REBEL WITH A CAUSE
We are told in 1 Samuel 15:23 that “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” These words were spoken by the Prophet Samuel to the rebellious King Saul who had refused to obey the Word of God. We know from this passage that rebellion against God is intolerable and that it will be met with terrible justice.
In no way, shape, or form do we advocate this kind of rebellion. Rebellion against God and His Word is absolutely forbidden and equated with witchcraft. God’s established leadership that is operating within the confines of the Word of God should never be rebelled against. If the movement is under the blessings of God then there is great danger to those that rebel against it. We can see numerous examples in the Word of God of those that were destroyed because of rebellion, examples such as King Saul, Korah, and Nadab & Abihu. All of these met with a tragic end.
What I want to relay is that all vital movements at one time, in its formative stage, were revolutionary in tone. This is the only way that new ideas are propagated. Moses rebelled against the leadership of the Pharaoh of Egypt, Jesus rebelled against the Sanhedrin, and Peter stood up to the religious leaders and said, “We ought to obey God rather than man”. Daniel was rebel. When the Kingdom of Babylon passed a law that made it illegal to pray or petition anyone other than the King of Babylon, Daniel went to his house and opened a window and prayed. The Three Hebrew Children were rebels. When a Law was passed that required everyone to worship an image they rebelled against the law and the King and were thrown into a fiery furnace. No one would list these as rebels, and we use the more sanitized form of the word, revolutionaries.
Even America, which is considered one of the greatest countries on earth, exists today because our forefathers rebelled against the rule of England. This rebellion, or revolution, led to the Declaration of Independence, and the formation of the United States of America.
Rebellion is the process whereby the new breaks out of the old. When I was Born Again the New Man rose up against the Old Man. This rebellion slew the old nature and placed it under subjection to the new. This is why Paul said, “If any man be in Christ, old things are passed away. Behold all things become new”. Notice how Paul uses the term “passed away”, which is a term that we often use to refer to the deceased. I am not saying that you will never have trouble out of the Old Nature again, but I am saying that if you walk in the Spirit you can walk in victory over the Old Nature at all times.
The passage in 1 Samuel 15:23 is a peculiar passage to mention in regards to revival, but if we are going to have revival in the 21st Century Pentecostal Church then we are going to need a revolution against established religion that has lost its way. Much of what goes on today in the modern Pentecostal Church does not represent Christ. I am not saying that we should revolt and make something completely new, but rather that we should revolt and go back to the original model set forth in the Book of Acts. No other Church will please Christ.
When we do rise up against the bloated bureaucracies of Pentecostal Religion there will be those that will misunderstand and label us as “Rebels”. This is unavoidable. The only way for the Church to remain vital in this present world is for her to revolt against “order without God”. Paul referred to this order as “having a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof”.
Should a powerless form of religion be obeyed? Should a form that has rejected the supernatural and doubts the Word of God be submitted to? These questions must be considered and answered.
We are living at a time in the modern Pentecostal movement where most Pentecostal denominations are nearing 100 years old. These denominations have fourth and fifth generation Pentecostals within their ranks and they no longer represent what they were in the beginning. Can we effect change from within these denominations? Or is it impossible? If it is impossible then what course of action should we consider?
Whether we want to admit the truth or not, there is a connection between true reformation revival and rebellion against a corrupt and dead religious system. You can see this connection in every major reformation in history. Without these reformation, revolutions, or rebellions we would not have the modern Pentecostal movement at all. These revolutions were necessary to the advancement of the plan of God. From Moses to Christ to Pentecost to the Great Reformation under Martin Luther to Methodism under John Wesley to Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California – all advancements required that the new order revolt against the old. There is no other way.
If a person stands up and rebels against a corrupt religious system is that person truly a rebel? The obvious answer is “no”. If we are to label all acts of opposition as “Rebellion” then we must also conclude that America is a “Rebellious Nation” because we revolted against the tyranny of England. We know from of study of history that we had every right to oppose England because of its tyrannical treatment of the American Colonies.
Others in the Bible could also be called rebels by such a narrow definition of the word. Men like David (he ran from King Saul, gathered a following of over 300 men into an army and dwelt in the land of the enemies of Israel), Jeremiah (he encouraged his fellow citizens to surrender to an enemy army [Babylon] and open the city gates to them), the Apostle Paul (who opposed the corrupt religious system of Israel), and even Jesus (who called the scribes, lawyers, and Rabbis hypocrites).
