© 2007 Ron Schwartz
All rights reserved.
The Voice Of The Spirit
May 30, 2007
From Ron and
26 And he that
overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power
over the nations:
27 And he
shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall
they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28 And I will
give him the morning star.
29 He that
hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
convinced that most Christians do NOT know how to hear the voice of the
Spirit. Gleaning truths divined from the scripture is NOT the voice of
the Spirit. Basing your decision on your understanding of biblical
truths is NOT hearing the voice of the Spirit. Coming to a consensus
through the counsel of others is NOT listening to the Spirit of God.
Instead of hearing the voice of the Spirit, most Christians have come to
accept their own presumptions, cultural values, and intellectual
knowledge of the scripture to dictate the answers they desire and their
spiritual direction. Though truth can sometimes be found in this way,
it is a poor replacement for hearing what the Spirit has to say. Only
by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit can one be fully submitted
to true spiritual authority.
Today, we can
be in contact with a church halfway around the world in an instant
through telephone, Internet, or radio communications. As a result, we
can be made aware of a need or a problem almost instantaneously. But
when the Bible was written, information coming and going to a church
could take months to reach its intended destination. By the time Paul
became aware of a situation, months would pass before he could address
it. Therefore, the apostles often used different forms of structure,
Christian rulers, and barriers to provide limits to control
spiritual growth in the desired direction. Bear in mind that most of
the epistles were directed toward the Gentile churches which, in many
respects, did not have a grasp on Judeo-Christian values.
In addition to
structure, most churches have man-imposed customs (barriers) that
prevent them from being fully under the authority of the Spirit. Often
these barriers are based on biblically-founded truth or just good
practical common sense.
Let’s examine a
few examples of barriers.
women keep silence
Many seek to
decipher direction for their lives and the church by reading the
scripture and attempting to follow it like a step-by-step direction
manual, but this can prove to be a faulty method, especially when trying
to understand scriptures that seem to be contradictory to others. When
there appear to be contradictions, it is important to understand the
biblical themes behind each passage.
consider the scriptures as a whole, you begin to see certain themes
occurring. I believe “biblical themes” are certain inalienable truths
that the apostles embraced and were therefore reflected in their
writing. For instance, Western civilization embraces justice and
freedom. As a result, someone who embraces these values will
unknowingly communicate these virtues in their writing and speech even
though they may not directly address the subject. That is because these
values are a part of the way we think and are therefore reflected in how
we communicate. This is also true in the writings of the New
Testament. There are certain ideological truths like love, grace, and
faith that were embraced by the authors of the New Testament. These
values were at times subtly communicated in their writing. They appear
as themes in their writing. Therefore, when we read a statement that
seems to be in conflict with other New Testament passages, we must look
beyond the words and the Greek meaning, seeking to understand the theme
of the concept as it is expressed in the whole of the New
33 For God is
not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the
34 Let your
women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to
speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the
35 And if they
will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it
is a shame for women to speak in the church.
We have all
read this passage and many of us have wrestled with how it can coexist
with scriptures like, “Everyone of
you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation,
hath an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:26).”
Or how can the scripture that says, “every
woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth
her head (1 Corinthians 11:5)”
fail to be in conflict with the one forbidding women to speak? These
are only two, but there are many other scriptures that suggest women MAY
speak in the church.
considering all the scripture together, it becomes obvious that women
should NOT be silent in the church. Then there are the practical
questions that arise. For instance, if the primary churches of that era
were “house churches,” then were not women already at home? So how do
we reconcile these scriptures and the practical issues to 1 Corinthians
Here is what we
see: it comes back to themes. The theme that best explains this is that
the founders of the New Testament knew they did not have all the
answers. So at times they implemented temporary structure to address a
certain problem with the intention that eventually such structure would
no longer be needed as the people grew in the maturity of the Spirit.
can be anything that people impose to replace a function of the Holy
Spirit. Paul and the other
apostles at times imposed structure in the absence of spiritual
maturity. They recognized that the church sometimes lacked spiritual
maturity and therefore needed some form of “temporary” structure to
shore up its weaknesses. We find it with the church at Corinth. They
were not spiritually mature enough to operate under the spiritual
authority of the Holy Spirit. So Paul imposed “temporary” rules for
them, especially the women, to follow. The apostles found that
temporary structure was sometimes necessary to bring discipline and
order until the church matured enough spiritually so that the structure
was no longer necessary. Structure was never intended to be a permanent
condition of the church or individual Christians.
Let’s be clear
about this: the Holy Spirit working in the church does not produce
structure. Structure may be a by-product of the Spirit moving on the
Church (in that man imposes it due to spiritual immaturity in the
people’s use of spiritual gifts), but structure is something created by
man, not the Holy Spirit.
Acts 6:1-4 KJV
1 And in those
days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a
murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were
neglected in the daily ministration.
