Today’s question comes from Gary and it rises from Chapter Four: “What Jesus Taught Us” in FINDING CHURCH. I’ve had this come up in conversations before, but have never heard the concept actually taught and have never believed it. The idea is that the new creation began at Pentecost. Jesus was living and teaching under the old covenant and thus we can’t look to him for teaching about the church.
Here’s what Gary wrote:
I had a realization recently in response to one of your thoughts, “Maybe Jesus gave us all we need to know to experience Church as He is building it”. I realized that we been taught a few things that conflict with that:
(1) that the “church-age” began when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. Do you see this as a conflict?
(2) that Paul was more the founder of church-life through the revelation of Jesus Christ than Jesus Himself was. While Jesus was on earth because Paul was actually the hand-picked-by-Jesus-after-ascension-apostle most radically redeeming the apostate–Judas’ vacated office–even though the eleven chose to get a replacement with a typical “good-churchy-idea”. Do you see this as a conflict?
(3) Paul’s writings have alot of “intentional-meeting-support-stuff” in them: order,substance,elder selection etc. etc. Do you see this as a conflict?
When you suggested that maybe Jesus lived-out all we have need to see to live as the Church, I had a hmmmm… that’s interesting.? And a hmmmmm… that changes alot!
I’ve heard and taught a lot of things fulfilled in the finished work of Jesus Christ but, establishing a picture of “church-life” is not one of them. That idea is a big deal. There’s a big difference between looking predominantly at Paul’s life as founder thru Jesus’ revelation, and Jesus as founder & practitioner of disciple-making in His earthly life & ministry.
I’ll be honest. I’ve heard this teaching about the church not beginning until Paul, but I’m unconvinced of the hermeneutic involved. I don’t know why people wish to make that distinction. Jesus brought the kingdom and the church is the fruit of that kingdom. If we focus on Paul’s language about church without the reality of the kingdom we’ll end up with the human-managed institutions we do today. I don’t divorce what Jesus said or did as our example for the life of his church, which is his family and his bride. Why would we?
Of those I know who espouse that view they are looking to negate the influence of Jesus in deference to Paul. That doesn’t make sense to me. Jesus is the Founder, the Cornerstone, and the Head of his church. Why wouldn’t he be our chief example, and Paul the one showing us how it fleshed out in the early decades of the church taking shape? Jesus lived between two covenants, honoring one while launching a new one that could truly lead us to life and freedom. The things he taught teach us how to live in the new creation, or the kingdom, as much as this world allows and where we follow him the church takes shape in the way we love and treat each other.
I don’t think there is a lot in Paul of intentional-meeting-support stuff. There is far more about relationship and his example in Acts is about dialog not monolog. Honestly there’s nothing in the Gospels or Acts that commend our mini-concert, mini-lecture institutions that use the tools of conformity to try and administrate a transformative-based community. There’s the problem. We can have elders, gatherings, support, and care, without our human-engineered systems if people learn to live in him and respond to the will of the Head. If we have those things without him at the center, we end up with empty institutions.
And if anyone can help me see a good reason to skip Jesus and go to Paul for an understanding of the church, I’d be all ears. But as of yet I haven’t heard that case in any way that makes sense to the story of Scripture and the person of Christ.