By Steve Phillips
Christ Jesus the Lord is the Pattern for His people. He came, delighting to do the Father’s will. He emptied Himself of honor to take the form of a servant in order to deliver men from sin. This is the NT Pattern for the church: in character, doctrine, and in ministry.
Conformity to Christ is the standard. His mind is to dwell in His own and govern their every thought and action in all humility, considering others as more important than self [Phil.2:3-5].
Jesus was utterly unlike the religion that He came to dwell among, both in character and in approach to teaching, training, and influencing men. Unlike the Pharisees, He was not rigid in self-devised regulations which were imposed upon the multitudes whom they despised. He was no Sadducee, compromising the Word by courting the favor of the political and influential out of a heart filled with greed.
Though a King indeed, he used no force to promote religious ends as did the Zealots. Rather than isolating Himself from corrupted men, He was even known as the friend of tax-gatherers and sinners while maintaining spotless integrity among them.
When Jesus came to His own people Israel, He met a time-honored and fully developed procedure to train religious leaders. Nevertheless, He neither passed through their process Himself nor submitted any of His disciples to that system.
There were to be found no Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, lawyers, or scribes among His apostles. Religious training devised by men does not produce people who turn the world upside down.
Paul, who had been tutored under Gamaliel, the most notable rabbi of this method [Acts 22:3; 5:34], confessed that his theological upbringing amounted to dung [Phil.3:4-8]. His own horrifying realization was that all of his training had not resulted in him knowing God at all, much less grasping His will and purposes [Acts 9:5]. His rabbinical schooling, zealous devotion to established traditions, and his exalted position over the professed people of God had not benefitted him in the slightest; they actually brought him into bondage and impoverishment.
He had to unlearn all and begin afresh. He had gained nothing according to the mind of the Spirit; all was loss. What was true of Paul also characterized the religious rulers among whom he was so highly esteemed. With the Word of God in hand and the Lord’s name upon their lips, it was nevertheless the devil himself whom they served [Jn.8:38,44; 16:2,3].
When we survey Christendom in our generation, what was true of them is discovered to be so among us. We reference the Word of God but we have not handled the Word of Life [I Jn.1:1]. Like the Pharisees, man-made tradition governs the souls of men rather than the simplicity and purity of God’s Word alone. Following the well-worn path of the Sadducees, we compete for religious promotion and recognition along with the wealth that such positions afford.
By employing their same methods of intimidation and force, members considered by them to be inferior are dominated by self-appointed rulers. Suspicious, proud, jealous, and coveting, Christ’s professed church is fragmented into countless denominational sects, each promoting itself and not Christ.
Brethren, we are not like Christ, and for this cause, neither are we producing true spiritual leaders that are like Him.