The Church as it Should be
The First Century Church in the Twenty-First Century
ãcopyright 2001 – 2010
Chapter One – Who they were, the first Christians.
Chapter Two – How they were organized, Government by Appointment not Election
Chapter Three – Where God doesn’t dwell
Chapter Four – Are ye not Carnal?
Chapter Five – Men and brethren what shall we do?
Quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Are you tired?
Do you “belong to a church” but feel alone and disconnected ?
Do you feel like something is missing?
Do you sometimes feel like the U2 song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” is the theme of your life?
When you are in church do you feel like just another part of the audience?
Do you feel about as connected as if you were in a movie theater?
If your answer is “yes”, then this book is for you.
Do you yearn for a place where you can have real relationships instead of “see you next Sunday” ?
Have you ever had a church “follow up” with you by way of a form letter?
Are you tired of slogans and gimmicks?
Do you sometimes envy the people on “Cheers” or “Friends” because they seem to really have each other ?
“where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came“.
“I’ll be there for you”.
If your answer is “yes”, then this book is for you.
Who were the first Christians?
Psalm 133 verse 1
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
In a word, they were family. They were sons and daughters of God and therefore brothers and sisters of one another.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
WOW! That’s tremendous!
This same scenario is repeated in Acts 4: 32-35.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
This is perhaps the greatest portrait of true Christianity in the word of God. It was more than just “going to church” to them. It was their life, it was who they were. Jesus said that His disciples would be known by their love for one another.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
You would think He would have said their love for the lost but He said that all men (therefore, the lost) would know that we were His disciples by our love for one another. That kind of love and family has a tremendous appeal to people who live in a selfish, “dog eat dog” kind of world.
Now you may be thinking “okay that’s great, but what is so different about that, I’ve heard that kind of thing before”. Well, in the following chapters you will see how over the years a lot of man-made traditions have changed the family, the body of Christ into little more than a business. That is not at all what God intended for His Church. You will see straight from the word of God what God’s blueprint for what His temple looks like. It is very, very different from what we see in today’s western culture. It is also interesting to note that He did not say that they would be known by the name of their denomination or so called “non-denominational” organization or incorporated ministry. Nor did He say that we would be known by our big beautiful church buildings. Silly early Christians, they used that money to help one another instead of building multi-million dollar buildings to impress people. What were they thinking?
I sincerely believe that if we will be willing to go back to the word of God and leave our own traditions and opinions aside, we can see the first century church again in the twenty-first century. It’s right there in our bibles. The blueprint is there. It’s easy to see and easy to follow. Once again, Christianity can shine with the glory of Christ, once again there can be power and love and unity in abundance. Once again, it can be said, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed”. In order to do that, we are going to have to make some big changes. Before we can get to the “fun stuff” we are going to have go through some spiritual surgery, so to speak. We must cut out the cancer of man-made religion that has crept into our lives. At times, this book may seem harsh. Unfortunately, it has to be. Sometimes, God has to deal with us in a very matter-of-fact and abrupt manner in order to get our attention. Sometimes it takes a spiritual trumpet blast in our ears to wake us from our spiritual slumber. Just remember that it is in love and for your benefit.
How they were organized
Government by Appointment not Election
These people were not bound together by man-made religious organizations. However, they were organized. There were “higher powers” in the church. These were people with authority to lead God’s people. However, in contrast to the norm of today, this authority was delegated by God. It was not delegated by man, nor was it given by some sort of vote. These men were neither dictators nor hirelings.
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
Paul’s authority in the church was given to him directly from Jesus Christ. The beginning of Paul’s ministry is recorded in Acts 13: 1-4
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
Saul later became known as Paul. Though the elders may have been the instruments of his ordination, they were not the authors of it. It clearly says that “the Holy Ghost said” and “being sent forth by the Holy Ghost” . Just as John told the people that God was able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham, so God could have raised up anyone to ordain Paul. The power is in God, the author of ordination, not in religious credentials.
The distinction between God given authority and man-made authority is crucial to true Christian government. God rebuked Israel in the Old Testament for setting up leaders without, or even in spite of Him. Yet, how convenient this is for man-made religion. It gives them the leverage of saying,
“We gave you this position and we can take it away if you don’t follow our denominational doctrine.”
