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66 - A Long-term Plan




In that speech before the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “it would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment” (En.2). He feared that the current momentum of his cause might be mitigated by compromise and a waning will. MLK didn’t want the march towards freedom to end halfway there. He didn’t just want less segregation, or a little more freedom. In that speech, he encouraged his supporters and warned his enemies that he would not stop until the fullest measure of freedom was achieved. He ended that speech with these famous words,


“We will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last” (En.2).


God’s idea of freedom is all encompassing. Jesus didn’t come to enact a partial salvation and redemption. The Church is a Bride that has been promised to her Husband. Christ is that Husband. Many in the Church have accepted the marriage proposal, but haven’t continued with what comes after.


In ancient times, marriages were arranged. There was a kind of “dating” process, but it happened after the marriage was agreed upon. After accepting the marriage proposal, the couple would enter the betrothal period. They would spend a designated amount of time getting to know each other.


For those who have decided to commit their lives to Jesus, the enemy has a Plan. That Plan is to thwart the dating process, the period of betrothal. The enemy does not want us to spend any time getting to know Jesus. If we don’t know Jesus, we won’t know whether or not we’re being faithful to Him.


From the beginning of the Church, Satan had a Plan. That Plan was to turn the Church into a Prostitute. To do that, Satan needed to be able to offer a God-substitute. If we think we know God, when we don’t, we’ll be more susceptible to a false god.


The Church was founded by a direct and dynamic move of the Holy Spirit. In the first Church, salvation was receiving the Holy Spirit, and sanctification was the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. To be a Christian was to receive the Spirit and to be growing in our ability to hear and walk with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:6). This was a problem for Satan. This was a big problem. As long as a believer could hear and follow the Spirit, there was no way for Satan to counter that.


But Satan had a Plan. Satan knew he couldn’t do much in the first generations of the Church, other than enact external persecution. The problem was that persecution helped, rather than hindered the Church. At the center of the Church was a suffering Savior who showed the way through suffering to salvation. The more Satan persecuted the Church, the more it grew.


Satan needed to do more than persecute the Church from the outside. He needed to infiltrate the Church, in order to persecute it from within. To do that, he needed a really good, long-term Plan. The first step of that Plan was to attack the organizational structure of the Church.


Jesus, and subsequently Paul, organized the Church in a very specific way. They ordered the Church in such a way as to ensure that it would remain centered on a direct move of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. They wanted the Church to be like a body, with many working parts, and One Head.


In a body, every part matters. In a body, every part receives its direction from the head. In a body, no part is directed through another part. In a body, no part is unimportant. Remove any one part, and the function of the body is diminished. Disconnect any part from the head, and that part is rendered useless.


Satan’s first move was to instigate a slight alteration to the structure of the Church. It was subtle move. It had to be. Satan couldn’t attack the Spirit directly. He had already tried a direct assault on God, and lost. To succeed in persecuting the Church from within, Satan would need to separate believers from the life of the Spirit. In separation from God, the Church would be more vulnerable to his Plan. To diminish the role of the Spirit in the life of individual believers, Satan would have to undermine the system that instigated and enforced that.


To lead the first Church, Jesus developed twelve apostles with a variety of personalities, abilities, and giftings. Paul recognized this organizational preference, and tried to establish it more clearly in the first churches. Beyond planting churches, Paul took great care in how they were organized. Paul’s system of organization centered on a variety of spiritually gifted leaders, and a hierarchy of maturity.


In three particular letters, Paul listed some of those spiritual gifts. Those gifts are,


Love

Faith

Hope

Mercy

Apostles

Prophets

Pastors

Evangelists

Teachers

Miracles

Healings

Administrations

Service

Encouragement

Tongues

Interpretation of Tongues

Wisdom

Knowledge

Spiritual Discernment

Ephesians 4:11 (NASB)

1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 28 (NASB)

Romans 12:6-8 (NASB)


In two other letters, Paul mentioned the qualifications for Elders and Deacons. Those qualifications are,


Holy

Gentle

Righteous

Dignified

Hospitable

Respectable

Above reproach

Self-controlled

A good parent

With Christian children

Married to one person

Skillful in teaching

Moderate in drinking

Not a bully

Not self-willed

Not contentious

Not a new convert

Not quick-tempered

Not greedy for money

A good household manager

A good reputation with non-Christians

Titus 1:6-9 (NASB)

1 Timothy 3:2-12 (NASB)


Paul was a great church planter and organizer. Paul was an Apostle, appointed by Jesus and filled by the Holy Spirit. He left specific instructions about how churches should be organized. In three letters, Paul listed nineteen different spiritual gifts. He also took great care to emphasize that the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts throughout the body so that there would be “no division”, and that the parts would have “the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:11-25).


In two letters, Paul listed twenty-one qualifications for Elders and Deacons. He took great care to define what it looks like to be a mature Christian.

In all five of those letters, Paul made it clear that the Church should have a large variety of mature, spiritually gifted leaders helping each other lead a local church body. It was that system of organization that Satan wanted to attack. His Plan of attack was simple.


That Plan was:


One Leader,

One Church,

One Truth



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