Why "Church"?

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 3:6 π Isa. 14:14 π Ezek. 28:12-14 π Mal. 4:5-6 π Mt. 13:25 π Mt. 13:29-30 π Mt. 24:10-12 π Mk. 10:42-43 π Lk. 4:8 π Lk. 17:20-21 π Acts 2:16-17 π Acts 2:33 π Acts 20:17 π Acts 20:30 π 1 Cor. 2:7-8 π Gal. 5:20 π Phlp. 2:6 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:4 π 2 Ths. 2:7 π 2 Ths. 2:9-10 π Heb. 8:10 π 1 Jn. 2:16; 2nd; 3rd π 1 Jn. 2:27 π 1 Jn. 3:8-9 π 1 Jn. 3:9 π 1 Jn. 4:3 π 1 Jn. 4:4 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15 π Rev. 5:6 π Rev. 17:5 π Rev. 20:7-10

John wrote:

"He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." ( 1 Jn. 3:8-9; top )

The Big Picture

Charles Newbold writes:

We need to settle this issue that Satan really does exist. We need to be well educated, trained, and equipped in spiritual warfare. We do not ever need to fear the devil if we are of God "because greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world." ( 1 Jn. 4:4; top )

Surely Satan knows that the eternal plan of God is to bring many sons to glory, sons who are of the nature and character of His pattern Son, Jesus Christ. Surely he knows that God intends to have a family of sons for Himself. His main objective is to thwart the will of God by trying to destroy the Son of God and the sons of God.

His attack has been and always will be on the destruction of family, fathering, and sonship. Everything else he is accused of doing in the world is simply designed to thwart that eternal purpose of God in one manner or another. (In Search of Dad; 1997, p. 140)

Okay, let's step back, take a deep breath and plunge into some heavy-duty, brain-cramping, mind-boggling broad-stroke painting.

  1. God had a plan. He wanted sons and daughters. He wanted to love them.

  2. Satan became proud and said, "I will be like the Most High God" ( Isa. 14:14 ) and considered equality with God a thing within reach to be grasped. He saw the puny human being (especially if he saw one looking like a murdered Lamb - Rev. 5:6 , etc.) and probably compared it to his own glorious appearance (see Ezek. 28:12-14; top ) and likely concluded he was the much more appropriate candidate for sonship and rulership over the planet.

  3. Satan tricked Eve into sinning in the belief that this would stop God's plan to bring into existence His family. After all, God is holy - sinful children cannot be in God's family. Unholy, sinful, ungodly man simply is not children born after the likeness of God.

  4. God made covenants with Abraham, Moses and David which were consistently violated in one way or another by men. God then gave prophecies through Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and a half dozen or so other prophets, speaking of a new way in which men would be reconciled to God, a way that involved the unique God-man, the Messiah.

  5. When this unique God-man appeared, Satan tempted Him to deviate from the course of God's will for His life. Whatever it was that this God-man was going to do, Satan must have reasoned, He could be - He must be - stopped. Satan's strategy was to have Him executed on a cross outside Jerusalem - a strategy that fulfilled every prophecy made about the God-man. Paul wrote of that strategy, "God's secret wisdom...has been hidden, [wisdom] that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age [the devil, the fallen angels and the demonic] understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." ( 1 Cor. 2:7-8; top )

  6. As a result of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh on the day of Pentecost. ( Acts 2:16-17 , 33; top ) This mighty outpouring of God's Spirit, which "re-birthed" the family of God among men, set the stage for the next phase of Satan's ultimate removal from the planet.

  7. Satan saw how he had been defeated at the cross and, since insane pride cannot admit defeat, he has concocted grand schemes to yet again stop, or at least delay, the formation of God's family.
    Let us take a moment to summarize: God wanted and started to make a family when He created man according to His own likeness. Satan stepped in and tried to disrupt God's plan but was instead himself dealt a fatal blow at the execution and resurrection of Christ Jesus. But rather than lay down in defeat and death, Satan chose to concoct schemes designed to prevent God's family from being brought together. The schemes that he would concoct would be his strongest and best effort at stopping God. His life depends on his succeeding in stopping, or at least delaying, God from making His family.

What grand schemes did Satan concoct to do this most important task for him? Whatever these schemes are, they must stop men from becoming like God for holy God cannot receive unholy man. They must reach deep into the flesh nature and stir up perhaps the deepest parts of his soul - all without the humans ever knowing that they were not following God. For after all, Satan's strategy is to be like God, even "opposing and exalting himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." ( 2 Ths. 2:4; top - Paul is speaking of the end-time ruler who will be the chief expression of Satan's end-time rule yet this passage may refer to Satan himself ruling on the earth at that time.)

