“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
More than a mile deep in places, the Grand Canyon gives us a spectacular view of the planet just beneath our feet. What we see are multiple horizontal sedimentary rock layers, each appearing remarkably pure, sometimes hundreds of feet thick. Embedded within those layers are hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of fascinating and beautifully preserved fossils. How did they get there? Fossils are formed when living creatures are buried in mineral-rich sediment in the presence of running water. Molecule by molecule, organic material is washed from their bodies and replaced by mineral material. In time, what is left are rocks with the exact same size and shape as the once living creatures that were buried. Scientists tell us that fossilization is a rare process that occurs only in flood conditions. For this reason, many Christians interpret the earth’s sedimentary rocks and fossils as products of the Genesis flood (Genesis 6-9). Fossils are, in the nature of the case, dead things. Because death entered the world through Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12), the fossils cannot represent life forms that have come and gone millions of years before man’s arrival. This also supports the view that fossils were formed during the flood of Noah’s day. Though fossils can be beautifully preserved, revealing even the intricate design and function of things like eyes (as in trilobite fossils), fossilized creatures are not (in fact cannot) be as impressive as when these creatures were alive and functioning. When I survey the history of Christianity with its countless creeds, counsels, confessions and denominations, I sometimes feel like I’m comparing living forms to their fossilized counterparts. Much like Adam, who was created by God and became animate by the power of the Holy Spirit (Genesis 2:7), the church was assembled by Christ but became a living body by the Spirit also (Acts 2). Very soon after the church was born in Jerusalem, local extensions of this body began popping up throughout the Roman Empire, largely due to the courageous missionary work of Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16-22). At first there was doctrinal and moral purity in the churches (Acts 2-6). Soon, however, some assemblies began to drift from Christ, their very source of life. They began by leaving their love for Him (Revelation 2:1-4). Invariably, this leads to the toleration of things contrary to the known will of God (Revelation 2:20). In time, some local assemblies became “fossils.” That is, in outward appearance they had the basic structure of a living Christian community but spiritually they had died (Revelation 3:1). May God provide for and protect our own church family, causing us to grow in grace and thrive in good works (2 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 10:24-25) and prevent our fossilization!