I have actually heard of pastors being fired by the congregation for teaching the truth. How do you fire a pastor? If he is truly a pastor, then he doesn’t work for you in the first place, he works for Jesus. What is sad is how real men of God often find their real ministry stifled by accepting man-made authority. When God begins to take them out of their sectarian comfort zone, they draw back in fear of what the elders, committees, convention, or board may say. This is perhaps especially true if the minister has a family to take care of. Yes, God often still uses these men to a degree, but the compromise is devastating to God’s people.
Sometimes, they think the solution is to break out and start their own “church”. In reality, they just start another form of what they just left, a man-made religious sect. They give it a name, rent a building or build one, and there you go, one more division, one more “broken cistern”. A cistern is a man-made container that can hold only a limited supply. God is a fountain with an infinite supply of water. Furthermore, God speaks of them as being “broken cisterns” so they are always leaking away what truth they have until there is little or none left.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
The leaders of the church in the first century were not hirelings, mere puppets or employees of a denomination. Neither were they “loose cannons” or dictators who ran things as they saw fit. These were men appointed by Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3
Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles (letters) of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
Seminaries and seminary degrees don’t make a man a minister. Denominational or sectarian endorsements don’t make a man a minister. God and God alone makes a man a true minister and the proof is in the pudding. The word minister means servant. Jesus said that no man can serve two masters. Granted, the context is different but the principle is the same. No man can truly serve two masters. He might fake it and fool people but he cannot fool God. As long as a man continues to operate under the thumb of man-made religion, he will never know his true potential as a man of God. As long as a man goes about building his own religious cistern, he will never know God’s limitless supply of water. He also will never know his true potential. So what is the alternative? That is what you will learn as you continue to read.
Here is a little more about leaders:
1 Corinthians 4
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
It says that the head of every man is Christ. It does not say the pastor is your head or your “covering”. To call anyone your “covering” other than Christ is heresy and it dishonors your true covering, your head, which is Christ.
Verse 4: Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
He is referring directly here to the literal covering of the head with some kind of hat or traditional headdress. Some would use that to dismiss what is really being said. The reason he gives this instruction is that the covering of the head symbolized submission to the authority of another, specifically a husband. Christ was the bridegroom. He is now the head of the body, the church. Here is the point, we as Christians have ONE LORD!!!
Leaders have authority within the church but that does not make them your Lord, your Head, or your “covering”. Your submission to them is to the extent that they exhort you to obey the word of God. They are not put here to make your decisions for you but to remind you to base your decisions on the word of God. The “covering” doctrine is a cult doctrine, cults are all about manipulation and control and that is what this doctrine is rooted in. The groups that vigorously promote this are cults or are on the verge of becoming cults. You have one Lord and His name is Jesus Christ.
The epistle of Titus has a lot of instruction about leaders and once again you see that they were appointed, not elected by a popular vote. Reading the entire epistle will shed a lot of light on the subject of leadership. It’s a short epistle so it doesn’t take long to read.
Where God doesn’t dwell
We looked at this verse earlier but it merits another look in regard to what we are about to see.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
This is exactly what all of these man-made denominations, so called “non-denominational ministries” and so on are. They are broken cisterns that can hold no water. They start with a limited supply of water and then proceed to leak away and lose what little truth they started with. There are no exceptions. Yes, it applies to your church or “ministry” too.
Now, in reference to how the early church was organized, it was very simple. Every believer belonged to the body of Christ as a whole. That was THE CHURCH. The greek word for church is ecclesia – which means those who have been called out and have answered the call. Next, you had “churches”. Churches were organized by country, city, and finally home. So you see, the organization was more geographic than anything else. If you were a Christian and you lived in Ephesus then you were part of the church of Ephesus. It was that simple. The only thing that was to separate God’s people was mere physical distance. Isn’t that wonderful? The smallest unit and the core of the organization was the home or household. This, by the way, was the dominant place of worship and fellowship for Christians. At first they also met at the temple in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:46) However, this was soon abandoned when Israel as a nation rejected the gospel. It also should be noted that the temple was part of the economy and government of the Old Covenant. It was an integral part and has been replaced in the New Covenant by something greater.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
We are God’s dwelling place now. We are the temple of God, the tabernacle of God.