2 Then the
twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is
not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of
the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4 But we will
give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
both the apostles and Jesus taught that it was an imperial mandate to
feed and care for the poor and that no person or group was above
another, it wasn’t being practiced here. Certain groups seemed to be
receiving preferential treatment. Consequently, the apostles implanted
a structure to address what is obviously the spiritual immaturity of the
consider the solution the apostles used to address this problem, we get
an idea of how they used structure. Consider the quality of men. They
were to be “full of the Holy Ghost
It is clear that structure should be intended to mimic as closely as
possible the work and leadership of the Holy Spirit that it temporarily
replaces. Consequently, church structure (and the hierarchy that
developed under it) was never meant to be a permanent condition in the
church but instead was meant to exist only until the church could reach
a maturity level where it was no longer necessary.
consider these next examples:
11 And he gave
some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some,
pastors and teachers;
12 For the
perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying
of the body of Christ:
13 Till we
all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son
of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ:
Notice the word
According to this scripture, ministry itself is a form of structure that
was intended to be temporary. It is imposed upon the church “till”
the Body of Christ grows into spiritual maturity, at which time it is no
longer necessary. The scripture here explains that it is a temporary
mimicry of the operation of the Holy Spirit.
So, there are
two uncontroversial facts that define whether ministry is operating in
accordance to the design established by the apostles:
Does it mimic the operation of the Holy Spirit?
Is it bringing the church closer to spiritual maturity and thus
its own obsolescence?
Even the gifts
of the Spirit are a temporary structure of the church. Both they and
all ministries must eventually go away if the “operation of the Spirit”
is to completely mature. Consider the following:
never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether
there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it
shall vanish away.
9 For we know
in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when
that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be
Do we believe
that the church has reached a level of spiritual maturity (perfection)
such that it no longer needs the structure of spiritual gifts or
ministries? Absolutely not! Nor can we imagine what it would be like
to have every believer functioning at a level of spiritual maturity that
makes structures no longer necessary, but it should nevertheless be our
goal. The point is this: we must not universally impose upon all
Christians a structure that was meant to address an issue in a single
church or culture.
Titus 1:5 KJV
For this cause
left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things
that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had
Here we find
that the need for elders were because of that which was “wanting,”
or lacking, in the church. The institution of elders was not a measure
of church maturity, but of its immaturity. The imposition of authority
is the mark of underdevelopment.
1 Now I say,
That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a
servant, though he be lord of all;
2 But is under
tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
3 Even so we,
when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world
We raise our
children with Christian values, “imposing” a Christian structure in
their lives. This structure becomes no longer necessary when they
choose to serve the Lord. The structure is discarded in favor of a real
relationship with God. The Christian structure we teach our children is
nothing more than the same temporary replacement of the Holy Spirit that
is used in the church. When people impose structure in the church,
they are treating the congregation as children. And just as
structure stands in the way of children maturing, so does it in a
And Minuses” Of Structure
be a good thing. It can bring order to chaos. That is why teachings
like Bill Gothard’s can be so valuable to some Christians.
Structure is used well when 1) the Body of Christ receives proper
teaching about why it is imposed and how they must mature so that such
structure is no longer necessary, and 2) there is a clear understanding
with all involved that it is temporary, and finally, 3) it is clearly
understood that it is structure, not a spiritual ordinance. Also, when
considering structure and its usefulness in the church, it is important
to understand that there must be a plan for structure to go away. Call
it an “exit strategy.”
if a structure is put in place to address a problem like the following:
the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with
tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers,
will they not say that ye are mad?
be imposed as follows:
27 If any man
speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three,
and that by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if
there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him
speak to himself, and to God.
Then as people
grow spiritually and come to understand that spiritual gifts are subject
to the individual, this form of structure may be no longer necessary.
can also have the opposite affect: it can become a barrier if it is not
discarded as the Body matures. We see this with the Old Testament. It
was given as a temporary structure to provide us with examples of
spiritual things, but it has now become a barrier to the Orthodox Jews,
and many Christians as well. They refuse to discard it, and now it
serves to prevent them from true spiritual maturity. The same thing is
true concerning children. The control and structure we impose upon the
lives of our children must diminish as they mature. If not, there will
eventually be a clash of wills.
nothing more than the use of natural authority in the church.
Whenever natural authority is used, it replaces the authority of
the Holy Spirit and impedes spiritual development. If used improperly,
it will suppress and even choke out spiritual growth. No amount of
structure can replace the work of the Holy Spirit in the church.
A Note About
Obey them that
have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your
souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and
not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Set aside for a
moment that the word “rule”
means to “stand before,” and therefore “to lead,” and
consider it in the context of this scripture. Paul was obviously
referring to leaders who were responsible and accountable. Now consider
the audience to whom he wrote.
