The following article is written by a man I know personally and deeply respect. His messages have impacted my life, I have enjoyed his fellowship, and he has a testimony of faithfulness. The message he is trying to communicate will be misunderstood, probably by the very ones that need this truth. One thing I appreciate about Dr. Flanders is that he always tries to be biblical, honest, and genuine.
One thing I appreciate about Dr. Flanders is that he always tries to be biblical, honest, and genuine. The church needs revival, but it won’t come through the Baptist pulpit because we’re not ready for it. This article is convicting, challenging, and correct. I have highlighted in bold the portions that most interested or resonated with me. Please read with a Spirit-filled heart and mind:
Right, But Not Ready by Dr. Rick Flanders
“And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.” (Exodus 40:9)
The book of Exodus ends with the successful completion of Israel’s great wilderness project: the construction of the Tabernacle. And they had done it all just right. The thirty-ninth chapter (next to the last) ends with these words:
“And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.” (Exodus 39:43)
Then the fortieth chapter begins will the account of the assembling of the Tabernacle worship center. The tent was set up (vs. 1-2), the ark was put in and the vail hung (v. 3), the table of showbread was set up with the right things put on it (v.4), the candlestick was brought into the tabernacle and its lamps lit (v.5), the incense altar was placed before the ark and the door hung (v. 5), the brazen altar was put before the door (v. 6), the laver full of water was put between the altar and the door (v. 7), and finally the court was set up (v. 8). In many ways, it was perfect. Truly it can be said that the Tabernacle in the wilderness with its prescribed rituals was the most perfect object lesson depicting the Person and Work of Jesus Christ ever to be made. It was just right, but we note as the book comes to a close that the Tabernacle and its ministers were not yet ready. Something had to be done before ministry at the Tabernacle could begin.
The LORD told Moses that he must “take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein,” and by anointing it with the oil, all of it would be hallowed and holy and useful in the service of God (v. 9). So he anointed the brazen altar with the oil, and then the rest, and also the priests in their special garments. The Tabernacle and the priests were not ready until they were anointed.
Of course, anointing with oil was the ritual that symbolized the anointing with the Holy Spirit. In Old Testament days, men were anointed as they began their service for the Lord. In the sixty-first chapter of the book of Isaiah the prophet we read
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me; because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel unto the meek…” (Verse 1)
“…to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness…” (Verses 2 and 3)
The First Book of Samuel tells the story of David, and includes this record,
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.” (Chapter 16, Verse 13)
Throughout the era of the Old Testament economy, anointing oil represented the Spirit of God. And so Exodus 40 is teaching us that our witness for Christ can be right, perfectly right, while we are not yet ready for ministry. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes even the Gospel effective. The Word of God is a beneficial sword when it is the “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), but it is actually dangerous to preach the Word without the ministry of the Spirit, “for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (Second Corinthians 3:6—read Verses 5 through 18 to see the distinctive work of the Spirit in the New Testament ministry). Often Bible-believing Christians concentrate on being right about every detail of doctrine, while missing the fact that we often are not ready to be used of God.
I want to be right about everything. I’m not saying I have everything right, but I am saying that I want to have it all right. Don’t you? What Christian does not want to please God in every detail? Our doctrines and practices should all be biblical.
Jesus taught us that every Bible truth is important, but that some teachings are more important than others.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
Clearly, the “least commandments” of God are important. None of them are unimportant. But the fact that Jesus designated some of them as “least” (as opposed to great) indicates that some of His commandments are in some way more important than others. He told the religious hypocrites that they had been wrong to be so certain to pay tithes, even of “mint, and anise and cummin,” and yet to “have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). Some biblical matters are “weightier” than others, but all are important, and none should be left undone, even if least.