I Corinthians 3:16
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.
I Corinthians 6:19
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
So then, if we, God’s people are the temple of God, why do we keep building temples of wood, and brick, and stone? In the Old Testament, God gave a mandate, an order, to construct a physical temple. He gave that order to Solomon.
THERE IS NO NEW COVENANT INSTRUCTION TO BUILD A PHYSICAL TEMPLE.
To do so is sheer presumption. In Acts 7: 44-51 Stephen was preaching to the Jews. In his sermon he reminded them of the words of the prophet which said,
…The most high dwelleth not in temples made with hands.
Paul referred to it when preaching to the Jews also,
Acts 7 :48
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?
They were quoting Isaiah 66:1
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
Clearly, scripture teaches that the great desire of God is to dwell with and in His people. In a sense, this brings us back full circle to the creation when God placed man in the garden and they fellowshipped freely there. Only, what we have now is greater than what Adam had. When someone refers to a church building as “the house of God”, they are in error. There is absolutely no scriptural basis for calling it that. It should be called the house of man-made religion.
I John 4:15
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him.
In the garden God was with man but now He dwells in man because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
Getting back to the early church, in the New Testament church, which is in the home:
1) The close interaction reveals where people are spiritually and what their needs are.
2) It is harder for wolves to go unnoticed
3) People have more opportunity to share their God given gifts and abilities for the service and benefit of other believers.
4) It is a more personal and intimate environment for non-Christians to come and experience the love of Christ for real
5) It is harder to ignore someone against whom you have a grudge. These can be easily spotted and dealt with by leaders which can result in a godly reconciliation which is what God wants
6) It is more tight knit and we can “bear one another’s burdens”. We can know each other’s needs better so that we can pray and assist each other.
7) There is more real fellowship through which we can refresh and strengthen each other as opposed to the casual acquaintances that we normally find in a religion building.
That is what the communities saw during the first century and it blew their minds. This was something different. This was real. It says in the scripture that the people magnified them (the believers). That means they were in awe of them and were always talking about them.
One side note, just having a “small group ministry” as part of your “church” is not anywhere near enough. The small group, cell group, home group or whatever you call it is not a part of the church, it is the church. All of the groups who have small groups as an aspect of what they do are just as much in error as those who don’t. In the end, all it does is make them a better counterfeit of the true church. It gives them a way to say, “oh we’re doing that”, when in reality they aren’t. They still promote the idea that a church is a building and that they are your covering or head. They are still a man-made religion promoting the doctrines and commandments of men for the glory of man. It is still “their” church, not God’s church. It still in no way resembles the Christianity of the bible. It is still a broken cistern.
Every year, Christians spend billions of dollars on building and maintaining religious structures. What a waste of money and time and an act of poor stewardship. Don’t misunderstand me, I know that there are a lot of sincere and godly people involved in this. However, when the truth is revealed, we must walk in that truth.
What if we used that money the way the early Christians did? In the early church, God’s people:
Supported the church leaders
Supported those such as widows and orphans who could not support themselves
Supported believers who had been affected by natural disasters
Shared freely with each other according to the need of each person
They literally loved each other as themselves just as Jesus commanded. It’s easy to see why the world could see that they were different. It seems like I read that somewhere, hmm…, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples…”
Are ye not Carnal?
All right, now that you’re all excited about leaving those dead buildings, there is another golden calf that must be destroyed.
In I Corinthians 1:10-13 Paul chastened the church at Corinth for being divided into various camps and schisms. They said,
“I am of Paul”, others said, “I am of Apolos”, and I of Cephas (Peter), and I of Christ”
What was Paul’s response? Did he affirm those who favored him? Did he affirm those pious ones who said “I am of Christ” but distanced themselves from other believers? Let’s read his response.
“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Paul the apostle rebuked them sharply, including and perhaps especially those who said they were followers of Paul but distanced themselves from other believers. Sound familiar? In chapter three, he really gets into it.
