Historical Landmarks? Ancient Boundary Stones? Or Some New Thing?
- Summary: Should we reinvent God? reinvent church? Of course not! But these damaging mentalities have infected the Lord’s Church today, as many believers abandon the Bible’s timeless, historical landmarks in favor of “some new thing”.
Acts 17:21, KJV For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.
Proverbs 22:28, NKJV Do not remove the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.
NIV: Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.
- •• The “ancient landmarks” were historically accurate and descriptive boundary stones. In the natural sense:
- • They established the borders of property.
- • They kept peace among neighbors.
- • They helped maintain an orderly society...and more.
- •• Spiritually speaking, faithfully holding to the “ancient landmarks” allows us to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). An established faith with clear definition, timeless standards, discernible boundaries, and well-defined landmarks.
- • Avoid the temptation to jump into every “new thing” that various churches are experimenting with.
- • By adhering to God’s timeless truths, his unchanging “boundary stones”, we can avoid the tragic and growing contemporary error of trying to “reinvent church”, and in some circles even to “reinvent God”!
- •• Today we will examine some of the unchanging truths, the historical landmarks, the boundary stones, upon which Jesus established His Church and continues to build it.
Pentecost! The Baptism with the Holy Spirit
Acts 1:4-5,8 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” ...  you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 2:1,4 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place...  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
- •• Pentecost! The baptism with the Holy Spirit! This was the source of the early church’s power to be witnesses to Jesus Christ.
- •• Preach and teach this. Build faith in your churches to receive this blessing today. Pray for every man, woman, teen, boy and girl in your churches to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
- •• Jesus Himself laid down this ancient landmark at what many consider to be the “birthday” of the New Testament Church. And it is still for you today, including the often-mocked but thoroughly Scriptural practice of speaking in tongues, a practice that Jesus Himself endorsed (Mark 16:17). Referring to this mighty Holy Spirit baptism, the apostle Peter said, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:39).
- •• My wife and I received this Pentecostal baptism in 1971. Our lives have never been the same, as we have consistently since then experienced the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives and in our service to Him and ministry to others.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 14:1,12,26 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy....  Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church...  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
- •• Gifts of the Spirit build up the church. They are to be “eagerly desired”. We are told to strive to excel in spiritual gifts in the churches. Over the past four decades I have witnessed thousands of legitimate manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power in spiritual gifts which served to strengthen both the churches and God’s people.
- • Healings of many sick bodies by the gifts of healing
- • Precise, detailed words of knowledge that built faith in people to receive the needed answers from God
- • Revelations that gave precise and needed insight
- • Supernatural words of wisdom that offered guidance beyond the limits of intellectual reasoning
- • Discerning of spirits that exposed the devil’s presence and his strategies
- • I have seen these and hundreds upon hundreds more demonstrations of the Holy Ghost and power (1 Corin. 2:4). The net effect was a profound strengthening both of the churches and of God’s people.
- •• 21st-century people are deluged with words. We have talk radio, blaring TVs, iPods, cell phones, words, words, words. But people need to see God’s power.
- • The apostle Paul’s preaching and teaching were made effective by God’s power — “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). Which brings us to our next “ancient landmark”.
Pentecostal Churches, Not Power-deprived “Evangelical” Churches
1 Corinthians 14:26 When you [the church] come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
- •• The “pattern” New Testament church service included word, worship, AND gifts of the Holy Spirit, not just word and worship.
- •• 1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts.
- • I heard of one anticharismatic preacher saying, “You can have your gifts [1 Cor. 12], I’ll take love” [1 Cor. 13]. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 (spiritual gifts and love), because the inspired apostle summarized both chapters in his opening verse of 1 Corinthians 14: Follow the way of love AND eagerly desire spiritual gifts. God’s formula is love AND spiritual gifts, not just one or the other.
Luke 24:48-49 You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.
- •• Jesus Christ did not inaugurate Christianity with an “evangelical” church in Jerusalem. His apostles and disciples had been well trained in the Word of God. Jesus Himself had trained them for three and a half years. But a church strong in the Word was not enough, according to Jesus. They needed Pentecost’s “power from on high”. So Jesus forbade them from going out in further ministry “until [they] had been clothed with power from on high”. And that power came some days later at Pentecost. Then they began their dynamic public ministries — preaching and teaching the Word, which Jesus powerfully confirmed from heaven with signs, wonders, healings, and miracles (Mark 16:19-20).
- •• The apostle Paul understood this well. He founded powerful, Spirit-filled, Pentecostal churches. He reminded the Thessalonian church of this: “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost” (1 Thess. 1:5, KJV).
- •• Hundreds of examples could be given. One that stands out in my recollection was a church service I was attending in Alaska in the 1970s. A brother stepped forth from the choir during the worship time and said, “God has shown me that someone came to church today needing to be saved. And you know who you are, because before coming to church today you drank two beers!” A man in the front row raised his hand in astonishment, acknowledging that he was that two-beer-drinker. Some of the church's elders took him out to counsel and pray with him as he accepted the Lord’s salvation. This blessing happened because the brother in the choir heard a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit (about the two beers), which was information unknown to him in the natural. This demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power led to the immediate salvation of the man in the front row.
- •• That is the kind of power we need manifested in our churches today, so that men’s and women’s “faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:5).
Exodus 15:26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
Matthew 8:16 [Jesus...] healed all the sick.
Matthew 12:15 He healed all their sick.
- •• And Jesus is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus still heals the sick today.
