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PRODIGAL CHURCH
by Mike & Sue Dowgiewicz
Brace Yourself for a Pleasant
Surprise: God Is Restoring the
PRODIGAL CHURCH Early Church
How You Can Restore the
Power and Intimacy If you could encounter a church
Shared by Early Christians gathering fifty years from now, your
head would spin.
Prodigal Church is a condensation of You’d see a church transformed by
Restoring the Early Church by Mike the most powerful changes in its his-
and Sue Dowgiewicz. t o r y, e v e n s t r o n g e r t h a n t h o s e
brought by Luther in 1517.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture But you won’t have to wait fifty
taken from the Holy Bible, New years. The changes have already
International Version. Copyright © begun. In a nutshell, God is rebuild-
1978, 1984 by International Bible ing His family. He is healing us of the
S o c i e t y. U s e d b y p e r m i s s i o n o f vast damage brought by the rational-
Zondervan Publishing House. All istic, Greek-based philosophies that
rights reser ved. The "NIV" and "New invaded the church after AD 70. And
I n t e r n a t i o n a l Ve r s i o n " t r a d e m a r k s He is bringing back the close-knit,
are registered in the United States relational model and eager, Spirit-driv-
P a t e n t a n d Tr a d e m a r k O f f i c e b y en par ticipation that made the New
International Bible Society. Use of Testament church so powerful.
either trademark requires the permis- In short, we’re starting to see a
sion of International Bible Society. megashift from the cold and harmful
Greek model to the warm and helpful
Scripture quotations marked KJV are Hebrew model that Jesus and the
from the King James Version. apostles would have felt at home
with. And as soon as you and those
All rights reser ved close to you in Christ catch on and
Printed in the United States of shift back to the original Biblical
America principles, you’ll see a whole new
dimension added to your life.
ISBN 1-888582-04-9 For a thumbnail sketch of some of
the differences you’ll experience,
© 1996 Mike and Sue Dowgiewicz take a glance at the back cover. We
expect this paradigm shift to bring a
Restoration Ministries "YES!!" transformation in followers
www.Restorationministries.org of Jesus. In any case, we guarantee
it’ll warm your hear t!

What’s behind all this?


.
Why are these things happening
now?

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Because God keeps His promises. I t ’s h a p p e n i n g ! T h e r e t u r n t o
On time! And time’s up for a prom- Israel is possibly the biggest politi-
ise He gave in 487 BC: cal/militar y news stor y of our time.
Did you know that nearly one mil-
I w i l l r o u s e y o u r s o n s , O Z i o n , lion Russian Jews have fled to Israel
against your sons, O Greece, and make from the former USSR, drawn by God
you like a warrior’s sword. from "the land of the north"? And
—Zechariah 9:13 t h a t 1 5 , 0 0 0 E t h i o p i a n J e w s h a v e
come from the south as well?
We first heard this verse explained Jeremiah 31 is being fulfilled before
when Lance Lambert shared it at a our eyes!
prayer conference in Jerusalem in Wars come and wars go, but the
Januar y of 1994. His prophetic expla- conflict between Israel and her bel-
nation of the verse was that God was ligerent neighbors continues to esca-
now pouring forth a Hebraic under- l a t e , d e c a d e a f t e r d e c a d e , e v e n
standing of the Bible to undo what moment by moment. This agitation
the Greek spirit has done to the confirms the "ancient hostility"
church for centuries. against the Jews spoken of in Ezekiel
Initially, this had no meaning for 2 5 : 1 5 a n d 3 5 : 5 . M a n y C h r i s t i a n s
either of us. But over the next two h a v e r a l l i e d t o I s r a e l ’s s u p p o r t ,
months during our stay in Jerusalem, strengthening its resolve in the face
God opened up a clear understanding of worldwide criticism.
through our research and through This is dimension #1 of God’s new
spiritual revelation to show us what outreach to His people.
He’s doing throughout the world. Second, God is bringing more and
We then realized that the Holy m o r e J e w s i n t o H i s K i n g d o m .
S p i r i t i s r e s t o r i n g t o f o l l o w e r s o f Around the world, we’re seeing more
J e s u s C h r i s t a b i b l i c a l l y c o r r e c t , of them turning to their Messiah
Hebraic understanding of their rela- than in any time in the last 1,900
tionship with God and with the sig- years. We’ve never seen such open-
nificant people in their lives. In ness.
other words... Out of six million Jews here in the
US, over 250,000 are now followers
The foundation is being restored! of Messiah Jesus. That’s one out of
24. They’re on a roll.
This restoration is part of a This is dimension #2 of God’s new
matched set of three major events outreach to His people.
unfolding before your ver y eyes. Third, God is restoring the Hebraic
First, God is fulfilling His promis- roots of the Christian church. Faith
es to the Jewish people by restoring communities are beginning to adopt
them to Israel: the relational models and participa-
tor y patterns that powered the early
This is what the Sovereign LORD church.
says: "I will gather you from the In addition, most of today’s major
nations and bring you back from the Christian movements are being driv-
countries where you have been scat- en by varieties of Hebraic visions. In
tered, and I will give you back the land the American past, the major source
of Israel again" (Ezekiel 11:17). of action was the denominations—all
of them defined by their creedal dis-
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tinctives, not by factors like charac- Messiah. As they began their new
t e r f o r m a t i o n , s p i r i t u a l m a t u r i t y, lives together with joy, the fur thest
intimacy in fellowship, leadership by thing from their minds was renouncing
example, or opportunities for shar- the heritage they'd received from
ing and open worship. Abraham, their Hebrew ancestor.
N o w, h o w e v e r, w e h a v e m o v e - In fact, the 100% Jewish nature of
ments that owe their existence to the the earliest church is a primar y proof
adoption of perspectives that would of the continuity of the Older
have made Jesus and the apostles feel C o v e n a n t a n d t h e N e w e r. M a n y
right at home! Christians today mistakenly think
that the Older Testament is a sacred
THE GATHERING OF ISRAEL, THE but totally irrelevant text. Not so!
TURNING OF JEWS TO THEIR MESSI- There is a straight red line running
AH, AND THE RESTORATION OF THE from Abraham through ancient Israel
BIBLICAL/HEBRAIC CHURCH ARE to the modern Gentile church, and it
THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF GOD’S is drawn by the blood of Christ.
N E W O UT REA CH T O T H E WHO L E We’ll discuss this more below, but
WORLD. AND IN THE MIND OF GOD, first, the Lord wants to know...
THEY’RE ALL INTERCONNECTED.
Are you paying attention?
Hebraic Foundations of the Early
Church Modern Israel is God’s wake-up call.
The Older Testament, or what is
The early Christians weren’t like us. more accurately called the Tanakh
Until about AD 70 (the fall of (tah-nock’), the Hebrew Bible, pro-
Jerusalem and the beginnings of the claims that as God starts restoring
schism between Christians and Jews), the Jewish people to Israel, He will
even the Gentile believers related to use this event as a signpost to the
the Lord through a Hebraic frame- Gentile nations. In other words, God
work. The special understanding of is saying, "Pay attention to what I,
God and His Word passed along by the the LORD, am doing!"
Jewish believers was the foundation Also, Jeremiah stresses the faith-
underlying the intimacy and awesome fulness of God to keep His promises
spiritual power you see all through to the Jews:
the Book of Acts and the epistles.
The Holy Spirit built His church This is what the LORD says..."Only
powerfully — on the bedrock of the if these decrees vanish from my sight,"
customs and practices of God-fearing declares the LORD, "will the descen-
Jews. That’s why the "Acts of the dants of Israel ever cease to be a nation
Apostles" might more properly be before me." This is what the LORD
called the "Acts of the Holy Spirit." says: "Only if the heavens above can be
This would focus less on the men measured and the foundations of the
and more on God! God’s Spirit built ear th below be searched out will I reject
His church powerfully — on the lives all the descendants of Israel because of
o f " O l d e r Te s t a m e n t J e w s " w h o all they have done," declares the LORD
heartily accepted the promised (Jeremiah 31:35-37).

