Like the Pharisees of Judaism, in a sincere, but misguided (Matt. 15: 14) and vain attempts to become "closer to God," leadership throughout the course of the Church Age have a long history of defiantly (Prov. 30: 6/Deut. 4:2/Deut. 12:32/Rev. 22: 18) adding religious “traditions of men (Mark 7: 8)” to what God declared in His Word to either obtain or retain salvation.
The truth is that one cannot be any further away from God than one is prior to salvation, and one cannot become any closer to God than one becomes the moment he/she is born again.
These past and present “traditions of men” come in the form of teachings, rituals, and accompanying practices that have no Biblical basis at all, or are the result of misapplication of Scripture that does exist addressing these issues.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools….(Romans 1: 22 NASB).”
Many such “traditions of men” are among the things that are held in high esteem by Man, but are “detestable” in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15).
Such things are "detestable" because they have been elevated by fallen Man to take the place of the things and the functions that are the exclusive domain of God. They are “detestable” because their presence and promotion is a round- about way of saying that faith in the Person and the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough! Such teachings/practices are not only inaccurate, they amount to blasphemy as they raise questions as to the integrity of the Work that God has accomplished and declared “finished-John 19: 30.”
“You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15 NASB).”
From the earliest stages of the developing Church, false Gospels, false doctrines, traditions of men, and “religious” (as opposed to spiritual) rituals and procedures have wormed their way in and have found a home in various sections of what is generally considered to be a part of the Christian Community at large.
This scenario is only going to get worse as the end times of the Church Age unfold (1Tim. 4: 1). Apostate doctrine and accompanying practices, that are taught and/or promoted by demons will be widespread WITHIN the Christian Community at large.
What the Bible labels as sin is no stranger to the Christian Community (1Cor. 5/Eph. 5: 3). Perhaps the most common involve the many types of sin under the umbrella of sexual immorality.
Sexual immorality of any kind, be it heterosexual fornication (e.g. living together), adultery, rape, molestation, homosexuality, lesbianism, or beastality, has always been around since Fall of Man.
To be convicted of violating the laws of Man there must be some overt physical activity in view. But with the laws of God, one can commit such things as murder (1John 3: 15) and adultery (Matt. 5: 28) by just entertaining a thought.
Adding the principle of thought (Matt. 5: 28) to the mix, and there is very few among us who could claim total innocence.
James 2: 10 makes it clear that if we have engaged in any ONE of these types of sin, we stand as guilty as the one who has engaged in them all! The same principle applies to all areas of sin.
Human viewpoint, such as religion, classifies sin by categories, making some sins less serious than others. In the administration of secular justice, such practical classifications are necessary. One is not going to be punished as severely for a receiving a parking ticket or one would be punished for stealing.
But with God, sin is sin (James 2: 10). Either one will face God having ALL of his/her sins being forgiven, or with NONE! Thank God that as far as salvation is concerned, ALL of the entire world's (1John 2: 2) sins were atoned (paid for) on the cross through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, with ONE exception. By divine design, the ONE sin that was NOT atoned for is the sin of disbelief (John 3: 18). It is for, and ONLY for the sin of disbelief that any human soul will find himself in the Torments of Hades (Rev. 20: 13) and inevitably in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
God cannot be God and go back on His own Word. God cannot be God and then send ANY soul into the lake of fire for a sin debt that was stamped PAIN IN FULL by the very blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note, however, that I said as far as salvation is concerned. There is still divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) here on Earth, and forfeiture of reward (1Cor. 3: 15) and (Rev. 2/Rev. 3) privileges in Heaven awaiting those who choose to engage in post salvation sin. Eternal security is not a license to sin.
Such things as human viewpoint, society, culture, secular laws have varying and even opposing opinions as to the sinful nature (if any) of what the Bible labels as sexual sin. Fallen Man has come to redefine what the Bible labels as sin to "alternative"lifestyles. Well, what they are alternatives to is what the Bible has to say.
For the advancing disciple, it is what the Bible labels as sin that matters.
Here in the end times, many sectors of the Christian Community have gone as far as to ordain pastors who have chosen to personally embrace and or to officially endorse *ongoing sexual relationships that the Bible refers to as sin.
In doing so they condone, and in some cases endorse, what Scripture clearly defines as sin. Being in positions of authority, these same pastors promote such sin by officiating in marriages that run contrary to Scripture concerning Christian Marriage.
Note that the key word here is “ongoing. “
Past sin (of any kind-James 2: 10) that has been confessed (1John 1: 9) and forsaken (John 8: 11) does NOT disqualify a pastoral candidate from being ordained and serving the Church as a pastor teacher.
In fact, in the times in which we are living, pastors who have confessed and forsaken ANY type of sin can be living examples of how one can repent and then be greatly used by God. This can be a powerful personal testimony of hope and recovery to the members of the congregation who get involved with the same type of sin.
Many of outstanding Biblical characters have a documented history of sin, before and after their salvation, but were still greatly used of God. Among these were murderers, drunkards, liars, and adulterers.
Many of them, their families, and the people they served, suffered greatly for these sins (Heb. 12: 6), but this did not disqualify them for future service.
If sinless perfection were required to be ordained or to retain one’s status as a pastor teacher, NO ONE would qualify. The Apostle Paul considered himself to be one of the greatest sinners to have ever walked on the Earth for the way that he had persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ (1Tim. 1: 15) before he was saved.
Like many “religious” persons, Paul believed that he was doing the work of God, putting an end to the Church.
At the same time, SIN that a pastor teacher gets involved in, that would encourage others to follow suit, must be addressed. This is in the best interests of the pastor teacher, and in the best interests of the congregation he serves.
All sin, regardless of who commits it or what the specific sin (James 2: 10) may be, is addressed by confession (1John 1: 9) and forsaking (John 8: 11) the same sin the future.
