Is Isaiah 53 About the Messiah?

A Jewish Interpretation

Isaiah 53 is one of the most quoted passages by Christians from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) as prophesying about Jesus. The most significant portion from this chapter is as follows:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of G-d, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:3-7).

It is a popular belief in Rabbinic Judaism that this passage is not about Messiah at all, but about the nation of Israel. However, even though Jewish apologists state emphatically that Jews do not interpret this passage as being about Messiah, up until the Middle Ages many rabbis believed (with some diversity of interpretations) that this passage was indeed about the Messiah and not Israel. Yefeth ben Ali in the 10th century interpreted the passage this way: “G-d caused these sicknesses to attach themselves to the Messiah for the sake of Israel. . . . The nation deserved from G-d greater punishment than that which actually came upon them, but not being strong enough to bear it. . . G-d appoints his servant to carry their sins, and by doing so lighten their punishment in order that Israel might not be completely exterminated.”

R. Elijah de Vidas in the 16th century took this teaching even further. He taught that, “Since the Messiah bears our iniquities which produce the effect of His being bruised, it follows that whoso will not admit that the Messiah thus suffers for our iniquities, must endure and suffer for them himself.” In the same century, Rabbi Moshe Alshekh said that “our Rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the King Messiah, and we ourselves also adhere to the same view.”

Even the Zohar, the most significant book in Kabbalistic (Jewish Mysticism) literature supports the idea that Isaiah was referring to Messiah in his 53rd chapter. Zohar II, 212a says that if the Messiah had not, “lightened [Israel’s every pain and chastisement] upon Himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisements for the transgressions of the law; as it is written, ‘surely our sicknesses he has carried.'” This mirrors the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b, Soncino edition), which says:
“The Rabbis said: [the Messiah’s] name is ‘the leper scholar,’ as it is written, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

Another Jewish tradition tells us that one of the Messiah’s chief missions is to suffer for the sins of Israel. We read that, “[G-d told Messiah] the conditions [of his future mission], and said to him: ‘Those who are hidden with you [your generation] their sins will in the future force you into an iron yoke… and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Do you accept this?’ … [Messiah said to G-d]: ‘Master of the Worlds! With gladness in my soul and with joy in my heart I accept it, so that not a single one of Israel should perish; and not only those who will be alive should be saved in my days, but even the dead who died from the days of Adam the first man until now… This is what I want, this is what I accept!’” (Pes. Rab. Pp. 161a-b)

A Contradiction

The sages of old debated the issue of the coming of Messiah. Early in the debate, they realized that there seemed to be contradictions about the Messiah in the Scriptures. For instance, there were two different descriptions in the Tanakh of how Messiah would come. Thus, some came to this conclusion: “If [Israel] will be righteous, [the Messiah will come] on the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13); if they will not be righteous, [he will come] as a poor man riding upon an ass (Zech 9:9)” (B. Sanh. 98a).
It was also difficult to reconcile those passages that taught Messiah would die for Israel’s sins (Isaiah 53, Zech 12:10) and those that taught He would rule an eternal kingdom (Psalm 45:6-7, Daniel 7:14). Eventually, the idea that there must be two Messiahs emerged—Messiah son of Joseph (who would suffer as Joseph suffered) and Messiah son of David (who will rule as David ruled). It was believed that in the end of time, Messiah son of Joseph would be slain and Messiah son of David would then rise up— “And he (Armilus—anti-Messiah) will slay Messiah ben Joseph and it will be a great calamity for Israel… [Those of Israel who have no faith will say], ‘this is the man for whom we have hoped; now he came and was killed and no redemption is left for us…’ And to those who are left… Messiah ben David will reveal himself” (Patai, Messiah Texts).
Instead of two different Messiahs, which is never an idea stated in the Tanach, why not one Messiah with two different missions and thus two different comings? Why should Messiah not come in both ways (Zech 9, Daniel 7) instead of part of G-d’s holy word not being fulfilled? Isaiah 52 gives us the answer: Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”
Messiah will be brought high and rule over the world. But first, he will suffer and die for our sins to provide the atonement which was hinted at in the Temple system. This is the only solution which takes into consideration all of Scripture, and has a lot more in common with traditional Jewish interpretations than what many Rabbis teach today.
But who is this Messiah? Could it be the one whom Christians call Jesus but His earliest followers referred to as Yeshua? Could it be the one whom, like Joseph was left for dead by his brothers, raised up to be the savior of the Gentiles, and will one day open the eyes of his Jewish brothers to show them that he is their living savior as well? As G-d tells us in Zechariah 12:10, in the day of G-d’s judgment on the nations:
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

The Dark Knight and Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement

I know I’m posting kind of late about what has long ago been a cultural phenomenon, but I felt like I had made an interesting discovery and wanted to share it. There’s a theme in the film that I’m not sure was intended. There seems to be a strong Christian parallel of Batman, Joker, and Harvey Dent with Jesus, Satan, and Adam respectively.

