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My mother, Wanda Dickson, was a pollster, as we called them back in those days, and still do. These were patriotic volunteers who sat for a day at a designated polling (voting) station across America while people in each community came in to cast their votes for a particular candidate. They carried out their duty with grave seriousness, knowing that any democracy depended on the integrity of a nation’s voting system.
I was only hip-high to a jack rabbit in those days, maybe ten or eleven years old. It was over sixty years ago, back in 1950s. And let me add to her story that she was a Democrat. Now saying that she was a Democrat then certainly assumes a definition that is far different than what a Democrat is today. The same goes for Republicans too. Those were different political parties in those days because the people were different. Nevertheless, there is always some political confusion in all political parties throughout history.
Now to add to this political confusion, my grandmother, who was, according to my mother’s thinking, “one of those Republicans.” Now I have no idea where, when or why my mother jumped ship to a different party than her mother, but she did. But please keep in mind that when I say “Democrat” or “Republican,” the definition of these two political parties back then was far different than they are today. If you are over sixty years age, then you will understand this difference. The only thing that has survived to this day that has any similarity with the parties of the past are the names of the parties. But what makes the vast difference between then and now are the people.
Nevertheless, my mother and grandmother back in those days had their differences. However, when grandmother was over for a stay on the farm, I confess that I never heard the two discuss or argue any politics. Both of them were first determined patriots of America, regardless of any political differences they might have had. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president at the time, had led America to win the war for freedom from the Nazis, and that was far more important than any political positions of either the Democrats or Republicans. It was an era when patriotism to country stood far above any political parties, for everyone had lost some friend or family member in that war in order to restore the right to democratic vote for European countries.
I can vaguely remember once when in my presence my mother said to my grandmother something that had any political connotations. I think it was something like, “That’s what a Republican would do.” My grandmother simply replied, “Ah, fooy.” And that was the end of that conversation, if indeed it could be considered a conversation. After this minor diversion in the real discussion at the time, they both returned to talking about canning corn or whatever few events transpired out there on that isolated Kansas farm.
When it came to some election day, however, my mother truly revealed who she was as an American patriot. All of us children at the time were quite awed at her total and complete reverence to the responsibility for which she had volunteered. She drove three miles east to Neola—the local village of two families where the township voters would come to vote. Neola had been designated the polling station for York Township. It was there that she would sit all day alone, waiting for voters to come in and cast their votes. No one was allowed to be with her at the voting station, and so it was a time to read one’s Bible. No political literature or placards or whatever was allowed within sight of the voting station. As children, we once bought her a “democratic watch” with the picture of an elephant on the face of the watch. But when she went to perform her patriotic duty at the polling station, the watch was always left behind.
This was a farming community with only a handful of farmers in the region. I remember that we once asked her one day how many people came in to vote. She was quite reluctant to give an answer, but finally confessed that seven people had come to vote—like I said, it was a small voting district.
But what impressed us children at the time was how seriously and honestly she considered this patriotic responsibility to serve her country by preserving the integrity of the voting system. When one of the seven voters came in to vote, she was not allowed in any way to watch them when they voted. (“Watching over” was mandated only at the counting station where two sets of eyes always counted each vote.)
At her small polling station the votes had to be folded, sealed in an envelope, and then placed carefully in a secured box that was covered. Late in the afternoon when it was time to terminate all the voting at a designated hour, she said that all the sealed-enveloped votes had to be then sealed in the ballot box. “Under no circumstances whatsoever,” she reminded us children, “could anyone be allowed to touch that box except myself.” We were all enthralled at how seriously she sought to preserve the integrity of the democratic system of voting.
On the very day that voting had been concluded, the box of ballots would then have to be immediately transported to the county voting center, where she signed off the delivery. Under no circumstances was she allowed to take the box of ballots home that night and turn them in the next day. The sealed ballot box had to be turned in on the same day of voting. All she knew about the votes in the box was that seven people had voted. We asked, but she would not even tell us who the voters were. She handled the entire matter as if there had been seven hundred thousand voters who showed up to vote, instead of just seven.