Many of the Books of the New Testament were originally drafted as letters from the Apostles that were written to address present and ongoing SIN and EVIL WITHIN the local assemblies during the 1st Century period of the Church. These letters, later referred to as epistles, were made a part of what we now refer to as the Bible, for the edification of born again believers throughout the duration of the Church Age.
SIN is defined as engaging in any activity that God has forbidden, or failing to engage in an activity that God requires. To address SIN, one must acknowledge sin fir what it is. As long as one chooses to live in denial or in rejection of what the Word of God has to say, the problem and the consequences are in force. Romans 1: 19, 20 warns us that ignorance of the law is no excuse. For many reasons, we may disagree with what the Word of God has to say, but that doesn't change one "jot or title ()" (smallest detail) of it. Pastor teachers may remind us of what sin is, but unless we are mentally insane, in our hearts of hearts we know when we are doing wrong.
After acknowledging the sin, one then must confess (1John 1: 9) his/her involvement, and finally must then forsake (give it up) (John 8: 11) the same sin in the future. Acknowledging and confessing, but not forsaking sin will result in one spending much of his/her post salvation spiritual life going around and around in a "revolving doorway going in and out of fellowship with God and NEVER moving forward.
When God forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery, He told her to go and not to sin any more (John 8: 11) He was not speaking of sinless perfection, as this would not have been humanly impossible. He was referring to the sin (adultery) at hand.
Pointed out SIN is not an act of hatred as some are saying in the times that we are living. True love requires that one does what is in the best interests of the one being loved.
One of the best descriptions of a Christian that I have ever heard is that a Christian IS (nor was) a sinner that has been saved by grace. Christians, therefore, are in no position to be "judging" others. Pointing out SIN is NOT judging the sinner. In fact, Christians are commanded to expose sin (Eph. 5: 11). Failing to do anything that one is commanded to do is a sin.
Jesus does save and accept us just the way we are, but that does NOT mean that He doesn’t desire for us to move forward in the post salvation spiritual life and be conformed to His likeness (Romans 8: 29). One is not "like"Christ when engaged in any activity that the Bible labels as sin. Sin is a choice that we make.
Presenting the TRUE Gospel Message to unbelievers, and sharing edifying Scripture with fellow believers, CAN be the means of bonding and unity, but as the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 10: 34) pointed out, it CAN also be the cause of division and conflict.
“Do NOT think that I (or those who follow Me) came to bring peace on earth; I (and those who follow Me) did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt. 10: 34 NASB italics mine).”
The “peace on Earth” that was announced by the Christmas angels (Luke 2: 13, 14) was NOT making a reference to peace between Man and Man. They spoke of peace between God and those who would be born again! Enduring peace between Man and Man will NOT be established until the the Prince of Peace returns and establishes His 1,000 year (Rev. 20: 6) kingdom, here on Earth. Although we are commanded to live in peace with others to the extent that circumstances allow (Romans 12: 18), there never-the-less will be wars and rumors of war between nations (Matt. 24: 6), and conflicts between human souls in the closest of human relationships (Luke 14: 26).
Matt. 7: 13 indicates and even secular statistics concur that this (Luke 2: 14) peace between God and Man will be the experience of only the minority of each generation. Until one is born again, there is a state of hostility (Romans 8: 7) between he and God.
To the extent that circumstances permit (Romans 12: 18), advancing disciples ARE called to live in peace and harmony with fellow believers and with unbelievers, alike. But when unity WITHIN the Church and harmony with the devil’s world (James 4: 4) comes at the cost of compromising Scripture, God is NOT pleased! Such believers are the spiritual adulterers and adulteresses spoken of in James 4: 4. They are expressing their unfaithfulness to God by their "friendship" with the devil's (Luke 4: 6) world.
There are times when Christ’s ambassadors are called to take a stand that will inevitably result in conflict, both WITHIN the Church and with those he/she interacts with on personal, social, recreational, political, labor/ residential, domestic, and professional environments here on earth.
The doors of a local assembly should be as wide open as were the arms of Christ were on the cross (1John 2: 2) so that ALL can freely enter to hear the TRUTH concerning salvation and the post salvation spiritual life. But just as much as ALL SIINERS are to be welcomed, SIN that some would bring in with them is not!
As long as a born gain believer chooses to embrace and not confess and forsake any (James 2: 10) type of sin, he/she is living of life (or a lifestyle) of willful disobedience. A life of willful disobedience is not being conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8: 29). Being conformed to the likeness of Christ is an ongoing process that SHOULD be taking place WITHIN the type of local assembly that God designed. If those attending any given local assembly are not being given the means and opportunity to grow in the knowledge of the Lord (2Pet. 3: 18), there is something dramatically wrong with the PROGRAM being promoted. If the correct program is being promoted, but one is not with PROGRAM (post salvation spiritual life), its time for a 2Cor. 13: 5 SELF examination.
Every member of the human race are ALL in the same boat of sin (Romans 3: 23).
Accordingly, none of us is in a position to “judge” others. This however, is NOT an excuse to fail to address SIN in our own lives, or in the lives of others. To say that what others do is of no concern is a display of ignorance. Scripture (1Cor. 12: 7) tells us that it was for the spiritual benefit of O-T-H-E-R-S that each one of us has been given our spiritual gift (1Cor. 12: 7). The job of an ambassador of Christ is to learn and then inform others of what God has to say about any given subject. What others choose to do (or not do) with the information given to them is between them and God.
In simple terms, look at this illustration. Your sitting in a waiting room and become aware of a defective chair. Someone known or unknown to you personally enters the room and is about to sit down on the defective chair. We would all agree that we would be morally obligated to inform the person of the defective chair in order for him/her to avoid physical injury. Are those who claim to be Christians not just as morally obligated, when given the opportunity, to inform others concerning issues that can impact their spiritual well-being?