The Joker is unique as a villain because he doesn’t have some sob story to rationalize why he does what he does. He simply loves to hurt people. However, killing people is not necessarily his main focus. In fact, he would gladly face death himself if he could bring Batman or Dent into sin, ruining whatever good is in them.

Harvey Dent, the squeaky clean district attorney of Gotham, shares an important characteristic with Adam– he starts off good, but is led away by the Joker, constantly being torn between his original good nature and the evil nature that has taken over. Finally, he completely demolishes all of the morals he once believed in. That’s where Batman (as a type of Christ) steps in.

Although I can’t say Batman shares a lot of characteristics with Jesus, he at least shares three– he is the last source of moral order in a world gone wrong, he doesn’t succumb to Joker’s temptations, and he takes Harvey Dent’s place by putting his sin upon himself. This seems to me to be a clear parallel of substitutionary atonement– Christ taking on our sins and allowing himself to be punished so we can be declared righteous (justified).

Washing Osama’s Feet

“Many American Christians seem to want a Jesus who will defend their country and hate their national enemies as much as they do. Many want the Jesus of the Middle Ages whom Crusaders called on to help them slaughter — not serve — their Islamic enemies. Many seem to want to reduce Jesus to just another version of the tribal gods that have been called on for centuries to bless tribal battles…

Fortunately, the real Jesus isn’t anything like this.”

http://gregboyd.blogspot.com/2007/11/washing-osamas-feet.html

Today is the 64th anniversary of the hanging of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German thinker and theologian who supported Christian non-violence. However, because he lived during the Third Reich and the holocaust, he was persuaded to join a group which attempted to kill Hitler. He rationalized his decision with the idea that it is better to do evil (kill Hitler) than be evil (be Hitler), or rather, to be complicit in evil by allowing evil men to continue doing evil. While I find his conclusion to be faulty, I can definitely sympathize with it and I find him to be a fascinating figure and admirable man. In commemoration of his life and contribution to theology, I offer these excerpts from chapter 12 of his book, “The Cost of Discipleship”:

“To leave everything behind at the call of Christ is to be content with him alone, and to follow only him. By his willingly renouncing self-defence, the Christian affirms his absolute adherence to Jesus and his freedom from the tyranny of his own ego. The exclusiveness of this adherence is the only power which can overcome evil… It looked as though evil had triumphed on the cross, but the real victory belonged to Jesus. And the cross is the only justification for the precept of non-violence, for it alone can kindle a faith in the victory over evil which will enable men to obey that precept…”

“The cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil.”

Should Christians Participate in War?

We are living in a world consumed by war. Despite how long this violence continues, we never seem to reach a solution. Many are personally scarred by war but most still continue to support the effort. This is the world we live in today— and we have continued on like this for thousands of years, never seeming to be nearing a conclusion. As Christians, we are told not to imitate the world and it’s conduct; but is war supported by God or does it rage on in rebellion to Him?

War in the Old Covenant

It is reasonable to assume that the majority of principles which are related to the Old Covenant animal sacrifices can only operate so long as there is a High Priest and a Temple (or tabernacle) to perform the sacrifice. But even though we as Christians no longer practice these rites, we can examine the Old Testament practice of sacrifice and understand that there is an underlying principle here which points to Christ.

It is also reasonable to assume that functions prescribed to the Old Testament government (Biblical Israel) can only be carried out so long as that government (as well as the covenant which established it) exists. Even so, everything in God’s Word has a message for us that we can pull a principle from and apply it to our lives. We understand that if we don’t follow every Old Testament law related to caring for the poor (such as the year of Jubilee, etc.), we aren’t sinning. We do understand, however, that the principle behind these laws leads us to want to look after the poor. In other words, we do not follow every command in the Old Testament because some are meant for national Israel. However, we can learn lessons from each command and make them relevant for our lives.

But what about war? After all, God gave the okay and sometimes called for wars against wicked nations in the Old Testament, using Israel as His right arm of judgment in the same way that He used fire and brimstone to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. War was sanctioned by God for judgment of other nations as well as for self-defense. One side was good (Israel) and the other was evil. So we can’t view war as intrinsically evil. It can be good.

