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The Continuity of Authentic Christianity
The continuity of Christianity is most often seen as –
    organisational (through its succession of bishops: 'apostolic succession'), understandably reinforced in official reactions to schismatics and heretics; or, subsequent to the Reformation, as –
    didactic (based on fundamentals of true doctrine: variously defined by different church denominations).
Both are wrong, and neither view conforms to the founding documents of Christianity in Holy Scripture!
The continuity of Christianity can lie in nothing less than that which Christ's congregation received from Him on the Day of Pentecost in the year 30 AD.
On
that day the embryo Church, which Christ had nurtured during His ministry, was born into this world for the continuance of Christ's mission, the completion of which, as He said, is the precondition of His return (Matt.24:14).
 
From Pentecost . . .
The Holy Spirit did not 'arrive' in Jerusalem on that day, but something new began on that day – in the Spirit's relationship to those who believed. This newness is illustrated in the difference between the unique twelve foundation apostles of Christ and the gift of apostle in the Christian Church which was given on that day of Pentecost (Eph.4:8-11).
 
Before
that Pentecost, Christ had chosen twelve leaders from among His disciples and called them apostles. He stated in His Upper Room discourse that, in addition to the witness about Him by the Holy Spirit who was to come, the twelve would be His witnesses because they had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry with John the Baptist's baptism.
 
 
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth,
who proceeds from the Father
[i.e. with the same authority with which Christ came],
He will bear witness about Me. And you also will bear witness,
because you have been with Me from the beginning.
"
John 15:26-27.
This
pre-Pentecost distinction is reinforced for us in the Bible's description of the preparation for Pentecost when the believers chose a replacement for the apostle Judas Iscariot who had committed suicide after his betrayal of Christ. The minimum qualification for anyone to succeed to the apostolic office of one of the Twelve is described as –
 
 
"...one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us –
one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection."
Acts 1:21-22.
Of
Christ's many disciples, only two qualified. Even Cleopas, to whom Christ had personally appeared and taught on the way to Emmaus and broke bread with on the day of His Resurrection (Lk.24:13-35), did not qualify to be chosen as a foundation apostle. Only eye-witnesses of the whole ministry of the Lord Jesus, from His baptism under John until His ascension, qualified as an historical witness in addition to the spiritual witness of the Holy Spirit.
 
This
difference between the before and after of that Pentecost day is reinforced by the Bible's teaching on the nature of the term apostle as used in our New Testament. The Word of God teaches that the ministry gift of 'apostle' was given to Christ's church at Pentecost (Eph.4:8-11), in distinction from the unique twelve apostles commemorated in metaphor as historically foundational to the New Jerusalem church of our Lord Jesus (Rev.21:14).
 
The unique authenticity of Christianity derives from what God did on that day of Pentecost! This is the continuity of authentic Christianity.
 
What changed on that day? Yes, God 'gave' His Spirit, or the Spirit 'came', but what does that mean if it does not mean that the Spirit arrived on earth?
 
Christ's
words do not describe a geographic change in the whereabouts of the Holy Spirit, for He is omnipresent. It metaphorically describes a change in His relationship.
 
 
Before Pentecost every action of God's Spirit was task-orientated: anointing Bezaleel to enable him in the construction of Israel's tabernacle, anointing priest and prophet in their role functions, including John the Baptist – until the Christ came. He is called the Christ (משׁיח / Χριστός) because this is His unique characteristic – the special continuing nature of His anointing by the Spirit received at His Baptism.
 
The prophet
John the Baptist who was an eye-witness of the event makes the following inspired observation –
 
  "And John bore witness: 'I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove [new beginning sign as for Noah],
and it remained on Him'."
John 1:32.
That
new beginning was not Christ's sinless humanity. He was already about 30-years-old at the time of this event and had not sinned in word, thought or deed. What began that day was a change in the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the humanity of Jesus, an authoritative relationship which then "drove" the Christ (Mk.1:12), away from the people prepared by John the Baptist, and into the desert to be tested in prayer and fasting to face Satan's temptations.
 
This
relationship of the Spirit to Christ's humanity, this relationship, was given to all God's people on that day of Pentecost for the same purpose – to all who are accepted by God as being "in Christ"!
 
Therefore
the Apostle Paul (apostle by the gift of the Spirit) declared that –
 
 
"Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him."
Romans 8:9.
 
This phrase, 'Spirit of Christ', is not a metaphor for a Christ-like attitude. This same phrase is used by the Apostle Peter to describe the same Spirit who anointed the prophets of Israel (1 Pet.1:11). It is a clear and authoritative statement in Holy Scripture that without that relationship to the Spirit given in Christ a person's Christianity is not authentic. It is false!
 
  This and only this is the true continuity of authentic Christianity.  
Although
other views have their own special history, their basis is essentially human control.
 
The
Lord Jesus Christ is our example here.
 
  "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing.
For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
"
 
The
'truly, truly' prefix is to emphasise the importance of this principle for our understanding. He presents this truth to the disciples not only because it explained His insight and behaviour but because He is our ultimate example. Thus, through the Holy Spirit, Christ Jesus acted by His spiritual recognition of God's direction; His 'seeing' the Father's action regarding each matter.
 
Spiritual
recognition is the basis of identification of what is of God and what is not of God. Obviously, symptoms of a condition may confirm this but they are the consequence and not its basis. John gives an example of these symptoms when he wrote to believers –
 
  "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.
But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us."
1 John 2:19.
So,
human control of authentic Church continuity, whether by ordination (the organisational model of 'apostolic succession') or by a minimum doctrinal standard or dogmatic definition as the basis of church recognition (didactic model) may each seem right in its own context, but it is not God's way for a very, very, important reason.
 
The
perseverance of the Spirit of God continues with the Church of Jesus – to prepare it in all ways for His return as a Bridegroom to a Bride prepared. For that reason, our doctrinal definitions and understanding of the nature of Christ's Church must be open to the healing and growth which God has for His people, many of whom are still trapped in the damaged or broken down spiritual vehicles of how things were in the past.
 
Let Christ explain
the meaning of His own words:
"Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me."
(not Mass/Eucharist!)
John 6:56-57.
Christ's
devotional life was His source, and so it is ours also. From this He drew His understanding, and so us also, for so it was written in the prophet of Him, and He expects no less of us if we are His!
 
  "The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning He awakens; He awakens My ear to hear as those who are taught." Isaiah 50:4.

Church Meeting Dynamics The ‘Apostolic Succession’ Heresy Gifts of the Holy Spirit

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