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Many denominations and church- forgiveness is needed." Even the top
es teach that God has forever reject- authorities in the reconciliation
ed the Jews. Yet Paul agrees with movement concur that, yes, "much
Jeremiah as he passionately asks in more is needed." And sooner rather
Romans 11, "Did God reject his peo- than later.
ple?" His reply, "By no means! ...There Many of us today think that the
will always be a remnant chosen by customs, practices, even the organi-
grace ...Did they stumble so as to fall zation of the church date from the
beyond recover y? Not at all! Rather, time of Jesus and the apostles. Yet
because of their transgression, salva- histor y shows that anti-Semitism and
tion has come to the Gentiles to make vested interests over the centuries
Israel envious." Paul then warns us radically revised the mindset of the
Gentiles, "I do not want you to be igno- early Church, handing down to us
rant of this myster y, brothers, so that something far different from what
you may not be conceited: Israel has our Lord intended.
experienced a hardening in par t until How far we’ve departed from our
the full number of the Gentiles has Hebraic roots! Jesus was Jewish—
come in." born of a Jewish mother into a
The Church has been arrogant and Jewish framework of practice based
conceited toward the Jews for cen- upon the Hebrew Scriptures. Most of
turies, inflicting tremendous atroci- the early believers were Jewish. So
ties on them. God declares in how did we Christians ever lose our
Genesis 12:3, when He speaks of the wonderful Hebraic heritage?
Jewish people, "I will bless those who
bless you, and whoever curses you I will How We Blew It
curse; and all peoples on ear th will be
blessed through you." It started mostly with the destruc-
In order for the Church to receive tion of Jerusalem and the Temple.
the full blessing promised to those During the time of Jesus, the
who bless the Jews, we must undo Romans ruled their subjects by fear
our past harm. During the last few and intimidation. The penalty for
decades, God has been changing the rebellion was death, often by cruci-
hearts of Christians toward the Jews. fixion.
Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, The Sanhedrin, or Jewish ruling
and others have begun asking the party, feared that Jesus would "rock
Jewish people for forgiveness for the the boat" of their orderly little
atrocities committed against them in world. Far better, as Caiaphas had
past generations. said, that one man die for the people
For instance, at the Jerusalem than the whole nation perish. If this
prayer conference, a young Polish "Messiah" led enough followers into
Jewish woman was chatting with believing that they would be freed
Mike. At that moment he felt com- from Roman oppression by his king-
pelled by the Spirit to seek her for- ship, then all the Jews would suffer
giveness on behalf of all the Gentile the consequences.
Polish people for the atrocities they Out of His loving care, Jesus had
had committed against the Jews forewarned the people in advance,
there. As they tearfully embraced, "When you see Jer usalem being sur-
she responded, "Much more of this rounded by ar mies, you will know that

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its desolation is near. Then let those Israel.
who are in Judea flee to the mountains, Within thirty years after the sec-
let those in the city get out, and let ond revolt, the church had become
those in the countr y not enter the city" predominantly Gentile, with a most-
(Luke 21:20,21). ly non-Jewish leadership. The
Jesus again warned His disciples in Hebraic roots from which it had
Luke 21:24, "They will fall by the sprung began to disappear rapidly.
sword and will be taken as prisoners to During the second and third cen-
all the nations. Jer usalem will be tram- turies, many Greek philosophers
pled on by the Gentiles until the times converted to Christianity. Today we
of the Gentiles are fulfilled." refer to these men as the "Church
Wi t h i n f o u r d e c a d e s a f t e r t h e Fathers." Yet many of them were vir-
ascension of Jesus, the Zealots, a sect ulently anti-Semitic in their writ-
of militaristic Jews, revolted against ings, intensifying hatred of the Jews.
the Roman army. Unable to hold out For instance, about AD 160, Justin
for long against the militar y power Martyr, one of the most respected of
of Rome, Jerusalem fell in AD 70. a l l t h e C h u rc h F a t h e r s , w r o t e
The Temple—the heart of Judaism for Dialogue with Tr ypho, a Jew. In it he
worship of God and atonement for claimed that the Jews richly deser ved
sin—was destroyed, fulfilling Jesus’ to be destroyed. He said that God
words, "I tell you the tr uth, not one was through with Jews for good, and
stone here will be left on another; ever y His promises to Israel now applied
one will be thrown down" (Matthew only to Christians; His curses applied
24:2). An estimated 100,000 Jews only to Jews. Ignored was the fact
were killed, star ved, or enslaved. that our sins hung Jesus on the cross.
Counted among the dead were few Such abuse from the pens of our
followers of Jesus, however. Perhaps most spiritual and revered leaders
remembering Jesus’ words, "Then let opened the floodgates of vitriol and
those who are in Judea flee to the hate. Ordinar y Christians began to
mountains" (Matthew 24:16), the feel that the guilt of the Jews in AD
Jewish believers headed out of town, 29 extended for all time, making des-
finding safety in the Pella region picable criminals out of ever y Jew
about 60 miles northeast of forever, and thus justifying all the
Jerusalem. The Zealots and other discrimination and violence that
Jews who had opted to stay and fight would soon be heaped upon them. It
viewed the Messianic Jews as trai- was a horrible spirit at the heart of
tors, widening the gulf between the Christianity, one that took hold ver y
two groups. quickly.
S i x t y y e a r s l a t e r, S i m o n " B a r By the fourth centur y, Christian
Kochba," called the "second messi- l e a d e r s w e r e s o u n d i n g l i k e H i t l e r,
ah," deepened the division further. only worse. John Chr ysostom, the
Bar Kochba believed that he had gentle and enormously talented bish-
been raised up to crush the Roman op who invented the sermon con-
armies, but this Second Revolt also cept, wrote:
ended in disaster for the Jewish peo- “The synagogue is worse than a
ple. A half million were slaughtered, brothel ... it is the den of scoundrels
and Jerusalem was leveled—while the and the repair of wild beasts ... the
followers of Jesus rejected any other temple of demons devoted to idola-
Messiah except the Lord and fled trous cults ... the refuge of brigands
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and debauchees, and the cavern of thing changes and evolves. Ethics
devils. [It is] a place of meeting for and morality are based on the whims
the assassins of Christ ... a den of of man, not on the holy will of God.
thieves; a house of ill fame, a dwelling Plato postulated that life was
of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf divided into two components, the
and abyss of perdition. spiritual realm of eternal truths and
It is worth noting that Chrys- the temporal realm of the physical.
ostom was one of histor y’s greatest This concept of dualism deemed the
pioneers of replacing Hebraic prac- spiritual realm "good" and the physi-
tices with Greek thought. Hebraic cal world "evil."
thought emphasized the heart rela- Dualism was incorporated into the
tionship to God that was evidenced teachings of the church through the
in ser vice to others. Intimate rela- writings of the Church Fathers. The
tionships with other believers and dualist concept generated the myriad of
mentoring through leaders of good church rituals in which believers must
character transformed the Scriptures pray over things to make them holy.
into a way of life. For instance, "Christian dualism"
Greek thought appealed to the eventually did away with commun-
intellect. Those who had studied the ion in homes. No longer could a
most and could speak the most skill- group of believers simply share in
fully were the ones most esteemed in the breaking of bread and passing of
their faith communities. Believers the cup. Dualism viewed bread and
who isolated themselves from world- wine as too "earthly" to represent the
ly concerns and involvement were body and blood of Jesus; the physical
deemed the holiest. And thus we elements had to be spiritualized by
have the clash between the Hebraic someone ordained for that purpose.
foundations and ... In contrast, Hebraic prayer
focused on blessing God, the Creator
The Influence of Greek Philosophers and Provider of all needs. Because of
God’s words at creation, "It is good,"
Besides the anti-Semitism of the the Hebrews viewed the world as
Church Fathers, the Older Testament good and desirable. Even though sin
itself became suspect in many cir- had come into it, the universe had
cles. The converted Greek philoso- been created by a God who had
phers brought with them an empha- humanity’s best interests at heart.
sis on rationalism and reasoning C h u rc h Fathers like Origen,
rather than a trusting faith in the Justin, and Clement had been power-
God of Israel. Instead of basing their fully swayed by Hellenistic thought.
writings on both testaments of the They emphasized withdrawal from
Bible, these theologians concentrat- worldly concerns in order to focus
ed on reconciling the teachings of on spiritual matters. The "higher
Plato with Christianity. call" of people in ministr y became a
Humanism, increasingly influen- central belief in the Church as a
tial in the church today, is a direct result of their writings.
result of the Greek philosophical Besides the elevation of a clergy
spirit. To the humanist, man—not c l a s s i n t h e c h u rc h , t h e d u a l i s t i c
God—is the measure of all things; influence caused many to seek pietis-
there are no God-given standards or tic withdrawal into abbeys, con-
a b s o l u t e s . Wi t h h u m a n i s m , e v e r y - vents, monasteries, and desert
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retreats. Personal withdrawal contra- These find their origins not in the
dicted the full-community par ticipa- first centur y Church but in the Greek
tion that exemplified the Hebraic teaching tradition.
outworking of faith. Paul emphasized the need to rely
Some became ascetics, hoping that on God’s power rather than man’s
by vigorously subduing the flesh, orator y: "My message and my preach-
they could free themselves from the ing were not with wise and persuasive
evil they perceived in the physical words, but with a demonstration of the
realm and draw closer to spiritual Spirit’s power, so that your faith might
p e r f e c t i o n . P a u l w a r n e d Ti m o t h y not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s
against asceticism as a means to holi- power" (I Corinthians 2:2-5).
ness: "Such activities indeed have an Examine the important differ-
appearance of wisdom, with their self- ences between the Hebraic and Greek
imposed worship, their false humility approaches to learning. These are
and their harsh treatment of the body, listed from most effective for reten-
but they lack any value in restraining tion to least effective.
sensual indulgence" (Colossians 12:23).
Have you run into churchgoers today HEBRAIC Lear ning
who pride themselves on what they
refrain from doing and despise those Direct Par ticipation
who are caught up in overt sins? Student learns by doing.
A rabbi was esteemed first of all
for the godly way he lived. His per- Contrived/Dramatized Experiences
sonal character and obedience to God Role-play, discussion, skits, simula-
were more important than his teach- tions.
ings. In today’s vernacular, did he
walk his talk? The Hebraic approach Demonstrations
tells us to weigh a man’s life fruit Watching someone show "how to do it."
before we follow his instruction: Spontaneous response to a situation.
"Consider the outcome of a man’s life
before you listen to his teaching. And GREEK Lear ning
then you can imitate his faith"
(Hebrews 13:7). Audio-Visual Combination
But the Greek philosophers TV, movies, slides.
brought a theoretical approach to
studying God, an emphasis on educa- Audio or Visual Presentation
tion and knowledge acquisition. The Record, radio, or tape; display or bul-
Bible warns that "knowledge puffs up." letin board.
The Hebraic response would put
vir tue before knowledge. As II Peter Verbal-Visual Por trayal
1:5 says, "...add to your faith, vir tue, Diagrams, reading a book ,hearing a
and to your vir tue, knowledge..." lecture or sermon.
Through the influence of Chr ys-
ostom, Greek oratory became the A person retains 90% of what he
main teaching pattern in the church. sees, hears, and demonstrates but
Modern seminaries teach Greek only 10-20% of what he hears. Do
homiletics, Greek hermeneutics, and these statistics show you the differ-
Greek orator y—all the related fields ence between Hebraic mentoring and
t h a t t o d a y ’s p u l p i t s d e p e n d o n . Greek knowledge acquisition?
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Ponder one especially devastating Influence of the Roman Empire
effect that the Greek spirit has on
o u r s o c i e t y t o d a y. B e c a u s e i t w a s The Greek philosophical influence
man-centered, the Greek civilization was not alone in wooing believers
was also utilitarian. So if a person— away from their Hebraic founda-
infant or elderly—was considered tions. The siren call of friendship
incapable of achieving a certain with Rome truly finished off the
standard of success, he should not be C h u rc h t h a t P e t e r a n d P a u l h a d
allowed to become a burden on soci- known.
ety. Therefore, euthanasia, abortion, O r i g i n a l l y, R o m a n p e r s e c u t i o n
and infanticide were rampant. had caused the Church to grow in
Without a belief in the intrinsic numbers. But in AD 313 Emperor
worth of an individual to guarantee Constantine issued the Edict of
his right to existence, a society will Milan, which ended that. Endorsed
work to eliminate those who are from the throne, Christianity ver y
imperfect or unproductive. That is shortly became so identified with
the crossroads facing America today. the Empire that ever yone born in it
At the retreat center in New was automatically considered
England where we taught for over 10 "Christian."
years, Mike ministered as a counselor Membership in the church became
to church leaders. He was burdened attractive for worldly reasons. And as
by the lack of cooperation among the a direct result of the influence of the
churches in different communities. Romans upon the Church, Europe
Doctrinal division always seemed to entered into the period of histor y we
separate God’s people. now call the Dark Ages.
F o r i n s t a n c e , o n e o f t h e a r e a ’s Following the traditions of the
largest employers, an insurance pagan religions at that time, Con-
c o m p a n y, instituted mandatory stantine built temples for the
classes in Eastern mysticism for peo- Christians to meet in. Plato’s influ-
ple aspiring to upper management. ence again loomed in the use of
Rather than rallying together in stained glass windows, lofty steeples,
prayer against this threat to those and high vaulted church ceilin g s.
w o r k i n g a t t h e c o m p a n y, c h u r c h All of these were designed to reach
leaders refused to cooperate with toward the presence of the "unknow-
each other. able" God.
Lack of cooperation can be attrib- A paid professional clergy arose
uted to the Greek philosophical spirit during this time. The clergy-lay dis-
that divides and separates when tinction so predominant today was
agreement can’t be reached. It’s a officially sanctioned by the fourth
spirit that insists you must be wrong c e n t u r y c h u rc h . T h e b i b l i c a l m a n -
if we can’t agree. As the grasp of the date for the priesthood of all
Greek spirit on the church wanes, believers was ignored. Christians
m u c h o f t h e c h u rc h ’s p r e j u d i c i a l became spectators, lulled into
division will disappear with it. The allowing professionals to approach
Hebraic understanding of the Bible the Almighty on their behalf. The
will increase our unity and coopera- D a r k A g e s f e l l u p o n t h e m q u i c k l y.
tion, particularly when the dark days
of chastisement arrive.

