The Apostolic Spectrum
Apostles are governmental "change agents" for propelling the church forward toward rendezvous with our perfected Lord. In the age-long struggle for restoring the Lord's purest ideals for His people, different prophetic/apostolic-class figures have arisen to bring reform to their generation.
Apostolic reform occurs along a spectrum according to the ability and willingness of apostles to be true to their vision and to expand on it. I choose to call this the "Apostolic Spectrum." The universal question facing all apostles is,
"How much do I put up / cooperate with the present order in hopes of change, and how much do I challenge it directly and even separate from it to stake out a purer path?"
Complicating the question is that apostolic contemporaries have to grapple among themselves in search of a corporate answer to it. They oft can't agree where the line of action should be drawn. Some are more able or willing or illumined than others to press change further.
I have a book called The Pilgrim Church. It recounts the history of the "shadow church"—those who since the beginning refused to compromise their vision for a truer church with the artificial Greco-Roman creation that had come to be known as the church, and still is.
The shadow church always advocated for individual salvation through faith, the priesthood of the believer, a community of faith free from the corruption of state power and religious trapping, etc., etc. It never wavered in these things from generation to generation.
The book tells a particularly interesting story about Martin Luther. Everyone thinks of Luther as the Apostle of the Reformation and knows what he accomplished. But few understand the fuller apostolic spectrum of which he was only one part.
Luther, Erasmus and the Shadow Apostles
To one side of Luther in the apostolic spectrum was Erasmus. Like Luther, Erasmus felt change was needed in the church, but did not feel confrontation was the way to bring it about. He oft used satire to make his points. But nothing more. He never left the Catholic structure. The clash in attitude and approach between Luther and Erasmus is well known.
But lesser known is that, on the other side of Luther were shadow church apostles who far outdistanced Luther in their vision for church purity. When Luther began making waves, some of these apostles arranged to meet Luther. They wanted to know how far he was willing to go, and whether they could come out into the open to help him.
As powerful as Luther's testimony was however, as daring his challenge to the pope, and despite what they could agree on, the shadow apostles determined Luther was either unwilling or unable to go far enough to restore a truer church they could join and still maintain their own faithfulness to the Lord. They challenged Luther to go further, but he would not. And so, no relationship was forged. The shadow church remained in the shadows, while the visible wave moved with Luther.
Judging Those Along the Spectrum: Who Is Right?
The apostolic spectrum makes it difficult to discern faithfulness from unfaithfulness in apostolic contemporaries. To Erasmus, Luther was a misguided hothead and the shadow church was completely rebellious. To Luther, Erasmus was a compromising wimp and the shadow apostles were off-based zealots. To the shadow apostles, Luther was a wimp and Erasmus was a real compromising wimp. This variety of perceptions always appears along the spectrum of change. Each feels their perception is right. But who is to say?
We might be tempted to conclude—and usually do—that the apostle bearing God's sole approval is proven by seeing with which apostle the wave of change ultimately falls. In this case, the wave fell with Luther. He is the one remembered for what actually took place in that day. The Reformation bears His name and his music.
But to see with whom the wave falls fails to account for hidden realities in the hearts of all on the spectrum and that God is not necessarily absent from those who are not part of "the move."
For instance, though in Elijah's day the wave of change fell with him, the Lord had to remind Elijah that many other hidden ones—7000 to be exact—with whom the wave did not fall—had found His same approval. Even the Lord Jesus, upon whom the generational Wave of All Ages fell, commended an unknown contemporary who acted in His name, but was not part of His group.
And as for Luther? We know Luther went on to fail in some ways that were as detestable as the changes for which he is remembered were laudable. (Many don't realize Luther became an advocate for Jewish persecution, an advocacy that actually formed a support pillar for the 20th century Nazi holocaust!)
From historic hindsight, and knowing my own heart, I favor the shadow apostles and laud them for their purer faithfulness. Yet I can never be the final judge of any of the players. The reality that there is an apostolic spectrum along which God works shows us why we must leave to the Lord all final judgments about the directions our contemporaries take regarding change, even though what we perceive about them may affect our ability to walk with them.
Nevertheless, it still is our job as apostolic contemporaries to challenge one another to go to our limits of vision for change—to recognize and help weakness if others waver from their own vision, and to even where necessary rebuke (face to face, please!) anyone's unwillingness to change to the measure of their vision. In all cases, we must make such challenges in a right spirit, maintaining humility within our boldness.
Keeping Personal Faith
In the end, no matter where we fall on our generation's spectrum, and no matter what the others are advocating, we must be faithful to our own vision for change and obedient to the challenges for its expansion. We will not give account for the unwillingness, weakness or differences of other visionaries regarding their view toward change, even if we are right about what we perceive about their deficiencies. History and the manifest Kingdom will eventually reveal God's estimation of how we stood in our time.
