The Quest for the Perfect Family
Myth or Divine Commission?
I wonder if you are one of those people who is a perfectionist? If you are, I must congratulate you, because the quest for perfection is one of the commandments of Christ: "Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt.5:48, NIV). Jesus commended a young, rich ruler for wanting to be perfect, and told him what he had to do to achieve that perfection (Mt.19:21).
I have heard these passages explained away by liberals who maintain that the quest for perfection is impossible. Certainly it is not a simple matter, as anybody who has tried knows. We are repeatedly confronted, it would seem, by the same obstacles or weaknesses time and time again. And there are misunderstandings as to what this perfection is. It is not, as some maintain, to be completely sin-free (save in a jurisdictional sense -- because Christ is sin-free, and we are [supposed to be] in Him), because scripture testifies that there is not one single person on the face of the earth who is sinless, and to maintain a contrary position is self-deception (1 Jn.1:8). Therefore every single living soul, including the most spiritual pastor and evangelist you may know, is sinful and possesses human weaknesses. Only Christ was free of these defects. And yet we are all called to perfection.
The apostle Paul informs us that weakness is a part of the divine plan for us. He says: "(The physical body) is sown in weakness, it is raised (in the resurrection) in power" (1 Cor.15:43, NIV). Weakness, is therefore, part of the heavenly ordinance for our ultimate perfection which is represented by the resurrection. Our weaknesses are purposeful. Again, Paul says: "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness" (2 Cor.11:29, NIV). Boast of weakness?! Why would one wish to boast of weakness? And what possible advantage could weakness confer upon us? God answered that question directly to Paul: "My (God's) power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor.12:9, NIV). And so Paul could indeed say: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (Ibid.).
Here we see two vitally important keys: (1) Human weakness is purposeful because is reveals God's power to us; and (b) Human weakness is purposeful because it reveals God's power to others -- other believers to strengthen them in their faith, and unbelievers to convince them that God lives and is able to do the same for them.
This doctrine or teaching stands in sharp contrast to what I once learned as a Mormon many years ago, which was that we were to become perfect so that we could become gods. But this is not the Bible teaching. Weakness is given to us to teach us dependency on God (as opposed to independence as gods) and thereby to deepen our faith, because Faith is the saving principle of the Gospel. Did not Christ teach that we were to come to Him as little children -- dependent and trusting (Mt.18:3), the very opposite attitude of independent, self-proclaimed godhood (embryonic or otherwise)? And is this not also one of the most vital keys in a successful marriage relationship? Indeed, do we not learn from this that submission is another of those key Gospel principles?
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph.5:21, NIV). How contrary this is to the egotism of false religion which would proclaim men as gods, for to whom shall a god be submitted? The concept of "god" means one who is all-powerful, without peer.
Christians might, indeed, be aptly called "the submitting ones" because that is their hall mark, whether to earthly governments and authorities (Rom.13:5; 1 Pet.2:13), whether wives to husbands (Eph.5:24; Col.3:18; 1 Cor.13:34; 1 Tim.2:11), or husbands to Christ, the Church to Christ (Eph.5:24), the saints to the Father (Heb.12:9, Jas.4:7), Christians to their pastors and other leaders (Heb.13:7), and in a general sense, even to those who are harsh (1 Pet.2:18). Can we do this? Yes, because Jesus set the perfect example (Heb.5:7). As a result of His submission, "angels, powers and authorities are in submission to Him" (1 Pet.3:22, NIV).
As God, Jesus was perfect from the beginning, but as man He had to become perfect, "learning obedience from what he suffered" (Heb.5:8), we ourselves becoming sanctified and perfected through our obedience to Him (1 Pet.1:2). To acquire such perfection through obedience is testimony that we have been walking in love -- true love, the love of Christ (2 Jn.1:6).
So what are we to do? "Aim for perfection...be of one mind, live in peace" (Cor.13.11, NIV).
Since there is no doubt that the quest for perfection is on God's agenda for us, and since it is clear that perfection is unattainable without weaknesses, and since He has set us an example by attaining perfection as a human, what is the programme for us mortals?