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men?
For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal?”
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (servants) by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?”
In Ephesians he proclaims:
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Sometimes I want to scream this verse out with all of my might. The golden calf I am speaking of is religious organizations and the worship of notable preachers. Some say “I am a Baptist“, others say, “I am a Methodist“, or “I am of the Church of Christ”, while they exclude other Christians as if they were not saved. At the very least, one group will magnify itself against others and assert some sort of superiority. Still others take what I would call the “separate but equal” approach. “We’re not better than the church down the street but God has a different vision for our church.” Oh really? What other vision is there than preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Galatians 1: 6-9
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
I Corinthians 12: 4
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
There is scriptural diversity but no scriptural division if we are in Christ and following Him.
Read the first few chapters of I Corinthians if you’re still not convinced. It amazes me that we can recognize that racial segregation is wrong and simultaneously practice spiritual segregation in the church! Remember that Paul had to openly rebuke Peter for that very thing
Galatians 2: 11-13
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
My bible says we are one in Christ.
“for you are all one in Christ Jesus” –
Some people subconsciously worship the preacher. “Oh, I’m with brother so and so’s ministry.” They act as if being a part of that group is the place to be. They also take everything he says and teaches (pardon the pun) as gospel. They don’t make the word of God their own. They don’t compare what they are hearing to what the scriptures say. They just repeat what they hear in church like trained parrots. Now part of the fault for this must be left at the feet of those of us who are responsible for teaching them. Most people have never been taught how to actually study the bible. They have been told to read it but there is a lot of difference between merely reading the bible and actually studying it. Those in the pulpit know the difference and they need to start teaching God’s people how. They also need to start encouraging them to do it and to actually check their teaching against the scriptures. Now, when I say this, I mean encourage them to actually check and encourage them to actually bring any apparent discrepancies to their attention. I have heard many clergy talk the talk but few who walk the walk, few who really meant business. I am convinced that very few pastors are really willing to sit down with someone and let the scriptures speak for themselves. Few are willing to honestly hear out a point of view on the scriptures that differs from their own. After all, the pastor is supposed to have all the answers, right? Where is that in scripture? The standard has to be what the scriptures say, even if it conflicts with the view that you or I have had for years. To do otherwise is to make yourself a pope. After all, Roman Catholicism teaches that the pope is infallible. Are you a pastor or a pope? The apostle Paul said, “now I know in part…”. If anyone could have claimed to have arrived in terms of spiritual understanding, it was Paul, but even he did not make such an assumption. I have a lot more respect for a man who holds his beliefs with equal parts of humility and conviction than for one who has to be right about everything. Of course, a major cause of this is the forming of a man-made religious organization or “church”. For some reason, forming such an entity tends to go hand in hand with becoming un-teachable. We clearly define the doctrines of “our church”. We carefully measure the box that we want to put God in. Then, that’s it. We’ve got it now and you can’t tell us or teach us anything. It’s about control.
Pastors and teachers must be accountable to scripture. Otherwise, people just end up where the church was in the dark ages. There were an elite few who had any knowledge or understanding of the scriptures, and the common people were spoon-fed only the little that the clergy wanted them to hear. When a few “renegades” came on the scene and tried to educate the people and enable them to read and understand the scriptures, these men were then hunted as criminals and killed. (Do some checking on the history of the Anabaptists if you want to know more about that). If you are not a renegade then you are one of the elite and that will not be an enviable place to be when you stand before God to give an account of your stewardship. This religious elite culture is exactly what the devil likes. Why? It is easier for him to influence and control an elite few than a vast army. It is easier for him to continue to spread and promote his heretical doctrines and for them to go unchecked. It is staggering to see how much heresy is taught and believed as though it were true biblical doctrine. Since the people have not been taught how to be workmen of the word of God, these destructive seeds of error continue to be sown and to take root.
