Can These Dry Bones Live?
by Derek Prince
Used by permission of Derek Prince Ministries, publishers of Proclamation Magazine, in which this article was reprinted.
Is the seeming ecclesiastical chaos of our day the death rattle of the Church or is it the moment of God’s unveiling of His master plan for the body of Christ?
While I was pastoring a church some years ago, the Lord called me into a different ministry. When I informed the congregation of my decision, the immediate response was, “Oh, don’t do that! If you leave, the whole thing here will collapse.”
“Well,” I said, “if all I am doing here is building something that will collapse when I leave, the sooner I leave and it collapses, the better!” I left, and by the grace of God, it did not collapse.
Unfortunately, however, this response represents the attitude of the majority of professing Christians concerning the ministry. It is all a one-man show, one man carrying all the burden, one man doing all the work. The tragedy is that most people do not realize that this was never the way the Lord Jesus Christ intended His Church to operate.
With this in mind, we are going to embark on a study of the five main ministries which Jesus Christ ordained for the upbuilding of the body of Christ. These are listed in Ephesians 4:11 as: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (which I prefer to call shepherds) and teachers. The basis for our study is Ephesians 4:1-6, 16:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. . . . [It] causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Basic Character Requirements
Considering this portion of Scripture, let us examine it to see what God would say to us about the Church in our day.
Paul, who is the author of Ephesians, starts this chapter by discussing Christian character with special emphasis upon humility. He says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord.” As he thus emphasizes humility, he does it from a position most appropriate to his theme—he writes from inside a prison cell. Notice the language he uses, “I . . . beseech you.” He is not giving orders as a spiritual dictator; he is entreating his fellow believers in love for their own good and God’s glory.
What does he ask of them? “To walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” That calling is being a Christian, not some special dramatic ministry. Then he states the way in which we are to walk, “With lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Here are the character requirements: lowliness, gentleness (or meekness), longsuffering, forbearance and love. Without these basic qualities in the life of the believer, the Church will never be built.
Several years ago I set out to try to discover the scriptural blueprint for church order. After finding what I felt was the scriptural pattern of church life, my desire was to translate this blueprint into actual experience in the lives of believers. But I immediately ran into a problem. No matter how good the blueprint may be, or how clever the architect is who designed it, the building cannot be properly constructed without the kind of materials for which it was designed.
Our problem, then, is not just getting to know the blueprint, but producing the proper materials—believers of the quality that Jesus had in mind when He designed the Church. To enforce this, Paul inserts verses 9 and 10 to show how Jesus fulfilled the pattern of humility. He descended before He ascended. The pattern of humility is going down before you go up. You must become the servant before you can become the leader.
Taking this a bit further, Philippians 2:5 tells us that we are to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, think like Jesus thought. It says that He “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” He did not have to grasp for it because He was God Himself. Satan reached up for equality with God and fell. Jesus did not reach up; He stooped down.
The verses that follow give us a beautiful outline of the humiliation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. There are seven steps down and seven steps up. In verses 7 and 8, we read of His humiliation. Verse 9 pictures Jesus exalted—not because He was God, but because He met the conditions and earned it. He humbled Himself to the extreme and was exalted to the extreme.
This universal principle is stated in Luke 14:11: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Again, Proverbs 15:33 tells us: “Before honor is humility.” This is our pattern of life, and we must keep it in mind throughout this study. If we depart from it, our learning is only theology and never becomes experiential.
Application of this humility in the body of Christ is found in Ephesians 5:21: “Submitting [yourselves] to one another in the fear of God.” It is easy to submit to God in theory; but when it comes to submitting to one another, the test is applied. For years in the Charismatic movement people have run around being individualists and saying, “I’m free . . . I can do as I wish!” This is only half of the truth. In reality, we are no more free than we are submissive to God. And we are no more submissive to God than we are to one another in the body of Christ.
The Unity of the Holy Spirit
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul says, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit.” This is to be our motivation. In everything we say and do, we are aiming to keep from breaking the precious unity of the Holy Spirit. God gives unity. But it is our responsibility to maintain the unity God gives us.
Paul is now ready to lay the foundation with the seven basic unities on which this unity of the Holy Spirit is founded. They are: one body—the Church of Jesus Christ; one Spirit—the Holy Spirit; one hope—hope in the future, which is heaven; one Lord—the Lord Jesus; one faith—the Gospel or the Bible; one baptism . . . and this is the thorny one!
I do not believe you can dissociate this baptism from what is mentioned above, one Lord and one faith. It is baptism, on the basis of faith, into the Lord Jesus Christ. You believe, and then you are baptized. You may ask, “Brother Prince, what is the correct formula?” I would answer this way: “What is the correct result?” It is burial and resurrection in Jesus Christ. If this has taken place, you need not be too concerned about the formula that was used.
Finally, the seventh great unity is one Father—which is the fatherhood of God over all His children. . . .
Read this message in its entirety at http://www.derekprince.org/ and discover, among other things, “Diverse Ministries,” “The Ultimate Goals of the Church,” “The Alternative,” and finally...
Ezekiel 37 gives us a beautiful portrayal of what God is doing today in the Church. If you will recall, it takes place in “the valley of dry bones.” This represents God’s people—scattered, in exile, lost, hopeless, forlorn, and dead. Ezekiel was given a revelation from God that he was to prophesy over these bones. In verse 7 we read, “I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone.” This is about where we are in the Charismatic movement today . . . can these dry bones live?
Unless otherwise indicated, scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Emphasis added.