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The Restoration, A Continuation of opposed to restorations of further
the Refor mation truths that emerge after them.

And it was ver y dark. For a ver y The Impor tant Foundation of the
long time. Hebrew Bible
For instance, contemporary
Christians fail to grasp the powerful The Apostle Paul wrote about half
c o n t r o l t h e c h u rc h e x e rc i s e d f o r the books in the Newer Testament, so
1,100 years by keeping the Bible in he easily qualifies as the foremost
Latin. As late as 1517, in Coventr y, literary figure bridging the Older
England, five men and two women Testament and the Newer.
were burned at the stake for the And what did he think of the
heresy of teaching their children the Older Testament? Was it really just a
Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Command- dead canon that left Israel con-
ments in English! demned under its Law and without
But even before Martin Luther hope? Here’s what Paul said: "For
launched the Reformation that same ever ything that was written in the past
year, God had been at work to pierce was written to teach us, so that through
the darkness. John Hus and William endurance and the encouragement of
Tyndale had paid with their lives for t h e S c r i p t u re s w e m i g h t h a v e h o p e "
putting the Word of God into the (Romans 15:4).
language of their countr ymen. Yes! The Hebrew Bible was and is a
Start to think of the Reformation giant reser voir of hope for the Jews,
as the beginning of the Restoration. the source text for their walk with
With the Bible in the language of the God, and the fount of knowledge of
people, profound changes began to Who He is and what pleases Him.
occur among 16th centur y believers. T h e N e w e r Te s t a m e n t w r i t e r s
The Hebraic focus on salvation by repeatedly referred to those Scrip-
faith was restored, the supremacy of t u r e s . Wi t h o u t r e f e r r i n g t o t h e m ,
grace was restored, and the unique how can believers today ever grasp
importance of applying the Bible to such concepts as the atonement sac-
all facets of life was restored. rifice?... the high priestly mediation
Regrettably, the church structure of Jesus between His Father and His
and patterns stayed about the same— people?... the priesthood of believers
minus the Pope. In particular, Luther and the spiritual responsibilities and
soon came to believe that the vast privileges that that entails? Even the
gulf between clergy and laity status Messiahship of the Lord was founded
needed to continue because laymen in the prophecies of the Hebrew
were “not ready” to assume any Bible!
meaningful responsibility in the Many believers think of the Older
church. Testament as legalistic and only for
Over the centuries God has con- the Jewish people. Yet God lays the
tinued to restore the biblical empha- same relational requirement in both
sis and understanding of His Word. Testaments; that is, to love Him. If we
The difficulty for us today is that tr y to keep God’s commands without
with each restoration, people throw loving Him, we’ll become proud and
up denominations around their one get caught up in what we do for Him.
r e s t o r a t i v e t r u t h ! W h a t ’s w o r s e , Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13 that
these same groups are usually "without love, we are nothing." Living