She followed the written voting requirements for a pollster as if she were in obedience to Holy Scripture. To her, it was all a matter of integrity and honesty to preserve the democracy of a free America. She once reminded us that in two wars hundreds of thousands of young Americans had given their lives to restore the right to vote in Europe. Because they gave their lives to fight for such, voting was not something to be taken lightly. The integrity of a democratic nation depended entirely on how the people conducted their system of voting.
Our mother also once said to her children that if she violated either her honesty or integrity she would have to dismiss herself from being a pollster because such would have violated her moral standards as a Bible-believing Christian.
All of us children were simply impressed that on this day of her life her integrity as a human being and Christian were truly revealed. Under no circumstances could there be any violation of the written requirements for being a pollster, in which thing she took great pride, even though there were only seven voters in the township. Subsequently, her children were very proud of her because she, as a patriotic American, never messed around when it came to pollster responsibilities. She took her Christian moral values right into that Neola polling station.
As I write these words about those days when there was certainly another paradigm of society in American history, there is a certain sadness about the present and future of America. In that social paradigm of yesteryear the moral standards of the time dictated honesty, integrity and true patriotism to a country in a free world, which world had only a decade before slaughtered over fifty-two million people in a world war. That was the greatest American generation that fought for freedom and integrity in which voting was a guarantee of freedom. It was a generation that knew the cost of freedom, but sadly it was a generation that is now fast fading away from American history. And since it is fading, it will never again exist because the majority of the citizens of the new America have long given up on the moral standards that are taught in the Bible.
Since many of the American society today have turned away from God, they have turned away from the moral standards that preserve human civilizations. When even the pollsters of a society are allowed to lose their moral compass, then we know that the candidates for whom votes are cast, have already lost their compass, and thus, a God-focused moral foundation for society is fading away. If my mother were alive today, I wonder what she would think of the scandalous polling shenanigans that in an American society that has lost its moral way?
– A Short Story –
What is unfortunate about losing moral standards in a society is that the society as a whole does not realize the loss of the standards one by one throughout its decades of existence. But on the other hand, sometimes events occur in a society that remind us of the loss of those essential moral codes that are necessary in order to preserve a healthy society. When we recognize the loss of a particular moral code, it is almost impossible to restore it because society as a whole has moved on.
In 1994 the country of South Africa could have imploded into a blood bath of civil war. If it were not for one personal moral code of one man in reference to his thinking and behavior, the 1994 first all-racial election of the country could have gone terribly wrong. But because of a specific godly moral principle of this one man, a country was spared a civil war, and a people marched into a peaceful transition of power.
Before we speak of the preserving moral principle of this one man that saved South Africa from tragedy, we must first review a brief history of this man. History determines who we are, and thus history had made this man who he was for the right time in history. Nelson Mandela was the first all-race elected president of South Africa in 1994. He had spent almost twenty-seven years in prison, and then as “fate” would have it, he came forth from behind the closed bars of a prison cell in order to transition a divided country into a new and exciting future.
About two years after his historical election, and before his moral principle had time to graft itself into some of the more radical groups of his political party, the rumor went out one day that Mandela had died. Because Mandela’s moral principles were such a stabilizing factor in the transition of power to a different political party, those of the former dominant and ruling party went into hysteria. In fact, some of the farmers (Boers) had formerly organized themselves that if Mandela were to die, they would assemble armed groups at designated farms in order to mount, not a resistance, but a defense for their wives and children.
These same people, the Afrikaners, had about one hundred years before had a bad experience during the Anglo/Boer (farmer) War. In order to bring that war to an end, the newly appointed British Commander Kitchener rounded up the wives and children of the Boer soldiers and interned them in “concentration camps.”