Perfection Under Two Covenants
Here we must dig a little deeper into Scripture and I think we must first ask ourselves this question: how was perfection obtained before the New Covenant -- that is, how did God's people perfect themselves before the coming of Christ? The answer is clear -- they didn't...and couldn't:
Perfection was not attainable under the Law of Moses and the Levitical/ Aaronic priesthood that administered it. The programme was incomplete, like someone going to College to study for a degree to find that the last year of the course was not in place. For man to attain to perfection, there had to not only be a change in priesthood but also "a change of the law" (Heb.7:12, NIV).
"If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people) why was there still need for another priest to come -- one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?" (Heb.7.11, NIV)
There are many things we must note here. Firstly, we are talking about three priesthoods and laws, two of which are identical. Melchizedek, as you know, was High Priest in the days of Abraham (Gen.14:18). This was the Patriarchal Covenant and it was administered by the Order or Priesthood of Melchizedek, whose lack of recorded genealogy became an illustration of the everlastingness of the priesthood of Christ, also named after Melchizedek (Ps.110:4; Heb.5:6). Melchizedek was a human High Priest who lived in the City of Salem (meaning "peace", a prophetic designation given that peace is through the Lord Jesus Christ -- Acts 10:36) unlike his successor, Christ, who is God (Jn.1:1).
The second priesthood was the Levitical under the Mosaic system of rules and regulations. Because it was an incomplete system, being preparatory, it never brought perfection in anyone. Sins were covered temporarily by the blood of innocent animals so that not even jurisdictional (legalistic) perfection was possible. It took Christ, as the New Melchizedek (meaning "King of Righteousness") to ussher in the possibility of perfection for mankind.
And now, finally, another factor in this "equation of perfection", and possibly the most vital one. And, as ever, it is Paul who grasps its full meaning, when he writes:
Let me pause here for a moment because there is much to digest. Firstly, what here is "imperfection"? Imperfection is (1) prophecy, (2) language, and (3) intellectual rationalisation. These are due to pass away because they are partial in nature. You cannot come to perfection through prophecy, or through language (speech comprehension), or through gnosticism (knowledge- salvation), although all of these are vitally important in this imperfect sphere. Paul goes on to liken these things to the imperfection of children who are not fully developed (v.10).:
"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues (spoken languages), they will be stilled; where there is knowledge (intellectual rationalisation), it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears" (1 Cor.13:8-10, NIV).
When these "childish" things belonging to imperfection are put away, we are left with three things only: faith, hope and love, of which love is the greatest (v.13).
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (v.11).
Perfection, quite "simply", is to be defined in these three areas. We are to seek for, and acquire, perfect faith, perfect hope, and perfect love. And if we are to look to perfection in our lives, it is here that we must look.
At once we should understand that what the world calls "charismatic Christianity" cannot bring people to perfection. The charismatic gifts of prophecy, inspired dreams, tongue-speaking and the like belong to the realms of spiritual childhood. What, then, are we to say of those who don't even have these? They can only be one thing -- embryonic Christians, conceived (in terms of perfection) but not even born. And this is often the error of the non-charismatics -- they believe they can hop over the charismatic gifts and land straight into perfection. Perhaps some can (who can judge, finally, but God?) but by and large I would say that they have deluded themselves. For who can come to adulthood without first passing through childhood? You cannot. You have, I am sure, heard the "explanations" of non-charismatics, like "these gifts were for the apostolic era only to establish the church", etc., etc., "but are not for us". It is not so.
My reading of scripture tells me that you cannot hop from kindergarten to university. You must go through a complete process of learning. Perfection is also a process. Paul said: "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy" (1 Cor.14:1, NIV). He does not say that we should turn our backs on the charismatic gifts but use them as we spiritually grow up into perfection, and to especially desire prophecy that our spiritual childhood may be completed.
So if you are being obedient to the commandment to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect, then it follows that we must have love as the goal and that we must drive along the rail track of prophecy, language and knowledge until we have outgrown these and are fully dwelling in love. And how can we know if we have attained to perfect love? Just look in the mirror and truthfully ask yourself: "Have I attained to perfect love in my life?" I know I cannot.
