The Gathering

         I received the following question from a good friend and brother in the Lord recently:

         Morning brother…I was reading (the following passage) this morning and wondered what your thoughts are….though it is addressing Israel, do you think there is a New Covenant application to this as well? I have heard people call for help from the four directions and there is something about gathering from the four winds. “Gatherings” would make a great word study. God’s richest blessings on you today and into eternity. Let’s gather soon.

         But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” [Isaiah 43:1-7]

         This is my response:

         Thanks for the question. First of all, everything in the OT Scriptures has a New Covenant application. God does not have two separate peoples. The nation of Israel, descended from Abraham, is ethnically the people of God by DNA in that Abraham’s descendants are part of the covenant God made with Abraham. But throughout Old Testament history, the majority of the people descended from Abraham turned their back on God and violated this covenant. Just like a marriage, for example, both parties of the covenant must be true to the covenant terms. Otherwise, the covenant, or contract, is violated. If you hire someone to do work on your house, there is a contract explaining the role each party must adhere to. If the contract is honored properly, you get your work done and the worker gets paid by you to do the work. Simple. If the person you hired does not fulfill that which is spelled out in the contract, you do not have to pay him since he violated the contract.

         Israel’s covenant with God was violated by the majority repeatedly. However, there was always a remnant of the descendants of Abraham who stayed true to God and did not violate the covenant, but this was always a small percentage. Hence, a remnant. It was in the nation of Israel’s original DNA for the majority to go south, and the majority repeated their sinful behavior all throughout their history. When God Himself became a Man and walked among them, the majority of His people agreed with the decision to kill Him. A remnant of Abraham’s descendants, however, believed and obeyed, as it always had.

         The Lord’s twelve disciples were of the believing remnant, except for Judas, who decided on his own to betray the Lord. The 120 on the Day of Pentecost were of the believing remnant, but were a very small minority. When Jerusalem and the outward nation of Israel were destroyed in 70 AD, the unbelieving covenant-breaking Jews were scattered. The believing Jews already knew about the Lord’s prophecy of that destruction (they believed) and the Lord guided them to safety.

         New Covenant believers are not divided between descendants of Abraham and non-descendants of Abraham. There is no distinction. 

        For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:26-29]

         Therefore, there are only two different kinds of people in the world: Real Christians and everyone else. Real Christians obey, honor, believe in, and trust the Lord Jesus. Everyone else does not.

         There are, however, promises made to the descendants of Abraham that are exclusive to them, but they must honor the Lord nonetheless. How can one NOT believe in Jesus and be right with God? How can one have “The Father” but NOT have “The Son?” It is impossible:

         Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. [1 John 2:22-24]

         The distinction between the Father and Son is parabolic. If one does not have eyes to see, a veil is covering his or her eyes. This is why the Lord spoke in parables—only those who had eyes to see and ears to hear got it and understood. If one SEES the Son, one SEES the Father also. The unbelieving Jews of the Lord’s time could not see that Jesus—God in human form, “The Son”—was also YHWH, the God of the Old Testament, or “The Father.” They rejected Jesus because they did not believe He was the one God of the Jews. Of course, they thought they had a relationship with God and were right with God, but they were not. They had not “The Father,” and the Lord Jesus said they actually had a different father altogether:

         Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” [John 8:42-45]

         The Lord is definitely gathering His children. He is doing this overall but also in regard to small communities. But there is a problem. Just as Ananias could hardly believe the Lord when He told him that “Saul” who became the apostle Paul, had become a real believer,[1] so do many Christians refuse to accept many of those whom God has called. In other words, many Christians reject other Christians because they do not think they are real Christians, or because they think they are messed up in some way. This prejudice is the only real problem the Lord has in creating his communities.