In these camps at least 25,000 women and children perished from diseases because of the lack of sanitation. When news of the “concentration camps” of Kitchener eventually filtered back to the people of England, the British people were horrified. The British people then went into action for the people of South Africa. Through pressure that was brought on British politicians in England, the British army general Kitchener was told to negotiate peace with the Boers. The feeling of resentment that this tragedy produced lingered on for a century in South Africa among Afrikaners. (We are reminded that the atrocities of war do not easily fade away in the memories of the people after the signing of peace accords.)
So you can imagine that as soon as the rumor was spread throughout the country that Mandela had supposedly died, many of the “Boer brigade” went into action in order to resist retaliation that they had supposed would be launched against them for their own sins of the past. They had erroneously projected their oppressive government behavior of the past on to the future government of the African National Congress (ANC). They believe—and probably correctly so—that the stabilizing character of Mandela would preserve the country.
At the time, we remember that fear was in the air. Guns were secured, and loyalists to the former government organized at designated farms in order to fight off any attempts to make war against them as the former government. It was a time for serious protectionism against any imagined retaliation because some of the now ruling party still harbored a spirit of retaliation against the loyalists to the former Nationalist Party government that had implemented apartheid (separation) policies against the new ruling party.
But the retaliation never had an opportunity to happen. Within a couple days after the supposed death of Mandela was rumored here and there throughout the country, it was immediately squashed. Realizing the sensitivity of the moment, Mandela immediately appeared alive and well on national radio and television. Everyone subsequently took a deep breath, and the armed brigades who sought to defend and protect their families went back home to their tractors and plows.
They did so because everyone knew that if the one godly characteristic of Nelson Mandela did not prevail, and eventually make its way into the culture of the new South Africa, a nation would not be spared national tragedy. At the time, we were all awe struck to first realizing that the smooth transition from the past into the future depended on the character of just one man. And because it did, a new South Africa was born.
This personal characteristic of Mandela that was so crucial to the preservation of a nation that was in traumatic transition was vividly portrayed in a Clint Eastwood produced Hollywood film in 2009 entitled Invictus. The script writers knew that the film, staring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, had to portray accurately on screen this historical transition that depended on the principle character of Mandela. The film was about the election and transition of power from the former Nationalist Party government to the newly elected ANC government. Of all the scenes of the film that beautifully portrayed the election and transition of power, one significant scene was embedded in all our minds. It was a scene that would serve well for all government officials throughout the world who would seek a smooth transition of power after any elections in their countries.
In a particular setting, the script writers brilliantly brought forth the character of Mandela. The descriptive scene in the movie took place only a few weeks after the election. The newly elected president, Mandela walked into the administration offices in Pretoria, the capital, where sat all the staff of the former Nationalist Party government of President F. W. de Klerk. There was total silence in the room as every eye was transfixed on Mandela’s humble, but commanding presence. A dropped hair could have echoed throughout the chambers. As all eyes were fixed on the giant stature of Nelson Mandela, he made a panoramic glance around the room. While sensing the tension, he essentially said to everyone, “Though I am the newly elected president of the country, we need your help. I want to invite everyone in this room to please stay on and help us transition this nation into a new future.”
No one was to be fired. No one was to be replaced by any favorites of the ANC Party as a repayment for those who were loyal to the former government. Mandela was wise enough to know that the powerful economic status of the past must be preserved for the sake of the future. We remember that one woman of the former government, Zelda la Grange, did stay on and remained Mandela’s personal assistant unto his death.
The script writers of Invictus revealed the character of Mandela. It was a character that saved a nation in order to work toward the building of the new and better “rainbow nation.” This single godly character of forgiveness that made it possible to spare South Africa from a blood bath in the transition of power is identified throughout the Bible, and in particular, in a New Testament quotation of an Old Testament statement: “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Hb 10:17; see Jr 31:34). Mandela imposed on himself the godly principle of forgiveness. He refused to react in retaliation against the sins of the past government, He moved on with a spirit of forgiveness.