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out God’s commands because of our The Restoration Diagram that fol-
love for Him keeps us humbly depend- lows illustrates the relational priorities
ent on Him and contrite when we fail. of the Hebraic early Church. If it were
The foundation of love is found in three-dimensional, it would look like
Deuteronomy 6:4,5: "Hear, O Israel: a wedding cake with five layers.
The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Love the LORD your God with all
your hear t and with all your soul and The Restoration Diagram
with all your strength." The Hebrew
word for love, ahav (ah-hahv’),
means to be filled with desire and
delight and passion for the one you
love. Ahav describes the wonderful,
tender mercies of God and conveys
an intense desire to be in your loved
one’s presence.
The heart-cry of God throughout
the Hebrew Bible is a longing for a
love relationship with His people.
T h e Te n C o m m a n d m e n t s t e l l u s t h a t
God promises to show His love to a
thousand generations of those who
love Him and keep His command-
ments.
Jesus quoted from that Deuter-
onomy passage when He gave us the
greatest commandment: "‘Love the
LORD your God with all your hear t and
with all your soul and with all your The top and most impor tant layer is
mind.’ This is the first and greatest your relationship with Jesus.
commandment. And the second [which The second layer is your home.
He quotes from Leviticus] is like it, The third is your neighborhood
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the home fellowship of extended spiri-
Law and the Prophets hang on these tual family.
two commandments" (Matthew 22:37- The four th is the congregation of
40). The Greek word agape (ah-gah’- home fellowships.
pay) is used for love here and its The fifth is congregations
meaning is similar to the Hebrew throughout a town or city.
ahav.
To s u m m a r i z e t h e p r i o r i t y o f The Restoration Diagram priori-
loving God: Everything in our tizes a loving intimacy with Jesus,
Christian life—everything about then with your covenant marriage
knowing God and experiencing Him, partner and family, and then with
everything about knowing and relational load-bearers in a neigh-
doing His will—depends on the borhood home fellowship. On a less
quality of our love relationship with intimate level are relationships
Jesus. If our love relationship with within a congregation and with
Jesus is not right, nothing in our other congregations throughout
life will be right. your town.
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T h e e a r l y c h u rc h p a r a l l e l s t h e J e s u s t o l d h i s J e w i s h l i s t e n e r s ,
relational priorities of the Jewish peo- "Whoever tr usts in me, as the Scripture
ple in the Hebrew Bible: has said, streams of living water will
flow from within him" (John 7:38,39).
Jewish People, BC The streams of living water refer to
•individual the evidential work of the Holy
•family Spirit. The only Scripture in exis-
•clan tence when Jesus spoke these words
•tribe was the Hebrew Bible. Believers
•nation today who want to trust Jesus "as the
Scripture has said" must study the
Early Church Hebrew Bible to discern the complete
•individual Gospel.
•family Our acceptance by God our Father
•home fellowship through Jesus really was the central
•congregation of home fellowships i s s u e i n t h e e a r l y C h u rc h . T h e
•congregations throughout a city Gospel that is based on the Hebrew
Bible and understood by the early
J e s u s i s t h e F o u n d a t i o n a n d Jewish church was not man accepting
Cornerstone of our covenant rela- Jesus as his Savior, but God accepting
tionship. the Lord Jesus as the only Savior.
Marriage is a key means of devel- Christ fulfilled the reconciliation
oping Christ’s likeness in us, and is a requirements of God. Jesus’ payment
physical representation of our spiri- was complete, and a new covenant
tual union with God. was established through His blood.
The family is where we learn how The resurrection of Jesus was our
to pass along sacrificial love in Jesus. Father’s sign that the sacrifice for
The home fellowship provides the our sins had been accepted by Him.
communal support needed by the God was, and forever will be, satis-
family and individual to uphold right- fied. We who follow Jesus are justi-
eousness and to develop their spiritu- fied by trusting in His blood as pay-
al gifts and spur on one another. ment for our sins.
The congregation is the gathering Many believers are not aware that
point for worship and further exer- even before the coming of Jesus a
cise of spiritual gifts on a corporate number of rabbis taught that a per-
level, as well as for personal edifica- son must experience a spiritual bir th,
tion and glorification of the Lord. a response to God’s call on his life.
Conversion equaled rebirth; in other
The Hebrew Bible: Basis for words, being "born from above" was
the Gospel of Jesus a shift from following the letter of
the law to abiding in loving obedi-
The early Gospel was more com- ence with God.
prehensive than we in the church Being born again was the point at
have currently understood. which you put your full tr ust and
Many today have been told an reliance in the Lord. It was already
i n c o m p l e t e o r e v e n c o u n t e r f e i t the basic salvation move of any Jew’s
gospel. The Bible stipulates one tr ue life. That’s why Jesus was so sur-
Gospel as the way to eternal life. p r i s e d w h e n N i c o d e m u s p r o f e s s e d

