Mt. 7:13 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 13:25 π Mt. 20:25-26 π Mt. 23:13 π Mt. 24:4 π Mt. 24:5 π Mt. 24:10; 2nd π Mt. 25:5 π Mt. 25:6-10 π Lk. 9:23 π Lk. 22:25-26 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn. 10:29 π Acts 17:24 π Acts 20:17 π Acts 20:28 π Acts 20:30 π Rom. 8:18 π 1 Cor. 3:3-4 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 2 Cor. 4:17 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π Phlp. 3:8 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:11-12 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2nd π Heb. 3:12-15 π Heb. 5:12-14 π Heb. 6:4-6 π Heb. 12:16-17 π 2 Pet. 2:1 π 1 Jn. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 14:4 π Rev. 17:1-5 π Rev. 17:3 π Rev. 17:4 π Rev. 22:11Greek Words Mentioned in This Article
Assembly, “Church” (KJV) – Ekklesia – 
In an unusual instance of what can only be called “blind faith,” A.W. Tozer preached:
…the Church of Christ is not divided. When we sing that old song, “We are not divided, all one body we,” people smile and say, “How about your 600 denominations?” [Today, a half-century after this quote, the number is well over 6,000 denominations, sub-groups and sects that claim to be “Christian”!]
Well, they don’t frustrate me with that question. That song, that truth – “We are not divided, all one body we,” is just as true as the fact that I am not divided. The Body of Christ is all one body. We can sing it, and let those people make fun of us if they will – keep on singing it, for it is true!
We are not divided. It is a whole Church. Everyone that has ever been born into the family of God is born into a living, organic union, and there we are. There is nothing the devil can do about it.
Each local group, I say, has all the functions of the whole group, just as the body of each man has all of the human faculties and organs and members. The members are designed so that each has a function. The eyes are designed to see, the ears to hear, the hands to do work, the feet for movement, the stomach to digest food, and so on.
So we are designed to cooperate, and that’s in concert. I remember once reading a great article in Harper’s magazine. It explained what brought on old age. It said it was not the loss of strength in any organ of the body but that the organs of the body ceased to cooperate and went off on their own and that was what brought on old age. It was the failure of the organs of the body to cooperate that made people die of old age. They got independent and went off and started their own tabernacle, if we can use it in that sense of illustration!
So it is with the church. When we work together and have a sense of unity and fellowship, when we all work together, cooperate with each other, and act in concert, when all are for each and each for all, and all take directions from the Head, then one has a perfect church. Each local church can sum it up, and we can all sum it up in ourselves. (When He Is Come, p. 109-110)
Tozer felt that he had sewn all these ideas together into an impregnable presentation of truth. Indeed, all those who subscribe to the “church” paradigm believe they have their hands on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yet, it is precisely this blind grip on partial truths that gives the “church” paradigm its lethal power over those who believe in it.
Let us examine more closely some of Tozer’s statements:
“Everyone that has ever been born into the family of God is born into a living, organic union, and there we are. There is nothing the devil can do about it.”
Here we see the “eternal security” teaching coming into play – but it is only a part of the whole truth. It is indeed true that no one, not even the devil, can snatch a belieer out of the hands of God. ( Jn. 10:29 ) Yet if a believer could never neglect, abandon or forfeit his place in Christ, we would not find the severe warnings that we do find in the New Testament. ( Heb. 6:4-6 , 12:16-17 , etc.) Unbelief, disobedience, negligence and lawlessness (see Mt. 7:21-23; top ) on the part of any individual believer can result in a forfeiture of one’s inheritance in Christ. And this is the place where there is much that the devil can do and indeed has done to draw believers away from the “living, organic unity” we have with and in Christ.
Tozer also said,
“That song, that truth – ‘We are not divided, all one body we,’ is just as true as the fact that I am not divided.”
Tozer’s usage of his own body – which died of old age and suffered the various disruptive complications of his various body parts – as an example of the unity of the body of Christ is much more appropriate than he imagined. The unity of the people who claim to belong to Christ is as illusory to those who believe in the “church” paradigm as was the unity of Tozer’s body to Tozer! The “church” paradigm is as equally submerged as is the process of aging to those too young to truly appreciate its damaging effects. Tozer’s example is equally faulty as one need only think of the terms “double-minded,” “uncertainties of life,” etc. Tozer’s body and even personality were no more united than were the 600 denominations of his day or the 6,000 plus of our day! In reality, if Christ’s body is not divided (and ultimately it is not), then we have only so many logical choices before us – either the denominations are not divided or they are not Christ’s body. What are they then?
Tozer also said,
“When we all work together… and [when we] all take directions from the Head, then one has a perfect church.”