The Nature of the War

In the New Testament we find several clues as to the nature of Satan's end-time strategies. In this passage we have just considered, Paul goes on to say:

"...the mystery of lawlessness is already at work... 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. 2:7 , 9-10; top )

Lawlessness, as a concept, was concealed for centuries from the average reader of the English New Testament through the misrendering of the Greek word anomia [458] as "iniquity." The word is better rendered "lawlessness" (as most English versions now do) and it refers to the absence of any outside objective standard by which to order one's life. It is perhaps most easily grasped as "doing whatever is right in one's own eyes." The world calls this extremely prevalent philosophy and way of thinking "relativism."

John wrote that in his day, the spirit of antichrist was also already at work in the world. ( 1 Jn. 4:3; top ) "Anti" in Greek has two meanings inherent in the word. The first is "against" or "contrary to," signifying the antagonism between Satan and Christ. But the second meaning is "in the place of," signifying Satan's ongoing hunger and lust to be in any place that rightfully belongs to Christ or God.

Let's recap a bit. Satan's biggest and almost only tool in his tool box is deception. But it is a most effective tool and we have seen that it worked on Adam and Eve immediately. The only one this tool did not succeed against was Christ.

Satan's strategy is to use deception to cause men to practice lawlessness (whatever is right in their own eyes) so that his fallen angelic spirits and demonic hordes can gain access to men's souls and divert them even further from God's plan to have a family.

With the weapon of deception aimed specifically at the human tendency to do that which is right in his own eyes so that Satan and his minions would gain place and power over men (the same strategy which worked in the garden of Eden), what specific tactics did the rulers of the darkness of this age enact so as to bring about their goal of stopping or delaying the formation of God's family?

A Wily Foe

The first thing we find them doing is causing some men to practice Nicolaitanism. ( Rev. 2:6 ) This is to rule over the people and it is the accepted normal practice of the Gentiles but it is not to be the way of keeping order among God's people. ( Mk. 10:42-43 , etc.) This practice, in a few short years, became a standard teaching among the people of Christ ( Rev. 2:15; top ) and by 180 a.d. nearly every city had a Nicolaitan official presiding over its assemblies, activities and meetings. One of the very few writings that has survived from the period just after all the original apostles and disciples had died off even justified having the man stand "in the place of God" over the assemblies (Ignatius of Antioch, died c. 110 a.d.) - apparently this man knew nothing about the work of the spirit of antichrist ("in the place of Christ"), a conclusion supported by other evidences of deception and spiritual unbalance in his life. History knows this Nicolaitan official over the assembly as "the bishop" and the office, which cannot be found anywhere in the New Testament, has been the source of much of the woe that has come upon the people of Christ - even as God, who is always bigger and more powerful than the schemes of the enemy, has used even the men who called themselves bishops to continue to bring forth His family among men.

The danger in presenting such a large overview is to look only at the large picture and to miss how intricately God is involved with each individual. God does not judge groups - He judges individuals on an individual basis according to what the individual has done with the light (the truth, the good that was before him, the people God placed before him, etc.) that was available to that individual. Though the whole group goes wrong (even in the name of Christ!), that does not excuse the individual who failed to obey the leading of the Spirit of life and truth speaking to his innermost being. The one who murdered Muslims during a medieval crusade or a Catholic priest who persecuted "heretics" during the time of the Inquisition will be judged for any failure on their part to stand against the wickedness of those holding positions over them - as but two obvious examples of the need to obey the inner voice of truth, goodness and even conscience in the face of a superior's opposition. Since even God Himself relented so as to let the wheat and tares mature together ( Mt. 13:29-30; top ), it is difficult to say how much of the Nicolaitan error of the past will be held to men's account. Those of us who must now choose whether to be a wheat or tare do not have this historical luxury.

The world builds its pyramid structures of power and the people of Christ of the first century carelessly ( "while men slept" - Mt. 13:25; top ) stepped into a similar power structure. Philip Schaff, an excellent church historian, writes:

"The episcopate proceeded...from the apostolate and the original presbyterate conjointly...without either express concert or general regulation of the apostles, neither of which, at least can be historically proved. It arose, instinctively, as it were, in that obscure and critical transition period between the end of the first and the middle of the second century. It was not a sudden creation, much less the invention of a single mind. It grew, in part, out of the general demand for a continuation of, or substitute for, the apostolic church government. It was further occasioned by the need of a unity in the presbyterial government of congregations, which, in the nature of the case and according to the analogy of the archisunagogos, required a head or president..." (History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, p. 141)

The episcopate - the bishop (Greek episkopas [1984]) rising up as the head of the assembly over all other elements of the group - was not part of the New Testament nor even in the writings of the original disciples and followers of Christ. The first historically recorded Nicolaitan is Ignatius of Antioch as we have already touched upon. Speaking to the elders of Ephesus, Paul prophesied that "from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking corrupt things, to draw away the disciples after themselves." ( Acts 20:17 , 30; top ) And this is precisely what the bishop (the episkopas) did. From the midst of the elders (Greek presbuteros [4245]) the bishop arose over the assembly, spoke impure messages (primarily Nicolaitan distortions) and drew followers under the bishop. As Schaff said this was a substitute for the government of the elders, deacons, apostles, prophets, etc. that God had set in place (not instituted but set in place - this is more than a semantic difference here) brought about by a perceived need for visible unity. Why did a people who serve the "invisible" God need visible unity?

