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In this passage, Paul tells us of believers who are separated from the Head (Christ) and cheated out of their reward by going back to the rudimentary principles of the old religious system. The increase of God comes only as we denounce self-imposed religion, "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," according to the commandments and doctrines of men, and hold to the Head from whom all the body is nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments. Did you get that? Every member of Christ's body gets its nourishment as it holds to the Head, even Christ. It is then that we are all held together by joints and ligaments.

Very early on, men came in among the saints and started requiring them to hold fast to them as their head. Schisms in the body started forming immediately (See Acts 20:29-31 and 3 John 9-11). There is a great gulf fixed between the church with Christ as its Head and the church with men in command. We are bewitched and foolish if we think we can perfect by fleshly means what God has begun in the Spirit (see Galatians 3:3). He has promised us that He is not only the Author, but also the Finisher of our faith. If we have died with Christ, we have died to these basic principles of the world.

In Galatians 6:14 Paul speaks further of this deliverance. "But God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (KJ21). A look at the verses before and after this great declaration reveals that the world that Paul spoke of was the religion of his forefathers. Perhaps like no other, Paul fully embraced this vast New Covenant transition. In fact, the observant reader will take note that virtually all his epistles deal with the religion vs. faith in Christ distinction. Nothing has changed. The choice before us is to either hold to the Head from whom all the body is nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, or return to the old abstinence and appeasement-based religious order in which there is neither life nor power (see Jeremiah 2:11-13).

A Change in Leadership

Ezekiel foresaw a vital part of this New Covenant transition to be a change in leadership. Where there were many shepherds under the Old Covenant, in this New and Living Order there is now one. "And I will raise up over them one Shepherd. And He shall feed them." (Ezekiel 34:23-34). This prophecy foretold the transference of all rule and dominion to One--Christ the seed of David. The government shall be upon His shoulders. Jesus said, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16 KJV). These words of Jesus are true and binding. We twist them to our own peril! It is our responsibility to accept them and submit to them, not to twist them to fit our less radical and safer theological positions. Is there one fold or not? If so, how shall we then live? Is there one Shepherd or not? If so, there are many changes that must be made before the church starts to reflect the truth of it.

Someone said, "When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken, or cease to be honest." We have confronted individuals with the truth of the New Covenant. Some, at first, acted excited until they pondered the cost to their private ambitions and ministries. Then they rejected the truth, the New Covenant, and us. If there really is only one Head, Shepherd, Father, Master and Teacher as Jesus so clearly states, then where does that leave the paid professionals? It is one thing to be paid and another thing to sell out or be bought out. We did not say that obedience would be easy. It is usually at this very juncture that so many honestly mistaken individuals cease to be honest. Looking in the mirror and beholding what manner of men they are, they turn and conveniently forget what they saw.

When will we finally admit that no one, except Christ, is the Head of the Church and that, under this new covenant, God has no extra-favored children? The notion that God allows some to come closer to Him than others, that they might be the perpetual teachers and governors of the less enlightened, is alien to the New Covenant and ought to be equally strange to the church.

Through the course of his life, Soren Kierkegaard denounced the inequality of the clergy/laity system. "Christianity implies, unconditionally, that every man, every single individual, is equally close to God." Kierkegaard's words agree with those of the prophet Jeremiah who foresaw the day when all, from the least to the greatest, would have an equal and firsthand knowledge of God.

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days," says the LORD:"I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," says the LORD. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV. See also Hebrews 8: 8-11)

There is no room for any intermediary, other than Christ, in this great New Covenant. Just as there is only one God there is likewise only "one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5 NKJV). Where once a priest cast did the work of interceding for the rest of Israel, now God has set up a kingdom of priests, where everyone is a member of His holy priesthood. When well-intentioned men try to function as intermediaries, they undermine both the headship of Christ and the priesthood of all believers. This results in something like what the medical profession calls frozen joint syndrome. I (George) learned about this the hard way. Due to a work-related injury to my right arm, I had to keep it in a cast; immobile for several months. I had to do everything with my left arm. Soon, I began to experience pain in my right shoulder. I asked the doctor what the problem was. He told me that due to the injury to my arm and the need to keep it immobile, I had acquired a secondary problem called frozen shoulder. This problem proved to be as painful and nearly as serious as the original injury. Why? God created every joint in my body to be active. Anything else is unnatural, leading to atrophy. The equivalent of this malady occurs in the body of Christ when one member's hyperactivity causes other body members to become idle, frozen and eventually to waste away to nothing.

