Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Story of the (Dis)unity of the Church (Part 1) December 2016

The Story of the (Dis)unity of the Church

Chapter 1 The Origins of Church Unity and Church Disunity
Chapter 2 Persecution as an Ingredient of a Divine spiritual Recipe
Chapter 3 Disunity as Demonic Strategy
Chapter 4 Some special Gospel Tools towards Unity
Chapter 5 Honour for the Despised
Chapter 6 Obstacles to Unity
Chapter 7 Antidotes to Disunity
Chapter 8 The Word unites the true Church
Chapter 10 Uniting Dynamite
Chapter 11 False Alternatives
Chapter 12 Two special Facilitators of Church Unity
Chapter 13 Leadership in Humility
Chapter 14 The Herrnhut Moravians in Church Unity Endeavours
Chapter 15 Unifying Christian Movements and Events
Chapter 16 Evolving International Prayer for Unity
Chapter 17 Fighting Discrimination against People
Chapter 18 Prayer erupts in different Places
Chapter 19 The Road to the Global Day of Prayer
Chapter 20 Challenges at the Cape in Recent Years

Appendix 1 - Jews First!
Appendix 2 - Some Autobiographical Background

To unite people in any situation is as much part of the nature of God as is the opposite, namely that satan always wants to divide and destroy.
One of the most difficult ‘pennies to drop’ in Church circles seems to be the fact that Christians would not merely recognize the tremendous power which there is in the united prayer and action of the Body of Christ, but also get serious about utilizing it. (I endeavour to write ‘church’ with a capital C throughout when I refer to the Body of Christ and not to a local fellowship or church as an institution.) Why is it so difficult for followers of Jesus to unite in prayer and action? This is rather surprising in view of the history of the Church. We know that she was birthed on that memorable Pentecost in Jerusalem, after the 120 believers had been united in prayer in the upper room! The Holy Spirit joined the hearts together in love, which attracted people in their thousands.
I still have to meet a pastor, any Christian for that matter, who does not agree that unity among followers of Jesus who love him but who worship Him in a different way, has at least some importance. Why then is it so difficult to implement this? Why is it so difficult to get believers to come together for prayer outside the confines of their own comfort zone? What is the possible cause of this malaise? Is it mere convenience or even plain laziness? Or are there also other factors playing a role?
In the history of revivals united prayer can be discerned as a common denominator. It sometimes occurred after a season of serious strife and subsequent reconciliation, e.g. in the run-up to the momentous revival of the Moravians in Saxony’s Herrnhut on 13 August 1727.
         One of the major issues is that the Church has not honoured its Jewish roots, although Jesus was a Jew. For many centuries this fact got somehow hidden. In respect of the ‘Old Testament’, Christians have been misled, regarding the Hebrew Scriptures as inferior and viewing the ‘NT’ as superior! The Bible is a unit. The Hebrew Scriptures and ‘NT’ belong together, even though possibly well over 90% of sermons in churches are still taken from the ‘NT’.
Furthermore, I propose in this treatise that serious consideration be given to ‘Jews first…’ (Romans 1:16). I believe that a prominent place of honour and respect needs to be given to Israel and the Jews’.  Treating them with respect and repentance, perhaps in restitution because of the bad record of the Church, the ‘apple’ of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8), may go a long way in unifying the Body of Christ. This may just turn out to be a strategic step to expedite the spread of the Gospel to the remaining unreached people groups, ultimately ushering in the return of our Lord!
        I contend that the Church world-wide will only really come into its own if the unity of the Body of Christ in all its diversity is restored across all man-made barriers. Ephesians 3 and 4 give us an extraordinary glimpse of the universal Body of Christ, the whole family in heaven and earth (3:14) - rational beings in earth or heaven united under one common Fatherhood. Paul prayed for the believers – together with all the saints - to be empowered by the four-dimensional love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19). In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul gives us powerful practical tips to implement unity in our walk with the Lord and in general interaction with other believers.
We would like to remind believers that the Bible teaches us that foreigners and folk at the lowest side of our social spectrum could be a great blessing to any nation if the gifted people on the periphery of our society could be assisted to develop their full potential.
On a personal note, I included in the appendix how I was impacted already as a teenager to give the unity of the Body of Christ a high priority. I also highlighted there how I was encouraged by a multi-racial group of believers from different denominations in Stellenbosch in 1981. I was not a good learner however in this regard. Instead of recognizing that unless the Lord builds the house, I would toil in vain (adapted from Psalm 127:2). All too often I tried to forge some semblance of unity among believers locally or regionally via attempts that were not clearly divinely inspired. 
The other appendix highlights another special challenge which I still have to meet. Here I want to learn from my big mistake, viz. to wait on God for ways to reach out lovingly to Jews, although I recognize the need of it clearly from a missiological vantage point.

Cape Town, November 2016
Chapter 1   The Origins of Church Unity and Church Disunity

          The unity of the body of true believers has been attacked already from Creation. Taking the relevant Scripture in Genesis 3 on face value, without debating whether it is mythical or not, we note that the arch enemy - called in Scripture a murderer from the beginning, a father of lies and one whose native language is lying (John 8:44) – has been causing estrangement already in the Garden of Eden. He brought a rupture in the relationship between man and his Maker and between the first human beings. Friction between man and nature was caused simultaneously. God's original plan for the creation of man was intimate relationship and communion of mankind with nature! Satan, the deceiver, the liar and diabolos (separator), robbed humanity in so many ways.
          From a Christian point of view the Creator's reply to this onslaught was redemption. The Bible explains redemption by using pictures or models such as how God freed the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. The Almighty thus became their redeemer. This exodus event was however only a forerunner of the great redemption still to come. Universally mankind needed redemption as well. The 'salvation' of the small nation of Israel was a demonstration of God's loving nature and care for man. What the arch enemy had stolen – sweet intimate communion with the Almighty - had to be redeemed.
          Redemption has been defined as 'to recover possession or ownership'. To do this, God became flesh, coming to the earth in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, who reconciled the World with himself (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus shed His precious blood to deliver mankind from the bondage of sin.
         Pleading with the Corinthian believers to be reconciled to God, Paul, the missionary apostle and author of this statement, challenges followers of Jesus to consciously step into this tradition. As God’s ambassadors, we are requested to invite men and women everywhere to get reconciled to God. In the extension of this, every believer in Jesus Christ is invited to be or to become an agent of reconciliation, consciously also addressing all visible and perceived rifts. On the basis of the Calvary event, all dividing walls between human beings have been dealt with. When Jesus died for our sins, even the 'dividing wall of hostility' between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). The Church is challenged to be a conduit and instrument for the breaking down of man-made and demonically inspired barriers.

United Prayer
The Hebrew Scriptures highlight individual prayer giants like Moses, David, Elijah, Nehemiah and Daniel. A special case is mentioned in Scripture when the exiles returned to Jerusalem. There they had to discover to their dismay that those who had remained in the city had joined the detestable practices of the pagan neighbouring tribes (Ezra 9:2) and that the religious leaders had in fact led the way in the unfaithfulness to Yahweh, evident through massive intermarriage. Led by the visible prostration and the audible passionate confession with the weeping of the scribe Ezra on behalf of the nation, the assembled congregation was moved deeply. An atmosphere of remorse ensued.
            We need to add Jesus and Paul to the list of individual prayer giants. The ‘New Testament’ attaches a special significance to united prayer. The Bible book of The Acts of the Apostles adds the dimension of corporate prayer. Jesus himself taught both tenets. He encouraged prayer that is not visible – the closet variation to be alone with the Father – but he also said ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20). The presence of Jesus in the fellowship of his praying disciples gives united prayer its power. Corporate prayer should ideally be ‘of one mind’. Andrew Murray (With Christ in the School of Prayer) highlighted this aspect of prayer. In that classic he notes that the object prayed for should be some special thing, a matter of distinct united desire. Down the years revivals were preceded by prayer, often because believers took the cue from the pre-Pentecost believers being together in this way (Acts 1:13).

The Church has not fulfilled its biblical Role
The Church has unhappily not fulfilled its biblical role in this regard. All too often people from the ranks of churches did the opposite, causing rifts and separating themselves. Some Christians have consciously chosen to be partisan or biased, even in cases where the biblical message is clear enough. One of the most striking but tragic examples in this regard is the situation in the Middle East. Church leaders should be agents of reconciliation. Instead, some of them had been calling Israel fallaciously an apartheid state and others supported the Jewish nation to the hilt uncritically, as if Israelis never make a mistake.
         The Bible teaches that a special blessing was given to both sons of Abraham separately. If there had been some rift between Isaac and Ishmael – which would have been natural after all that had transpired with Hagar and her son, this was probably amicably resolved in their life-time. At the funeral of Abraham both sons buried their father together (Genesis 25:9) - reconciled to all intents and purposes. The notion that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael have been eternal enemies has only a very limited biblical basis. Instead of being an agent of reconciliation, e.g. by bringing together Jews and Muslims who got reconciled through common faith in Jesus and working with followers of Jesus Christ from those backgrounds, Church leaders have all too often jumped on the bandwagon of taking sides in the age-old tussle of Israel and ‘Palestine’.

Unity does not imply Uniformity
Unity in diversity, one-ness through our faith in Jesus Christ demonstrates to the spiritual powers in the heavenlies ‘the manifold wisdom of God’ (Ephesians 3:10). William Barclay (New Testament Words, 1973:234) noted that the original Greek word for the adjective describing the divine wisdom, poikilos (meaning literally multi-coloured), 'describes anything which is intricate or complex.' The next verses and the following chapters of Ephesians give us an extraordinary glimpse of the universal Body of Christ, the whole family in heaven and earth (3:14) as Paul prayed for the believers – together with all the saints - to be empowered by the four-dimensional love of Christ (3:14-19). In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul gives us powerful practical tips to implement unity in our walk with the Lord and in general interaction with other believers.
In the honeymoon days of the Church following the memorable Pentecost in Jerusalem described in Acts 2, the believers shared their lives with each other in harmony and unity. The fruit of Psalm 133 was visible, How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! But it was also evident that God commanded his blessing.  Thousands were added to the Church that was truly on fire! Many of the new believers took the Gospel with them to the nations and places from where they had come. Initially all the believers were linked to Judaism. Jews and proselytes had been coming from far and wide, from all directions to Jerusalem.
            We may take for granted that the bulk of them returned in all directions to places like Rome in Italy and Libya in Africa, as all pilgrims did.  They took the story of Pentecost back and what they had experienced, probably very much ablaze and with excitement.

Normality and Carnality returned
In Jerusalem there were not only wonders. In fact, normality and carnality returned. There was however soon enough also the exposure of the ‘white lie’ of Ananias and Sapphira to deceive the Church and its leaders. To the normality also belonged the opposition of the religious leaders which included the imprisonment of John and Peter. But even this did not stop the spreading of the Gospel. In fact, after the beatings they had received at their discharge, the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’ (Acts 5;41).
An unfortunate aspect of normality returned to the Church life there in Jerusalem, viz. discord and factionalism. The Greek contingent complained that their widows were being discriminated against (Acts 6)! The pristine Church learned through this event how to deal with discrimination and complaints. The leaders addressed the problem full on which possessed full explosive dynamite potential. They balanced necessary services and duties in the church with the gifts among them present. A problem is solved by discussing matters and putting structures in place that can lead to growth - without deducting any essential matter like the teaching of the Word. Seven spirit-filled deacons were chosen, including the one or other from Greek stock.[1]
Stephen, one of the seven deacons, ‘a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.’ The arch enemy could never remain dormant to see someone with those gifts operating in full flow. How could he allow the Church to just grow and grow?  The heat was turned on! 
The arch fiend used religious leaders to stop the expansion of the Gospel as he did in the days when the Master himself was still around.  ‘Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Libertinians (as it was called) — Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia — who began to argue with Stephen.  Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’
We should not be surprised when opposition comes from a certain corner of the religious establishment. So-called free thinkers (Libertinians) have been agents of the arch enemy to oppose the Gospel from the earliest days of the Church, often distorting the truth and inciting rank and file people! Sadly, North Africans from Alexandria and Cyrene were part of the ‘Synagogue of the Libertinians’. So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.  They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
The heat was turned on more and more until Stephen became the first martyr of the Church – stoned to death. An adage was born, namely that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ Yet, it gives some consolation that it was someone from our continent, Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD, who coined the profound dictum.

The different Parts of the Body
Paul evidently deemed the unity of the body of Christ as of prime importance. He taught not only about the different parts of the body (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) but he also wrote ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3). Paul knew that unity is something at which we must work unceasingly. Earnestly he appealed to the bickering believers in Corinth where factions had developed. He reprimanded not only the followers of Apollos and Peter, but also his own fans in the fellowship for hero-worshipping him. God alone must be worshipped because he alone can give growth. The flesh in us loves to get recognition, likes to build our own kingdom. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church included a moving plea: ‘I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought’ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and 3:1-6). Paul’s plea was obviously an extension of the teaching of the Master himself: ‘If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand’ (Mark 3:24-25).

The Importance of building good Relationships
Paul kept in touch with the churches he had planted with letters of encouragement. But he also had the courage to rebuke them where it was appropriate. He demonstrates in this way the importance of good communication in maintaining good relationships. In our day and age the ease of electronic communication can very easily lead to shallow relationships. It can deteriorate so easily if for instance people only communicate when there is a need of some sort. That is not good enough.

Opponents of Paul
The epistle to the Galatians indicate that there was also disunity among believers elsewhere. Paul's opponents in Galatia are central to the argument of his epistle to the Galatians because it was essentially a response to the threat to the churches of Galatia. Therefore it is not surprising to see that the opponents are mentioned in every chapter (1:6-9; 2:4-5; 3:1; 4:17; 5:10, 12; 6:12-13).
Since the second-century it has been inferred that Paul's opponents were overzealous Jewish Christians from Jerusalem. They were taken to have advocated in Galatia the traditional Jewish proselyte model, by requiring Gentile Christians to attach themselves to ethnic Israel. This identification was carefully confirmed by John Calvin and assumed by Martin Luther. Since Calvin's and Luther's day the majority of Protestant scholars have identified Paul's opponents in some way with the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem.
            In the 19th century F. C. Baur of the Tübingen School made these opponents a decisive interpretive key to all Paul's writings. Baur's reconstruction of the history of the early church pitted Paul not so much against the Jerusalem apostles, as is popularly understood, but against the party of Jewish Christians identified with James and the Jerusalem church.
            This was the theological assumption till deep into the 20th century. Walter Schmithals (1923 - 2009), a prominent German theologian, displayed exceptional originality in his research already with his debut thesis Die Gnosis in Korinth, but also showing that Gnostics have been among the Judaisers of Galatia. He differed also with the Tübinger school of theologians that taught a sharp division between Peter and Paul, replacing it with peaceful co-existence of Jewish Christian congregations and the Gentile Christian congregations.[2]

Nicolaitans as Heretics
Nicolaitism is a Christian heresy first mentioned (twice) in the Book of Revelation of the New Testament, whose adherents were called Nicolaitans, Nicolaitanes, or Nicolaites.. According to Revelation 2:6 and 15, they were known in the cities of Ephesus and Pergamum. In this chapter, the church at Ephesus is commended for ‘hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate’; and the church in Pergamos is rebuked: ‘… you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans’.   Those who view the account in Revelation 2 as not literal treat the word "Nicolaitan" not as based upon an individual's name, but as a compound descriptive word. Nico- means ‘victory’ in Greek, and laos means ‘people’ or, more specifically, ‘the laity’. Hence they took the word to mean lay conquerors or ‘conquerors of the lay people".                                                                                           Eusebius of Caesarea (circa 275 to 339, writing in his Historia Ecclesiastica, iv, 7) held that as satan was shut off from using persecution against Christians ‘he devised all sorts of plans, and employed other methods in his conflict with the Church, using base and deceitful men as instruments for the ruin of souls and as ministers of destruction. Instigated by him, impostors and deceivers, assuming the name of our religion, brought to the depth of ruin such of the believers as they could win over, and at the same time, by means of the deeds which they practiced, turned away from the path which leads to the word of salvation those who were ignorant of the faith.’ He traces heresy from the Biblical figure of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-29) through Menander to both Saturnius of Antioch and Basilides of Alexandria.

Thumbs down to hierarchical Church Structures

Lording and domineering has been a big problem for new believers in Church structures. In the ‘NT' Church[3] plural non-hierarchical leadership seems to have been the norm. Presbyters and deacons were not regarded as titles but valued and used respectively as a gesture of respectful oversight/honour and a function in serving. Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists were in Paul's teaching functions, equals in the four- or five-fold ministries. He took for granted that each person in the Church received grace[4] (Ephesians 4:7), from which flows one or more of these functions. In his first letter to the Corinthians (14:26) Paul states as a given that in the ekklesia, the Church, each one should edify each other (oikodomeo, build each other up) whenever the believers congregate.
            The only permissible 'NT' 'hierarchy' would be to see Jesus Christ as the capstone, the head of the Church. In various ways the image of a building is used in Scripture.  In Matthew 16 Jesus himself said that he will build (oikodomeo is the verb) his Church. Paul intended to operate like a master builder with Christ as the foundation stone. In another picture the Gentiles and Jews form together God's house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. The cornerstone is Christ himself (Ephesians 2:20), holding together these two functions, the apostolic and the prophetic dimensions.
            These two functions have to complement each other with Jesus as the connecting link. To be an apostle means throughout the fulfilling of a function, those sent from the bosom of the Church. From here the word missionary was derived (via the Latin missio). The ambassador of Rome is the model of the apostle/missionary. In a similar way every follower of Jesus is an ambassador and emissary/ missionary who has to attempt to represent the culture of the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The Ebionite Heresy                                                                                                             Towards the end of the first century various Christian groups and sects started to be formed, notably around the gnostic faction of Jewish Christianity. Cerinthus and Elkhasai are two personalities about whom very little is known biographically but who wrote heretical material, of which we find clear traces back in Islam. Carrington (Vol 1. 1957:411) says about the former: ‘Elkhasai is simply a rather fantastic example of Ebionism.’ Waraqah bin Naufal, the cousin of Khadijah, the first wife of Muhammad who was an Ebionite priest, had a big influence on the founder of Islam. Carrington wrote furthermore: ‘The Christus of Ebionism was a divine teacher who had appeared on earth many times, beginning with Adam the first man. He had also come as Moses and as Jesus; and perhaps his last appearance was in Elkhasai himself, who may not have been called the 'hidden power' for nothing. The idea of the recurring world-teacher is widespread in oriental religions, including some varieties of Mohammedanism.’                                 The attitude of the Ebionites to the Law of Moses was also in line with the teaching of Elkhasai. ‘They adhered to circumcision and the Sabbath … turned towards Jerusalem when they prayed, but they rejected the system of sacrifices...’                                                                                               Carrington summarizes: ‘Here is the classical picture of the gnostic or heretical streak in Jewish Christianity. It was an ascetic Judaism, divorced from the Temple cultus though it reverenced Jerusalem, infused with ideas from further east, profoundly conscious of the power of evil in the cosmos, and prone to magic and superstition. It was not the only form of Ebionism. Later writers distinguish a more conservative Ebionism which was orthodox from the Jewish point of view, but regarded Christ as a 'mere man' who received the Holy Spirit at his baptism and so became the Messiah; this type appears to be mentioned in the writings of Justin Martyr and he treats it with sympathy. As time went on the word 'Nazarean' seems to have been adopted by the orthodox Jewish Christians, who believed in the Virgin Birth and accepted the apostle Paul.’

 Chapter 2 Persecution as an Ingredient of a Divine spiritual Recipe

Chapter 8 of the Bible book called The Acts of the Apostles starts rather ominously: ‘And Saul approved of their killing him (Stephen). The death of Stephen was the starting shot of satan’s renewed vicious attack on the Church. ‘On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria... Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.’
            This however had the opposite effect to what Saul and the religious leaders intended because ‘those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’  
Saul caused carnage, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples/ He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1ff). 
Persecution became an ingredient of the divine recipe for the spreading of the Gospel. The seed of the martyr Stephen started to germinate. Saul, the wicked persecutor of the Church, was not only supernaturally arrested but soon also powerfully converted. In due course he would become the prime missionary of the fledgling Church.
Some of the thousands that had been in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration – those from further afield might have been there already since Passover and its run-up just over seven weeks earlier  - returned home, taking the Gospel with them.
The persecution gave wings to the dissemination of the Gospel. Philip, another dynamic personality among the seven deacons of Acts 6, bore a Greek name and may have spoken Greek. Philip possibly functioned as a link to the Greek community. He operated powerfully as an evangelist in Samaria where a revival was soon blazing. Rather suddenly, possibly supernaturally, he was taken to Gaza.  When the Holy Spirit nudged him, he obeyed immediately to be at the perfect place and on the spot to disciple the eunuch from the words of Isaiah 53.  He ran (Acts 8:30), catching up with the treasurer of Queen Candice’s Ethiopia. Joyfully the new believer from East Africa took the Gospel with him, to be followed in due course by Mark in Alexandria in Egypt. The fiery believers from Baghdad, Babylon, Nineveh and other Assyrian fellowships had emissaries in places as far as India and North West China.
            In Antioch (Syria) the believers, who hailed from different nations and races, formed a dynamic congregation with the Cypriot Barnabas and North Africans as a significant part of the leadership (Acts 13). The Samaritans and the Assyrians, the ancestors of many Muslims, were possibly part and parcel of the teams spreading the Gospel from places in Assyria - the present-day Syria, Iraq and parts of Turkey - together with Jews. Thomas and Peter (1 Peter 5:13) were probably at the helm of the churches that took the Gospel to India and further afield.
         This phenomenal outreach was hardly discerned, let alone acclaimed in (Western) Church History. The Assyrian-Nestorian Church,[5] that soon had its centre in Baghdad, stemmed from believers who returned to Asia after the first Pentecost. It has been authoritatively suggested that Jewish believers, of whom many ancestors had once been exiled to the rivers of Babylon, took the Gospel to Central Asia, for example to the Uyghur people of North West China by 61 AD. Was it merely politically inexpedient to highlight that the ancestors of Jewish Christians and Muslims worked together to spread the Gospel? Or was the arch deceiver perhaps behind this move?
Some ancestors of the Uyghur, a Muslim tribe that is still regarded as unreached in respect of the Gospel, could thus have been among the first century followers of Jesus.