Nelson Mandela has subsequently gone down in history as a forgiving person. During those years, there seemed to be no end to his willingness to forgive the sins of others in the past. Though he had previously spent years in the prison of the former government for his political views and actions against an oppressive government, to him there was no justification for resentment and retaliation. Forgiveness, not retaliation, was deep in the recesses of his soul. That moral virtue saved a nation.
Mandela’s spirit of forgiveness was a good example for others who would seek to implement a paradigm shift in a government that represents two vastly different societies within one nation. Mandela spoke for all Africans on the continent in reference to this particular personality principle of forgiveness. And in order to reveal his lack of thirst for retaliation through power, he set the example for a nation to go forth for the people. Those politicians who have suffered the ordeal of losing an election would do themselves a favor by researching the character and behavior of the late South African President Nelson Mandela.
One thing that Mandela did in order to emphasize the point that elections should not be about power, was that he made a decision to be in office for only one five-year term. And during this term, he asked the former president of the Nationalist Party he had defeated in the election, F. W. de Klerk, to co-president the country with him through the transition, which thing de Klerk did for two years. After two years, however, de Klerk moved on to rebuild the Nationalist Party. Mandela later said that he wished that de Klerk would have stayed with him longer as co-president.
Mandela did not want to endanger in any way the strong economy that the previous Nationalist Party had built over the last several decades. Neither was it his desire to presumptuously make any claim for the existing strong South African economy—he was in prison during those years of nation building. He was wise enough to know that if the country was to go successfully into the future, then the new ANC government had to preserve the economic strength of the past government.
De Klerk later stated, and correctly, that any healthy democracy cannot survive as a one-party state. There must always be a vibrant opposition to any ruling party if a nation is to survive as a democracy. Otherwise, the one-party state becomes dictatorial and oppressive to the people. The politicians of one-party states are only fooling the people if they assert that they are a democracy, but at the same time, do not allow a two-party state to exist.
Mandela was a forgiving president for the people, by the people, and of the people. His legacy was his spirit of forgiveness. He lived long enough for many in the country, who did seek retaliation, to have the opportunity to calm down, grow up, and move on in building a new South Africa. This spirit of forgiveness was expressed by one of the ANC party members—a brother in Christ—who had been locked up in jail for three months by the former government during the campaign of 1993. He was never given a reason why he was jailed.
A few years after the 1994 election, he was once touring the South in America. He took a tour through one of the museums that staged the relics of the former years of America in the South, particularly during the years of the marginalization of African Americans. The curator of the museum was giving his normal presentation of all the injustices against African Americans before they too were given the right to vote. After the curator had carried on for some time, our former jailed ANC party member innocently raised his hand and asked, “When did all this discrimination carry on in America?” The curator replied, “This all took place in America during and before the 1950s.”
Our ANC brother was somewhat taken back. So he politely responded to the curator, “We suffered all these injustices in our country up until the release of Mandela from prison and the 1994 election that was only couple years ago. But we have all forgiven all that systematic discrimination and moved on.” The spirit of Mandela had prevailed, and the curator had little to say in response.
As we have said before in other documents, we would not have wanted to live in any other country of the world during the transition before and after the 1994 election than in South Africa. It was indeed a thrilling time to experience the birth of a new nation that will carry on into the future. When the virtue of forgiveness prevails, any society that may have lost that cultural trait can upon restoration experience a beautiful metamorphosis into a new world.
Those days were indeed times to witness national forgiveness in action. There was no time for a spirit of retaliation to be revealed through post-election marches and building burning. It was a time to burn divisions, build cultural bridges, and march for national forgiveness and reconciliation. If a people cannot forgive the sins of the past, then certainly they can no longer claim to be a “Christian nation.” They have forgotten the number one moral standard that defines those who would walk after the character of the God in whom we believe.
