• Christ and Church Life and Building Spirit and Bride

    基督與召會
    生命與建造
    那靈與新婦



    As a lover of Christ and a pursuer of truth, I write down my joys, memories and reflections.

    May God lead us all into the secret of His presence, and build us into the oneness of His body in love.
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Prayers at Presidential Inauguration Day 2017

1 Timothy 2:1-3
I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men; On behalf of kings and all who are in high position, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and gravity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of our Savior God,

I am not political and I do not endorse Donald or either party. Still, it is glorious to see and hear our Lord’s name being honored at the presidential inauguration of the greatest country on earth.

Prayer played a major role in the inauguration of Donald Trump. The ceremony featured six religious leaders, more than any other inauguration in history. The list included Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Paula White, one of his spiritual advisors, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Rev. Franklin Graham, and Bishop Wayne T. Jackson.

Pre-Inauguration:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan beseeched God for wisdom for the new president as he read from the scriptures.

Rodriguez read from the Sermon on the Mount, in chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs

And God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. For you are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on its stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

He ended his prayer in the name of Jesus.

Paula White prayed,

We come to you Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus with grateful hearts thanking you for this great country that you have decreed to your people.

We acknowledge we are a blessed nation…every good and perfect gift comes from you,” she too referenced the name of Jesus after her prayer.


Post-Inauguration

Rabbi Marvin Hier also led a prayer.

Bless President Donald J. Trump and America our great nation,

Guide us to remember the words of the Psalmist, “Who may dwell on your holy mountain? One who does what is right and speaks the truth. Bless all of our allies around the world who share our beliefs. ” By the rivers of Babylon we wept as we remembered Zion… If I forget thee o’ Jerusalem may my right hand forget its skill.”

Rev. Franklin Graham pointed out that it started to rain as President Trump delivered his inaugural speech.

Mr. President, in the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing,” he said. “And it started to rain Mr. President when you came to the platform.

Graham also quoted a passage of scripture from from 1 Timothy 2.

I urge then first of all that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people,” he said. “For kings, for all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

This is good and it pleases God our Saviour who wants all people to be saved,” he added.

Graham also acknowledged,

There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.

 

Bishop Wayne T. Jackson rendered the benediction at the close of the inauguration. He hosted the then-Republican presidential candidate at his Great Faith Ministries International in Detroit during the presidential campaign. He prayed for the new president and for unity and healing in the country.

We’re not enemies. We’re brothers and sisters. We’re not adversaries, but we’re allies. We’re not foes but we’re friends. Let us be healed by the power of your love and united by the bond of your spirit.

 

What Denomination Should I Join? (By John M. Frame)

This article first appeared in the Viewpoint column of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, volume 36, number 02 (2013). The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here. For further information or to subscribe to the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL go to: http://www.equip.org/christian-research-journal/

People often ask what denomination is best, or what denomination they should join. Of course the prior, and far more important, question is: What should be our relation to Jesus Christ? The answer to that question is that we should believe in Christ as the Bible presents Him, and receive Him as our own Lord and Savior. Lord means that He rules our lives; Savior means that He, and only He, through His work on the cross, brings us divine forgiveness and salvation from sin.

After we have resolved that question, there is room to discuss many other questions. An important one is how we relate to the church; for Jesus did not die for us just to establish a one-on-one relationship. Rather, He baptizes us into one body including people of all backgrounds: Jews, Greeks, slaves, free (1 Cor. 12:13) and gives to each of us gifts of the Spirit intended to build up that body.

So new believers naturally want and need to know what church they should be part of. As we look around us, what strikes us are all the denominational names: Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian. We therefore tend to ask the question of church membership in terms of denomination—hence the title of this article.

The Birth of Denominations. But if you look in the Bible, you won’t find anything about denominations. Look up “denomination” in a Bible concordance. It isn’t there. Denominations, as we call them today, play no role in the New Testament, and they have no part in New Testament church government; yet they are so very prominent in our contemporary church life. One recent study estimates that there are approximately forty-one thousand denominations in the world today.

How did this happen? According to the New Testament, Jesus founded one true church (Matt. 16). After His resurrection, the church was administered by apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (Eph. 4:11). There were, from time to time, controversies and disputes among the believers. Jesus indicated what should be done when a believer accused another of sin (Matt. 18:15–20), and the apostles directed the churches to exercise discipline in moral (1 Cor. 5:1–13) and theological (2 Tim. 4:1–5; Tit. 1:13) matters. But the New Testament never suggests that when someone is unsatisfied with the church’s judgment, he should leave the body and start a rival church, a denomination. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 1:10–13 and 3:1–23 Paul warns against the kind of rivalry that later produced denominations.