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ignorance of being born again: "Are 1. Salvation requires our Repentance
you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do
not understand this?" (John 3:10). Because of their knowledge of the
The Hebrew word for "faith" does Hebrew Scriptures, John the Baptist,
not mean just belief, but tr ust in Jesus, and Peter at Pentecost all
God. This is an emotional and affirmed repentance as the first step
responsive term emanating from the of salvation.
heart, not a cognitive one assented Biblical repentance always demands
to by the brain. It doesn’t merely a tur ning away from sin and a tur ning
acknowledge that God exists; that’s to God. Do you see these two distinc-
already a given! The Book of James tives? Tur ning from sin and tur ning to
says that "even the demons believe and God.
yet they shudder" (see James 2:19). That’s the vital message in this
Following Jesus means submitting in verse:
tr ust-filled obedience to His authority,
not just agreeing that He's God's [Peter] answered them, 'Tur n from
Son. Submission to Jesus brings big your sin, retur n to God, and each of
changes to your life! you be immersed on the authority of
We m u s t a l w a y s b e o n g u a r d Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness
against a counter feit gospel. Even the of your sins, and you will receive the
Apostle Paul warned the Galatians to gift of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:38).
beware of a per verted gospel: "Even if
we or an angel from heaven should Repentance grieves you that you
preach a gospel other than the one we have grieved God; you hunger for the
preached to you, let him be eter nally forgiveness, cleansing, and restora-
condemned!" (Galatians 1:8). Any so- tion that only He can give. That grief
called ‘gospel’ of today that differs is the "godly sorrow [that] brings repen-
materially from the Gospel under- tance that leads to salvation and leaves
stood by the earliest followers of no regret" (II Corinthians 7:10).
Jesus is a path to hell. Satan is
s h r e w d . H e d o e s n ’t c a r e h o w y o u 2. Salvation requires our agape Love
don’t get to heaven, just as long as
you don’t get there! In the early church, there was an
The early Church understood sal- intensity of loving response in
vation as a process based upon repen- accepting the Gospel message that is
tance and a loving trust in Jesus. And often lacking today.
in the Hebrew Scriptures, God God desires a love relationship
expressed His heart’s desire for a love with His people. This love is wonder-
relationship with His chosen people. fully manifested by those who know
The two agree. But many of the the Gospel of the Hebrew Scriptures
Israelite leaders perverted this love and understand the depth of their own
into a series of rules and obligations depravity. For them it is easy to see
designed to earn salvation only if pre- God’s grace in the atonement and to
cisely followed. This is called “legalis- appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus on
tic perversion.” their behalf.
Let’s review three of the key elements Tr e v o r M c I l w a i n o f N e w Tr i b e s
of conversion in both Older Testament Missions has gotten a phenomenal
I s r a e l a n d t h e H e b r a i c c h u rc h — response by teaching natives the
repentance, ahav love, and trust: B i b l e i n c h r o n o l o g i c a l o r d e r, f r o m
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Genesis to Revelation. When they f u l l y a d v a n c i n g , a n d f o rc e f u l m e n l a y
c o m p l e t e t h e O l d e r Te s t a m e n t , t h e y hold of it."
see the depth of their own sin. Then In light of the militar y examples
when they hear about Jesus, they in the Hebrew Bible, picture this
are grateful and delighted to illustration of that verse: Around a
respond in love to His sacrifice on military fortification such as the
the cross. walls of Jerusalem, "killing zones"
are established to concentrate
3. Salvation is incomplete without weapon fire for maximum killing
our Tr ust effectiveness. Those who attack the
fort must first courageously battle
The unwavering trust that God their way through the killing zone.
requires of His children is the fabric Because of the strong likelihood that
woven throughout the Hebrew Bible they might be killed in the attack,
and the Newer Testament. Look at these individuals have to "be dead"
some of God’s promises to those who to ever ything beforehand in order to
trust Him to take care of things: fully focus on their objective.
Such forceful determination was
"Many are the woes of the wicked, the standard for those who gave
but the LORD’s unfailing love sur- their lives to follow Jesus. This
rounds the man who tr usts in him" essence is captured in Matthew 13:44
(Psalm 32:10). -46: "The kingdom of heaven is like
treasure hidden in a field. When a
"Tr ust in the LORD with all your man found it, he hid it again, and then
hear t and lean not on your own under- in his joy went and sold all he had
standing; in all your ways acknowledge and bought that field. Again, the king-
him, and he will make your paths dom of heaven is like a merchant look-
straight" (Proverbs 3:5,6). ing for fine pearls. When he found one
of great value, he went away and sold
"So this is what the Sovereign LORD ever ything he had and bought it." It
says: ‘The one who tr usts will never be takes tremendous certainty to give
dismayed’" (Isaiah 28:16). up ever ything you’ve got in order to
lay hold on what God is offering
Do you see anything in those vers- you.
es about qualifying to be in God’s
presence by sacrificing X number of Accepting the Gospel: Accepting
bulls and sheep per year? No, because the Covenant
salvation for the Jews was based on a
loving trust in God: "Abraham trust- The early Jewish followers of Jesus
ed God, and it was credited to him as clearly understood the significance
righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). of covenants. Today we understand
dimly at best.
Accepting the Gospel: Forceful God had established covenants
Conviction Required with His people through Noah,
Abraham, Moses, and David. Jere-
O n e o f t h e m o r e p e r p l e x i n g v e r s - miah had prophesied that the Jews
e s f o r s o m e i s M a t t h e w 1 1 : 1 2 : " F r o m could expect yet another covenant.
t h e d a y s o f J o h n t h e B a p t i s t u n t i l n o w, God is the initiator of the covenants
t h e k i n g d o m o f h e a v e n h a s b e e n f o rc e - b e t w e e n H i m s e l f a n d H i s p e o p l e .
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Each covenant carries with it God’s you do not forgive men their sins, your
promises and man’s responsibilities if Father will not forgive your sins"
he accepts God’s terms. (Matthew 6:15). The question for us
Paul reminded the Gentiles about is, Can we be forgiven of anything by
covenants as part of the heritage our heavenly Father if we do not for-
received from the Jewish people: give others who have violated us?
"Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs The early Church understood that
t he d ivine gl or y, the c ov e nan t s, t h e our Lord will not consummate a rela-
receiving of the law, the temple worship tionship with an unforgiving person.
and the promises" (Romans 9:4). The Why? Because His Father refuses to
writer to the Hebrews builds the forgive him. That’s a relational fact,
foundation of the Messiahship of something fairly obvious to early
Jesus on the institution of a new believers—but not so obvious to
covenant: "To Jesus the mediator of a those of us steeped in doctrinal facts.
new covenant, and to the sprinkled Our forgiveness opens the way for
blood that speaks a better word than the Holy Spirit to take up His resi-
the blood of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24). dence in us. Richard Wurmbrand, a
These words sound quaint and Jewish believer who suffered for his
ver y antique to us in the postmodern faith for fourteen years in a
West. But what a thundering impact Romanian prison, teaches a profound
Jesus’ words must have had on the and correct interpretation of the
Jewish ears who first heard them: Lord’s Prayer. He says that "Forgive us
"This is my blood of the covenant, our debts, as we forgive our debtors"
which is poured out for many for the should be translated, "Forgive us our
forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). debts as we have already forgiven oth-
Suddenly in that upper room that ers their debts." After what Jesus has
evening, it was a new ball game on done for us in the depth of our trans-
earth. The rules were changing, and gressions, how can any of us ever
a new covenant was transcending the feel justified in clinging to bitterness
old. and unforgiveness?
But the new covenant did not God knows that we will be hurt
eradicate the old. The old became and betrayed by those close to us at
the enduring foundation for the new. one time or another. A wise friend
The old is still there as the historical told us years ago, "You can never
b a s i s . A n d t o d a y, w e c a n n o t a d e - walk in the fullness of Jesus until
quately appreciate the new unless we you can wash the feet of Judas."
have a heart-knowledge of the old, as Rarely can human effort or
the early Jewish Christians did. strength ever wipe away the hurt
you feel from what others have done
No Salvation Without Forgiveness to you in the past. Only through
loving trust in Jesus and the power
God knows us well. He anticipated of His grace can you forgive the
that we would not always be able to " J u d a s e s " i n y o u r l i f e . To t h e a n c i e n t
keep the conditions of the covenant, H e b r e w s , G o d w a s Ya h w e h - R a p h a ,
so He provided for confession and t h e L O R D o u r h e a l e r. O u r t r u s t a n d
repentance on our part to reestablish reliance in Jesus releases His power
the fellowship. to remove the sting of those painful
O n e tru th in p artic u lar startles memories.
many believers. Jesus declared, "If
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The Indwelling Holy Spirit: Caring the follower’s life. When he is sealed
For the Needs of Others with the Holy Spirit, those changes
begin to pour out like "living water."
The Jewish people at the time of
Jesus’ birth had been anticipating
the Messiah for centuries. In Mat- The Home
thew chapter 11, John the Baptist,
who was then in prison, sent his dis- Mar riage: A Pilgrimage Together
ciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one
who was to come?" As you saw in the Restoration
Jesus sent them back to John, Diagram, the next priority after Jesus
responding with six things that the is the home. Do people today look at
Jews knew from the prophet Isaiah the home in a different way from the
would identify the Messiah when He early Jewish Christians? Tragically,
came: The blind receive sight; the yes.
lame walk; those who have leprosy Most of us see church activities as
are cured; the deaf hear; the dead are the #1 most important factor in spir-
raised; and the good news is itual development. But in the first
preached to the poor. The Messiah centur y, the family was the basic unit
was to be recognized by His care for of society and the main force in spir-
others, a theme repeatedly empha- itual growth. A big difference!
sized for all God’s people throughout Marriage was considered a gift
both the Hebrew Bible and the Newer from God. In fact, Proverbs 18:22
Testament. tells us, "He who finds a wife finds
Hebraic faith required action on what is good and receives favor from
the part of the individual. In this the LORD." Since both man and
light, Jesus Himself reveals what He woman are created in God’s image
will demand as a sign of our faith at and yet are so uniquely different, the
the final judgment: "Whatever you did marriage relationship implicitly cre-
for one of the least of these brothers of ates a fuller picture of the image of
mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25: God. Those gender differences were
40). designed by God to complement one
Each of us needs to consider seri- a n o t h e r, n o t p r o v o k e f r u s t r a t e d
ously our covenant responsibilities. anger!
If your faith has not caused you to On the day you say "I do" to your
care for others, then you have no spouse, you’re forsaking all other
faith. James reaffirms this critical opportunities for intimacy with any-
Hebraic truth: "Faith without deeds is one else. You’re committing yourself
dead" (James 2:26). This is a far cr y in a covenant to one person for life.
from the contemporary faith that You’re vowing to forsake all other
goes for ward at a meeting, then set- relationships that might hinder the
tles back into a comfortable, self- bond with your spouse.
gratified lifestyle and stays at a so- Marital intimacy satisfies longings
called "Baby Christian" level forever that might other wise be a source of
after. temptation. The physical union was
The consummation of the designed by God to enhance the
covenant between Jesus and His fol- emotional bonding to one another.
lower shows noticeable change in Many rabbis in Jesus’ day taught that
a
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man should get a wife and then confident nature. Seeking the rhema
study God’s Word. The Hebraic early of God is to us what gathering
Church also understood that a wife manna was for the Israelites: "He gave
was more than a helpmate. Her hus- them manna to eat in the deser t...to
band was to draw strength from her. humble and to test them so that in
Viewed within a Hebraic frame- the end it might go well with them"
work, marriage is a pilgrimage togeth- (Deuteronomy 8:16). Their obedi-
er, an individual and collective ence brought victor y, which is why
growth in the character of Jesus. The K i n g D a v i d s o u g h t G o d ’s s p e c i f i c
quality of the agape love within your guidance for each of his battles.
marriage is a physical representation After we were in Israel two
of your spiritual relationship with months, we were seeking God’s will
Jesus. I John 4:12 may be the hall- whether we should stay there or
mark of a godly marriage: "No one has return to the US. One morning as
ever seen God; but if we sacrificially Mike was reading the stor y of Jesus
love each other [agape], God lives in us delivering the legion of demons from
and his [agape] love is made complete the man at the Gadarenes, he
in us." This is the covenant that God noticed, "Go home to your family and
intended marriage to be! tell them how much the Lord has done
for you, and how he has had mercy on
Rhema and Halakhah Applied you" (Mark 5:19). Mike had a prompt-
ing from the Holy Spirit that God
The Bible commands a married might be sending us home.
man to apply the truths of Scripture A week later while reading the
to his family members: "Husbands, Bible he came upon, "O God of my
love your wives, just as Christ loved the father Abraham, God of my father
church and gave himself up for her to Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go
make her holy, cleansing her by the back to your countr y and your relatives,
washing with water through the word" and I will make you prosper’" (Genesis
(Ephesians 5:25,26). The term used 32:9). He had the same prompting.
for "word" here, rhema (ray’muh), Later that day friends told us, "We’ve
means more than quoting Bible vers- been praying about whether you
es to your spouse. It tells you to seek should stay in Israel or return to the
out God’s guidance for you and your US, and God has impressed on our
family. spirits that you are to go home."
I n t h e N e w e r Te s t a m e n t , t w o Thus we had our rhema, and confir-
Greek words, logos and rhema, mean mation besides!
"word" when translated into English. Closely related to rhema is the
L o g o s r e p r e s e n t s G o d ’s w a y s a n d importance of establishing halakhahs
thoughts, forever unchangeable. The (hah’luh-kuz) for our lives. The word
Bible is a part of God’s logos written is derived from the Hebrew halak,
down for man. Rhema is that specific meaning "to walk." This word
word spoken directly and individual- appears repeatedly in such verses as
l y f r o m G o d t o t h e b e l i e v e r. "Walk in all his ways;" "Walk before
Through a rhema the Holy Spirit me in integrity of heart;" and "He
reveals God’s specific will for a per- whose walk is blameless." A halakhah
son or family. is the way God’s word was interpret-
Waiting for the rhema of the Holy ed and applied consistently to a par-
Spirit is humbling to our sinful, self- ticular situation. The emphasis was
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not on interpretation alone but on No longer. Satan has now focused
correct application, hence the "walk- special attention on preventing
ing out" part. Christian marriages from reproduc-
Jesus referred to Himself as "the ing the loving radiance of Jesus.
Way." In the book of Acts, the early People seem so disconnected from
Christians were known as followers each other. Even a husband and wife
of "the Way." The use of the word can resemble two parallel railroad
"way" had a ver y important meaning t r a c k s — a l w a y s n e a r b y, b u t n e v e r
to the early Church—and a ver y dis- meeting. A few common concerns,
tinct Hebraic importance. such as the children, pets, or mainte-
Many Christians today have nance chores, may act as rail ties that
halakhahs without being conscious connect a couple’s lives. The enemy
of it. If you have prayerfully estab- has kept wives and husbands from the
lished with your spouse a biblical support of older people who could
understanding of television viewing mentor them. His tactic? Pressure on
for your family, or have made your couples to make it on their own.
decision before God to educate your Mentoring by older Christians is
children in a public school, Chris- one of the greatest needs in the
tian school, or home school, you church today. So many younger cou-
have in fact established a halakhah ples and singles need to hear the wis-
for your family. You have explored dom of older people. They need the
the Word of God and sought the one-on-one, the life experience, the
understanding of the Holy Spirit in realism of what life was like for the
order to apply God’s will for your- older men and women at that same
selves. age. Without this mentoring, they
Halakhahs require you to apply will either "go it alone" or go it with
biblical truths to all realms of your peers who don’t know what they’re
life, whether to education, finances, doing, either!
ethical decisions, or religious prac- Satan also knows that men are
tices. A halakhah was not intended to changed far more through personal
be just a code of rules telling you contact with role models than
what to do, nor does it put you in a through impersonal learning meth-
position of telling others what they ods, such as books and sermons. He
should do. Halakhahs in your home will do ever ything to keep younger
evidence your love relationship with men away from the sages so that
God and your passion to pass your they do not receive the encourage-
"walk" along to your children. ment and admonition they need.
Many congregations today are sub-
Marital Stress: The Need for Mentors divided into age-related groupings,
like singles groups, seniors, youth,
A m o n g o u r H e b r a i c a n c e s t o r s , c a r e e r p e o p l e . R e g r e t t a b l y, t h e s e
divorce was rare because marriages s h i e l d t h e g e n e r a t i o n s f r o m c l o s e
had rich input from the larger fami- contact with each other. Younger
ly and the community. The sacrifi- men and women have little or no
cial devotion and patience exempli- informal contact with older mentors,
fied by God toward His wife Israel and so are conformed to the culture’s
w a s t h e i r s t a n d a r d o f c o m m i t t e d , independent isolationism. The system
covenant love. isn’t working.

