I am oftentimes perplexed at the interpretation of Scripture from people whom I greatly respect and who I know walk in reverent obedience to the Lord. No wonder the Body of Christ is often confused and question their own life's journey and purpose. For instance, I was excited to receive my monthly newsletter from an organization founded by a Scripturally-sound Messianic Jewish leader. The lead article was entitled Rock and Key, and perfectly coincided with the recent teachings Mark and I have been conducting on the Gospel of the Kingdom.
I was encouraged by the message of Matthew 16:13-19 that represented a historic breakthrough for the disciples following Jesus, and should be serving as a rediscovery for us in the 21st Century. These important verses read as follows:
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ekklesia, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
I agreed with the article Rock and Key that this passage is important on so many levels. First, notice that Jesus asks who the people say the Son of Man is -- not the Son of God. Here, He is wanting to see how He is being perceived. Up til now He has been careful to guard His deity from the general public, and has concentrated on preaching [and teaching His disciples] that the Kingdom of Heaven was to be restored to the earth. This moment at Caesarea Philippi marks a decisive change in His ministry. Now He is ready for His disciples to gain the bigger picture of who He is, why He came, and that He must soon be rejected, killed, and will rise from the dead three days later. This leads to deeper knowledge that all those who choose to follow Him, must be willing to suffer in this life, as He's about to, in order to gain eternal life in Heaven's Kingdom.
The fact that Peter receives the revelation that Jesus is the Son of [the Living] God means Peter and the disciples are ready to receive authority from heaven through Him. If they can rightly know who He is, then they will soon be equipped with spiritual authority to carry on His assignment. I agreed with the author that this spiritual authority can be administered directly through His Name -- by declaring in the Name of Jesus. Then the author said it could be delegated through the leadership of the local congregation. In both ways, all spiritual authority comes through submission to the One from whom it is given. And being under the cover of authority is a place of protection, where it is safe, secure, and stable -- that is where the rock comes in.
It is from the stable foundation of Jesus and the covering of His blood that we are protected from the forces of evil in this dark world and able to release God's good, perfect and acceptable will into this earth. In fact, we are so confident in the power of God in us [Holy Spirit] and our authority from Heaven that even the "gates of hades" cannot defeat us. [This particular site at Caesarea Philippi was considered the entrance (gate) to the underworld of death]. We have so much power and authority to release God's will that what we "bind" or "loose" on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. And I understand the Scripture to mean that the Lord Jesus said He would build His ekklesia (legislative body of believers] to govern the earth in the model God has established in heaven.
As I have pointed out before, Jesus did not say He would build a Church, as in a building full of believers. He would build a group of believers gathered together to carry out the government of Heaven on the earth. So, when the author of this article wrote "if we do not have a personal revelation of Jesus and/or we are not members in a local congregation, we have little authority to influence the world for good by the kingdom of God", well, I was dumbfounded. He went on to say that our influence requires both the revelation of Jesus (I agree!) and the active membership in a local congregation.
To me, that negates the authority of the believer as an individual. Now, I agree that the power of a committed ekklesia can be more powerful by virtue of the number of obedient spiritual warriors [working in their legal authority] to pray down strongholds and govern in the Name of Jesus. But to say that you must be "an active member in a local congregation" does not fit the biblical model that Jesus shows us. I cannot find anywhere in the Gospels that Jesus demands of His disciples that they must be members of a local synagogue to receive His power and authority. In fact, our English Bibles only record Him using the word "Church" twice, one in the aforementioned Matthew 16:18 and again, in Matthew 18:17-18. In both instances, the English word is mistranslated and He actually used the Greek word [adopted by the Romans] of Ekklesia, meaning "a political assembly of citizens" -- it is not a religious congregation. But down through the centuries, we have loosely substituted "church, congregation, and assembly" for this very deliberate word of "ekklesia".
Yes, Jesus taught in the synagogues, but the purpose was to introduce the Gospel of the Kingdom and the government of earth according to the Father's will. He taught in order to defeat the works of the devil [and his kingdom] by bringing a superior kingdom that offered Salvation as the entry point to a life spent transforming the earth [and the lives of men] to reflect Heaven on earth.
To say that this can only be accomplished in a religious group setting does not sound like anything my Lord spoke. Now this particular author doesn't go as far as others I have read, who say that Matthew 10:1 (Jesus gathered his twelve disciples and imparted to them authority to cast out demons and to heal every sickness and every disease) was only for a particular group of people for a particular time of ministry. This is known as Cessationism, a doctrine which teaches that spiritual gifts, power and authority ceased when the original apostles died.
So, I guess the whole point of this blog post is that it concerns me when leaders of our faith tell us that we have no power and authority as an individual. What I see is that all the parables are teaching lessons that revolve around individuals -- not groups. Everyone He healed was on an individual basis. They came to Him, one-by-one, and He healed them. Even the early Church knew their mission was to raise up disciples of Christ who would go out into the world, as individuals, continuing the work He commanded. As a disciple of Christ myself, I am not on any roll of a local church or congregation. But Mark and I are working to be a part of a committed ekklesia who will come together as a local body of believers who, in contending prayer and fasting, and our legal power and authority, can transform our families, communities, and nation.
But, even when not in the company of these obedient ambassadors of Heaven, I know that I, as an individual believer, have been given Christ's authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to effect change on this earth; to take back territories from the kingdom of darkness for my Father's Kingdom in Heaven. Could this just be another tactic of the Enemy to shut down our ability to defeat him? If he can convince us [out of fear or a lie about needing a covering other than Jesus], then we will be rendered ineffective in stopping his kingdom from advancing.
This is what I know for certain: that when I encounter someone in a WalMart parking lot that needs a healing hand; or Mark and I sit with a wounded and tormented believer at our table; or we are called to teach a hungry group of Christians about the Gospel of the Kingdom, we are under the covering and protection of our Lord Jesus. He doesn't require our membership in a local church or congregation to continue His work. His Word tells me that whoever believes in Him will also do the works that He did; and greater works than these will we do, because He has gone to the Father (John 14:12). He needs all of us -- individuals and corporate bodies of believers -- to continue His work! And His Word tells me that He has imparted to me all His authority to trample
over Satan's kingdom. I can trample upon every demon before me and
overcome every power Satan possesses. Absolutely nothing will be able to harm me as I walk in this authority (Luke 10:19).
Again, I say that He needs us all! Don't believe Satan's lie that you do not have our Lord's permission to represent Him! You are an ambassador of Heaven, and a child of God, made in His image. Your authority comes from God's Word, and being diligent to follow the Word, not your own will or any other man's. Your power comes from the baptism of the Holy Spirit in you. And whether you walk out your faith as an individual, as a part of an Ekklesia, or within the corporate body of the Church -- He can use you! Do not be made irrelevant by man-made doctrine!
Titus 2:13-15 ... our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.