It is when one encounters statements like this that one can see how effective Satan’s deceptions have been. The “church” paradigm does not stir the people to “all work together.” Rather, it causes a few “leaders” to stand over as large a crowd as their eloquence, “doctrines” and personal charisma can draw in and trains the people to let “the professionals” do the work of God while they, the people, sit passively at the “leaders’” feet, thus opening everyone up to various schemes of the devil and the demonic. The “leaders,” operating under the deceptions of Nicolaitan (“delegated”) and sectarian (“denominational”) teachings and practices thus do not actively follow the Head by departing from these errors and the people passively remain seated at their feet because the “leaders’” eloquence, doctrines and charisma scratches and soothes their ears just the way they like it done. ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ) The result is lawlessness, the choosing of what is right and good in one’s own eyes, and thus the people willfully remain docile, negligent and inactive in their passive position at the feet of some man. Forsaken is the voice of the Master ( Jn. 10:27 ) and very few, if any, get up out of their pew or comfortable chair to take up their cross and follow Him. ( Lk. 9:23; top )
When one comes to recognize that the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith comes before the day of Christ’s return ( 2 Ths. 2:3 , Mt. 24:10 ) – a teaching that has been covered over and obscured by expectations of a “pre-tribulation rapture” – one comes to recognize that the “church” (all the false pretensions of “Christianity”) is the woman who wears red and purple (significant of her attempts to appear Christ-like and regal) and rides on the kingdoms of the devil and of this world. ( Rev. 17:1-5; top ) And just as one can be a true part of the body of Christ (even for a time within a “church”), one can also become a very real part of the counterfeit.
Make no mistake – Tozer is largely correct. If one finds the original meanings behind the words he uses, one can find the truth. Satan’s work has been in successfully attaching new meanings to the “Christianese” words we use to speak of the truths of the gospel. Tozer uses the phrase “local church.” The original term for “church” is ekklesia [ 1577 ] and it refers to the people who have heard Christ’s summons and turned away from the kingdom of darkness to attend to the business and needs of Christ’s kingdom of light. It would benefit us greatly if we could recognize what a “local ekklesia” is not:
- A mixed multitude. A mixed multitude is exactly what it says it is. It is a relatively large crowd (any group that precludes or negates genuine dialogue) that is made up of believers, non-believers, mis-believers and/or pseudo-believers. It is not particularly wrong to bring together such a group – it becomes a lie when this group is mistaken for genuine ekklesia. “No lie belongs to the truth.” ( 1 Jn. 2:21; top ) Any group that never meets as pure ekklesia (that is, local believers operating in “one accord” – unanimity, unity – in the Spirit of Christ and God) are not genuine ekklesia or, at the most, can only be an impure, incomplete expression of the body of Christ.
- A Nicolaitan slave mart. Nicolaitanism is a concept that can only be called one of God’s “revealed mysteries.” Mentioned specifically only twice in the New Testament (double the number of mentions of “pastors,” by the way), this is a sin that Christ hates. ( Rev. 2:6 , 15 ) This compound word – Nico and laitan – presents us with the idea of “conquering or ruling over” (Nico) “the people” (laity). It refers to taking unto oneself authority (supposedly “delegated” by God though this concept cannot be found anywhere in the New Testament unless one already presupposes and believes it to be there) so as to rule, as “beneficially” as one can, over the people of Christ. This produces only passive followers of men who no longer listen to the Lord for themselves ( 1 Jn. 2:27 , etc.) but instead attach themselves to the “leader” of their choice ( 1 Cor. 3:3-4 ) who thus scratches their ears the way they most prefer. ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ) Jesus simply said of this kind of authority, “It shall not be so among you.” ( Mt. 20:25-26 , Lk. 22:25-26 , etc.; top)
- A sectarian division. Peter wrote, “There will be false teachers among you, who will stealthily bring in destructive divisions…” ( 2 Pet. 2:1 ) This truth has been obscured for centuries by the use of the phrase “damnable heresies.” “Heresies” is an accurate enough word if one knows that it means “separated into a group by choice.” But because “heresies” is preceded by the less than accurate “damnable,” we are left with the notion that one has to be in an extremist cult proclaiming false gods or at least false doctrines in order to be a “heretic” and we most often miss the whole main point. Today’s “Christianity” is a polyglot of heresies, groups formed by the people’s choice of which man or set of doctrines they believe (or want!) to be right and true. This choosing of what is right in one’s own eyes is the quintessential element of what the New Testament calls lawlessness, a thing diametrically opposed to the righteousness of God. ( 2 Cor. 6:14; top )
- A building. Far too many people ignorantly suppose that the building they go to once, twice or three times a week is “the house of the Lord” wherein “the man of God” “ministers” “the word of God” to them. This compilation of deceptions is the epitome of the “church” paradigm. Christ’s gospel still proclaims that “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made by human hands.” ( Acts 17:24; top ) The “church” building is a 3rd and 4th century addition to the way of following Christ that became the accepted norm after Constantine “Christianized” Rome. In truth, he Romanized and paganized Christianity and the people of Christ have yet to recover.
