Mt. 5:13-14 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 16:11-12 π Mt. 16:18 π Mt. 18:17 π Mt. 24:10; 2nd π Mk. 7:13 π Lk. 6:46 π Jn. 7:17 π Jn. 8:44 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn. 17:23 π Acts 7:48 π Acts 17:24 π Rom. 8:28 π 1 Cor. 5:7-8 π 1 Cor. 5:10 π 1 Cor. 6:20 π 1 Cor. 10:21 π 1 Cor. 12:20 π 1 Cor. 14:26 π 2 Cor. 5:15 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 π Gal. 1:8-9 π Eph. 2:2 π Eph. 4:11-12 π Eph. 4:16 π Col. 1:18 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:4 π 1 Tim. 4:1 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2nd π Tit. 2:1-15 π Heb. 8:10 π Heb. 10:16 π Heb. 10:25 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π 1 Jn. 4:3 π 1 Jn. 5:3
Few questions express the error, confusion and ignorance behind the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith which occurs just prior to Christ's return ( Mt. 24:10 , 2 Ths. 2:3; top ) as does this one. But to explain the truth to someone embroiled in a "church" is not an easy task. There are centuries of errors, misconceptions, false doctrines and false practices which have all compiled to create the modern "church" combined with deceptive modern philosophies and realities that shape the beliefs, attitudes and practices of the people who prefer the modern "church" over what the New Testament, as opened to the humble, contrite soul hungry for the will, way and Person of God, really teaches about genuine assembly in Christ. It is impossible, in a few words, to exhaustively cover every error and change from the New Testament times to the present apostasy but let us consider a few of the major ones.
- The "church" building. There is no such thing mentioned anywhere in the Scriptures. God is expressly said not to dwell in houses made by human hands ( Acts 7:48 , 17:24; top ) but the "church" building is routinely called "God's house" nonetheless - even by people who claim to understand that the English word "church" is supposed to refer to God's people. The diversion of time, energy and funds away from the orphans, widows and the least of Christ's brothers into a building that has no place whatsoever in the Bible and the worldliness that has very often been incorporated into the "church" structure and practices simply cannot be Scripturally justified.
- "Assembly" and "fellowship." Routine "church" attendance is commonly taught and viewed as the "assembly" we must not forsake ( Heb. 10:25 ) and, even in mega-"churches" where personal interaction can often be measured in seconds, the simple gathering together in the same building to sing the same songs and hear the same lecture is called "fellowship." The body is made up of many parts ( 1 Cor. 12:20 ) which alone are not functional as the body until each part is doing its share. ( Eph. 4:16 ) Like a model airplane that is never removed from the box and assembled, "church" brings some of Christ's body parts into close proximity to one another but then gives only one or a few specially approved and selected "ministers" the opportunity to influence the crowd. (Compare that to 1 Cor. 14:26 for example; top) There is no place on earth where it is easier to forsake the assembling together of the body parts (where each one does its share) than in a "church" service.
- The "pastor." This man has placed himself between the people and God (as is symbolized by the platform on which he stands). He is purportedly the "man of God" to bring the "word of God" to people who are either unwilling or unable to hear God and understand what He might be saying for themselves. Jesus said, however, "My sheep hear My voice." ( Jn. 10:27 ) And we are told that God has written His laws in the hearts of true believers ( Heb. 8:10 , 10:16 ) and that, because His Spirit of truth enables us to know all things pertaining to our life in Christ, we have no need for a man to continually teach us. ( 1 Jn. 2:27 ) Yet the "pastor," often schooled in rhetoric, hermeneutics and homiletics, is expert at eloquent speeches that both soothe and stimulate and addict the ears of his listeners and it is his ability to draw in a crowd every week which is the standard by which his "ministry" is deemed successful or not. (see 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top )
- The work of service. God gave five aspects of Christ as giftings that, as each member experiences something of that gifting, would equip the saints and enable them to do the work of serving one another. ( Eph. 4:11-12 ) Yet most "church" attendees are quite content to let the paid, professional staff attend to the wants and needs of the people and consider their religious obligations fulfilled after attending a one- to two-hour "service" and have no time throughout the rest of the week to serve anyone nor do they carry out any good works that would spread their salt and light around. (see Mt. 5:13-14; top ) Not only does the "church" actually prevent assembly with one another in this regard, it also promotes spiritual laziness and inaction and, therefore, moral decay throughout the world.