II Timothy 2: 15
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
It says study, this implies more than just a casual reading. It’s more than five minutes a day. It also says to show yourself approved unto God. It doesn’t say to show yourself approved unto your pastor. I’m not saying you should set out to disprove and argue with everything he says, but you should study the word objectively. You should be ready to accept what the word says for itself, whatever that may be. Even if it changes what you have believed for years, you must adjust your beliefs to what the word actually says. Now having said that, I must remind you that you need to learn how to study it so that you don’t come up with all kinds of crazy things by taking verses out of context and so forth. Furthermore, the verse says “rightly dividing”, this could also be translated rightly cutting, like a surgeon. You don’t come to the word of God casually and just handle it any way you want.
Would you want a doctor operating on you to have a lazy, shortcut attitude when operating on you? Well, handling the word of God is far more serious than any operating room. You don’t jump to conclusions, you don’t make statements that you have not fully and objectively checked out in scripture. If you don’t know or you aren’t sure then that is exactly what you say, “I don’t know or I’m not sure yet”. There is no shame in not knowing. The shame is in pretending to know. Take the words “I think” out of your vocabulary when it comes to handling the word of God. Yes, there is a sense of urgency, but handling the word is like an archeological dig. It is painstakingly delicate and meticulous. You take great care because you are trying to uncover treasures which may have been hidden for thousands of years.
Now, moving on, remember that it is not the will of God for His people to be divided. So whose will is it? His enemy, of course. So, when people try to give excuses for the existence of these man-made religious organizations, what is the origin of that argument? Who is the author of that doctrine? The devil is the father of lies according to Jesus Christ. So, who then is the author of these false teachings? The devil. So, when some well-meaning but deceived pastor tries to say that we need to have these incorporated religious groups for tax reasons, who is really behind it? The devil. When they say that we need to incorporate to save money on taxes and be good stewards, who first whispered that in someone’s ear years ago? The devil. King David asked, “shall I offer unto the Lord and it cost me nothing”. You see, the devil has used this tax excuse to divide Christians. How? Well, in order to receive tax exempt status you have to file articles of incorporation as a non-profit organization. Sound harmless? Well, you also have to give the organization a
name. In order for contributions to be tax deductible they must be given to a government recognized non-profit organization. Sounds creepy already doesn’t it? The word incorporate means to form a body. It’s from the word corpus, meaning body. Well, we just read from God’s word that there is only one body as far as God is concerned. So you would be forming another body. The bible says that the serpent is subtle. This is very subtle but whenever this happens, people are actually committing heresy. There is one body, one faith, one Spirit, one Lord. Every incorporated tax exempt “church” is the result of an act of heresy. Sound harsh? Well, if someone loves you, they tell you what you need to hear, not always what you want to hear. I believe most of the people today who have done this have done it because it has become such a tradition of sorts that no one even questions it. People are shocked that you would even say such a thing, but then the pharisees were often shocked by what Jesus and His disciples said and did. Let’s not be like those pharisees who Jesus said “full well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition.” Church has become something plastic, superficial, a business even. The church in America does not even resemble the original church which was a living breathing organism. It was alive, it was a family.
The truth is that we all need to stop identifying ourselves with these man-made religious organizations. If you have formed one, you need to dissolve it immediately. This may hurt your feelings but what you call a church, the bible calls a sect. I’m not talking about the believers, I’m talking about the institution.
If someone asks me what I am, I tell them that I am a christian. If they ask what denomination, I tell them I don’t have one, I just follow Jesus.
If they ask where I “go to church”, I tell them, my home because that is how it was done in the bible.
If they ask who is my “covering”, I tell them Jesus (I Corinthians 11: 3 “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”)
If they ask who I am accountable to, the answer is God (II Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”)
If they ask who I am submitted to, the answer is Jesus Christ and all who are in Christ according to his word (Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”) This means that we must submit to even the newest babe in Christ if what they are speaking is the word of God. We are one in Him.
Men and Brethren What Shall We Do?
Let me be specific. What we need is relationship, not man-made religion. (that needs to stop being just a slogan) God has been leading His people to relationships that transcend denominational and sectarian boundaries. We need to continue in that and go further. What needs to happen is that we as a people need to gather in the name of Jesus Christ and in no other name.