However, war is only acceptable when it is supported by God because God owns every human being. Since God owns every person, He has the right to sustain or destroy each person– whether through fire and brimstone, war, or hellfire. Because only God can say when killing is acceptable, we do not have the privilege to decide when war is justified on our own. We must decide how God wants us as New Covenant believers to apply lessons in the Old Testament to our lives. The question is: Does the New Testament teach us that war is acceptable for Christians to participate in?

What Does the New Testament Say About Christians in Combat?

One of the clearest passages that is used to support Christians not fighting is Matthew 5:38-99, 44-46, where Jesus says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also… But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven… For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

In very strong language, Jesus tells Christians to not fight back, but to do good to those who hate us– our enemies. Some argue that this verse only applies to personal enemies and not national ones. However, their argument is from silence and ignores the fact that the personal is political (it is people, after all, who fight wars) and a Christian’s highest duty is not to their earthly country but to God’s Kingdom. This is supported by John 18:36, where Jesus says:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Jesus states here that Christians (His servants) do not fight, because His Kingdom is not earthly. Christians are not to establish a theocracy on earth, but are part of a nation scattered among nations– and this nation does not engage in warfare which is carnal. We are living in the age of the church, and it is the goal of the church to save people, not kill them. We must trust God in His sovereignty, even if that means we put down our weapons and trust Him with the consequences:
“But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?”
-Matthew 26:52-53

Christian pacifism is frightening to people who don’t think they can trust God with the consequences of obeying Him. However, even though we may die, we have victory in God:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-18, 21).

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21).

War Justified in the New Testament

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, we find one of the few justifications for Christians to participate in warfare:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.”

We find here that the only warfare Christians are encouraged to get involved in is the spiritual kind—putting on the armor of God to defend ourselves against spiritual wickedness.

There is only one other promotion of combat in the New Testament, but Christians are not explicitly called to fight. In Revelation 19-20, we read about two great battles which take place in which Jesus destroys the wicked who are raging against His people, Israel. The first battle inaugurates the Millennial kingdom (though whether this is a literal millennium is certainly up for debate), where we will once again live under a theocratic government, this time headed by the King of all kings—the Son of God. The second battle is directly after the Millennium when Satan is once again let loose and allowed to tempt the nations into battling against God’s people. Jesus destroys the wicked along with Satan in the lake of fire.

The Early Church View

If this were the view which Jesus and the Apostles taught, then we would expect to see it turn up in the early church. Amy Orr-Ewing, commenting in her book “Is the Bible Intolerant?” on the subject of Christians and war, notes that, “the early church’s response to war was initially pacifism that allowed for the possibility of Christian converts staying on in the army… Church leaders such as Tertullian took the rebuke of Peter as an absolutist position that totally spiritualized the battles in the Old Testament and did not allow for any Christian approval of war. Origen was very concerned to show that Christians were not bad citizens by virtue of refusing to fight or kill. He developed an argument that Christian prayers would be of more use to the emperor than any amount of killing by soldiers” (Orr-Ewing, p. 107).

This is backed up by early church thinkers, including Justin Martyr, who wrote his First Apology to the Roman Senate around 150 A.D.:
“‘For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ (Isaiah 2:3-4) And that it did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.”

Irenaeus in 180 A.D. wrote likewise:
“But if the law of liberty, that is, the word of God, preached by the apostles (who went forth from Jerusalem) throughout all the earth, caused such a change in the state of things, that these [nations] did form the swords and war-lances into ploughshares, and changed them into pruning-hooks for reaping the corn, [that is], into instruments used for peaceful purposes, and that they are now unaccustomed to fighting, but when smitten, offer also the other cheek, then the prophets have not spoken these things of any other person, but of Him who effected them” (Irenaeus, Book IV, Chapter 34).

Hippolytus in 215 A.D. tells us the early church’s policy on Christians in the military:
“A military man in authority must not execute men. If he is ordered, he must not carry it out… The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God. A Christian must not become a soldier, unless he is compelled by a chief bearing the sword. He is not to burden himself with the sin of blood. But if he has shed blood, he is not to partake of the mysteries, unless he is purified by a punishment, tears, and wailing. He is not to come forward deceitfully but in the fear of God” (Hippolytus, 16:9-11).

Origen in 248 A.D., responding to the objection that if every citizen became a Christian and thus a pacifist, says:
“Christians have been taught not to defend themselves against their enemies; and because they have kept the laws that command gentleness and love of man, they have received from God that which they would not have achieved if they were permitted to make war, though they might have been quite able to do so… The more devout the individual, the more effective he is in helping the Emperor, more so than the soldiers who go into the lines and kill all the enemy troops they can … The greatest warfare, in other words, is not with human enemies but with those spiritual forces which make men into enemies” (Origen, 3, 8).