We are NOT responsible for what other choose to do with the information they are given, but we are responsible to provide it.
There is a right way and a wrong way to address sin, no matter where it is found.
The sin of gossip is NEVER the correct response to ongoing SIN taking place in any given local assembly.
The laws of Man prohibit the speaking (slander) or the writing (libel) of FALSE information regarding the character of another person.
But keep in mind that the SIN of GOSSIP can involve the TRUTH when the purpose for passing the TRUTH along is not for the purpose of edifying the person involved. Talking behind one's back, even if the information is factually true, is NOT edifying the one involved. Ephesians 4:29 tells us if we do not have something good (edifying) to say, we are to keep our mouths shut!
It takes two to engage in the sin of GOSSIP. One chooses to speak, and the other chooses to listen.
We have no control over what someone else might say to us but we do have control over what we choose to do about it. The quickest way to put an end to gossip is to tell the one who desires to pass it along that you really don't or didn’t need to hear that.
There is a process outlined in Scripture beginning with a private confrontation (Matt. 18: 15) between believers to address offenses, as well as pastoral involvement when ongoing sin is of the type that it threatens the well-being of a local assembly at large.
There will always be sin (1John 1: 8) taking place in the private, the business, and the social lives of those who gather together as a local assembly. It is when a type of sin is leading other sheep in the flock in the wrong direction that that the shepherd (the pastor teacher) has an obligation to address it.
If it is the pastor, via his teaching or example, that is leading the flock astray, that too, must be addressed.
I am not saying that you are always going to be in agreement with everything that comes from any given pulpit or with everything that takes place within any given local assembly. If there ever was such a local assembly, then God the Holy Spirit could take a vacation from His teaching position, and have the whole world go or tune in to that local assembly instead.
There is a least one “Christian” religion that promotes the infallibility of their human leader when it comes to the interpretation and the application of Scripture, but the track record and conduct of many who have held this position clearly refutes that claim.
Because of the limitations of Fallen Man, there has NEVER has been, is not now, nor will there ever be a denomination, a ministry, or a local assembly of the Church Age that has it “all” together. From the very beginning, even the Apostles did not always agree on all issues, with some of them going “toe to toe” and separating from each other over their differences.
Spiritual maturity is measured by the quantity of accurate Bible doctrines coupled with one’s willingness and ability to apply it on a day to day, moment to moment, basis.
We are all at different levels of spiritual maturity, and as a result, have different convictions when it comes to accurate knowledge and appropriate application of the Word of God. A pastor-teacher (or a fellow believer) can NOT be used of God to bring a fellow believer to a level of spiritual maturity greater than what he has first reached for himself.
Some "religious" organizations do not allow the congregations to choose who comes and who stays behind their pulpits. In some cases it doesn't make much difference as whoever it is, he/she is going to promote the same "company line" when it comes to the Word of God. However, in the local assembly that God designed, the FIRST qualification for a pastor teacher is his ability to accurately teach the Word of God for the development of discipleship. Again, a pastor-teacher (or a fellow believer) can NOT be used of God to bring a fellow believer to a level of spiritual maturity greater than what he has first reached for himself.
When choosing a pastor teacher one should ask himself if the level of spiritual maturity that this pastor projects is where he/she wants to be five years from now? Will what comes from his pulpit enable me to continue to grow in the knowledge of the Lord? If not, then that pastor teacher and the local assembly in view is NOT where God would have go or remain this time in your walk with the Lord.
Either you are the first Church Age believer to have ever learned all there is to learn, or there is still more to be learned. Either you are the first Church Age believer to have mastered the application of the Word of God, or you still have areas in your life that need adjustment.
1John 1: 8 tells us that we all have sin, and that those who think otherwise have deceived themselves. As long as there is what God considers to be sin in our lives, we remain to be a “work in progress.” No matter how spiritually mature we may have become, we are ALL still a "work in progress."
The only part of our spiritual life that is complete and needs no maintenance (on our part) is our salvation. One can never be any more or any less SAVED than the moment he/she was born again. The “work in progress” has to do with the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship, not who is or who is not going to Heaven. The who is going to Heaven was resolved the day one was born again.
Being a “work in progress,” there will always be more things to be learned, and a lot more things to be applied. The command (not an option) of 2Pet. 3: 18 to “grow in the knowledge” of the Lord refers to an ongoing, and never ending, part of the post salvation spiritual life here on Earth.
Being a work in progress, there is knowledge that you have received, but still haven’t consistently applied.
One can NOT do what God desires, or refrain from doing what God forbids, without having an accurate understanding of the issue from a Biblical standpoint.
Human viewpoint and religious teachings will ALWAYS find a home in the soul structure of Fallen Man. The reason for this is that Fallen Man has two basic flaws. Fallen Man is inherently hostile (Romans 8: 7) towards the God of the Bible. Fallen Man (apart from God) cannot understand God of the Bible, or the things of the God of Bible (1Cor. 2: 14).
While being hostile and lacking the ability to understand the God of the Bible, or the things of the God of the Bible, Fallen Man is open and receptive to all the false gods and the things of the false gods that are promoted within the realm of the world’s (Psalms 96: 5) religions. The enabling ability to understand the Gospel Message is part of the Work of the God the Holy Spirit that takes place BEFORE and AT the time of salvation. The enabling ability to understand Bible Doctrine for the identification and the execution of the post salvation spiritual life is the post (after) salvation work of God the Holy Spirit.
One can talk about “God” with the followers of any one of the World’s religions and there is generally no conflict. The reason for this is that as who God is differs from one group or individual to another. At that point in the conversational interaction, the only one who would disagree with you would be an atheist, who does not believe in the existence of any god by any name.
But as soon as one brings the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ into the picture, the hostility that Fallen Man has towards the God of the Bible becomes evident.
