Hammer to the Nail: The Requirement of Local Church Membership – Part III

In this section, we continue to take a look at how Bojidar Marinov wrongly interprets the Scriptures in order to support his false idea that local church membership simply isn’t required and that Christians can function as Lone Rangers in doing gospel ministry quite without the need of local church membership. The next example to examine is that of Moses. Bojidar writes:

We have Moses, who was similarly called out of his people, and spent 40 years of his life alone among unbelievers, and then another 40 years alone in the wilderness. It was there, alone, in the wilderness, that God called him for his mission.

As before, there are not a lot of details to work with in terms of the life of Moses since the text is concerned to tell another story. We know some things, but not everything. Moses did spend his first years among the Egyptians in the royal court but even here he was not alone. As soon as Moses was found by the Egyptian princess, the mother of Moses becomes his nurse and was responsible for weaning him (Exodus 2:5-10). Given the dictates of Exodus 12 on teaching children (Exodus 12:24-27) and the direct role she played in putting him in the river in the first place, it’s highly unlikely that the mother of Moses never taught her son about what it meant to be a Hebrew.  After all, this is the story that begins with Hebrew midwives valiantly taking action against Pharaoh in saving the lives of young boys (Exodus 1:15-22).

But further, if Moses was all alone in Egypt, how did he bother to develop any empathy for his kinsmen in killing the Egyptian? How did he even know about them? Moses grew up at the Egyptian court and the very next verses show that Moses is aware of his Hebrew kinsmen, calls them brethren, and then took action on their behalf (Exodus 2:11).  The New Testament adds more to the context and as a result it’s clear that Moses even here is already looking toward Christ and the reward of faith–choosing to be identified with his people rather than remain in Egypt (Hebrews 11:24-27).   It seems as if Mr. Marinov has been watching something like The Prince of Egypt rather than actually reading from the text of Scripture.

Regardless, the story moves quickly.  The killing of an Egyptian forces Moses to flee and immediately the story introduces the careful reader to the priest of Midian. Interestingly enough, wherever Moses goes in the story of the Exodus he is already with and a part of his people. In truth, he is never really alone. Even Pharaoh’s daughter recognized him, not merely as a Hebrew boy but as one of the Hebrews’ children (Exodus 2:6). It’s missing these sorts of details that makes Bojidar’s gloss a huge misread of the text.

Moses did not, as Bojidar says, spend 40 years in the wilderness alone. In fact, he worked with his priestly father-in-law Jethro tending his sheep, married one of his daughters, raised a family, and eventually met God at the Burning Bush. This period of time was the training ground for what would come next and the text is busy telling us that Moses was being a faithful father, a good shepherd, and member of the community God had put him in.

As with other mysterious early figures in the Bible, we don’t know a lot about Jethro but we do know that Moses presents him in a very positive light as a priest of Midian.  Earlier, the Bible had already indicated that Moses dwelt with the Midian priest (Exodus 2:21) and it’s this very priest that guides Moses to set apart judges to lighten his duties as a leader of God’s people in Exodus 18. The passage makes quite clear that the Midian priest is a believer in God (Exodus 18:11), rejoices over the success of the withdrawal out of Egypt (Exodus 18:9), sacrifices to God for and with Moses, Aaron, and all the elders of Israel (Exodus 18:12), and then advises Moses on how to properly organize judges for the nation (Exodus 18:13-24).  Are we really to believe that Jethro’s household was something other than a place where worship to the one God regularly took place or that Moses was somehow all alone in the wilderness?

Even as the story of the Burning Bush begins, the text again emphasizes that Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, the priest of Midian (Exodus 3:1). For anyone with eyes to see or ears to hear (Revelation 2:29), this puts the story of Moses’ calling within the local ecclesiastical context he had at the time however imperfect it may have been. In other words, Moses wasn’t just called alone but was called as a part of the body of the faithful present there with him in the wilderness. This is solidified when we see Moses going to his priestly father-in-law later and confirming his ability to leave and lead for God (Exodus 4:18-20). As with any ministerial calling, the Scriptures dictate both an internal and external call. Moses was certainly singularly called by God for a particular mission but that calling was externally confirmed by the witness and presence of the Midian priest Jethro and the community he led.

The more closely Exodus and the story of Moses is read, the less it looks like Moses was a Lone Ranger like Bojidar would have us believe. It’s important to realize that this is the story Moses wrote of himself (John 7:19) and in the Spirit he chose to emphasize a calling that was not, on the whole, singular but had local communities that worshiped the one God at every turn with him, supporting him, and confirming his action and work. Moses didn’t write Exodus with the sort of firebrand Lone Ranger activity Bojidar Marinov is famous for and we can’t view the citation of him as an example for Marinov’s case as anything other than special pleading.

Again, the goal here is not to establish that we see New Covenant membership standards present in the life of Moses, but simply to show that Marinov’s conception of these things on the whole are inaccurate and do not really speak as strongly to the matter as some might suppose.

But, like the famous Ginsu steak knives, there is more.  Even if we grant Bojidar’s wild claims about Moses as a Lone Ranger Prophet and say the example he provides is accurate, that doesn’t make his case.  The examples we are given in Scripture do not automatically apply simply because they exist.  The Apostle Paul quite clearly tells us that the examples of the Old Covenant were both good and bad and that sometimes they ought to serve as a warning for us (1 Corinthians 10:6-12).  This means that examples of Old Covenant behavior do not establish on their own what Bojidar makes of them.

After all, there are other examples where Old Testament saints went rogue and acted on their own without institutional ecclesiastical support.  Yet, the Bible condemns them.  Korah rose up against Moses and was able to persuade some 250 other men to join with him and yet this was a rebellion that ended in a horrible death for them all (Numbers 16).  The chief claim of Korah was that the they didn’t need an institutional presence of God’s people because the Lord’s presence was with all of them (Numbers 16:3)!  That sounds awfully familiar to what Mr. Marinov is claiming and future posts will demonstrate just how fallacious his claim really is.

In the next post, we’ll address even more concerning Moses that Bojidar hasn’t taken into account and then we’ll eventually turn to the New Testament.
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[[ Part I, Part II, Part IV ]]