The Gospel Seed germinates  
Christianity did not recognize the deities and guardians of Rome. This was regarded not only as an attack on public order and the pillars of Roman tradition, but as atheism to the vast majority of the population of Rome. To most people of that age, Christianity blasphemed their gods – which they regarded as the protectors of homes, temples, and cities. Jews were known to be even more meticulous in their rejection of all idolatry.
Tertullian, a North African Berber Church Father from Carthage, was dubbed ‘a master of the art of how to turn the tables’ (Thiede, Jesus: Life or Legend (1990:117). Tertullian referred pertinently to the sadder part of early Christianity, describing how Christians were hated, persecuted and martyred. They responded with a message of kindness and neighbourly love. The blood of the Martyrs during the first centuries indeed turned out to be the seed of the Church. Christians had fought hard for the right to practice their religion in peace.
The persecution under first century Emperor Nero is well known. According to tradition, both Peter and Paul were martyred during his reign. It has been suggested that Nero Caesar was a symbolic figure of all future government-sponsored persecutions. When Emperors like Nero ‘merely’ expected Christians to pay homage annually to the Caesar, offering them the liberty to have their Jesus recognised as a god parallel to that expression of respect, the Christians refused! They preferred to die for their faith that he is the divine Son of God. Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of John, the apostle, was martyred in 160 AD, testifying to his faith in the presence of his executioners. That was the sort of pristine seed of the Church, which also moved Justin, who born in Palestine and later carrying the additional name Martyr. He died in similar fashion in 165 AD.  Although there were some persecutions in the first centuries AD, the worst persecutions against Christians occurred in the third century under emperors Decius, Valerian, Diocletian and Galerius. However, the persecution of Christians in the first two centuries does not come near to the scope or ruthlessness of that of the third century.

Martyrdom of recent Decades                                                                                                   
In more recent decades the martyrdom of Philip James "Jim" Elliot (1927 –1956) became well known. He was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. His journal entry for October 28, 1949, expresses his belief that work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life (compare Luke 9:24 in the Bible). "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."  This quote is most often attributed to Jim Elliot.
              Another spectacular example of the Tertullian motto took place in a North African village in the 1980s where God ‘sovereignly descended upon this coastal township with gracious bounty... He did not rest till every member of the Muslim community was properly introduced to His only begotten Son, Jesus’ (Otis, The Last of the Giants:, 1991:157). A massive conversion involving some 400 to 450 villagers ensued. Stunned by this special divine visitation, mission workers sought for the reason. They discovered that this took place at the site where Raymond Lull, a Spanish missionary from Mallorca, had been stoned to death in June 1315. Lull wrote in his book The tree of Love, that Islamic strongholds are best conquered by ‘love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood’ (Cited in Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 2004:58).
              Subsequently, thousands have been coming to faith in Jesus in Algeria. In 2006 the Algerian government promulgated a law that prohibited evangelism of any kind and commanded several churches to close down. The churches refused to obey the government stating, “You had better build more prisons because we are not going to do what you are commanding.” Since 2006, because of the persecution of Christians, the Church there has grown faster than before and the Algerian government came to understand that they will never be able to stamp out the Church.
           The Church in China grew phenomenally as a result of the persecution under Communist Chairman Mao Zedong. In a similar way the Ayatollah Khomeini can be titled the best ‘evangelist’ in Iran’s history. The Gospel has spread in Iran so widely that the government cannot stop it anymore.
            South Africa joined this elite club briefly in the pre-democratic era. The killing and maiming of believers of the St James Anglican Church of Kenilworth by terrorists in July 1993 were not only followed by explosive growth of the fellowship itself, but also by a wave of unprecedented countrywide prayer which helped to usher in the miracle elections of 27 April 1994.
The Denial of the Cross in Church Tradition
Various aspects of the application of the Cross - for example the crucified life of believers - were cancelled by church traditions. The evasion of persecution because of one’s faith would be among the most important ones. Paul reprimanded the Galatian Christians. Some of them tried to lure new believers, by avoiding persecution and compelling new believers to be circumcised (Galatians 6:12).
            In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Donatists of North Africa despised Christians who had wilted under the pressures of persecution. The Donatists were the followers of Donatus and those Christian theologians who made suffering for Jesus' sake and for the cause of the Gospel such a virtue that nobody who had wilted once under persecution was allowed to take an office in the Church.
             Nik Ripkin, a former missionary in East Africa among Somalians, along with a few other Western missionary leaders, have been used by God to teach the Church in recent times about the normality of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. They have been highlighting how followers of Jesus in Communist and Islamic countries have often had to pay the ultimate price for their convictions. Of the first 150 Somalian followers of Jesus only a few survived.
             The name Salah Farah got known in news bulletins in many parts of the world in December, 2015. He was a passenger on a bus from Mandera to Nairobi, celebrated in the news reports as a Muslim who saved a group of Christians from being massacred by Al Shabaab terrorists who hijacked the bus. The terrorists wanted to separate the Christians from the Muslims to slaughter the Christians, but Salah told the passengers to stick together so that such a separation would not result in death for a single group of passengers. Through this courageous gesture he attempted to shield the Christians. Together with a few of the passengers Salah was caught in the crossfire. On 17 January he died tragically as a result of his injuries. It subsequently surfaced that he had actually been a secret Christian believer. Bursa, a fellow passenger, who listened to his discovery of the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and how he got to it via the book God’s Apprentice, subsequently also became a follower of Jesus. But also he was murdered. The seed of the martyrs started to germinate among Somalians around the world.
            Tomorrow is Somalia’s day; today it is that for Iran! A Somalian MBB couple in the West have started teaching the new believers every Thursday via Skype. In a bulletin of March 2016 the couple wrote that around 25 people join them every week. We are very much aware that the devil does not appreciate the way that the Kingdom of God is gaining ground among the Somalis, notably via Facebook and the Internet. Persecution is however very severe, notably in East Africa.
             Satan had to come up with something else to stop the conversion of Somalians. He drew some of his prime weapons from his arsenal, lies and deception, competition and rivalry!

Chapter 3 Disunity as Demonic Strategy

Lying and its accomplice dishonesty are main contributors to disunity, also in the Church. Throughout history people have always been used as vehicles to create and bring division. The Scriptures show us that throughout the early Church leaders had to address this. James, the apostle, attacks this spirit in his epistle, stating that if people have fierce desires to promote their own ideas, if they have a spirit of competition and rivalry, if they create division — then their minds and emotions have come under the influence of demonic activity. In the context he supplies also some remedies, viz. to resist the devil and submit to God (James 4:1-8). Satan often succeeds to add misunderstanding and inappropriate ambition to the mixture. In the Garden of Eden the arch enemy tempted the first human beings by the wish to be like God.
Competition and rivalry among the disciples were very much around when the Master was still with them. The arch enemy attempted to cause division among the disciples of Jesus through unhealthy rivalry. James and John, two brothers, asked Jesus a question. Thinking that He would set up a kingdom on earth soon, they wanted to sit one on each side of him. James and John wanted power for themselves. It was like a request for an important job in government. The other disciples were very angry. They also wanted these jobs! This was a struggle for power. They asked, 'Who would be greatest?' (See Matthew 18:1-3, Matthew 19:27-30, especially verse 27.)
We must recognize that division is the paramount strategy of satan. He masqueraded as a serpent in the Garden of Eden deceptively with distortion, causing disruption and disunity. Dealing with or relating to others from a base of where we want to enforce our opinion, twisting things so that we can look better than another person or attempting to win arguments by promoting our selfish agendas all have demonic origins!

Restoration of the Harmony of the human Race
Restoration of the harmony and unity of the human race seems to be part of the Messianic vision that was passed on by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 2 of his Bible book. But also in the here and now God commands his blessing where we live and operate in love and harmony (Psalm 133). The 'New Testament' offers a powerful potential equivalent through the unity of believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Jesus regarded the unity of His followers as something of great importance. In the Gospel of John it is recorded that our Lord prayed for all those who would follow Him, to be one (John 17:21). He proceeded to intercede fervently that his followers 'may be brought to complete unity’ (John 17:23).

Networking as the biblical Counterpart of Division
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the temple was constructed under King Solomon in an interesting model of networking. When Solomon became king, he enlisted the aid of his ally Hiram, the king of Tyre (980-946 BC), in the construction of the Temple. In return for wheat, oil, and wine, Hiram supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress wood, as well as gold. Hiram also sent Solomon artisans and craftsmen to aid him. During Solomon's reign, the Temple was the focal point of all Jewish rituals and pilgrims came from all the tribes of Israel. The worship of Yahweh was thus an important element of unity. It became problematic though when pride got into the mix and the Jews started to despise other nations that worshipped in different ways. Next to fear of his life, pride probably also nudged Jonah into disobedience to the divine call to go to the notorious city of Niniveh.
          The biblical modus operandi of Church Unity is networking, uniting towards a common goal. One of the best biblical examples of the principle is the building of the Jerusalem wall under the leadership of Nehemiah. Two parallel 'NT' references are the 'networking' of the disciples of Jesus as recorded in Luke 5 and Paul's teaching on unity in Ephesians 3 and 4.
          In Luke 5:6ff, Peter and the fishermen colleagues in his boat hauled in a great multitude of fish on the rhema, the word of the Lord. Their net threatened to break when they had the presence of mind to call their colleagues in the other boat to come and assist them. Had they carried on independently, they probably would have lost the catch. When they were ready to drop their independence, the big catch could be brought to the shore. In spite of this obvious lesson in 'networking', the bulk of pastors and churches still carry on building their own little kingdom, prodding on independently!
          The words of Jesus just prior to his ascension, respectively recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, encouraged his disciples – and in extension also us as his followers – to network in the spreading of the Gospel, to make disciples far and wide. This could transpire in a concentric way, by gaining experience locally with the own ‘Jerusalem’, and then moving further and further through barriers of culture, ethnicity and nationality - ultimately even to ‘the ends of the earth’.
          In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul referred to different non-competitive functions of leaders and believers. One person plants, another one waters but God gives the growth. Mutual love and respect, along with the acceptance of any differences in gifting and character, should be the bottom line. Thus Paul put forward the challenge and teaching that the ‘NT’ Church, the diverse body of Christ radiates and demonstrates the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).

Jesus reconciled opposing Factions
Even within the close circle of the disciples Jesus had to reconcile opposing factions. We do not understand fully why John always referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Was this because he was a relative, as it has often been surmised? Or was John pushing himself to the front, e.g. at the last supper? Even after the Lord’s resurrection, the rivalry between him and Peter continued. Thus John, the apostle, made a point of it to report twice that he outstripped Peter in the ‘race’ to the grave (John 20:4 and 8). The few verses which are recorded about the meeting of Jesus with the eleven at Lake Tiberias likewise indicate the mutual dislike of Peter and John clearly enough (Acts 21:20-22). The two could have become bitter rivals for the leadership after the Lord’s ascension.
          The Holy Spirit is powerful enough to reconcile people who would normally be at loggerheads with each other. This was evidently the case with disciples who were vastly different in temperament. In Acts 3:1ff it is reported how John and Peter operated as a team. This example opposes the abuse of incompatibility as an excuse for separation - to suggest that it is utterly impossible to work together with a certain Christian. If both parties are open to the work of the Holy Spirit, reconciliation would be the eventual result and even teamwork is possible thereafter.

Peter and Paul as Rivals
In obedience to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, Philip had no qualms to speak to a seeking foreigner, an Ethiopian official, about his soul (Acts 8:26ff). But Peter had some difficulties to step down from his pedestal of pride and condescension towards Gentiles. A supernatural element is easily discerned as God used him to reach out to the family of Cornelius, whom the Holy Spirit had already prepared. When Paul detected some hypocrisy with Peter, he criticized him to his face in the presence of others. Jesus did this also in a stinging attack on the religious establishment of his day, as we can read in Matthew 23. If the actions of fellow brothers and sisters confuse young believers, it might be necessary – albeit it as an exception to the rule - to do the unusual thing of reprimanding them publicly.

A strong Difference of Opinion between Paul and Barnabas   
The NT has no problem in mentioning a strong difference of opinion between two other role players - Paul and Barnabas’- that ultimately led to a doubling of the missionary effort. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.  But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.…’ (Acts 15:38-40).[6]

Amicable Parting of Ways            
God can also use an amicable parting of ways - albeit that it is almost always painful - to multiply the evangelistic effort. Paul and Barnabas parted ways because of the inclusion of John Mark. Sometimes this is used as an example for amicable separation. I suggest that some carnality was involved here – in this case Paul's unforgiving attitude. (One of the very special examples of more or less amicable parting in modern times – at least agreeing to disagree - was when Brother Andrew had to leave WEC International for health reasons, but pioneering Open Doors later.) All this is part and parcel of God's ‘mysterious ways’. How often He has over-ruled obvious human mistakes. Thus God used a donkey to reprimand Balaam. He can spank us quite well so to speak with a crooked rod.

Unintentional Division of the Body of Christ
Much of the fragmentation of the Body of Christ has been unintentional. The first significant shift developed between Jewish Christians and other strands of first century Jews after James, the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and the brother of Jesus, had been executed by a group of Jews that acted on the instructions of the High Priest Ananus. The stoning of James, with the collaboration of the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, was a bitter pill to those contemporary Jewish and Gentile Christians who still attempted to engage in dialogue with the Synagogue. 
         On two occasions Paul refers to believers as infants/children in the context of petty bickering and a lack of unity (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Ephesians 4:13-15). He did not mince his words, calling those believers who hero-worship strong personalities babies in the faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-5). So often Christians glibly quote the latter part of 1 Corinthians 11 in the context of the Lord’s Supper, completely ignoring or forgetting that Paul used those words within the framework of the disunity of the believers at Corinth and the discrimination of some of them (see 1 Corinthians 11:18ff  I hear that there are divisions among you…).

The Pattern for doctrinal Bickering
The Samaritan woman of John 4 evidently tried to use the common ancestry to digress subtly, to shift the discussion from the uncomfortable exposure of her immoral life-style. Her intention was probably not to use the arch fathers as common ground, but rather to emphasize the difference in the location of worship, hoping perhaps that Jesus would thus get engaged in a theological argument.
The reference to the local mountain set the pattern for a doctrinal argument. The possibility of a doctrinal quarrel about places of worship highlights an age-old problem. Soon after the apostles and other believers had spread the Gospel far and wide, the humanity of Jesus became a problem to some of those who believed that Jesus was only divine.

Two opposing Views of God 
The Ebionites were a first century Christian Jewish sect with substantial influence. Unfortunately the Ebionite Jewish believers who took the Gospel to the Arabian Peninsula, apparently also took with them the theological bickering. The essence of the biblical message, namely the grace of God and the loving Father, became completely clouded. The synagogue theologians of the first century AD apparently did not discern that Yahweh is basically a loving parent, a Father who simultaneously displayed motherly characteristics. Somehow the pagan one-sided view of a punishing and aloof God prevailed. A religious variation came via the Greek philosopher Plato and the Saducees.  Plato taught that God was unknowable and uninvolved in human affairs. As wealthy Jews the Saducees were educated in Greek Philosophy and possibly derived thoughts and beliefs like these from Plato.
Two almost diametrically opposing views of God developed in the course of time. The first one occurred quite early via Marcion, an intelligent theologian. Although he was quite early regarded as a heretic, Marcion contributed to confusion among the Gentile believers of his era. In his view Yahweh – the supreme deity of the Hebrew Scriptures – was intrinsically evil.  Quoting Isaiah 45:7 ‘It is I who send evil, I the Lord does these things’, he opined that Christ came to set mankind free from Yahweh. Thus Marcion highlights how Elisha had children eaten by bears. Jesus, representing a loving God, said ‘little children come unto me’
In the dark and early Middle Ages the former view - which filtered through to Islam – an unbiblical emphasis on a punishing God prevailed, viz. that He is harsh, unbending and arbitrary.
             Noting that Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-29) and Cerinthus, a first century Christian heretic, who had been trained in the Egyptian education, have been discerned by the leaders of the Early Church as heresiarchs of the first century, Marcion was very dangerous in the middle of the second century. His ideas were spread very widely geographically. So much of his teaching contributed to replacement teaching. Via various heretical avenues it came later also to Islam.

Introduction of Greek Thought Patterns
The introduction of Greek thought patterns which divided the Church started probably already with Philo (c. 25 BC – c. 50 AD), Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria. It has been suggested that Philo poisoned all theology with Greek thinking. He used philosophical allegory in an attempt to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy with its Jewish counterpart. His use of allegorical exegesis was important for several Christian Church Fathers. The one or other however went overboard in the process, making overdrawn claims of how almost everything in the Hebrew Scriptures points to Jesus. Perhaps one should go even further back in history for the Greek influence. The separation of the spiritual and physical dimensions of our cognitive abilities can be traced to Plato and Aristotle. (Aristotle is regarded as "the First Teacher," among Islamic scholars, and many of his recovered works may have been lost were it not for Arabic translations of the original Greek treatises.)The Hebrew thought pattern is much more holistic.
Origen (184 -254 AD) was a giant amongst the early Christian thinkers. He tried to interpret Christian concepts in language familiar to the Platonic tradition, 'mingling philosophical discussion with expositions of biblical cruxes' (Chadwick, 1969:100).  Possibly unwittingly, he undermined the Hebrew thought pattern in this way. Hebrew thinking is more inclusive, wary of false alternatives. A typical example of Origen's attempt is how he would play down the dissention between Peter and Paul at Antioch, suggesting that is was merely 'edifying play-acting' (Chadwick, 1969:100). In Galatians 2:11 (Amplified version) Paul recorded a different story: ‘Now when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him face to face [about his conduct there], because he stood condemned [by his own actions]. Most notably, however, Origen described the Trinity as a hierarchy, not as an equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. And although he attacked Gnostic beliefs like these, he rejected the goodness of material creation. In this way he was supportive of Marcion, the arch heretic of their era. David Bosch (Het Evangelie in Afrikaans Gewaad, 1974:21) highlighted how an overdrawn adaptation of Greek thought prepared the way for heresies like Docetism, Marcionosm and Montanism. He went on to assert that also the penetration of Platonic and Stoic philosophies into Christianity can be explained in this way.

The humanity of Jesus as an Issue
Learned men argued that if Jesus were God, he could not have become an infant. Cerinthus believed and taught that Jesus was the son of Mary and Joseph, but not by virgin birth. Consequently, Cerinthus argued, Jesus could not display human characteristics. This argument went so far that the Early Church soon ran into trouble about Jesus’ deity. Arius, a 4th century Church elder, deemed it necessary to state clearly that Jesus was made (i.e. created), not supernaturally begotten.
Arius developed the heresy further, stating that Jesus was of the same substance of God, but not equal to Him. Arius followed Cerinthus in this teaching, which caused much confusion, ripping the heart out of the Gospel. This is a part of the Docetist-Gnostic background of Surah Nisaa (Women) 4:157, which intimates that God took Jesus away before he could die. Arius believed that Jesus was created and that he was not fully God, although more than a man. That doctrine became possibly a part of the origin of the Islamic emphasis that Allâh does not have a son. Arius was logically called by Arnold (1859:5) ‘another precursor of Islamism’. He was an excellent communicator, putting his doctrinal ideas into musical jingles, a practice copied centuries later in Islam via an Arabic nursery rhyme that God does not have a son. Chronologically between Cerinthus and Arius there was general consensus in the Church that they would not compromise the divinity of Jesus. When Emperors like Nero ‘merely’ expected them to pay homage annually to the Caesar, offering them the liberty to have Jesus recognised as a god parallel to that expression of respect, the Christians refused! They preferred to die for their faith that he is the divine Son of God. Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of John, the apostle, was martyred in 160 CE, testifying to his faith in the presence of his executioners. That was the sort of pristine seed of the Church, which also moved Justin, born in Palestine and later carrying the name Martyr, dying in similar fashion in 165 CE.

Unity – at what a Cost!
In an attempt to unite the Church that was so divided, Constantine convened a Council at Nicaea in 325 CE under the presidency of Bishop Hosius of Cordova and Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. For Constantine it was essentially a political exercise. He did not care about the final points of theology as long as it would unify his subjects. He attempted to bring this about through the mandatory day of rest on Sun-day in 321 CE, by having people baptized by force and ceasing the persecution of the followers of Jesus.
            The discussion at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE was very heated - and not always to the point. Arius was condemned, but the creed decided upon was a poor compromise, basically an effort to contain the influence of Arius. This creed was however far from unproblematic, including the words begotten from the Father - the only begotten. In due course this would lead to confusion when Mary was described as theotokos, the bearer of God.
The misunderstanding with his bishop Alexander - who suggested that Arius propagated two gods - set the pattern for doctrinal quarrelling in the Middle East, which continued for centuries thereafter. Islam picked up this tenet, with the Qur’an stressing that Jesus was created divinely - like Adam – by the word ‘Be’ (Surah Imran 3:59). On the other hand, the Qur’an mentions ambivalently in the same context of Surah Imran 3, that Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin.
          Of course, Jesus had clearly taught ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30). That He displayed human qualities does not make him less divine. In fact, Jesus invited His audience to get a glimpse of the Father by looking at him (John 14:9-11). It should have been clear - even from the oral traditions - that Jesus did things like forgiving sins, which only God can do. Uncovering the sinful life of the Samaritan woman was of course another divine quality - to look right into the inner precincts of the heart of man!

A Pagan Coup
Constantine’s move to make Sun-day a compulsory free day was the culmination of a process, a pagan demonic coup to pull Christianity finally from its Jewish roots. Professing Christians were not the only ones who celebrated a festival called "Easter." "Ishtar", which is pronounced "Easter" was a day that commemorated the resurrection of one of their gods that they called "Tammuz", who was believed to be the only begotten son of the moon-goddess and the sun-god.

