Mt. 13:24-30 π Mt. 13:37-43 π Mt. 16:18 π Lk. 9:23-25 π Jn. 3:3 π Jn. 3:5-8 π Acts 7:48-50 π Rom. 8:9 π Rom. 14:17 π 1 Cor. 2:14 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 1 Cor. 6:19-20 π 2 Pet. 3:17-18
When it comes to the question of "How could the 'church' be a deception?" the real question is, "Why now?" In other words, how is it that God could let His people endure centuries of deceptions that kept them from being all that they could have been? Perhaps this question, more so than any other, keeps many "church" people from recognizing the lies to which they are in bondage. To answer that question, we must understand just exactly what the people of God were supposed to be. The answer to that is found in the New Testament pattern of ekklesia.
Ekklesia is the Greek word that is used where Christ said that He would build His ekklesia and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. ( Mt. 16:18; top ) I use the Greek word here because there is no direct English equivalent. Though it was translated "church" and "assembly" in various English translations of the Bible, these words lack so much of the original meaning and have accumulated so much religious baggage that we need now to return to the original word in an attempt to grasp the original meaning.
Ekklesia is an important word to understand precisely because "church" and "assembly" are so inadequate. "Church" means "the house of the Lord" - but God doesn't live in houses made by human hands. ( Acts 7:48-50; top ) He lives within those who are truly His people. And "assembly" means "to gather together in one place" but does not speak of the requirements by which one is qualified to assemble. "Ekklesia" speaks of all these aspects simultaneously. Ekklesia is a word from the political realms and it speaks of the people of a particular city or region who are called together to attend to the business and needs of that city or region. When ekklesia is applied to those who follow Christ, it refers to those who are both qualified and called out to see to the business and needs of the kingdom of God.
Most people don't even know what the kingdom of God is, let alone how to attend to its business and needs. Paul wrote, "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." ( Rom. 14:17 - emphasis added; top) We have no difficulty believing that God has something to do with righteousness, peace and joy - and we all desire these things to some degree - but we most often fail to recognize that this righteousness, peace and joy only comes in the Spirit. Any righteousness, peace or joy that comes from any other source is counterfeit Christianity. It is not the kingdom of God. Paul went so far as to say, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." ( Rom. 8:9; top )
Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." ( Jn. 3:3 , 5-8; top )
If a person is not born again, Jesus said that he cannot even see the kingdom of God. And if a person is not born of the Spirit, Jesus said that he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Paul wrote, "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." ( 1 Cor. 2:14; top ) Without spiritual discernment, even those who are born again and born of the Spirit cannot know which way the Spirit is moving at this precise moment in time. The utter dependence upon the Spirit of God for all things is of paramount importance - especially to those who hope to grow into "the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" that keeps us from falling from our secure position in Christ. ( 2 Pet. 3:17-18; top )
The ekklesia is those people who have been born again, who have also been born of the Spirit and who are walking in the Spirit of God. No others are qualified to attend to the business of God's kingdom. A person may be well-intentioned, he may be born again (that is, he can see the kingdom of God), he may be born of the Spirit (that is, he is in the kingdom of God) but if he is not walking in the things of the Spirit of God then he is out of step or out of line with God's will for the body of Christ because the ekklesia is the called-out people of God who attend to His kingdom. A herald, the Holy Spirit, calls them away from their previous activity so that they may attend to the business of the kingdom of God - which is found only in the Holy Spirit.
It is not enough that a person leave the world behind, he or she must also leave their self behind. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" ( Lk. 9:23-25; top ) Self-will, self-determination, selfishness - all must be forsaken. We are no longer our own - we have been bought with a great price, the life of Jesus Christ Himself. ( 1 Cor. 6:19-20; top )
This is the ekklesia - the people of Christ whom God has given new life by His Spirit and who follow only after the Spirit of God. Anyone else is a counterfeit, a fake, a fraud, a wannabe. Do not be deceived.
