Ezek. 44:9 π Mt. 7:22 π Mt. 13:4 π Mt. 13:19 π Mt. 13:25 π Mt. 13:31-32 π Mt. 13:38-39 π Mt. 25:5 π Mk. 1:5 π Mk. 7:13 π Mk. 12:30 π Lk. 3:16 π Jn. 3:26 π Jn. 15:1-2 π Jn. 15:4-5 π Acts 2:1 π Acts 2:17 π Acts 5:34-40 π Acts 7:48 π Acts 17:24 π Acts 20:30 π Rom. 11:19-21 π 1 Cor. 3:16-17 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 1 Cor. 11:19 π 1 Cor. 12:13 π 2 Cor. 6:17 π Eph. 1:5 π Eph. 1:22 π Eph. 2:15 π Phlp. 3:14 π Col. 1:18 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:9-10 π 2 Tim. 2:22 π Tit. 2:14 π Heb. 5:13-14 π Jas. 3:15 π Jas. 3:17 π 1 Pet. 2:9 π 1 Pet. 4:11 π 1 Pet. 5:3 π 1 Jn. 2:2 π Rev. 17:3-5
The concept of the New Testament ekklesia eludes modern commercialized, apostasized "Christianity" ("churchianity") because, unlike "church," ekklesia is a thing to be and not very much a thing to do. Each individual member of Christ's ekklesia must be among those who pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart ( 2 Tim. 2:22 ) to even be qualified to be counted a member of the ekklesia. One who claims the name of Christ but who is known to be sexually impure, a swindler, an idolater, foul tongued, a drunkard or a thief is one not even to be associated with - with such a person we who are of Christ's ekklesia must even stop eating. ( 1 Cor. 5:11; top )
The "mixed multitude," when defined in these terms - which is the mainstay and foundational cornerstone (the best tithers and supporters of the "church") - is not welcome in the real sanctuary (holy place) of God.
"Thus says the Lord
The greatest reason that the mixed multitude is so welcome is, first, that the "church" doesn't push away anyone (except those who dissent against its aberrant practices, that is), but especially not a good paying customer. All "seekers" are welcome, even encouraged, to attend, passively and quietly listening (or not really listening, so long as they aren't disruptive) to the "pastor's" (this is an unscriptural construct when it becomes a position) Bible lectures and to do as much or as little as the "seeker" wants. In truth, this only sets up the perfect situation wherein lawlessness (doing what is right in one's own eyes) can be practiced in the name of Christ and God. A worse abomination is difficult to imagine.
But the argument, whether the assembly is supposed to be a school for sinners or a haven for the saints, is an old one in church history and cannot be fully resolved within the usual superficial definitions and aberrant practices of "church." The true ekklesia meeting, whereby citizens of the kingdom of light gather in conjunction with the Holy Spirit of God under the direct Headship of Christ to attend to the affairs of Christ's kingdom of light in a particular area or arena of influence, is to be a gathering of saints only - though it is equally true that saints can gather among a mixed multitude or even among the world to instruct sinners toward a more excellent way (that is, there is certainly time and place for teaching on the hillsides and even occasionally in the synagogues as Jesus did). One cannot be salt and light to this world and remain sequestered away (as the "church" often is) behind four walls and isolated unto one's selves!
But confusing these two very different kinds of assemblies attended by two very differing kinds of people is a recipe for spiritual disaster. Attending the average mega-"church," thinking it to be going into the house of the Lord while sitting passively and quietly in His "sanctuary" in order to demonstrate that one is a functioning member of God's family is a demonic deception of the highest order. The building is not His house ( Acts 7:48 , 17:24 ), the lecture hall is not a sanctuary of any kind (demonstrated most by the fact that the defiled and defiling mixed multitude is welcome there - see 2 Cor. 6:17 ), sitting passively and quietly is an open invitation to demonic invasion because it is direct disobedience to God's most important command to love the Lord your God with all of your being - Mk. 12:30 - and it insures that the listener can only be a spiritual baby - Heb. 5:13-14 ) and one is not able to be a functioning member of Christ's body and family unless any and every saint is able, perhaps even required, to speak and serve in the power of God. ( 1 Pet. 4:11; top ) Ignore these deep deceptions systematically built into the institutional and mega-"church" - proof of a different authorship than the transcendent, infallible, all-wise and all-knowing Most High God but rather instead proof that the father of all lies has constructed much more of the "church" than he is usually given credit for - at your own risk!