Despite such warnings, in time some church members failed to accept the provisions of the one, true church and left to form other “churches.” There were the Novatianists, the Donatists, and various groups of Monophysite and Nestorian bodies. Then there was the great schism between eastern and western churches in AD 1054, the sixteenth-century Protestant/Catholic split in the West, and the general inability of Protestants to achieve visible unity, leading in time to forty-one thousand denominations.

Some of these differ only by name and/or nationality. But many have, or think they have, substantial differences of doctrine or practice, so that they cannot worship together and/or operate under a common church government.

What Is Wrong with Denominationalism? Now I think we should be clear on this fact: denominationalism is sin. It is a refusal to resolve disputes in biblical ways and a rejection of the one, true church founded by Jesus. I am not saying that everybody involved in a “walkout” has committed sin. Sometimes, the sin is on the part of those who leave, and sometimes on the part of people who wrongly forced them to leave. More often, there is plenty of guilt on both sides.

This is not the unforgivable sin. The grace of Jesus covers such people (in church history they have been called “schismatics”) when they repent and trust in His sacrifice. But Christian believers should be at least a little bit sad about these divisions, these wounds in the body of Christ. Unfortunately, what many of us do is to celebrate the founding of our denominations. We praise the great wisdom and spiritual courage of our founders, the sacrifices they made, and so on. And we pledge that we will maintain their position in the continuing strife and in analogous battles taking place today. But I can’t believe that such denominational chauvinism pleases our Lord.

There are battles to be fought today, but the chief battles are against spiritual beings: angels and demons (Eph. 6:10–20), not other believers, definitely not other denominations. Certainly, we are to fight for righteousness, holiness, and truth (2 Tim. 4:1–5); but according to the New Testament, these battles take place within our own church bodies and in the unbelieving world.

Deciding on a Denomination. But the question persists, what denomination should I join? Let’s put the question in more biblical terms: what church should I join? Although there are no denominations in the New Testament, certainly there are churches. The church that Jesus founded is a universal church—a church embracing all nations. But there are also city churches, like the Church of Thessalonica, and house churches, like the one mentioned in Romans 16:5. I have the impression that the city church embraced many house churches, and all the city churches were part of the universal church.

Part of the problem today is that, because of denominationalism, there is no overarching fellowship in a city or throughout the world. The Christians in our cities are split up by denominational differences. If you join the Lutheran church, you will have limited fellowship with Baptists or Episcopalians. So when you make a choice to join one church, you will cut yourself off—not entirely, but somewhat—from fellowship with other believers.

Unfortunately, in the present time, a believer cannot join a church without joining a denomination. Even “nondenominational” churches are actually denominations of one.

Jesus wants us to be part of the church, and to do that we must (with some sadness, I hope) also become parts of denominations. Here are some important considerations in making this choice:

  1. Does the church uphold the basic teachings of Christianity (as in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds)?
  2. Is the church committed to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture?
  3. Does the preaching of the church fairly represent the teachings of Scripture (as you understand them, of course!) and apply them to the lives of its people?
  4. Does it administer the sacraments in a biblical way?
  5. Does the worship glorify God? Does it edify the worshipers?
  6. Does the church encourage and provide good opportunities for fellowship among the people? Does that fellowship convey the love of Christ?
  7. Does it meet the particular challenges of ministering to specific groups in the church: children, young people, old people, the sick and disabled, men, women, people of different races, income groups, and educational levels?
  8. Does the church reach out to bring the good news of Christ to the unchurched people of the area?
  9. Does the church display the love of Christ to the poor and needy of the area?
  10. Does the church encourage the ministry of the gospel around the world?
  11. Does the church stand for righteousness and against wickedness within its membership and throughout society?

You may notice that none of these criteria uses the word “denomination.” One can often make a wise decision about church membership without even inquiring as to what denomination the church belongs. But generally it is wise to take a church’s denominational membership into consideration.

Some denominations are better than others, in that they encourage churches to be more like the eleven descriptions above. You may sometimes find an excellent church within a weak denomination, or vice versa. But knowing the denominations and their histories can sometimes bring important facts to your attention and save heartaches later on.

For example, some denominations are very preoccupied with their histories and the controversies that led to their formation. That’s usually a negative indication, for the time spent celebrating these histories is usually better spent doing other things. Some denominations are historically Swedish, or English, or Scottish, or Dutch, or African-American, or some other background. That is fine, as long as the church welcomes people from other ethnicities; but often they do not. Sometimes denominations insist on particular emphases of doctrine or practice, which limit the flexibility of a congregation to minister in its present situation. Some denominations are more authoritarian than others in the degree to which they govern each congregation’s use of property, curriculum, missions support, colleges, and seminaries. In some cases that may be a good thing, but prospective members must choose how much authority they think the church should grant to a denomination.

