Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
During the course of a recent gathering and subsequent conservation, the following comments arose that illustrate the confusion about becoming a Christian.
Do we hear Jesus differently or more clearly the more we intentionally come before Him whether that be for the purpose of corporate worship or whether we are practicing individual spiritual disciplines such as silence? I asked the question for the purpose of clarifying your comments about disciples being followers of Jesus and how can one follow if one cannot hear? I interpreted that as, 'If you are not hearing from Jesus, you cannot follow.' Therefore, I concluded…if you cannot hear, your salvation is suspect. My understanding is that salvation is the result of confessing ones belief that Jesus is the son of God, that He died so that our sins are forgiven thereby reconciling us to God, the Father. We believe, we confess. That's it. What follows is an intimate life with God forever. In the words of our Pastor, _____, salvation resides in 'Jesus plus nothing.' That is, nothing else is needed other that to believe in Jesus Christ, and our fellowship with God is restored. If 'hearing His voice' is a necessary condition of salvation, then the Jesus plus nothing statement becomes Jesus plus, something (hearing His voice)….
What you have written concerning Jesus and salvation portrays a conception of who Christ is and how he saves man that is polar opposites to that proclaimed by the early Friends and to what is vividly expressed in the quote from Edward Burrough (Works of Fox, Vol. 3, pp. 11-15). …You have gathered up and succinctly stated the ground and root of falsehood under girding Evangelical Friends and of modern Christianity.
I state clearly that there is no salvation if one does not hear and respond to the voice of Christ. One hears the voice of Christ in the light. All have been enlightened with this light. This light of Christ arises from and leads back to the Life that is in the Word, who was in the beginning, who was the creator, who was the original breath of life to Adam to make him a living being. Thus “as many as receive Him (the Word), even those who believe in his name (the Word is the only name he has been given so far in John’s prologue) to them he gives the power to become children of God. This power to become a child of God lies wholly in the power of life. If I do not walk in the light, I do not come to life. If I do not come to the life, I have no salvation. Hear the light speaking to you. In hearing the light you hear Christ.
The testimony of Burroughs speaks of the mysteries of God revealed during meetings of corporate silence. God, in His grace, chose to reveal the truth that “Christ has come to teach his people Himself” in His time and in a place of His own choosing. It was an extraordinary thing He did for those early Quakers, but Christ is revealed and speaks to us in many ways today. So, I do not limit Christ’s speaking only through silence. To me “Christ has come to teach his people Himself” does not preclude Him speaking to me through scriptures, creation, people, and circumstances. I think some of our differences in interpretation go back to the meaning of Christ voice being unmediated. While I am in agreement that we do not need a human confessor, teacher, pastor etc. in order to hear from Jesus, this does not limit His choosing scriptures, creation, people, and circumstances to speak to His followers today.
You cannot admire the goodness of God in revealing the everlasting gospel to Fox and the early Friends and at the same time reject what they had to say. For example, “And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing.”
This you call an extraordinary thing, but it is Burrough’s testimony that this is normal, this is ordinary, this is the work of Him who is the same today as he was yesterday.
It is an extra-ordinary thing to consider coming to a relationship with Jesus wherein we are raised from death to life and changed from Satan’s power to the power of God, i.e. salvation, and do so without hearing his voice who has appeared to all, bringing salvation, teaching them to deny ungodliness, worldly desires etc. Note, Christ is the teacher of salvation. How do you come to believe or believe in Jesus, who said, “...he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life...?” How can you do so without hearing his voice? How can you enter the sheepfold by the door if you do not hear the voice of the shepherd leading you in and out to the pastures of life and his fold of safety? How can you be raised from death to life without hearing the voice of Christ who said, “...an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God; and those who hear shall live?” Do you claim salvation without hearing Christ’s voice? Peter testified saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?” and again Jesus said, “It is the breath who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (alluding to the Genesis account of creation) the words I have spoken to you are breath and are life.” Can you claim to have life without coming to the voice of Christ speaking the words of life within you? Now consider the testimony of John, “The world is passing away, and its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” How shall you abide forever (salvation) if you do not do the will of God? How shall you do the will of God if you do not know it? How shall you know the will of God if you do not come to hear the voice of Christ, the prophet like Moses whom God has raised up to speak to the people the word of God? How shall you enter his rest if you neglect so great a salvation? Note, the neglecting of this salvation consists of a deliberate act of hardening the heart against the word of God , that word spoken to us by his Son. Why does John name the messiah “the Word” (John) or “The Word of God” (Revelations) except this is the one, whose voice we must hear except we be cut off from the people of God? God himself has testified saying, “This is my son, my chosen one, hear him.”
