Sunday, June 27, 2010

Back to Antioch and Jerusalem Indeed

With so many modern believers who truly have been born again from above, who believe in the Gospel fully, and wince at what goes under the name 'church' today, I have been accused of many things, including being insane and wanting more than is possible in some believer's eyes. The standard charge is that we want everyone to go 'back to Antioch' and wear sandals and wear tunics. Even the charge of being archaic though is wrought with error: while many consider Antioch to be the traditional birthplace of the church, the Church was born in Jerusalem and Galilee and the surrounds, and even when the great move of God took place in Antioch, where they were first 'called' Christians, the apostles and other disciples still saw the Jews in Jerusalem as central, under the headship of Messiah. Nonetheless, modernists continue to ridicule the notion of true belief and genuine adherence to the Word of God being a possibility, and see as shortsighted those who really do desire a return to true belief.

For centuries, there was never a quandary about what the Gospel was or wasn't, although it was often somewhat dissensioned by the Roman Church and other entities which worked through language and obscurity to keep the Word of God out of the hands of regular folk who might see that far more was required than membership in some 'mother church'. Wycliffe endeavored to place the Bible in the hands of the masses, though still translating off Latin versions, but until Tyndale, Coverdale, Stephanus and others, the English bible off the Received Texts did not come about. By 1611 when the KJV committee added a finishing touch to Tyndale's version, the Word of God was finally in the general public's hands, so that all could determine true faith without the sieve of the Nicolaitans.

Even then though, the Church was still a far cry from the form of the Church taught by Jesus and his early followers. They had over the centuries fallen into rituals, false practices, austere 'priesthoods' not of believers but of a special class of clergy who alone could interpret the scriptures, sacraments, indulgences etc, and even Henry VIII's break with Rome was not over doctrine, but over his carnal lust for divorce and new wives. Unfortunately, though there was a great move to return to essential doctrines such as Salvation by Grace in the Reformation, there was not an equivalent move to return to the true form and nature of the Church, and while some doctrine was corrected and many went back to a lived and not a contrived faith, the form and order of the church was still seen 'through a glass darkly' and the seditioned form of the church, across denominations degenerated even further, until today in Western civilization, where what we call 'church' is more of a fraternity with entertainment value.

The first real parting of the ways for the early church, came when certain heresies began to be introduced: Arianism and Marcionism tried to divorce Jesus from the incarnation, and the New Testament from the Old, declaring a different God for those who remained in Judaism. Gnostics brought in 'damnable heresies' and 'another gospel' mixed with legends, eastern and mystery religions, and before the close of the true canon in the late 60s ad, the apostles were already warning of heresies and deceptive practices. One could easily even go so far as to say that the first divorce of the true form of the church was the marriage of the State and Church, so prevalent in the first century, that by the end of Gospel, the Pharisees who turned Jesus over to Rome were crying

The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. John 19:15

The true church lasted mostly in biblical form until around 313ad when Constantine, thinking to do God a favor, and with the help of his mentor Eusebius, legalized christian worship, but went on to do a few things otherwise which have affected the church till now:

1. He declared the Christian Church the official State Church
2. He introduced Arianism fully as the accepted position on Christ
3. He expelled the Jews
4. He mingled pagan concepts, deities , practices, and symbols with basic Christian doctrine
5. He ordered 50 Bibles from Eusebius which were brought back from the area of Alexandria, which were highly suspect as gnostic-tainted texts supporting Arianism and other heresies, the position of the palace. These bibles became the standard in what the church of Constantine would develop into: the Holy Roman Empire, and Roman Catholic [Universal] Church.

Most modern churches have taken on the form of Constantine's State Church, and while over the years some have been more like it and some less, our churches in Europe and the US, and even most of the world bear some common elements that are NOT scriptural, and are so rigidly held, that by continuing such practices, we are stating that we are a 'rebellious house' and that we are not walking in the 'Way, the Truth and the Life."

Major Ways Our Church Today differs from the True Church

One could no doubt write an entire book regarding the differences between the Church described in scripture and the thing we call church today. Before talking about the differences, we need to consider just a few basic descriptions of the church: mind you this is not an all inclusive consideration, nor is it denominational or doctrinal: the Bible is extremely clear on what a church is.