Fallen Man is receptive to all the products and practices of Man-made religion, including all the religious products and traditions of men that have been brought into the Christian Community at large, but is hostile to the true Gospel Message and accurate Bible Doctrine.
Born again believers are no longer hostile towards the Gospel Message, as faith in the Gospel Message is what caused them to be born again.
However, born again believers who do not build and maintain an edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27) that is based on the accurate teaching of the Word of God are still greatly influenced by the fallen nature that remains within us (Romans 7: 15-17). As a result of this negative influence, such born again believers are receptive to all the religious alternatives and religious activity that have become accepted in the Christian Community at large. Because they have been born again, they are still just as "saved" as any other born again believer, but are not "with the program" as it pertains to the post salvation spiritual life of Scripture.
Due to the regularity of celebrating the Lord's Supper, the fact that any sin can escalate to the point that it threatens the well-being of a congregation raises the question of rather or not the 1Cor. 11: 28 command regarding self-examinations prior to receiving Communion is promoted or taken seriously in the local assembly involved.
“But a man must examine himself, and (after) in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1Cor. 11: 28 NASB italics mine).”
The purpose of the 1Cor. 11: 28 SELF examination is to IDENTIFY and address ANY sin(s) in one’s individual life. One can NOT identify, confess, and forsake SIN and still have identified sin be a part of his lifestyle. If this 1Cor. 11: 28 command were to be honored on the individual and collective level of the congregation, the need for further action to address a level of sin that is threatening the well-being of a congregation would be greatly minimized.
Failing to engage in such (1Cor. 11: 28) examinations or failing to confess (1John 1: 9) and or to forsake (John 8: 11) the sin(s) that such examinations bring to light opens the door for the most severe form (1 Cor. 11: 30) of divine discipline that a born again believer (Heb. 12: 6) can receive here on Earth.
There are more than 300 acts in the New Testament alone of either commission (what one does) or omission (what one fails to do) that result in sin. James 2: 10 tells us that if we break ONE of them, we stand as guilty as the one who has broken them all. It is the job of the pastor teacher to teach (by word and example) what sin is.
Only IF and when the confronted offender refuses to respond to private attempts and warnings to address the problem, should the matter be taken to the next level.
Excommunication (1Cor. 5: 13) should only be a last resort, and even then, it is for the purpose of eventual reconciliation of the one expelled with the local assembly (2Cor. 2: 7).
Keep in mind that when addressing a sin that is threatening the well-being of the local assembly, it is the SIN and NOT the SINNER that is being addressed.
Addressing SIN that is impacting the local assembly is the function and responsibility of the pastor. Moral judgment (1Pet. 4: 5) and divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) of the sinner is the domain of God.
* * *
All SIN is EVIL, but not all EVIL is sin. Evil also includes things that are not specifically forbidden or required as in the case of sin. Many “religious” activities and traditions of men WITHIN the Christian Community are EVIL, even though they are (usually) entertained and embraced with the best of intentions. If it is contrary to the Word of God in teaching or in practice, it IS evil.
As the old saying goes, the road is Hell is paved with good intentions!
When our Lord taught His disciples HOW to pray (Matt. 6: 9), deliverance from EVIL (Matt. 6: 13) was one of the issues that He made a matter of ongoing prayer.
Many of the same issues concerning SIN and/or EVIL that were addressed in the epistles written to the believers in such local assemblies in First Century Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Galatia, Colossae, Thessalonica, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, are the same issues that need to be addressed in the local assemblies of our day.
As a result, there has always been, is now, and will always be an ongoing need to identify and purge such things from within the Christian Community if the local assembly is to function and serve the purpose that God established the Church.
The declining state of affairs and its primary cause that many areas of the Christian Community are presently experiencing was clearly foretold in such passages as 1Tim. 4:1. In such cases, it not by looking out its window, but looking into its own mirror that any given local assembly will endure the challenge(s) of the end times.
In addition to deviating from accurate doctrine (1Tim. 4: 1) and promoting the traditions of men in its place, much of the Christian Community of our day has neglected the primary mission (Matt. 28: 19, 20) that it was given to accomplish.
In the place of the Great Commission, engaging in political activism, social engineering, environmental, and humanitarian projects are among the many alternative agendas that the Christian Community has embraced. Such things should be a part of the Church’s activities, but not at the expense of neglecting the primary mission that it was given to do.
The primary mission that the Church that God designed was to embrace is clearly spelled out in the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19, 20).”
The “external” (outside) part of the Great Commission calls for the Church that God designed to preserve and to proclaim the true Gospel Message to unbelievers.
The “internal” (inside) part of the Great Commission calls for the Church that God designed to make “disciples,” that being students and appliers of the Word of God, out of those who have ALREADY been born again in a response to the Gospel Message.
During the Old Testament dispensation, there WAS (past tense) a need for the Temple, physical altars, “officiating” priests, and a financial support system (tithing) to be in place.
Unlike during the Old Testament dispensation, there are NO “holy” buildings authorized (by God) here in the Church Age. The earthly TEMPLE of God is made up of the collective physical bodies of each and every born again believer (1Cor. 3: 16). Individual born again believers do NOT “go to Church,: abut ARE the Church that gathers together for such things as to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and be taught the Word of God.
Here in the Church Age, financial support for the local assembly is NOT to be as a result of “compulsion- 2Cor. 9: 7 NASB” (tithing), but by the free-will and cheerful offerings of its congregation.
IF any given local assembly were to be the type that God designed, there would be advancing disciples in attendance who would support its financial needs. There should be no need to “beg” for financial help, or to engage in “other services” in order to stay afloat.
Was it by coincidence that the local assembly in Jerusalem (where many of the esteemed Apostles were headquartered) was falling down, while the local assemblies that Paul established were flourishing and expanding? Such local assemblies were not only sustaining themselves, but were willing and able to send a financial gift of support to the local assembly in Jerusalem.