Some Christian scholars who support war argue that the early church position was not pacifistic because of its view on killing, but because soldiers were ordered to make an offering of incense to Caesar as God– something a Christian could never participate in. However, this reasoning is given very few times in the early church literature, whereas arguments from Christians not being able to do violence abound.

Considering how strong this view seemed to resonate with the early Christians, what could have happened to change the Christian view on this subject? Orr-Ewing explains, “it is the great theologian Augustine who introduces the fledgling ‘just war’ theory into Christian thinking… He frames… a deontological or ethical argument: If God allows and orders war in the Old Testament, then the nature of God as ‘just’ determines that there must be such a thing as a just war.” This brings up an interesting point. However, we must ask ourselves what kind of wars God sanctioned in the Old Testament. Often, they were wars used to destroy entire civilizations, and these wars would not be called “just” by today’s standards, because any human being who decides to commit genocide is over-stepping a boundary that he is not allowed to cross. God, however, can cross this boundary. So the Old Testament mode of war cannot be applied to Christians in the world today without invoking holy crusade and the complete obliteration of nations, both of which have no place in a non-theocratic system of government.

Summation

Despite the fact that many Christians today support war for any circumstances, this has not been the consistent Christian view. The most the Bible could possibly allow for is the Augustinian view of the “just war,” but this seems to be less consistent with the principles Christ laid out. It would seem that after examining God’s Word and how it influenced the early church, the view of pacifism is the most consistent with Scripture. That is not to say, of course, that Christians are forbidden from military service—far from it. However, soldiers should hold themselves up to a godly standard of peace, so far as their conscience pushes them.

While I feel confident in my view, I understand that there is still reasonable room for debate on this issue. I hope that Christians brothers and sisters will be open to what Christians who disagree with me have to say, without compromising the impression that the Spirit has left on our consciences. Regardless of what the Scripture says to us who are living before the Second Coming on this subject, all Christians ought to look forward to and try to emulate what Isaiah the prophet had hoped for:
“[The Word of the Lord] shall judge between nations and rebuke many people. They shall break their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
– Isaiah 2:4

Bibliography

New King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Justin Martyr. First Apology.

Irenaeus (180). Against Heresies.

Hippolytus (215). The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome.

Origen (248). Contra Celsum.

Orr-Ewing, Amy. Is the Bible Intolerant? Downer’s Grove, Illinois, 2005

God Accomplishes His Purposes When We Serve Others

God tells us in Isaiah 55:11, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Every word that God gives us has a purpose and will be fulfilled. Here is a word God gave us:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'”
Matthew 25:41-45

What are we doing as the body of Christ to fulfill this word?

N.T. Wright quote on Conditional Immortality

“The central fact about humans in the Bible is that they bear the image of God… Humans are summoned to worship and love their creator, and to reflect his image into the world. When, however, instead of worshipping and loving him, they worship and love that which is not him—in other words, something within the order of creation, whether spiritual or material—they turn away from him. But they can only be maintained in his image, as genuine humans, by worshipping him; they depend on him for their life and character. The rest of creation, by contrast, is subject to decay and death. If we worship it, or some part of it, instead of the life-giving God, we are invoking death upon ourselves instead of life. This opens up a possibility: that a human being who continually and with settled intent worships that which is not God can ultimately cease completely to bear God’s image. Such a creature would become, in other words, ex-human: a creature that once bore the image of God but does so no longer, and can never do so again.”
[N.T. Wright, For All the Saints (Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 2004) 43-44.]

Thanks to:
http://whateverisgood.blogspot.com/
for posting this quote first!

“The Secret” to Blame for Economic Collapse, Some Analysts Say

Cincinnati, OH — Some analysts believe they have now discovered the reason for the near-collapse of the global economy– The Secret. The Secret is a film and book by Rhonda Byrne which teaches that there is a universal law called “the Law of Attraction.” The Law of Attraction posits that everything you think or focus on will be brought to you by the universe. For instance, if you think “checks in the mail,” the Universe will automatically bring you checks in the mail. The premise behind this is that human individuals create their own Universes with their thoughts and actions. This is where experts think things took a turn.

“I don’t know how your own little private universe works, but in the real universe we have a free market. We can’t have just any shmuck who’s attended a Law of Attraction seminar getting checks in the mail without putting in the work. Capitalism doesn’t function that way. Someone’s gotta pay for those checks,” says economist Richard Burrage. “When Rhonda Byrne started telling everyone that the Universe would give them anything they wanted, people started buying up houses and cars they couldn’t afford. For awhile everyone lived richly, but then disaster struck because the universe doesn’t understand how a free market works. You can’t just give and give and not expect bad consequences.”