Meanwhile, as we do keep personal faith and maintain bold humility toward our contemporaries, the Lord will bring each wave of historic change to pass in its perfect way toward His Return. It ultimately doesn't matter where we appear (or, as shadow apostles, don't appear) on the spectrum in our generation. It doesn't matter whether we are on the deciding wave of action in our generation or not. What matters is that we keep faith with where we've been given to stand.
"Spectrality" Precludes "Uniformity"
There are still more waves of change to come forth before rendezvous with the Lord can be realized! All of us will find ourselves on different parts of the spectrum regarding the issues and phenomena comprising each change wave. We will experience jostling. A lot of it will even be heated and messy as it was at first between Paul and Peter.
Some will be brought to the cusp of God's move while others remain in the shadows, awaiting a more perfect development they can support. Some will advocate less confrontational, adaptable change while others advocate a "clean break." And each will have to account for why they stood where they stood on the spectrum of their time.
But the plain fact is, apostolic spectrality prevents the kind of manifest uniformity we all want to see and by which we define unity. I know—we all want to see this thing called church "come together" the way it is "supposed to be." We want to see God enforce a visible oneness to where we all, as Paul says, "speak the same thing." We want a written script and contract which we can all acclaim and adhere to.
Many have even tried to create such an enforcement. (Did you know the Reformers jailed and even sentenced to death their opponents??) Yet it has never worked, except to create a fearful tyranny of conformity or else splinter people apart all the more. Perhaps we need to look in another direction for the meaning unity.
How about up?
Apprehending The Circle of Divine Eldership
I've always been intrigued by the 24 elders in Revelation. They form a complete governmental circle around the throne of God. The idea of the circle is important. No two elders have the exact same view of the Lord. Yet all see Him. And as they have all kept their vision on Him in the center, they have been brought into this manifest harmonious proximity to one another. It is a completed circular proximity that by its perfection gives them global corporate authority.
The heavenly elders didn't get to where they are by uttering the same "statement of faith." They didn't get there by copying one another. They got there, all coming from the direction of their own perspectives of the Lord, by maintaining their gaze on the Lord. It is their steadfastness of gaze on Him that attracts them into perfected governmental proximity to one another. (As A.W. Tozer always said so well, multiple pianos tuned to the same tuning fork are automatically in tune with each other.)
This circle of divine eldership teaches us something about the meaning of unity. This circle represents the complete manifestation of the kingdom we are all looking for, but it is not a unity accomplished by uniformity of directional approach. Again, no two of the elders come from the same point on the compass.
The Divine Circle and the Apostolic Spectrum
There's a relationship between today's apostolic spectrum and the eternal circle of divine eldership. The spectral nature of truth which apostles encounter generation to generation reflects the circular reality of the Lord's Eternal Truth embodied by the elders. The apostolic spectrum is just the rainbow of circular Divine Eldership "flattened out" across the ages. It's the stringing out of Eternity's "3D" Truth on the flat "2D" surface of mortal apostolic learning—a flat "map" of the Eldership globe.
This spectral learning with its end-game of global divine eldership is what the Lord ultimately envisioned when He said to his fledgling apostles, "by this shall all men know that you are my disciples." Negotiating the apostolic spectrum of flat truth toward the global truth of divine eldership is the real-most meaning of love as Christ meant it here.
As we learn how to relate to one another over our spectral apostolic issues, we are being groomed to display the coming authoritative unity of divine eldership. The apostolic spectrum is today's training ground for tomorrow's circular immortal kingdom authority. How we handle the spectrum now determines if we can ascend to the circular eldership then. The eldership circle shows us where we're headed. Apprehending the apostolic spectrum shows us how we get there.
At the last, the shakeout from all the spectral change-waves of the present age will yield the harvesting of God's perfect circular ruling eldership in the earth. Participation in this eldership will transcend the spectral issues of time over which history's waves were brought forth.
Because of this, as God's earth-side change agents, we want to strive for a measured sense of importance concerning the change we advocate now, and a measured attitude toward those who differ with us along the spectrum. We need a mix of divinely tempered zeal and the godly wisdom to discern those who are different in idea from those who are clearly deviant in spirit.
No matter the change-issue of conflict, there will likely always be someone advocating a more drastic course of change than we are, and someone advocating a less drastic course. So, let's listen with careful, prayerful hearts to what all are saying, and to the spirit from which they are saying it. Let us embrace who we can embrace where we can embrace them. And let us challenge what we must challenge.
But in all things, let's stay true to what has been given to us. Let's not be distracted by our own position relative to an actual wave ("move of God"), but stay fixated on the One Who Sits on the Throne. Eventually, our flat rainbow will yield the perfect circle of trustworthy authority.
Let the ascent continue!
Riverside, Rhode Island
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created December 10, 2005