- A different gospel. Jesus did not speak much about His people being "church" (Greek, "ekklesia") - He is recorded as having used the word "ekklesia" only three times in two verses in one gospel and since "ekklesia" is a Greek word and there is a good chance Jesus spoke only Aramaic, He very well may have never used the word even once in His entire lifetime! ( Mt. 16:18 , 18:17 ) Rather than preaching a gospel that centered around the people who were to follow Him, He preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, "Repent! The kingdom of God is here!" His presence as the King was the proof of the nearness of the kingdom of God. The "church's" "gospel" is an invitation to "Come hear our guy talk and, if you like what you hear and see, you can come and go as you please and do as much or as little as you please." These are two very different gospels! (see Gal. 1:8-9; top )
- Lawlessness in the name of Christ. Lawlessness is most readily defined as doing what is right in one's own eyes, the absence of an outside standard by which to order one's actions and behaviors. It is completely antithetical to righteousness, what is right in God's eyes. ( 2 Cor. 6:14 ) The "church" building is designed to be a place where a mixed multitude of believers, non-believers, pseudo-believers and even apostates can gather in relative anonymity and passive, limited participation and come or go and do or not do pretty much as they please so long as they are not a disruption to the "work of God" being done through the "church" and the "pastor" and his staff. Those who join themselves to a particular "church" most often must express verbal or written agreement to that peculiar sect's by-laws, dogmas and "theology." Thus, individuals should "go to church" where they teach and preach the things the individual already sees as right in his own eyes. On the last day, however, Jesus said that He would dismiss outright those who were only practicers of lawlessness and not doers of righteousness. ( Mt. 7:23; top )
And this list could be continued. It ought to be evident though that the underlying premises upon which the "church" is systematically structured are incompatible and even in enmity with the way God would bring His people together and toward spiritual maturity. The "church," as it is most often practiced today, is systematically geared to condone worldliness, self-centeredness and lawlessness. And we are left with the question: how did a perfect, all-wise, all-knowing, infallible God commit such a blunder that would produce "ministries" and organizations that (as but one example) deride other denominations for their ten percent rule (10% of the people do 100% of the work) but they themselves are too blind to see that they produce not even half that? If we answer that, in spite of such obvious contradictions, God did somehow create the "church" system, then we have stripped God of His transcendence and re-created Him as we want Him to be. But if we answer that God did not create the "church" system - an answer which most "church" devotees cannot even admit to as a possibility (even when confronted with such abundant Scriptural evidence as above) - then we are brought face to face with two sobering, chilling questions:
1) If God did not create the "church" system we generally have today, who did? And
2) if God did not create it, why are we still participating in it?
To answer the first question - if God did not create the "church" then who did? - we must understand that the Greek word "anti-" carried with it two ideas. The first and primary meaning is "against or contrary to" but the secondary meaning is "instead of or in the place of." This is highly significant to us today because John warned us that the spirit of antichrist (against Christ or in the place of Christ) was already then in the world. ( 1 Jn. 4:3 ) Paul also, amid his many other warnings about false teachings and idolatrous practices, wrote of "the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" ( Eph. 2:2 ) and prophesied that there would be "the son of destruction who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." ( 2 Ths. 2:4 ) To give a short, simple explanation to a complex spiritual reality, whereas God is still able to work all thing for the good of those who love Him (obey Him - 1 Jn. 5:3 ) and are called according to His purpose ( Rom. 8:28 ), the devil, who is the father of all lies ( Jn. 8:44; top ), is the real architect of the flawed and corrupted "church" system that is the counterfeit of genuine assembly and corporate life in Christ.
To answer the second question - if God didn't create the "church" why are we still participating in it? - is a requirement that is upon each individual "church" member who is challenged by the above truths. Indeed, one cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of the demonic. ( 1 Cor. 10:21 ) At some point, each one must choose which God one will actively and obediently serve. And the fruit of one's choice will be evident as those who have fallen from the faith will hate and betray one another ( Mt. 24:10 ) while those who are truly following Christ will be increasing in oneness and unity with God and one another. ( Jn. 17:23; top )
So when one person asks another person, "Where do you go to church?" the one who knows these truths is faced with the task of trying to explain all this to someone who, even if he understands any of it, is likely to reject the truth and turn against the one who ought to be treated as a beloved and beneficial brother. Satan has much invested in his grand, deceptive scheme called "church" and will use any perceived offense to stir up the same hatred, discord and envy he stirred up in the Jews against Jesus. The one asking this question is, many times perhaps even unknowingly, seeking a way to categorize and pigeonhole the other person in order to classify that individual with some group and, if necessary, find some means to dismiss anything which the questioner finds objectionable, distasteful and uncomfortable.
The one who wants to know the truth of this matter must first meet the conditions set forth in the New Testament. One must desire God's will over and above his own will or we cannot even recognize the spiritual source of the messages that we are hearing. ( Jn. 7:17 ) One must recognize that one's life is no longer his own and that we must live all of our life for Him who died for us all. ( 1 Cor. 6:20 , 2 Cor. 5:15 ) One must acknowledge, purpose and live out His Kingship and Headship over our life ( Lk. 6:46 , Col. 1:18 ) and forsake all the "Christian" and "church" leaven that comes ultimately from the table of the demonic. ( Mt. 16:11-12 , 1 Cor. 5:7-8 ) One must forsake all the traditions of men and the teachings of demons and live out the sound doctrine that attends the true gospel of Christ. ( Mk. 7:13 , 1 Tim. 4:1 , 2 Tim. 4:3-4 , Tit. 2:1-15 ) One must separate oneself from all the "Christian" idolaters and idolatry so that God will truly be our God and we will be His true sons and daughters and we must purify ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. ( 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 , 1 Cor. 5:10; top )
The ignorance behind this question is perhaps most readily exposed by recognizing that one cannot go to what one is. That is, ekklesia is a thing to be - the people of Christ called away from this world's darkness to attend to the affairs of His kingdom of light - and one simply cannot go to a thing that one is. On the other hand, however, if one is not a member of Christ's ekklesia, then one can go to "church" wherever one likes. It's all a question of who one's true king is.
Let he who has ears hear.
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