You can now understand why we use the word “godly” in reference to this reconciliatory character of a leader who took his nation into a new world order for the people. Leaders who do not have this reconciliatory spirit are not fit for leadership. If their thirst for power, respite and retaliation compels them to spew out hatred and revenge on those of the past government, then they have lost their moral compass, if indeed they had a godlike spirit before their election into power. Likewise, if the old outgoing leadership portrays a spirit of unforgiveness after being voted out of power, then they should never have been in power in the first place.
We are of those after the One who set the character for all those who claim to be Christian. The last words of our “President” (King) who was voted out of a office on earth by the “political religionists” of the Jews of His day set the moral standard for our character forever: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). This defined the character of the early disciples. As Stephen laid down his head in sleep from thrown stones of retaliation from the “political” opposition, he cried out, “Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge” (At 7:60). We know that we have morphed into a godly moral paradigm when we say this in reference to those who have or will oppose us. If we would claim to be of Christ (Christian) in any way, then we must be known for being those of a forgiving spirit.
Godly means that we live after the behavior of God. And in reference to the behavior of God, it is by grace that we receive an unlimited measure of His forgiveness. We will never forget that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). “For if you forgive men their trespasses,” our Lord Jesus said, “your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Mt 6:14). Paul emulated for all of us the character that should be typical of every person who would claim to be a disciple of the Son of God:
“To whom you forgive anything, I forgive also. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven in the presence of Christ for your sakes” (2 Co 2:10).
TIME TO REVEAL WHO HE IS BY WHO WE ARE There are often times in history during social chaos when Christians have an opportunity to reveal their heavenly Father. In your country, this may be one of those times. Our heavenly Father is love because of His demonstration of grace through the offering of His Son. This is the nature and action of grace, and this is the scope of this rewritten and released book. Thousands of PDF copies of this book have now gone out worldwide. It is a great read if you are seeking to understand who we are because of who He is. If you want to share a “dictionary” that defines Christianity, then this is the book. Feel free to download and share.
RETHINKING THE ORGANIC FUNCTION OF THE BODY
Sometimes in history global events transpire that drive us to rethink our theology, and in particular, our understanding of how we view certain concepts in reference to the church. The axiomatic principle that familiar passages must always be reexamined is especially true in times of social chaos during wars and global pandemics. In the global pandemic days that began in 2020, which days will continue until an effective vaccine is discovered for the Covid-19 virus, it seems that the relentless virus will be with us far into the future, as is the inflictions of AIDS, tuberculosis and influenza. What has already begun on the part of many is to rethink the New Testament teaching concerning the identity and behavior of the church.
What has transpired in these pandemic days has motivated us to rethink our faith, specifically our identity as the children of God. Because health departments around the world have taken aim at what had become the identity of many religious groups—the assembly—we have now been forced into reconsidering what defines our relationship with God, and in particular, our relationships with one another. Because of restrictions that have been placed on Christians in reference to their assemblies, what faithful Christian has not reconsidered his or her relationship with God? Is it possible to feel as close to God in one’s closet as we do when in the midst of fellow congregates?
Since many people formerly identified their faith by their assemblies, I thought it very appropriate to republish a revision of this book in order to rethink this subject. The original publication struck at the heart of the theology that Christianity is somehow identified by the assembly of the saints, particularly in reference to what the saints commonly perform on Sunday morning. But this misguided identity of the church produced a dichotomy in Christian behavior that has misled not only ourselves, but also made it difficult for unbelievers to understand the nature of true Christianity.
It seems that the unbelieving world has understood “Christians” according to their performance of religious ceremonies that take place in church buildings around the world, and not according to their behavior throughout the week. This understanding of Christianity has often led the world to harbor a distorted understanding of who Christians are and what “church” means. The pandemic may have helped in correcting this misunderstanding. When assemblies of Christians are greatly restricted, or even shut down completely during lockdowns, Christians began to reevaluate their own personal identity as Christians. The world has also started viewing Christians from a different perspective. As for Christians, these are certainly the times in which everyone must take another look in their Bibles and come to a different understanding of the Christian faith.