The "church," on the other hand, is the evolution of years, even centuries, of human traditions. It is an institution centered around a building, led by one or a few "men of God" who, by virtue of their superior knowledge of their formulating their particular division's creeds and doctrines, lord it over the majority of people who want to hear about God (to be religious) but who don't want to have to obey Him in all things. This abomination is nothing like the ekklesia but, because men have come to these "churches" looking for the Lord whom they think built and owns the house and because God has graciously met the sincere seekers there, most people believe the "church" is something the Lord Jesus Christ is doing and building.
Let me say that again. People have gone to "church" ("church" being "the house of the Lord") because they thought it was God's house and that they would meet Him there. And many did indeed meet God at a "church." But that meeting did not happen because God built the house. It happened because God is bigger than the house that men built. You can meet God in the middle of a bar, a porno-shop or a whorehouse if you sincerely cry out and repent of your sins - but that does not mean that God had anything to do with building or maintaining the bar, porno-shop or whorehouse.
The "church" is the culmination of the devil's schemes that are designed to prevent the ekklesia from becoming spiritually mature and powerful in its war against Satan's kingdom. It is the very gates of hell which have no chance of victory if the ekklesia attacks them. Let me briefly list the ways in which "church" is quite different from ekklesia.
- The "church" is headed by a "pastor" (or senior "pastor"), "deacons," "elders," boards, assistant "pastors," and/or committees. The ekklesia is led by the Spirit of God who uses apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers, elders and deacons to equip, strengthen and mature the saints.
- The "church" has a top-down authority structure, producing and perpetuating the clergy/laity distinction and most often relies on manipulation or guilt to control the people who attend. The leaders of the ekklesia provide tangible examples of Christlike character and foundational support that assists the spiritual growth of the people they serve.
- The "church" is a two-class system whereby the clergy, performers or paid professionals, speak down to or entertain the laity, an audience of spectators, resulting in perpetual spiritual immaturity, missed callings, and irresponsible living in both the clergy and laity. The ekklesia has absolutely no class distinctions and builds the priesthood of all believers, promoting and perpetuating spiritual maturity, fulfilled callings and obedience to God among all believers.
- The "church" is divided by denominations, divisions based on loyalties to men and their teachings. The ekklesia promotes and preserves the unity of the Spirit by practicing fellowship based on loyalty to Jesus Christ alone and by living their lives in and by His Spirit.
- The "church" utilizes specialized buildings which give deceptive messages about the nature of God - the steeple, the pointed roof, stained glass, and even the parking lot all say something about God or His people that is untrue. The ekkleisa needs only the homes of older, godly leaders - homes which clearly and personally demonstrate the loving nature of the Father.
- The "church" utilizes specialized furniture that promote and perpetuate the clergy/laity descriptions - the pulpit shows the superiority of the clergy class, the pews demonstrate the stupid herd-like mentality of the masses, and the altar clearly demonstrates the need to come forward, nearer the upper crust of "church" society, to be introduced to God. The ekklesia needs only a table around which all who are true believers in Christ are welcome to participate in the agape feast, a full meal in which everyone is to have an adequate share.
- The "church" sponsors "ministries" which cater to special interest groups like the elderly, singles, married couples, children, the homeless, the incarcerated, etc. These "ministries" are most often carried on by those who sincerely believe God is having them do this thing (sincere believers but uninformed about the "church's" origins and deceptions) or by those who mistakenly believe this "ministry" is the way one obtains eternal life from God. The ekklesia simply lives an abundant life and experiences many miracles which are imparted by the Spirit to all who believe. Their life in God simply overflows to all those around them and their life has little or nothing to do with "church."
- The "church" has a specialized music form they call "worship" which requires a musically talented "worship" leader or "worship" team (neither of which can be found in the New Testament) and the singing is usually assisted by song sheets and hymn books for the audience who doesn't know all the words to the songs. The singing of the ekklesia is led and prompted by the Spirit. When a member of the ekklesia sings, even a "church" worship song, it is because that song speaks clearly about what is in their heart toward God at that moment. At times, the ekklesia will sing songs, either in tongues or prophetically, that are produced by the Spirit within.
