|- Ray Prinzing -
"I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Matthew 16:18].
"My heart is inditing a good matter." [Psalm 45:1]. The upsurge of the Spirit within produces a positive declaration of the triumph and victory of our God in the progressive unfolding and outworking of His plan of the ages. There is no defeat in God, no retreating, no temporary stagnation, no humilating frustration or confusion. Even what seems, to the natural view, to be a momentary "loss," yet even this is actually a triumph, for He sows the seeds of gain in loss itself, and works all things together into good, until we bow to worship Him, declaring, "HE DOETH ALL THINGS WELL."
There is a tremendous contrast between the views of the natural oriented mind, and the vision which the Holy Spirit imparts. Again and again we hear how the church is weak, fading, emaciated, and very impotent. Then the cure for all of this is laid to the charge of the people who must fast and pray more, and work harder to build the kingdom. And to such a view, we simply answer, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." [Matthew 22:29]. Gladly do we turn away from the humanistic analysis, to behold again that glorious vision quickened and inspired by the Spirit of God, as revealed in His precious Word.
As often stated, the Greek word for "church" means CALLED OUT, coming from the two parts "ek" meaning "out of", and "klessia" meaning "to be called". Obviously there are degrees and dimensions in this calling out, as the Spirit sovereignly deals with each individual, and there are some not dealt with at all today, for it is written, "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." [Isaiah 6:10]. For the Lord, in His marvellous plan of the ages, "hath concluded (shut up) them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all." [Romans 11:32]. Having purposed that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order." [1 Cor. 15:22-23].
Thus, GOD CALLS, leading forth His remnant, His first fruits company, calling them out of the world, out of the servitude of the flesh and self, out of the entanglements of religious systems and bondages, into a vital union with Christ. With all His calling there is a PROCESSING, and many levels of operation in that process, each one being dealt with according to God's plan and purpose for them, and the position they shall eventually fill in His outworking of redemption. It is also written, "Many be called, but few chosen." [Matthew 20: 16]. It is very interesting to note that the scriptural usage of the word "chosen" means TO BE CHOSEN AFTER TESTING. God elects, lays out, and apprehends unto Himself as He cans, purifies, and brings forth a remnant who meet His specifications.
In an of our considerations of the "CHURCH", in its calling and building, there is one fact that should always be kept foremost in our thinking, namely, that Jesus declared, "I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH." The entire work of building is HIS, and if we are in some small way allowed to be "labourers together" with God in this operation, yet HE REMAINS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS BUILDING. There is no need to condemn one another, nor to criticize what God is doing. If we see any present imperfections and lacks, commit them to God, for God knows His work far better than we do, and how dare "the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?" [Isaiah 45:9]. It is because we fall back into that realm of judging after the flesh, and measuring according to our own pre-conceived ideas and standards, but God is building and bringing forth His own true church, and they win an measure up to His standard, and be found to His praise. Perhaps when we look on the outward appearance of people we do not see this, for by the very nature of the case these are God's hidden ones. But in the hour of His revelation, and theirs, they shall be revealed, clothed upon with His glory.
It is also significant to note that this is not just a "hurry-up" work which the Lord is doing, but that patient outworking of a plan which began before the ages, which is being executed during the ages, and at the age of the ages will totally redound to His glory. Even in the matter of our being called and chosen, while this has a present tense out-working, as we hear the call, the Spirit moves within, the progress is made, and the AFTER-TESTING approval is given yet it is all accomplished in perfect harmony with God's pre-ordained plan for each of us. "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethern. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified." [Romans 8:29-30].
A strong, repeated emphasis is needed to impress upon our consciousness the fact that this is GOD'S WORK. The Scriptures abound with the positive statements of "I WILL" do this or that, for it is His doing, and we are "HIS WORK-MANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." [Ephesians 2:10].
One cannot place this calling upon themselves, but the, Holy Spirit sovereignly moves and calls according to the will of God. "Even so, in order further to carry out God's purpose of selection (election, choice), which depends not on works or what man can do, but on Him Who calls them." [Romans 9 :11, Amplified].