Some denominations claim to be the one, true church, founded by Jesus and the apostles. Then they devote a large amount of effort and resources to persuading people of this claim and disparaging churches and people who belong to other bodies. As I have developed the argument of this article, I think such claims are all false. No denomination is equivalent to that one, true church. The one, true church today is the fellowship of all believers in Christ throughout history and throughout the world, with Jesus at the head. When a denomination claims to be the one, true church, that should be a danger signal to those who think about joining it.

Denominations are not the true church; indeed, denominations are not churches at all. We should get out of the habit of referring to denominations as “churches,” like “the Evangelical Lutheran Church” or “the Presbyterian Church in America.” What are they, then? They are makeshifts. The one, true church still exists, but it has lost much of its earthly unity because of human sin.

Denominations (and for that matter, also the often-criticized “para-church organizations”) are like duct tape or Elmer’s Glue—human attempts to restore something like, but not identical to, the unity of the original church. So one important mark of a good denomination is humility.1 —John M. Frame

John M. Frame is professor of systematic theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.

 

Proclamation of Thanksgiving 感恩節宣言

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

感恩節宣言

正進入尾聲的今年,我們享有果實累累的土地與祈求中的好天氣。對這些我們時常享受的慷慨贈予,我們很容易忘記他們來自何處,這是全能上帝的保佑,上帝的巨大力量,即使是無動於衷的心都會被穿透軟化。

在史無前例的嚴重與艱苦的內戰中,有時甚至似乎會挑起列強的侵略時,和平卻保持住了,秩序也維持了,法律被重視並遵守,除了軍事衝突的戰區之外,其他地方還能平靜無事。聯邦前進的軍隊與海軍也使戰區大大地縮小。財富與力量必須從和平的企業轉移到國防,但這並沒有抑制農業,陸運或海運,鐵和煤礦與貴重金屬的礦物產出比以往更多。儘管在營地,圍城與戰場有損傷,人口穩定增加,而且國家為實力與活力的提高而欣喜,未來自由將持續大幅增加。人類的忠告或凡人之手無法做出這些偉大的成就。它們是最高造物主慈悲的禮物,主為我們的犯罪而發怒時仍然慈悲。

對我而言,這些應該被全體美國人民一心一意、莊嚴地、恭敬地、感激地道謝。我因此邀請我全美各地、海上以及居留外國的同胞們,騰出時間將下個月11月最後一個星期四作為感恩的一天,並且向我們在天上的天父祈禱和感恩。我也建議美國人,當對上帝這樣非凡奇特的賜福而對天父獻祭時,也謙卑的為我們國家的墮落與違抗懺悔,讚許他溫柔的看護,對那些在這場無法避免的悲慘內戰中所有成為寡婦、孤兒、送葬者或受難者,並且強烈地懇求全能的神伸手治療國家的傷並且修補它,儘快與神聖的目的一致,享有完全的和平、融洽、寧靜與團結。

總統亞伯拉翰.林肯

One quote from John Nelson Darby

Learn to grapple with souls.

Aim at the conscience.

Exalt Christ.

Use a sharp knife with yourself.

Say little, serve all, pass on.

This is true greatness, to serve unnoticed and work unseen.

Oh, the joy of having nothing and being nothing, seeing nothing

but a living Christ in glory, and being careful for nothing but His interests down here.

—J.N.D.

Luke’s person and writings

Colossians 4:14
Luke, the beloved physician, greets you, as well as Demas.

2 Timothy 4:11
Luke alone is with me. Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for the ministry.

Philemon 1:24
As do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.

Luke as a historical figure is usually under-appreciated among other prominent ones in the New Testament, such as Paul or Peter. In fact, other than the two books he authored, the entire New Testament only mentioned his name three times. However I always like the person and the character of Luke. Today, for a special reason, I would like to summarize his person as revealed in history and his writings.

