I am oftentimes frustrated with the way that most Western Christians are not disturbed by the fact that today’s Church is very much different from the one during Biblical days. It almost seems as if Christians are comfortable with interpreting all of Scripture as a monolithic library of allegorical sayings upon which they can project comfortable doctrines that accommodate their idiosyncrasies.
One of those Scriptural realities is the fact that demonstrations of power were common during Apostolic times. Oftentimes, miracles would accompany the Church’s preachers as a manifest evidence that proved their message to proceed from divine authority. (Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12) The Scriptures seem to indicate that, unlike modern society, true miracles and signs were normally expected to occur among Christians.
1Corinthians 4:20 (NIV) “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”
On the one hand, the Western Church displays a wonder-working array of petty Television Evangelists that nickel and dime people into believing that they have supernatural abilities. Despite many of these so called “Tele-Evangelists” getting caught red-handed in their fraud, many people still follow and support them.
On the other hand, the Western Church is inundated with babblers who are good at talking. Yes, they all sound smart…and some are more entertaining than others. But the bottom line is that their ministries are just about words that make us “feel” good, but with no quantifiable or verifiable substance. No transcendent, life-changing wisdom AND… no power. What we are left with is a smooshy-wooshy spirituality that is intrinsically connected to a club membership mindset with club dues we call “tithes & offerings.” Spirituality, but no power…
The fact that Western Society is rejecting Western Christianity, is not so much because Westerners are less spiritual…on the contrary, spirituality seems to be in the crescendo. What Western Society rejects about Western Christianity is that besides serving as a communal organization from which people draw comfort, they rightly perceive the shallowness of our basic beliefs and the powerlessness of our doctrine.
Even though a large segment of the Western Church is notably interested in both evangelism and miraculous manifestations, we rarely hear Christian leaders teach the complementarian aspects of these two Biblical acts. But fact is, that in the New Testament, evangelism is intrinsically linked with demonstration of power and miracles.
The Scriptures teach us that all miraculous signs in the assembly of believers come from the Holy Spirit. (1Cor.13:4-11; Rom. 12:3-8) Some of these gifts are explicitly for the convincing of unbelievers. (1Cor. 14:22)
One thing that we miss from these spiritual gift passages, is that they are located at the epicenter of Christian Unity. For instance, when St. Paul teaches the Corinthians about spiritual gifts, he does so in the context of teaching the mystery that believers are part and members of the same mystical body of Christ. (1Corinthians 10-14) St. Paul also does the same when teaching the Romans about spiritual gifts.
Romans 12:5-6 (NIV) “…so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.”
Since the gifts come from the Holy Spirit in order to be used in the assembly of united brethren for the benefit of both believers and unbelievers, why then are signs and miracles a rare element in today’s churches?
One of the main reasons we Christians are virtually powerless beyond speech is because we ignorantly blaspheme and offend the Holy Spirit by means of the ecclesial practice of communal ex-communication. Let me explain.
The Bible is clear that God has no favoritism. (Romans 2:12) All believers in Christ are fully God’s children, without exception. (Galatians 3:26) We have all been given to drink of the same Holy Spirit. (1Cor. 12:12-13) All believers have been made to be part of the family of God and a holy nation of royal priests. (1Pet. 2:9-10) And we have all been miraculously regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit when we believed in the Gospel. (Eph. 1:13-14; John 3:5-8)
So if we Christians share in the same Spirit, share in the same body of Christ, and share in the same position before God, why then don’t the main denominations of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and conservative Evangelical bodies) are not usually open to sharing Holy Communion with each other?
There are usually two reasons why the main traditional denominations do not share Holy Communion (or rather, have ex-Communicated each other):
1. Administrative Non-conformity.
2. Doctrinal disunity.
Oftentimes we compartmentalize our beliefs and pull them out when we need them to shield our levels of comfort. For instance, hardly any leader of the mentioned denominations would dare to claim that Christians from other denominations are not “Christians.” Regardless of how heterodox a leader of one denomination thinks another is, he or she would rarely claim that believers outside of their denomination are not Christians. What they often will claim is that although they are “Christians,” they are imperfect in their state before God.
Good thing the Bible clearly says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NIV)
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
Among traditional Lutherans, the common practice is to only commune with those who believe in “the true body and true blood of Christ in with and under” the bread and wine. A Southern Baptist could very well profess adherence to the doctrines stated in the Nicene Creed, but because he or she does not understand the mystical locality of the physical body of Christ under the bread by the power of the Word, we refuse them from partaking of the holy Sacrament with us.
Although we profess with our mouths that Christians outside of our immediate community are indeed “Christians” by right, with our actions of communal ex-communication, we state that our brothers and sisters of other denominations are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, not Christians.
And this is exactly where the blasphemy is found. When we turn away a pious Christian of another denomination from the Lord’s Supper, we are essentially saying that he or she is not a regenerated Christian because they do not believe or understand exactly as we do. In fact, those we turn away, we treat as if they were still under the power of the devil.
Even if we claim that adherents of other denominations are our “brothers and sisters,” at the Communion Table, we treat them as the pets of the family that although welcome to sit by the dining room, are not allowed to eat from the Master’s table.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to intentionally claim that a miraculous act from God, was performed by the power of the devil. (Mark 3:29) When we refuse other devout Christians from the Lord’s Table, we are communicating with our actions that we do not believe that their profession in Christ proceeds from the Spirit of Christ, but in fact, from a different spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:3 (NIV)- Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Could it be that we do not see the power of the Holy Spirit, because we blaspheme him daily by means of our unloving actions and denominational arrogance? The Holy Spirit is under no obligation to act according to His Word, when we do not live according to His Word. We can yell, dance, kick chairs and meditate all we want…but if we do not love our brothers and sisters in action- we will have no power. Period.
1 John 3:21-23 (NIV)
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands
and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ and to love one another as he commanded us.
I truly believe that as the Western Church experiences persecution, it will also begin to experience a unity in the Faith of Christ that will produce manifold miracles; all proceeding from the love of God that will dwell richly in our hearts.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.