"I have commanded My sanctified ones, I have also called My mighty ones for Mine anger, even them that rejoice in My highness." [Isaiah 13:3].
"Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generation from the beginning? I the Lord, the First, and the Last; I am He." [Isaiah 41:1].
"And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people, and the things that are coming, and shall come..." [Isaiah 44:7].
"Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together." [Isaiah 48:13]
There are great numbers of such verses, but these will suffice to carry out the message-IT IS GOD WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS CALLED OUT, His church. Those whom He calls out of the world, those whom He calls out of servitude to self, those whom He calls out of religious Babylon and leads into the wilderness for their preparation, they are HIS. They are not left alone to wander into some pit, or fall into a snare, but He also makes it plain, "I WILL INSTRUCT THEE and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I WILL GUIDE THEE with Mine eyes." [Psalm 32:8]. God has not forsaken His own, nor even left them "comfortless", but "He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." [Job 23:10].
Suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the fiery trial, and we wonder how we arrived to such a state, and so we try to get people to help pray us out of it, not knowing that GOD LED US INTO IT, and we are still His workmanship, and He declares, "Behold, I HAVE REFINED THEE, but not with silver: I HAVE CHOSEN THEE in the furnace of affliction." The natural man looks to see, and inquires, where is such a one? where are these perfected ones? And then as if in answer to them, there are those who proclaim themselves to be manifested as the sons of God, even though their state of being belies their profession. But those who see with the eye of the Spirit are able to say with the writer:
Do you hear them coming, brother,-
Thronging up the steeps of light,
Clad in glorious shining garments,
Blood-washed, garments pure and white.
"Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb."
GOD-CALLED, GOD-REFINED, GOD-TAUGHT, GOD-GUIDED, truly they are His people, and shall be found to His praise.
In order to align our understanding to such a positive outlook regarding the CHURCH TRIUMPHANT, it is essential that we are purged from the frustrating confusion which results from the idea that "local gatherings" constitute THE CHURCH. Paul never, in all of his epistles, gave the over-balanced emphasis on local gatherings which people give this today. He saw, and knew the blessing of our gathering together in one spirit for the purpose of exhorting one another to follow on to know the Lord in His fulness. And there is that proper activity which is the result of our obedience to whatever call and command God gives us as individuals, but we fail to find Paul teaching doctrines which limited the functioning of the great MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST to some local body of people. To look only at various visible gatherings in some areas would perhaps give the idea, "if this is the church, there isn't much hope for great things," and so the poor little group is condemned and scolded for not moving out to operate the gifts and ministries of the Spirit, as if, by their own workings they could use these spiritual tools to build a better kingdom. What condemnation! What a forgetting that Jesus Christ declared that HE would build His church.
"He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things." [Ephesians 4:10]. He will build His church, and He shall fill all things, and in the outworking of this glorious purpose HE GIVES those ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors which are needed for the perfecting of the saints, His separated, set apart ones, His called out ones. When two or three are gathered together to seek and worship God, there should be no condemnation upon them just because at that moment there are not all these ministries actively operating in their midst. GOD GIVES what is most needed, and He gives without condemnation, without our having to make excuses or apologize for what He has done or not done at the moment. We must get beyond our petty ideas of how "churches" are supposed to operate (and some systems are sure operators), to see the great CHURCH WHICH CHRIST IS BUILDING.
Tribulation and pressure of every form are being used world-wide these days to help loose people from the carnal minded traditions and doctrines of men. For years some people were rocked to sleep with the teaching that before 1any severe kind of tribulation came, they would be physically raptured to heaven to escape all the trouble. So they blissfully went along their way, content in the knowledge that all was safe and secure. Then suddenly those in China, and other places of the Globe, were plunged into blood-baths and horrible pressures. Staggering beneath the impact of the blow, a faint voice began to be heard from their midst, as they sent letters abroad asking one question, "Has the Lord come, have we missed the rapture?" Hell had broken loose all around them, they were not escaping it, how come? And then those who were touched by the Spirit of God began to see that God was going to purify and prepare for Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, and that rather than "escapism" as their doctrine, they began to see the truth of becoming OVERCOMERS, more than conquerors through Him that loved them.