In ancient times, there was a man named Nimrod,[7] who was the grandson of one of Noah´s sons named Ham. Nimrod was the son of Cush and Semiramis who married his mother after the death of his father. Nimrod became a god-man to the people and Semiramis, his wife and mother, became the powerful Queen of ancient Babylon.                                                                                             
            Semiramis created a mystery religion with the help of satan, setting herself up as a goddess. She taught that the moon was a goddess that went through a 28 day cycle and ovulated when full. This would have happened at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. Semiramis became known as "Ishtar" and her moon egg became known as "Ishtar´s egg".
In due course many a European would only know about easter bunnies and easter eggs with no knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus, let alone the link to the Jewish festivities of Passover.

Passover High-jacked
How demonic this is, becomes clear when we consider that the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection got mixed with this pagan tradition and thus high-jacked from our Jewish roots at Passover, which is the most important celebration of the Jewish calendar. This Jewish feast commemorates the liberation from Egyptian slavery by the mighty hand of God.
One of the most clear pointers for Christians to Jesus in the Seder meal of Jews at Passover is surely that the middle matzot (of three) is broken and hidden, to be found (e.g. by the children) and celebrated later in the meal. Like the matzo he was pierced for our iniquity, put in a grave (hidden) and resurrected by the power of God.

Disunity stifles spiritual Renewal
Disunity often stifles spiritual renewal and biblical revival. We cannot stress it enough: the spirit of separation and disunity is a demonic principality. Disunity wielded in few parts of the world such power as in South Africa. The apartheid practice was only one visible expression of this division. The denominational disunity, rivalry and mutual distrust of churches and pastors are two less visible ones. True unity is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, but if denominational and racial disunity proceed unchecked, a potential spiritual awakening will be given a major setback.
         Disunity in the Church and competitiveness must never be regarded as minor flaws, but recognized for what it really is in the light of the Bible: sin! Not for nothing Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would believe in their message (i.e. we, the spiritual off-spring): ...That all of them may be one (John 17:20f) and ‘that they may be brought to complete unity’ (John 17:23).
         Through the ages the enemy has succeeded to sow division in churches. The blessing, which God could have used to bring millions to the Cross, has sadly become a curse in many a case.

Chapter 4   Some special Gospel Tools towards Unity

          Our Lord had his priorities perfectly in place. From His intimate relationship to His Father, His behaviour flowed and followed. In John 14:6 the Lord summarized his nature and character aptly as the Way, the Truth and the Life. A commitment to Him, the light, automatically leads to conflict and confrontation with the forces of darkness. Because our Lord is the truth, the tempter - who is the father of the lie (John 8:44) - tried to catch Him out through a distortion of the Word.  As the only person who did not die again after having been resurrected, Jesus is the way to eternal life. He is the ladder on which angels go up and down, through whom we can have communion with the Father (John 1:33 and 50, Genesis 28:12).

Getting the Priorities Straight
A good example of our Lord’s complete mastery of priorities is given in John 4 where it is reported how a rumour (instigated by Pharisees?) was brought to the Lord that He was baptizing more converts than John the Baptist. The motive of those people who came with the rumour is not clear, but the explosive gun-powder contained in the question is quite evident. In verses 1 and 2 of John 4 we discern at least three issues in the rumour which could have drawn a negative response from anybody else. There was the suggested number of people baptized, who performed it and there was the comparison with John the Baptist. Instead of allowing himself to be drawn into a petty, unproductive discussion, our Lord ‘left Judea’. A possible inference that he walked away cowardly, has however to be rejected.
         The remarkable verse 4 of that chapter squashes any idea that the Master dodged difficult issues: ‘He had to go through Samaria’. If our Lord had been the type of person to circumvent problematic matters, here was a good opportunity. Our Lord faced the issue of the despised Samaritans head-on. Not only did He go to the village of Sychar, but He went to sit next to the cultic explosive well of Jacob. Hardly any Jew of His day and age would have done a thing like that. That was tantamount to looking for trouble! And thereafter he and his disciples stayed with the Samaritans for two more days.
So many people got side-tracked from the centre of God’s will for their lives. To be at the right place at the right time is all important.

Handling Conflict                  
In the enfolding narrative of John 4 our Lord handled confrontation in such a skillful way that the Samaritan woman was completely turned around in the process. When she used religion as a means to digress after the Lord had cornered her on her lifestyle, He challenged her in a respectful way. To this day His reply challenges religious people everywhere: The Father seeks true worshippers... those who worship in Spirit and in truth. It is not so difficult to find Christians in our day and age who adore the act of worship instead of worshipping the complex Almighty God.
          Another special lesson of our Lord is how He handled disputes. In almost classical style He could unmask wrong alternatives; more correctly, we should say He often radicalized false alternatives. When the Master was put on trial on the issue of the paying of taxes - when His questioners tried to put Him in a spot of bother - He coolly replied that both God and the Caesar had to get the due of their respective allegiance (Matthew 22:21). When His disciples became involved in petty bickering about rank, the Master challenged them with service as the qualification for rank: whosoever perceives himself to be the greatest, should be the servant of all (Luke 22:24ff). The servant way, the way of Jesus to emulate, is furthermore about the priority of relationships. Proverbs 16:7 offers a special challenge: When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. How our Lord operated cross-culturally in a loving way, should be our model, not shying away from confrontation. The word tolerance has sometimes been abused in this regard. Whilst this is a virtue which should generally be the aim of every believer, we note from our Lord’s example that it is far from absolute. God hates sin but He loves the sinner. In the same context in which Jesus speaks about thieves who rob (John 10), He calls himself the door. Whereas there might be different avenues to get to God, Jesus made it clear to which highway these minor roads should lead to: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by me’ (John 14:6). This might sound intolerant to some ears. For the Christian this is nevertheless the only way, the only door. It thus becomes a matter of take it or leave it. It would be fruitless to debate about the matter.
Maintaining the Unity
In the spiritual realm unity is so important for the correct functioning of the Body of Christ at every level. But it can never be taken for granted because the arch enemy will always attempt to cause disruption of unity. No wonder that Paul pleaded with the Ephesian believers in the prime chapter on unity to “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:2).
Anger is one of those demonic tools that destroys any semblance of unity. Diversely we are taught to be slow to anger (e.g. Proverbs 14:29, 16:32). Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry’ (James 1:19).  We all get angry at one time or another. The Lord was also angry, e.g. when He cleansed the Temple and when he confronted the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders (Mark 3:4-6). The big issue is whether we allow the arch enemy to destroy the unity through our failures in this regard.
Next to maintaining the unity there is also the restoration of it, optimally before the sun sets.  Paul is very realistic in this context when he also offers the remedy in handling anger, when we slipped in this regard: ‘Be angry without sinning. Don't let the sun set on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Simple Churches as a Model
I believe that simple churches that are consciously networking with other local congregations including those with a denominational structure could become a correctional tool towards forging unity of the body of Christ. The biblical model of a church is a family, in which there are no classes of people. The ‘New Testament’ prescription for leadership in the local church is a plurality of leaders who function as siblings, submitting to one another, with no one man in a superior position to another. (The following passages support such a leadership structure: Acts 14:23; 20:17-31; Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians. 5:12,13; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4.)
`           The Lord explicitly forbade setting any man apart in the Church by means of a special title/ However, the Church started doing it not long after the apostolic age. Jesus said, "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers" (Matthew 23:2,9). Our Lord goes on to forbid other honorific titles among his people, the Church.
The concept of a professional clergy, which corrupted the Church within a few centuries of the apostles, was a direct expression of worldly concepts of leadership and power. Whereas Jesus had adorned himself with a towel and became a servant to his followers (John 13), "clergymen" began to adorn themselves with special robes and collars and assumed a place of superiority over the congregation of the church. Although the Reformation removed some of the worst abuses of this clerical system, it retained the distinction between the "clergy" and the "laity", a distinction which survives to this day. In many a denomination an echelon or hierarchy developed where certain pastors or priests have regarded as more senior than others.
              The clergy system is a direct attack upon the very nature of the body of Christ. It introduces a false concept of a special spiritual class, with the accompanying temptation to pride and abuse of power that comes when some man are exalted over others. It also leads to passivity on the part of those who are, by implication at least, "second class" in the Church. Members of the body do not use their gifts to carry on ministry since the professional "minister" is doing the work.  
              Perhaps the worst result of the clergy system is that it stifles the spiritual development of some members of the congregation. God's plan is that ordinary, unschooled men can become elders, overseers and shepherds (pastors) of God's flock. They do not have to go to Bible college or seminary. They can strive through on-the-job training to be leaders in the congregation. However, the clergy system removes this possibility from most men and smothers the godly ambition to servant-leadership. So men are unchallenged, and the congregation is weakened.

Consultation with the Church Leadership
An issue which was forcefully demonstrated in the life of Paul, the apostle, was the relationship to the local church. Paul showed how valuable a healthy relationship to the church leadership can be. Even though God had already revealed it to him previously to bring the Gospel to the heathen nations, Paul did his missionary work in consultation with the church leaders (Galatians 2:2ff). Initially they did not share his vision and views. The result of the consultation was a doubling of the outreach: They reached consensus, agreeing that Peter should concentrate on ministering to Jews while Paul would pioneer the work among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8). Because he did not do his own thing unilaterally, Paul and Barnabas eventually received the right hand of fellowship from the leadership. Finally the couple were commissioned and sent out by the body, the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:3).

Ongoing Consultation as a Foundation
The Moravian revival of August 1727 in Herrnhut is often romanticized. It is often overlooked or forgotten that Count Zinzendorf went to the little village on his estate in April 1727 explicitly ‘that he might give all his time to the healing of the discords and to caring for the souls whom the Lord had led to his estate’ (Lewis, The ecumenical Pioneer, 1962:51). The summer of 1727 could only flourish after a major conflict had been resolved. The Moravian refugees wanted their original denomination - the Unitas Fratrum - restored, whereas Zinzendorf preferred a small fellowship evolving that would display a significant ‘leaven’ presence within the bigger Lutheran Church. A good compromise was reached when the statutes were finalized on 12 May 1727, including the radical statement: ‘Herrnhut shall stand in unceasing love with all children of God in all churches, criticize none, take part in no quar­rel against those differing in opinion, except to preserve for itself the evangelical purity, simplicity and grace.            
            With regard to ongoing consultation with the church leadership, this was part and parcel of church life in Herrnhut in East Germany in 1727. There the revival of 13 August 1727 led to the flowering of the missionary endeavour of the Moravians; in fact, it was the laborious writing of diaries and reports, which have enabled later generations to get such a good picture of church life there and of Moravian missionary work in general.

Economic Justice as the biblical Pattern
Our Lord was definitely deeply influenced by the thought pattern of economic justice. David Bosch notes that the idea of the year of Jubilee permeates the Gospel of Luke (Bosch, 1990:41).[8] That the nation of Israel did not heed the laws given to them, may never be an excuse for us to perpetuate the historical pattern of greed and exploitation, but it should rather be a challenge for us to adapt economic justice for our time and situation.
          The first Christians spread a tradition and culture of generosity and sharing, with aid given to the poor brethren and sisters in Jerusalem. Visser ‘t Hooft calls this inter-church aid ‘.. a witness to the solidity of the bond between all who belong to Christ(Visser ‘t Hooft, 1959:49).
          Paul, the apostle, also came from the same school of thought. Thus he laid a link in the economic sense, as can be seen in his wording of 2 Corinthians 8. Here he radicalizes the idea: ‘Though they (the Macedonian churches) have been going through much trouble and hard times, they have mixed their wonderful joy with their deep poverty, and the result has been an overflow of giving to others. They gave not only what they could afford, but far more...and not because of nagging on my part (verses 2 and 3)... Now I want you (wealthy Corinthians) to be leaders also in the spirit of cheerful giving (v.7)...You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus was: though he was so very rich, yet to help you he became so very poor, so that by being poor he could make you rich … (v.9).’
         Also in the teaching of John, the Baptist, sharing is mentioned. When his listeners asked him what they ought to do as a token of their repentance, he identifies their sin in terms of the preparedness to share their possessions with the poor. This means that riches as such are not condemned out of hand. Job, Abraham, Joseph, David and a few other personalities in the Hebrew Scriptures are examples of affluent people who were nevertheless mentioned as positive examples.
          But Jesus warned against riches that could make it almost impossible for someone to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23- 26). Also Paul saw riches as a snare, as a temptation. The love for money is described as ‘the root of all evil’ (1Timothy 6:9,10).

Quality rather than Quantity
Sheep stealing and the conscious attempts to increase the number of adherants belong to the great obstacles to unity. From John 3 and 4 and also from other Gospel narratives we can safely surmise that Jesus was not interested at all to boast with an impressive number of followers. Thus, when ‘many disciples turned back and no longer followed him’, Jesus offered to the twelve in John 6:67, “You do not want to leave too, do you?’ On another occasion, one of the disciples cried 'wolf' after they had seen someone driving out demons in Jesus' name. Significantly, this disciple objected that the person was 'not one of us.' Opposing this sectarian spirit of exclusivity and arrogance, the Master responded coolly with ‘Don’t forbid him...Anyone who is not against us, is for us’ (Mark 9:38f). In one of the Moravian litanies Count Zinzendorf included a significant prayer: ‘Save us from unholy growth.’ (Literally[9] guard us from an unholy getting big).

The Special Gifts of Women
The special gifts of women are still by and large not used properly and sufficiently. It is fortunately no big debate generally whether females should be in the pulpit or not. The discrimination of the 'weaker sex' in the Church, the Synagogue and the Mosque has a long sad history. Talmudic Jewish writers entrenched base discrimination against women. This even found its way into the prayer for a Jewish man - thanking God every morning that he was not ‘a Gentile, a slave or a woman.’ In Orthodox Jewish custom the legalist interpretation of the law a woman became common. She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely in her husband’s possession. He could do with her as he willed. Islam seems to have drawn richly from this sad heritage, an aberration of the creation model. It is sad to have to note that the Church by and large neglected the revolutionary teachings of Jesus and the ‘New Testament’ with regard to women (and youth). Only in the Assyrian (later Nestorian) Church women were treated with exemplary dignity for some length of time. Research in recent decades shows that widows had leadership roles in the first centuries AD in the Assyrian Church.  But in the rest of the Church women were pushed into lesser roles of leadership and responsibility. Tertullian (and later Jerome) verbalised sentiments with regard to women,[10]of which we as Christian men should be ashamed. Women have been silenced in the Church. Expression of regret and remorseful confession by Global Church leaders in this regard is long overdue.


Chapter 5 Honour for the Despised

         There is a tendency by fellowships in the more affluent parts of our country to look down condescendingly upon township congregations and even more so on to those churches from the refugee communities. I suggest a complete rethink on this, to come in line with Scripture. We have such a lot to learn from those at the bottom end of our social scale.
          A tenet that runs through the Bible is that God honours the lowly and despised who put their trust in Him. In discerning the divine unifying role of Jesus, an outcast of this society, Paul displayed the nature of God on this issue.

Biblical Misfits used by God
The Hebrew Scriptures are full of examples of how God used despised/rejected people. What distinguished the rejected and despised ones was their availability for God. Joseph was initially rejected by his brothers; Moses was a fugitive and murderer when he was called by God. When Gideon suffered from a serious inferiority complex. He was raised by God to be a deliverer of his people (compare respectively Judges 3 and 6). He could easily be described as a coward. Coming from the poorest family of the half tribe of Manasse and youngest of all, he thought he had ample reason to shy away from an awesome task. 
           David, the shepherd boy, was clearly regarded as an outsider of the family at first and over­looked as a potential future king of Israel. God had to teach Samuel in the process not to look at the outer looks and size, that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-12). That David roamed the country, staying in caves and at times living among the enemy with a bunch of rogues, makes him the equivalent of a modern-day gangster. More than once someone from the ranks of the despised and rejected groups - for example a gangster, drug lord or prostitute - was exactly the one God used to make others spiritually hungry, thirsty and inquisitive.
           Jesus displayed the nature of God. The Lord entered Jerusalem on an inexperienced colt, the foal of a donkey – not on a horse or a camel, the more fancied transport animals of the day. Even today the animal is more known because of its obstinacy and stupidity than in any other way.
         Our Lord praised the faith of the centurion who came from the ranks of the oppressing Romans. Groups usually looked down upon are refugees and vagrants. That Jesus was a refugee as a baby and homeless as an adult, should at least give us some food for thought.

A biblical Condition
With the Moabite Ruth, the biblical condition becomes clear: faith in the God of Israel is the criterion. Rahab, the prostitute, is a very special case. She must have had special revelation to declare to the spies: ‘I know that Yahweh has given you the land’ (Joshua 2:8) and in Joshua 2:11 ‘Yahweh, your God is God in heaven above and on the earth’ ... To use scarlet, the dye known for colouring flax, because of its durability, was prophetic. A piece of scarlet cloth that turned white on the Day of Atonement gave a similar prophetic message. Centuries later the prophet Isaiah (1:18) would use that image for the divine cleansing and forgiving of sins: No sin is too big for God to forgive!
         When Philip interacted with the influential eunuch from Ethiopia, the equivalent of a Finance Minister, this homosexual man was probably the vehicle to bring the Gospel to our continent, along with Mark who evangelized in Alexandria (Egypt) according to oral tradition. (Eunuchs were known to be 'gay', men who could be entrusted to the private chambers of highly ranked females like queens).  
It is remarkable that God seems to have a special affinity for young people who are ready to go all out for him. In fact, it has been generally overlooked that Jesus drove out the religious establishment – with animals and all – so that there could be place for despised, for those coming from the nations,[11]the lame, the blind and the children (Matthew 21:14). All too often the religious people need to be driven aside so that God can be worshiped in spirit and in truth.

The Messianic Stone initially rejected
Jesus is described as the cornerstone/capstone in the picture of a dome (Psalm 118:22), that holds the building together. Simultaneously, Jesus is the Messianic stone that was rejected by the builders. It became the cornerstone of the divine edifice. That the nation of Israel has been rejected – albeit as punishment for their non-recognition of Yeshuah (Jesus) as Messiah – contains some Messianic trait as a precursor variously cited by the Lord himself.  This wisdom, appearing first in Psalm 118:22, recurs at Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7.  Of course, also the Messianic Isaiah 53:3 speaks about the same thing. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  The Gospel writer John summarised the phenomenon thus: He came to his own people, and even they rejected him (John 1:11).
         Followers of Jesus are living stones, a chosen people, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). To be a priest is to be consecrated to God and fellow-man. This is the calling of every Christian. If this functions well, the Church would automatically cease to be an institution chiefly concerned with maintaining forms and traditions. It would then be able to face the outside world as a united, Spirit-empowered witnessing fellowship.

Fellowship also for the Despised
Jesus offered fellowship to people who were despised by their society. Seeing her deepest need, He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) who was probably so ashamed to be seen by others that she went to fetch water at a time when there was the least chance to meet other villagers or be seen by them. In meeting her deepest need, Jesus turned the social outcast into one of the first evangelists of the Messiah of all time, causing a people movement among the inhabitants of the little Samaritan town of Sychar. Breaking with all custom of the time, He spoke with the woman in public. The Western rationally-inclined mind would regard the speaking about ‘koeitjies en kalfies’ (trivialities) as wasting of time. Jesus demonstrated how the opening up of a conversation with a stranger about a mundane thing like water can break down walls of prejudice (John 4:10).

Inclusion of the Outsider and Fearful                                                                                                    
Jesus led by example in His loving ministry to the doubting, the outsider and the fearful. This is a divine quality. The Master had an eye and a heart for the doubting Thomas. It seems as if Western theological tradition has overlooked that Thomas was prepared to go and die with Jesus (John 11:16). Many only see him as the ‘doubting Thomas’ or even ‘die ongelowige Thomas’ (the unbelieving Thomas). In general, it has hardly been recognized that Thomas was not the only one among the disciples to doubt. It has been reported that '...some doubted' (Matthew 28:17). We note that this happened just before the Ascension of our Lord, i.e. after some of them had been walking close to Him for many months. The Master took doubts seriously, reassuring the hovering disciple in this way.  Jesus saw behind the impulsive Peter also his qualities as a potential leader. The Bible teaches that God specifically uses the fearful when they trust Him, even more so when they become completely dependent on Him. This is wonderfully depicted in the life of Gideon (Judges 6-8).

Foreigners and Strangers in the Bible
In the Hebrew Scriptures the Israelites are repeatedly admonished to be hospitable to strangers. The Israelites were strangers in Egypt. Repeatedly they were reminded of this fact. Exactly because they had been oppressed there, they were commanded to refrain from oppressing foreigners. Leviticus 19:33,34 includes the astounding verse Love the stranger as you love yourself. In fact, the Law commands more than once to treat the stranger as an equal (for example Leviticus 24:16, 24). If the foreigner/stranger is destitute, he should be supported and afforded hospitality (Leviticus 25:35).
The Hebrew Scriptures furthermore depict clearly how foreigners became a blessing to the people of God. The prime example in this regard is Joseph who was an Egyptian in the eyes of his brothers when he reminded them of the God of their forefathers. In the case of Joseph and Daniel they assumed high office in their countries. Daniel had the special distinction to have served with aplomb under three different rulers Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius.
          The Italian Cornelius is mentioned positively as someone used by God to help Peter to recognize his religiously tainted prejudice and pride. This was part and parcel of the divine move to bring the Gospel to Gentiles, God's method to provoke the Jews.
          But God also used other nations to chastise the ‘apple’ of His eye, the Israelites, when they strayed from Him. God wanted His people to be a blessing to the nations. The idea of the ‘New Testament’ Church as a replacement, a spiritual Israel, is nowhere clearly taught in the Bible, but the inference is nevertheless correct that Israel is the example to the Church. The body of Christ - his Bride - should also bless the nations but there is a need for correction in its other role. The wall of separation between Jew and Gentile have been nullified, so that He could create the two, Jewish and non-Jewish, into One New Man, establishing peace (Ephesians 2:15). All followers of our Lord are challenged to willingly and gladly witness together with Messianic Jewish believers, and also be ready to be led by them.