Person

  • Author of two Bible books: The early church recognized Luke as the author of both Gospel of Luke and the Acts.
    • Luke’s authorship is evident from the style of composition of two books.
    • The two books were all one book at one time but was later separated into two books for ease of reading. As reading the end of the Gospel of Luke and the beginning of the Book of Acts, one can see that it is a continuous book that was intentionally written as one book.
  • Historian of the first rank:
    • The Gospel of Luke, the record of the life of Christ, was one of the best historical documents ever written.
    • Besides numerous mentions of things with historical and archaeological significance, he also mentioned 32 countries, 54 cities, 9 islands, dozens of other historical figures at the time.
    • Sir William Ramsay, one of the greatest archaeologists of all time, studied under teaching that the New Testament was written in the mid-200s AD, and not an historical document recorded in the first century. Believed in this teaching, Ramsay purposefully went to Asia Minor to find physical evidence to refute Luke’s biblical record. After 25 or more years of field study, he was overwhelmed with the evidence, that he completely reversed his view of the Bible and first century history, and eventually converted to Christianity. He wrote:

I began with a mind unfavorable to it…but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth…

Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense…in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.

  • Faithful companion and coworker of Apostle Paul:
    • Beginning in Troas, he joined Paul in his ministry and accompanied him in his last three ministry journeys (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:15). He was a faithful companion of Paul until Paul’s martyrdom (Philem. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11).
  • Gentile: Luke was a Gentile, probably an Asiatic Greek
  • Physician (Col. 4:14)
  • Some Christian tradition also states that he was 
    • A native of the Hellenistic city of Antioch in Syria
    • Artist and Painter
    • Unmarried and without children
    • Martyr: He is believed to have died a martyr at age 84

Writings:

Allow me to use the beginning of the Gospel of Luke to illustrate the character of Luke and the methodology he employed in writing Gospel of Luke:  

Luke 1:1-4
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to draw up a narrative concerning the matters which have been fully accomplished among us, Even as those who from the beginning became eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, It seemed good to me also, having carefully investigated all things from the first, to write them out for you in an orderly fashion, most excellent Theophilus, So that you may fully know the certainty of the things concerning which you were instructed.

路加福音 1:1-4
提阿非罗大人哪,因为有好些人已经着手作书,述说在我们中间所完全成就的事,是照那些从起初亲眼看见,又将这道供应我们的人,所交付我们的;这一切的事我既从起头都详确考察了,就认为也该按着次序写给你,使你深知所教导你的事,都是确实的。

First of all, Luke wrote under the divine inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Hence, the Holy Spirit Himself guaranteed the accuracy of Luke’s gospel, including Luke 1:1-4. When introducing his Gospel, Luke indicated a few items concerning his account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and in these verses God showed us how He used human (Luke) mind and ability for writing down the divine revelation.

  1. He acknowledged the precedent of other gospels
  2. He recognized the reliability of the narratives, for they were based on eyewitness testimony.
  3. He outlined the process he went though to accomplish his writings
  4. He revealed the purpose of he records

His Research and Writing Style

Luke indicated that his research was thorough. He said that he investigated ‘all things.’ Luke’s research was also comprehensive since he wrote that he investigated all things ‘from the first.’ Luke also indicates that he was concerned with the truth, not just a good story. When he spoke of the ancient world, he was accurate. When he used political terminology, he was precise. When medical insights were appropriate, his skill enabled him to paint a more vivid picture.

The Central Thoughts of Gospel of Luke: 

There are 3 central thoughts of the Gospel of Luke, as excerpted from Recovery Version Bible Footnotes:

  • Christ as a Perfect Man and Man-Savior: The purpose of the Gospel of Luke is to present the Savior as a genuine, normal, and perfect man. It gives a complete genealogy of the man Jesus, from His parents back to Adam, the first generation of mankind, and shows that He is a genuine descendant of man. Its record of this man impresses us with the completeness and perfection of His humanity. Hence, this Gospel stresses the Lord as the Man-Savior.
  • Universal Morality: Based on the moral principles that apply to all men, it presents gospel messages, as in 4:16-21; 7:41-43; 12:14-21; and 13:2-5; gospel parables, as in10:30-37; 14:16-24; 15:3-32; and 18:9-14; and gospel cases, as in 7:36-50; 13:10-17; 16:19-31; 19:1-10; and 23:39-43. None of these are recorded in the other Gospels.
  • Gospel to all People: It is the Gospel written to mankind in general, and it announces the good news to all people (2:10). Its characteristic is absolutely not Jewish but Gentile (4:25-28). It is a Gospel to all sinners, both Jewish and Gentile.

Footnote Reference

Summary

Here is my personal summary of Luke, which is not necessarily scriptural but are the reasons why I like Luke as a person.