This book is more relevant today because readers are forced into rethinking who they are in their relationship with God. Since we had formerly been misguided to think that our faith depended on whether we were discovered in some assembly on Sunday morning, we are now home alone wondering if the Holy Spirit functions outside a church assembly. Possibly more important is the belief that we had convinced ourselves that unless we meritoriously wandered through a certain criteria of acts of worship with fellow disciples in an assembly, we were not worshiping God. And even worse, we went so far as to convince ourselves that our identity as the church was established by the performance of our acts of worship on Sunday morning during the “hour of worship.”
So now we are home alone, wondering if the church can even exist when all the members are socially distanced from one another and alone in their homes. We must take this opportunity to make sure that we have a Bible-defined understanding of the church. Our worship must be extracted from the confines of performing rites, rituals and ceremonies in public assemblies. It must now be rediscovered in the confines of our homes. For many, closets have been cleaned of cobwebs and dusted in order to restore again silence with God in prayer. Gone are all the orchestras, and guitars lie quietly in cases stacked away in the corner of attics. These are certainly times for reconsideration of what we may have fabricated over time that in itself was a drift away from a close relationship with our Father. What we defined as “worship” may have been an invention for ourselves with less focus on God, and more on our own emotional needs.
In the midst of our social distancing and isolation from one another, it may be time to again challenge the doctrine of “church autonomy.” For years this misguided teaching separated groups of Christians into independent church-house shelters where the denominated tried to validate themselves with their worship performances on Sunday morning. But the pandemic has driven us to rethink this misguided theology that we could socially distance ourselves as a group, and then think that we would all be together as one in heaven. The irony of the matter lies in the fact that the autonomous are now autonomously home alone, craving to be with any brother or sister who might happen to come their way. Maybe the good that will come out of the Covid pandemic, as in the case of wars, is that we are forced into a social environment wherein we can better understand our inconsistencies in reference to church autonomy. Such beliefs now seem so senseless since we are forced into individual autonomy, or at least greatly limited to house assemblies around the world.
It is in times as these, therefore, that we need to refresh our studies of the nature of the church, particularly our relationship with one another and God. Sometimes God must move us into extremes in order that we might come to a better knowledge of the truth. At least in the past history of the nation of Israel He did such through their captivity. The Israelites came back from that captivity a changed people, never again to wander off into self-righteous Baal religion that was so common among them before the confinement of captivity. Maybe we too must be moved so far away from one another into the captivity of our own homes before we can restore a craving for God and for one another. But more important, maybe we need to be moved away from one another in order that we might renew our one-on-one relationship with our Father, who in our former religiosity had become only an afterthought during our self-righteous ceremonies we performed on Sunday morning for our own entertainment. Once we rediscover that our salvation is totally dependent on His grace through His Son, then we can find some comfort in the fact that we are saved without all the self-righteous rites, rituals and meritorious ceremonies that we performed in mega-assemblies around the world. It is now that the world has the opportunity to understand us apart from what they observed us doing during a Sunday morning performance.
Isolation always drives us to understand that church is not defined by assemblies. Church is defined by love-driven individuals throughout the world who have been baptized into Christ Jesus in response to the grace of God that was revealed on the cross. When we come to this realization, it is then that we will find confidence in our home alone relationship with Him, regardless of where everyone else is in their homes, who are also alone.
