Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 13:25 π Mt. 13:38 π Mk. 7:13 π Lk. 4:41 π Jn. 3:8 π Jn. 8:44 π Jn. 15:5 π Acts 16:17 π 1 Cor. 11:20 π 1 Cor. 12:12 π Gal. 5:16-17 π Eph. 4:4-5 π Heb. 10:24-25 π Heb. 13:7 π Heb. 13:17 π 1 Jn. 2:21 π Rev. 1:10
All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.
A.W. Tozer wrote:
Being Christ-centered and church-oriented in his thinking, this writer of course relates everything to the Christian religion. I am and have been for years much distressed about the tendency to over-organize the Christian community, and I have for that reason had it charged against me that I do not believe in organization. The truth is quite otherwise.
The man who would oppose all organization in the church must needs be ignorant of the facts of life. Art is organized beauty; music is organized sound; philosophy is organized thought; science is organized knowledge; government is merely society organized. And what is the true church of Christ but organized mystery? (“Organization: Necessary and Dangerous,” p. 29)
“Being church-oriented in his thinking, this writer…” Tozer made no effort to conceal his bias toward traditional “church.” Now the only real question is: Was Tozer’s underlying definition of “church” correct or not - that is, did it line up with what God had written in the Scriptures? What we will find is with Tozer – as is true of every proponent of the “church” paradigm I’ve encountered to date – is that he is quite capable of expressing contradictory opinions without ever realizing the statements are contradictory.
“The church is found wherever the Holy Spirit has drawn together a few person…” (“The Vital Place of the Church,” p. 25 – emphasis added)
So far so good. But what happens when, as but one example of thousands available, the “pastor” is possessed/controlled by the demonic and is preaching demonized truth (see Lk. 4:41 ; Acts 16:17 if you doubt the demonic can or will do this; top) and the people are so enamored with his demonically-enhanced charisma that the “pastor” (though he has bilked millions from the flock) can do nothing wrong and they flock, by the thousands, to support this “beleaguered man of God.” Is that still a valid expression of the gathering of Christ’s people? Or is that simply apostasy? What loyalty would a genuine believer owe in that situation?
Tozer goes on a few sentences later,
“Give a few real Christians half a chance and they will get together and organize and plan regular meetings…” (“The Vital Place of the Church,” p. 25 – emphasis added)
Okay, who is doing the gathering here? The Christians or the Holy Spirit? It is precisely here that the “church” paradigm begins to kick in – and soon one is no longer obeying the Spirit of God but rather the “church” paradigm or the calendar or the “needs” of the people. The devil does not particularly care who or what you obey so long as it is not God Himself. Tozer himself recognized the problem but grasped neither the depth of it nor the real solution. He wrote:
“We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked.” (“The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches,” p. 208)
“This” is equated with “that” – no questions asked. This is precisely the work of the deceitful enemy of our souls. Many people who have come to know Christ are told that they need to present themselves to an established “church” as a safeguard to keep them on the road that leads to life.
