Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Montanus: Listening To The Spirit

Background Check:
Early in the Church’s history, they were speaking about Jesus and the church was growing. But not everyone was happy about this—Jews and pagan priests wanted the church to be stopped. Even the Roman government, led by Caesar who was the empire’s lord and god, did not want the church to be in competition with the Empire. In many places in the Roman empire, Christians suffered under the Romans. There were rumors that Christians ate people and drank blood. And they did not acknowledge the gods that the Romans worshipped. So the Romans arrested and killed any Christian who did not renounce Christ.
This was very difficult for many gatherings of Christians throughout the empire. Most congregations of Christians were able to stay together because they strictly obeyed their leaders, whom they called Overseers. They gave these Overseers complete say over what they believed, how they acted and how they responded to authorities.

His Story:
In one province, Phrygia, the persecution was especially heavy in 172. The Phrygians did not trust authorities or those who oppressed others. So they did not want to establish an Overseer over them to tell them what to do. Nor did they want other Overseers from other congregations tell them what to do. But who should lead the congregations? Montanus, a man in the Phrygian church said, “We must not listen to men, but to God. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit and He will lead us rightly.” And so they began to listen to the Spirit and to do what He said. They would see visions, have dreams from God, speak in strange, unknown tongues and say words that came directly from God.

However, Montanus and his followers were not always easy to listen to. They did crazy things and said even crazier things. People thought they were raving and that they talked like madmen. And they did sometimes say things that were opposed to Scripture. But Montanus did hear the Spirit of God and desired to follow him alone.

In this way, Montanus reliance on the Spirit was in line with Jesus’ teachings. Jesus told his followers to listen to God’s Spirit and to trust what the Spirit had to say. Paul also told his churches not to “quench the Spirit” but to listen to those who had messages from the Spirit. The early church leaders forgot about this part of the teaching of Jesus.

But Montanus himself forgot some of the teaching as well. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would remind the believers of what Jesus had said and would be in line with Jesus’ teaching. Paul and John both taught that the spirits of prophets should be tested to make sure that they are of God’s Spirit, and that they weren’t being decieved. Paul also said that a particular prophecy had to agree with the rest of the church. Montanus himself prophesied some future events that never happened. Thus, sometimes he and his followers did not speak for the Spirit. They needed to be tested, but not rejected.

The Final Word (of Men):
Over time, the Christians outside of Phygia decided that the Montanists were heretics—not teachers of the true faith—and rejected them and their teaching. From that time, anyone who wanted to listen to the Spirit and say what the Spirit said was rejected as a heretic.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:12-14

Helpful Hint: Listening to the Spirit, not men
The Faithful were those who focused on God in Jesus—on his word, on his life and on what he was telling to them right at the moment through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit taught them the Bible and told them what they were to say. And if men’s teachings disagreed with them, the Faithful didn’t care. What Jesus said and what the Spirit taught them was more important. Montanus spoke the visions and prophecies the Spirit gave him, even if he is rejected by the rest of the church. As we will see in later chapters, George Fox was thrown in prison for teaching what the Spirit taught him and Hudson Taylor focused on what the Spirit was telling him, not on the traditions of men. What the Spirit says is more important than human reasoning and belief. So the Faithful listen to the Spirit and obey Him.

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