John, in a passage that echoes the process Eve went through in succumbing to the devil's deceptions (see Gen. 3:6 ), wrote that "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world." ( 1 Jn. 2:16 ) The people of the first century desired something their eyes could see and completely ignored Jesus' warning, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." ( Lk. 17:20-21; top ) When they opted for a visible representative - the bishop whose office would devolve into the modern day abomination men most commonly call "pastor" - they fell for Satan's deceptions and trickery, disobeyed God and created an unequal yoke (between the people of Christ and the demonic) that opened the door for Satan to have rulership over the people of Christ, thus creating an institution that would war against God's plan to have family. The people, under the spell of the deceptions of the devil, opted for something that was right in their own eyes but was abominable in the eyes of the Lord.

Let's be sure we understand this point. The bishop, in accordance with the desires of the people but with no direct instruction from the Lord by His Spirit or even through His apostles, stepped into a place of headship reserved for God and Christ alone. As a result, Satan gained great power over the people of Christ, power that remains a strong influence to this day.

This state of affairs, where bishops ruled over the local groups of believers, lasted for centuries. The bishops gathered together and because the power given by the Holy Spirit in the nature of miracles and spiritual gifts were disappearing (the fruit of the unequal yoke made by receiving the bishop in the place of God), they canonized the Scripture. Before there was a book, there was a people of Christ who changed the world. Once there was a bishop and a book, the people have been divided by both the man and the words of the book ever since.

The Unfinished Reformation

Things were going along wonderfully for the kingdom of darkness until the Lord of life and love stirred the souls of men with a fresh wind of the Spirit of truth. After centuries of darkness when it seemed that almost all knowledge of God had been replaced by dark superstition worse than before the time of Christ, the study of Greek classics, especially the New Testament, was revived and this brought about a number of changes in the way men conducted themselves.

The Reformation brought an end to many of the abuses of the office of the bishop and the priest by putting the Bible into common languages. People could see for themselves - and point to the contradictions to what they called "God's Word" - and were enabled to bring about beneficial change. Superstitions were dismissed and replaced as much truth was restored to the people.

But the Reformation was left incomplete. Though the Reformers spoke about the priesthood of all believers and the unity of all followers of Christ, the Reformation sects kept the clergy class and fractured into three main tributaries (Episcopalian/Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist/Calvinist) with variations of each dominant type. This fracture was then followed by several other breakaway groups who saw the incomplete nature of the Reformation (however well or poorly they understood or explained what they saw and however well or poorly they actually practiced a closer expression of where the Holy Spirit wanted them to press on toward, this was the revelation they were responding to) and this in turn was followed by the explosion of denominations (sects, dissensions, heresies - Gal. 5:20; top ) that we see perpetuated endlessly today.

Though the Reformation made great strides toward restoring the purposes, truths and teachings of God through the Bible to the common people, it fell far short of finding the way in which God builds His family. Instead it built up a divided "church" with a layer of clergy-mediators between the people and God.

That we have had to delve this deeply into the history of the people of Christ just to even ask the question of "Why did the devil choose 'church' as his method of deceiving the people of Christ?" shows just how effective the devil's deceptions really are. Most people don't get past his first deception - "There is no devil!" (Jesus sure spoke to him as if he were real! - see Lk. 4:8 , etc.) Nor do many get past his second - "Even if he does exist, he's a defeated foe! He couldn't hurt anybody!" (see Rev. 20:7-10 to see what it will ultimately take to keep Satan from getting people killed!) Still fewer get past his third lie - "No church is perfect so you shouldn't look too deeply into its imperfections." Only a tiny handful are able to get past these lies so as to even recognize that the "church" is the apostasy, the falling away from the faith, that comes before the return of Christ. ( 2 Ths. 2:3; top ) Only a few are able to spiritually grasp the truth that the "church" is Satan's ace card in his war against God's plan to have a family, let alone ponder why he chose this particular strategy.


Okay, so why did Satan choose "church" (in all that means as the counterfeit religion-for-profit prostitute who usurps the real place and role of the bride of Christ) as the most likely, most effective means by which to keep God's family from coming into existence?