- The "church" relies on sermons and teachings, thus promoting superficial and soulish knowledge and human reasoning. Most often, the "church" is structured around the impersonal lecturing methods of the modern university and produces only blind followers of blind leaders. The ekklesia waits on God for prophetic messages which prompt lively discussions about the real and current life of the discussion's participants. The ekklesia thus practices love toward one another while waiting on God for revelation and insight. It is a personal impartation of wisdom that builds up the discernment and spiritual maturity of all who are involved.
- The "church" must finance its massive buildings and great expenses (including the professional staff's salaries) by taking up offerings, most often using guilt and "divine coercion" ("This is a work of God..." "God loves a cheerful giver..." "God will reward those who are faithful..." etc.) to draw in a better take. The ekklesia, giving by the specific direction of the Holy Spirit, supports only the work of God in relieving the distress of orphans and widows and by meeting the needs of those workers who are truly giving out the Bread of life, the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who are promoting the unity of the body of Christ. Those who only sermonize their audience to death (the "church" "pastors") and those who promote disunity (those who practice denominational division) are not worthy of the ekklesia's support because their work stands in direct opposition to God's work and His kingdom.
- The "church" is a bureaucratic system which requires an applicant to fill out application forms before they can be considered by the professional staff as to whether or not they are qualified to participate in any "ministry" and which hires secretaries and assistants to shield the "pastor" from the public. This bureaucracy and bowing to men rather than God produces and promotes shallow religiosity, the form of godliness that lacks the power of God's Spirit. The ekklesia is a live organism wherein each member of the body simply lives out what God has made him or her to be.
- The "church" is founded on bondage and law - bondage, in that each individual is required to use the powers of his soul (mind, will and emotions) to obey what the Bible says (something which is a complete impossibility and which making the effort to do so only produces a counterfeit Christianity), and law, in that the people are expected to obey man-made doctrines and creeds rather than being trained to follow the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit. The ekklesia lives and moves in the freedom and liberty of the Spirit of God, worshiping God in spirit, that is, with their own spirit and by the aid and leading of the Holy Spirit, and in truth, that is, in conjunction with their own personal experience with God.
- The "church" is based on religion, what you can do for God that will make Him love and/or reward you more. Ekklesia is founded upon a genuine relationship with God wherein God does for you, God takes you through, God establishes you, God brings you to light and truth, and God shows light and truth to you - none of which requires you to do anything of yourself, simply and only to respond, to obey, to follow, to come on, to receive - all utilizing not your own strength and powers but instead His grace, that is, the power of His Holy Spirit that is at work in you to make you into what He intends you to become.
- The "church" is ultimately a work of Satan as can be seen by the elements of chaos, death, evil, darkness, deceit, unrest, and self-righteousness which are such integral parts of the "church" environment. God is the God of order, the source of all life, the giver of all good things. He is light and truth and His kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy. Wherever you find these things accomplished by the Spirit of God, you have found the ekklesia, the people of God.
Not every "church" fellowship has every extreme of "church" deception. But these twelve contrasts of the "church" deception with the ekklesia reality ought to be sufficient for those who have ears to hear.
That there are two extremes of false and true Christianity is not what most people object to. What most object to is calling one "church" and the other ekklesia. The "church," for many people, represents the best thing they have found on earth. Those who sincerely seek God have met God and have rubbed shoulders with other sincere seekers of God at a "church." They have recognized that there are elements of deceit and death within their "church" fellowship but they have never recognized the lethal nature of the overall pattern of Satan's work in their midst. They have simply dismissed those elements as part of the imperfections that are part of any and every "church" and they have refused to pass judgment on those who, though they claim to be brothers in Christ, are in truth fornicators, covetous, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, or extortioners. They refuse to separate themselves from these false brothers in spite of Paul's command to do so (see 1 Cor. 5:11; top ) and thus they perpetuate their "church" rather than the kingdom of God which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Some who recognize the existence of the two opposing extremes still have difficulty understanding and then accepting how the "church" and the ekklesia could be so closely intertwined and for so many centuries. They have such difficulty in understanding this that they will deny the truth about the differences between "church" and ekklesia.
