Christ said that the enemy would never overcome His established eternal people, the Church (Matthew 16:18). Isaiah 9 speaks of God’s eternal people as His kingdom when he says, “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever…” The kingdom of God is comprised of God’s people and the organization of them to rule the earth through spiritual dominion.
Ever since the days of the Enlightenment, and likely even before then, Christians have equated the Gospel with some sort of ethical conversion: “I was once unethical and now I am ethical.” I am all for giving glory to God in what He does, and what He has done in the saints, this is why I like to celebrate the feast days. But to equate the Gospel to ethical conversion is a serious mistake.
Any self-help group can take a drug-addicted or other socially oppressed person off the streets and “clean up their life.” In fact, the world has a better track record, in these modern days, of doing such a thing. As a former minister to homeless and incarcerated, I witnessed much of this sort of secular rehabilitation. Many people could not decide between the rehabilitation of the Church or the rehabilitation of the cult of the state since they are both able to help.
Change in social and civil ethic is certainly a result of the Gospel taking root in a person, but it is not the essence of the Gospel. The essence of the Gospel, in regards to the change in the elect, is the change in what the new Christian worships. The new Christian is now no longer an idolater! Now, the new Christian worships the living God. But, this worship is not primarily ethical in the cultural sense. This worship that the new Christian begins to give themselves to is primarily ethical in the spiritual sense.
The new Christian is now identified with a kingdom that is reigning on earth as it is in heaven. One can only participate in the fullness of this kingdom through the Church and what she has to offer: participation of The Eucharist, Baptism, the Canon (“Bible” as presented by the Church) and the fellowship of the saints.
Please don’t misquote me. I am not saying that there is no ethical change in the new Christian. There is! But the real change is in the heart of the person. Only a person with a changed heart would want to worship every Sunday and practice this posture throughout their workweek.
One might say, “Oh, so you can just go to church on Sunday and be saved?” No, that would be the white knuckle method, and that method does not always turn a person from the world to the kingdom, but it does place them in an environment to be able to do so (assuming that there is a proper amount of teaching and discipleship). And for that matter we really do not know which “white knuckler” will turn and which will not, so there is simply no reason to judge each other.
The temptation within the Church has been to begin to act like God, proclaiming who is and is not elect on the basis of one’s inner morality and, as we have discussed, their outward ethics. But we do not know the heart like God knows the heart. We only know what we have been given, which is the outward workings of Christ: baptism and entrance into the church. We have not been given jurisdiction as judge pertaining to social ethics but of kingdom ethics; that is a heart felt motive to participate through a prayerful and humble mind toward what Christ is doing ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
By teaching the ethical conversion doctrine, the notion that we are simply breaching modern ethics, anyone can be a Christian that lives a moral life and inserts the name of Jesus in their life.
The conversion of ones soul has everything to do with their conversion FROM autonomy TO authority – the authority that Christ has established for us. What authority did Christ establish for us? One will say, “The Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost through whom? Anyone and anything? This is known as the heresy of pantheism! Christ did not establish an authority that is esoteric, He established the Church as our authority.
We do not completely confirm our relationship with Christ by our own heart, our own fallen nature. We confirm our relationship with Christ through our personal state of healing IN COMBINATION WITH the authority that He has given us: the Church. Christians are not autonomous people! We are united to Christ’s body, which is His Church.