It is important that we have our eye on the goal in our charismatic gift growth stage -- faith, hope and Christ-like agapé love. Without these the gifts are useless in the extreme. Without these we will fall into the trap of so many Christians who mistake disconnected babbling (which they call 'tongues') for language. Paul wants us to understand what we are saying, not add to the confusion of the already fallen languages around us, so much so that he warns the Corinthians (who have completely gone off the rail vis-à-vis tongues), saying: "...I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in other languages (which no-one understands)" (1 Cor.14:19, NIV, variant reading).
"Brothers", he continues, "stop thinking like children. In regard to evil, be infants, but in your thinking be adults" (v.20). In other words, it is time to grow up -- to be mature in the Gospel. There is no perfection without maturity. Yet is it not true that people who are afraid of, for example, the responsibilities of life, flee into childish thinking patterns and do not want to know about adulthood? I know of many so disposed....far too many.
Isn't it interesting how the Lord educates us and then, as it were, pulls the carpet from under our feet? Nowadays we invest a great deal of time, effort and money in education. We pump out children with education from ever earlier ages. And yet in my experience the vast majority are never taught to think. Worse, how many educational programs do you know that have faith, hope and love as the ultimate (and highest) goal? How many educational programs teach you that all you are learning has an ultimate goal that transcends the educational process itself? The goal today, it seems to me, is simply to be competitive and survive economically in the Darwinian sense. The goal is to be successful.
Fortunately for us (and especially for those who are not naturally-born thinkers) God has different goals. That is not to say we have the right to abandon clear thinking, understanding what we mean when we use our language (most people have little idea of the meaning of words), or to shun the gifts like prophecy -- rather, it is to put a higher value on those things which never pass away and which constitute the perfect state.
Does this mean that thinking, language and prophecy disappear? I don't think so. After all, didn't Jesus prophesy throughout His whole ministry? And doesn't God the Father prophesy?
"We know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears" (1 Cor.13:10, NIV).
What about language and communication? God communicates today through the imperfect words of men and their corrupted languages but in the heavenlies there are other, more perfect forms of communication. The true baptism of fire (Mt.3:11; Lk.3:16; Ac.11:16) brings about such communication. Have you been baptised with fire and the Holy Spirit? Without it there can be no maturing, only retarded growth as a perpetual new-born.
I have spoken much about personal perfection today, but what of the "perfect family"? Does it exist? Has it ever existed?
As I read through the Bible I am struck by the fact of the almost complete absence of the perfect family. There seems to be trouble everywhere. Look at the family of Adam and Eve. Their firstborn, Cain, was a murderer (Gen.4:8). Yet after the fall we are led to understand that Adam and Eve lived godly lives. True, they paid a heavy price for their rebellion in Eden, and we are reminded that the sins of the forefathers can be inherited in the fallen Adamic nature for several generations. It seems as though Cain got a hefty dose of his parent's sins, choosing to yield to that nature they created.
Abraham had problems with his family. Sibling rivalry caused his trying to help God to fulfil His prophecy regarding a son. Isaac and Ishmael were at enmity from the beginning and have continued this hate relationship for thousands of years of warring descendants (Jews and Arabs). Disobedience has a heavy price tag not just on the disobedient but on their children and their children's children.
I could mention many, many biblical families but that will take me a long time to get through. Some of them are truly tragic, such as the family of David. The "friend of God" descended into the abyss of adultery and murder and paid not only a heavy price himself in terms of loss of relationship with God, but also the price of a divided family and a divided nation. His actions led to incest, murder and civil war. And this even after he had repented. There are consequences for sin that we never imagine could happen until after the tragic event reveals the abyss we have created for ourselves.
Perfection is not easy, but it is not impossible. It requires that we walk a narrow way, and one that few ever find because they aren't willing to discipline themselves to find it and walk along it (Mt.7:13). They are not willing to search with candle and broom all night for that lost spiritual coin (Lk.15:8-9). Perfection requires effort. But is it, you may ask, worth it?
