|Numbers 16:3 |
3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, since all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; why then do you lift up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?"1
1 The rebels said to Moses: You take too much upon yourselves, since all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; why then do you lift up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? This is the classic mistake: to assume that everyone is equal in the Lord. Remember, Miriam and Aaron had already been severely scolded, with Miriam getting leprosy, for challenging Moses. Now the leadership of the tribes was challenging Moses. Their fallacious reasoning was: we are all holy, we are all equal, and the Lord is among us all. This is the error of presumption: I'm just as much a Christian as George Fox; and the error of envy: who does he (a true leader) think he is, telling us not to sin?
Different people have different measures of the Spirit of Christ, not everyone is equal. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders, 1 Pet 5:5-6 [but only if they show an obvious spiritual maturity to be qualified as an elder; Peter was writing to groups that had genuine bona fide spiritual elders]. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6. There is only one King, and that is Christ for all; but among his subjects, not all have the same gifts, authority, and responsibility. As another great worthy of the Lord, Isaac Penington, said:
And Friends, you that are weak, bless God for the strong; you that have need of a pillar to lean upon, bless God, that has provided pillars in his house; and, in fear and the guidance of his Spirit, make use of these pillars; who are faithful, and have ability from God, in his power and glorious presence with them, to help to sustain his building, even as they had ability from the Lord to gather unto him. He that despises him that is sent, despises Him that sent him; and he that undervalues any gift, office, or work, that God has bestowed upon any person, despises the wisdom and disposal of the Giver. Are all fathers? Have all overcome the enemy? Are all grown up in the life? Are all stars in the firmament of God's power? Has God made all equal? Are there not different states, different degrees, different growths, different places, etc.?
Then, if God has made a difference, and given degrees of life, and gifts different, according to his pleasure; what wisdom and spirit is that, which does not acknowledge this, but would make all equal? Oh my Friends! Fear before the Lord; honor the Lord in his appearances, and in the differences which he has made among the children of men, and among his people. He gave prophets of old, and the rest of the people were not equal with them. He gave evangelists, apostles, pastors, teachers, etc., and the other members of the churches were not equal with them. He has given fathers and elders now, and the babes and young men are not equal with them. Thus it is, in truth, from the Lord; and what is of God in you, will so acknowledge it.
Therefore watch, everyone, to feel and know his own place and service in the body, and to be sensible of the gifts, places, and services of others; that the Lord may be honored in all, and everyone owned and honored in the Lord, and not otherwise.
William Caton, a young Quaker minister, was lamenting over his small stature in Christ, compared to some senior Quaker worthies he had observed, when the Lord gave him this classic understanding:
The Lord showed me how they that had much, had nothing left over; and they that had little, had no lack — just like it was with the Israelites of old. For the brethren who were wise and eminent, who had received much from the Lord, notice there was that much more required of them; so that of all they had, they had nothing over, but what they were to employ in the work and service of God.
Another way to look at this different measures of Christ is: whatever body and brain we have, whatever knowledge we have of God, whatever wisdom we have — all was given to us by our creator — and it is his to employ to his service as he sees fit. So, there is nothing to take pride in, and there is nothing to feel deficient in, for we are all only tools in the hand of God to fit and use as he best knows. The joy is to be obedient to his perfect will, whatever his choosing for us — it is perfect, for it comes from the perfect mind, of perfect wisdom, and perfect love. And when we are in the unity of the Spirit, there is no envy, there is no feeling of superiority or inferiority; for we are all one, hearts knit together in love, one Spirit, one Body of Christ. Of the same body, how can the arm resent the eye, or the hand envy the foot?
Do not make the mistake of assuming that Paul, Peter, James, John, or Jude were somehow flawed in their understandings, (like Martin Luther thought James' letter was worthless; was suspicious of Jude, Ester, and Hebrews; and discounted Revelation entirely — all because their writings didn't support his doctrinal opinions, particularly about faith being the only thing necessary without any works of faith prompted by God).
Neither make the mistake to assume that George Fox, William Penn, Isaac Penington, James Parnell, Margaret Fox, George Whitehead, William Dewsbury, Stephen Crisp, Ambrose Rigge, Edward Burrough, and Francis Howgill were imperfect and flawed in the doctrinal understandings; or as they have been accused by later Quakers as being deluded zealots. A prominent conservative (who pride themselves to be like the originals) Quaker leader said to me, "What did George Fox have that I don't have?" When I answered, "perfection," this person said, "don't tell me that, even Peter denied Christ three times." In a state of shock, I said, "but that was before he had received the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost." The person replied, "Oh, does that make a difference?"
Beware that one of Satan's greatest weapons against any believer is the temptation to preach or teach before being specifically perfected, restored, and authorized by Christ; with the Holy Spirit telling that person exactly what to do and when to do it — and being able to speak with words received from the Holy Spirit, not words that come from the carnal mind, which is enmity against God. If you preach from the carnal mind, your teachings and preachings are not only ineffective, they are in error and therefore bring condemnation upon yourself, the least of which is your own spiritual retardation.
However, long you have believed, do not let your ambition and pride defeat you by quarreling and disputing. Be patient and wait for Christ to teach you, change you, and give you understanding. If you are clearly told by the Holy Spirit, (not by feeling, opinion, speculation, a burden, a call, a door opening, an emotion), to specifically state something, by all means do it — and only it, and then return to silence.