The answer is found in Jesus' parable of the wheat and the tares. When He explained what the different elements of the story represented, He said:
"He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" ( Mt. 13:37-43; top )
This is the cast of characters in the story that He has just previously told. Let us review who the players are:
- The master who owns the field and sows the wheat is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
- The enemy who plants the tares in the field is Satan, the devil.
- The wheat is the sons of the kingdom, the true children of God planted by the Son of God to be in the kingdom of God, to be the people of God who are in the world but not of it.
- The tares are the sons of the devil, planted by the devil within the world because they look like the wheat, the true sons of the kingdom.
- The reapers who will separate the tares from the wheat before the harvest at the end of the age are angels.
- That which will be removed from the kingdom of God is everything that offends (or causes sin) and everyone who practices lawlessness, that absence of God's righteous standard from their code of conduct, that is, those who do that which is right in their own eyes and not that which is right in the eyes of the Lord.
Now let's hear the story again. Jesus said:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'
He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.'
The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'
But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'" ( Mt. 13:24-30; top )
There are three things we need to recognize from this story:
- The tares, the sons of the devil, were sown by the devil among the wheat of the kingdom while men slept. When men were unwary of what was being done to them, the devil enacted one of his schemes. This is the origin of "church" doctrines and practices. Men were unwary about the origins of their practices and, through the centuries, turned them into time-honored traditions, the traditions of men that war against the word of God.
- The tares, the sons of the devil, were sown so closely among the wheat that, if they had been immediately uprooted, some of the wheat, the true sons of the kingdom of God, would have been uprooted as well. This is the close intertwining of "church" and ekklesia that has been transpiring over the centuries.
- God has permitted the tares and wheat to grow up together until the end of the age when, just before the harvest of the wheat, He will send angels to gather out of His kingdom all wickedness and all who are wicked - yes, the tares are currently within His kingdom! The removal of the tares will happen at the end of the age - not before (though just how long it takes for an age to end is a valid question and it should also be noted that, at the end of the closing age, some of the characteristics of the ensuing age are already being foreshadowed and embraced).
If God had shown His people the true nature of "church" centuries ago, do you suppose they would have perpetuated the "church" lies and errors? No! They would have discarded them just as quickly as those who recognize them now are doing. God has permitted this scheme of the devil to continue until it reaches maturity because the wheat also needed to mature. Now He is allowing us to see more clearly the distinction because, very soon, the angels will come to separate the tares from the wheat. Now is the time when our actions, our response to the truth, will clearly demonstrate to the angels which camp we belong to. Those who will reject all of man's traditions will be the wheat. Those who find themselves unable to let go of their manmade theologies and practices will be the tares.
An interesting fact about wheat and tares is that they look a great deal alike. While they are very young, only a very close examination by experts reveals the difference. But when they mature, each plant develops a very distinctive difference. The tare,.because it is a fluffy weed with no grainy head of substantial crop, stands erect. The wheat, precisely because it bears a grainy head of substantial crop, bows over. When the reapers come to remove the tares, they have a much easier time of recognizing which is which. The plants that are erect are to be uprooted - the plants that are bowed over are the ones to be left for the harvest.
While the "church" exalts itself and its methods and practices, the ekklesia will bow in simple humility before the Lord. The "church" will put up billboards and air advertisements seeking to draw people to themselves. The ekklesia has nothing to sell or promote, they simply give away what the Lord has given them as He directs them to do so. The tares, the sons of the devil, the "pastors" and false leaders within the "church," will continue to promote their own name, becoming the teachers that are heaped up to tickle the ears of those who want to hear fables about Jesus Christ and God - that He has now become a God who can be known about without being obeyed.
Don't let the time-honored traditions of the tares and of the "church" fool you. They are only the schemes of the devil designed to rob you of your inheritance in the kingdom of God.
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