I assume you will agree with me when I say that if God says something is worth it, that it is. Well, He says that it is. Indeed, he makes great promises. When we cross the veil from mortality into immortality a judgement takes place and we are judged according to what we have done in mortality (Rev.20:12b).
I am going to assume that everyone here today has their name written in the Book of Life. I sincerely hope so because if you name isn't there you are going to be "thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev.20:15). Do I sound threatening? These are God's words, not mine. I am merely conveying to you what the Creator has said. Dare you play with Him? I hope not. We don't get a second chance at getting it right and TODAY could be the day you cross that veil. You need to be prepared.
I pray that we are sober enough to realise that this is no game and that we need to urgently consider our spiritual options. We cannot afford to let petty grievances, laziness, or other carnal attitudes bind us down or anaesthetise us just when we need to escape the coming wrath. The time for postponing the day of redemption is over because the world stands at the edge of terrible judgements. God's grace in times of weakness and negligence does not extend forever. There is a closing of grace and a time of judgement.
The path to perfection means that we must begin to start overcoming those weaknesses which we have been ignoring, hoping, perhaps, that they will just "go away". They won't. And if they aren't dealt with, then there is a strong possibility that we will miss eternal life altogether, for the Lord has said:
How would you like to be hurt? Now if I were a salesman and came to your door and said, "How would you like me to hurt you?", you would send me away without a second thought. Yet here is God warning us: if you don't overcome you're going to be HURT. You don't believe me? Well, let's see:
"To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Rev.2:7, KJV). If you haven't overcome -- no tree of life. No tree of life, death.
If you don't pull your socks up and start working with your weaknesses, you're going to be HURT at the second death, when hell is cast into the lake of fire. Isn't that incentive enough -- for one who claims to be a believer, at least? But then that's usually the problem, isn't it? People don't believe God's Word because they don't want to believe; and they don't want to believe because they don't want to repent. And they don't want to repent because they have not yet cast Satan out of their lives -- and that is something most don't want to admit. "Satan in my life??!! Impossible! I'm a born-again believer!" Fool yourself if you want to but your fate is sealed if you continue to play games with God's Word.
"He that overcometh shall not be hurt at the second death" (Rev.2:11, KJV).
This ought to be enough for us but God is so particular about overcoming that He mentions it over half-a-dozen times in one book.
Do you enjoy being weak and ineffective? Though weakness has its purpose, as we have already seen, it is not necessary to be weak in everything. Indeed, as His disciples we are supposed to be empowered. Here's another promise:
This is a promise associated with priesthood and rulership. It goes on with these strong words: "'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'...." (v.27, NIV).
"He that overcometh, and keepeth My works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Rev.2:26, KJV).
And that's not all: "I will also give him the morning star" (v.28, NIV).
These are deep sayings -- wonderful promises. So what will you say? "Oh, they aren't for me. I'm not worthy enough." God put them in His Book for you. The mysteries He hides away for those who are able to receive them, but that which he gives out to all is for all. No, these promises are for you.
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment..." (Rev.3:5, KJV). Who are those clothed in white? The redeemed of the Lord! If you are not clothed in white, you aren't saved. And to be saved you must overcome. It is as plain as 2+2. Yet worldly Christians choose to ignore it. (Indeed, they usually avoid the Book of Revelation as much as they can).
Is that too radical for you? Are you unconvinced? Then read on: "And I will not blot out his name from the book of life [if he overcomes]..." (Ibid.).
The equation cannot be doubted. It is plain for all to see. No overcoming = no white robes = no name in the book of life = no salvation = pain and suffering in the second death = no tree of life. Do I need to add more?
Well, it says elsewhere in the same book that those who don't overcome won't live in the New Jerusalem (Rev.3:12), won't rule with Jesus in a position of authority (Rev.3:21) and won't become God's sons and daughters (Rev.21:7).
I imagine having taken this brief look at a few passages in the last book of the Bible that there will be many Christians who would rather that book wasn't there at all because it overturns most of the watered-down theology one hears these days. Perfection isn't an option, friends -- IT'S A COMMANDMENT. And like all of God's commandments, it is rooted in love, because God doesn't want you to miss out on any blessings.
