Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing: for what things soever he does, these the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19
The above verse talks about how Jesus did what he did by seeing what the Father was doing and following his example. Here are some things I see the Lord doing.
WikiAnswers says that there are over 2 billion Christians.[i]
SpiritualWorld.org gives a more conservative number 1.3+ billion, based on 1999 Britannica numbers.[ii]
Whatever the number, one thing is obvious, the Lord is reaching people. I see the Lord working there. I see that He is working despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of divisions within the body of believers, and Christianity is always under attack from numerous detractors. I see that there are many millions of people gathering to worship, pray, and fellowship together. I see all of that as the Lord at work.
This is what the Lord is doing, calling people together to worship, fellowship, pray and minister to one another. Even in totalitarian regimes, believers risk their lives to seek God in fellowship with other believers. God calls people despite the widespread disagreement over many issues. What is common is that they all follow Christ. The common denominator is that Christ is preached and followed. Can’t you see that is the Lord at work?
This huge work, where there are now billions who gather in the name Christ has continued DESPITE the numerous disagreements over what the Bible says. I see that as the Lord’s work.
The fundamentalist movement started a couple of centuries ago in response to the development of liberal Christianity. Prior to this, the literalness of the bible was not as crucial to being a Christian because the Roman Catholic church did not teach reliance on the Bible. Even with the Reformation, the reformers stand on the primacy of scripture as the rule of faith and practice was not absolute. Luther, Wesley, and others did not completely abandon reason, experience, or tradition in the directions they took. It wasn’t until the liberal Christian movement took hold that some in the Christian community responded with the dogged stand that the bible was completely and literally the Word of God.
The fear, it appears to some, is that Christianity is only real if the bible is literally the Word of God in every word of the sixty-six books canonized in the late fourth century. Or it is only real if their set of doctrines like eternal security, or pre-election or Pentecostalism or whatever their group teaches is right. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity has grown throughout the centuries around the world despite countless divisions and disputes over doctrine, over the inerrancy of scripture and all the other issues. Christ is alive and working despite the disputes.
Don’t get me wrong. I thank God for the reformers who pointed out and took a stand against corrupt teaching and practices like indulgences, buying and selling the offices of bishops, forced celibacy, and accumulating great wealth in churches while the poor remain oppressed. The tool that the reformers used to prove the corruption in these practices is the bible. I see the Lord working there too. But I don’t see the Lord working as group after group argue over the nuances of biblical doctrine, and split into innumerable factions over complicated theological issues.
There are over a billion people, perhaps two billion, that claim that they are Christians. Many have accepted the Lord because they were fortunate enough to be born into a Christian home that attended a family church, perhaps a mainline church with a long history. Others received the Lord as the result of a new group that burned with a passion and reached people that the wonderful, but imperfect, people in more established churches wouldn’t reach. I see the Lord at work there.
There is an example of a different ministry operating in the time of Jesus that didn’t follow Jesus’ ministry per se but ministered in the name of Jesus even to the point of casting out demons. The apostles were alarmed and spoke against this ministry because this new ministry wasn’t in alignment with them. But Jesus corrected them. Look at how Jesus said we are to receive such a ministry.
John said unto him, Teacher, we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followed not us.
But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me.
For he that is not against us is for us.Mar 9:38-40
Look at Christ’s direction here. Here in the very time of Jesus’ ministry was another ministry that preached in the name of Jesus and manifested power to the point of casting out devils. Jesus’ counsel was to not only let them be but acknowledge them as co-workers because no one could work such power in Jesus name and at the same time be speaking against Christ. This is biblical proof that ministries spring up. There are other proofs, look at Apollo in the book of Acts as another example. Even the ministering of Saul shows that God works directly with people to bring them to Christ, the church is not necessarily required. There is an incredible power to a faith that springs up in so many different ways in places around the world.
Jesus arose to the right hand of the Father. That is not the truth because it is written in a verse. It is written in verse because it is the truth. The focus is on the spirit, not on the verse. The verse is only useful to the degree that it leads people to the spirit. People don’t follow Christ because it is logical to do so as much as people follow Christ because he delivers them, gives them hope, and answers their prayers.
So if some have feared that without the Bible no one would ever follow Christ, it is not true. Maybe people will not know Christ as well without the bible but people have heard about Christ and decided to follow him without seeing a Bible for millennia now. Augustine wrote that it wasn’t necessary for believers to have a bible, except perhaps to instruct a new person. In a culture where so many in the world have mandatory schooling now, it is important to remember that up until a few centuries ago about six out of seven people could not read or write. The written word has not been the way that God has been reaching most people since Christ; it is the spoken word that reaches people. It is a much simpler message than is in many a denomination’s theology that has constrained people to follow Christ since it began. It is the love of God manifested in a community of believers that leads people to follow. It is simple messages of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and future glory that inspire people. I see God at work there.
While there are may be no better resources for knowing how the Lord has worked since the beginning than the books of the Bible, God is at work now despite the countless internal disputes over what the bible says. That alone should say something. What it says to me is that there is a spirit of the Lord and it is among us, and in us. It is that spirit that is the bond, not the King James or Revised Standard or any other version of the Bible, or Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Evangelical, or Orthodox theology. Many of us, in fact, I would venture to say, most of us, have chosen to follow Christ not because of the incredible theological logic presented systematically in Bible classes or in the pulpit, but because of the love, joy, peace, and other spiritual fruit that we found in community of believers, and the simple messages of hope and redemption that we heard preached. That is what the Lord is doing and why Christianity is real in spite of biblical disputes and arguments.
(c) 2009 – 2019 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Edited 2019