  1. He is faithful follower of the New Testament ministry
  2. He is scientific; he writes down after careful investigation
  3. He is thorough and comprehensive; He investigates all things from the first
  4. He is precise and accurate; he writes with accuracy and certainty
  5. He is orderly; he writes and presents in an orderly fashion
  6. He is considerate and helpful; he help others to know the truth

References

王艾明:外界对倪柝声、李常受和召会的三种误读

2014年06月05日 09:06

王艾明(英文名Ambroise WANG)牧师,金陵协和神学院教授,瑞士巴塞尔大学神学博士,瑞士纳沙泰尔大学荣誉博士。现任金陵协和神学院副院长,中国宗教学会理事,《金陵神学志》主编、江苏省基督教协会副会长、中国基督教协会神学教育委员会副主任、辽宁大学区域经济发展研究中心研究员。
王艾明教授的主要研究领域为:系统神学(教义神学、伦理神学)、改教神学(路德研究、加尔文研究、清教主义)、神学解释学、教父学等。

– 小群教会,中国基督教教派之一,又被称为基督徒聚会处,聚会所,地方教会,召会等。从其教制形态,特别是其祈祷、团契、牧养和信仰表述等来看,是属于西方主流宗派教会之外的自由教会范畴。 1920年,原美以美会家庭背景的倪柝声在英国圣公会于福州南台开设的学校读书学习期间,受到当时中国著名女兴奋布道家余慈度(DoraYu,1873-1931)的影响,开始思考和摸索直接从圣经启示中领悟信仰的奥秘,而非承袭西方在华差会的布道和牧会模式,或者说以西方基督教的教义和教理传统为范式。 年仅17岁的倪柝声从此走上脱离西方差会,特别是大宗派教会传统而另建中国基督徒自立或自主型教会之路。1922年,倪柝声与海军军官王载夫妇三人第一次以新约教会的形态聚会掰饼,此可谓标志着中国基督教本土教会“基督徒聚会处”的萌芽。在随后的几年里,倪柝声与英国传教士和受恩等有密切的交往,完全认同她的信仰和实践的方式。接着,他两次访问英国,与英国本土公教会传统之外的英国兄弟会等自由教会传统的教会有很深的联系。特别是英国伦敦的“基督徒交通中心”的史百克(TheodoreAustin-Sparks,1885年-1971年)对倪柝声的认同和支持,决定性地帮助了基督徒聚会处在中国的全面兴起。 该教派在政教关系和基本教义传承上,类似于西方宗教改革前后的瓦尔登教派(Waldensianism)和源自瑞士苏黎世的重洗礼教派(Anabaptists)。史百克曾经师从的宾路易师母(Mrs.JessiePenn-Lewis,1861-1927),内里生命派的代表人物之一,其属灵观注重宣扬主观十字架的经历和属灵争战,可视为影响倪柝声最重要的人物。因此,在当时西方差会一统全国基督教格局的情形下,小群教会的出现,以一种特别的精神方式,吸引了大量的中国信徒。在严格的教义学层面看,小群教会其实才是真正的“三自教会”,完全符合三自原则原创者HenryVenn和Anderson在1850年提出此原则的最初意愿。 该教派传统坚持圣经教会的原初形态,注重“属灵生命之道”,以家庭聚会为主,不装饰十字架、圣像和历史教会的圣礼礼仪,亦不注重圣经记载之外的复活节和圣诞节;无历史教会的圣职传统,无按立圣事等,成员皆弟兄姊妹平等相助。每年7次特别聚会。在基督教教会史上,基督徒聚会处与门诺会、贵格会、兄弟会等公理制教派传统,存在着极多的相似性。后来的发展史表明,在1949年之后漫长的政治运动阶段,小群教会受到的严酷的考验。除了创始人一代基本上都在各次政治运动中受到不同程度的整肃或脱离,在海外的发展也应着冷战时期中美关系中断和台海两岸持续紧张关系而受到影响。比如,大陆80年代农村地区出现的许多秘密的邪教组织,盗用了小群教会的许多团契形态,甚至名号,结果在许多地方,人们将这些异端邪教与在海外受到法律保障的小群教会(即召会或地方教会)联系起来。这样做,最终受到伤害的是海外华人教会与自己的祖国之间的情缘和情感,唯一得益的就是异端和邪教,或者梦想分裂和肢解中国的一些极端政治团体。 而目前中国新教教会中的非体制教会中,真正在教义系统上具有相对自主,并在公民责任上达成自律的只有小群教会和北京新兴城市教会。我们要从神学和法学的层面,明确关于源自基督教伟大的灵修传统并经过宗教改革和现代工业革命而获得极大尊严和自治权的非体制教会其信仰理解上的纯正性和公民责任上的可信性。 就中国的政教关系而言,我们要澄清围绕着倪柝声、李常受和召会(又称,小群教会LittleFlock,或地方教会LocalChurch)的三种误读,从而要做出相应的切割。可以说,甚至在很大的范围和程度上,这三种误解正在演绎成谎言和诽谤,并最终危及这一特殊的基督徒群体的声誉和基本权利。