Of course, we must all start on a simple level in the Gospel, so long as we don't remain there. A house's foundation is not the house itself. Would you wish to live on a foundation that had no house on it? Of course not! And yet millions of deluded Christians are doing just that. Paul warned:
These are the FOUNDATIONAL principles of the Gospel and yet going around the churches they are either absent or taught as though they were the HOUSE ITSELF! "What?! Repentance, faith, baptism of water and Spirit, laying on of hands, the resurrection, and eternal judgement just FOUNDATIONAL doctrines???" That's what the Word says! Read it yourself. These are what are called the MILK GOSPEL -- but there is MEAT also (Heb.5:13-14). And if you back track a few verses you will discover that the apostle is explaining the difference between the old Levitical priesthood and the new Melchizedek one. That's right, these "foundational principles" have more in common with the former incomplete covenant -- but there is more. And it concerns coming to perfection.
"Therefore leaving the [elementary -- NIV] principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection from the dead, and of eternal judgement..." (Heb.6:1-2, KJV).
If you are not living a life of repentance and faith, if you haven't been baptised by water and haven't received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, have not had the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Chrism/Confirmation), don't believe in the resurrection or eternal judgement (or not had them taught to you) then you are still an INFANT IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. And whilst it is true that we are to come to Christ as little children -- in innocence, purity and harmlessness -- we are not supposed to remain as children but are supposed to "go on to perfection" or, as the NIV puts it, "go on to MATURITY" (Heb.6:1). To do that, we must overcome childish tendencies, accept responsibility for our faults and our very lives, and begin the overcoming life. For without overcoming there is no perfection and therefore no ultimate salvation. This is the biblical doctrine. It is the doctrine of Christ and the apostles even if it isn't the doctrine of the modern (and alot of the old) Christian churches. And it is uncompromisingly the doctrine of this New Covenant Church of God which has been called to preach ALL the Bible, and not just those parts which fallen men and women like.
The Family of Lazarus
It is, of course, quite impossible for me to go into the "meat" Gospel here because it is altogether too large a subject so what I am going to do is select one family and see how they worked out their salvation (Phil.2:12). This was a family of overcomers, those who were seeking for perfection and who, I fully believe, found it, in spite of their weaknesses and failings. It's about a New Testament family (the only one, in fact, in that portion of the Bible discussed as a whole) that was very close to Jesus -- the family of Lazarus.
It is no accident that this family figures prominently in the New Testament because it was a part of the extended family of Christ Himself. Three persons are specifically mentioned -- Lazarus, whose home Jesus frequently visited to rest. He had two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were frequently in the company of the Master and who played a vital rôle in the early Church of God. The two sisters were completely different in temperament -- one was a dreamer, a learner, "spiritual" and disconnected from the reality around her often -- that was Mary. The other was a practical, fussy, and energetic woman who resented her more dreamy, impractical sister. That was Martha. And between them it looks as though they sent their brother Lazarus to an early grave! I can just feel the tension in that household! Yes, there was alot of perfecting to do there! By the end of Jesus's ministry we see two quite different women -- and a dead man brought back to life. The dreamer has become down to earth, has washed the Master's feet with her hair (Jn.11:2), and is rushing to the empty tomb to be the first witness of the resurrection. The busy fuss-pot has become spiritual and was the first to come to spiritual enlightenment about the resurrection. In a way they had swapped rôles, though in fact each served as a mirror for the other's deficiencies. In short, they needed each other to come to perfection, with Lazarus (no doubt) and Jesus steering them along the correct path.
And from this we learn that families are perfecting agents if we let them fill that divinely assigned rôle. That is why New Covenant Christians believe not only in large families but in the extended family or United Order. The diversity of our personalities, with their strengths and weaknesses, are to be shared and overcome, respectively.
There is another reason why the family of Lazarus is important -- and it's because Lazarus was Jesus' brother-in-law. When He went to Bethany for rest He was, in fact, going home. He had virtually been driven out of His home in Nazareth by the intolerance and unbelief of those who had known Him as a youth, and whilst Capernaum was His base of ministry in the north, Bethany was His home in the south.