         Christian denominations are not real communities created by the Lord. They are almost exclusively man-made organizations. Most “churches” are man-made as well. They are organized and united together not in the Spirit by the Spirit of God, but are instead based on a particular doctrine or way of doing things. I love it when the Lord takes those of His people who are otherwise separated in such a way and puts them together. (“I didn’t think you were for real because…” “And I didn’t think YOU were for real because…”) There are some believers whom almost no one thinks are for real! But here is what Paul said about real believers:

         For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. [Romans 2:28-29]

         And this is what the Lord said about those leaders who claim to be believers but are not:

         “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” [Matthew 23:24-28] [1]

         This sentiment, though directed to unbelieving Jews, can also be applied, and much more so, to unreal Christians, since there are so many millions of false Christians the world over who claim to believe and obey the Lord but do not.

         In the end, the Lord will have accomplished creating ONE worldwide unified body of believers. Until then, we must keep working with Him to gather and be gathered as He says to gather and be gathered. But we must not compromise on who the Lord wants us to be for the sake of gathering. We have millions of “churches” composed of people who gather together physically but are not unified in heart (see above quote from Matthew).

         The only real gatherings are those composed of real believers, like the gathering on Pentecost, for example. Each one of the 120 was right with God. They were diverse, of course, because diversity is the strength of unity. But each was right, and strong, and obedient. 99% of churches are not like this. So what is God doing? He continues to work to gather His people together, to eliminate prejudice, to end fearfulness, and to mature His people. And sometimes, He has to get downright angry because of the people who only want to mess things up and keep His people in bondage (see above quote from Matthew).

         The Lord is faithful, but all too often Christian prejudice against other Christians stymies His plans to gather His people together. One can be assured that the 120 on that original Day of Pentecost were composed of representatives of many different and very diverse groups. Their unity, therefore, had to be based on something much greater than that which unites most Christian groups and organizations.

         It was a gathering united by the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Acts 9:10-20

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Posted on January 17, 2012, in Real Christianity and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I really appreciate the insight given you by the Spirit. So, God has one people, some have the lineage (DNA) of the old covenant and some not…but all are (or can be) united through Christ for he no longer makes a distinction (Gal 3:26-29).

    To me, small (remnant) gatherings build God’s relationships which lead to joy in a common bond. In such a venue we can open the “eyes of our hearts” to one another and to the Word, see more clearly and be filled. As we abide in Him, He abides in us…we grow and mature in the Faith to His Glory…we become like Jesus…we are able to look (humbly, but boldly) into a mirror and say “I love you Jesus.”

    Like

  2. I agree. Regarding the Hebrew remnant that remained faithful to God, our Lord Jesus and His twelve were of this remnant, of course. Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). The Lord is a Jew, of the Tribe of Judah. All His disciples were Jews, and the entire community of the Lord was entirely Jewish for roughly the first seven to ten years after Pentecost. The Church was started by Jews.

    The Lord and His men were a small group. The 120 on Pentecost were an extremely small group when compared to the nation of Israel/Judah as a whole. The gospel was originally spread by descendants of Abraham through individuals and small groups. It was a momentous event when Cornelius and his people, the first Gentile converts, had their own Pentecost (See Acts 10 & 11). But this came about through the actions of only a few individuals, namely Peter and the six men who accompanied him, and the three men that Cornelius had sent to find Peter. Also, the “Gentile Pentecost” took place in the home of Cornelius at Caesarea among his friends and family, as the original Pentecost took place in the upper room of a home in Jerusalem, likely the home of Mary the mother of John Mark, who penned the memoirs of Peter (the Gospel of Mark).

    So, history teaches us that small home-based groups are the most effective for doing the work of God. This successful method continues today all over the world and is on the upswing in the USA, having only been taking place effectively for the last quarter century or so. Within twenty years, there will be more American Christians attending home groups than attending traditional “churches.” Because of this phenomenon, it appears on the surface that Christianity is dying out in America, but the opposite is the case. It entirely depends on one’s perspective. Most of the good stuff is happening under the radar and it is increasing every day.

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