Perhaps no example of how subtle tradition can be is better than the question of water baptism - how, when and why we do baptize in water also shows the source of our actions. Do we baptize the way we baptize simply because we've always done it that way? Do we do so because it is the example we see in the Scriptures? Or do we truly allow the Lord Jesus to have true Headship over His people even in this area? The first two answers indicate that we are really obeying tradition (that makes the word of God of no effect - Mk. 7:13; top ) and the last one is one where there are some specific standards that we can apply to know whether we have allowed Christ to have His rightful place as Lord and King over our assembly. We will apply it first to the question of water baptism but the three main elements that come plainly into view are equally applicable to all the questions and issues that arise in our midst.
In many home fellowships, effort is made to follow the example of Christ in all things. So, the reasoning goes, because they see in the Scriptures that His disciples did full immersion baptisms, they do likewise. However, the situation soon arises that some brethren begin to question whether or not sprinkling might not also be acceptable to God since He is more concerned with the intentions of our heart than our traditions. Note well the response that spontaneously arises in your own heart at even the first mention of the question - it will reveal to you whether you've become ensnared in human tradition or even demonic "wisdom." "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits" ( Jas. 3:17 ) whereas the "wisdom" from any other source is "earthy, sensuous, demonic." ( Jas. 3:15; top ) Examine yourselves here first most carefully!
As we move on to objectively examine this question, the first thing we should notice is that any group who practices full immersion only because that's what they think they see in the New Testament is already baptizing according to human tradition. Paul wrote that Jesus was to be Head over all things to His people. ( Eph. 1:22 , Col. 1:18 ) Such a group stands at the perfect place to enshrine traditions at the expense of Christ's Headship - beware! Jesus came to fulfill the law and abolish all the ordinances and codes written against us ( Eph. 2:15 ) - He did not come to establish any more ordinances or laws, not even "Christian" ordinances like baptism and "communion" or "the Lord's supper." And actually, though there is some Scriptural evidence to suggest that John baptized all who came to him (see Mk. 1:5 , etc.) and that Jesus also baptized with water ( Jn. 3:26 ), there is no Scriptural evidence that the disciples did this with all believers at all times. That notion and inference comes to us only through preconceived assumptions, church history and tradition. The perceived necessity to baptize new believers under one custom or another is only a human tradition that is not only attended by division (whole denominations - sects, heresies - are formed around one side of this issue or another!), it also completely ignores and fails to address and incorporate other Scriptural issues that are of more significance such as the Headship of Christ, the "one baptism" (of Eph. 1:5 and 1 Cor. 12:13 ) being not a reference to water baptism but a baptism into the Spirit of God and John's prophecy that the One who came after him would not baptize as he did but would instead "baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." ( Lk. 3:16; top )
The second thing to notice as we objectively examine this issue are the three elements that make up a true and genuine ekklesia (assembly of His saints and people) - elements which have historically been ignored, neglected or ridiculed in most "churches." These elements, like our whole life of following the Head Christ Jesus, are not hard and fast rules or laws but rather "goals" (the Scriptural phrase would be "the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" that we should all "press toward" - Phlp. 3:14; top ) to be moved toward and principles to be followed. These three elements are
- the Headship of Christ,
- local people, and
- unanimous agreement.
When Christ leads, He leads everyone involved into unity and unanimous agreement (one accord - Acts 2:1 , etc.; top) When the devil corrupts a fellowship, he divides. If the baptism question leads to the immersion group vs. the sprinkling group, the devil has won the day.