We read in our history books of wars and pandemics that have occurred throughout the centuries. We can even read again John’s prophecy of what would happen when government would eventually come crashing down on Christians for a century and a half in the first two centuries two millennia ago. We must remember that all those Christians survived those chaotic years. We are here today because they did. There were no cellphones, no internet, no television and no newspapers during their years of persecution. And yet, those Christians who emerged from persecution, pandemics and global wars survived. They did so because their faith was not, as ours often is, centered around Sunday assembly performances, or church function that was centered around church-buildings, organization committees, fancy robes and reversed collars. Christians then were faithful in godly behavior that was born out of their living response to the grace of God. They never cease to believe that they would survive in the darkness of a catacomb, or huddled in fear in a bombed out building. They simply survived, and the darkness and fear made them better. So much better that their faith transitioned through those harsh times in order to captivate our hearts today when we read about their strength.
It is my prayer, therefore, that this book will motivate readers around the world to rethink their concept of “church.” I send the book forth in order to challenge your thinking on this matter, and in doing so, to possibly restore a faith that will permeate all trials through which we must go in this sin-infested world. In the midst of so many trails we need to remember always what the Holy Spirit said to some who stayed with Jesus about two thousand years ago when they too were to suffer through heard times:
“These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
[Preface from a forthcoming book entitled: THE ORGANIC FUNCTION OF THE BODY OF CHRIST]
Acts 12 is a good example of what happened in Jerusalem surrounding Herod’s efforts “to harass some of the church [ekklesia]” (At 12:1). What this effort on the part of Herod did for us is that it gave the historian Luke the opportunity to observe the early disciples’ function as the one organic body of Christ in a particular city.
At this time in the city of Jerusalem—about ten to twelve years after the events of Acts 2—the number of members of the church in Jerusalem could have been from 25,000 to 30,000, some historian estimate more. Since there was no place of common assembly for this number of members, the members met in the houses of the members that were scattered throughout the city.
Now notice carefully how Luke detailed Herod’s ambitions. Herod’s goal was not to harass some of the “churches” (plural), but some of the entire body of believers, the church. There was no such thing as approximately 1,000 autonomous “churches” throughout the city—assuming about twenty-five members meeting in one house assembly. There was only one church, but hundreds of assemblies. This is significant in reference to the organic function of the universal body of Christ. In this case, Luke’s account of this matter details that there was always only one church in any particular city that is mentioned in the book of Acts. There was no such thing as individual autonomous “churches” in the cities that are mentioned in the New Testament.
In order to accomplish his sinister deed, Herod arrested Peter. On this occasion, the whole church, that is every member in the city of Jerusalem went into prayer action. “So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was earnestly made to God for him by the church” (At 12:5). Again, reference was not to autonomous “churches” throughout the city of Jerusalem. Emphasis was on the one body, the one church in Jerusalem, though at the time the members were assembling in an estimated one thousand homes throughout the city.
The prayers were made, and God subsequently answered the prayers by sending an angel to fetch Peter out of jail (At 12:6-11). Once out of jail, Peter then went to only one house where there were disciples meeting in prayer for him (At 12:12). After some persistent knocking in order to be allowed to enter, Peter eventually explained all that had happened, and now he was free. But after encouraging the disciples who were meeting in that specific house, the house of Mary, Peter then said, “Go tell these things to James and to the brethren” (At 12:17).
There were other brethren of the church in Jerusalem who were not praying in the house of Mary. “The brethren” were scattered to houses throughout the city. Even after meeting in the house of Mary, Luke wanted to emphasize this point by recording, “Then he [Peter] departed [from the house of Mary] and went to another place [house]” (At 12:17).
At the time, the members of the church in Jerusalem (singular) were meeting in the homes of members throughout the city. All the members in many houses were offering up prayers as one organic body on behalf of Peter. Not all the members in the city of Jerusalem could assemble in the house of Mary. Nevertheless, it was still the church in the entire city that Herod set himself to harass. In this case, it was the one church functioning as one organic body in prayer. There was no such thing as autonomous church groups assembling throughout the city of Jerusalem. There was only one church in the city, and the members of this one church functioned as one body in offering up prayers for Peter to receive a “get out of jail free card,” which thing the angel became.
[I will republish a forthcoming book on this subject in a few weeks.]