Certainly, the weightiest of Bible truths are the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, the ones essential to the soul’s salvation. Find them in First Corinthians 15:1-3, where the Gospel itself is defined. The fundamentals of the Gospel are the authority of the scriptures, the deity of Christ, His blood atonement for our sins, His bodily resurrection from the dead, and salvation by faith in Him. Without all of these doctrines, you don’t have the Gospel. Without accepting the Gospel, you are not a Christian. True Christians are sometimes confused about lesser doctrines, but if they deny any of these fundamentals, they are not true Christians. I am a Christian, and affirm the fundamentals of the faith, and rest the security of my eternal soul upon them.
A Fundamentalist is a Christian who insists that these cardinal truths are fundamental to the Gospel. Some “Evangelicals” (the term comes from the Greek word for “Gospel”) say they believe the Gospel (you are not an Evangelical unless you do) but can accept a Liberal as a Christian who denies some of them. This kind would be an Evangelical, but not a Fundamentalist. I am a Fundamentalist Christian because I hold the fundamentals to be fundamental to the faith, and will not acknowledge any other set of teachings as Christianity. Yes, I am a Christian and also a Fundamentalist Christian.
A Baptist is a Christian who practices New Testament practices. Questions of practice among groups of Christians have often been called matters that are “distinct” to that group. Church history defines a person like me as a Baptist because I practice what are called “the Baptist distinctives.” Among them are: believer’s baptism by immersion, regenerate church membership, two ordinances of the church, two officers of the church, the church of Jesus Christ as local and visible with Jesus as the head of each congregation, the separation of church and state, and individual soul liberty. So I am a Baptist, and it is important. The Baptist distinctives are taught in the Bible. But being a Baptist is not as important as being a Christian. A person might get to heaven without being a Baptist, but he cannot get to heaven without being a Christian.
Even Baptists disagree about what the Bible is saying about lesser issues of doctrine or practice. Personally, I have strong convictions about the preservation of the biblical text and how it relates to the choice of a Bible translation. I also hold to views about what I understand the Bible to teach about dress, about the security of the believer, about election, about issues of personal “separation,” about principles that apply to church music, about revival, about prayer, and about victory through Christ over sin and the devil. These are very important matters but they do not have the same biblical weight as do the fundamentals of the Gospel or the distinctives of New Testament practice. I want to be right about these issues, all of them. As I understand the light I have on these issues from scripture illuminated by the Holy Spirit, I identify myself to be a Fundamentalist Christian who is a Baptist by conviction. I also think I am using the right Bible and the right music, and dressing the right way. I want to be as right as I can be in my point of view, but being right has never been enough.
Notice that the priests were not ready to serve in the Tabernacle until the Tabernacle and its furniture had been anointed with oil (read again Exodus 40:1-11). Then “Aaron [the high priest] and his sons” (Exodus 40:12-16) were to be washed, clothed, and anointed for service. When He was baptized by John, the Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Ghost (Acts 3:36-38). On the great Day of Pentecost, all believers in Jesus Christ were anointed with the Holy Spirit (see this in Luke 24:45-49, John 14:15-27, John 16:5-14, Acts 1:1-8, Acts 2:1-18, Second Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:12-14, Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 5:17-18, and First John 2:26-27—it will be worthwhile for a servant of Christ to review these passages and study the anointing again). We are His priests, but the enduement of power our Lord promised resulting from the anointing of the Spirit does not happen until those sealed with the Spirt when they believed are finally filled with the Spirit when they surrender. And this happens after they are washed from their sins (John 13:4-10 and 15:1-5) and clothed with Jesus Himself (as in Romans 13:11-14). Washed, clothed, and anointed, we are finally ready to be used of God to impact the dark world around us.
It really isn’t enough to be a practicing independent, fundamental, King-James, conservative-dressing, Baptist believer. We must be filled with the Spirit. “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). As we have examined the weightier and lesser matters of the written Word of God, let us now examine ourselves, if we have been washed (by confessing our sins), clothed (by faith putting on Christ), and anointed (by surrender). Let’s hear revival preaching, engage in self-examination, unite in prayer meetings, and claim the power of God to evangelize the world! When we have taken such measures, we will be ready to preach our Lord Jesus Christ and to win many to Him. The lost world is waiting for us to get ready!
Thanks for taking the time to read. Feel free to share as God leads you!