The years have passed, there has been a terrific toll of human life, and the pressures are relentless, but now there is another voice beginning to be heard from behind the Iron Curtain, and other places, for now there is a report of a people, yes, A TRUE CHURCH which is remaining TRIUMPHANT through all the pressure. They are faithful, they are standing true, they are not defeated. No, they are not always allowed to assemble in congregations to have a brilliant display of ministry, but one here, another there, they are UNITED IN CHRIST, and they are being kept by the power of God and built up by Christ. HE IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH BEHIND ALL OF THESE SO-CALLED CURTAINS.
Let it be solemnly stated for those of us here in America, we are going to likewise face some of these terrible pressures. We have "played church" and held our games, and vied with jealous spirits to out-minister one another, with a view towards gaining spiritual reputations, but God will sift and purge, and bring into conformity to His measurement a people who shall be His true church. Even now He is calling out unto Himself a people in whom He shall be glorified.
Words are totally inadequate to express the vision which is set before us. In the midst of inflationary plenty, and a false security, completely blind to the impending chaos at hand, deceptions are being multiplied in the land. It is an all out effort of satanic forces seeking to destroy the "faith" of the elect. While we see the possibility for physical pressure to become far worse, right now we are gripped in a satanic move in the land unparalleled in all our history. Every kind of religious activity and deception is being carried on, and it matters not how right it appears if it is an "instead of" thing, if it deters one from a total commitment to Christ in His sovereign Lordship, we must not become entangled with it. So much of this activity today is causing people to lean on props to substitute their group-support for the inward sufficiency of Christ. Then, when physical pressures break their bounds, and people are no longer allowed to lean on their props or gather for the mutual support of one another how shall they stand? They are untaught, they know not how to live by the power of the Christ within.
There is no need to become melodramatic, we are not frightened by the impending doom which shall cover the earth, but we are becoming aware of what is before us. "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." [Matthew 24:21-22]. He that hath eyes to see can see what is now happening in our nation, and the extreme beguilement which is upon the people, so that they know not what is befalling them. But, God is also opening the eyes of His called out ones, and they know the devices of the enemy, and are able to stand fast in the Lord, abandoned to His power and sovereign will. While the CALLING OUT is being wrought by God, and HE SHALL BUILD HIS CHURCH, there is also a realm for our calling upon Him, in our day to day relationship of walking with Him, and depending upon His sufficiency. "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." [Jeremiah 33:3]. But even in this matter of our calling upon Him, this follows HIS calling us, and does not precede it. We find that here again HE is already gone before us, knowing our need and preparing for it, so that, "before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." [Isaiah 65:24].
While many will readily agree that the "calling out" has to be wrought by God, for "no man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." [John 6:44], yet once they have been called and drawn towards God, many think that from thereon they have to do the building. It is true, that in His divine love and purpose we are to be labourers together with God", [1 Cor. 3:9], yet every part of our labour must be done BY AND THROUGH THE INWORKING AND OUTWORKING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, hence, it really is not I, but Christ working through me. He still is building His church, totally responsible for it, and totally glorified when it shall be finished. And while we might be "under-builders" in His work, that is secondary, for we are first "God's building," as we, ourselves, are being built "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: IN WHOM YE ALSO ARE BUILDED together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." [Ephesians 2:20-22].
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." [l Peter 2:5].
"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." [Psalm 127:1].
"When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory." [Psalm 102:16].
Even Abraham, a man of faith and vision, "looked for a city which hath foundations, WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER IS GOD." [Hebrews 11:10]. The works of man did not satisfy him, material gain was not sufficient, his vision was of a higher realm.