If you check your exhaustive concordance or computer Bible software program though, you cannot find anyone anywhere in the Scriptures being told to “go to church.” To be sure we are exhorted to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together ( Heb. 10:24-25 ) and to be the corporate body of Christ. ( 1 Cor. 12:12; top ) But we equate “this” with “that” and never ask the Lord if this is truly so. We assume that the man up front behind the pulpit telling us how “church” should be or that the one discipling us shortly after our conversion to Christ really knows what God is saying throughout the Bible and, in so doing, in many cases, we have simply allowed the demonic to write in subtle distortions in our definition of the concept of “church.” Thus “church” becomes a place one can go to (as but one example of the distortions the English word “church” has accumulated over the centuries) rather than a description of the purpose of one’s God-given new life from above. This subtle demonic implantation of a deceptive concept early in a Christian’s life does far more damage than most people know. It is not to be overlooked that the traditions of men – and the “church” paradigm is a tradition of men handed down through centuries of generations and is taught only at “church” – makes the word of God of no effect in our hearts and lives. ( Mk. 7:13; top )
The result of real Christians coming together, organizing and planning can only – except in those very rare cases where every person in the assembly was truly and personally instructed and led by the Spirit of Christ in every aspect of coming together (a situation which has never lasted long) – result in what Tozer laments as “over-organization” because human organization replaces divine organism. Tozer wrote:
“I am and have been for years distressed about the tendency to over-organize the Christian community…” (“Organization: Necessary and Dangerous,” p. 29)
Where does this tendency to over-organize come from? Does it come from the Spirit of Christ? Can the Spirit of truth lead us into deception? No! It comes (at best) from our flesh which strongly desires things diametrically opposed to the things that God desires. Paul wrote, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another…” ( Gal. 5:16-17; top )
The tendency to over-organize is so prevalent in churchianity today because the whole thing is built on the organization skills of men instead of simply being the organism which is the body of Christ. Tozer wrote:
“The spiritual fathers [of new godly movements] were not able to sire others with courage and faith equal to their own. The fathers had God and little else, but their descendants lose [the fathers’] vision and look to methods and constitutions for the power their hearts tell them they lack.” (“Organization: Necessary and Dangerous,” p. 32)
The new movement, in perhaps many ways a purer expression of the body of Christ than the movement before it, is the outflow of the interaction between men and God. When the interaction changes to be between men and men or between men and some form of law, the entire dynamic is changed. The only way to maintain a movement of God among men is to continue to change and move with whichever way the Wind of God (the Holy Spirit) is blowing. ( Jn. 3:8; top ) As soon as we set our own course or change the nature of our vessel, to that very degree, we cannot go where God is leading. The ekklesia, the people of Christ, are meant to be like a sailing ship, captained and piloted by men in tune with the tides, currents and winds but propelled by the Wind of the Holy Spirit. Over the centuries, man has insisted on adding man-made engines and “improvements” to this vessel and then wonders why God seems to disappear after just a short period of time!
“The man who would oppose all organization in the church must needs be ignorant of the facts of life.” (“Organization: Necessary and Dangerous,” p. 29)
The man who cannot see that the body of Christ is already organized (and that by God!) must needs be blind to the very most basic element of spiritual life. It is precisely here that the enemy takes advantage of our trust in our leaders, the “pastor” and the “church” staff. Deep in our spirits and souls, we know we are Christ’s body ( Eph. 4:4-5 ) and we know there are supposed to be leaders to follow and learn from. ( Heb. 13:7 , 17; top ) So when we see the “pastor” stand up and preach Bible truths from his pulpit, we subconsciously assume this is equivalent to what we read of Jesus, Peter and Paul doing in the New Testament. We equate “this” with “that” – no questions asked. As we submit to such a distortion however, we must tune out the still small voice of the Spirit of truth that speaks to us in our spirits and we make ourselves vulnerable and susceptible to whatever philosophy, theology or even demonic spirit that controls/compels the “pastor” in his pulpit. If we again check our exhaustive concordance or computer Bible software program, we find there is no pulpit anywhere in the Scriptures – we certainly can find nothing that would justify its near-universal, central place in our search for a closer relationship with God.
Though the pulpit cannot be found in the Scriptures, it can – under the name “ambo” – be found in the pagan Roman temples of the time of Constantine. And the sermon, as is customarily practiced, comes not from the pages of Scripture but from Greek “wisdom” (“sophistry” – the expositional use of eloquence to attract disciples who would pay to be instructed in the speaker’s “wisdom”). These were imported into the new-fangled “church” buildings so that the clergy could instruct the laity – and enjoy a steady, fairly lucrative career at the same time! Even then, men equated “this” new thing with “that” old way of the apostles who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Christ. “While men slept” ( Mt. 13:25 ) the enemy of our souls deceived men into instituting practices that would make a place for the sons of the devil, the tares ( Mt. 13:38; top ), to work their evil influence on the lives of those around them who would follow after their works of darkness. That place is the “church,” the counterfeit scheme of the devil to keep believers from being all that it means to be the ekklesia, the called-out people of Christ.