Ironically, the very one responsible for this problem feels it is his duty to chide the inactive members for not doing enough. Some believers are so frozen that they cannot make the most personal decisions without first getting the permission of that one member. We have seen it happen many times. One man begins to displace the Head by becoming the originator and regulator of everything. Then he displaces the other members of the body by assuming the governance of every body function and nothing is allowed to be done without either his personal blessing or else him doing most everything himself.

Christ alone is the Head from whom the whole body is joined and knit together! Everything originates from and is regulated by Him. In Him we live, move and have our being. If He is not Head of our gatherings, then we are living far beneath our collective calling and will never know the increase that is from God, nor will the world ever see a true manifestation of God's only begotten Son. Jesus interceded about this in John 17 when He said, "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them" (John 17:9-10 NKJV).

When Christians asks one another, "What church do you go to?" or "Who is your pastor (shepherd)?" what an affront this is to all that Christ came to establish and set in order! Paul could not believe the Corinthians and how they were already dividing themselves up along party lines saying, "I am of Paul, I am Apollos, or I am of Cephas (Peter)." He rebuked them and finally sums up chapter three of his first letter to them saying, "Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come--all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23 NKJV). Just what part of all are we having such a hard time with here? As we open up to the Spirit as Christ's body, all of Christ will show up in our gatherings. No one person will hog all of Him and no one will be left out.

Many Members - One Body

In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we find a crucial question regarding Christian fellowship followed by the answer. First the question, "How is it then, brethren?" Answered by, "When you come together, every one of you has a psalm, has a doctrine, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." This is how it is under this glorious New Covenant. One man cannot do all things because in this vast New Covenant, everyone has a viable part.

Let all things be done by every one unto the edification of all. Edification is what happens when every member has a part in both the giving and receiving of all spiritual things. This is how it is. This is how the body functioned nearly two thousand years ago, and if we are obedient to the Spirit, this is how our gatherings will function today. Not that we can do it ourselves. We can no more facilitate body-life through human energy than we can form a lump of dirt into the shape of a man, breath into it the breath of life and produce a walking, living, soul. The form and function seen in the book of Acts, which we Christians today are all too ready to make into a methodology, was simply divine life birthing, nurturing and bringing to fruition the corporate expression of Christ during that season in time. We cannot replicate this by conforming to a pattern. We need the life! Man cannot create life nor is he equipped to orchestrate the affairs of life. Only the Giver of Life can birth, nurture and bring to maturity that one new man that stands in the fullness of the stature of Christ. If a man attempts to set the members of the body in place and bring them to full stature, they all become replicas of him. The whole body becomes an eye, ear or nose, and the overall function is lost (see 1 Corinthians 12:17).

Once I, Michael, went to a church that was organized in "cells." The pastor had bought in a curriculum of a ministry out of Houston, Texas, that had only one ministry gift in mind, "pastoring" based on the Baptist model. He had a series of work books you had to complete starting with a sinner's prayer and going on from there. The goal was to make each person the leader of a cell of people under the pastor. It was a pyramid scheme consisting of many smaller pyramids with the man at the head office in Texas at the top.

I finally confronted the pastor and told him that in the kingdom of God, one size does not fit all. You can not fit God's people in a box any more than you can bottle the wind and release it on a hot and muggy day. All are not shepherds and there is more to bringing the saints into full maturity than saying a sinner's prayer, filling out notebooks, and attending endless meetings and training sessions.

The body of Christ consists of many unique, diverse and complimentary parts working in session, under the headship of Christ, empowered by the measure of the gift of Christ given to each one by Christ. The body is an extension on earth of Christ in heaven. This is the only Church that is living in obedience to the power and principles of the New Covenant.

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