the talking rather than this or that pastor, teacher, or relative.
2.If we are going to read a commentary (This includes study-Bible notes, Christian books, and religious programming on radio & TV, and even our own pastors’ and Sunday-School teachers’ lessons!), we need to be looking at some of the early writers from the first five centuries of Church history.
3. Establish friendships with people from different backgrounds. Maybe start going to church with them. A lot of the divisions in the past few centuries seem to have produced groups who, when they divided, each carried away an understanding that the other was lacking. Not that all were right, but sometimes it takes different views to get the whole picture.
And, underlying all of this, “Let God be God.” He must be our Teacher or we will remain un-taught no matter how much we might learn. We are “His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart!”