Satan was attacking the Church on all fronts, but why was it that some were moving forward in the plan of God and others were staggering? Why it is that some areas of the Christian Community of our day are expanding while others are either closing or merging to stay afloat?
Political persecution, internal bickering and persecution, racism, and social classification/preference has been issues with the Christian Community since the very beginning, yet the Church that God designed, consisting of born again believers all over the world, continues to stand.
Some local assemblies are “standing” because they tell their supporters what they want to hear (2Timothy 4: 3), and/or are willing to provide "religious" services (weddings/funerals) or rituals that they cannot receive elsewhere.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…(2Tim. 4: 2NASB).”
Others are standing because they are a part of the Church that God designed. It is the Church that God designed that has the () promise of endurance. This promise of endurance was given to the Church-at-large, and does not necessarily apply to each and every local assembly or ministry. Some local assemblies and ministries are closed down due to situations (political persecution/violence/natural disaster/death or loss of the primary minister/evangelist) beyond their own control. In such cases the members of the Church that God designed left behind, may have to reorganize in order to remain a local assembly or ministry, or become a part of another.
Take away the “holy buildings,” the altars, the officiating priest, and the products and practices of Man-made religion, and the alternative Churches that Man has made will be gone, but the Church that God designed will still be there!
Holy buildings, altars, and officiating priests were NOT a part of the Church that God designed, and are NOT a part of the Church that God designed
If a building or meeting place should become available to any given local assembly, that is an asset and ba blessing. But such things are NOT a necessity to become or to remain a "local assembly" of believers. The "Church" that God designed met in such places as private homes, market places, open-air locations, and secret hiding places. The devotion of these "members" and "leaders" would put most of those who claim to be Christians in our time to shame.
Some of the most elegant cathedrals of the ancient world and some of the most attractive houses of worship in our day and age are no more than grand monuments to the various religions of the world that built them to facilitate the Man-made religions that they promote and represent.
If the local assembly or ministry that one chooses to attend or otherwise connect with is not supplying (John 18: 15- 17) him/her with what he/she needs to grow in God’s knowledge and grace, then it is NOT of the type that God designed.
God cannot command Church Age believer’s to grow in His knowledge (2Pet. 3: 18), and then not supply the means to do so (Phil. 4: 19) if that is what the believer truly wants to do.
If one does not have the desire to arrange his/her finances in a way that prioritizes the support of his/her means of spiritual feeding, he/she needs to take a look in the 2Cor. 13: 5 mirror.
God does not want what one cannot give. God provided water and manna to the ancient Hebrews in the wilderness for decades, and “feed” thousands with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread. What God looks at is what in the heart of the giver, as well as the offering itself. As the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out, wherever a man’s treasure ($$$) is, so is his heart (Matt. 6: 21).
There are bank accounts here on Earth that one day will be gone or will become the treasure of others the moment we take our last breath here on Earth.
There is a bank account in Heaven (Matt. 6: 20) that awaits the one who chose to make “deposits” into it while here on Earth. These "deposits" are made through the production of divine good (1Cor. 3: 12-15), symbolized by silver, gold, and precious stones. Human good, symbolized as wood, hay, and straw DO have a place and a purpose here on Earth, but are given NO CONSIDERATION when it comes to receiving the heavenly rewards spoken of in the 1Cor. 3: 12-15 passage.
The Great Commission calls for the production of divine good! Anyone (Christian, non-Christian, or atheist) can choose to produce human good that benefits the body or otherwise improve the human environment life here on Earth. But only Spirit-filled, born again believers, can be used of God to produce divine good (John 15: 5).
The (Matt, 6: 33/Phil 4: 19) principle of receiving all the logistical necessities (not desires) that one needs applies to the local assemblies as an organization just as much at it applies to individual believers.
If an individual believer or any given local assembly does not have the right set of priorities, then he/she, or it should not expect God’s (Matt. 6: 33/Phil. 4: 19) provisions. The top priority for any advancing disciple and for any local assembly that God designed is doing its part in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
The last ALTAR of sacrifice that God acknowledged was the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. This altar was in place and served its purpose BEFORE the start of the Church Age.
NO WHERE in Scripture was the Church that God designed instructed to construct either a building or an altar. Such things are NOT necessary in order to worship God as He desires to be worshiped, including the celebration of the Lord's Supper (Communion). Holy buildings (Tents/Temples) and altars were (past tense) among the things of God in the previous dispensation, but are NOT a part of the Church that God designed for the dispensation of the Church Age.
The Church Age began AFTER the ASCENSION (Acts 1: 9). The Church Age began at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2). The Church Age ends (Matt. 24: 14) when the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 17) takes place. Note that Matt. 24: 14 teach that the end takes place with the fulfillment of the external part of the Great Commission.
The believers of the Church Age were never told to go to a building to “go to Church." The Church that God designed is NOT a building. The Church om Earth that God designed” but ARE the Church that “gathers together (Heb. 10: 25)” for such things as celebrating the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11: 23, 24)) and being taught the Word of God (Matthew 28: 19). Unlike the Temple of the Old Testament dispensation, the building (if any) in which the Church gathers in is of no spiritual significance.
There was no altar present when the Lord’s Supper (Communion) was introduced in the upper room of the private residence. There is NO altar needed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion) now. Scripture (1Cor. 11: 24, 25 ) clearly teach that the purpose of celebrating the Lord’s Supper (Communion) is to “bring into remembrance” (not to reproduce at the hands of a religious priest) the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Customarily it is the function of a pastor teacher to lead the congregation in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but this can be done by ANY born again member of the Church Age.
The primary function of a Church Age pastor-teacher is to teach the Word of God is It is in this way that the Church that God designed is to fulfill the internal (inside) part of the Great Commission. The only difference between a pastor-teacher and a Bible Teacher is that in addition to teaching the Word of God, a pastor-teacher has administrative functions and is personally accountable (to God) for ALL that goes on within the local assembly or ministry that he serves.