Why can we not simply ask the Lord to show us how He wants to baptize each new convert and wait (even refusing to baptize) until the local group which the new convert will be a part of is in unanimous agreement that the Lord has expressed His will to everyone? Perhaps He will regularly instruct us to perform full immersion water baptism - perhaps He is content with a full immersion baptism into the Spirit of God! But is our concept of God so small that Christ could not possibly desire one new convert to be sprinkled, another to be immersed and still another to undergo a baptism of fire and suffering that no brother could or would administer while each one is fully immersed in an unquestionable spiritual union with Himself? Would that be so impossible a way for the God of infinite variety (consider the snow flake!) to deal with our human propensity to succumb to human tradition? Oh, how our "church" traditions try to bind up and box in our God who is a consuming, unquenchable fire!
Are we so bound up with how we already "know" how Christ wants us to do a thing that we cannot allow Him to have true Headship in our assemblies? The truly spiritual man will know the answer to that question.
If ever two parables or metaphors needed to be joined together to speak to our age and the heart of the current crisis of faith, truth and error, the parable of the mustard seed and Jesus' words to His disciples in John 15 would be the two. In the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus said,
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." ( Mt. 13:31-32; top )
This parable is pertinent because the kingdom of heaven was planted among men when one Man obediently went to the cross and bore upon Himself the sins of the whole world so that He might redeem for Himself a unique people zealous for God and the goodness and righteousness that comes only from Him. (see 1 Jn. 2:2 , Tit. 2:14 , 1 Pet. 2:9 ) Out of that seemingly insignificant and tiniest of beginnings (from a worldly perspective, at any rate) came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh ( Acts 2:17 ) so that even Pharisees like Gamaliel (whom history shows was not totally submitted inwardly to the Spirit of truth and wisdom which is God) could express something of the wisdom of God by standing up against the self-righteous indignation of the Sanhedrin against the disciples of Christ. (see Acts 5:34-40; top )
But then the ekklesia (the called out people of Christ) replaced Christ as the head of the local assemblies by bringing in a man to whom they gave the title "bishop." (Read up on Ignatius of Antioch in church history!) These Nicolaitan "leaders" used their "delegated" authority (purportedly from God) to enact all manners of benevolence, wisdom, malevolence, selfishness and foolishness as every "leader" did what was right in his own eyes, using his eloquence or personal charisma (ability to draw followers after himself - see Acts 20:30 for Paul's prophetic prediction that men would arise from among the elders - Greek, elders, presbuteros  and bishops, episkopos  were one and the same thing in those days - to do this very thing) to demonstrate that the "bishop" had a "special anointing" from God and was a more worthy recipient of God's approval than the lowly saints. (see 1 Cor. 11:19 ) This transition of the heritage or portion (Greek kleros ) that God was to receive in all of His people ( 1 Pet. 5:3; top ) to that superior class now known as "clergy" (yes, even the word similarity has been retained from the Greek word used by Peter to instruct the elders to not be lords over the flock and it is precisely the word base used for justifying their being lords over the flock!) is first clearly brought out in the writings of Tertullian. Philip Schaff is an excellent church historian and it is in every serious Bible student's best interests to read up on the changes enacted to the way of following Christ in the first and second centuries.
In both of the parables of the wheat and the tares and of the wise and foolish maidens, we find that in the first "while men slept, the enemy [Satan] came and sowed tares [his children] among the wheat [the sons of the kingdom]..." ( Mt. 13:25 , 38-39 ) and that in the second "while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept." ( Mt. 25:5; top ) When the King did not return to gather up the kingdom to Himself right away, men fell spiritually asleep and departed from their first love, that of simply and only walking hand in hand with the Risen Lord who alone could bring them into unity with God and one another.