An honoured Place for Refugees
The Bible assigns an honoured place to refugees and exiles. Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, David and Daniel, as well as many prominent figures in Church History like Amos Comenius had all been out of their home country against their will for one or another reason. Moses became a refugee and fugitive because of his choice to stand with the Israelites. The letter to the Hebrews (11:25) highlights how Moses displayed the Spirit of our Lord to prefer suffering to share in the oppression of his people, instead of enjoying the conveniences of an Egyptian prince. He was in this way a pointer to Jesus who voluntarily left the Father's glory, not counting it robbery to become man and ultimately experience the death of a criminal on the cross (Philippians 2:5ff).
         The refugee status of the baby Jesus should fill us with compassion towards all refugees. During his earthly life Jesus was so to speak homeless, only at home with his Father. In fact, already as a twelve year-old he referred to the temple as ‘my Father’s house’ (Luke 2:49). As an adult the Master replied to someone who wanted to follow him: ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58). When traders defiled the Temple, Jesus jealously guarded the sanctity of its precincts. It had to be a house of prayer. He drove the traders out because ‘… you are making it a den of robbers’ (Matthew 21:13).

An Eye for Down and Outs
Few groups in history had an eye for the potential of down and outs, the outcasts like the homeless, refugees and exiles as the compassion displayed by Count Zinzendorf in the 18th century.  The chief interest of Zinzendorf's life was the Moravian Brotherhood (Unitas Fratrum). In 1722 he gave the pitiful remnants of the Bohemian Brethren, fleeing from their homeland, asylum on his family estate of Berthelsdorf. The village that was built for them was named Herrnhut (i.e., The Lord's Protection). In 1727 the Brethren, some 300 in number, were reorganized, with Zinzendorf as their leader, becoming a new church within the general framework of Lutheranism, but with an intense sense of mission to revive the general church and to evangelize the heathen.   
        The Herrnhut congregation was banned from Saxony in 1736. The jealousy of other traders in the Wetteravia region of Germany caused them to be also driven from there as well. We should be quite aware that God can turn seemingly difficult circumstances around, to His end. I suggest that the presence of refugees should be regarded as a challenge and a chance. At any rate, they should definitely not be seen as a threat to our jobs and livelihood.

A special Place for Inexperience, for Women and Youth
The divine creation gender model was equality between male and female. The Hebrew Scriptures swam against the stream of ancient Oriental culture when they depicted how individual women like Jochebed, the mother of Moses and complete outsiders like Rahab, a pagan and a prostitute, played a special role in Jewish history. At a time when females counted for nothing, Deborah led the Israelite army (Judges 4 and 5). The teenagers Esther and Mary, the mother of Jesus, are very special in God's wisdom. This goes against the grain of our human ideas.  At the same time, the wisdom of experience and age should be appreciated and highly valued. 
         The Lord entered Jerusalem on an inexperienced colt, the foal of a donkey – not on a horse or a camel, the more fancied transport animals of the day. It is remarkable that God seems to give a special blessing to young people who are ready to go all out for him.

Foreigners as a Blessing
A phenomenon is highlighted in the Scriptures, viz. that foreigners can be a blessing to any nation if given the opportunity to do so.
         The persecuted French Huguenots of the late 17th century and the Moravian-Bohemian refugees of the early 18th century are well-documented examples of this phenomenon. God can turn around tragedy into a massive blessing to those who give refuge to followers of Jesus who had been persecuted for their faith. The Cape profited in a big way from the French Protestants who came here from 1688. The Moravian-Bohemian refugees were divinely used to usher in the modern missionary movement after Count Zinzendorf had given them refuge on his estate in 1722. That ultimately became the village of Herrnhut.
         In recent decades this also happened in the Netherlands. In the 1970s Holland was heading for a spiritual precipice. The country was deteriorating from a biblical point of view, fast resembling a spiritual desert because of liberal teachings at their theological institutions. God used special foreigners profoundly, notably the Switzerland-based American national Francis Schaeffer (via the relatively small TV station Evangelische Omroep) and Floyd McClung, the well-known American Youth with a Mission leader, who started ministering there in the 1970s. McClung linked up with a fringe minority of Dutch evangelicals. A national impact followed the Campus Crusade[12]-inspired Er is Hoop (There is Hope) campaign of the early 1980s. The big conferences for evangelists in Amsterdam of 1983, 1986 and 2000 - sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association – had a world-wide influence. Evangelists from all parts of the globe converged on the Dutch metropolis. In some cases indigenous evangelists came from remote villages which one would not even find on a map. 
         The converse also happened simultaneously. God used Hein Postma, a local Dutchman, whom I met when he was the principal of the Moravian primary school in Zeist. He challenged me when I was still very much a disgruntled anti-apartheid activist and embittered exile in Holland. That laid the foundation for the start of a local evangelistic agency, the Goed Nieuws Karavaan and the Regiogebed. This in turn had a blessed effect on South Africa via a prayer meeting on 4 October 1989. The impact of Hein Postma on me also served as a model to start Friends from Abroad at the Cape in 2006/7, a ministry to serve and equip foreigners who have been coming to our shores.

Chapter 6 Obstacles to Unity

            The apostle Paul advised: "Every Scripture is ... useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). In the first letter to the Corinthians he wrote about the wisdom of the world, which they should definitely not strive after. In the same context (1 Corinthians 1:18-21) Paul applies Isaiah 29:14, to stress how futile philosophy is: 'Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.' God would ultimately baffle and destroy the learning and wisdom of the Greeks.

Interaction between Jews and Samaritans
The rivalry between the Jews and Samaritans is found throughout the Bible. The oppression of Samaritans by the Jews has a long history, which could have been sparked or exacerbated by the refusal of Ezra, the priest, when their leaders wanted to help build the second temple. Some negative reaction would have been almost natural for any Samaritan in interaction with their oppressors, the Jews.
         There were possibly also Samaritans among the new post-Pentecost believers. Some haughtiness developed among the Gentile believers in respect of Judaism. The supposed rejection of Jews by God – because of the crucifixion of Jesus - was spread in due course. Paul, the apostle, deemed it necessary to react, admonishing the Gentile believers in Rome 11, highlighting that this ‘rejection’ was only temporary.
          Simon Magus, mentioned in Acts 8, was a Samaritan. He was disappointed when the apostles rebuked him. He hoped to get monetary gain via the abuse of Jesus’ name. He became what has been described as a heresiarch, the founder of the heretic Simonians.[13] (The Simonians worshipped Simon Magus like Zeus. He was thus a sort of god to them.) Simon Magus' successor, said to have been a certain Menander, was also a Samaritan. The Gospel of Luke in particular highlights how Jesus attempted to put things in perspective, giving the despised and rejected Samaritans a special place in the sun, advocating in this way for their inclusion.

Justin Martyr, a great Apologist?   
Second century Justin, also called the Martyr (100-165 AD), has generally been hailed in Christian circles as a great apologist. Few would regard him as heretical. However, his attitude towards Jews possibly contributed to the gradual side-lining of the nation that the Bible calls ‘the apple’ of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8). Justin Martyr recorded material which contributed significantly – albeit probably unintentionally - to what became known as 'Replacement Theology'. The learned Samaritan Justin Martyr[14] possibly did not have their side-lining in mind when he suggested that the Church had replaced Israel.
          Justin was very much a child of his day when he went overboard in his haughty intellectual arrogance. He taught that the Greek philosophers and the ‘barbarians’ such as Abraham... all who at any time ‘obeyed the same guidance, were really Christins(Walker, 1976:47).[15] Paul, the epistle writer addressed the arrogance and haughtiness of Gentiles in his letter to the Romans when he stressed that they were only grafted into the true Olive Tree, Israel. In due course the Church was nevertheless quite widely but fallaciously seen as the new Israel that replaced the Jewish nation.
The Early Church Fathers unfortunately did not always latch onto the advice of Pull to refrain from philosophical bickering. In fact, a few of them went overboard with futile debate and discussion. Tertullian, a jurist who joined the Christians of North Africa in 207 A.D., discerned very wisely that philosophy was a major culprit: ‘heresies are themselves prompted by philosophy ... After Christ Jesus we desire no subtle theories, no acute enquiries after the Gospel...’[16] Against the advice of Paul not to get involved in futile philosophical arguments, the very same Tertullian however brought the element of polemic bickering into the equation like few others before or after him. 

Semantics as a Disservice to the Church
Tertullian rendered the Church a disservice when he introduced the terms ‘trinitas’, ‘substantia’ and ‘personae’. These semantics, playing with words, was his effort to describe the Trinity, the nature of Christ and the different manifestations of God in the Son and the Holy Spirit. His terse descriptions ‘one substance but three persons’ and ‘two natures, one person’ were nice-sounding, but they basically ushered in theological polemics. It is clear that many early Christians professed both Christ and the Spirit to be divine in nature. Tertullian’s philosophical theologizing was not helpful. After the heretic Marcion – who was clearly outlawed by the Church – the lion’s share of the bickering that led to the Arian controversy and later to the unfortunate quarrels around the formulation of the Holy Trinity, has possibly to be attributed to Tertullian.
In contrast to other leaders of the first century Christian Church, Marcion declared that Christianity was in complete discontinuity with Judaism and entirely opposed to the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible). According to Marcion, the ‘god of the Greek Old Testament - the creator of the material universe whom he equated with the demiurge, a term which came from Greek philosophers like Plato  - was a jealous tribal deity of the Jews. In his view the Jewish law represents legalistic reciprocal justice, punishing mankind for its sins through suffering and represents legalistic reciprocal justice, punishing mankind for its sins through suffering and death. Contrastingly, the god that Jesus professed is an altogether different being, a universal god of compassion and love who looks upon humanity with benevolence and mercy.

Development of the Concept of the Trinity              
Judaism has a problem to regard a human being to be the Lamb of God. All the more it is interesting how the concept of the Trinity developed in the Middle East. The oral tradition of the audible voice at the baptism of Jesus and the dove descending on Jesus circulated very widely. This could have contributed greatly to the tenet of the Holy Trinity which has meagre proof in Scripture as such. God, the Father, is generally taken to be the voice speaking at Jesus' baptism. This was widely regarded as the crowning occasion of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. All four Gospels refer to the dove as the visible demonstration of the Holy Spirit descending on the Son. In the fourth Gospel we read how John the Baptist pointed to Jesus in the same context as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36). Attributes of multiple manifestations and functions of God like truth (John 7:28, Revelation 3:7 and 1 John 5:6) and goodness (Romans 2:4, Nehemiah 9:20) can be found throughout the Bible. These attributes and traits can also be traced in the behaviour of our Lord and the manifestations of people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All of this may have contributed to the concept of the Trinity. On the other hand, the stressing of the number three in the Trinity has led to some limitation of the infinite nature of God. He is after all able to reveal himself in many more ways.

Scriptural Backing for the Trinity
Taken from a position of faith, the Trinitarian formulae certainly have clout, but they have limited ‘New Testament’ backing. Ephesians 4: 4-6 speaks of ‘one Spirit… one Lord …one God and Father of all.’ In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6 Paul writes of the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God. Peter, another apostle, chips in with his words ‘the foreknowledge of God, the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:2). We find more substance in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 as evidence of the granting of spiritual gifts, different kinds of service and different kinds of expression and manifestation: '…to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good' (1 Corinthians 12:7). 'There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work'. Yet, that is rather meagre as a basis upon which to build the doctrine of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit will reveal to those people searching after truth that there are many characteristics of a triune God in which He has revealed or manifested himself when we read and study the Holy Scriptures.
          It is surely true that the Holy Spirit is much more than merely a force like electricity or the wind. In my view it is completely redundant to debate its nature. Count Zinzendorf described all this as odium theologicum, the bad smell of theology. He may have suggested rather hyperbolically however that all the essential theology can be written with large characters on one octavo sheet’ (Cited in Lewis, The ecumenical Pioneer, 1962:15), i.e. on the half of an A4 page.
Of special interest is how Messianic Jewish believers have been pointing in recent decades to the backing of the Trinity in the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Messsianic Christology, 1998) argues for the doctrine of the Trinity (along with the Incarnation and divine nature of Christ) on the basis of the fulfilled prophecies. After discussing the merits of some 30 messianic prophesies, he goes on to conclude: ‘If the concept of the Trinity is not Jewish, then neither are the Hebrew Scriptures. Jewish believers cannot be accused of having slipped into paganism when they hold to the fact that Jesus is the divine Son of God’ (Cited by Richard Harvey, Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, 2009:108). Referring to the work of Robert Raymond Fischer, Richard Harvey pointed out that also outside of the New Testament the concept of the Trinity featured in Jewish literature, e.g. in the Qumran Scrolls.

The Use of Latin
Another unwitting problematic contribution of Tertullian was his use of Latin, moving away from the practice in theological circles of using Coptic and Greek. Cyprian followed in the footsteps of his master Tertullian. Their prior training in Law may have played an important role, in contrast to the Church leaders of Egypt who wrote in Coptic, thus indigenizing the national expression of the body of Christ. The Berber Augustine also treaded the same treacherous path of Tertullian and Cyprian, weakening the North African Church tremendously. Tertullian had little apparent vision for the unity of the Body. Chadwick (1967:91) notes that Tertullian’s Apology does not merely include apologetic defence of the Christian doctrine, but alsomilitant and trenchant attack on the corruption, irrationality and political injustice of polytheistic society. This statement could still get wide approval, but Chadwick goes on to highlight that every page of Tertullian’s workis written with the joy of inflicting discomfort on his adversaries for their error and unreasonableness, but in such a manner as to embarrass his own friends and supporters. 
The doctrinal bickering of the leading North African theologians had catastrophic long term results.  The uncompromising attitude of Cyprian and Augustine led to the break with the Donatist Church. These Church Fathers can be said to have introduced denominationalism and foreign cultural elements to the Church on the African continent.

Rivalry between Alexandria and Antioch
That Jews needed the Hebrew Scriptures in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of Alexandria.  So many of them had been living for centuries. The traditional story is that Ptolemy II, the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 to 246 BC, sponsored the translation of the Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses. Subsequently, the Greek translation, the Septuagint, was in circulation among the Alexandrian Jews who were fluent in Koine Greek but not in Hebrew.
There however arose an unhealthy rivalry in the Early Church between the theological schools of Alexandria and Antioch. This is most evident in the oldest Bible manuscripts. Tracing the biblical manuscripts back to their origins, there are two geographical sources - Antioch and Alexandria.  Text types that represent a time period or location are traceable back to one of two families of manuscripts - the majority text and the minority text - the majority text originating in Antioch (Syria) and the minority text originating in Alexandria (Egypt).
The majority text from a literal point of view includes approximately 99% of the 5,000+ extant manuscripts (meaning manuscripts that are in existence today).  These manuscripts have a high level of agreement with each other.  The minority text includes the remaining less than 1% of extant manuscripts.  These manuscripts have a high level of disagreement between each other (Thus Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, by far the two principal Alexandrian manuscripts, disagree with each other in many places in the four gospels).             
There are four occurrences of Alexandria in the ‘NT, all with a negative connotation:  Two theologians who received theological training in Egypt, caused big division in the Church. Cerinthus, is known to have been a heresiarch. As we have seen, Tertullian, who is generally heralded, started semantics around the nature of Jesus that resulted in a major doctrinal rift.
By contrast, Antioch in Syria is only mentioned with positive connotations in the ‘New Testament’. It is a place from which a man of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom came, and who was appointed over church business (Acts 6:3-5). At Antioch, they also preached to the Grecians and a great number of them believed and turned unto the Lord (Acts 11:19-21). The Cypriot Barnabas was sent to Antioch and positive things resulted (Acts 11:22-24).  In Antioch the headquarters of the ‘New Testament’ Church was established.  Barnabas looked for Saul and brought him back to Antioch (Acts 11:25,26).

Religious Arrogance spread 
Upon seeing Gentiles enjoying a relationship with God, there aroused a sanctified envy among the Jews. On the other hand, as we have seen, religious arrogance was spread by the highly regarded Justin Martyr. He stressed that the nation of Israel had been ‘rejected’ by God because of their disobedience.  In Romans 11, Paul clearly stated that God did not reject the Jews totally and finally. Their limited temporary time of 'rejection' was intended to bring the Gentiles to the Father. Although the first day of the week was called ‘the Lord’s Day’, specially honoured as a day of special celebration of His Resurrection, there was still real dialogue between Christians and Jews in the second century. Justin’s record of his interaction with Trypho, a Jew, testifies to this.  
Theologians cause Confusion
The attempt to explain the deity of Jesus spread confusion. In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus condemned Nestorianism, proclaiming the pregnant Mary as theotokos, the bearer of God. After the birth of Jesus she had become the ‘Mother of God’. The Council of Chalcedon's dismissed Monophysitism, emphasizing the dual nature of Jesus – human and divine - in 451 AD. Simultaneously the effort to try and explain the Holy Trinity disseminated the blasphemous idea that the Mother of God was the third person of the Holy Trinity. Mary, with her baby Jesus, was in due course equated with the goddess Isis and her son Horus.

The Result of Semantics
The arch enemy of the Church abused semantics, such as playing with words, to sow disunity. A single letter caused the Arian controversy. Affirming the divinity of Jesus, the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) delegates turned their attention to the question of how Jesus relates to the Father. This sparked petty semantic bickering. The historian Eusebius suggested at that occasion that Jesus had a nature similar to that of the Father (homo-ousos). Bishop Athanasius, who was not invited to the proceedings, had earlier already stated that this would be a compromise which would minimize the full teaching of Christ’s divinity. The Lord was homo-ousios, of one and the same substance, not merely of similar substance. The whole discussion boiled down to a debate over the difference between the Greek words for similar and same, about the presence of the letter i of the Greek alphabet. In the extension of this debate the doctrine of our Lord's divinity, the issue of Jesus’ Sonship (of God) and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity were also drawn into the discussion. Furthermore, the stressing of the Trinity as three persons operating in unity, was not completely helpful for the understanding of the complex nature of God.

East-West Rift: the Byzantine Collapse
The theological in-fighting of the 5th century continued right into the present era. The semantic doctrinal bickering prepared the way for Islamic expansion in North Africa. The peoples in Greece and Turkey have been in conflict for millennia. About 1,500 years ago, the rivalry had a doctrinal dimension.
At these councils, the chief defenders of these theological off-shoots represented churches in the East, ranging from Assyria and Persia (Nestorians) to North Africa and Armenia (Monophysites). The situation only worsened when the Greeks attempted to subjugate the Eastern churches by seizing their monasteries and churches.
The theological bickering of the Eastern churches coincided with on-going ethnic infighting. The Persians warred with the Aramaeans, Egyptians, Armenians, and Greeks, greatly destabilizing the Christian territories' frontier with the newly Muslim land on the Arabian Peninsula. A struggle in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople between Emperor Phocas (602-10) and his general Heraclius instigated a military mutiny. Then in 632, Emperor Heraclius ordered the conversion of the Jews, which resulted in mass murder and tremendous resentment of his rule.
            All in all, there was a great deal of resentment towards the Byzantines, even among other Christians. Thus, when Islamic Bedouins began raiding Christian territories, they allied with displaced Arabs and disaffected local Christians. The Persians and Greeks dismissed these clashes as common, unsophisticated nomadic activity. But they were wrong. The first wave of jihad was underway.

Abuse of Sound Doctrine   
Sound doctrine, however, has sometimes also been abused to bind people denominationally. Even a virtue like humility can become a negative tenet if someone becomes proud of it. The follower of Jesus should display humility, but he is no door-mat. Humble submission is a virtue, but slavish servility is sinful. The believer in Jesus may assert his authority in humility, but he does not have to allow anybody to abuse him as a slave (2 Corinthians 11:20). If we have been liberated by the Son of God, we are free indeed (John 8:36). There is thus a subtle difference between biblical submission and bondage due to servility. Under the guise of submission expected by wives or congregants, Church leaders sometimes have become guilty in this regard. Those who are trampled upon in this way are however not blameless either, because a follower of Jesus should not allow himself to be brought under a yoke of slavery, under a new bondage (Galatians 5:1). After all, believers may invoke the anointing of the Holy Spirit to break every yoke of bondage (compare Isaiah 10:27). 

Religious Leaders causing Splits  
Religious leaders through the ages fell into the trap of allowing themselves to be hero‑worshipped or causing rifts (or both). Theologians would cause splits and division through a strong emphasis on some doctrinal tenet. We bear in mind that all great men have aroused the opposition of lesser minds. By way of a strong emphasis on some special doctrinal teaching or distortion of the Word, they however sometimes polarised believers, blurring the vision for the unity of the Body of Christ, causing splits instead. Many denominations started in this way. We lose out and miss the blessings that God wants to give, because He is eager to command His blessings when there is unity (compare Psalm 133:1,3).
              It is sad to see the low morals that religious leaders can display when their influence appears to be threatened. Instead of doing introspection, the Pharisees of Jesus' day started a smear campaign. And because they could not successfully hit at Jesus’ moral quality, they tried to play Him out against John, the Baptist (John 4:1ff). The aim of their endeavours was evidently to get Jesus out of the way. Is it too far-fetched to suggest that the beastly intrigue, which preceded the death of John the Baptist, had its origin with the religious leaders? From what we read in the gospels about the Baptist, he might just as well have told Herodias or Herod to their face what he thought of their incestuous marriage. But some incitement by certain leaders would also have fitted perfectly into the picture. Let’s face it: some of the things that the Master said to those Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him were not readily palatable.[17]
In South Africa many a prominent Christian leader became a victim of fame. In a subtle way the heresy of apartheid caused some believers to lose their sense of biblical priorities. Quite a few Church leaders, who started off as committed followers of Jesus, were side-tracked in the struggle against apartheid.

Chapter 7    Antidotes to Disunity

          Right from the start of His ministry, Jesus was involved with conflict. The narrative of the temptation in the desert in Matthew 4 is a high-powered confrontation between the forces of darkness that wanted to woo the Lord into a compromise, in an exchange for power. Jesus’ challenge to the fishermen to follow Him was likewise conflict-laden. The report of the changing of wine into water (John 2:1-11) contains a potential conflict of priorities between His earthly mother and His heavenly Father. Jesus' respective response demonstrated the authority, sovereignty and flexibility of Father and Son. Let us deduce some lessons from our Lord’s handling of conflict.

