By Phillip Powell
I am reading fewer and fewer things as I get older, not because I'm losing interest in this great, big, old suffering world, but because I'm gaining interest in that other world above. So I say, don't try to know everything. You can't. Find Him in the Word, for the Holy Ghost wrote this book. He inspired it, and He will be revealed in its pages --A.W. Tozer
Kathleen and I thoroughly enjoyed our recent time in USA—two weeks total, at Niles Michigan and Cedar Rapids, Iowa—and four weeks in UK. There were a number of highlights, not least the CA Ministries Conference at Bawtry in Yorkshire. Our deep gratitude and thanks are due to all who made it possible and who made the effort to attend the meetings. At aged 70, when I set out on this tour (May 22 to July 1, 2009), I thought it would probably be my last. Now I have the feeling that I would like to do it again—maybe next year—so long as we can find some way to make the long flights as comfortable as possible and providing adequate and acceptable arrangements can be put in place for Christian Witness Ministries Fellowship (CWM-F) during our absence.
Please pray regarding an invitation we have received to do a two week ministry tour in India, where I visited many times back in the 80s and laid a foundation of prayer for several local fellowships. One group that I am longing to visit is called Living Waters after the name of the Assembly that I pastored in Victoria at that time. I preached at the inaugural “open air” meeting when the foundation was laid. I am told that it is a now more than 1,000 strong. Another Church in Madras that was 2,500 strong then is now 23,000 strong. I am assured that these fellowships are built upon Prayer and the Word of God and NOT on gimmicks. God willing we will report our discoveries. Please pray for us. I am sure that there is an alternative to the silly “Church growth” ideas that predominate the heretical mega Churches of our western culture.
We are back in Australia and I have been reflecting on the inspiring comparatively small fellowship to which we belong. Within two weeks of returning I was scheduled to participate in another Conference at Frankston (Melbourne) with my friend and colleague in the Gospel, Aeron Morgan as the other main speaker. What a wonderful, stimulating and challenging time of ministry and fellowship we enjoyed under the theme of Looking unto Jesus (see Heb 12:2) chosen by local pastor Lionel Letcher who also participated as did a much recovered in health, Werner Schultz – PTL. Soon3 many of us will be gathering for the annual CWM Conference (August 23-29, 2009) at Kingscliffe in northern NSW under the theme of the prayer of Moses –
Show Me Your Glory
(see Ex. 33:18)4. So what is my point?
Therefore if there is … any fellowship <Gr. koinonia – Strong 2842> of the Spirit Philippians 2:1
Paul’s appeal in this chapter to emulate Christ is based, among other things, upon the “fellowship(Greek “koinonia”) of the Spirit—v.5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” cf. v. 2 – “being like- minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
A Doctrinal Basis
…a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us - Luke 1:1.
While we will never be able to doctrinally dot all i’s and cross all t’s we must not succumb to the idea that doctrine does not matter. It most certainly does. The prophet asks, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?”– (Amos 3:3). Clearly not; the two who “walk together” may differ in degree but they are agreed that they will walk together i.e. they are agreed on a basis of fellowship. This I think is important and needs to be enunciated. I am not talking about the matter of salvation but of issues relating to fellowship. In the matter of Salvation I have always been impressed with the statement attributed to Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430):
In necessariis unitas,- In essentials unity,
In dubiis libertas,-
In doubtful things liberty,
In omnibus autem caritas,
- But in all things love.
Real and true fellowship is a matter that goes beyond the liberties relating to salvation and is more restrictive, (though NOT too restrictive). Otherwise on both counts there will be trouble down the track. Every fellowship has faced this and we will too, so better sooner than later.Maybe as a start we can focus on the things that we do NOT believe or endorse:-
We are Not Cessationist
Most of us are Pentecostal, which we see as being totally biblical though we decry the excesses that have attended Pente- costalism throughout history—especially in our day, through the false Toronto- Pensacola-Florida, Latter Rain et al movements. Cessationism is a heresy that strikes at the very heart of the doctrine of the Immutability of God, no matter how you explain it. The present day reality of the Holy Spirit in fruit and in gift is something that is “most surely believed among us.”