The "church" began to lose its spiritual power (as is evidenced by the diminished presence of the spiritual miracles and giftings) precisely in the same time frame as it began to submit to its new titled heads and thus it began its slow and steady descent to its present condition of nearly completely apostasy in fulfillment of Paul's words that "the day [of Christ's return] will not come unless the apostasy comes first..." ( 2 Ths. 2:3 ) showing that we are nearer to the return of Christ than ever before. The "church," because it has chosen to be a wild mustard plant and refused to submit to the pruning and cultivation the Gardener would impose on her, has grown into a worthless and overgrown mustard tree in which the birds of the air (always a picture of the deceptive work of the devil and his demonic legions in Jesus' parables - see Mt. 13:4 , 19 , etc.) have found a place to rest, perhaps even nest. In truth, the "church" is now the fullest expression of the prostitute abomination dressed in red and purple that this world has yet seen. (see Rev. 17:3-5; top )
The words of Jesus to His disciples that need to be added to the parable of the mustard seed are His description of Himself and His Father. Jesus said,
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit... Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." ( Jn. 15:1-2 , 4-5; top )
This is important to know because it remains a well-spoken truth that man cannot create a New Testament ekklesia! A real and spiritually functioning local ekklesia can only come about when there is a real and functioning life of Christ bringing forth abundant life from the innermost parts of our individual beings and that spring is joined together with other similar springs of life coming from the same Source. Is it any wonder that this is the very thing Satan tries hardest to prevent? If there is no real springing forth of the life of Christ from our innermost beings, there can be no ekklesia. Only the branches that remain grafted into the Vine (Christ Himself) possess that kind of life. And every branch that is grafted into the Vine must undergo the pruning of the Vinedresser or risk becoming illegitimate tares among the wheat. (see Rom. 11:19-21; top ) This is the reality of the spiritual life before us.
The real reason these two parables need to be more closely joined in our thinking is that the mustard plant is carefully controlled through pruning and trimming. Large mustard trees come into being when the mustard plants are not so controlled - the cultivated plant more resembles a bush than a tree though some cultivated mustard trees, especially black mustard trees, reach an average height of 6 to 8 feet in the Mediterranean region. The cultivated trees are kept purposefully small and low so that harvesting the mustard - the real point of growing the trees - is kept in a relatively small, compact, well-ordered space that results in the mustard plants being protected by their proximity to one another and thus producing greater amounts of fruit. Thus properly ordered ekklesias, in the spiritual realms, would more resemble a field of small bushes than it would of occasional large trees poking up in random, sporadic places, allowing one tree to enjoy greater light while it, by its very nature as a tall tree, casts other mustard trees into darkness by its shade.
It is the wild trees, usually found around the edges of cultivated fields or in wild thickets that grow into the tallest of the mustard trees (as much as 15 feet which is too tall for ancient agricultural purposes) which produce little fruit. The picture is awesomely accurate and applicable when placed against the backdrop of "churchianity." The "church," in its wildness and independence from God (delegates, by definition, must be apart from their sender!), has produced a self-exalted version of itself and produced men who bring forth little or no fruit - what fruit is found on a large mustard tree is usually bland and flavorless, of little worth and value, more comparable to the lonely but sincere saint who languishes in the pew because he or more often she just doesn't know where to go to look for God except in that building they say is His house. And the men who run these mega-bominations will be offended and point to all their religious activities, perhaps even miraculous occurrences, to refute the claim that their organization does not produce fruit for the kingdom of God! Indeed, "the coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan; with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved." ( 2 Ths. 2:9-10; top )
Amazingly, this is the simple question before each individual who claims to follow Christ in this tumultuous, confused and confusing time. Will we be followers of Christ or will be followers of some man who is himself ensnared in the traditions of men or even the teachings of demons? Will we be parts and members of Christ's body or will we join ourselves to some prostitute (religion for profit) institution that men most commonly call "church"? Will we be submitted, first personally and individually and then second corporately, to the absolute Headship and Kingship of Christ so as to walk in the good works God prepared beforehand for us to do or will we simply do whatever is best and right in our own eyes, especially wherever our "religious" choices come before us?
How we answer these questions now will determine the Lord's answer to us on judgment day when we present ourselves before Him and say, "Lord, Lord, did we not do such and such in Your name?" ( Mt. 7:22; top )
Let he who has ears hear.
I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!