Defenders of the Secret have proposed other theories for the collapse. Says Secret Practitioner Lucifer Moonunit, “the Universe is very temperamental. It will bring you whatever you want, but you have to be careful not to use words like ‘don’t’ or ‘not’ because the Universe doesn’t understand those words. If you go around saying, ‘I DON’T want to be late for work’ or ‘I hope I’m NOT pregnant,’ then the Universe will do everything in its power to get you to work an hour late and with child, even if that means creating a traffic jam and causing an immaculate conception. In this case, there were probably just too many people going around saying, ‘I sure hope the economy doesn’t collapse…’ So if the economy is broken, it’s our fault. We should have been more positive.”

This view has been supported by holocaust survivor and Secret supporter, Yaakov Singer: “When bad things happen to us, we are always the ones to blame. If we aren’t emitting positive vibes into the universe, we’re going to bring a lot of trouble on ourselves. Why are we trying to send peacekeeping troops into Darfur instead of just dropping off The Secret DVDs or The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks? We need to stop blaming genocidal tyrants and selfish corporations for doing ‘evil’ to us. There is no such thing as evil. It’s all about whose desire and will is strongest. We just need to be more strong-willed.”

Organic House VS. Institutional Church Models

First of all, some quick definitions–
Organic House Church– by this I am referring to the type of model that Frank Viola supports in his books, most popularly Pagan Christianity. This is church in the home with no pastor or appointed elders. There is also usually no “game plan” for worship, so everyone is able to share and encourage each other. This would usually be a smaller community of believers.

Institutional Church– Traditional Protestant model for worship. A pastor normally leads the service and preaches a sermon. There is usually a schedule followed such as– Opening song, prayer, announcements, offering, praise and worship, sermon, prayer, end. This can range from a smaller to larger community of believers.

I have spent some time in both models, though more in the institutional church (in numerous denominations). My house church experience is, thus far, limited to one. So my impressions of this system are based upon the one I have attended, as well as my exposure to books, essays, and audio by Frank Viola, Jim Wallace, and other organic church proponents. Here are my thoughts thus far.

Strengths and weaknesses of the Institutional model– One positive aspect the Institutional Church has is its visibility. Because it is visible, people who are outside can know where the gospel will be preached if they are interested in knowing Christ. Also, as it is strongly organized, it has the capacity for strong programs for Christians as well as the ability to evangelize and share the love of Christ to the world (either through evangelistic endeavors, programs for the poor, etc.). The Institutional Church also has strong leadership features. This, in my mind, can be both good and bad. On the bad side, too much authority limits the potential for freedom in church meetings and can be dangerous if the authority figure is a bad one. This is why, as far as I can read from Scripture, the early church leadership was made up of more than one elder instead of just one pastor. When authority works well, you know that there are people who can keep organization, deal with schisms, encourage proper doctrine, and deal with church discipline.

Strengths and Weakness of the Organic House Model– 1 Corinthians 14:26 tells us, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” The OHC model is the best one available to provide this experience. Instead of having a pastor dominate the service, everyone has the ability to share and discuss with one another. Instead of the pastor being the mouth and every other person in the church being the ears, every person can play his/her part in the body of Christ. Secondly, the only verse in Scripture I’m aware of where church attendance is commanded is in Hebrews 10:24-25 and it tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The OHC model once again provides opportunities to encourage one another DURING THE MEETING. The Institutional Model falls short here. However, because the OHC model often reacts so strongly against authority, it (in my opinion) ignores rightly instituted Biblical authority. Just because a person or group of people are given a certain amount of responsibility or a certain role, that does not mean they are better or more important than those who have a different responsibility. This is true in the relationship between a husband and a wife, just as it is true in the relationship between church leaders and others who are in the church. Because 1 Timothy 3 refers to an elder as he who is appointed to a position, able to teach, able to be a good leader at home, and godly in his behavior, we have to look at the role of an elder as a figure in the church who is appointed and looked up to as a leader, not simply a nice, smart person whom we all respect (as Viola seems to indicate in his book “Pagan Christianity”).

These are some of my thoughts on this subject, though not all of them. I would like to hear from those involved in both models as to what they think about these differences and if one model seems better to them. I would personally like to see both models learn from each other. I think the institutional model needs to stop being so afraid of change and the organic house model needs to stop simply REACTING to things in the Institutional Church and carefully consider some of the potential benefits it might have.

Making Jesus the Center.