Mediation in a Conflict
The Master gave practical and clear teaching for mediation of a conflict. We refer especially to the prime example, Matthew 18. Sometimes pastoral counsellors forget to check out the very basic step, viz. whether the complainant had been attempting to resolve the matter by approaching the other party, the purported offender, first. The Master gave us an example how to handle such matters with the way he reprimanded Martha when she complained about the inactivity of Mary when she was running around with household chores of hospitality. He reprimanded her and commended Mary.
          Of course, it is usually not easy to confront the person who has offended you - unless one is of the type that likes to squabble and fight. Those who come to us for counsel after a break in any relationship, have to be taught to check out their assumptions. Instead of accepting any loaded or hurting information passed on as truth, a good practice and principle is to ascertain if the spirit in which the story has been conveyed, has not perhaps been distorted. How much anger and hurt can be prevented in interaction among people – also in Christian circles - if this teaching of Jesus is adhered to.
          There is of course the very real situation where the opposing party reacts indifferently or even aggressively upon personal confrontation. Jesus’ advice to take one or two witnesses along for this eventuality makes such a lot of sense. Yet, how often is this practised? The same thing applies to the next step of church discipline, viz. the exclusion from the fellowship if anyone persists with gross sinful behaviour and/or is not remorseful, refusing bluntly to mend his/her ways.
         I suggest that we take our day to day interaction as a point of reference. How does one handle conflict in a biblically responsible way? Jesus taught that it is not wise to wait on the other party to offer an apology. If you know there is some discord between you and a brother or a sister, you should just make the start to get the air cleared, starting with an apology if that is feasible and applicable. In pastoral counsel offering forgiveness must be inculcated and taught. This is also the route to be taken, even if one thinks that one's own part in the development of the rift is minimal and the other party’s guilt is gross. The biblical way is always to be the least, to serve rather than expect to be served. If there are things to be set right, we have to do it promptly and generously. (Zacchaeus was ready to return the fourfold of what he had taken from some people!! (Luke 19:8). Paul, the apostle taught along similar lines:If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18).

Sanctified Anger
An important facet of conflict management is the issue of anger. Fallaciously some Christians seem to believe that it is sinful to become angry. On the contrary, there is definitely such a thing as holy anger. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one can read how God reacted with wrath and anger because of the idolatry and sins of His people. Similarly, Jesus got really angry when He saw how the Temple was desecrated by traders. (He was clearly very much angered that the lame and the blind (Matthew 21:14), the foreigners and other proselytes that habitually visited that part of the temple precincts, had been pushed out).
          There are general cases and circumstances where we should fight the good fight (of faith) (Timothy 6.12). In Jude 1:3 we are encouraged and advised to 'contend earnestly for the faith' and 2 Peter 3:17 warns us to 'be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness'. However, if we feel inclined to whip certain people with the tongue – we should take the advice to heart that Dr David du Plessis passed on. Deducing that Jesus had been totally distraught by what he had seen in the temple, Du Plessis highlights that Jesus had wept before he went into the temple: ‘Don’t ever try to whip anybody – to reform them – until you’ve wept’ (A Man called Mr Pentecost, 1977:216).
          In the verses 9 and10 of the short epistle of 3 John, the apostle highlighted that evil people in the Church may have to be exposed. John, the apostle and beloved disciple of the Lord, is generally taken to be the author of the short epistle. He wanted to expose the arrogant behaviour of a certain Diotrephes when he would visit the fellowship. The evil-minded brother engaged in bad-mouthing others and he was refusing to welcome the brothers (the travelling missionaries). Diotrephes hindered others church members who wished to help the missionaries and he also expelled those church people who aided the missionaries. Church leaders – in fact all of us - should keep in mind the lesson of weeping first before attempting to whip anybody.
             The nature of God is such that He is swift to forgive, but ‘slow to anger and rich in steadfast love and truth’ (Exodus 34:7). In the Psalms it is repeated more than once that God is ‘slow to anger.’  At issue is how we handle our anger, or better still, how we get our anger sanctified. In fact, it would be a complete distortion of the Pauline verses (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) to say that love should cover up sinful behaviour. Paul takes it for granted that we can get angry, but we should be careful not to sin when we are angry. We are taught to rectify things and clear the air before the sun sets (Ephesians 4:26). We should guard our temper, pray for a guard to be put before our mouth (Psalm 141:3). Paul actually encourages us to actively oppose anger in our midst by not only putting off anger and other carnal traits (Colossians 3:8), but ‘instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy’ (Ephesians 4:23,24), i.e. through the sanctifying work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
          In his epistle James (1:19, 20) passed on some practical teaching in this regard: be slow to get angry. This ties in with Romans 12:2 which defines the renewing of our thoughts as a transforming process that the Holy Spirit must perform in us. Rather than a quick fix, it is a metamorphosis.[18]

Good Listening
In the same context James (1:19) taught us ‘Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak’. In all communication we have to learn to take responsibility for what we listen to, what we tell others and for our behaviour afterwards. In order to hear what someone is trying to communicate, we have to first stop talking! Anthony Lackay, a believer who was raised in the Cape township Hanover Park wrote aptly in a devotional message:
‘To make sure we've really heard the point being made, we should often stop and repeat the gist of the conversation to the person speaking to us. Especially if it is an important conversation and - a sharing of personal things and experiences, maybe an instruction to be implemented - the person is seeking counsel or a listening ear.
We need to ask questions to ascertain whether we misunderstood or missed anything important from the conversation or discussion. The person we are speaking to will also be reassured in this way that he/she had our complete and total attention. Another reason why listening to people is important for believers is that it simply means that we might have an overall listening challenge. If we struggle with listening to people, the chances are that we may be struggling to hear what God is trying to tell us too.’

Apology instead of Defence
It sounds almost too mundane and so down to earth to highlight that it is much better to offer an apology instead of defending yourself when you are wrong or made a mistake. Yet, the flesh in us does not like that. How much heat can be taken out of a conflict if the guilty party apologises. Of course, apologies should not become cheap. Nevertheless, one could rather err on this side than refuse to apologise in a stubborn attitude of ‘What have I done wrong?’

Remorseful Confession as an Important Biblical Mandate
It is my conviction that confession is one of the most important biblical mandates in countering any guilt incurred in respect of Muslims (and Jews). Next to that, forgiveness always plays an important role to set parties free who have struggled under or are living through any form of strife or conflict. Wherever restitution is needed, we should attempt to rectify our part of the guilt as promptly as possible. Apologies without evidence of remorse and serious attempts towards restitution are not good enough. It is even worse when others are blamed.
          Confession and repentance for our uncharitable and general judgmental damaging attitude of sectors of the Body of Christ is surely called for in many places all around the evangelical world. Apologies, remorseful confession and the corollary of forgiveness are indeed important antidotes to disunity.

Chapter 8 The Word unites the true Church

               The Church of the Middle Ages remained in darkness because the Word was not only obscured, but it was also hidden from the masses on purpose. Only priests were allowed to read the Bible. This was a demonic ploy, also repeated in the Orthodox Church of Greece and in the East. It was abused by the Roman Catholic Church as well as by Islam, keeping adherents in religious bondage. Judaism and its Rabbis succeeded to make suspect anything that has to do with the 'blasphemer' Jesus. Quite early in the Christian era Jewish adherents were told that the document that the Christians call the 'New Testament', was a 'forgery'. No good Jew was supposed to touch that book, let alone read it. Roman Catholicism and Islam followed this pattern, suggesting that Protestants or Christians have changed the scriptures – often without giving proper substantiation for the accusation.  (Some Catholics point to the apocryphal books that are not in the Bibles used by Protestants. It is significant that the Roman Catholic Church includes Apocrypha almost lock stock and barrel although Jerome, the translator responsible for the Vulgate, the Latin translation, had serious reservations about some of these books.)

A Power of God unto Salvation           
Paul wrote that the Gospel is a power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), but the Word had to get to the people. Even the great apostle could only be at one place at any moment. By way of contrast, in recent years we have seen how the mere translation of (parts of) the Word into the spoken language of previously unreached people groups - be it on paper or through tape cassettes, CDs and DVDs - have changed the lives of thousands dramatically. Yet, it was hardly discerned that Paul also wrote in the above verse, Romans 1:16, 'to Jews first and also to the Gentiles.'  Jesus instructed his disciples in a similar way (Compare Matthew 10 and Luke 10:1-24, if we take these events to have been sequential.) The Church down the centuries succumbed to the temptation – with a few individuals and the Moravians of the 1740s to 1770 as striking exceptions - to concentrate on easier targets than the difficult Jews (and Muslims). This only changed to some extent after the Yom Kippur War of 1973 in Israel. With regard to Muslims, significant change transpired after the Desert Storm War in 1991. Ten years of prayer, initiated internationally by Open Doors, brought exceptional results. Muslims became followers of Jesus in their thousands in the new millennium.

The Rediscovery of the Word
Any evangelism was opposed by Church authorities in the Middle Ages. Only in the early 5th century Jerome finished his Latin translation, the Vulgate. But ordinary Christians were not allowed to read the Bible for themselves. It belongs to well-known Church History that it took centuries for the Word to be translated into the vernacular of nations. Waraqah bin Naufal, the cousin of Mohammad's first wife, could have been the next person to attempt any translation at the end of the 6th century - into Arabic. There is no known record of what he actually translated before he became blind.
            Czech literature of the Middle Ages is very rich in translations of Biblical books, made from the Vulgate. During the 14th century all parts of the Bible seem to have been translated at different times and by different hands. The oldest translations are those of the Psalter. The New Testament must also have existed at that time, for according to a statement of Wycliffe, the daughter of Charles IV, received a Bohemian New Testament in 1381 upon her marrying Richard II of England.                                  It is certain that Jan Hus had the Bible in Bohemian before him as a whole and he and his successors undertook a revision of the text according to the Vulgate. The work of Hus on the Bible antedated 1412. During the 15th century the revision was continued. The first complete Bible was published at Prague in 1488 (the Prague Bible); other editions were issued at Kutná Hora in 1489, and Venice in 1506. These prints were the basis of other editions which were published from time to time.
        The rediscovery of the Word through people like Wycliffe and Luther caused a major wave of spiritual renewal in Europe. Britain's John Wycliffe was an early advocate for translation of the Bible into the common tongue. He completed his translation directly from the Latin Vulgate into vernacular English in 1384. Wycliffe also gave oversight to a hand-written translation of 150 copies of the Wycliffe Bible.
         The official Roman Catholic and Holy Roman Empire abhorrence of seeing Bibles translated into the vernacular can be derived from historic quotes: Thus Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared: 'That pestilent and most wretched John Wycliffe, of damnable memory, a child of the old devil, and himself a child and pupil of the anti-Christ...crowned his wickedness by translating the Scriptures into the mother tongue.' Henry Knighton, a contemporary Catholic historian, wrote: 'John Wycliffe translated the Gospel from Latin into the English ...made it the property of the masses and common to all and...even to women...and so the pearl of the Gospel is thrown before swine and trodden under foot and what is meant to be the jewel of the clergy has been turned into the jest of the laity...'
         The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a stiff-necked heretic, banning him on 4 May 1415. But Magister Jan Hus, teaching in Prague, had already been deeply influenced by Wycliffe's writings.  After the martyr's death of Jan Hus two months later on the fire stake on 6 July 1415, the great Hussite movement arose so to speak from the ashes, leading to the Bible translation into the Bohemian vernacular. The Hussite Reformist movement spread through Middle Europe like a simmering fire, ultimately impacting Germany's Martin Luther along with John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli of Switzerland.                                                                                                                        The Kralitz Bible is the most important Czech humanist translation of the Bible, initiated in the second half of the 16th century by clergy of the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of the Brethren). With the Unity of the Brethren a new period began for the translation of the Bible. In 1518 the New Testament appeared at Mladá Boleslav at the instance of Luke of Prague. A much better translation was made by Jan Blahoslav from the original Greek (1568). The Brethren undertook the translation of the Old Testament from the original and appointed for this work a number of scholars, who based their translation upon the Hebrew text published in the Antwerp Polyglot. The work began in 1577 and was completed in 1593, and from the place of printing, Kralice in Moravia, it is known as the Bible of Kralice (6 parts, 1579–93, containing also Blahoslav's New Testament).
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam
Desiderius Erasmus, a great scholar of Rotterdam, was deeply moved to correct the flawed Latin Vulgate. With the help of the printer John Froben, he published a Greek-Latin Parallel 'New Testament' in 1516. The Latin part was not the inferior Vulgate, but his own fresh rendering of the text from the more accurate and reliable Greek, which he had managed to collate from old Greek 'New Testament' manuscripts he had acquired. This milestone was the first non-Latin Vulgate text of the scripture to be produced in a millennium… and the first ever to come off a printing press. The 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and use the original Greek ('New Testament') and original Hebrew ('Old Testament') languages to maintain accuracy… and to translate them faithfully into the languages of the common people, whether that be English, German, or any other tongue. No sympathy for this 'illegal activity' could be expected from the Vatican of course.

Martin Luther, the great Reformer
Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was a Christian theologian and Augustinian monk whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions. 
The very special contribution of Luther to the Reformation was that he made the Word accessible to the rank-and-file German Christian.  The demands of study for academic degrees and his preparation for delivering lectures drove Martin Luther to study the Scriptures in depth. Luther immersed himself in the teachings of the Scripture and the Early Church. Slowly, terms like penance and righteousness took on new meaning.

Luther’s 95 Theses
When he nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, Luther changed the course of human history. He accused the Roman Catholic Church of heresy upon heresy. Luther's action was basically a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest. Luther's charges also directly challenged the position of the clergy regarding individual salvation. Before long, Luther’s 95 Theses of Contention were copied and published all over Europe.
            The controversy that broke loose with the publication of his 95 theses placed even more pressure on the reformer to study the Bible. This study convinced him that the Church had lost sight of several central truths.  With joy, Luther now believed and taught that salvation is a gift of God's grace, received by faith and trust in God's promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ's death on the cross. This, he believed was God's work from the beginning. He declared his intolerance regarding the Roman Church’s corruption.

Here I Stand
Luther's Protestant views were condemned as heretical by Pope Leo X in the bull Exsurge Domine in 1520. Consequently Luther was summoned to either renounce or reaffirm them at the Diet of Worms on 17 April 1521. When he appeared before the assembly, Johann von Eck, by then assistant to the Archbishop of Trier, acted as spokesman for Emperor Charles the Fifth. He presented Luther with a table filled with copies of the writings of the reformer. Eck asked Luther if he still believed what these works taught. Luther requested time to think about his answer. Granted an extension, he prayed, consulted with friends and mediators and presented himself before the Diet the next day.
When the counsellor put the same question to Luther the next day, the reformer apologized for the harsh tone of many of his writings, but said that he could not deny the majority of them or the teachings in them. Luther respectfully but boldly stated, "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
On May 25, the Emperor issued his Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther ‘vogelfrei’, an outlaw. This ban implied that persons sentenced thus were not to be granted any accommodation.

Martin Luther's Reforms
In the secluded castle Wartburg Luther subsequently translated the New Testament into German for the first time from the critical Greek 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, a text which was later called textus receptus. Luther published this German New Testament in September1522. The translation of the ‘Old Testament’ followed, yielding an entire German language Bible in 1534.
               Luther’s translation of the Bible helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther's hymns sparked the development of congregational singing in Christianity. His marriage, on 13 June 1525 to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, established the tradition of the marriage of clergy – in opposition to the celibate life-style that was taught and practised by the Roman Catholic Church.
      Martin Luther was the first person to translate and publish the Bible in the commonly-spoken dialect of the German people. Luther also befriended William Tyndale, an academic from Cambridge, giving him safe haven and assistance when Tyndale fled from England.
       God's Exile – a very special Martyr
The first Bible printed in English was illegal and the Bible translator, William Tyndale, was burned alive for the crime of translating God's Word into English. William Tyndale produced the first English translation from the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.  (Wycliffe had translated from the Latin Vulgate.) Because of the persecution and the determined campaign to burn these Bibles, few copies remained. William Tyndale was introduced to the writings of Luther and Zwingli at Cambridge University. After he got his M.A. at Oxford, Tyndale was ordained into the ministry, serving as a chaplain and tutor.
            Tyndale was shocked by the ignorance of the content of the Bible prevalent amongst the clergy. To one such cleric he declared: 'I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for the boy who drives the plough to know more of the Scriptures than you do.' After he had failed to obtain any ecclesiastical approval for his proposed translation, Tyndale went into exile to Germany. He noted that 'not only was there no room in my lord of London's palace to translate the New Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England.'
               Supported by some London merchants, Tyndale sailed in 1524 for Germany, never to return to his homeland. In Hamburg he worked on the 'New Testament', which was ready for printing by the following year. As the pages began to roll from the press in Cologne, soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire raided the printing press. Tyndale fled with as many of the pages as had been printed. Tyndale moved to Worms where the complete 'New Testament' was published the following year (1526). King Henry VIII sent out his agents to offer Tyndale a high position in his court, a safe return to England and a great salary. However, Tyndale was not willing to surrender his work as a Bible translator, theologian and preacher merely to become a propagandist for the king!
                   He became a new version of John the Baptist when he argued against divorce and specifically dared to assert that the king should remain faithful to his first wife! Tyndale maintained that Christians always have the duty to obey civil authority, except where loyalty to God is concerned. King Henry VIII's initial enthusiasm for Tyndale turned into rage. Tyndale was hereafter an outlaw both to the Roman Catholic Church and its Holy Roman Empire - and to the English kingdom!
                   In 1535 Tyndale was betrayed by a fellow Englishman, who gained his confidence only to treacherously arrange for his arrest. Tyndale was taken to the state prison in the castle of Vilvorde, near Brussels. For 500 days, he suffered in a cold, dark and damp dungeon and then on 6 October, 1536, Tyndale was taken to a stake where he was burned. His last reported words were: "Lord, open the king of England's eyes!”

Uniting Dynamite
The role of the invention of printing is paramount in the disseminating of the Word. Exactly this was the motivation of the German Johan Gutenberg. When he saw that the Christian truths were kept imprisoned in a few manuscripts, he wanted to give wings to the truth.[19]
            On the other hand, the move of the reformer Martin Luther in putting the Bible into the hand of the rank and file German has also been interpreted as the cause of the first big denominational split of the body of Christ after the schism that has resulted in the east-west divide when the eastern Orthodox Church and Rome parted ways in 1054 AD.

                           Only in the 1960s the Second Vatican Council permitted ordinary Roman Catholic Church members to read the Bible for themselves. In the 1980s we saw a mighty turning to Christ in that denomination in South America when church members were encouraged to read the Bible. This led to a substantial exit from the Roman Catholic Church and the simultaneous growth of Evangelicalism in South America.

              A similar phenomenon has been occurring in the Middle East in recent years. Every Muslim who has access to Internet can now read the Bible in his/her own language (This was preceded by ten years of prayer for the Muslim world). Thousands from their ranks have become followers of Jesus and many more Muslims are still secret believers.  (In two years more than 3,500 new refugee believers from Muslim background joined German churches, albeit that the motives may not have been pure in some cases.)

The Purpose of the Scriptures
The prophets knew that God’s Word was the vehicle to bring His rebellious and back-slidden people back to Himself. Repeatedly a promise is connected to obedience to the Word and its teachings on the one hand and punishment for disobedience on the other. Down the ages the preached Word was divinely used to call back-sliding Christians back to God and His ways.
         The purpose of the Scriptures should be stressed: guidance and correction. David exclaimed: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105) and Paul advised Timothy: "Every Scripture is ... useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).
          Paul emphasized that the Word should dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16). Of course, this does not mean that we have to imitate Ezekiel who literally seems to have eaten the scrolls (Ezekiel 3:3). It does mean however that we may be radical in our obedience to scriptural teaching. In fact, Paul encouraged us in a similar way that Christ should dwell in us and from there we must be rooted[20] and established in love (Ephesians 3:17). The Word in us has the quality of purification. Therefore John can say that whosoever remains in Christ, sins not (1 John 3:6). There is of course always the occasion of lapses, when one leaves the close communion with Christ. This is the time when the enemy loves to strike, when we are overcome by sin (Galatians 6:1). In this regard there is a definite difference between wilful sinning and accidental sinning. However, confession and the conscious refraining from sinful behaviour (Proverbs 28:13) opens a clean slate for the road of victorious living in the footsteps of the resurrected Son of God (1 John 1:9 ‘if we confess our sin …  He … will purify us from all unrighteousness’). Linked to this is the conscious communion with the Lord, connected to Him as branches to the true vine (John 15:1ff).

Semper Reformanda
Although Martin Luther caused arguably the biggest church split in history, he cannot be given the blame that Protestants later made a shibolleth,[21] a test of orthodoxy, out of his catechisms. They were intended for teaching young people the basics of the Christian faith. Luther emphasized ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est (literally it means that a reforming church should always be ready to reform and adapt), suggesting that we should never remain static in our church practices and traditions. We should always continue the process of evaluation and we always have to be ready for change and reformation. There he is on sound 'New Testament' ground. No less than our Lord himself set the standard for treating rules and regulations like traditions and rituals such as washing of hands, offerings and fasting (e.g. Mark 7:13ff, 'Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down...). Matthew Henry comments aptly on Mark 7:1ff, 'One great design of Christ's coming was, to set aside the ceremonial law; and to make way for this, he rejects the ceremonies men added to the Law... Those clean hands and that pure heart which Christ bestows on his disciples, and requires of them, are very different from the outward and superstitious forms of Pharisees of every age. Jesus reproves them for rejecting the commandment of God.'
Be functional without losing the Core
Our Lord attacked long exhibitionist prayers. Even the Sabbath Law came under scrutiny. The functionality of traditions should prevail, without losing the core. If functionality becomes convenience, the Lord may deem it fit to drive us out of our temples.  How many churches got stuck in rigid formalism and tradition! However, if we feel inclined to whip – we must keep in mind that Jesus wept before he went into the temple (Luke 19:41).
          Jesus also led the way in flexibility, getting his cue from the Father. The communion with Him gave our Lord the liberty to change the water into wine, although he initially deemed it inopportune to go public with miracles and wonders (John 2). Although his stated strategy was to stick to the House of Israel, the Lord broke his own rules by helping the Roman centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman when he discerned true faith. He challenged the norms of the society of his day by dining with the despised chief tax collector Zacchaeus and allowing a prostitute to anoint him and use her hair for drying purposes. To command a female to take the message of his resurrection was likewise surely very revolutionary for that day and age.