- Cell groups or home gatherings. These are about as close as one can get to genuine ekklesia and indeed that can be genuine ekklesia. But to whatever extent the cell or home group is not local (but instead is just another commuter “church”), to whatever extent a cell or home group does not practice independence in the Spirit of Christ (but rather must submit to another head such as “the Senior Pastor” or denominational headquarters) or to whatever extent a cell or home group does not practice unanimous obedience only to the Spirit of Christ and God (but rather practices oligarchy or aristocracy or monarchy of the house group’s “leader or even simply majority rule), to that extent it is not a pure ekklesia, however much genuine belief and faith may be incorporated into its practices. Far too often the house “church” is only counterfeit “church” practiced on a smaller scale.
When we can see all these things that the ekklesia is not supposed to be, we are then prepared to see where the historic people of Christ turned away from the truth and embraced error. Paul, speaking to a group of men who were called both “elders” and “overseers” (traditionally “bishops” – Acts 20:17 , 28 ), prophesied, “From among yourselves men will rise up, speaking corrupted things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” ( Acts 20:30; top ) From among the ranks of the elders and overseers of the 2nd century arose the office of the bishop, whom some (notably Ignatius of Antioch, who died circa 110 a.d., was the first writer of this teaching whose works were preserved) blatantly taught that the bishop was to take the place of Christ and God over the local assembly. This Nicolaitan error was prompted by the spirit of antichrist (anti in the Greek contains both meanings of “opposed or against” and “in the place of”) who has labored long and hard to get believers to put any man or any thing in any place that rightly belongs to God, Christ or the Holy Spirit. But why did it become the accepted practice of virtually all assemblies everywhere?
Jesus, in speaking of how things would be, twice used the same picture. When He spoke of how the devil would be able to implant his sons alongside the sons of the kingdom, Jesus said, “While men slept…” ( Mt. 13:25 ) When He spoke of how the Bridegroom (Himself) had departed and seemed a long time in making His return, Jesus said, “They all slumbered and slept.” ( Mt. 25:5 ) As the word of His soon return is sounded, all who have entered into at least some degree of that “living, organic union” are waking up and attending to their lamps – the light by which they follow Christ. Only those who have the true light of the Holy Spirit and who know how to replenish their lamps with having to run off and find “those who sell oil” – one’s “bishop,” “pastor,” “apostle,” “prophet,” “spiritual father,” “elder,” etc. – will be those who will be ready to go off with the Bridegroom at His return. ( Mt. 25:6-10; top )
The exalting of the bishop over the people of Christ was a collective error of the 2nd and 3rd century followers of Christ. Sadly, this error is still viewed in many places as the accepted norm and until the people repent of this sin, the Nicolaitan overlord (by whatever title he takes to himself) will continue to stand in front of the door to the kingdom of God, refusing to enter in themselves and not allowing anyone else to get past them so as to enter in either. (see Mt. 23:13 ) The position of the man standing over the crowd will always drown out any truth that is preached, even when the man is determined not to tickle and scratch ears. The position says, “I’m better. I’m smarter. I’m more spiritual. You’re beneath me because you’re ignorant and you need me to feed you the Word of God!” Any truth the man might then say is already virtually dead under this subliminal onslaught. (see Heb. 5:12-14; top )
Perhaps the saddest result of churchianity is that no one really knows how or where to find God – though many a man in the pulpit claims long and loudly that he has the right message and God’s “special anointing” to deliver it too. (see Mt. 24:5 ) But those people who have been wounded in the house of Christ’s “friends” see no point in going back to “church” just to be deceived or wounded again. Too many of these, however, reject the notion of God entirely or else practice a form of non-religious acknowledgement of some “God” who permits or even approves of their isolation and what can only be rightly called their lawless separation from the real people of Christ and God. Then there are the religious slaves and zealots of their particular sects, heresies and even cults who still labor under the deceptions of the “church” paradigm, stubbornly clinging to the lies as if they were the sole possessors of the whole counsel of God. And struggling to find their way amid all these misguided souls are the genuine seekers of life and truth who recognize that somewhere there are others who want to experience only the unity and commonality of walking in obedience to the Spirit of truth and holiness, who believe there is much more to life with God than a mere “form of godliness.” ( 2 Tim. 3:5; top )
Tozer’s song – “We are not divided, all one body we” is true if we indeed mean all those who are genuinely in that “living, organic union” with Christ. But if by “we” we simply mean those who attend “church” or those who claim to be a brother but walk in habitual, unrepentant sin (see 1 Cor. 5:11; top ), then this song is merely another deception.
