A Band of Ragamuffins

A Strange Reality

One of the remarkable things about the independent movement which is sweeping through the ranks of Christendom and Adventism, is the fact that it is a movement largely led by common people from the ordinary walks of life. There are not many ordained ministers, not many recognized theologians involved in it and most of those in the forefront have very little formal theological training. Formal training can be a valuable tool in the effective accomplishment of any task, but the record of the Christian Church reveals that when God was seeking for people to carry out his greatest mission he did not seek for scholars. The following comment from the book of Acts tells us a great deal:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

“Unlearned and ignorant,” is not what we would expect from men chosen to be teachers of the greatest message ever given to the human race, yet as far as formal training was concerned, this was the truth. This was something deliberately designed by God, in seeking for people who could be used in proclaiming this vital, but unpopular message, he turned from those who had been trained in the higher schools of learning and selected men who had not been infected by the traditions of the schoolmen.

These chosen men were indeed a strange crew. The most prominent of them, Peter, James and John were fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector and Simon was a zealot, a member of a group dedicated to overthrowing the Romans by violent means. There was nobody who was outstanding as a scholar, and not even one person from among the elders, the Pharisees, the Scribes or the Levites. Later of course, Jesus did choose Paul who was an outstanding theologian and evidently highly trained in matters of religion. Paul became one of the greatest teachers of the gospel, but his calling was an exception to the rule. Every other recognizable leader in the early church came from among the common people.

This was a necessity, in a sense, God had no choice. The education exalted by men had not prepared its students to receive or understand the things of God, there was a great deal of show and superficial knowledge, but very little of the true understanding of the character of God. Jesus himself, the author of the Christian faith was similarly protected from the “higher” education of his time.

Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? (John 7:14-15)

This is one of the reasons why He was hated, rejected and ultimately killed by the Jews. His approach to God was completely contrary to the ways in which they had been taught and in fact, his teaching endangered their entire system of religion and exposed their educational system as being nothing but pretentiousness and sham. This is the reason why they could not tolerate him and eventually had him crucified.

Today, the situation is still the same; if you visit a church service you will most likely be treated to a long introduction where you will hear of all the many scholarly accomplishments of the speaker. The emphasis today, is not on the spiritual life of those who lead out in religion, but on the time they have spent in formal study, earning degrees. You will not find many who fit the qualification emphasized as an aspect of the New Covenant.

And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isa 54:13)

History repeats

Human nature does not change and what men have done in the past, they will do again in the future. Those who have obtained their ideas about God from the educational systems developed by men, inevitably become locked into a certain way of thinking and have minds that are closed to the leading of God’s spirit. It is sad, but true. There are a few who pass through these systems of education and still, end up with eyes open to the truths in the word of God, rather than to the dogma of their particular denomination, but such men are few and far between – a true rarity. This is why God still has had to continue to find his true messengers from among the common people, untrained in the sophistries of the schoolmen.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1Cor 1:26-27)

A Ragamuffin Army
The Bible is full of stories and illustrations which give us much encouragement as we encounter the challenges of the situation which exists today. One story which is particularly relevant is the story of David’s experience as a fugitive, during the reign of King Saul.

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men. (1Sam 22:1-2)

Saul was the anointed king of Israel, he sat in the seat of government and power and Israel was run according to his directions. He was the man recognized and obeyed by Israel. However, from the time that David killed the giant Goliath, Saul recognized that David was specially favoured by God and he developed a bitter jealousy and enmity towards him and tried time and time again to destroy him. God delivered him each time, but David realized that he could no longer remain where Saul could find him and this is when he went to dwell in the cave of Adullam.

When David departed to the wilderness, he became an outcast, a fugitive hunted by the authorities, a man with a price on his head. He could expect no justice from the judges or any of the leaders, his position seemed hopeless. But something strange happened, little by little individuals and small groups of people came to join him in his exile. The Bible tells us who these people were, they were the people who had nothing to lose, the people who were already outcast by society, people who did not belong, who had a grouse with the system. They were the distressed, those in debt, hunted for their failures, the discontented, fed up with the situation in Israel. These were the ones who came to join David’s army, because nobody else would come. In other words, they were people who had nothing to lose. Those who were well off and comfortable had no reason under the sun to join up with a group of rebellious malcontents who surely seemed to be heading for early disaster!

Yet the Bible tells us that this group of misfits became an elite band of warriors, a guerrilla army that never lost a single battle. In fact we learn that this tiny army of 600 men were really the ones who fought the battles of the Lord while David was an outcast, hunted and hated by Saul!

I believe that if we have eyes to see we can discern the same thing happening today. The people who have become involved in the independent movement are mostly people who started out being badly treated by the authorities in the church. Many of them were silenced, censored, disfellowshipped, stripped of their offices, ostracised simply because they asked uncomfortable questions. Maybe it was a doctrine, maybe it was an abuse of authority, maybe it was an injustice, but the response of those in authority drove people away and they sought a place where they could be free to serve God according to their consciences. Many of these have found themselves in a modern “Cave Adullam,” a part of a ragamuffin army which is developing into an elite band, capable of fighting the battles of the Lord.

The truth is that those who have maintained their connection with the organized church are so conditioned to think submissively, to refrain from thinking independently that it is impossible for God to open their minds to the truths that are vital for them to hear. The church defines what is to be believed and taught and no member can step outside of those parameters. God cannot use those channels any more than he could use Saul and his army. God is raising up a ragamuffin army similar to David’s band which fought the battles of the Lord from exile. Remember, God does not see as man sees.

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. (1Sam 16:7)

(Source: Restoration Ministry)