If a local group of believers are given the opportunity to obtain and retain such amenities as a comfortable building that IS a blessing. The Church that God designed IS to promote a distraction-free learning environment, where those attending can be taught the Word of God. Any amenity that promotes a distraction-free, safe, comfortable LEARNING environment can be a great asset to any local assembly or ministry. Assets can blessings, but are not necessities.
The omnipresent God of the Bible is just as “present "w-h-e-r-e-v-e-r (Matt. 18: 20)" born again believers gather together to worship Him. I say “born again believers” because until one is born again, he/she is spiritually dead and therefore can do NOTHING (including worship God) in the spiritual realm John 15: 5).
Any group of individuals gathered together and then go through all the SAME motions, but only the ones that have been born again are a part of the Church that God designed. I often note in my presentations that if the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 17) should take place in the middle of a worship service, there will be many (perhaps the majority-Matt. 7: 13) left behind sitting in the pews and/or standing behind the pulpits.
The “Church” that God designed is in every inhabitable continent here on Earth. They are in very different time and light zones. Accordingly, it is safe to say that many members of the Church will NOT be “in Church” when the Rapture takes place. Some will be at home, at work, or play. Some will be "away" for day. But wherever they are, they will be instantaneously (1Cor. 15: 52) taken away, leaving those behind searching for answers. As of that split second, there will not be ONE Christian on the face the of earth! One can only image the chaos that will be experienced by those left behind.
The people of Noah’s Day did not believe a flood was coming. Then it started to rain!
Unlike what took place in the dispensation of the Old Testament, it is not the location or the type of structure (or even if there is one) that matters, but what takes place that determines if it is the type of worship that God desires (John 4: 23).
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In a “last ditch” effort to stay afloat, many local assemblies are going as far as annulling the commandments of God to attract and/or retain the financial support that a larger membership base might have to offer.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever than annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5: 18, 19 NABS).”
In context the “Law” spoken of in Matt. 5: 18, 19 NASB refer to the "do’s" and the "do nots" found in the first four books of the Old Testament. The “Prophets” referred to all the announcements that the Old Testament prophets made concerning future events.
In principle, all of the commands of God are in view, including the 300+ plus commands recorded in the New Testament that apply to the Church Age. James 2:10 point out that violating any ONE of these applicable commandments renders the offender as guilty as the one who breaks them all.
Note the, “until all is accomplished” phrase of Matt. 5: 18, 19. There comes a time when what WAS or IS required in Scripture no longer applies to present time. The classic example is that here in the Church Age, there are no animal sacrifices, as what they symbolically represented by “accomplished” on the cross (Heb. 10). This principle also teach that the New Testament commands pertaining to the Church Age remain in force until the purpose for which they were intended is fulfilled.
Being able to discern when such accomplishments have been fulfilled is critical when determining what parts of the Old Testament Scripture do and do NOT apply to the Church Age in which we are living. ALL of Scripture is for our edification, but not ALL of Scripture is to be applied to the activity of the Church Age. It is also critical to have such discernment so that that commands that ARE still in effect are not nullified!
Failing to identify and apply the parts of Scripture that DO apply to the Church can negatively impact the quality of the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Failing to identify and apply the parts of Scripture that DO apply to the Church is what opened the door to many of the false teachings and practices WITHIN the Christian Community at large. This is evidenced by such things as the “return” of holy buildings, altars, and officiating priests, with all the “traditions of men” that go with them.
In the prophesied (1Tim. 4: 1) apostate (false teachings/practices) times in which are living, religious authorities, human viewpoint, in an attempt to be "politically correct." have annulled many of God’s commands that are labeled as SIN in the Word of God. Some have gone as far as endorsing such sin.
One should not be surprised that various forms of sexual immorality (fornication, adultery, and homosexuality/lesbianism) is taken lightly or even endorsed by Fallen Man. There is nothing “new” about any of these activities, other than the fact that some areas within the Christian Community at large have now chosen to endorse them.
Human beings are sexual creatures, making sexual immorality a major part of the devil's strategy.
Sexual immorality appeals to the fallen nature in Man. Sexual immorality can be manifested in many different ways, such as fornication (sex outside of marriage), adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism, beastiality, pornography, etc., etc, etc.. We are not all tempted in the same form of sexual immorality, but the form does not matter, as one is just as condemning as any other (James 2: 10). Adding the Matt. 5: 28 NASB principle of "thought" to the mix, there are very few of us who could honestly say that he/she never entertained such thoughts of at least one of these forms of sexual immorality at one time or another!
"But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5: 28 NASB)."
The primary function of a pastor teacher is to study and teach what the Word of God has to say about sin. The Word of God pulls no punches and makes it clear what sin is and the need to address to it.
Annulling the Word of God (by word or practice) has been the strategy of the devil since his first recorded interaction with the human race (Gen. 3). It worked well then, and continues to work well now in securing the desires of the devil.
As noted previously in this presentation, it is the SIN and NOT the sinner that should not be welcomed in the Church that God designed.
The doors of the Church that God designed should be as wide open as were the arms of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
The open arms (and doors) are not so that SIN can be made welcome and embraced, but so that the SINNER can be made to feel welcome to a place where he/she can hear the TRUTH concerning sin, salvation, and the post salvation spiritual life!
The same God that accepted us “just the way we are” at the moment of salvation (Romans 5: 6-8), also desires that once born again, we continue to “grow in the knowledge” of the Lord (2Pet. 3: 18). Such knowledge includes what IS and what is NOT sin in the eyes of the Lord, and what one is to do (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11) about it.
The same God that accepted us “just the way we are” at the moment of salvation, also desires that the born again believer applies (James 1: 22) the knowledge that he continues to learn and to refine . The same God that accepted us “just the way we are” at the moment of salvation, also desires that we become more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8: 29).