Not only is God building, but it is also recorded that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Man's efforts often fail, his revival program is dealt a low blow and comes to nought, finances don't come in, people don't attend, and in the midst of all this distress, the people are condemned and the devil glorified for having thwarted the plan. How pitiful! And yet this must be, for all man's efforts must come to nought, and then in desperation man will turn to God, and He takes the rubble, remolds it, and builds for Himself a glorious church. Truly "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." [John 1:5]. The darkness cannot overpower the light, the very gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church which God is building. And we repeat, it is not a weak, impotent, anemic church which He is building. Such terms might be applied to some of man's efforts, but where HIS LIGHT shines, the darkness comprehendeth it not.
There is much mis-guided effort these days. People have a zeal to work for God, and a desire to see others come into fellowship with Him, but zeal without knowledge will cause us to scorn God's methods, and seek for rapid results, and many will try to turn stones into bread, rather than follow God's order of sowing in tears and reaping in joy." [Psalm 126:5]. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." [John 12:24]. How hard this is on the ego of man, rather than being utilized for all his ability and talent, he must take the way of the cross and die out to all of self, and then, when it is "no more I, but Christ" living in me, then it is HIS LIFE WHICH SPRINGS UP to bear even unto a hundredfold.
Nor is it God's Church today that is without a continuous flow of divine revelation. Man-made systems dwell in the past, and when they have milked out the last drop of glory from former days, then they just carryon with their own zeal and carnal program. But in God's called out ones abides the Eternal Flame of divine revelation, and He leads them from faith to faith, and from glory to glory. He is "bringing many sons unto glory", and He is "sanctifying" them until they are " ALL OF ONE: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH will I sing praise unto Thee." [Hebrews 2:10-12].
Fresh, life-giving revelations are not worked up by man, nor are they studied out in a closet, nor produced through mental reasonings, they are imparted by the Lord, and freely given BY HIM to the church. That is why, whether on the backside of the desert, or in the midst of a fellowship gathering, it makes no difference, when GOD speaks into the heart of man a truth, He has received it from above, and not from man. One of the joys of this "walk with Him" is to find how often the Spirit of God has declared the same thing to people scattered to an four points of the compass, and then they confirm it one to another. HE DECLARED UNTO THE BRETHREN, He imparts unto His church. It has been well stated by one individual, "I cannot go to church, I am the church." But we are able to attend meetings as He directs, find delightful fellowship, and confirm one to another of that which He has spoken within.
If we are united unto Him who is the Head, then He will declare unto us the truth, and "the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." [1 John 2:27].
This is certain, "every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." [Matthew 15:13]. "If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection." [Romans 6:5]. "That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified." [Isaiah 61:3].
Praise the Lord! There is a true church being built, it is also growing unto maturity, and it is a triumphant work of the Father. Even though presently this church is hidden from the eyes of man, being what might be termed "A MYSTICAL BODY", yet it is steadily being brought forth unto perfection, to His praise and glory, and in the hour of His divine appointment He shall reveal unto the world His handiwork, that through His called out He might draw others unto Himself.
THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT
The builders builded a building,
And they wrought their task with care,
With stone and mortar and timber —
Erecting cathedral rare.
They called it a church, not knowing
'Twas only a building of man.
A church is of far higher order,
Built on a far diff'rent plan.
They gathered some people together,
United them by one name,
And called them a church, not knowing
God's building was not the same.
For God has a mystical union,
Wrought by His infinite grace,
A people whom He's apprehended,
Fitted, prepared for a place.
Called out of the world's corruption,
Called out from serving the flesh,
Called out of religious promotions,
Babylon's ways that enmesh.
No matter the place of their dwelling,
In city or country a-far,
God molds them as one in His purpose,
Prepared for the morning star.
Though hell should yet gather its forces,
It cannot against them prevail,
Built on a solid foundation
They weather the storms that assail.
For God builds His church triumphant,
The work completely His own,
Chosen through much tribulation
To sit with Him on His throne.
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