The perfect ekklesia is that group of local converts and believers who are committed to obeying Christ in all things – with diligence and perseverance in their individual lives and with scrupulous, unanimous adherence to all corporate movings and leadings of the Holy Spirit. In circumstances where any of these factors are simply not possible at this time, moving toward these things must remain a central goal. Nicolaitanism (clergy – whether overt or covert), sectarianism (denominationalism), heresy (division by choice), misuse of material resources (“pastors’” salaries, building funds, etc.), failure to discern the body of Christ (receiving counterfeits as true or rejecting the true as false) are indeed serious sins – but, if we will simply repent and confess our practices of these sins, these are not unforgiveable sins. God still extends a gracious invitation – even to those who have prevented others from knowing and obeying Him. It is the stubborn and unrepentant heart that prefers lawlessness and unrighteousness who will be given over to whatever lies and form of unrighteousness which that heart prefers rather than pursuing a genuine and pure relationship with God. (see 2 Ths. 2:11-12; top )
When John is taken out to see the woman in red and purple (the false “church”) he is taken “into the wilderness.” ( Rev. 17:3 ) Whatever else this wilderness represents, it surely points toward the spiritual desolation and emptiness that attends worldly and wicked living apart from Christ. Paul found that all the privileges and benefits gained in the world are but dung. ( Phlp. 3:8 ) The false “church” will never attain to such knowledge but instead will revel in her filth and abominations. ( Rev. 17:4; top )
Because the “church” has ventured far out into the wilderness of the death of this world, the one who leaves the “church” after traveling along with it for however long, must necessarily travel through this wilderness to find the narrowing way that leads to life. ( Mt. 7:13 ) In part, the traveler must learn to reject and jettison all the fleshly and worldly ways that passed itself off as “Christianity” and that were so welcome and esteemed at “church.” The traveler abandoning the “church” will have to learn anew to abandon all the fleshly desires and cravings – desires for wealth, comfort, ease, acceptance, power, prestige, whatever fleshly lure drew the man to “church” in the first place – and those who neglect or refuse to complete this “wilderness training” period are those will return to “church” or go off to start their own version of “church” that will prove to be even more vile than the “church” they previously had abandoned. One simply cannot step out of the “church” one day and the next day be a genuine trail guide on the narrowing path that leads to life. Loneliness and isolation must produce its fruit of loyalty to the King alone and of perseverance in following Him wherever He leads. (see Rev. 14:4; top )
Jesus is still saying, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” ( Rev. 22:11; top ) There is a genuine ekklesia (the bride) and there is a counterfeit “church” (the prostitute). There are genuine believers who simply do not know how or with whom to press on to become genuine ekklesia in their own area or sphere of influence. And there are still some genuine believers, though this number is dwindling, who still believe that the “church” (or at least something of its Romish, pagan, carnal or worldly ways) is really the right way to follow Christ and God. This simply is the complexity of today’s spiritual environment.
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart nor allow the deceitful sins of “church” to lead you into unbelief or negligence or lawlessness or disobedience so that you depart from the living God. (see Heb. 3:12-15 ) Today, choose this day which God you will serve – Christ the King and Head of the genuine ekklesia or yourself which ultimately puts you under the control of Satan and his demonic hordes. If you will serve and follow Christ, then take up your cross and follow Him wherever He leads. The “light and momentary afflictions” ( 2 Cor. 4:17 ) as we depart from the religious comfort zones of men and travel through the blight and death of this world are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. ( Rom. 8:18 ) We simply cannot pretend that we are truly members of His ekklesia, His people, if we do not hear His voice, if we are not willing to obey Him and if we don follow Him wherever He leads. Deceptions abound in these last days of apostasy ( Mt. 24:4 , 10; top ) – be certain that you are not misled!
Let he who has ears hear – and obey!
- The “Church” Paradigm (a la Tozer) - Neil Girrard
- Responding to the Apostasy - Neil Girrard
- Reform Is Not an Option - Neil Girrard
- Sitting at the Master’s Feet - Neil Girrard
- Turning Slaves Into Warriors - Neil Girrard
- Pastor, Bishop or Nicolaitan Overlord? - Neil Girrard
- A Game of Words - Neil Girrard
- Carnal Followers and Lawless “Theologians” - Neil Girrard
- Finish the Reformation! - Neil Girrard
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