Look at Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
He said where two or three are gathered in His name. He didn’t say where two or three are gathered as First Baptist Church or Bethany World Prayer Center or The United Methodist Church or The Potters House, or whatever. He said, “where two or three are gathered together in MY NAME, (the name of Jesus Christ), there am I in the midst of them.” If you have formed a tax exempt religious incorporation, you need to dissolve it immediately! You do not need it in order to fulfill your ministry and it is a cancer on the body of Christ. My friend, if you ever want to experience the presence of Christ like never before, try gathering and ministering in His name alone. The difference is beyond words.
Next we are going to have to bite our tongues a little. Stop having to nail down every single little doctrine with someone before you consider them your brother or sister in Christ. We are saved by grace through faith, not through perfect doctrine. We are all learning and sometimes unlearning. The crucial matter is that of the cross. The truth of the redeeming work of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as man’s only means of salvation is the one doctrine that absolutely must be agreed upon. That is what makes a person a christian or not a christian. If that is in common with them then seek to find out what else you have in common rather than what is different. Build rapport and fellowship first before you start splitting hairs. Ephesians is one of my favorite books of the bible and there is some great advice in chapter four.
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
That sounds like a real church to me, humility, patience. Look at what it says, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” God knows that we are all still learning and that our understanding is imperfect. Therefore the foundation of our unity can not be knowledge, it has to be the unity of the spirit. The same Holy Spirit that lives in me lives in you. That is what our unity is based upon. Once we start there and have an attitude of humility, then we can move on towards verse thirteen.
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
That is something we move toward, not the place where we start. The unity of the faith is a goal to strive for not a membership requirement. If we will have this attitude then we can truly begin moving in that direction. We can learn so much from each other if we will stop acting like we know it all. I don’t mean that we should never take a stand on doctrinal matters, but let’s not be puffed up one against another. Let’s not look for a reason to fight with each other. We need to be objective in our approach to the word of God not subjective. We need to let the word speak for itself, not try to make it say what we have already decided it says.
Next, we are going to have to take that step of faith and walk away from what is comfortable.
Leave the church building and build the church,
(the real one.)
We must get back to church in the home, and not as a sideline to services in a multi-million dollar warehouse. Home church is not a part of Christianity, it is Christianity.
Then we must stop identifying ourselves with Reverend so and so, or Pastor so and so. We must only have the attitude of “I am with Christ and if you are with Christ then I am with you.” We then hold each other accountable to live by the Word of God and not the fashion of the world.
We can do this the easy way or the hard way
May we heed His voice and not have to be goaded into it. May God not have to allow severe persecution to arise to chase us out of the buildings and into our homes. God used persecution to get the early church to get moving out from Jerusalem. He wanted them to spread the gospel to the world like Jesus told them to. In our times we have already begun to see the seeds of persecution beginning to take root. Local governments are taking away tax exempt status from those who preach against homosexuality. The explosive growth of Islam in Europe and the United States could mean the rise of a deadly persecution here within twenty years. Let us not allow it to get to the point that God’s longsuffering with us comes to an end. There are two ways to do this, the easy way or the hard way. I personally don’t want to see my brothers and sisters dragged off to prison or to their deaths. Let’s just obey now. Perhaps God will allow us to experience this revival without the pain of the goad to prod us into obedience.
Okay, okay. I know what you may be asking. So, where’s your documentation of the church being designated by home and geography? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Acts 11: 22a
“Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem,”
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets
Acts 28: 30
Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
Romans 15: 25- 26
But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
Romans 16: 3-5
Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.
1ST Corinthians 1: 2
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
1st Corinthians 16: 19
The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house
Colossians 4 : 15
Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.
1st Thesolonians 1: 1
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1 : 4
John, to the seven churches which are in Asia
Revelation 1 : 11
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
As I said at the beginning, my desire is to see the first century church in the twenty first century. My heart yearns for people to be able to read what the bible says about them and look around and see it being lived out today. Remember, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. This is a matter of obedience to God. Are we going to obey His word or are we going to insist on our own way? I have heard the early church referred to as the “primitive church”. Well if what they had was primitive, gimmie that ole time religion, brother! What would the church look like if we started doing this today? I want to hear from you. I am persuaded that God is stirring up the hearts of His people. Write to me and we can encourage one another in the faith.
May the grace of God through Jesus Christ abound to you.