The devil can do NOTHING about the integrity of salvation that a born again believer has already received, but will do all that he can to raise unjustified doubts in the mind of weak believer. Knowing his limitations, the devil is "wise" enough to quit while he is ahead of the game and settle for having born again believers choose to keep one foot in the camp of God, and the other foot in devil’s world (Luke 4: 6). This double-standard is why so many "Christians" are seen as hypocrites in the eye of the world.
The Ephesians 6:12 forces of evil are doing a good job of putting the Church that God designed on the defensive by falsely accusing advancing disciples of promoting hatred when speaking against what the Bible clearly identifies as sexual sin. It is (or should be) the sin that is spoken against, not the sinner.
Doing what is in the best interest of sinners (engaged in any kind of sin) is NOT an act of hatred. It is an act of love. Love requires doing what is in the best interests of the ones we claim to love. The Lord Jesus Christ NEVER condoned SIN of ANY kind, but interacted with sinners in a way that drew sinners to Him. The Church that God designed will do the same. Love requires that one acts in the best interest of those he/she claims to love, even when it might mean conflict.
Our Lord's greatest earthly adversaries when He walked among us were not the sinners, but the self-righteous, religious crowd.
The advancing disciple would rather be hatred, rejected, excluded, and misunderstood here on Earth, than have someone they claim to love say of them on Judgment Day, “He/she knew the TRUTH, but did not love me enough to let me know.”
Edifying those who have been deceived (1John 1: 8) regarding the negative moral choices that they are making IS doing what is in the "best interests" of the ones involved. It is the function of an advancing disciple and ambassador to INFORM, not to conform others. It is God the Holy Spirit who convicts the human soul of SIN and the need to address it.
Annulling the Word of God in order to garner attendance and/or support is NOT the solution that God has in mind for the Church that He designed.
The Church that God designed will teach its congregations that IF they prioritize the Kingdom of God, then all of their logistical needs (not wants) WILL be added to them (Matt. 6: 33).
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt. 6: 33 NASB)."
As long as the Church that God designed does the same, it too will receive all the logistical needs necessary to fulfill the Great Commission that it was given to accomplish. God is not responsible to provide logistical support for securing or maintaining assets and/or alternative agendas that He did not authorize in the first place. God's (Phil. 4: 19) promise of provision was/is made to accomplish His agenda (Matt. 28: 19, 20), not the alternative agendas that Man has developed.
By the end of the First Century, the office of Apostle had accomplished its divine purpose. The primary work of the Church, as identified in the Great Commission, had been established. The type of local assemblies that God designed had been established. Pastor teachers had been identified, trained, and ordained, as well as the Biblical qualifications and the Biblical process to train and ordain future pastor teachers.
Part of the pastor teacher's job is to identify and train (2Tim. 2: 2) members of the existing congregation that God has called to be future pastor teachers. These men can become the pastor's own replacement, temporarily or permanently as need be, or can move on and establish a local assembly or ministry of their own.
Religion (Psalms 96: 5) is NOT of God, as it consists of all the thoughts and activities of Fallen Man has engineered or has added to what God has established for the spiritual realm. Christian religion (as opposed to Christianity) is no exception. While religion is NOT of God, it is certainly one of the best counterfeits that has ever come from the hand of devil. Like any successful counterfeit operation, what it produces must appear and be received as to be genuine if the deception is going to work. If what is taught and/or practiced is not rooted in the Word of God, then it is religious and NOT spiritual. Religion and its products and practices are among the things that are greatly esteemed by Man, but are detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15).
The Lord Jesus Christ was not liked when He spoke of the religious traditions of men to the very religious Pharisees of His day, and the advancing disciple and ambassador of Christ of our day is not going to be well-received by the very religious people now!
Religious organizations and denominations have their own requirements and expectations of those they train and ordain. These clergyman with various titles are there to promote the religion and the religious traditions of the religious authority that ordained them. Those with spiritual discernment can quickly see the difference between a seminary graduate who promotes religion, and a pastor teacher who is Biblically qualified and functions accordingly.
When the need arises for a new pastor teacher to take the helm of a local assembly, there should be such pastoral candidates among its own congregation that are ready, willing, and able to do so. If the local assembly is of the type that God established, there should be no need for a search committee to look any further. The Biblical qualifications of pastoral and deacon candidates are clearly outlined in such Scripture as Acts 6: 3/Titus 1: 5-9/1Tim. 3: 2-7/Eph. 6: 4/1Pet. 5: 3).
The Bible is not just a handbook and a roadmap for the individual believer. It is THE handbook and roadmap for each local assembly, as well. According to the plan of God, each local assembly is to be independently financed and managed under the administrative authority of its own pastor teacher. The primary function of each local assembly is to gather together (Heb. 10: 25) for the ongoing celebration of the Lord' Supper for the stated purpose (bring into remembrance-1Cor. 11: 23, 24) that it was established, and for teaching of Bible Doctrine for the development of discipleship. Depending on the size and secondary works of any given local assembly, deacons can be ordained to assist the pastor.
Such secondary works, however, are NOT to be in competition for access to resources needed to promote the Great Commission. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul (Mark 8: 37). Good deeds should be a part of the work of a local assembly, but such things are NOT to be its top priority. Jesus, in many ways, provided logistical aid and earthly benefits to many while here on Earth, but it was always their spiritual needs that He was most concerned. So should the local assemblies.
The Great Commission does NOT require "holy" buildings, altars, officiating priests, tithes, or a managerial hierarchy.
Local assemblies can render financial assistance to other local assemblies in need (1Cor. 16: 3), but no where in Scripture does is there a command for local assemblies to financially support or to be subject to a superior hierarchy or religious organization. When providing logistical help or finances to ANY organization, keep in mind that one becomes a "partner" in either the good or the evil that the receiving organization promotes.