Chapter 11 False Alternatives

          The example of the Greek philosophers to create alternatives would impact the theology of the West deeply. One of its bad fruit was the stressing of a Bible verse, taking it out of its context. Even before he started with his ministry, the Lord was confronted with this phenomenon. When the arch fiend tempted him in the desert Jesus responded not only to a potential playing out of worship and service but he also gave the priority in His reply:  ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ (Matthew 4:10). With this slight variation of Deuteronomy 6:13 (‘Fear the Lord … and serve him only”) the Lord clearly gives the divine priority of the matter: first worship and then service. Service for God should be flowing out of reverence and worship and definitely not as a sense of duty.

The Danger of Stressing of one Bible Verse
The stressing of one verse at the expense of the full biblical revelation is not limited to the founders of sects. In a rather debatable way Martin Luther for example did this as well. The highly respected reformer possibly undermined the unity of the body of Christ through his sectarian interpretation of Romans 1:17 “but the righteous man shall live by faith.
            Tradition passed on that Martin Luther allegedly climbed ‘holy stair steps’ on his knees in 1512. As he did so, suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him: ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17. He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror. That verse apparently never lost its power upon his soul. From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy of trusting human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ. His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed to the delusions of the papacy."[8] He believed that this recollection was a prompting from the Holy Spirit, admonishing him to rely on faith alone, rather than works. This was later described as a turning point in his life. That the veracity of this account is uncertain is one thing. He however emphasized the verse in an overdrawn way - sola fide, by faith alone - putting works of faith in a rather negative light.

Faith as Work or Works of Faith?
For many centuries the 'works of faith' teaching was evidently not always understood properly. How else was it such a revolutionary experience for Martin Luther to ‘discover’ in Romans 1:17 that ‘the righteous shall live by faith alone’? We note that this Pauline verse was merely citing Habakkuk 2:4. The esteemed Luther however possibly over-interpreted Paul. Martin Luther has possibly to be given the bulk of the blame for making works of faith suspect in the process. In the extension of this concept, grace and law came to be perceived as opposites. The accusations of Jewish theologians against Paul – all too often selectively and abusively emulated by Muslim scholars – have like-wise been overdrawn. The prolific epistle writer possibly never intended to play works out against faith as Martin Luther and other theologians since him have been doing. In fact, in his beautiful song on love, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul ends with ‘Faith, hope and love... and the greatest of these is love.’ Are not love and works almost identical in this context, albeit that he attacked works in that chapter which are not motivated by love?
         From the letter that the second century Church Father Policarp wrote to the Philippians, it can be deduced that he must have known at least the bulk of the writings of the 'New Testament'. It is evident that he picked up the gist of Pauline teachings accurately when he described the relationship between faith and love (works) as follows: ‘Faith is the mother of all, it is followed by expectation (hope) whilst the love to God, Christ and the neighbour leads the way.’

A Serious Misconception
Some Christians have been led to believe that according to the Hebrew Scriptures (‘OT’), salvation is accomplished only through works. This is definitely a misconception. The Hebrew word most often translated with ‘grace’ or ‘favour’ is chen. Chuck and Karen Cohen - two Messianic Jews, i.e. followers of Jesus with a Jewish background, have clarified the meaning of chen in biblical context: the stronger coming to the help of the weaker... (The stronger) acts by a voluntary decision, though he is moved by the dependence or the request of the weaker party’ (The Roots of our Faith, p 22). An excellent example of how it works in practice is how Moses interceded for the idolatrous Israelites after the experience of the golden calf in Exodus 32. In the exchange between God and Moses the word chen is used nine times. Moses knew that it was not by any merit on the part of the Israelites that he could approach the Lord and intercede for them. It is significant that God met him on that basis, even stating that it is His divine nature to be ‘gracious’ (Exodus 34:6). Tragically, the Jewish Christians, already excluded by their fellow-countrymen because of their faith in Jesus as their Messiah, became isolated from their Gentile co-believers as they continued with the observance of Sabbaths, circumcision and other Jewish feasts. Sometimes this was mischievously interpreted by Gentile Christians, thereby unwittingly and unintentionally perpetuating the misleading perception that Jews were reducing Christ's sacrifice through these rituals and traditions.

The flawed Grace versus Law Dichotomy
Paul's distinction between Isaac as the son of the promise and Ishmael as the son of the bondwoman is unquestionably very valid, just as that between grace and law. It caused however a tragic by-product, a haughty condescending attitude towards Islam and Muslims, as well as a sickening arrogance of Western Protestants towards Roman Catholics.[22] Many Protestant theologians were taken on tow by the overdrawn teaching of Martin Luther. He created the impression that grace and law are mutually exclusive. Subsequently, some theologians have been suggesting that Torah (Law) belongs to the ‘Old Testament’ and charis (grace) to the new covenant.[23] In Galatians 5:4 Paul did of course warn against those who believed that they could be justified by faith - those legalists have fallen away from grace. That was the closest he came to propagate a so-called contradiction between law and grace.
         The flawed legalistic interpretation of Torah[24]  - with negative connotations and in contrast to the Jewish understanding of loving and protective teaching - led to a caricature. The sad part is that this construction even found its way into Bible translations. The King James version – generally regarded as one of the best English translations - fell into the trap by translating John 1:17 incorrectly. The word but is used, thereby indirectly implying that there is a contradiction between the law given by Moses and the grace and truth which came through Christ. (In the original Greek the word used is the conjunction kai; it should thus be translated as the law AND grace. The New Living Translation went even further on this treacherous path translating Romans 6:14 as follows: Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace. The context compensates only in a limited way when it says in Romans 6:15 Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!
         In spite of Paul's warning against a lackadaisical attitude towards sinning – he actually said in Romans 8 'far from it', licentiousness and even grave sin cannot be tolerated with excuses such as 'grace abounds' or 'die liefde bedek alles', (love covers everything). In so many churches remorse because of sinful practices and a clear evidence of breaking with sinful and immoral practices or life-styles are nowadays hardly required or expected. In Reformed churches the dichotomy is weakened to some extent when the law is read every Sunday in their liturgy in some form. Following Paul, the apostle, this is followed up by a pronouncement of grace. All too often, however, this amounts to an empty ritual. As a result, the perception grew in many a congregant to regard the ‘NT’ as superior to the ‘OT’. One can still hear Christians saying that the ‘OT teaches law and the ‘NT grace.

Torah merely an Educator to Faith in Christ?         
In more than one instance the Hellenist upbringing of the prodigious Paul comes through. Greek philosophic thinking loved the either/or combination. Coming from his personal experience of a legalistic interpretation of the Torah - against which our Lord protested strongly - Paul proclaimed the law to be an educator to bring one to faith in Christ. Hebrew thinking is more inclusive, wary of false alternatives. Under this influence Paul wrote to the Galatians (3:5) along similar lines with regard to the gift of the Holy Spirit: ‘... by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith.’ (Earlier we looked at the false assumption of works and faith as alternatives.) This verse, along with Galatians 3:2 could be abused to support the grace versus law argument.  Paul basically argues indeed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was not imparted to them in consequence of the observance of the Law of Moses, but in connection with a faith response to the preaching of the gospel. In his later letters to the Ephesians and the Philippians he made quite clear what is at issue: “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Faith is not of yourselves but it is instrumental to salvation. It is not your own human achievement or effort. It is the gift of God. To the Philippians (2:13) Paul wrote “…for it is GOD who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure”. God provides Christians with the willpower and motivation to please Him. The real issue here is thus not grace OR works. Neither is it grace OPPOSED to works. Nor is it grace in place of works. It is simply Grace FOLLOWED BY works.

Paul versus James
The rivalry between the respective followers of James and Paul have often been inappropriately blown up and exaggerated. Some authors have tried to suggest animosity between James and the Nazorean Christian community on the one hand and the Pauline followers of Jesus on the other hand. This is highly artificial because in his epistle James speaks twice about Jesus as the Lord and the Messiah (Christ) and in James 5:7, the author awaits the coming of the Lord. The wording is no different than Pauline equivalents.
Martin Luther also blew erringly into that horn. He even went to the extreme of calling the Epistle of James 'straw-like'.[25] Luther changed the order of the 'NT' books in his German Bible translation in such a way that the Epistle of James was moved to the back of the Bible, just before the book of Revelations. Many believers since Luther went to another extreme. Thus some evangelicals reacted in opposition to the so-called 'Social Gospel' of the early 20th century. They would over-emphasize faith, sometimes even side-lining or bad-mouthing works of compassion. No less than the Master himself showed where the priority should lie, when he said, ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His Righteousness’(Matthew 6:33). The Bible teaches the combination of faith and works, or better still, it highlights works of faith. Jesus’ example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25ff) is the prime paradigm, where the ritually and doctrinally ‘inferior’ Samaritan - in the view of Jesus’ Jewish audience - put the Levite and the Priest to shame. The probable view of the law expert, who had questioned Jesus in the context of the parable, would have been legalist. James stressed in his epistle that our faith should be derived from our works - faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26). In this passage James highlights the action of the harlot Rahab, that she was performing a deed of faith when she was still a pagan.
            It is possible that James deemed it necessary to give this correction because of an extreme interpretation of Pauline teaching. Paul possibly merely meant that works should not be abused to boast with or attempting to earn rewards with them. But he did not discard them either. In fact, 1 Corinthians 3:14 shows that he did reckon with rewards: If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. In that context however, the rewards are not material. Elsewhere Paul gives an idea what he means with the remuneration the believer should be looking at, e.g. ‘I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work’ (Philippians 4:1).  Paul thus pointed to the committed mature believers of Philippi as ‘You... my crown’. In similar vein he wrote to the Thessalonians in his first epistle (2:20) to them: ‘Indeed, you are our glory and joy.’ Nevertheless, we may take for granted that nothing we ever do for the Lord goes unrewarded. God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labour of love. It has become proverbial that the Lord is no man's debtor.

The Importance of the Quality of the Material       
In his second letter to the Corinthians the believer is challenged to aspire to be ‘transformed into his (the Lord’s) likeness’ (3:18) and in 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul writes about a crown that will last forever. The crown refers to a reward. The quality of the material used in building on the foundation Jesus Christ, was important, whether it would stand the test of fire (1 Corinthians 3). Thus believers who have been discipled well, would be the sort of reward Christians should be aiming for. At the same time, building on any other foundation than Jesus, is disqualified for any reward. Timothy Keller (Generous Justice, 2010:98) summarized the various positions of Paul and James succinctly: 'The contradiction is only apparent. While a sinner can get into relationship with God by faith only (Paul), the ultimate proof that you have saving faith is the changed life that true faith inevitably produces (James).[26]

Two Types of Christians
The side-lining of Jews had a very negative effect on Christianity. A tragic aberration set in when the Church became the establishment. The rapidity of numerical and geographical expansion of Christianity in the third century greatly accelerated the acceptance of a double ethical standard. Acute theological problems were raised by a doctrine of two types of Christians, ordinary ones and the clergy.  (Already in the first century the concept was known as the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, composed of two words, nikao meaning conquer and laos which means people.). A Nicolaitan was someone who supposedly conquered the laity, the common people. This germ was disseminated among other things in a sermon of Origen (184 -254 AD), when he spoke of an elite army that was supported by soldiers who also fought against evil but who were not involved with the actual fighting (Chadwick, 1969:176).

The State Church replacing House Churches 
The secular advantages given to the Church as a result of the Constantine military victories and the subsequent reforms had a fatal side effect. The unified State Church replaced house Churches, which were actually forbidden. This was of course far removed from the biblical idea of the unity of the Body of Christ. In the process the Church lost its prophetic power over social, cultural and pagan habits. The clergy became less dependent on God and their life-style moved further and further away from biblical standards. Thus the biblical word paroikia of which Peter, the apostle, speaks in his first epistle, meaning to be a stranger on earth, evolved to become a parish. This became almost the opposite of the original concept, but understandable in the environment of a society without money. The parish was the security of the priest.

Contextualization or Confrontation
If all issues were as straightforward as the logos/rhema debate, it would not be such a problem. (At closer examination of these translations for the original Greek word, we notice that they are used interchangeably in the 'NT').
However, there are instances where the heart of the Gospel is at stake. One such issue is the so-called contradiction of contextualization and confrontation. The ‘New Testament’ is quite clear that both have its rightful place; in fact, proper contextualisation inevitably leads to confrontation. The nature of the Gospel is that it ‘offends’ because it goes against the grain of our innate yearning for self-sufficiency.
          Improper contextualisation occurs when the adaptation to the culture goes so far that no confrontation comes about. The message of the Cross is always ‘folly’ to those who oppose the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18). On the other hand, it does not mean that the carrier of the Good News must set out on confrontation course every time he/she shares the Gospel. Jesus taught that his followers should be ‘shrewd as serpents and as innocent as the doves’ (Matthew 10:16).
            Paul became a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 9:20ff). Nevertheless, this did not eliminate the necessity of confrontation with the Romans, the Greeks or Jews. In fact, his contextualisation, going into the synagogues and sharing the Gospel from the Scriptures, more than once led to a threat to his life. Abusing contextualisation to avoid confrontation is unbiblical. Dialogue which becomes an end in itself is biblically untenable. This does not take away the necessity of sharing the Word in a way that is adapted to the culture. Ideally, sharing the Gospel respects the hearer in every way. It is sensitive to his/her special needs.

Occasional Need of Confrontation
        In no way should we condone an airy-fairy covering up of differences. Jesus used God’s Word as a prime weapon against the devil when He was attacked in the desert. But also the assistants of the arch enemy had to be opposed. Because the Lord had observed their ways meticulously and listened carefully to what they were saying, Jesus could venture into enemy territory, telling his religious opponents to their face that they were hypocritical. He gave Simon, the Pharisee, a lesson in hospitality, while he uplifted the prostitute who 'wasted' precious nard ointment to anoint him and drying his feet with her hair (Luke 7:37ff).
                   The Master furthermore spoke of ‘binding the strongman’ (Matthew 12:29). Paul wrote about ‘taking captive every thought’ (2 Corinthians 10:5), about ‘strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4) and ‘weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). The full ‘armour’ of the believer (Ephesians 6:11ff) belongs of course to the very well-known portions of Scripture which have even been taught to children in Sunday school. In traditional theology these warlike terms have generally been over-spiritualized. (This probably happened when the superficial impression could be gained that it could clash with the impression that Christians should depict the reign of the Prince of Peace.)[27]
                   In Galatians 2:11-15 it is reported how Paul criticized Peter to his face in the presence of others when he detected hypocrisy. If the actions of fellow brothers and sisters confuse young believers, it might be necessary to do the unusual thing to reprimand them publicly. Paul had been taught at the feet of the renowned Gamaliel. As a Pharisee, he thus had a head-start. But, like the Master, he dared to confront his opponents on their own turf.  In Athens he challenged the learned Greeks who were constantly debating on the Areopagus (Acts 17:16ff). In the same vein, the apostle did not beat about the bush in his condemnation of hand-made gods as idols. This made the Ephesians very nervous, causing uproar in the process. The presence of Paul and Silas caused a furore in Thessaloniki, especially when Paul spoke about Jesus as the Christ (Acts 17:1-9).
          At a time when it has become fashionable to be a modern 'revolutionary',[28] by just quietly leaving the conventional Church system, there is more than ever need for healthy confrontation. Every pastor should know why people are leaving the (sinking?) ship. Before leaving, church members should pray for a good opportunity to share their frustrations and/or disappointments in a mature and loving way. This phenomenon is simultaneously subtly fragmenting the Body of Christ – and not conducive to the transformation of communities.

Chapter 12 Two special Facilitators of Church Unity

In this chapter we discuss two special facilitators of church unity who impacted Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the renewed Moravian Church, viz. Bishop Amos Comenius and Professor August Hermann Francke (In the next chapter we will look into more detail at the ministry and legacy of the Herrnhut Moravians of the 18th century, notably how they implemented biblical principles, adapting them for their generation.) In the case of Jan Amos Comenius it was the indirectly, after he had been challenged by the Moravian and Bohemian refugees that had come to Saxony from 1721. With August Hermann Francke it was personal when Zinzendorf attended the famous boarding school in Halle, where he founded the Order of the Mustard Seed with a few fellow teenage believers.                                                               

Jan Amos Comenius - a special Exile

One of the Czech nation's most beloved sons, Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), is buried in Holland. This visionary religious leader, theologian, philosopher and educationist lived most of his life in exile, fleeing political and religious persecution in Europe. His last 14 years, among his most active and productive, were spent in Amsterdam, where he hoped to realize his project for the betterment of humanity.
[1] One of his timeless statements was: ‘[2] We are all citizens of one world, we are all of one blood. To hate a man because he was born in another country, because he speaks a different language, or because he takes a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly.
       The line between acclamation and rejection can be very thin at times. Choosing for absolute truth often makes the difference. Compromise could sometimes prevent persecution or rejection. When Bishop Comenius had received secular recognition via the invitation to become the rector and pioneer of the newly established Harvard University near Boston in the ‘New World’, he declined, preferring to stay with his small persecuted flock in Poland. Let us look more closely t the life of this true pioneer of church unity.
Comenius was the bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, the Bohemian Church of the Brethren, whose members had been were forced into exile when the Habsburgs imposed Catholicism on Bohemia. The Brethren were Calvinists and had many contacts with the Dutch Calvinist churches. In Dutch society however Comenius was better known as the author of language textbooks. In his book Orbis Sensualium Pictus (the visible world in pictures), he was one of the first to use images to teach Latin and sometimes two other vernacular languages. This was revolutionary at the time, along with his idea that all children, from both sexes and all social classes, should be educated.
But education for Comenius should serve a yet greater aim: in order to achieve worldwide peace, all of mankind needed to be re-educated. From his canal house in Amsterdam, he set about compiling and rewriting his pedagogical works, with the support of the city council, who gave him the key to the city's library. His lifetime benefactor was a rich merchant, an arms dealer. (Comenius had lost his personal library and many precious manuscripts in a fire before he fled from his previous place of exile in Poland.)According to Nicolette Mout, Professor of Modern European History at Leiden University, Comenius found the peace and time to work on what wouldbecome his lasting contribution to philosophy and pedagogy alike in Amsterdam.
His General Consultation for the Improvement of Mankind expounds his philosophical system, called pansophy, close to what we would call today "holism". Nicolette Mout: ‘Comenius thought that he could put all the knowledge, philosophy, theology, geography and history, into one system of knowledge. And that system would then be the basis for the re-education of mankind towards peace and brotherhood.’ Comenius hoped to set up in Amsterdam an international college of wise and learned men who would help bring about world peace. The Consultation remained unfinished. It was rediscovered and published only in the 20th century. Throughout his life, Comenius continued to believe that one day, he and his followers would return to their homeland.
Muslims and Jews as Followers of Jesus?
Jan Amos Comenius believed that one of the sure signs that the end of the world was near would be that Muslims and Jews would become followers of Jesus. To this end he started to translate the Bible into Turkish.
Comenius was under the impression that Muslims worshiped the same god as the Christians and that it would therefore be very easy for them to convert. He was so enthusiastic about the idea of having the Bible translated into Turkish and then seeing all the Turks convert to Christianity, that he wrote an introduction long before the translation was finish. Nicolette Mout, a Dutch historian, summarized his reasoningd: Their souls would be saved, so why not become Christians now that the end of the world was at hand? Of course, the Christian religion in his view was the best, the only true, but he thought that for Jews and Muslims it would be so much better. He was terribly well meaning. He did have a certain understanding of Islam, very biased, but nevertheless he was one of the few people who were interested in Islam at the time.
There might have been political considerations as well. The Turks were the enemies of Christianity at large but the Catholic Habsburgs occupied Bohemia. Nicolette Mout: so by getting friendly with the Turks, Comenius also hoped for Turkish political support, maybe even military support, in order to free his homeland from the Habsburgs.
At the time the Turks were seen as the enemies of the Church. The Turkish Sultan had conquered and occupied part of Europe in the Balkans, so it was quite unusual for somebody like Comenius to write about the Turks in such a friendly way. Comenius really wanted to get through to them, to communicate and impress them with the idea that they had to convert to Christianity because in this way they would also contribute to world peace. If the Turks were converted, Comenius believed, world peace would be much nearer.
Because he felt the end of times was imminent, Comenius wanted the Bible translated as quickly as possible. For this, he is believed to have received financial support from his Dutch benefactor Laurence de Geer. The translation made in Istanbul under the supervision of the Dutch Republic's learned ambassador in Istanbul was completed in 1659 but was never published. Comenius reasoned that since God is one, as taught by Moses, Jesus and his disciples, and Muhammad, and because the Qur'an is based on the Old and New Testaments, it is only right that Muslims and Christians should understand each other and live in harmony. He invited the sultan to take the Bible and read it for himself. In the end, however, the translation was deemed to be a poor one, and Comenius abandoned the project.
Even at the end of his life, this eternal optimist and untiring apostle of world peace tried to mediate in negotiations between two arch enemies: the English and the Dutch. He attended the Breda peace conference where he presented his book "the angels of peace" and called on both countries to stop fighting for supremacy in world commerce. The war continued.
True Piety of an Academic
August Hermann Francke (22 March 1663 – 8 June 1727) was a unique German. As lecturer in Leipzig he soon became popular; but the peculiarities of his teaching almost immediately aroused a violent opposition on the part of the university authorities; he was interdicted from lecturing on the ground of his alleged pietism. Prohibited from lecturing in Leipzig, Francke in 1690 found work at Erfurt as diakon of one of the city churches. Here his evangelistic fervour attracted multitudes to his preaching, including Roman Catholics, but at the same time excited the anger of his opponents.                 Francke accepted an invitation to fill the chair of Greek and oriental languages in the new University of Halle. He was also appointed pastor of Glaucha in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. He afterwards became professor of Theology. Here, for the remaining thirty-six years of his life, he held the two-fold office of pastor and professor with success.                                                    At the very outset of his labours, he had been profoundly impressed with a sense of his responsibility towards the numerous outcast children who were growing up around him in ignorance and crime. After a number of tentative plans, he resolved in 1695 to institute what is often called a "ragged school," supported by public charity. A single room was at first sufficient, but within a year it was found necessary to purchase a house, to which another was added in 1697.
In 1698 there were 100 orphans under his charge that were clothed and fed, besides 500 children who were taught as day scholars. The schools grew in importance and were later known as the Franckesche Stiftungen. The education given was strictly religious. Hebrew was included, while the Greek and Latin classics were neglected. (Where else could Count Zinzendorf have been impacted in his love for the Jews than in Halle where he attended boarding school?)                                                   A chemist, whom Francke had visited on his deathbed, bequeathed to him the recipe for compounding certain medicines, which afterwards yielded an annual income of more than $20,000, and made the institution independent. Shortly after its founding, the institution comprised an orphan asylum, a Latin school, a German (or burgher) school, and a seminary for training teachers for these establishments. Although Francke's principal aim was religious instruction, he also taught natural science, physical exercises and manual trades. He ran an apothecary's shop and, having assisted in founding the first modern Bible society, a printing press for publishing cheap copies of the Bible for mass distribution. Francke's schools provided a prototype which greatly influenced later German education.                                                                                                                                             In his university teaching Francke gave great emphasis to religion as well. Even as professor of Greek, he had given great prominence in his lectures to the study of the Scriptures; but he found a much more congenial sphere when, in 1698, he was appointed to the chair of theology. Yet his first courses of lectures in that department were readings and expositions of the Old and New Testament; and to this, as also to hermeneutics, he always attached special importance, believing that for theology a sound exegesis was the one indispensable requisite.                                                                                   Halle became a centre from which pietism became very widely disseminated throughout Germany. Under Francke's influence, Christian missionary efforts were greatly enhanced, zeal was aroused and recruits for Christian missions were gained,[5] and Halle soon also became the center for Danish-Halle Mission to India.