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The Home: Family Nurturing Ground them" in order that the blessing
would be upon them all. Sobering,
The Lord wants our families to be isn’t it? How you train up your chil-
abundantly different from the average dren will impact how they train up
families all around us. Sadly, we usu- your grandchildren! No wonder God
ally don’t interact wisely enough to is so explicit in His directions for
stand out at all. In fact, with the bringing up offspring! The "careful
pressures of work and overstuffed obedience" to which parents are
schedules, the only interaction some exhorted has in the Hebrew a sense
families experience is in the car on of guarding as a watchman; preser v-
the way to some activity. ing; building a hedge around as with
The significance of the permanent thorns.
marriage covenant is emphasized so We really do need to guard those
strongly in the Word because God has times with our children. Passing
special plans and purposes that go along a living relationship with God
beyond personal fulfillment and com- to our children indicates His preemi-
panionship. Consider marriage from nence to us. The priorities with
the Hebraic perspective: "She is your which you live determine how you
p a r t n e r, t h e w i f e o f y o u r m a r r i a g e spend your daily twenty-four hours
covenant. Has not the LORD made them and with whom. It doesn’t take long
one? And why one? Because he was seek- for children to recognize when your
ing godly offspring" (Malachi 2:15). words don’t match your actions.
Think about God’s command for If you’re always reminding your
the home as the primary site for kids to spend time in the Word and
demonstrating God’s love and instill- in prayer yet are on the run yourself
ing God’s truths in your children: from sunrise to sundown, they will
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the see that your words are empty. Rabbi
LORD is one. Love the LORD your God Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, "God
with all your hear t and with all your is of no importance unless He is of
soul and with all your strength. These supreme importance."
commandments which I give to you Harmony in the home, or shalom
today are to be upon your hearts. bayit in Hebrew, is a critical goal to
Impress them on your children. Talk work toward. God planned for the
about them when you sit at home and home to be a refuge and sanctuar y
when you walk along the road, when for its members. The home is also the
you lie down and when you get up" crucible in which your sin nature is
(Deuteronomy 6:4-7). That pretty confronted, and where the fruit of
much sums up your entire day! the Spirit has opportunity to come
Paul was probably thinking of forth. Harmony does not come natu-
Deuteronomy 6 when he exhorted rally. It must be nurtured, modeled,
fathers, "Do not exasperate [or, bring and reinforced daily.
to a point of frustration] your chil- Many parents today have fallen
dre n ; in s te a d b r i ng the m up in t h e into the trap of letting the "profes-
training and instr uction of the Lord" sionals," like the pastoral staff,
(Ephesians 6:4). How evident is the youth workers, and Christian School
power of generational influence as teachers, replace them as the pri-
God directs His commands to "you, mar y source of spiritual truth for
your children and their children after their children. How tragic to see this