Everything in this world tends toward degeneration and decay over time. Our human bodies grow old and decay and eventually die. All plants and animals go through this same process. Even mountains erode over time. This is unavoidable. What is true for the natural world is also true in any man-made movement. At first it may be vital and alive but given enough time, decay will set in.
The same is true for any religious movement. What may have started out in the beginning, as a lively and healthy religious movement will eventually, over time, begin to decay and degrade. It will degrade until it becomes as corrupt as the movement from which it came out of. A new movement will now need to come out of it in order to restore purity.
Many of the old religious “forms” of today were once vital movements of God. Time saw them degrade from life to death. They no longer represent the voice of God to this generation. Speaking of these forms Paul told Timothy, “from such turn away”. Is it rebellion to “turn away” from these forms? Most certainly not! It is a necessity!
The Methodist Church was once a revival movement. The preaching was holiness, the worship was anointed, and people were committed. Today, the once great Methodist Church ordains homosexuals. What happened? They degraded and died! Would a person be a rebel that leads a people out of such a movement?
In my study of Church history I have become convinced that the Church needs a revolution every 100 years so that it may break away from corruption and regain purity. Revival is a restoration of life. All that refuses to be revived remains dead and must be rebelled against! If we choose to remain among the dead, their corruption will spread to us. Rebellion, Revolution, Reformation, and Revival are our means of regaining our purity. Without a revolution everything falls into decay and the testimony of Christ in this world is diminished.
Around A.D. 33 the Church was born in an Upper Room in Jerusalem. The Church spread quickly from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the known and civilized world. The Church covered all of the Roman Empire, which included the Middle East, Asia Minor, Upper Africa, and Europe. But in less than hundred years we read Jesus’ words to the seven churches of Asia (minor) and see that decay has set in. Of the Seven Churches, five had decayed and degraded.
The great Reformation of the 16th Century took place when men got tired of the corrupt system and rose up to oppose it. Martin Luther, a Catholic, wanted to please God; he was taught that you had to do good deeds to overcome your bad deeds so he became a Monk (we know that Luther was not perfect and we also know that there were some elements of Catholicism he retained). Years went by and he was still unfulfilled. The Catholic Church of the late Medieval period was corrupt. They sold indulgences (spiritual positions and power) and spiritual relics (bones, fingernail clippings, clothing of saints) to raise money (they built St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with this money), they were involved in all of the politics of Europe, the priests had many concubines, and many were guilty of rape, incest, murder, and extortion. Martin Luther was sick with all of the corruption. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This act began the Reformation and founded the Protestant Churches, which we are a part of. We “Protest” the Catholic Church! In his 95 Theses, Martin Luther declared these points:
1. He denied the authority of the Pope.
2. He denounced the system of indulgences.
3. He denounced the glorification of saints.
4. He denounced superstitions allowed in the Church.
5. He denied the Popes authority over Purgatory.
6. He denounced the financial abuses of the Pope and the Clergy.
7. He denounced the doctrinal fallacies of the Catholic Church.
8. He brought the Catholic Sacraments down from seven to two (water baptism & communion).
9. He taught these two key Doctrines in his Theses”
a. Sola Scripture- Scripture alone has authority. Not the Catholic Church or the Pope.
b. Sola Fide- Justification by faith alone. Not works, good deeds, or indulgences.
Martin Luther intended on remaining in the Catholic Church and reforming from within, but a confrontation was not long in coming. In 1521 Luther was summoned to appear before an ecclesiastical tribunal. He promptly burned the “bull” (an edict from his superiors) in the streets. Later he did appear and these were his words to them, “I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” They promptly excommunicated him and would have killed him except for the intervention of some German princes that hid him for years. “What began as an internal reform movement had now become a rebellious fracture…” Luther believed in a non-violent “Revolution”, hence his statement, “I will answer without horns and without teeth.”
Unfortunately some of the elements of the Reformation did turn violent. Skirmishes and war did occur. Catholic religious leaders and Catholic rulers killed many of the early Protestants. Some fought back. The German religious leader Thomas Muntzer led a revolt in his city and seized the sword. Though his method was undeniably inconsistent with scripture he was the first in the reformation to declare that the New Birth was the test of whether a person was a Christian. The revolt was put down and he was beheaded.
