© 2022 Philip M Spence
Jesus taught about achieving a healthy balance between things old and new. He said that a scribe has a treasure, but that He must bring fresh, new revelation out of that resource, to complement the foundational truths he has learnt, and disseminated (Matthew 13:52). He must have ‘rhema’, the ‘Now’ revelation, as well as the ‘logos’ or written Word of God. He must know ‘kairos’ time as well as historical facts. He must have flourishing leaves on the old trunk and branches (Psalm 92:12-15).
This balance between new and old was essential for the early church. It would stop them from insisting on circumcision and other Jewish ceremonial rituals, and ensure that the church was built on a new heart and spirit. It would allow them to maintain the best of the original foundations and build the future of the Kingdom upon them. It would allow the church to reflect Jesus, the Lord of the Church, who was full of grace and truth.
The lack of this balance is the malady of the modern church. Some sectors of Christendom want to maintain old traditions, methods, and entities, regardless of their ineffectiveness. Many new things God is revealing and doing are ignored while holding on to the old ways. Others seem to want to distance themselves from all that has gone before, and only do what the younger generation will respond to. Many foundational things have been jettisoned in the name of relevance, being seeker sensitive, and attracting large numbers in a congregation, without confronting issues of God’s right order of things.
New and old wineskins
Old wineskins are perfect for old wine, but new wineskins are needed for new wine (Luke 5:36-39). Jesus did not say that old wineskins are bad. He said that old wineskins were good for the old wine. He stated that it is appropriate to use old wineskins for aged wine. Properly aged wine is said to be the best wine, and even the gospels tell us that once a person has tasted the old wine, he will not be in a hurry to change to new wine.
New wineskins are essential for the new wine because they are flexible. Old wineskins cannot flex with the new wine, and they will burst if they are used as containers of the new wine. Jesus taught that if we develop a new wineskin heart to receive the new wine He is pouring out, both the new wine and the heart that receives it will be preserved. The new wine may take time to mature but if we do not keep introducing the new, we will one day run out of the old.
Jesus’ principle in the parable of the householder is that we need to bring out the best of the old wine, and the best of the new wine, in order to have balance in the Kingdom.
A new context for old truth
In our time, the unfolding revelation of the Kingdom is providing us with a new context, within which we are able to reinterpret old truths. For decades we have been interpreting the foundation truths from a historical perspective and in the context of the church as we have known it.
Throughout history God has been engaged in a long process of restoring the Kingdom which was lost to the early church as it invaded parts of the world dominated by Greek philosophy. The gospel being preached began to change, and Paul addressed this in his epistles (Galatians 1:6-12, 3:1-7). The perspective of the church shifted from being an all-conquering Kingdom, to being a defensive, persecuted church.
Then, in the third century the Emperor Constantine proclaimed that everyone in the realm would be Christians. This robbed the Kingdom of its entry point: repentance and faith. It also robbed the five-fold ministry and Kingdom people of their authority in the earth. And it focussed on what happened in a building rather than the Ekklesia. This one proclamation neutralised the effectiveness of the Kingdom.
The dark ages were known to be exactly that because there was very little light, the Word of God was diluted and prostituted, and a great spiritual darkness descended onto the church. The effect of the institutionalised church was seen and felt, but the Kingdom of Heaven was barely visible on Planet Earth.
There have been many points in history where restoration revelation has come, and step by step the church has risen from the ashes of the Middle Ages. In the past century or so there has been an acceleration of God’s restoration of old truth and function. We have seen outpourings of the Holy Spirit similar to what occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41).
We have witnessed the emergence of powerfully effective evangelists functioning like Philip did in the cities of Samaria (Acts 8). There has been the recognition of teachers of the ilk of Apollos (Acts 18), and a release of prophetic ministries around the globe in recent decades. And finally, the King has been raising up a new generation of apostles to lead and govern church as the original apostles did in the New Testament.
Now that old truth, structure, and governance are being restored, the King is re-introducing the context in which He always intended these things to function. Fresh revelation of the establishment and advancement of the Kingdom, as the primary mission of the church, has begun a process of intrinsic change to our perspective of the church and its role in the world.
New revelation building on old foundations
King Solomon spoke of not removing the old boundaries which the patriarchs had established (Proverbs 22:28, 23:10). These landmarks are the foundations and boundaries which are essential if the Kingdom is to be ever increasing and all conquering.
Since the first century AD there has been a systematic removal of the spiritual landmarks set in place by our Heavenly Father. The Old Testament Patriarchs established and defended them, and the Prophets spoke strongly about the fate of those who removed them (Hosea 5:10).
In recent times there has again been a removal of landmarks and foundational biblical truth as preachers have entertained their congregations rather than declare the whole truth of God’s Word. Many have drawn their inspiration and content from motivational speakers, and the ways of the world we live in, while only giving lip service to scriptural truth and Kingdom principles.
This has produced a generation of believers in some countries who have little knowledge of the power of the blood of Jesus, the use of the Word of God as a weapon against the powers of darkness, and the authority that is ours in the name of Jesus.
More disturbing are churches where nothing that is wrong is confronted or dealt with, people obviously continue to live in sin, but everything is OK as long as the attendances are up, and the finances are increasing.
There seems to be a distorted view of freedom in some quarters, and a phobia regarding the things of past generations, but old foundations are not restrictive or outmoded. The traditions of men bind us to religiosity and legalism, but we must discern the difference between these things and the old foundations that are essential if the church is to stand strong.
The Prophet Isaiah was inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to declare that the people of the new covenant would repair, rebuild, and restore the old foundations which had been broken down (Isaiah 58:12 and 61:4).
On the foundation of the old truths, we are receiving an unfolding revelation of the King, and His Kingdom purposes, for the world in our time and for future generations. The fresh revelation being given to us by the Holy Spirit is helping us to re-establish the original foundations, and to build in a way that was known to the first church, even though it is new and fresh for us.
New applications of old principles
Kingdom principles do not change, but their application and implementation must change in order for the Kingdom to be relevant for each new generation. The Word of God is unchanging from one generation to the next generation, but its application to life and Kingdom advancement may be new for each generation. From time-to-time God begins to do new things on the basis of those principles (Isaiah 43:18-19).
A new spirit within old structures
The wide spectrum of Christendom is shaded by varying degrees of history. There are denominational structures and systems which are centuries old, and others which are only decades old. There are traditions which date back to the first few centuries AD, and methods which have taken root in our own lifetime.
Old structures are not bad just because they are old and seem irrelevant to an emerging generation. Likewise, new systems are not good simply because they are new, and therefore seem better or more exciting. The question that must be asked is, ‘Are these things of God, or are they the ways of man?’ God has always had a structure in mind for His Kingdom here on earth. It begins with a new heart, and a new spirit; the heart and Spirit of the King of this Kingdom (Ezekiel 11:19-20 and 36:26-27).
The above is an excerpt from the book The Kingdom According to Jesus. To download your copy, go to Amazon.com or click the button below: