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Spiritual Phraseology Answered
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Q. Jesus and the biblical characters are our role models so should we imitate the way they spoke and wrote?
A. No, not necessarily. The way you express something has to take into account its effect upon the recipient. I’ll explain.
We get many letters from Africa and India, and each letter starts much the same, with flowery religious language, like: "Dear Brother, Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ..."
Let’s take a closer look at what’s wrong with those words.
Brother: Firstly, I may be your brother in the faith but please don’t call me ‘Brother’. I resent that. It makes me cringe. If you have a brother called ‘Malcolm’, do you address him as ‘Brother’ or as ‘Malcolm’? Well, obviously you use his name. So I would prefer you to use my name, too. You don’t need the ‘Brother’ bit. It stigmatises you as a bit odd.
Prophet: Likewise, don’t call me ‘prophet’. That makes me cringe even more. Nor ‘pastor’ or whatever. Those are titles and if we are brothers, then we should treat each other as such, not as oddballs using titles that either elevate or distance ourselves from each other.
He calls you into HIS CHURCH, the spiritual body of believers who have received His Spirit (Rom 8:9), who listen to His voice (Jn 10:4,5), and who follow the lead of His Spirit (Rom 8:14). That is all that matters. It doesn’t matter whether you belong to a church organisation, because church organisations are physical groups of people, not the all-important spiritual body.
But you can, and should, be a part of a fellowship of believers where you can receive spiritual nourishment and share spiritual fellowship, and practice / utilise spiritual gifts.
Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together... but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb 10:25, NKJV).
Q. People say it’s important to be subject to ministers.
A. Our fellowship is with God first and foremost, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:3). Likewise, our submission is to God and to Jesus. Fellowship and submission are very closely interlinked. You can’t have fellowship with God and receive His Spirit unless you want to be obedient to Him (Acts 5:32), so fellowship and submission are inseparable.
When someone claims that you need to be submissive to a a church leader, or follow implicitly what he says, and come under his authority, they are encouraging you to commit idolatry. It is subtle, but it is blasphemy when a man stands in the place of Christ. You are to submit to God through Christ, not to a mere man. He (the church leader) is not your saviour. You are to work out your own salvation (Phil 2:12). A man can’t work it out for you.
Now, when an apostle or prophet or evangelist or ‘shepherd’ is speaking through the inspiration of the Spirit, he speaks for God in that instance, and his words are to be heeded and obeyed. In that case it is right to submit to what he says, but you don’t submit to him in all things. First you have to know whether what he says is guided by the Spirit, because there are also many demon spirits who use false ministers as their means of promoting deception. That’s why you must TEST the spirits to see if they are of God (1 Jn 4:1; 1 Thes 5:21). If you submit to a false minister, you submit to the lying spirits that use him, not to God. And your fellowship is not with God but with demons.
...I do not want you to have fellowship with demons (1 Cor 10:20, NKJV).
False ministers abound in churches! Paul warned:
...those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast.. are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers transform themselves into ministers of righteous- ness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Cor 11:12-15, NKJV).
Q. How can I tell a false minister from one who is true?
A. By the spiritual fruits of the person’s life (Matt 7:15-23). It’s not easy. It can take time to see through the facade he promotes. It’s not a matter of personality or ‘charisma’ or smiles and pleasantness. It’s a question of what is in his heart, and God has to help you perceive some of that.
So, imitate Jesus and the biblical characters in spiritual purity and purpose, but how you express that must be appropriate in our society and culture, otherwise you can cause hindrance or even offence.
Q. Is it OK to say ‘Amen’?
A. Yes, why not? At the end of a prayer, it means "so be it" or "let it be done as I have asked". It’s a neat way to finish.
But if you use it all over the place, without relevance, isn’t it a bit out of place and religious-sounding?
I have been in Christian meetings where the preacher has used it as a punctuation mark or question mark throughout his message.
Q. What about "Praise the Lord" and "Hallelujah", etc.?
A. I know radio preachers who use phrases like "Praise the Lord" and "Hallelujah" all over the place. They use such terms like confetti. The ground is littered with these empty words. Didn’t Jesus condemn emptiness in talk and prayer? (Matt 6:7; 5:37.) There is a time and place for everything but if you wear something out through overuse, aren’t you demeaning the very thing you should try to sanctify? (‘Sanctify’ means to set apart, keep sacred or special.)
Your words must convey what you mean, not convey something false to a hearer. If you use flowery ‘religious’ sounding language to try and impress others, or make yourself appear ‘spiritual’, aren’t you conveying a false image of yourself – one based on deceit and hypocrisy? Hypocrisy and deceit are two heinous sins that Jesus singles out for especial condemnation! (Matt 23; Lk 12:1,2.)
Further Reading: God’s Church – Whose Authority? (GC)
Testing The Spirits and Apostasy In God’s Church! (TTS)
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