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disregard for God’s admonition in guide him or her into searching the
Deuteronomy for parents to impress S c r i p t u r e s d i l i g e n t l y f o r G o d ’s a n -
these things on their own children. swers and following through in obedi-
Think about the hours, however ence to what He tells them. Have
many or few, that you and your chil- them prepare a prayer journal to
dren are together. How do you spend indicate that they are learning to
most of them? In front of the TV? come before His throne with praise,
Putting out sibling brush fires? petitions, and thanksgiving. Antic-
Frustratedly responding to a jangling ipate with excitement this time of
phone? How about when you are lit- preparation!
erally "along the road"? Do you take
the time to stroll along paths and
sidewalks to capture their hearts The Home Fellowship
with His wonders?
Do you incorporate God’s princi- The Suppor t Source
ples into your car trips together? Or
are you so intent on meeting yet The third layer of priority is home
another obligation or activity to "ben- fellowships of extended spiritual
efit" your child or yourself that prais- family. Gathering in homes for spiri-
ing God doesn’t even occur to you? tual support occurred in Acts 2
Sports, piano lessons, and ballet may almost immediately after Peter fin-
be good, but not if you are robbed of ished his Pentecost sermon: "Ever y
the parental interaction that God day they continued to meet together in
knows you and your child need. the temple cour ts. They broke bread in
In Jewish communities, young men their homes and ate together with glad
know that at age thirteen they will and sincere hear ts, praising God and
become spiritually responsible to go enjoying the favor of all the people.
before God to determine His will. And the Lord added to their number
Their parents, of course, will contin- daily those who were being saved" (vv.
ue to counsel and guide, but the 45,46).
young man will then be recognized as Each communal gathering of Jews
a "man" in the synagogue community. was a grass-roots, autonomous enti-
There is an important principle ty. Judaism was the opposite of a
behind this. Our children, too, need denomination with its top-down
to be nurtured toward a specific structural controls. Home fellow-
point in time when they can be ships were a cluster of families and
expected to "hear from God" them- singles, an outgrowth of their robust
selves. home life. They did not originate as
Pray as a family to determine when an artificial program of a congrega-
that special time of spiritual passage tion or a nifty organizational move
will be for your sons and daughters. It to inject spiritual life and intimacy
will vary from family to family. You into families lacking in both.
know better than anyone their level Any gathering of ten Jewish men
of spiritual maturity and their per- formed a minyan (min’yahn), or quo-
sonal inclination to serve God. rum, to represent (along with their
If you sense this is good counsel families) a synagogue before God.
for you and your household, use Within the synagogue there were no
t h o s e m o n t h s b e f o r e y o u r c h i l d ’s paid professionals performing reli-
spiritual "launching" to earnestly gious duties and ser vices. The rabbi
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was what we today would call a to subordinate all ministries to the
"layperson," having no more special pastorate.
duties or offices during worship than Paul specifically greeted the fol-
any thirteen-year-old boy. A learned lowers of Jesus who met in one
teacher, the rabbi ser ved as a "quali- another’s homes. In I Corinthians he
ty control" person to ensure that all writes, "The churches in the province of
that was said agreed with Scripture. Asia send you greetings. Aquila and
He helped others to apply the Word Priscilla greet you war mly in the Lord,
of God to their daily lives. The syna- and so does the church that meets at
gogue was the forerunner for the their house." He concludes his letter
practices of the early Church, which to the Colossians with: "Give my
was the model for the Christ-cen- greetings to the brothers at Laodicea,
tered church of today. and to Nympha and the church in her
There are so few descriptions and house."
instructions about church gatherings The earliest believers experienced
in the Newer Testament because the fellowship in homes for spiritual
apostles didn’t have to explain what growth. Neighborhood home gather-
was so ver y well known to the Jewish ings were an extension of the indi-
believers who made up the earliest vidual home. These believing fami-
Church. The synagogue model for lies filled the role of an extended
congregational gatherings provided family in a spiritual as well as practi-
the freedom of participation that cal sense for those had no family.
Paul calls for in I Corinthians 14:26: Today, this is where single, divorced,
"When you come together, ever yone has and widowed people can find "fami-
a hymn, or a word of instr uction, a rev- ly" with whom to share their lives
elation, a tongue or an interpretation. intimately in the Lord. By living
All of these must be done for the near one another they increase their
strengthening of God’s people." chances for the spontaneous encoun-
Each person was expected to take ters that personify "family."
part in worship and thus be edified Home fellowships in the early
(built up). The manifestations of the C h u rc h r e p r e s e n t e d a s e v e n - d a y - a -
Holy Spirit in the believers’ individ- week commitment of the followers of
ual and communal lives demonstrat- Jesus to one another. It wasn’t just a
ed God’s continuous presence and scheduled meeting. As an extension
concern for His people. of the home, the home fellowship
M a n y t o d a y a r e n ’t a w a r e t h a t was the relational network that
apostles and evangelists were already upheld personal righteousness.
functioning in the synagogues prior I n m a n y c o n g r e g a t i o n s t o d a y,
to the time of Christ. Within the "care groups" or "cells" are viewed as
synagogue, elders and deacons over- scheduled meetings of small groups
saw the gatherings and collected and of individuals whose interest is pri-
distributed alms for the needy. marily themselves or a special focus
Their activities were not new o f s t u d y. U n l i k e t o d a y ’s c u l t u r e ,
developments beginning with the H e b r a i c r e l a t i o n s h i p s w e r e n ’t s e g -
C h u rc h a g e . T h e c h u rc h a d a p t e d mented into categories of activities,
them from the synagogue. Unfor- appointments, and scheduled pro-
tunately, the church has now almost grammed events.
eliminated the role of apostles, The focus of the early Church was
prophets, and evangelists, preferring spiritual growth in righteousness
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through load-bearing relationships — c e n t r a l t o a n s w e r e d p r a y e r. J a m e s
those that bore each other’s burdens 5:16 parallels Proverbs 15:29:
and joys. They engaged in sponta-
neous, unplanned interactions that "The LORD is far from the wicked but
encompassed the needs of the whole he hears the prayer of the righteous."
person: spiritual, mental, emotional,
and physical. "The prayer of a righteous man is
power ful and effective."
Righteousness and Answered Prayer
Because of the vital importance of
Our Hebraic forefathers approached walking in righteousness Peter also
God to worship Him and to have reiterates the same message by pro-
their prayers answered. The Hebrew claiming Psalm 34:17:
Bible presents the conditions of
righteousness required to approach "For the LORD keeps His eyes on the
God—and holiness was most certainly righteous, and his ears are open to their
a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f t h e v e r y e a r l y prayers; but the face of the LORD is
Hebraic church. They wanted to be a g a i n s t t h o s e w h o d o e v i l t h i n g s "
available for their Lord's purposes, (1Peter 3:12).
and walking in obedient trust
grounded in His love was their And in Hebrews 5:8 we are told
preparation. that Jesus’ prayers were heard "because
T h e H e b r e w b e l i e v e r s w e r e n o t of his godliness [righteousness]."
just interested in prayer as a reli- The Hebraic early church was con-
gious ritual. They also wanted their scious of communal as well as person-
prayers answered by God. And it was al righteousness. They were aware
answered prayer that got the early that in the Hebrew Scriptures God
Church noticed—big time. had prevented the entire nation of
The book of Acts begins with a Israel from conquering the city of Ai
s m a l l b a n d o f d i s c i p l e s : " T h e y a l l because of the hidden sin of one man,
joined together constantly in prayer" Achan. God had upheld this same
(1:14). Three thousand converts were s t a n d a r d o f r i g h t e o u s n e s s f o r t h e
birthed in one day! When Peter and fledgling Church by taking the lives
John were released from t h e of Ananias and Sapphira for deceiv-
S a n h e d r i n ’s c a p t u r e , t h e y w e n t ing His Spirit.
directly to a home fellowship: "After Partaking of communion in the
they prayed, the place where they were early Church was a serious matter.
meeting was shaken. And they were all The Jewish disciples took Jesus at His
filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word when He said, "This is my body"
word of God boldly" (Acts 4:31). and "This is my blood." They believed
When these people prayed, some- Him by faith without the question of
thing happened. Miraculous answers t r a n s u b s t a n t i a t i o n t h a t w o u l d b e
to prayer abounded as they trusted raised centuries later by the Greek
wholeheartedly in the One to Whom logicians. Paul warned: "Anyone who
t h e y p r a y e d . P e t e r ’s m i r a c u l o u s eats and drinks [i.e., takes commun-
r e l e a s e f r o m p r i s o n w a s a d i r e c t ion] without recognizing the body of
result of prayer that moved God to the Lord eats and drinks judgment on
send an angel to free him. himself. That is why many among you
But then as now, righteousness was are weak and sick, and a number of you
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have fallen asleep. But if we judged Prayer Was Spiritual War fare
ourselves, we would not come under
judgment" (I Corinthians 11:29-31). The early Church understood that
Just as all leaven was swept away prayer was spiritual warfare.
during the Passover feast, so too all Daniel persevered in prayer for
sin was to be left behind before shar- twenty-one days until the angel
ing the Lord’s Supper. James, recog- broke through the opposition. And
nizing the importance of repentance Jesus voiced the parable of the per-
and confession, tells us to "confess sistent widow to encourage His fol-
your sins to each other and pray for each lowers to pray without ceasing.
other so that you may be healed. The Satan is aware of the importance
prayer of a righteous man is powerful of righteousness combined with
and effective. Elijah was a man just like prayer that perseveres until the answer
us. He prayed ear nestly that it would is received. If he cannot hinder
not rain, and it did not rain on the land through unconfessed sin, he will dis-
for three and a half years. Again he courage God’s people from praying
prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and by instilling doubt and unbelief that
the ear th produced its crops" (James the Lord will ever answer. This is
5:16-18). You can see in this passage why the intimate righteousness of
the relationship of confession, right- the home fellowship is critical to
eousness, and answered prayer. encourage each other to persist in
Communal righteousness starts at prayer.
the grass-roots, home fellowship
level, where the give-and-take of The Influence of Relationships
interaction allows us to deal inten-
sively with problems. In the Book of Home gatherings were the place
Matthew, Jesus addresses communal where a new believer engaged in fel-
righteousness, emphasizing the goal lowship. And if his sins ever became
of restoration of the repentant: "If a major problem, it was the place
your brother sins against you, go and where he was shut out. It would have
show him his fault, just between the been unthinkable for people to join
two of you. If he listens to you, you their lives with others in a home fel-
have won your brother over. But if he lowship without any concern for
will not listen, take one or two others God’s standards of holiness.
along, so that ‘ever y matter may be The followers of Jesus really did
established by the testimony of two or want God to answer their prayers.
three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen Thus they recognized the influence
to them, tell it to the church" (Matthew that people have on each other. Look