And so I tell you, this Christ you profess who would save without hearing his voice is an antichrist proffering a false salvation. This is a doctrine contrary to the testimony of the Father, of Christ, of the prophets, and of the apostles. Repent of this darkness that you may bring people to know Christ their free teacher of salvation.
The good news is that Christ speaks to all in his light. As many as receive him, as many as receive his speaking, he leads them into the paths of life. These are brought out of their graves: living beings. This is ordinary, this is the heritage of all mankind. Do not leave your heritage lying desolate.
These two, divergent views of salvation arise from differing understandings of man’s problems. If you see man’s problems as something caused by a blight cast upon the soul by the fall from Eden and that this problem can be fixed by Jesus being the sacrifice to appease God so that He can forgive any who ask Him, then you can “obtain salvation” by believing that Jesus died for your sins and believing that if you confess your sins and ask for forgiveness you now are delivered from Hell and will spend eternity in Heaven.
However, the problem is one of losing the image of God, losing the breath, and losing the life; all of which have been replaced by the image of the serpent and the teaching of the serpent. This problem isn’t resolved by applying the fix outlined above and expressed by C____. I am still without the image of God, without his breath, without His life, without his teaching.
Jesus is the Word, whom I must hear. Jesus is the life that I must receive by receiving His light and following His light. This is of such importance that I must sell all to obtain such a pearl. I must sell all my former practices in religion. I must sell all my dependence upon the teaching of man. I must sell my faith in the efficacy of religious practice. This is the testimony of the writers of the scriptures. This is the testimony of Edward Burrough. This was the commission of George Fox. And this is the understanding God has revealed to me. When your conception of man’s problem and God’s solution to that problem is like that expressed by C_____, Fox’s questions make no sense, at best, or are threatening. He asked, How do you know Christ in his office as he is a Prophet among you? How do you know Christ in his office as he is a Shepherd among you? The list continues with Bishop, Counselor, King, Priest and so on as you may read in To All the Kings, Princes, and Governors in the Whole World: etc., Works of Fox, vol. 5, pp. 319-320. In my experience, growing up in Evangelical Friends, I would have had to answer, ”Why do I need to know Christ in the midst as Prophet, Counselor, Bishop, Shepherd, or Priest?
I can now answer, that it is when we know Christ present in the midst, in his offices, then we know a redeemer and a savior in our midst bringing a salvation that cures my problem of being out of the image of God, of being out of the breath of God, of being in the darkness, and of being in my grave. I now am come to the Word (John 1) who teaches me to live in righteousness. I am come to my Shepherd who brings me into the fold, out of reach of the roaring lion who seeks to devour me. I am come to the Prophet like unto Moses who speaks to me the words the Father puts into his mouth, who reveals the Father’s will to me and shows me how to fulfill it. I am come to Emanuel, the Wonderful Counselor whose counsel keeps me in the land of the living. I am come to the everlasting Priest who brings me up out of the fall, out of the dust, into the paradise of God. I am come to sit down in Christ, the second Adam, whose state is beyond the first Adam’s. In the first Adam, I have met with death and darkness. In the second Adam, I am brought above the first Adam to sit down in the second who was before the first Adam and before the original of sin.
Herein lies the difference between C____’s statements and the experience and message of the early Friends. It is my testimony to you that what the early Friends proclaimed is as available today as it was in the 1600s.
If you feel a rise in your hearts after that life, then take the good advice of Edward Burrough and come to the light of Christ within yourselves, there to wait to be shown what you must do. He is a faithful guide.
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