- •• My wife has several powerful healing testimonies in her life. Perhaps the most dramatic was God’s supernatural healing of her years of barrenness due to a medically diagnosed infertility condition. After six years of childlessness in our marriage, a woman in our church came to me and my wife with a revelation that God had given her for my wife. It was: “Your barren days are over!” And just as the Lord had spoken through this woman’s revelation, the very next year my wife gave birth to our first child. In subsequent years, she bore us three more children, spectacularly illustrating the Lord’s marvelous healing power. Postscript: All four of our children are now adults, all actively serving the Lord. God is good!
- •• Don’t let this ancient landmark gradually slip out of your churches. Continue to do as one good brother once said, “I simply preached faith in the Lord, and people got healed.” I have been personally convinced for many years that it will take the manifestations of divine healing to reach our modern world for the Lord.
The Biblical Model of the Family
Ephesians 5:25,22; 6:1 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord... [6:1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
- •• God made a family in Eden (Adam and Eve, then children).
- •• We need families to be central in our lives and in society today — happy, fulfilling marriages ... loving, leading husbands ... gracious, submitted wives ... well-trained, faith-filled children.
- •• We need to return to God’s definition of the family and of the roles He has established to make the family healthy. As the family goes, so will our nations go. But sadly, the biblical family is one of the bedrock traditional values being cast aside today and being replaced by man's substitutes.
1 Timothy 2:11-14 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
- •• The oxymoron called the “Christian Feminist” movement has branded this ancient landmark as out of date, as out of sync with the modern “liberation” of women. But God’s Word is not redefined by changing cultures. God’s Word and His Church should shape the culture, not be shaped by it.
- •• I have written in detail elsewhere about several aspects of this subject of men’s and women’s roles. The godly, virtuous woman is revealed and extolled in Scriptures. And a wide variety of women’s ministries is likewise spelled out in the bible. However, the roles of leading churches and preaching and teaching to the mixed congregation of men and women are specifically reserved to men by the word of the Lord. The current trend of many churches to practice the ordination of women to the ministry is a violation of the timeless historical landmark spelled out in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, and elsewhere in Scripture.
Ephesians 4:11, KJV And he [Jesus] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
- •• Today most ministers are called “pastor”. But in the early Church that Jesus placed on earth, there were five ministries given for the perfecting of the saints, not just one. And all five, including contemporary apostles and prophets, are to be present in and ministering in the churches “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, KJV).
- •• Thankfully, in recent decades in the body of Christ worldwide, the full fivefold ministry has come to be increasingly accepted. This is a positive event and a return to one of the early church’s most important ancient landmarks.
Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- •• This speaks of “body ministry”, varied gifts distributed in different measure by the Holy Spirit to the Lord’s people. To one, prophecy. To another, gifts of healing. To another, leadership gifts. To yet another, teaching gifts, and so forth with the wide range of gifts and ministries listed in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, and other verses.
- •• The apostle Paul wrote that, “as each part does its work”, the whole body will grow and increase. Every Christian has a place and a part in the work of the Lord!
Gathering for Prayer
Acts 12:5, 12 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him....  [Miraculously released from jail], he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
- •• Corporate prayer! In the church I was part of in the 1970s, we would see several hundred of the saints gathered for a half-hour of preservice prayer every Sunday morning. The services that followed were consistently energized and blessed by that corporate prayer effort beforehand. Gatherings for prayer before the midweek services had a similar powerful impact on the church services that followed.
- •• The Jerusalem church was gathered and interceding for Peter’s need. Luke wrote that “many people had gathered and were praying”. May we see a return to that ancient landmark in our time!
Keep Scattering Seed (God’s Word and God’s People)
Luke 8:11 The seed is the word of God.
Matthew 13:38 The good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom — that is, God's people.
- •• Preach, teach, and share God’s Word, the Bible. It is the word that will change people’s lives, not programs designed to make church more palatable to the culture of the day.
- •• Be willing to send people and to plant churches. The Antioch church (Acts 13:1-4) sent out two of their five ministry leaders, Barnabas and Paul. The result? Multiple churches were planted around the Mediterranean Basin.
- • The Anchorage, Alaska, church I have been affiliated with for 37 years has sent out 1,200 people to plant over 70 churches. Pastor/apostle Dick Benjamin took very seriously the Lord’s injunction to scatter the good seed of people. And those seed-saints multiplied greatly in the various fields in which they were sown.
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
- •• Grace is not looseness! It is not freedom to do as you please. Yes, it is a marvelous expression of God’s mercy and unmerited favor.
- • But grace also has an instructive, disciplinary side. "...Grace ... teaches us to say “No!” to ungodliness." It instructs us to live godly lives.
- • The modern church needs a major resurrection of the clear, simple ancient landmark of Christlike holiness.
- • Some have mockingly asked, “Are you one of those ‘holiness’ churches?” An appropriate and biblical reply to that intended put-down is, “What’s wrong with trying to live holy lives?” God the Father is holy; Jesus is holy; His Spirit is called the “Holy” Spirit. He commands His people to “be holy, because I [God] am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians that we are “called to be holy” (1 Corin. 1:2). May the Lord reestablish His people in a diligent pursuit of the ancient landmark of biblical holiness.
- •• We can be “current” and relevant without forsaking unchanging biblical truths. And we have looked today at some timeless truths, some “ancient landmarks”, that will expand the kingdom of God today just as they did in the first century.
- •• Proven historical landmarks don’t change with time and cultural shifts.
- • Malachi 3:6, KJV I am the LORD, I change not...
- • James 1:17 ...the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
- • Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
- • We don’t need to reinvent God.
- • And we don’t need to reinvent “church”.
- •• What we do need to do is to embrace God’s unchanging New Testament pattern and (Jude 3) to live out and “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints”.
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