In Matthew 16:16-18, Peter declared a truth received through revelation. Jesus told him that the Church was going to be built in this fashion of declaring revelation. The word Jesus used for Church is ecclesia. This term was not a word Jesus mysteriously pulled down from heaven — it was a common Greek word in that culture. It refers to a group of people who were citizens of a government, called together in unity and sent out with authority to make decisions to advance their kingdom.
Being a Church is more than people assembling together; we are also given the authority to go out. We are expected to impact our cultures and extend the domain of our King.
The glory of the Lord wants to fill the earth. God's glory is now housed within us, and we are to reveal that glory to our world. This is the rock upon which the Church will be built.
Unfortunately, when it comes to being influential and bringing the reality of the kingdom of God to the kingdoms of this world, the Church often finds itself more as the tail than the head. How did we get to the place where we are making less impact on the institutions that shape our society than other groups whose numbers are drastically smaller than ours?
When we reduce our understanding of Church to the building we meet in and when our language sounds like, "Where do you go to church?" or "We have a nice church to attend," it exposes the reason for our ineffectiveness.
Why have we thought that Church is a location or a Sunday service? Why has Church been reduced to singing, preaching, Sunday School, altar calls, and other spiritual things?
To answer that we must go back to Plato (427-347 B.C.), one of the architects of western thought. He created a world view that was passed down from the Greeks through the Romans and then expanded into Europe and England. Unfortunately, much of the way we think and rationalize today goes back to Plato's teachings.
Being platonic in one's thinking means to draw a line between good and evil or spiritual and physical. To remain platonic simply means that one stays on the 'spiritual' side of the line. Crossing the line would no longer be platonic.
Plato taught that the perfect is of the 'spiritual' world while that which is imperfect is of the 'physical' world. He taught that these two worlds are so distinct that one exists entirely separate from the other.
Writers of Scripture were influenced by the voice and inspiration of God, not Plato. When they thought of the worlds of the 'spiritual' and 'physical,' they were viewed more like a can of paint where the colors are mixed together and inseparable.
Moving forward a few centuries, Gnostics who were platonic philosophers believed that God was so far removed from physical man that there was no way we could get to Him. This teaching led to beliefs about intermediaries who stood between us and God. They taught that when we pray, we are praying to angels who may pray to a saint, who may pray to another angel. Finally, the message would get to God and He would send the answers back through these intermediaries.
Liberal Gnostics taught that God is so far away and so holy that our flesh, which is so imperfect, flawed, and partial, can in no way be holy, so why try?
Liberal Gnostics taught:
You can't be holy.
Your body is sold into sin.
Eat, drink, and be merry.
Someday your body will fade away and that which is spiritual will live forever with Christ.
Legalistic Gnostics said:
God is holy.
We are all totally sinful.
The only way for one to be holy is to avoid pleasure.
If anything feels good, it is wrong and should be avoided.
Gnostics, during the time of the early Church, taught that the flesh was so sinful that it would have been impossible for God to have become flesh. To them, Jesus was just a spirit (aberration) walking around. 1 John 4:1-3 is a direct word spoken against the Gnostics of that day.
Be very clear, the writers of Scripture did not believe in lines that separated the physical and the spiritual. To them it was all spiritual. God created everything and said that it was all good.
Today, the Church has been platonically influenced, and this needs corrected. We must always keep in mind that the writers of Scripture have a different worldview than that which infected the early church.
Exodus 23:25a says, "Worship the Lord your God, and His blessing will be on your food and water."
The word for worship here is abad. It is referring to someone who is at work, as well as to someone who is worshiping. Plato would have drawn a line between work and worship. One who has been influenced by platonic thinking might say, "I need to get off work so I can go worship." One who thinks like the writers of Scripture would ask, "What's the difference?" To them, working is a form of worship because there is no platonic line; it is all spiritual. Scripture teaches us that whatever it is that we do, "do it as unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:17, 23).
A biblical worldview recognizes that all we do is as unto God. The Church must learn to become salt and light on the job, at school, or wherever we abad. We can influence the kingdoms of this world as we receive revelation and are committed to extending the domain of our King.
Kevin Seymour is senior pastor of Highpoint Church of the Nazarene in Delaware, Ohio.
Holiness Today, 2012
Please note: This article was originally published in 2012. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.