Tozer’s question at the end of the quote we are examining –
“What is the church of Christ but organized mystery?”
- is both the perfect question and the real explanation of both the problem and the solution. In the Scriptures, a mystery is something hidden by God for a time but now (at the appropriate time) He has revealed it. Tozer wrote:
“We must acknowledge the right of Jesus Christ to control the activities of His church. The New Testament contains full instructions not only about what we are to believe but what we are to do and how we are to go about doing it. Any deviation from these instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.” (“Pragmatism Goes to Church,” p. 84 – emphasis in original)
Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” ( Jn. 15:5; top )
The first activity we need to return back to the control of the Lord Jesus Christ is the defining of what it means to belong to His body. I myself have found the word “church” to be so cluttered with deceptive religious meanings that have attached themselves to the original concept that I have found it beneficial to return to the original Greek word “ekklesia” to refer to the genuine body of Christ and to use the English word “church” to refer to the counterfeit schemes of the devil.
When we search out the original meaning of ekklesia, we find that it is a political, not even a religious, term. It refers to the people (as of a city) who are called out (by a messenger) to assemble and attend to the affairs at hand (defense, business, events, etc. that effected that city). When we apply this term to the people who belong to Christ, it refers to the people who have been called out of the darkness of the world, translated into Christ’s kingdom of light and who are now expected to attend to the responsibilities and affairs of His kingdom.
When we trace the etymology (the linguistic history/evolution) of the word “church,” we find that it has no link whatsoever with the Greek word “ekklesia.” We find however that “church” (like the Scottish word “kirk”) does trace back to the Greek word “kuriakon,” a word that simply means “belonging to a lord.” Interestingly, “kuriakon” is used in the New Testament, but only twice! ( 1 Cor. 11:20 ; Rev. 1:10; top ) Yet, somehow the word “church” – the word that rightly derives only from “kuriakon” – is used one hundred and fourteen times! How does one account for this linguistic discrepancy? Religious deception – equating “this” with “that,” no questions asked.
When the Bible was being translated from Latin into English (to curb the excesses of the Anglican priests) in the 14th – 17th centuries, it was already fashionable to “go to church.” Since there was really no convenient, one-word English equivalent to “ekklesia,” the translators opted for the word “church.” To be sure, the word “church” did not have all the attached baggage it has accumulated in the last several hundred years but it was a deceptive substitution nonetheless. The word “church” now carries with it more ideas of buildings, rituals, religious hierarchy than it does of people who are supposed to simply expend their lives in the pursuit of the interests of Christ’s kingdom of light.
Though it is by far simpler to distinguish the true from the counterfeit by using the terms ekklesia and “church,” for the purposes of these continuing articles on Tozer’s quotes, I will refrain. If you, the reader, become confused as to which is being referred to (the real or the counterfeit), let it be a simple but profound confirmation of the source of this immense deception against the people of Christ.
“No lie is of the truth,” John wrote. ( 1 Jn. 2:21 ) Any definition of “church” that contains any elements of deception cannot possibly come from God but comes rather and only from the father of lies, Satan. ( Jn. 8:44; top )
The second activity of Christ’s church we must return to His control is the choice of men who are the leaders of His people. Because the sons of the devil were allowed to mature alongside the sons of the kingdom, God has allowed multiplied thousands of “church leadership” plans and schemes to be enacted and carried out – often to the hurt of multiplied thousands of followers and would-be followers of Christ. But as Tozer said,
“The New Testament contains full instructions… [and] …any deviation from these instructions is a denial of the Lordship of Christ.” (“Pragmatism Goes to Church,” p. 84)
As we search out more fully these quotes from Tozer, we will find that our “church” paradigm is responsible for many, even most, of our deviations from the full instructions of the New Testament and for our practicing lawlessness (doing what is right in our own eyes) in the name of Christ. (see Mt. 7:21-23; top )
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