第一种误读:倪柝声和李常受是小群教会的神、主和崇拜核心,因此,是基督教世界中的异端;

无论是从文本分析和诠释来看,还是从影像文献来看,倪柝声和李常受从未确立其个人为基督信仰中的神。从系统神学的教义体系来看,逻辑慎密谨严的论证与演绎都可以帮助我们去确认这两位历史人物的基本信仰立场。世界福音派系统最具严谨神学立场的富勒神学院(FullerTheologicalSeminary),从2003年到2007年在加尔文主义神学背景的时任院长RichardMouw亲自主持下,组织院内外一批最优秀的来自不同宗派传统的神学家、学者和教会牧长,多次研究、考察和探究这一堪称中国基督教史上的“土著”教派之基本信仰、教义学归属、教会牧养方式和历史遭遇中的磨难、误会和坎坷,最终得出严肃的学术结论:小群教会不是异端教派,更不是政治性组织或团体,因此,也不是任何类型的邪教。 2007年1月27日,在香港中国神学研究院(CGST)和香港浸会大学,以“华人教会的正统信仰”为题,北美、香港、台湾和中国大陆一批优秀的学者聚集三天专题讨论和研究后,一直确认倪柝声、李常受等所代表的世界范围的基督教召会(即小群教会)不是传言中的异端。“根据大会现场派发的富勒神学院声明,指地方教会(LocalChurches)及其成员的教导与实践,在每个方面都体现(represent)那真正的(genuine)并合乎历史与基于圣经的基督教信仰。声明指,该院一批高层曾经与地方教会以及其出版机构水流职事站(LivingStreamMinistry)的代表进行为期两年的详细对话,并全面审视其主要实践与教导,特别是倪柝声与李常受的教导,而得出此结论。杨庆球指出,基督教信仰的范围不能超过圣经,而圣经来自使徒的教训;而历代教会的传统甚至教父的说话并不绝对正确,但只要仍在圣经的规范中,都值得尊重。而福音派信仰的特质是肯定信仰的对象是客观、真实、普遍的。他说,福音派并不拥有全部真理——他并补充说“因而有对话学习机会”——但肯定“这”真理,并有系统地趋近它。杨庆球说,在教义上教会绝对有权定违反圣经者为别异宗派,但这是消极做法,积极而言应以圣经为基础彼此沟通,寻出合一的真理。但他慨叹所谓“别异”者亦自视为“正统”,不与其他“正统”对话,结果对立持续,“这是主再来前的无奈”。”与会者中绝大部分都是拥有各自有别于地方教会传统的不同宗派背景的牧师和学者。如时任香港中神院长的周永健牧师(改革宗背景),美国洛杉矶CLE(美中教会人士交流协进会)总裁余国良博士(浸信会背景),美国圣公会会友和中国事务专家DavidAikmann,芬兰信义宗背景的富勒神学院教授Prof.Veli-MattiKarkkainen等。

第二种误读:小群教会内部最重要和最隐秘的部分就是呼喊派,因此,是法律层面和社会学层面的邪教;