We are not Ammilenial
We are Premillenial in our doctrine. This, among other things, means that we do see a prophetic place for ethnic Israel in the end times. We do not endorse or believe that literal Israel has been or ever will be replaced by the Church or anything or anyone else. We believe in a literal physical return of Christ to this earth at a time of God’s determination and of Christ’s present knowledge. It is not the job of the Church to bring in the Kingdom of God!
is false teaching. Our job is to preach the Gospel as commanded by our great Commander-in-Chief – cf. Matthew chapter 28 – The Great Commission.
We are not Judaizers
There is a false focus on Israel especially as it is presented in extreme Zionism. Literal Israel is NOT all good. There are many things that Israel does and is which are evil and of which God does not approve. Nonetheless they are His chosen people and they will fulfil His purposes and plans upon earth in the end time. We do not endorse the frequent trends among well meaning Christians who go overboard in their pro-Israel stance. Gentile Christians are not required to keep the feasts and we decry the attempts at Judaizing the Church by those who teach that Christians should do so. Learn from the typology of the feasts by all means, BUT our position is clearly that we are saved by grace – not by keeping feasts and other laws.
A Practical Consideration
New Testament “fellowship” is a very powerful thing and this applies both to the local Church and to a united gathering such as the Conferences referred to above. The Greek conveys the ideas of sharing, participation, distribution, communion, intercourse, intimacy, companionship and partnership. It is a many facetted activity and includes “gathering” or “assembling” and “contributing” or “giving”....not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:25
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:20
Fellowship is not apart in isolation but together in unity and communion. The emphasis in Matthew 18 is upon Christ having gathered His people together. It is not ad hoc. It is orderly and is performed by Christ as the Head of His Church. He gathers us together and then, and ONLY then, He has promised to be in “the midst” in power.
Recently someone wrote to me that his fellowship was full. I asked him how could a fellowship be full and what he meant by “his fellowship”? He then told me that he gathers in his home. He wrote, “Christ is well able to build His Church”, which of course is true. But our Lord has chosen NOT to do it apart from us. God’s method is men and women! He uses us. Those who limit the Church to a nuclear family, i.e. a household or to just a small insular group do despite both to Christ and to His Church. We are to “gather together” NOT apart or separately.
In our eager search for truth we must avoid overreaction. I have heard it said that because of the false teaching and abusive practices by the so called “church leaders” some good people give up in their search for a good church and settle for “no church” by simply meeting as a family. Such people need to recognise that they are making another equally serious error. They are refusing to obey the command of scripture to “gather together” (cf. Hebrews 10:25). Meeting as a family is NOT gathering together but gathering apart. It must be open to others if it is in any sense the gathering of God’s people. It should not be exclusively “one household” or just one family.
In referring to ourselves as The Faithful Remnant—and may we be that in deed and in truth—we must NOT perceive ourselves as being an exclusive group. Those who name the name of Christ and have remained steadfast and faithful are many and they come from across the Christian spectrum. Some we have not even met and won’t until He gathers us together to Him at His appearing.
Paul tells us that our present (practical) fellowship involves contributing at two levels:If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? - 1 Corinthians 9:11.
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully - 2 Corinthians 9:6.
The first has to do with the adequate financial support of full time ministry. Paul commends the Philippians for this and reminds Timothy of the fellowship’s obligation in this regard:
Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. … For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my necessity - Philippians 4:14-16 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine - 1 Tim 5:17.
The second has to do with the proper charitable support of the poor. The two should not be confused. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 9 Paul is not dealing with giving to a minister or to a ministry. He is teaching on giving to the poor and he appeals to the biblical principle that he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord who will repay cf. He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses. - Proverbs 28:27
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 1 Tim 6:17-19
Obviously the above doctrinal distinctives that relate to our fellowship in its practical outworking are by no means exhaustive nor are they intended to be exclusive, but they are important. God willing we will develop them in future issues of CETF and more fully explain why we are addressing these matters. In the meanwhile if issues arise in your thinking please do not hesitate to raise them in Letters to the Editor or on our CWM blog at:
In this issue we commence a series of articles outlining reasons for our non-cessationist (pro- Pentecostal) position. As stated we are open to your interaction.