Local assemblies can support Biblically-qualified missionaries in order to fulfill its part in the external part of the Great Commission, but with the long term objective of establishing new and independent local assemblies.
The external part of the Great Commission calls for the preservation and the proclamation of the Gospel Message to unbelievers. The internal part of the Great Commission calls for the making of “disciples” (students and appliers of the Word of God).
It is by no coincidence that the (Acts 1: 22) requirement could no longer be fulfilled by ANYONE, once all of the “eye-witnesses” of the risen Lord had passed away!
God did NOT authorize a system or hierarchy to rule over the local assemblies of the Church that He designed.
Some of these existing hierarchies have taken the Christian Community off its assigned course, promoting internal and external activities that the Church that was NEVER authorized to involve itself.
Functionally, each local assembly of the Church that God designed is under the administrative and teaching authority of the pastor teacher, and is to receive the logistical support of its congregation. It is NOT the function of local assemblies to financially support administrative hierarchies or systems of church government that should never have existed in the first place.
The “global” Church that God designed is united by mutual and accurate doctrine and a shared objective of fulfilling the Great Commission. Functionally, however, they are called to operate independently of each other.
Neither the devil nor any of his forces of evil have the divine attribute of omnipresence. In the realm of spiritual combat, it is much more difficult for the devil to attack millions of local assemblies that function independently of each other while sharing the same objectives, than it is to attack a single source of "authority."
The logistical support of a local assemble and the spiritual feeding that a traditional local assembly provides forms a two-way system of dependency. Local assemblies and its individual members are to “be there” for each other if both are to receive the benefits that God desires.
To “be there” on the part of the local assembly means to be the type that supplies the congregation with what its needs to c-o-n-t-i-n-u-e to grow in God’s knowledge and grace (1Pet. 3: 15). To “be there” on the part of the local assembly is to offer and to provide the additional support to members need in times of adversity. To be there on the part of the local assembly means to be accountable for financial support it receives from the members of the congregation, keeping the Great Commission at the top of its priority list.
To “be there” on the part of the individual member means to gather together (Heb. 10: 25) to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and to receive the teaching of the Word of God. To “be there” on the part of the individual member means to do his/her part to financially provide the logistical needs for the local assembly to function.
In most cases, to “be there” on the part of the individual believer means to identify and execute the (1Cor. 12) spiritual gift that God the Holy Spirit has given to him/her for the benefit of other people (1Cor. 12: 7).”
I say “in most cases” because the gift of evangelism, teaching, and service may be exercised outside of the local assembly, as well. It is God who determines what spiritual gift each believer receives, as well as, where, how, and when it is to be executed (1Cor. 12).
When any given believer’s spiritual gift and accompanying ministry is exercised outside of his/her local assembly, he/she is still responsible for contributing his time, treasure ($$$), and talent(s) for the function and sustaining of the local assembly where he/she gathers together (Heb. 10: 25).
(For the record, This is NOT a “plug” seeking financial support ($$$) for BATMQ. BATMQ is SELF-supporting and does not solicit or receive financial contributions. BATMQ does appreciate prayer support.)
One can be obedient to the Heb. 10: 25 command to gather together by physically attending a local assembly, or by way of the many modern day means of communication. It's not where, how , or by what means one gathers together, but what takes place when so gathered.
The earthly Church, consisting of all the born again believers here on Earth, will continue to endure until the Rapture takes place.
Most of the Church, consisting of the departed born again believers over the course of the Church Age, is already in Heaven. They are there in(2Cor. 5: 8) interim bodies (2Cor. 5: 1) where they, among other things await the Rapture to take place. They will be united with the members of the Church who are living on the Earth when the Rapture takes places. From that point forward, the entire Church will be with the Lord for all of eternity (1Thess. 4: 13-18).
The Church that God designed does NOT need holy buildings or property. If and when such assets and amenities are available, that IS a blessing, but such assets are NOT necessary to fulfill the reason (Matt. 28: 19, 20) for which it was established.
The Church that God designed does NOT need to have a seat in the local or national government to accomplish the mission that it was given to do.
The Church that God designed has endured and will continue to endure when it has, and when it does not have, the support or endorsement of secular government. There is no greater seed of tyranny that can be planted then when political and religious forces become bedfellows.
Take (or give away - Matt. 19: 21) EVERY tangible asset that any local assembly or denomination possesses and THEN you will see if it is the type of local assembly that God designed, and rather or not its “membership” consists of the type of worshiper that God desires.
Try reducing the salaries and/or the perks many pastor teachers and religious individuals receive and see how many remain in the ministry.
Scripture (1Cor. 9: 14/1Tim. 5: 18) does teach that pastor teachers are to be compensated, but there were times when the Apostle Paul had a secular job during the course of his ministry (Acts 18: 3).
Having a self-sustaining Internet ministry, I can relate to Paul’s pleasure in teaching the Word of God without cost (1Cor. 9: 15-19). When job security and its compensation are NOT on the line, there is no need or temptation to hold back what needs to be said.
God’s (Phil. 4) provides the needs for the His agenda (Matt. 28: 19, 20) to be fulfilled.
If and when local assemblies,”… seek first (prioritize) His Kingdom and His righteousness (by proclaiming the true Gospel Message and making disciples) and (THEN) all these things (needs) will be added to you (Matt. 6: 33 NASB italics mine).”
There is NO justification for compromising the Gospel Message and/or accurate doctrine or for annulling the Word of God in order to garner or retain attendance and the financial support that a larger congregation might have to offer. There are consequences (Matt. 5: 19) for doing so.
Now for the bottom line of this presentation:
"Whoever then annuls ONE of the LEAST of these commandments, and teaches others (by word or action) to do the same, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 5: 19 NASB italics mine).