18:15-17). at a few verses that address this:
The Hebrew Scriptures clearly
established that God could not be "He who walks with the wise grows
approached in just any sinful, hap- wise, but a companion of fools suffers
hazard manner without severe conse- har m" (Proverbs 13:20).
quences. Some today continue in
their sin and believe that God will "Do not make friends with a hot-
just excuse it "by grace." Few congre- tempered man, do not associate with
gations indeed show as much con- one easily angered, or you may lear n
cern for communal righteousness as his ways and get yourself ensnared"
did the early Church. (Proverbs 22:24).
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"War n a divisive person once, and of courage in our lives—people we
then war n him a second time. After can count on to come alongside us
that, have nothing to do with him" a n d s t a n d f i r m i n G o d ’s m i g h t y
(Titus 3:10). power when trials and spiritual bat-
tles assail us. Righteousness produces
The right to separate from evildo- this kind of boldness.
ers in order to uphold righteous If your walk with Jesus is not
standards is a biblical prerogative. g r o w i n g m o r e l o v i n g a n d b o l d e r,
Paul emphasized the importance of pray that you can find others who
communal righteousness in the will spur you on.
Church in his admonishment to the
Corinthians: "When you are assembled Intimacy vs. Activities
in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am
with you in spirit, and the power of our While we were in Israel, some
Lord Jesus is present, hand this man Jewish believers asked, "Why do you
over to Satan, so that the sinful nature Christians in the United States
may be destroyed and his spirit saved always need an activity like a Bible
on the day of the Lord" (I Corinthians study in order to get together? Can’t
5:5). That may seem like harsh coun- you get together just because you
sel, but not when you examine it love and care for each other?"
from the eternal perspective. We were deeply affected by their
On the other hand, understand question—and the fact that we didn’t
that right relationships can spur have much of an answer.
believers on to greater love, courage, It seems we Americans love to
and ser vice for the Lord. Load-bearing entertain, but our gatherings are
in a home fellowship enables us to more oriented to an activity (barbe-
support each other in a positive way cuing, playing cards, watching a
so we can carr y out God’s purposes. video) rather than to development of
We’re talking Christian extended fam- friendships with our guests. In fact,
ily here. m a n y c h u rc h p r o g r a m s i n v o l v e a
For instance, think about some home setting, but feel compelled to
Hebraic ancestors of the early use a Bible study or some prescribed
C h u rc h . B i b l i c a l m e n o f c o u r a g e curriculum as their focal point.
attracted one another. I Samuel 14 This is where your halakhah of
illustrates Jonathan’s courage for the maintaining a "spiritual family"
Lord at Micmash as he and his comes in. In the Hebraic model of
armor-bearer routed the Philistines home fellowship, your family joins
against all odds. The same valiant together with other families and
regard for God’s honor was displayed individuals for worship, sharing,
by David against Goliath. So from and f e l l o w s h i p . T h e s e g a t h e r i n g s a r e
the time they first met, David and special. These are the brothers and
Jonathan were drawn to each other. sisters that Paul so frequently refers
Their courage produced a wonderful to: your spiritual kin! These are
devotion and extra strength. memories in the making spent with
People who are courageous for friends who are spiritual relatives—
God attract other courageous people family you look forward to being
to them. The prophet Samuel with, family with whom you are
describes the "men of valor" who d e v e l o p i n g an ever-deepening, load-
joined David. Each of us needs people bearing relationship.
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If you don’t see these occasions as A home fellowship of extended
opportunities to share your life with spiritual family must support the
kinfolk you care about, your gather- home as the basic building block of
ing will become impersonal. That’s spiritual development. If you aren’t
why the verbs "Share with God’s peo- leading the way in your own home
ple who are in need. Practice hospital- by establishing some sort of regular
ity" in Romans 12:13 are in a contin- s p i r i t u a l f o c u s w i t h y o u r f a m i l y,
uing grammatical tense. We need to don’t expect a home fellowship to do
do these over and over in our rela- it for you!
tionships to grow in the relational If other families demonstrate good
responsibility God requires of us. habits and practices that you would
like to develop in your own home,
Suppor t on the Home Front ask them for help until these quali-
ties are part of your family life. For
Your gathering with believers in a instance, if you are frustrated by
home fellowship is an extension of y o u r s t r o n g - w i l l e d t o d d l e r ’s i n c e s -
what you’ve already been doing in s a n t a c t i v i t y, a s k f o r s u g g e s t i o n s
your home with your family. The home (and prayer!) from parents in your
fellowship should never deteriorate group who have learned from experi-
into a compensation for some relation- ence how to sur vive with victor y.
al deficiency under your own roof. If your teenager suddenly seems
Likewise, don’t try to make up for uncommunicative or withdrawn,
what is lacking through irresponsibil- ask for prayer and counsel from
ity in someone else’s family. those who have gained insight
Irresponsibility in a home becomes an through their own experiences and
increasing burden on others and per- investigation. God really does want
petuates the sin that has fed it. It’s you to raise godly children and has
appropriate to help others develop p r o v i d e d r e s o u rc e s w h o c a n m i n i s -
reliability, but never step in to take on ter truth and wisdom to you. And
responsibility that is rightly theirs. while it is perhaps humbling to ask
Followers of Jesus need to be someone to fast and pray with you
encouraged to come prepared each about a very special need, your
time with a spiritual offering to share home fellowship "family" are the
with others: a special song that ones to seek out first!
blessed you during the week; a verse True unity in a home fellowship is
you or your child have memorized; a based on your ongoing fellowship with
testimony of some opportunity at Jesus and your heavenly Father. When
work orchestrated by God; a petition your relationship with Jesus is inti-
that has been weighing heavily on mate, your home fellowship gatherings
your heart. will reflect that. The Lord Himself will
And don’t feel that you need to save guide your time together through His
these up for a scheduled time, either. Spirit. No one individual needs to
Sharing something special is only a "sweat the outcome" of your gathering
phone call, e-mail, or stop-by away! and try to control what happens.
Encouraging, comforting or exhorting One other important criterion of
one another "as long as today is called our home fellowships has been to
today" spurs us all to jump into those never treat children as "second class
divine appointments our Father c i t i z e n s " o f G o d ’s k i n g d o m . J e s u s
orchestrates daily for His glory! admonishes us: "See that you do not
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look down on one of these little ones. Several congregations of home fel-
For I tell you that their angels in heav- lowships can use the same facility as
en always see the face of my Father in a gathering point if size demands
heaven" (Matthew 18:10). extra space. When we worshiped cor-
We found that recognizing the porately in Jerusalem, five separate
importance of children really blessed congregations used the same build-
our gatherings. If we were gathered ing at different times. Congregations
together to share, their input was con- working together in previously
sidered, too. If some of the younger unheard-of cooperation is part of
ones were ready for a story, any one of God’s plan for the restoration.
the older children or adults gathered The Greek philosophical spirit
the little ones and quietly read. will continue to be exposed for the
Because of the frequency and vari- prejudicial division it creates. It is
ety of contacts, the children began to this spirit that has resulted in the
see the adults as aunts and uncles! myriad of man-made doctrines that
This is especially important in situa- now keep believers from cooperating
tions where single parents need a together to fulfill Jesus’ plan for the
source of adult companionship and gospel.
some time away from their kids, or As the Greek spirit loses its con-
where singles can sense that vital trol over our faith communities, we
closeness when relatives are far away. will be able to cooperate more effec-
tively on a city-wide basis, recover-
Congregations of Home Fellowships ing and holding on to our cities for
and Congregations Throughout a City Jesus. And when we combine our
gifting and resources, we can impact
On the Restoration diagram, the our nation and the world as well!
fourth and fifth layers represent the
congregation of neighborhood home We M u s t R e p e n t f o r t h e S i n s o f
fellowships and congregations O u r F a t h e r s
throughout a city.
When several home fellowships When the Jewish people of the
congregate together, there should still Hebrew Bible repented, they received
be the same atmosphere of participa- God’s merciful forgiveness. We need
tion as in the gatherings in homes. At t o k e e p i n m i n d t h e e x a m p l e o f
no gathering of God’s people should Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah: "They
they be relegated to spectatorship. stood in their places and confessed
L e a d e r s h i p a t t h e c o n g r e g a t i o n their sins and the wickedness of their
level is one of administration, facili- fathers" (Nehemiah 9:2). Daniel con-
tating the coordination and outreach fessed the ancestral sins that had
of the neighborhood home fellow- brought defeat and captivity to the
ships. Reaching the lost for our Father J e w s . Tu r n i n g t o G o d i n e a r n e s t
is still His main priority! But control prayer, he confessed the sins of the
over the home fellowships or insis- whole nation for generations as if
t e n c e o n s p e c i f i c d o c t r i n a l i s s u e s they were his own iniquities. Daniel
would be going beyond the Word. recognized that the "good hand of the
Remember, the synagogues that pre- Lord" would not be with his people
c e d e d t h e g a t h e r i n g s o f H e b r a i c until those sins were confessed and
believers were ver y loosely affiliated. their effect was repudiated.
And so were the Hebraic churches. God is waiting for believers today
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to be the generation that will repent must continue to ask forgiveness for
for the sins of past generations who the atrocities the church has inflict-
failed to love Him. We followers of ed on the Jewish people over the
Jesus must repent for the centuries- c e n t u r i e s . Wi t h G o d ’s f o r g i v e n e s s
long sins of the church for turning and grace, we can then fully cooper-
away from the direct rule of God’s ate with Jesus in fulfilling His words:
Spirit to embrace the spirits of Greece "I Will Build My Church."
and Rome. And where possible, we

Which Church Model Do


You Like Best?
GREEK HEBRAIC

Cognitive: appeals to the intellect Active: appeals to the heart

Program Oriented Process Oriented


• Heavy program emphasis • Emphasizes direct participation
• Emphasizes education • Emphasizes age and wisdom
• Relies on speaking skills, orator y, • Role modeling, mentoring, disci-
program materials, information con- pleship indispensable
veyance • Personal relationships essential
• Personal relationships optional • Leadership by personal example
• Leadership by organizational structures • Character of leader essential
• Leader’s personal life not crucial

Biblical Application Biblical Application


• Belief without cost to self • Doers of the Word
• Bible as data to be taught • Bible as reality that must be con-
• A focus on rules—do’s and don’ts fronted
• Emphasizes theological systems • Goal—to develop Christlikeness
and denominational distinctives • Emphasizes unity with freedom of
thought

Fr uit Fr uit
• Shallow friendships at church • Love, acceptance, forgiveness
• "What you know" vital • "How you ser ve" vital
• Trained professionals hired • Each believer trained to ser ve
• Led by logic • Led by the Holy Spirit
• Produces spectators • Produces mature believers

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