据严格的考证和亲历者见证,晚年的李常受非常痛苦地意识到自己在中国大陆被一批违法犯罪集团冒用为教主。他多次公开明确反对一切形式的非法团体打着地方教会和他本人的旗号。“亲爱的弟兄姊妹,我得到确实的消息,说你们弟兄姊妹在你们那里把我当做神拜,称我为主称我为王。这话我实在觉得极不妥当。照着圣经的教训,你们绝不可把任何人当作神来敬拜。在圣经中从使徒行传十四章十一至十八节说:「众人看见保罗所作的事,就用吕高尼的话大声说:有神借着人形降临在我们中间,于是称巴拿巴为丢斯,称保罗为希耳米,因为他说话领首。有城外丢斯庙的祭司牵着牛,拿着花圈,来到门前,要向众人、要同众人向使徒献祭。巴拿巴、保罗二使徒听见就撕开衣裳,跳进众人中间喊着说:诸君,为什么作这事呢?我们也是人,性情和你们一样。我们传福音给你们是叫你们脱离这些虚妄,也就是拜偶像的事,归向那创造天、地、海和其中万物的永生神。他在从前的时代,任凭万国各行其道,然而为自己未尝不显出证据来,就如常施恩惠,从天降雨,赏赐丰年,叫你们饮食饱足,满心喜乐。二人说了这些话,仅仅拦住众人不献祭给他们。」所以圣经在这里清楚地给我们看见,即使是那样把恩典带给人的使徒们,人若把他们当作神来拜,使徒们也是非常不许可,禁止拦阻他们的。因此我借着这一点的话语,请求你们把这件事完全停下来。绝不可以把任何人当作神来拜,或称他为主、为王,这实在是等于拜偶像,更是亵渎神、得罪神的。我请求你们接受这一点的话,把这件事完全停下来,不可以再作了。并且请你们也为此费神转告,也许别处可能也有这种情形,请他们也停下来。这样在神面前有一个改过,才能讨神的喜悦。但愿神恩待你们,祝福你们,我也多多谢谢你们。再见!”(1991夏季李长受录制)。 从历史发展的形态学层面来看,二十世纪六十和七十年代的“文革”,可谓列宁主义-斯大林主义结合东方专制主义最现代的悲剧时期。除了极端的西方政治传统中的意识形态外,其它所有潜藏在中国文化传统中的恶与邪,都在短期内爆发出来了,其残酷、极端和非人性混杂着非常态的领袖崇拜和神话,构成了当时唯一的精神性和信仰性景观,并且独具政权的合法性与强制性。 尽管如此,中国最普通的民众出自本性的宗教信仰却从未完全被消灭,或者被清理出人性的心理、意识和精神深处。外在的有形的宗教组织自1949年以共产主义意识形态为国家唯一合法的精神和价值系统以来,宗教组织也按照“人民团体”被列入国家政治体制内,享有干部编制、特权福利和政治身份等一系列党和政府类型的特征性待遇。在这样的背景中,一切民间的、非共产主义的和异质的价值、理念、精神和宗教信仰都试试受到国家公检法和党务、政务及“人民团体”等全权政体的监督、控制和禁止。1949年之前所有的涉及到国家混乱、民族蒙羞和天灾人祸都被定性为违背“人民利益”的结果,从此,革命和人民,等于党的原则和利益,就成为排斥与镇压所有异己的崇高和正当的利益。党因此而高于国家和政府,并绝对地指挥和支配所有专政机器。历史文献表明,这一时期,大量的悲剧其实都是恶劣的人性以崇高的意识形态作为合法性借口和外衣得以实施和完成的。 于是,基督教,这种越是劣境和迫害,越是显示其顽强和非凡之生命力的宗教信仰和真理系统,同样也出现在这个特殊的时期。两千多年的基督教历史证明,最具真理的精神系统,特别是信仰系统,往往最易成为异端邪说和邪恶思潮的目标,或者伪装物,或者攀附物,或者直接的毁灭者。这就是为什么在中国1949年以来,以基督教为掩护的各种异端邪说从未真正地彻底地被清除出共产主义意识形态绝对统治下的社会各阶层。相反,几乎所有这些被通缉和围剿的邪教和非法精神团体都可以享有美国宪政体系内的一切权利保障系统,似乎美国社会和政府具有某种特质免于所有异质精神和价值系统的侵蚀和毒害。而中国似乎相反,任何异质的思想、念头、主张和个人审美、情感与直觉表达形态,都会被绝对地定义为有害人民利益和国家政权而遭遇到来自国家专政机器的绝对打击与毁灭。前者似乎总是络绎不绝地容纳和善待层出不穷的异端邪说,而后者则从未停止对所有一切异见的担忧和剿灭,但,总是越来越多。