11 Of whom we
have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of
12 For when
for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you
again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are
become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every
one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is
Christians (who, after experiencing salvation, chose to regress back
into the law) had already rejected the spiritual authority of the
Holy Spirit by reverting back to the law. These were people who were
spiritually immature and could not hear the voice of the Holy Spirit or
follow His leading. Strong leaders were necessary to break them free of
the natural authority of the law. Paul’s instructions were,
therefore, that they obey their leaders and turn away from their
fixation on Jewish law that held them back.
churches want to grow spiritually. The vast majority of churches in the
west actually enjoy their spiritual immaturity. They like not needing
to prepare themselves for a meeting. They enjoy have no
responsibilities other than attending and enjoying the show. They like
the fact that they can pay some man to go to God and hear from God for
them. In churches such as these there will always be a ruling class,
just like Paul wrote of in Hebrews. Consequently, just because Paul
addressed the Hebrew church about their rulers does not mean that this
is the way God wants it to be.
A Note On
defined as “the power to determine and settle disputes; the right of
control and command; mastery in execution and performance; an expert on
a subject.” When we set people as authorities in our lives, we
often set them up for failure. Most people rarely live up to our
expectations of them because they are like us: imperfect. It is for
this very reason that wives are often bitter toward their husbands.
Their husbands fail to live up to their expectations of an authority.
It is also the reason why children and parents often end up in a
generation gap (i.e., parents quite often fail to measure up to the
standard of an authority). It is also the reason why we often hear
children/young people use the words hypocrite/hypocrisy when describing
their parents. Being an authority carries with it difficult
The worst thing
you can do to a person is to consider them an authority in your life.
When you do this, they will cease to be your friend, partner, or
spouse. The relationship that we should have with one another is one of
friendship. You treat friends with respect and longsuffering. You
submit to the will of your friends. In fact, as much as we would
normally give to authorities, we give much more willingly to friends.
When we set
others up as authorities – as with typical pastors, for instance - it
forces them to “act” the part. They set themselves apart
from others and sense the pressure to have all the answers. They feel
the need to be flawless in order to preserve their rank. However, in a
real body of believers, such would not be the case. A person with a
pastoral gifting would play their part along with everyone else.
as spiritual authorities in our lives just does not work. It has
resulted in multitudes being hurt and spiritually abused. It is
responsible for church splits. It is even responsible for many becoming
bitter toward their parents, their spouses, and the true authority of
the Holy Spirit.
A Note On
cannot get past the idea that the apostles functioned in a “ruling”
capacity. They point to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) as examples of
their authority. Ananias and Sapphira died because they chose to “lie
to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3),” not
because they lied to Peter. They did not have to give their money to
Peter. Their sin was in misrepresenting their gift to God. Peter was
merely God’s oracle to expose their sin.
one of the clearest descriptions of apostles when he wrote, “And
when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the
grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right
hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto
the circumcision (Gal 2:9).” He
describes the apostles as “pillars.”
This word (Greek: stulos) actually means "pillar," and
therefore, figuratively, "support." Paul did not describe them
as rulers but as those who support others. This is important because
rulers have command and control while one who supports
enables others to command and control (e.g., their own lives).
Jesus had a
message for the seven churches in Revelation. It is amazing how
different they saw themselves from how Jesus saw them. The church at
Laodicea thought they were “rich, and
increased with goods, and have need of nothing.”
But Jesus considered them “wretched,
and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
How could there exist such a disparity? No church believes itself
wrong. The seven churches in Revelation believed they had the truth and
were doing the will of God. They all seemed to be saying, “I am
spiritually rich.” Had it not been for this letter being sent to
these churches, would they have ever known Jesus’ assessment of them?
Could they not hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to them?
The churches in
Revelation thought they were obedient to the Spirit, but they were not.
Not only had they had missed it, but many were in opposition to the
direction of the Spirit. How is it that Christians and churches can be
virtually in opposition to God and not know it? The answer is simpler
than it may seem.
When a church
uses any form of structure, it faces the danger of becoming “out of
sync” with the Spirit like the churches Jesus addressed in the book of
Revelation. Nothing. Nothing! Nothing can replace the voice of the
Holy Spirit in the church. If structure must be imposed to address
an issue, then it must be used only temporarily until the Body of
Christ matures enough so that control can be turned over to the Holy
Spirit as quickly as possible. Remember, structure is at best a crutch;
it can never do the work of the Holy Spirit, nor should it be
implemented with such an intention. Structure and other barriers will
always block the voice of the Holy Spirit.
are just like these churches of 2,000 years ago. They are not
listening! Most churches do NOT know how to hear the voice of the
Spirit. Instead we have allowed presumption, our cultural values, and
our intellectual knowledge of the scripture to dictate our direction
rather than actually hearing what the Spirit is saying. Most ministers
serve only to convolute things by creating more noise so that it is
virtually impossible to hear the voice of the Spirit today. Instead of
getting us to hear from God, they have succeeded in replacing the voice
of the Spirit in the church.
It is the voice
of the Holy Spirit in the church that is true spiritual authority,
NOT the voices of those in leadership positions. For the church to
mature fully to the stature of Christ, these leaders must step aside and
yield to the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit in God’s people.