Chapter 13 Leadership in Humility

Ever since Peter, the apostle, was challenged to step down from his condescending attitude in obedience to the command of the Holy Spirit to enter the home of the Roman soldier Cornelius, there can be no excuse for permitting any artificial social barriers in the Church of Jesus Christ. Any effort in this regard would be tantamount to disobedience to the teaching of the Word. It has perhaps not been appreciated sufficiently that real, meaningful contact between master and servant contains the seed of radical mission work.
         Jesus himself had set the standard when he called his disciples friends, no longer servants: No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15). Paul blew into the same horn with his teaching of the broken wall and the one new man (Ephesians 2:14f). There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Obedience rather than Glamour
A sign of great personalities is that they choose suffering rather than glamour when the chips are down. At the outset of his ministry Jesus chose not to be impressed by the adulation of his Nazareth townsfolk. Instead of riding on the crest wave of praise, he swam against the stream, risking his life in the process (Luke 4:14-30). When a multitude of Jewish worshipers wanted to forcefully make Jesus their worldly King (John 6:15), he refused this praise. Instead, he left the multitude. In the same chapter it is recorded how he responded with a hard word, after which the crowd left him en masse (John 6:66). Jesus chose the road of suffering, to be ultimately crowned with thorns. His Kingdom is not of this world.
         When Peter merely faintly suggested that Jesus should escape his innocent death, the Master had to rebuke him strongly, seeing no less than satan behind this idea (Mark 8:33). Although he was the Son, the Lord had to learn obedience to the Father (Hebrews 5:8). By the time of the Gethsemane struggle he had obviously learned the lesson when he was required to empty the cup, the content of which ultimately took our Lord from the presence of His Father, so much so that he ultimately used the word forsaken. In the agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He responded thrice with ‘not my will but your will be done…’ (Mark 14:36).
        One of the most self-effacing gestures in Church History was performed by Francis of Assisi. He was asked to pray for a spastic child in an Italian village whose body was all twisted. He initially didn’t want to pray for the child because he didn’t want to receive any glory if the child was healed. After persistent pleas by the village folk, he prayed a simple prayer. The young child thereafter just ‘unwound and relaxed’.  The people were ecstatic. After five minutes they were looking for Francis because he was nowhere to be found. He believed that all glory belonged to God.
We have seen how William Tyndale refused a high position in the court of King Henry VIII, a safe return to England and a great salary to oversee his communications. However, Tyndale was not willing to surrender his work as a Bible translator, theologian and preacher merely to become a propagandist for the king!
A profound example of the principle that to follow Christ means stepping down in well-known mission history is the instance when Count Zinzendorf ‘stepped down’ to speak to the slave Anton at the occasion of the coronation of Christian VI of Denmark in 1731, after the mediation by one of his Herrnhut believers. Meaningful dialogue[29]ensued because Anton, the slave who hailed from the West Indian island St Thomas, challenged Zinzendorf, the aristocrat, in no uncertain way. The Count responded in a positive way by inviting Anton over to Herrnhut to repeat his challenge to the congregation that had been hearing repeatedly of the worldwide mission need. [30] Although the Herrnhut believers were apparently still very much in the revival mood, they needed the slave Anton to get them moving to the mission fields. What will the reaction of the more affluent South Africans be if their poorer compatriots challenge them to share their lives meaningfully in partnership, to become servants, the equivalents of slaves?[31]
          In Herrnhut the slave Anton did not mince his words. He stated clearly that any prospective missionary to St Thomas, the island in the West Indies from where he originated, should be prepared to become like one of them; the missionary candidate had to be prepared to become the equal of a slave. The Moravians of Herrnhut, through their child-like faith in Jesus, accepted the challenge spontaneously. In the next few decades they left the little village to places all over the world.
            The socializing of Count Zinzendorf with the slave Anton was definitely not an one-off occasion. This was in line with the charismata,[32] the spiritual gifts of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4. They are not only given to leaders. Moreover, it was part of Zinzendorf's life-style to converse with kings and slaves alike, whoever came across his path. For almost a decade the Count had been ‘on everyday terms with artisans and peasants’, confirming his instinctive conviction that spiritual gifts are independent of social rank (Weinlick, Count Zinzendorf, 1956:96). This was evidently part and parcel of the DNA of Moravian missionaries.

Servant Leadership
Count Zinzendorf demonstrated what servant leadership entails. Although it becomes clear from all reports that he was a dominant aristocratic figure in the fellowship, his style was not autocratic or domineering. Thus he regarded the way Friedrich Martin treated his Caribbean congregants as too strict, but Zinzendorf did not oppose him in the least (Spangenberg, 1773-75:1177). Even though he disagreed fiercely on some issues, it seems that Zinzendorf hardly ever imposed his will on others. Although he was for example very dissatisfied about a financial transaction which was enacted in his absence - and against which he protested as soon as he heard about it, the Count assisted to scratch the capital together (Spangenberg, 1773-75:1490).                                  
The Count excelled at integrating the initiatives of congregants. Centuries before cell groups were rediscovered in the 20th century, the Herrnhut congregation was divided in 56 small bands where an informal atmosphere encouraged innovation. Thus the cup of the covenant - whereby the cup would pass from hand to hand - as well as the dawn service on Easter Sunday became standard practice in the denomination as a whole (Weinlick, 1956:85). Both traditions were initiated by the group of the single brethren.                              
Zinzendorf instructed candidate missionaries to have a servant attitude:You must never try to lord over the heathen, but rather humble yourself among them, and earn their esteem through the power of the Spirit...’ How seriously they took the instructions is borne out by the fact that Matthaeus Freundlich, a first generation missionary in St Thomas, married the mulatress Rebecca, at a time when non-Whites were still called ‘Wilden’ - also in the literature of the Moravians. The missionary had to seek nothing for himself.Like the cab-horses in London, he must wear blinkers and be blind to every danger and to every snare and conceit. He must be content to suffer, to die and be forgotten’ (Lewis, The ecumenical Pioneer, 1962:92). Zinzendorf demonstrated what it means to regard the other higher than yourself. The Count praised the North American indigenous believers. In his diary the following entry is found for March 9, 1729: ‘...I spoke earnestly with our servant Christoph and was deeply humbled by his testimony concerning him­self. He is far in advance of me’ (Lewis, 1962:90).               

Teachability and Humility
It has been reported how Count Zinzendorf was getting challenged in his faith in the Holy Scriptures from a very early age. He became deeply involved with questions around the authority of God's Word from the age of seven (Beyreuther, 1962:84). Zinzendorf discovered that whosoever is prepared to face uncomfortable questions and then take a step of faith, can only grow through it spiritually. He had the courage to speak bluntly of transcription errors, of geographical and chronological mistakes in Scripture. He saw it as no major tragedy that the apostles erred in their imminent expectation of the second coming of the Lord. The Count even proceeded to say: ‘Misunderstood prophecies can and should not be defended, but they should rather be pre-empted and acknowledged’ (Cited in Beyreuther, 1962:89).      Count Zinzendorf was quite radical. He believed that the Holy Spirit can empower anybody to interpret the Word for himself according to his own capacity and circumstances. Not only the professional teacher had the right to expound Scripture, because the paraclete (The Holy Spirit) ‘will teach you everything’ (John 14:16).
            It is evident that the lessons were thoroughly learned and put into practice. John Wesley was struck by the humility of the Moravians. In his first confrontation with Moravians who were with him on a ship bound for North America, John Wesley was deeply impressed:... I had long before observed ... their behaviour... performing servile offices for the other passengers which none of the English would undertake.’Zinzendorf also taught that the leaders had to be teachable themselves. ‘Only when the ‘Amtsträger’ (clergyman) becomes a brother amongst brethren and accept from them fraternal help in comfort, encouragement, complimenting, admonishment, correction and prays with and practises brotherliness as one of them, then brotherhood is realized' (Beyreuther, Studien zur Theologie Zinzendorfs1962:193).                                
Through his example Zinzendorf inspired others. His teachability inspired noblemen and professors to go and sit at the bare feet of the potter Martin Dober. His example of putting the Kingdom first, found a following when learned men declined high academic posts.

Teaching by Example
Count Zinzendorf not only taught this, but he also displayed that he was teachable. Thus he became willing to go to Dresden in 1721, although that was really the last of the places where he wanted to serve the Lord, after the godly Magister Schwedler had spoken to him (Beyreuther, 1957:231). When Zinzendorf was offered a full-time post as one of the cabinet ministers of the Danish king, he declined, citing his commitment to Herrnhut as a reason. (Earlier he had aspired to go to Denmark.) He was willing to be employed in some lesser capacity, so that he would have time for free-lance church work. He really understood the bibli­cal injunction ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.’ His example was duly followed by other Moravians.
August Spangenberg refused an offer as professor of Theology at Jena. Arved Gradin, a prominent Swedish academic of Theology and Philology, declined the call to a professorship at Uppsala University, coming to the village of lowly Herrnhut instead. Samuel Lieberkühn who had studied Hebrew thoroughly in Halle and Jena, preferred to go and work among the Jews in Holland, rather than accepting an offer to become professor of Semitic languages in Königsberg.

The Biblical Model of Fellowship Practised
The biblical model of mutual fellowship has hardly been practised better ever than among the Moravians of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) in the ‘new world’ in the 1750s.Seldom has even the most easy service (been) executed with such holy reverence... a brother in the stable or in his manual work can ever think that he does nothing for the Saviour; whoever is faithful in the outward (things) is just as well a respectable servant of Christ as a preacher or a missionary.The joy with which they performed mundane tasks, interspersed with love feasts, was part of their DNA. Even at work they would sing. Thus Bishop Spangenberg could write: ‘In our economy the spiritual and physical fit together like the body and soul of man...’                                                                                                             
Hierarchical church structures have sadly conditioned leaders to become bosses. The dictum coined by Lord Acton (1834-1902) that 'power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely', is so true, also in religious contexts. This is however alien to the spirit of biblical servitude. Loving brotherhood (or rather siblinghood), should be the hall-mark of Church work, where the leader's endeavours should result in the empowering of the congregants.                
 The early Moravian missionaries evidently understood this very well. They discerned that ‘New Testament’ life had to be demonstrated. In the Caribbean they bought slaves free, took them into their houses and worked alongside them on the plantations (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1177). On the other hand, the Herrnhut fellowship respected the culture gender pattern of their day, whereby a distance of mutual respect had to remain intact. The sisters called each other by the familiar ‘Du’ (you) but used the polite ‘Sie’ (thou) when they addressed the brethren.
Among the males the same thing happened. But also the Bishop was not addressed with a title, but merely as brother so and so. (In fact, the Bishop's role in the Moravian Church to this day is merely that of the pastor of the clergy, without an administrative function).

Winning Sectarians over Through Love
God commands his blessing where brethren live in love and harmony (compare Psalm 133:1,3). On the other hand, the enemy of souls is therefore always on the lookout to cause disruption and disunity.              
           It is no wonder that Herrnhut received its fair share of sectarians, who quite soon converged on the village after 1722 from all geographic and spiritual directions. The practice of winning sectarians over through love eventually won the day. The refugees from Moravia refused to be drawn into religious quarrels until a separatist with the name of Krüger came to Herrnhut in 1726. He described Count Zinzendorf as the ‘beast from the Abyss’. Krüger dubbed Johann Rothe, the Lutheran pastor of the neighbouring town Berthelsdorf a false apostle. Even Christian David, the faithful pioneering refugee from Moravia, was misled. Ultimately only three brethren remained with Zinzendorf. When the Count discerned that the fiery Pastor Johann Rothe merely aggravated the situation with his sermons, he requested leave from his lawyer’s office in the city of Dresden to move to Herrnhut in April 1727. Hereafter he spoke laboriously to the erring members individually with patience and love. In public he shed heiße Träne (hot tears) because of the evident disunity.                                                

A major Conflict resolved
The big about turn came when the Count called all the inhabitants of the village Herrnhut to a public meeting on May 12, 1727. He taught them for three hours in the new statutes - the rules and regulations. Everybody who wanted to live on his property had to sign the agreement to abide by the statutes. The general tone of these statutes was significant. The brothers and sisters of Herrnhut were enjoined to live in love with the children of God in all churches. Internally, the mere critical judging of each other would be regarded as a ‘Greuel’, an abomination, to be fiercely opposed. Hediscoursed on the sole ground of salvation – without entering into the various notions which had caused confusion and division among them’ (Langton, 1956:72).   
          One after the other the members agreed until only a few stubborn separatists were left. The inhabitants were required to sign the statutes, the Manorial Injunctions and Prohibitions, promising with this act to end their sectarian quarrels, and to live in loving fellowship with Christians of all beliefs and denominations.     
          Twelve Elders were elected who had control over every department of life, and enforced the Injunctions and Prohibitions with an iron hand. All who disobeyed the laws, or conducted themselves in an unbecoming, frivolous or offensive manner, were requested to leave Herrnhut.

Small Cells of Mutual Trust                                                                             
On Sunday 9 July 1727 the tide had almost turned, but Zinzendorf was not yet completely happy. He noticed that there was still not warm mutual trust and love. Hereafter he endeavoured to meet every member of the community individually, sometimes with one other person who had their trust, discussing the respective spiritual condition of the person concerned. He sought to link them up in small groups of two, three or more from the same sex who could console, encourage and rectify each other. This was the beginning of the 'bands', by which not a single soul was left out in the cold. This developed into small cells of mutual trust where transparency prevailed.
On Wednesday 10 August the congregants went to Berthelsdorf for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, where a ‘sea of tears’ - mutual love and forgiveness - drowned the occasion. It seems as if God was only waiting for the unity to let the revival break out in force!


       Taking Critics Seriously

A major problem in Church History has been that leaders often responded to critics inappropriately. All too often these critics were either not listened to properly or Church leaders over-reacted, giving people the option to leave the fellowship if they were not satisfied.
            Count Zinzendorf was exemplary in listening even to critics of the Gospel. Although he was self-confessingly not an avid reader, he stayed a humble learner throughout his life. Erich Beyreuther, in his hey-day professor in Munich and a prominent biographer of Zinzendorf, saw the greatness of Zinzendorf amongst other things in how he would even look for help during his personal religious struggle at the work of Pierre Bayle, an eminent 17th century harsh critic of the Church.[31] It testifies of special grace that Zinzendorf could throw ‘a conciliatory light on the tragic figure of Bayle’ after the lonely fighter had bravely put forward uncomfortable views, heavily attacked thereafter (Beyreuther, 1965:233). That Zinzendorf candidly confessed that he was reading Bayle’s works as a close second to the Bible, did however not earn him acclaim. This was yet another reason for clergy of other denominations to castigate Zinzendorf.

The bad Smell of Theology    
Count Zinzendorf’s views on certain doctrinal issues - to let love prevail instead of clinging to official Church doctrine and the letter of the law - could have averted much pain if they had been taken seriously by the Church of his day (and ever since). He detested the 'bad smell of theology', stating that ‘all the essential theology can be written with large characters on one octavo sheet’ (Cited in Lewis, 1962:15), i.e. on half of an A4 page. Zinzendorf was very concerned at the development at the Herrnhut Theological Seminary during his absence in America, fearing that ‘the brethren would move away from simplicity, that their bishops would start filling the young people with learnedness’ (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1492). In one of his Fetter Lane Lectures in London, the Count made the remark that the philosophers and theologians ‘have made that which was before obscure so pitch dark that, if earlier, before hearing it explained, one did understand a little bit; now after the explanation one no longer has the slightest idea what to make of it.’ In the sentence just prior to this remark, Zinzendorf offers the reason that was so typical of him: ‘they have been intent on hunting for expressions outside of Scripture in order to expound... those passages of Scripture which they found obscure’ (Zinzendorf, Nine Lectures, 1746). The Count referred to the vain academic theological practices and exercises as odium theologicum (theological odour). 

Doctrinal Differences causing Rifts
Zinzendorf taught missionary candidates not only to refrain from getting involved in doctrinal disputes, but rather to try and diminish the differences between churches (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1272). In an age of tremendous Protestant bigotry, he wrote: 
             ‘I have been severely censured for not acknowledging the Pope to be the Antichrist, as I am sure he is not, and cannot be deemed so upon the authority of the Bible...’ In the same context the Count said ‘...Every church bearing the name of Christ... (is) to be (seen as) a congregation formed for his sake; more or less erroneous … I never will boast of it (my church) and despise others(Cited in Lewis, 1962:20).                      The people of Herrnhut caught the broad vision. They sought nothing for themselves, wanting only to be ‘used by the Lamb of God as a leaven of his unity wherever he might call them’ (Lewis, 1962:61). Utilizing the unique divinity of Jesus as Lord and shunning all other doctrinal tussles, the Moravians became the pioneers of ecumenism.


Co-operation in Missionary Endeavour

A major contribution of Zinzendorf in missionary strategy - which has often been over-looked by many ‘faith mission’ agencies at their own peril - was that he succeeded in getting other denominations to co-operate in the support of the Moravian missionary endeavours. Already in Germany he exploited the Moravian tradition of music to the full when their groups were invited to conduct ‘singstunden’ (singing hours, devotional meetings with songs around Bible verses, the daily texts, as the 'sermon') in both Reformed and Lutheran congregations. Zinzendorf’s emphasis on the Body of the Messiah was not appreciated everywhere. Committed believers nevertheless joined them from almost every denomination of the time. In England he could call on support from Anglicans, Methodist and Quakers. At the first Pennsylvania Synod of the Reformed Church the representatives of the denomination were called upon by one of their leaders to support the non-denominational Moravian work for the furtherance of the Gospel in the Americas and the West Indies. Little groups of contributors were organized in Philadelphia and New York and in the homes of many synod members (Lewis, 1962:149). Similarly, some Moravians worked alongside the Lutherans. In the teaching of Zinzendorf to his missionaries he made it clear: ‘You must not enroll your converts as members of the Moravian Church, you must be content to enroll them as Christians’ (Lewis, 1962:95). At a Moravian church conference in ‘s Heerendijk (near to Utrecht, Holland), Zinzendorf stated emphatically: ‘I cannot ... confine myself to one denomination, for the whole earth is the Lord’s and all souls are His; I am debtor to all’ (Lewis, 1962:143). As the reason for this activity, the Count expressed himself thus in 1745:For thirty years I have yearned that all may be one in the Lord’ (Nielsen, Der Toleranzgedanke bei Zinzendorf, Vol.1, 1951:44).

The Love of God as the only valid Motivation
Andrew Murray stated repeatedly: ‘The missionary problem is a personal one.’ It is not the sheer effort which will get missionaries to the fields, but the love of God personified. He allowed His Son to die for our sins. After seeing the Ecce homo painting of Christ in the museum of Düsseldorf with the challenging words,[33] the youthful Zinzendorf was deeply moved. He knelt before the painting, pleading that the Lord might ‘draw him forcefully into communion with his sufferings. He surrendered his whole life to the Lord and the Cross. His name, rank and fortune became relative. Zinzendorf was hereafter more determined than ever to give his everything in the service of the Lord. Andrew Murray took the cue from the Herrnhut Moravians:Get this burning thought of personal love for the Saviour who redeemed me’ into the hearts of Christians, and you have the most powerful incentive that can be had for missionary effort’ (Murray, The Key to the missionary Problem, 1901:44). Or in different wording:Missions was the automatic outflow and the overflow of their love for Christ. It was to satisfy Christ’s love and express their own love that they brought to Him souls that He had died for to save (Murray, 1901:158). This somehow also puts a question mark to some modern-day 'worship' services, which all too often resembles a glorified concert, with musicians amplified too much on a stage and the congregation hardly singing along. It seems to me very problematic when loving Christ is expressed vocally, but where the logical consequence - like loving outreach to the needy and spiritually lost - is conspicuous by its absence.