第三种误读:召会所使用的恢复版圣经不是基督教伟大传统中的圣经正典,而是倪柝声和李常受语录和被他们篡改过的圣经。

从严格的学术考证来看,目前世界各地召会(或聚会处)传统所使用的圣经(恢复本)其实是诸多种的汉译圣经正典之一,根本不是什么以讹传讹中的倪柝声和李常受语录。打开恢复本圣经,在首篇简说中,主译者如此写道:“本新约圣经恢复本,乃以华语中最通行的国语和合本为参照,尽力保留其语体、节奏以及人地名音译,各面的优美,并以英语中所有权威译本,以及华语中所有寻得的其他译本为参照,不但为得借鉴、启发,也为避免偏见、误断、凡较佳辞句,无不尽力采集,务求圣言中的启示,能在华语中,得到差异最少,达意最准的发表。” 那么为什么在国内外围绕着这一特殊的属灵团契会产生那么多纷争、误会,甚至争端?一个比较重要的原因是,召会完全有别于基督教历史上所有的信经型教会传统,与大公教会的信仰原则完全脱离。即使与内里生命会等英国和欧洲的极端避世的小教派有关系和渊源,也因着其在中国特殊历史情境中而更加强化了封闭发展倾向有关。他们内部完全是按照弟兄会的传统,形成圣洁、诚实和敬虔的弟兄之谊,完全脱离大公教会的等级制度和教义制衡体制。 严格地说,一个法治社会和宪政体制下,对这样的家庭聚会式的圣洁小团体是绝对的包容,根本不应该将之视为政府的威胁,同样,也绝对不会影响那些处处与国家政权相关联的其它大教会组织的实际利益和名誉。至于在中国许多地方兴起的新兴宗教中存在着打着倪柝声和李常受名号去敛财违法的灵恩小团体,那就应该另当别论,而不宜简单地将之一律划归入聚会处的名下。无论是教会论神学,还是圣礼神学,召会都演化出一整套完全有别于西方基督教传统的理解方式。若中国政府主管宗教事务部门真正能够从维护宪法制定的公民信仰自由权利,那就应该尽早地为倪柝声恢复名誉,或者,至少应该允许全国两会及其属下的神学院校将倪柝声作为中国基督教史上的先贤予以研究,其数十卷之巨的著述应该同意在中国教会公开发行和研究。 关于倪柝声所创建的聚会处传统,作为教会自治的实验,将具有巨大的国际影响力!原本地方教会就拒绝成立省市和全国性的领导组织体制,即使国宗局鼓励他们这样做,也不会改变他们独特的信仰实践之准则和方式。因此,勿用担忧聚会处(召会)有朝一日会威胁“全国两会”和任何一个政府扶持的宗教组织和团体。但是,必须看到,对于这样一种追求圣洁和成圣的小团契型教会组织的任何打压、中伤和排斥,最终受到损伤的只能是我们的中国政府。越早认识到这一点,越有益于国家形象和执政党威望的建立和维护。 本文作者王艾明牧师:金陵协和神学院教授、金陵协和神学院副院长。文章节选自《自治——中国基督教唯一合理的教制设计》,蒙作者许可使用,转载自 共识网

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李常受弟兄-主恢復的歷史-䦕頭的禱告

李常受弟兄䦕頭的禱告

主阿!我們敬拜你,我們敬拜你的憐憫,我們敬拜你是憐憫的神,你有豐富的憐憫,早晨提醒我們,哦!提醒我們主,不在乎定意的,也不在乎那奔跑的,乃在乎你這發憐憫的神,並且主阿,你要憐憫誰,就憐憫誰。主啊,在大馬色路上你得著一個頂撞的人,你能使他一個仇敵,變成事奉你的人,我們信你在我們身上,主如果你願意,如果你憐憫,你能作同樣的事。主啊!我們坐在這裡,我們等候你,我們向你敞開,我們不依靠我們的性情,主阿,我們只依靠你的眷顧,主阿,我們靠寶血,再向你仰望,主阿,洗去我們天然的汙穢,哦!舊造的玷污,主阿,是在自己裡,是在肉體裡,喔,在自己的個性裡,所有的生活和行動,主啊!都求你赦免,直到今天,主阿,我們需要你多方的潔淨,需要寶血多方的潔淨。主啊,沒有一次我們來到你面前,不需要經過祭壇,不需要帶著血。主啊,我們早晨帶著血來仰望你。噢!在血底下眷顧我們,不依靠我們作的,我們也不依靠我們的知識,主啊,我們只依靠你的眷顧,依靠你臨到我們,臨到我們每一個人。

今天早晨,主!你臨到這個聚會,你也單單個個臨到我們每一個人。主啊!你臨到我們每一個人,我們每一人,光景雖然不同、我們在你的面前實在的情形,原則是相同的。就是我們需要你的眷顧,不管我們的天性如何、不管我們屬靈造就多高,主啊!我們需要你的眷顧。主啊!你對我們說話、我們沒有成見、你知道我們沒有定規,我們仰望你、說隨時的話。我們不願意講故事、我們不願意講歷史、我們也不願望說到往事,主啊!我們願意向你敞開。主啊!在說話的事上,我們信你是與我們一靈,主啊!你在我們說話裡說話,主啊!你從這些說語中、說出你的心願。主啊!歷史的事我們來提多少、說到什麼境地、你帶領。什麼是不應該說的、什麼是不應該摸的、你也帶領。主啊!人名、地名、應該提起多少、釋放多少,也求主給我們清楚的帶領。毀壞你的仇敵,當我們事奉你的時候,主啊,叫我們永遠不能忘記你的仇敵。哦!主耶穌啊!捆綁那惡者,哦!主耶穌啊!靠你十字架的得勝,我們賤踏蛇在我們腳下,主啊!你羞辱他,羞辱他,今天早晨你就羞辱他。主啊!榮耀你自己,叫父因你得榮耀,我們蒙憐憫,我們蒙祝福。

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