In France, John Calvin rose up in opposition to the Catholic Church with his book, Institutes of the Christian Religion. John Calvin endorsed justification by faith, the authority of scripture, congregational singing of the psalms, and he rejected the catholic crucifix and infant baptism. Unfortunately, Calvin did cling to many of the teachings of Augustine and today we have to deal with the heresy of Calvinism because of that. Calvin stated emphatically, “The Church reformed is the kingdom of God.” The Huguenots rose up in France to follow the teachings of John Calvin and some instances resorted to violence.
Anabaptists rose up Switzerland and were marked for extermination by the Catholic Church. One of their early leaders, Felix Manz, was martyred by drowning.
The Mennonites rose up in Holland. The Amish rose up in Switzerland. In Scotland, John Knox formed the Presbyterian Church and declared that the Catholic mass was worse than a cup of poison. In England, John Wycliffe taught that the scandalous popes were, “the damned limbs of Lucifer” and the very antichrist. Even the King of England got in on the Reformation, but for very wrong reasons. Henry VIII repudiated the pope and set up the Anglican Church so he could divorce his wife and marry another. The Puritans formed in England.
Several hundred years later and now the early Protestant churches were decaying. The Church needed another revolution. John Wesley rose up in England and founded the Methodist Church that believed in personal holiness and an emotional relationship with Christ. In the American colonies Jonathan Edwards preached his great message, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God” and revival broke out. George Whitfield preached powerful revival meetings that drew tens of thousands. Thousand broke away from the dead, dry, formal Protestant churches and formed new congregations that included emotional singing and preaching. Many of the leaders of the Great Awakening were labeled “Rebels” by the orthodox Protestant churches of the day. The Revolution was on again.
In 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, Charles “Daddy” Parham taught his Bible school students out of the book of Acts. When asked if he thought speaking in tongues could be evident today he replied that he did not know. He called a prayer meeting and they waited on God to see what God would do. In that prayer meeting Agnes Ozman was the first to be filled with the Spirit and speak with tongues. Others soon followed. Charles Parham traveled and preached that tongues were the Biblical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. In Houston, Texas William J. Seymour heard this message and believed. William Seymour traveled to Los Angeles, California where he preached this message and founded the Azusa Street Revival that lasted for 3 ½ years. All of the early Pentecostal leaders were labeled as “Rebels” and “Heretics.”
I am not advocating rebellion but I am saying that sometimes the only way to have revival is to rebel against the religious form. The Church must have a revolution every 100 years so that it may become vital again! In time, any viable movement will start to degrade and decay. We are seeing this pattern today in the Pentecostal organizations that were formed in the early 20th Century.
It has been 100 years since modern Pentecostalism swept the world. All of the major Pentecostal organizations trace their roots to Azusa Street. The Assemblies of God was formed in 1914; the Church of God is even older. The Unitarian Pentecostals, which includes the United Pentecostal Church, have their roots in Azusa St. and are almost a hundred years old.
Now we are seeing the decay in all of the Pentecostal Denominations. Corrupt leaders, scandals, heresies, and even spiritual deadness abound. It is time for another revolution, great awakening, and reformation! Without a new reformation the old, dead forms will persist. Today, we stand at a crossroads! We are once again at the same point that Martin Luther and the reformers stood. Without a revolution this world stands a chance of entering another Dark Age. Revival is God’s way of reforming the Church into a new and vital force for Him. We must give ourselves again to prayer and fasting for Revival. The World must see a vital church again. Revival is the means of change!
Already now there is the rumbling of discontent! Some are sick and tired of the corruption and abuse in the Pentecostal Denominations. It is the same climate today as it was when Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Church door. What we need is another Martin Luther! Another John Wesley!
Some are trying to reform their respective organizations from within. While I am not criticizing them for their effort, history teaches the futility of this course. Martin Luther never wanted to leave the Catholic Church but he was forced to. John Wesley was also forced to admit that true reform could never come from within. Many tried to reform from within but ALL, I found not one that was able to remain and make any significant reform from within.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
The call is being sent out. Jesus is saying, “Come out of her”. How can we remain in fellowship, unity, and support organizations that are no longer representative of the true Church as established by Jesus in the Book of Acts? How? We cannot. You will not reform from the bottom upward. If the head, the leadership, of these Pentecostal denominations is sick then the whole body is sick. The only hope is for those that love the truth to come out of them and seek the true and living God. Come out, not to form a new movement, but to reform into the original Church that Jesus built.