Zinzendorf’s Vision for Church Unity
Count Zinzendorf had a tremendous vision for the unity of the Body of Christ. He envisioned the believers around him not as a separate denomination, but as a dynamic renewal society which would serve to revitalize existing denominations and help create new work in mission areas. There are numerous churches in Pennsylvania where Moravians had started a church and school for the settlers and native Americans, and then turn it over to the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, or whatever denomination they perceived to be the strongest in that area. This also happened in other parts of the world, such as Greenland and Australia.


Ecumenicals in the biblical Mode

Count Zinzendorf has been described as the first ecumenical after the Reformation,[34] but then it should be remembered that his ecumenical theology arose from the religious experience among those who ‘have experienced the death of Jesus in their hearts’ (Lewis, 1962:15). It was a ‘heart religion’ that he preached: ‘without it, all efforts towards unity he regarded as unfounded and doomed (Lewis, 1962:15). Visser ‘t Hooft, the first General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), quoted Zinzendorf: ‘All fellowship which is only based on agreement of opinions and forms without a change of heart, is a dangerous sect’ (Visser’t Hooft, The pressure of our common calling, 1959:27).
            Zinzendorf was however for many Christians too difficult a customer. He was too unconventional, fraternizing with Roman Catholics while remaining on very friendly terms with those who are coming from the opposite doctrinal pole of the Church spectrum. Even in our day many Christians would be unhappy with someone who straddles the Church boundaries as Zinzendorf did. In my view the only persons who approached that ecumenical evangelical spirit ever since were Dr Billy Graham and Dr David du Plessis. (The Cape-born but Free State-raised South African who was dubbed ‘Mr. Pentecost’, became the instrument that God used to usher in the breaking down of the wall not only between Pentecostals and other Protestants, but also between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s.)             
Being a reconciler has never been easy. Dr Billy Graham has been fiercely criticized by evangelical leaders, notably for going to speak in Communist countries and meeting the Pope (see for example Drummond, 2001:97).

Chapter 14 The Herrnhut Moravians in Church Unity Endeavours

It seems that the Reformation did not bring major revision with regard to the use of people from all generations. The Moravians were once again exemplary; nobody was excluded. Even children had a role to play. Gifting and ability were primary so that teenagers were given leadership functions. When Melchior Nitschmann was nominated to become one of the four chief elders of the Herrnhut fellowship, Count Zinzendorf had reservations. He thought that they should not have included the teenager into the lot because of his age. The Count apparently did not know Melchior Nitschmann that well. The bare-footed youngster evidently had the trust of the congregants, demonstrating a steadfast attitude that soon enough impressed Zinzendorf (Uttendörfer and Schmidt, Die Brüder, aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Brüdergemeine, 1914:95). Anna Nitschmann was given the leadership over the single sisters although she was only fifteen (Weinlick, Count Zinzendorf, 1956:84). Eighteen single females under her leadership lived solely for the Lord. Along with Anna Nitschmann, Susanna Kühnel would be a special channel that God used in the 1727 revival among the children. In 1731 Martin Linner, a seventeen year-old, became the ‘Älteste’ - the elder - for the unmarried young men.

An independent Biblical Line
In various matters Zinzendorf took an indepen­dent line from Martin Luther, although he was deeply influenced by the great reformer. The most striking difference is perhaps their respective views on Jews. Martin Luther initially emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus, urging Christians to love all Jews for the sake of Jesus. Towards the end of his life, however, Luther wrote one of the most anti-Semitic tracts. Zinzendorf’s contemporaries from the Jewish nation regarded him as their great friend! In various other ways he demonstrated an independent spirit; he wanted to be dependent on the Lord alone. Zinzendorf did not follow the austere strict 'Busskampf' (painful struggle on conversion) of Jacob Spener, his godfather, who became known as the father of Pietism. Instead, the Herrnhut Moravians became known for their frivolity and joyous worship with lots of singing. Those Pietists, who insisted on the Bußkampf of the Halle tradition, had problems with the joyful practice of the child-like faith that the Herrnhut Moravians displayed.                                                                                                                          With regard to another accusation - that Zinzendorf strived after a unified Church - these fears were completely unfounded. The Count actually encouraged the believers to remain in their churches, to rather be the ecclesiola, little churches within the bigger Lutheran denomination (Spangenberg, 1773-1775 (1971):1462). In America the Moravians worked very closely with the Reformed Theodore Frelinghuysen, who had been there since 1720, so much so that Frelinghuysen was regarded as one of them. Of course, Zinzendorf remained a pain in the neck for all denominationalists because of his wide vision of the Body of Christ.
          The Moravian missionaries sent out from Herrnhut in the 18th century were required to fend for themselves. They received just some pocket money, together with a coffin. They were expected to be ready to die in the tropics in the service of their Saviour after a few years due to the health conditions due to the absence of medical facilities. The missionaries were required to identify fully with the slaves and indigenous people among whom they would be working. They were expected to empower the slaves and indigenous people where they brought the Gospel, without getting politically involved in skirmishes with the slave owners or local authorities.
          William Carey, who revived this missionary spirit from 1792, and the generation of missionaries that came through in the next fifty years, spread the same vision.

Moravian Inclusivity
If one considers how inclusive Count Zinzendorf and his Moravians were, we understand why they were arguably the most successful ever in the outreach to Jews. The celebration of the Singstunde (singing hour) on Saturday evening was a tradition that they had brought along from the early Herrnhut days, which they adapted from the Jewish practices, where the Sabbath starts on Friday evening. The abounding grace that went ahead of the emissaries to the ‘heathen’ nations enabled the Count to be bold enough to see the same grace at work in the christening of infants.
Count Zinzendorf took matters further, spelling it out that differences could even be used to serve towards mutual enrichment. Sigurd Nielsen, a bishop of the Moravian Church in South Africa and originally a Danish national who served for many years in the Transkei, examined the idea of tolerance in Zinzendorf's theology. He summarized the tension with the word homopoikilie, a term which expresses the unifying in diversity and the diversity in unity (Nielsen I, 1951:60).

Various Approaches
It was the rich variety of believers and the varying approaches to spread the Good News which led Zinzendorf to appreciate the various denominations: they were to him clear evidence of God’s providential care for the different temperaments and needs of His children. He thus clearly saw in this an expression of the Church radiating the multi-coloured[35] wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Within the Church of the Lord Zinzendorf distinguished various tropoi: Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist (Mennonite) and Anglican. He expected every group to retain their own identity within a multi-coloured 'rainbow' constellation.
            Nevertheless, Zinzendorf did not ride roughshod over the ecclesiastical disunity, and we should not do so either. According to him the main ecumenical task was a deep sense of repentance and need of forgiveness because the holiness and the unity of the Church had been broken by the narrowness, bigotry and pride of nominal Christianity (Lewis, 1962:108). But Zinzendorf was too far ahead of his time. The other church groups did not trust him. In fact, when he tried to create one denomination in the United States among the German speakers, Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg was specially sent from the Pietist stronghold of Halle to counter this influence. Zinzendorf was however much too ambitious and activist, organising no less than six non-denominational conferences or synods in half a year in 1742 (Praamsma, De Kerk van alle Tijden, III, 1980:125).

An accommodating View on Baptism
It is well-known how the followers of Luther persecuted the 'Anabaptists'. For four centuries the 'Anabaptists' as a group were labelled as folk who preached false doctrine and who led people into apostasy. Followers of Zwingli in Switzerland were among the first to persecute the 'Anabaptists', decreeing in 1526 that some of them should be drowned.
            During Zinzendorf's life-time the christening of infants was common and the immersion of believers was regarded as sectarian, associated with re-baptism. Yet, the Count advised Georg Schmidt in Baviaanskloof, the later Genadendal of the Cape Overberg in a letter of ordination: ‘Baptise him where you shot the rhino’. Georg Schmidt evidently understood this advice as an encouragement to baptise the new convert in the river, because one can read in his diary entry of 31stMarch, 1742: ‘Then I said to him to go and stand in the water and I baptized him.’[36] The context does not indicate whether the water was deep enough to immerse Wilhelm, but this action was already revolutionary for the time. Georg Schmidt used the precedent of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26ff) when he was challenged soon hereafter why he baptized someone at a venue outside the confines of a church building. In the same letter of ordination Zinzendorf referred to the christening of the children of believers. He thus did not take an absolute stand. The Herrnhut Moravians refrained from getting involved in divisive debates about the mode of baptism. Be it as it may, the Reformed Church clergymen both at the Cape were furious, because there was no congregation present at the Sergeant's River event at Baviaanskloof. The Cape Reformed ministers regarded this as absolutely necessary for the practice of baptism.  To interpret that the Count was playing it safe in case he could have been labelled an Anabaptist, would definitely not be applicable. He took many a life-threatening risk!

Unity on God’s Terms
Ephesians 4:4,5 (There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism...) shows nevertheless that Zinzendorf was probably too accommodating. Biblically, there is no such thing as unity at all costs. There is only unity on God’s terms. The issue of ‘one baptism’ to which Paul refers among others in the verse quoted, may bear out the above theory in the years to come. Devoid of a dramatic ‘Here I stand’ position of Baptists and Pentecostals, the Holy Spirit has brought movement on this issue which was unthinkable a decade or two ago. The loving acceptance of divergent views - allowing God to bring about the shifting of positions through his Holy Spirit - is apt to bring about more unity than heated synod discussions on doctrinal issues. (Nehemiah 3, the building of the wall, does demonstrate that different (church) groups can work towards a common goal. Various groups worked next to each other, each with a clearly defined goal within the bigger purpose: the completion of the wall around Jerusalem. Thus the Bible underscores unity in diversity.) A united front against abortion and the legalization of prostitution are issues where Bible believing Christians may even be challenged to join hands with people of other faiths. Capetonians from diverse backgrounds have been doing this when they attempted the name change of Devil's Peak. Victory on this score has however not been achieved as yet!                            
            The summersault of the Dutch Reformed Church on gay marriages in November 2016, reversing a decision of a year ago shows that even a big denomination can change views from being politically correct if Bible-based believers are prepared to do their homework in respect of prayer and action.

In Search of the Invisible Church
Count Zinzendorf looked on the one hand seriously for evidence of the 'Invisible Church', but he also deemed it a priority to work towards visible expressions of it. As he put it: 'The church cannot live on the long run from an invisible and uncommitted brotherhood’ (Beyreuther, Studien zur Theologie Zinzendorfs 1962:193).
            Zinzendorf also believed that the unity should become concrete, that believers had the task to make the Church of Christ visible. The challenge is to bring together all those who are already united in Christ in some ‘field of encounter’ (Lewis, 1962:108). All the denominations have only relative value, they could only point to the ecclesia invisibilis, the invisible church (Lewis, 1962:108). At the same time, Zinzendorf believed in ‘the manifoldness of life.’ He said for instance: ‘... souls must not be forced; we must not expect them all to be measured by the same yardstick or to share exactly the same development of inward experiences ... It is not Gospel-like to prescribe rules, methods and dispositions, or require equality of souls’ (Lewis, 1962:102).

Spirit-wrought Unity the Name of the Game
Count Zinzendorf’s desire for Church unity was influenced by the tragedy of the fragmentation of the Body of Christ. He referred to his own church as Secta Morava (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1230).  And if he may still have erred in being too accommodating, Zinzendorf made up for it by going out of his way to take differing theological positions really seriously. He succeeded in a special way with a great balancing act, succumbing neither to engage in squabbling nor by offering cheap compromises. In his activism, he was however sometimes too hasty. When he wanted to include Roman Catholics in a unifying process without clear indication that their leaders were prepared to address Mariolatry, he was definitely expecting too much from other Protestants.
Count Zinzendorf discerned that overt co-operation could never be a substitute for unity wrought by the Holy Spirit through prayer and supplication. He knew only too well that men could join in the same ‘outward ceremonies and duties of religion, but in reality deny the truth of it.’ The Count realized that we should not strive after an organic union of denominations, but work towards unity which transcends all church divisions. The ‘unity of His wounds’, of common faith in the crucified and risen Christ, will ultimately determine all other kinds of unity (Lewis, 1962:99). Therefore, it is not surprising to find the Count attacking righteousness and piety that come out of human efforts. Without the blood of Jesus they are like ‘ein beflecktes Kleid’, a stained garment (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1451). This is of course a reference to Isaiah 64:6 where human righteousness is described as filthy rags.

No Christianity without Fellowship
Zinzendorf showed by his example that his philosophy: ‘Ich statuiere kein Christentum ohne Gemeinschaft’ (I propose that there is no Christianity without fellowship), was no empty theory. It has been suggested that Zinzendorf added fellowship as a third sacrament in the Protestant Church (Lewis, 1962:66). Yet, it must be stressed that the Count did not expect fellowship to be man-made; it was a gift of the Lamb. ‘It is not so much a fellowship of kindred minds but fundamentally of kindred hearts’ (Lewis, 1962:66). It was therefore natural that he expected believers who were linked to Herrnhut to get involved with fellowship locally, wherever they lived. Although Zinzendorf broke with Pietism in many other ways around 1734, the small ecclesiolae within the bigger churches remained a part of the Moravian practice in the diaspora.

Concentration on a few dedicated Believers
The Herrnhut Moravians had a good missionary strategy, concentrating on a few dedicated believers who could work alongside the missionaries to evangelise their own people. In fact, Count Zinzendorf encouraged His missionaries to be especially on the lookout for those individuals whom the Holy Spirit had already prepared.
            Count Zinzendorf was one of the few people in Church history who really discerned the importance of this principle. He saw on the one hand the untiring will to reform of the ‘children of the world’, but on the other hand he also saw the ‘sleeping churches and their inactive congregations.’ Little has changed since then. Influenced by the principle of the ecclesiolas (small fellowships inside the big churches) of the Pietists, the Count organized the Herrnhut community in small ‘bands’ and ‘choirs’, which would of course be easier to handle. He also put a lot of emphasis on young people. He guided and nurtured them, even during conferences so that they could grow into the Church work, but he also used them for experimentation, because thus he could also stop any new endeavour more easily when it did not succeed. Following the Master, the vibrant Herrnhut church openly discussed the success of missionary ventures or the lack of it.
In recent decades the house church movement has been making great strides, notably in various Asian countries. Will the lessons derived really be heeded or are we just going to continue or - just as bad - are we going to proceed with pouring new wine into old bags, wasting the precious wine?

Utilizing Diversity of Gifts  
An important part of a personalized approach is working towards the development of latent gifts in others. Zinzendorf ‘was swift to recognize the diversity of racial and individual gifts, and from the beginning he insisted on the enlistment of native ‘Helpers’ wherever possible' (Lewis, 1962:96). The graves of native Christians from all over the world at Herrnhaag, where the Count and his retinue found refuge after their banishment from Saxony, bear witness to the fact that this idea was also put into practice.            
Special in this regard was the Count’s eschatology where he saw it as the duty of missions to bring in the ‘first fruit’, the first converts from all tribes and nations. He believed that the evangelizing by indigenous believers could hasten the Lord’s return in this way. His personal sojourn among the Indians of North America taught him to be happy and contented to see individuals come to the Lord, but also to search for those who are also fully sold out in His service. From the ranks of the nations the individuals who had been fished, were expected to take the message to their peoples. The day of using the net to catch fish (Matthew 13:47) would come. Zinzendorf thus taught what would be highlighted at the turn of the 21st century in the Church Planting Movement, where the missionary is constantly on the look-out for and praying to meet the person of peace (taken from Jesus command to the 72 disciples he had sent out two by two in Luke 10).[37]

[1] I consciously refrain from entertaining the assertion that Nicolas, one of the seven, may have got back slidden to start the sect of the Nicolaitans.
[2] From Wikipedia: schiedlich-friedlichen Gemeinschaft von judenchristlichen Gemeinden... und heidenchristlichen Gemeinden.‘
[3] Obviously the model is the house church. The hierarchical structure in the Church evolved from the Temple with High Priest etc.

[4] The Greek word here is charis, with its plural charismata, usually translated as spiritual gifts.

[5] John Stewart, a British church historian, described the work of the Assyrian-Nestorian Church in 1928 as a church on fire’.
[6] The difference between Paul and Barnabas was variously highlighted, e.g. in the fraudulent Gospel of Barnabas.

[7] Nimrod is mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 10:8-10.
[8]    Literally: Die hele Lukasevangelie is met die idee van die jubeljaar deurdrenk.
[9] In German: bewahre uns vor unseligem Grosswerden.
[10] This has especially been highlighted by Karen Armstrong in her book The Gospel According To Woman, London, 1986). It may be somewhat overdrawn what she stated, but there definitely is some validity in her statement that 'Christianity has formed Western society and Christianity has been the only major religion to hate and fear sex. Consequently it is in the West alone that women have been hated because they are sexual beings instead of merely being dominated because they are inferior chattels'. Armstrong's statement has to be disputed however because this is not true only for the West. Arab desert culture permeated Islam so much that slavery of women (and children) after subjection became me very normal.

[11] Isaiah 56:7, the verse to which Jesus refers, speaks of a house of prayer for the nations.

[12]    The name was changed to CRU because the word carries connotations to the Crusades, military conquests by European Christians intended to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslims in the 11th to 13th centuries. Also other agencies did the same notable Open Doors (started as Kruistochten) and WEC International.
[13] It is possibly not too far-fetched that Irenaus assumption that a certain Cerdo was the teacher of Marcion, the Gnostic, whose heretic teaching from around 144 AD was such a major source of Replacement Theology.
[14] His grandfather, Bacchius, had a Greek name, while his father, Priscus, bore a Latin name, which has led to speculations that his ancestors may have settled in Neapolis soon after its establishment or that they were descended from a Roman "diplomatic" community that had been sent there.
[15] In a similar way Abraham and Adam have been incorporated into the Islamic faith because of their submission to Allah.

[16] Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticum (c.200) in Bettenson, Henry S. -Documents of the Christian Church

[17] Not all Pharisees were bad people. However, it is sad that a few rotten potatoes sometimes do influence a whole bag. The 'NT' probably distorts to some extent the picture of a group of people who generally had a good reputation amongst their compatriots, comparable to the damage certain paedophilic and adulterous clergymen inflicted on the image of their profession or the distorted negative portrayal  of the role of the pastor in the average Hollywood film.

[18] The original Greek translated as “be transformed” contains the word metamorpheste.
[19]The Cape has its own version of the same phenomenon. Arnoldus Pannevis, a Dutch school teacher who came to the Mother City in 1866, noticed that the people at the Cape were speaking a language which was quite distinct from Dutch. He was driven by a passion to see the Bible translated into the language spoken by the people. However, he was met with derision for his idea to have the Bible translated into a patois, a kombuistaal. Pannevis’ plea with the British and Foreign Bible Society was flatly refused:We are by no means inclined to perpetuate jargons by printing them.’

[20] Radical is derived from radix, the Latin word for root.

[21] This is a word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword. The Gideonites used the word shibolleth as a test of pronunciation to check whether the Ephraimites could pronounce the sh sound (Judges 12:4-6).

[22] There is also a comparable haughty attitude by some Catholics towards Protestants as well, contending that the Bible which Protestants are using, has been changed.
[23] Law must not be given the sole blame for this aberration. Already in the first century Ignatius, an early Bishop of Antioch, said fallaciously in The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians (ca. 110 A.D.): ‘…For if we continue to live in accordance with Judaism, we admit that we have not received grace. For the most godly prophets lived in accordance with Christ Jesus.’
[24] The root word jarah pertains to shooting and aiming pointedly, to hit the target.

[25] The outspoken Martin Luther had no qualms to put on paper what did not suit him. He thus also declared: ‘I am so hostile to the Book of Esther that I would it did not exist.’
[26] In a commentary to the Letter of James, p. 141f, D. Moo gives a very helpful explanation of the 'contradiction'. He said with regard to justification by faith: 'James and Paul use 'justify' to refer to different things. Paul refers to the initial declaration of a sinner's innocence before God; James to the ultimate innocence pronounced over a person at the last judgement.'

[27] In his booklet The Destiny of Israel and the Church, 1992, Derek Prince wrote about three P's as spiritual warfare weapons: Proclamation (pp. 109-112), Praise (pp. 112-116) and Prayer (pp. 117-120). (Suffering under) Persecution could be added as another P. Brother Andrew expanded this significantly in 1998, devising ten strategic steps, ten P’s (prophetic, planning, persistence, preparation, presence, penetration, profiling, permanence, proclamation and power) to which he linked a prayer apiece.
[28] George Barna highlights the phenomenon of Christians who experience vibrant faith outside the walls and confines of the conventional congregational church format (Revolution, Tyndale House, 2005).
[29] I do not make any excuses for using the word dialogue, which has been maligned in some evangelical circles. There is definitely a very positive side to it.

[30] This happened for example at a prayer meeting on 10 February 1728, when Zinzendorf especially referred to distant lands - Turkey, Morocco and Greenland. Twenty six men thereafter started preparing for missionary work, although there was no immediate prospect to leave for some mission field. We note that this challenge to missions of February 1728 occurred only half a year after the widely reported revival of 13th August, 1727.
[31] In Greek the word doulos is used for both slave and servant. The basic differences between the two concepts like coercion and choice became less stark over the centuries.
[32] This is the plural form of charis (grace), given to every follower of Jesus, according to Ephesians 4:7.

[33] The painting, by Domenico Feti, was titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) and it depicted Jesus with a crown of thorns on His head. At the bottom of the picture, the artist added the inscription: This I have done for you. What have you done for Me?
[34] No less than the universally acclaimed Karl Barth called Zinzendorf not only ‘the first genuine ecumenist’, but also ‘the only genuine Christocentric of the modern age in his Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T.T. Clark, 1956, Vol. 1:683).

[35] I am alluding here to the literal translation of the words in Ephesians 3:10 that has been usually rendered with manifold wisdom of God.
[36] Georg Schmidt, Das Tagebuch und die Briefe von Georg Schmidt,(Weskaaplandse Instituut vir Historiese Navorsing, Bellville, 1981) p.344

[37] In Matthew 10 the twelve disciples had to be looking out for the 'worthy' person. It was the standard practice of Zinzendorf and the Herrnhut Moravians to send missionaries out in twos or in small teams. Georg Schmidt was the exception, sent to the Cape alone as punishment for allegedly recanting his Protestant faith during his imprisonment in order to be set free.




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