As I said in the introduction to this series, I’ve decided to look at the source of the “food” that the church needs to take in to be healthy. I’ve divided the sources into three types: 1) directly from God, 2) from other believers, and 3) from others. Now, in reality, all “food” for the church comes from God. However, in some cases, God works more directly; but in other cases, God communicates in a more indirect manner.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness just after he was baptized by John, at one point he responded, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 ESV, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3) In this post, I look at food that God gives directly to the church.
In Scripture, God primarily communicates with his children directly. In the Old Testament, we find God walking and talking with Adam, directly talking to Cain and Noah, dining with Abram and Sarai, sending angels to Lot, speaking with Moses, and many, many other examples.
But, what about in the New Testament? Yes, we know that Jesus directly communicated with people, but do we find God “feeding” people directly once Jesus ascends into heaven? Yes.
Not only do we find examples God communicating directly with people in Acts, the epistles, and Revelation, we also find exhortations to listen to and heed the voice of God. We also find that God will communicate directly through giving understanding and wisdom.
These are all examples of God giving “food” to the church directly (i.e., not through some intermediary). As with all communication from God, God speaks to his children clearly and objectively. This does not mean that we always understand perfectly. In fact, this is where the problem lies.
While God communicates clearly and objectively, we do not understand clearly and our interpretation is always subjective. While we should to understand God as he is speaking with us, we must also understand our own limitations in interpreting what God is saying.
There are even examples of this in Scripture. When God directly intervened to release Peter from prison, Peter did not understand what was happening:
And he [Peter] went out and followed him [the angel]. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:9-11 ESV)
Also, consider the following description that Luke gives concerning something that happens with Paul and his traveling companions (including Luke):
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:10-13 ESV)
We see in these two examples that Peter and Agabus did not perfectly understand or interpret what God was communicating directly to them. Thus, we are told to discern prophesy and to test the spirits. In the first case, Peter understood better after the angel left (i.e., after God stopped directly intervening). In the second case, Paul disagreed with how that Agabus and those with him (including Luke) understood what God was saying.
But, what about Scripture? Doesn’t the Bible represent objective direct communication from God? Yes and no. I do believe that God inspired the authors of Scripture. Their writings have since passed through many human hands: copyists, editors, translators, etc.
When we read Scripture, even our Hebrew or Greek editions, we are reading what other people think God intended to be written in Scripture. So, we must be careful and understand the work of editing and translating, either of which is also a work of interpretation.
Furthermore, many people who say they are reading Scripture are actually reading what others say about Scripture, either through Bible studies, commentaries, study Bible notes, etc.
The church must consider how God is communicating directly with them. We must be listening and discerning what God is saying. But, this is not the only way that God communicates with his church. So, we should balance this diet by also listening to what God says through other believers and through others (who may not be believers).
What would you add to this discussion?
A Healthy Diet for the Church Series
2. “Food” given directly by God
3. “Food” given by God through other believers
4. “Food” given by God through nonbelievers/society/culture