As our readers know, we New Covenant Christians believe Jesus was married in mortality, and we teach that He was married to Mary, though we are not dogmatic about this. However, this historical key does explain a lot of mystifying passages in the New Testament, and is particularly helpful in our quest to understand what coming to human perfection actually means. It is, as we have seen, not to become faultless or sinless (though this must be the unwritten goal) because none but Christ has achieved this -- or can achieve this -- in the flesh. Out ultimate perfection, becoming sinless, can only be achieved through Him, and then only in the next world when we are free of fallen flesh.
If Jesus was literally a part of the household of Lazarus, and if that house in Bethany was His literal home, then I think we can learn some important principles about the path to perfection. Let us review a selection of these principles.
The Two Principles
Mary and Martha represent two natures which are in all of us to differing degrees (see NC&C 66). Mary had her priorities right -- she wanted spiritual wisdom and salvation, and sat submissively at Jesus's feet in order to learn. Martha was too engrossed in domestic chores and too complaining about Mary's apparent dereliction of duty to even have time to sit and learn of things spiritual herself. For that the Master rebuked her.
In the revelation called "The Two Birds" (NC&C 351) we learn more about the nature of restless Martha. It is well worth reading this discourse in which Mary and Martha have swapped rôles -- it is Martha sitting at the feet of Jesus this time.
Now Martha was not a bad woman. Far from it. She was always eager to serve and to do good (NC&C 351:21-22). Her problem was that she was so busy serving that she never spent enough time to listen and pray. I guess many of us have that fault. Jesus compared Martha and (indirectly) Mary to a couple of sparrows. One was sitting quietly on a high branch and the other hopping between branches on a lower branch (vv.23-25). The one on the lower branch, like Martha, was always full of anxiety, never at peace, always moving about. Jesus said that this bird "thinks, worries, desires, demands, accumulates, fights and competes; it is forever in anguish, tension, and hops from one branch to the other, always moving, never in repose" (vv.25-26).
Now the other bird "is so silent, as though he were not there. He has no needs to fulfil, for all is fulfilled and every need is met. He has attained and has nowhere to do. He sits in his joy and watches the bird on the lower branch" (vv.28-32).
Now this other bird was a picture of Mary as she was to become. In the beginning she was a dreamer, absorbed in her thoughts and meditations, but divorced from reality. What happened when Lazarus died? Who came out to meet the Master? Was it Mary? No, she was at home, probably distraught. It was self-composed (though manipulating) Martha who put on her shoes and came to meet Jesus. Mary had to learn how to become a Martha. She got her chance. Openly, in public, this spiritual (and probably proud) woman had to brave the criticism of the disciples and the Pharisees by entering like an ordinary servant girl and then debase herself by washing Jesus's feet with her tears. And her earlier reputation -- though she was reforming -- still clung to her because of the unforgiving nature of those who had known her previous life. Publicly, Jesus forgave her of her sins, because of her great love, which came only because she was willing to humble herself and become, in the eyes of the society of that day, as nothing.
No, Martha was no pampered, whether by her husband (depending on your belief) or not. She had to be brought down to reality and humbled before she acquired the love of Christ which is the goal of all those who are true disciples.
Lazarus is another story. He represents another principle of perfection, namely, death. To become perfect you must die to self, which is the seat of pride, man's greatest enemy. He represents male principle which has its own, though similar, problems to female principle. Jesus used Lazarus as an example of the power of love, just as the Father was to use His Only Begotten Son to do the same. Yes, when Lazarus died, He wept, in the shortest verse of scripture. He wept because He loved this man, imperfections and all. But he was also enraged at death, even as our heavenly Father is enraged by sin and death, so much that He had to pay a terrible price to overcome it, and in a way that would not overturn His own laws. Lazarus is a type not only of what we must go through in order to be saved, but of what Jesus had to go through in order to save us. Lazarus, as Jesus's brother-in-law, therefore occupies a unique symbolic position, being, as it were, a double-sided mirror revealing the love of God and the love of Christ. Not only that, but he reveals that this love is only manifest in FAMILY RELATIONSHIP. Christianity is not for solo believers. It is to be lived and experienced only as a community. It cannot be experienced any other way. Moreover, it must be experienced as a community of diverse personalities with personality strengths and defects like those possessed by Mary and Martha.