The answer to this is seen in the modern blindness to the "imperfections" of "church" - even in those who know the truth. One can know, for instance, that the laws of God are written on the heart ( Heb. 8:10 ) and that there is no need for any man to have an ongoing teaching role in our life ( 1 Jn. 2:27; top ) and that one can teach about the "church" and its errors until one is blue in the face - and yet that one will still hold teaching meetings to try to teach the people the ways of God. Another can know that the "church" is the scheme of the devil to keep the people from their life in Christ but as soon as he hears one stirring sermon, he quickly becomes a faithful "church"-ite yet again. "Church"-ites who know the sinful, pagan origins of their "church" practices still see nothing wrong with the ongoing practice of their essentially pagan rituals in the name of Christ! "Pastors" and assistant "pastors" preach routinely against clergyism and hate for the term to be applied to them - but they remain in their clergical roles and positions and enjoy the benefits of the exalted class nonetheless. The secret to the success of the demonic strategy men commonly call "church" must surely lie deeply buried in the nature of mankind.

The seed of God within us - that is, that part of us that is the child of God, the spiritually transformed nature that is like Christ - does not sin. ( 1 Jn. 3:9 ) The love of the Father is not to be found in what we desire and see and can boast of ( 1 Jn. 2:16; top ) yet these three factors were all present in Adam's fall. "Church" - as is true of any other thing of the world - appeals to what we desire, what we see and what we can boast of. If it did not do these three things, it would not be an effective tool to keep us from being God's family, transformed into His likeness of love and light. To the extent any "church" caters to any of these three elements of the flesh nature, to that extent that "church" is a tool of the devil and the demonic being used to prevent, if possible, God from realizing His family.

God said through the prophet Malachi:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." ( Mal. 4:5-6; top )

Satan would love to see the Lord strike the earth with a curse and this is surely one of the goals behind his strategies (just as it may have been one of his goals in causing man to fall but, as will always be the case in trying to "outsmart" God, Satan got more than he bargained for in that curse!). But the Lord has promised to send the spirit of Elijah (literally, "my God is Yah") to cause men to reconsider the value of family relations on all levels - physical, emotional and spiritual. Any other understanding of the "spirit of Elijah" is a misunderstanding and misappropriation of the idea behind this particular work of the Lord.

Man's problems can all be boiled down, for those with spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear, to the simple fact that while God was building His family according to His hidden infinite wisdom and counsel, men were building "churches" according to their own finite understandings and errors (the workplace and the product of the demonic). These "church" boxes - because they were not built according to the over-arching wisdom of God - have devolved into little more than spiritual slave stations and abortion clinics. It is this persistent perpetuation of the traditions of men built upon teachings of demons that has brought about the cosmic-scale tragedy of the apostasy, the "church" in all its counterfeit manifestations and aspirations to attaining to the likeness of God without maintaining a personal relationship with God whereby we are utterly dependent upon Him for all of life and godliness.

Darkest Before the Dawn

One of the reasons the close of the age will be so dark, cloaked in lawlessness (relativism), deception, betrayal and hatred done in the name of God ( Mt. 24:10-12 ), is because we cannot now discern which is the true people of Christ and which is the counterfeit "church." Men who know the truth about the "church" still describe the harlot (see Rev. 17:5 ) as if that were the genuine people of Christ. This confusion is in part justified as there are still true members of Christ's body who are still within the framework of the false "church," still deceived into thinking it really is "God's house" or under some other delusion about the reality of the nature of the "church." But until we truly are purged of the subtle contaminations of filthiness of spirit, soul and flesh that make us vulnerable to the lure of the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life ( 1 Jn. 2:16; top ), we will always see whatever we do as right in our own eyes. We must learn to let go of what we desire, what we see and what we think we understand and can thus boast of and see with the eyes of God and think with the mind of Christ and feel with the heart of God. This is the true godliness that the "church" cannot produce among its members. The "church" simply cannot produce genuine children in the likeness of God and any attempt to take on the role of "mother" over other believers only demonstrates that she is the harlot, the counterfeit prostitute stepping into realms reserved only for God.

Equality with God - and being brought into the family of God is a form of equality with God - is not something which can be grasped. ( Phlp. 2:6; top ) It is a gift which can only be received and obeyed. Many are the allurements and seducings which the enemy has placed before us to keep us from running the race that God has set us upon. The time before us requires us to endure, to keep fervent the love that comes from God for sinful, fallen man, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, His will above our own no matter what the cost. This is the word of our testimony - that God is greater than He that is in the world. In the end God will have His family and there will be great rewards for those who maintain their life in Him.

Though the time and season is dark now, this only shows that we are that much closer to the day when the Morning Star, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, will return and gather all things to Himself and bring forth His kingdom in a most tangible and visible form. The wise man will bow his knee to this coming King now.

Let he who has ears hear.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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