Oxenbridge, Rob

My dear family and friends, I’m writing this letter to you because I care what you think, and I want you to know that I have thought and prayed long and hard over these concerns, and I’ve earnestly searched Scripture, looking for the answers to these concerns. (Acts.17:11)

Having found some of the answers I feel moved to share these with you that you may more easily understand how God’s hand is leading me.

(1) “The Truth” is the only way:

We have heard so many times from so many different workers, that accepting God means accepting The Truth or The Way, as we’re called. Those of us who have been born and raised in this Way have never questioned that statement, or wondered about it. If the workers have told us, then it must be true.

But I have felt the warmth and love and mercy and gentleness of many Christians from other churches, yet I’ve never had fellowship with them because I’ve been taught that we are the only Way. I have felt sorrow for my friends who are members of ungodly churches. I have judged them in my heart as unsaved, simply because they are not part of our fellowship.

I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with our fellowship but think deeply about that attitude. “They are going to hell because they’re following a worldly Christian church.” Isn’t it really judging their salvation? Are we really prepared to put ourselves in God’s position as judge?

We need to understand Jesus’ teaching on this matter. In Matthew 12:22 a demon-possessed man was brought before Jesus that the man might be healed. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus cast out that demon.

The Pharisees who heard of this said, “It is only by the prince of demons that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus’ response was, “…if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you…. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age, or in the age to come.”

What was the sin of the Pharisees? They were denying or rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t this what we do when we condemn the “worldly churches who are following false ministers to a lost eternity”?

When we see the work of the spirit in another’s life, just as the Pharisees saw His work, and when we deny that work as being just natural or as the work of a wrong spirit, we are blaspheming the Holy Ghost.

I’ve heard many people say, including myself in the past, “Yes, there’s a spirit at work in those churches, but it’s not the right one.” That doesn’t mean that there aren’t false churches out there. There are, but when we speak against a church in which God truly is working then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

That terrified me when I finally realized what it meant to stand up in a meeting and say I’m glad I’m part of God’s only true way on earth! I was guilty of that sin. And when we deny the Spirit’s work in the lives of others we deny Him entrance to our own lives. In denying Him entrance to our heart we shut ourselves out of the kingdom of God. It took a miracle on the road to Damascus to open Paul’s eyes to the truth.

As long as this fellowship as a whole, believes that they are the only ones on earth truly following Jesus, then they are in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit’s work in other Christian churches.

(2) The 2×2 ministry.

Many times we hear that God ordained only one ministry, and that of the apostles forsaking all and going out in twos and by faith, to preach the word of God. There is nothing wrong with this ministry. It is, in fact, admirable that so many men and women have given up careers, the hope of a family, a home, to go out and spread the wonderful message of the Gospel. This is just as Jesus sent those apostles in Matthew 10 and as he sent the seventy. But why did he send them that way?

They were to leave everything and go straight away because Jesus would be following closely behind them. As they quickly made their way through Palestine from town to town, Jesus was only ever two steps behind. Their mission was to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God. That message was fulfilled as Jesus came to each town the apostles had already passed through.

Is it important to go out 2×2? Well of the 28 times apostles and disciples went out on missions in Acts, only 8 times did they go in pairs. In Matthew 28:18-20 when Jesus gives the great commission to go out and make disciples throughout the world he never mentioned that they had to go 2×2. Why? Well, some would say because he’d already sent them 2×2 the first time, and that set the pattern.

But when we read Jesus’ statement in Greek, the language it was written in, we can understand why he never mentions a number. The importance is on Jesus command “Make disciples” not on “Go ye”. We are all charged with the ministry of bringing people to God. Think about this, if the ministers have to go out and preach 2×2 to be considered true to Jesus, then we as individuals can never bring anyone to God, because we’re not going around preaching 2×2. This is one example of why it is dangerous to read individual verses without really understanding what Jesus meant, and with taking verses out of context of the whole of the bible.

Also, in the Jewish traditions of law it was required for two or three witnesses to testify to the truth of something. Sending them 2×2 to the immediate Jewish surroundings was a necessity. Is it important in our age? We have no such custom.

Is it important to give up everything? When Jesus sent out the 12 and then the 70, it was for short journeys. They were to move quickly and carrying extra luggage would simply slow them down. Jesus reverses his order in Luke 22:35. Jesus said, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing, “They answered.

He said, “But now if you have a purse take it, and also a bag.”

If it was so important that they went out with nothing, why does he later reverse his order? Because the first mission was short and hasty. The next time they go would be on long dangerous journeys.

This does not mean our ministers aren’t working for God. I believe they’re doing a wonderful job. But it is a mistake to make our 2×2 ministry a matter of importance, even a matter of salvation. Again when we or the workers disregard the ministers of other churches we’re in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, if those men and women are ordained by God.

(3) The emphasis on external appearance.

Every convention we hear certain workers preaching about the importance of women’s clothing and hair, and of how vain or wicked make-up and jewelry is. I wondered about these things and searched the Scriptures, keeping a prayerful heart and mind, and open to God’s leading. Yet there is not one word in the New Testament that says it is necessary for women to wear skirts and dresses or that it’s evil if they wear shorts or slacks. We have no basis whatsoever in the written word of God to teach such a thing.

Jesus and the writers of the New Testament never preach against make-up. There are two verses that may be understood as speaking against jewelry. Let’s take a look at them. 1 Peter 3:3: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry or of fine clothes.

Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Read that carefully. Peter does not command women to not wear gold or fine clothes. He urges them to emphasize their heart. Let their beauty come from within. To read this as a literal command against jewelry or fine clothing is to ignore the Greek figure of speech. Peter is saying,

“Don’t judge a woman’s righteousness by how expensive or beautiful she looks. Rather take a look at their heart and see if it’s pure.”

Incidentally, if that were a command to be literally followed, then all the females who braid their hair are committing a sin.

The other verse is 1 Timothy 2:9-10: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

This is the same Greek sentence structure that Peter used. Paul is saying exactly the same as Peter. Neither of these verses can be used to prohibit women from wearing jewelry.

Interestingly, 1 Timothy 2:8, immediately preceding says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.” Why do we go on so much about women’s dress standards and utterly ignore a verse immediately next to it? Some will say I’m just trying to find fault, or that I’m nitpicking. But this isn’t the case. If we are really God’s only way on earth, why is it that we ignore so much of the New Testament?

For example:

(a) Men holding up their hands in prayer. 1 Timothy 2:8 -ignored, but we accept 1 Timothy 2:9 about women not wearing jewelry. (Incidentally, perhaps men holding up hands in prayer was for a custom of the churches of that time. Yet if that was only a custom then so too is the next verse about women and jewelry. We can’t accept one verse as relevant to us and ignore the next.)

(b) Elders praying over the sick. James 5:14-16 -unheard of

(c) The ministry offices of pastor, teacher, prophet. The workers are only filling the office of evangelists. Ephesians 4:11-13-non-existent

(d) The fact that elders are responsible for discipline and care of the local church, not the workers. 1 Timothy 3; Acts 20:17-28–workers seem to fulfill this role

(e) The role of deacons who are to administrate the local churches. 1 Timothy 3:8-12 -nonexistent

(f) The fact that salvation is a free gift from God; there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. When we believe and put our faith in Jesus, we are saved and then we respond to His free gift by living a life of love. Romans 3:22-24, Romans 4:23-25, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8, Galatians 3:22 -much emphasis on what WE can do.

Paul said the fruits of our sinful nature are obvious: debauchery, drunkenness, sexual immorality, lying, hatred, theft, envying. Since when does a woman not wearing skirts or having short hair fit in the same category as these other sins? When we consider them we see the common factor. They all hurt other people and ourselves. Women’s dress standard is an immaterial issue that takes our focus off Jesus and what He has done for us, and puts the focus on us and how we have to look to fit into a role. In other words, saying there’s something women can DO, to earn salvation.

Equally the fruits of the Spirit are obvious: love, gentleness, humility, meekness, compassion, joy, peace, etc. These are all about love for each other. I cannot dismiss these fruits when I see them in the lives of Christians from other churches. To do so would be to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

It seems that accepting the workers as the only true ministry is not in accordance with the New Testament. I sincerely believe that these men and women are trying to do God’s will for them. But as long as they deny the ministry of people from other Christian churches then they are in grave error. The emphasis is on accepting, not Jesus alone, but a package. That package consists of, a 2×2 ministry, a need to conform to a strict dress code, an emphasis on faith+what we can do: as opposed to faith alone, the belief that this fellowship is the ONLY one that God has ordained.

I know that friends and workers honestly believe that submitting to the dress code is an outward sign of submitting to God. Yet this denies the freedom of grace in which we are allowed to be who we are. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Are you really free to worship and serve God according to who you are? I believe that we are impressed to serve God according to what the group as a whole believes and upholds. This is conforming to a system of belief, as opposed to being transformed by the Spirit of God. And when people don’t uphold that system of standards, they are judged as rebelling or not having a spirit of submission. But submission to who? God, or a church?

When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, what did He mean? It is subtly inferred that we as a group of people and as a particular ministry, are The Truth or The Way. In fact, Jesus the person, Jesus the man, Jesus our God, is the way and the truth. We are to follow Him, not to follow a particular way or set of standards. This is the heresy that Paul refuted among the Galatians. They believed that they had to do something else as well as believe. We commit the same folly when we teach the importance of women having long hair/not wearing shorts or slacks/not wearing jewelry, of men having to have short hair, etc. We are saying “What Christ has done is insufficient. We need to do something as well.” Refer to Galatians 3:1-5.

Some will say that Paul was talking about the Law given to Moses. This is true. But that same law was holy and God-given. Is it somehow acceptable to God to put another law in its place? A man-made set of conditions? If He has said that faith in Christ is enough, that we don’t need to follow Moses’ Law, then following any other law or set of standards or guidelines, won’t impress Him.

For this reason and according to what God has convicted my conscience of, I cannot continue going to meetings and pretending that I believe it is God’s only true church on earth I accept it as one of the members of the body of Christ, not as the whole body in excluding all other Christians. For the time being, I will continue with missions, specials, and conventions. I won’t go to meetings because I don’t believe my convictions would be received freely or favorably.

I know that many of you will see me as having “lost out”.

I know that you will be sad and wonder how the devil drew me away.

Yet my life has never been more fulfilling or more full of the Holy Spirit and focused on Jesus the person, and on sharing that message with non-Christians.

Those of you who sincerely believe that The Truth is God’s only group of people on earth, I know you will no longer believe that I am saved, and living in Jesus. But I cannot escape God’s calling on my heart, and the messages He has spoken to me. I only ask that you would look deep into your hearts and in the same spirit that Jesus displayed, don’t shut me out so that we could continue to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. I am, forever, a child of God, and your brother in Him.

With much love in His grace and mercy,

Rob Oxenbridge
May 1999

P.S. I am speaking entirely for myself. What Karen believes is between God and her.