The New Covenant Female Priesthood Orders
"You cannot be a Mary without becoming a Martha, or a Martha without being a Mary if you are seeking the fullness of the Firstborn" (NC&C 66:10). Nor, I would hasten to add, without Lazarus, who is a type here of Christ. In the New Covenant Church of God the two female Priesthood Orders, corresponding to the Eldresses and Deaconesses, are called the Orders of Miriyam (Mary is the Latin version) and Martha. The men have parallel orders called Enoch and Zadok which, like their female counterparts, reflect similar principles. We emphasise very much in this Church the principle of perfection, and how it is we must acquire the attributes of these two seemingly contrary spiritual natures, but which are, in fact, complimentary -- the spiritual (Mary) and the practical (Martha). Mary, who had all the qualities of an Eldress, had first to learn how to be a Deaconess and Martha, the practical Deaconess, had to have her vision lifted further and become more spiritual like an Eldress. In this New Covenant Church you must become a Deacon or Deaconess inwardly before you can become an Elder or Eldress, and that you remain like Jesus, the Great Deacon (Servant), a Deacon or Deaconess for life. The priesthood is not a ladder of progression where you leave the lower rungs of "mundane" practical things for "loftier" spiritual ones, but more like the image given in the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 47, of a man wading into a river, starting in shallow water (the Deacon) and making his way into deep water (the Elder), until he can go no further. Thereafter it is a matter of resurrection in Christ which is both infinitely deep as well as being in the shallow water also. For in truth no man or woman can be a Deacon or an Elder without Christ. Christ is the Priesthood, and without Him there is no Priesthood.
The Mary-Martha Revelation teaches this succinctly, saying: "I have called you to be kings and beggars [simultaneously], teachers and pupils, masters [Elders] and servants [Deacons], rulers and subjects, priests and laymen, the greatest and the least, that ye might know Me even as I am" (NC&C 66:15, my clarifications added) -- not two classes of "priests and laymen" or two classes of "kings and beggars" but ONE class, for we must be both. But to BE both, we must never forget the principle Jesus taught: "The least shall be the greatest, and the greatest, least" (Lk.9:48). To be a (spiritual) king you must first be a beggar, to be a priest you must first become a layman, to be an Elder you must first become a Deacon, and so on. And once you become a king, you are still a servant. As Jesus was a Deacon-King, so too are you -- and remember the order!
As New Covenant Christians we have been given an aid in this task, the covenants of the Holy Order. For this reason a temple "have been erected in My Name and consecrated for use by the Church of the Firstborn to administer the covenants of perfection once again upon the earth" (NC&C 317:3).
"Whatever ye do ye should do perfectly according to your several gifts and talents" (NC&C 180:3) remembering that nobody has "received all Light" (NC&C 217:47-49). "Cease continually building upon the elementary principles, but go on to perfection, eagerly embracing every covenant, until ye have overcome. And when ye have overcome, through the atonement of the Saviour, then ye have a fullness of rest, peace and joy" (NC&C 273:41-42).
Finally, let us consider the words of Jesus: "John saith unto Him: 'How...shall we attain unto perfection?' Jesus saith unto him: 'Perfection is within you, and imperfection is within you. He who loseth himself entereth into perfection; but he who is concerned about self remaineth in imperfection. Forget thyself, O son of man, and thou shalt become one. And in place of two, there shall be one, and it shall be as it was always supposed to be'" (NC&C 351:42-46).
May the Lord God of Israel, our heavenly Father, Yahweh-Elohim, bless and keep you as you seek to do what is right and follow the path to perfection, is my prayer, Yahshua haMashiach's (Jesus Christ's) Name. Amen.
This page was created on 5 February 1999
Last updated on 5 February 1999
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