The very name 'church' is so misused today that most consider it the building where a group of people meet to worship. Most biblically based faiths know this to be error: the word 'church' in Greek is ikklesia, meaning 'an assembly', and the Word of God talks about the Church being the body of Christ, with Christ as the head.

Eph 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Eph 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

The Lord loves the Church. The Church is comprised of a body of believers, with Christ as the head. The Lord added "daily to their numbers such as would be saved".(Acts). The Church is loved and nourished by Christ, who as head appointed it offices and ministries and gifts, in a living body, doing his will in his created world. The gifts are a topic for another time, but include the gifts of prophecy,discernment, tongues, a word of knowledge, etc. (I Corinthians), and also offices of prophet, bishop, deacons, and so forth. The place of worship most often mentioned in the New Testament was either synagogues or homes, though toward the end , homes prevailed. Old Testament worship of the 'congregation of God' was first at altars in the open air, and then at the Tabernacle, later at a fixed Temple by Solomon's time, and when the church went into captivity, even a river bank suffied, and synagogues were mentioned as early as David in psalms:

Psa 74:8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.

The whole point is, that the 'congregation of God' like the New Testament 'ikklesia' or church, were groups or a body of worshipers, not a building with particular fixtures.

How does our Modern Church hold up in comparison to the church God created? Consider the following:

1. Most do not consider a church a church without a building.
2. Most governments either outlaw home churches
, or disdain them.
3. Most modern churches think an altar is a stage, with a platform and podium: no where in either the Old or New Testament is an altar a place apart from the congregation where things are done to be watched. An altar in the Old Testament began as rocks, wood and fire , pillars and a lamb or bullock for sacrifice under an Oak or Terebinth tree. Later worship and sacrifice would occur in the linen curtain surrounded Tabernacle, and still later, a house built with hands, in Solomon's temple. Modern 'altars' are stages. They hold speeches, and entertainment, but they are primarily 'watched' events with some participation.
4. Pastors are no longer called bishops
in most churches, and bishops are seen as a regional bureaucrat. Bishops of the early church were to be temperate 'ministers' who guided and taught, were of high moral character and belief, but who shepherded the body of Christ under his headship to its fullest and most fruitful state. They are to 'lift up in love'.
5. Deacons were appointed and anointed ministers, called to their positions to minister and teach the body. They were not 'boards of directors' with a CEO pastor or administrator.
6. Most critically: Christ is the head of the church: no ifs,ands or buts: he died for the Church, rose and gave it life at Pentecost. All are to answer to him ultimately. A state registered church (5013c) which answers daily and yearly to the State, like any other agency, which pays taxes to the state, has the State as head. Modern churches keep a US flag on the altar, though it is called in federal code a 'living thing' making it an idol by God's Word. (No, I am not a JW). They submit yearly or more often the bound minutes of meetings of a board of directors, and are considered by the state a registered corporation in the same way exactly that United Way, or nonprofit homosexual organizations are: the state sees no difference. Christ does.
7. Music in too many modern churches is performance, not praise, or repetitive verses which lose all meaning. There is almost no 'singing in the spirit'.
8. Services are timed, delineated by ages old liturgy, which never changes, and are not lead nor prompted by the Holy Spirit. Most pastors who preach beyond 12pm lose congregates who have to get home or go out to eat. If the pastor received a Word from the Lord regarding the world ending tomorrow, most would not stay to listen.
9. Most pastors today are not called, anointed, or often even saved, a great travesty. People pick theology and pastoral training the way they choose any other career: I knew of one seminary who used a Personality inventory to determine a 'call'. That is not the call of Jesus. Because seminaries are set up like colleges, any one with recommendations, the money and paperwork and grades can attend and get a degree. I have met seminarians who did not even believe in God, or in the basic tenets of the faith once delivered.
10. Most churches have abandoned the laying on of hands, healing, the practice of the gifts of the Holy spirit and other foundational marks of the church: some even teach that the gifts died in the first century.
11. Churches no longer send out missionaries per se: they send contributions to corporations called Mission Boards: an unscriptural practice. Local churches are to appoint and anoint called missionaries and fund them, pray and support them. Missionaries should not have to go on deputation to raise money to go on a field. That ought to bring the wrath of Kahn upon me.
12.The Word of God is now seen as relative
: more of as a guideline than as God's Word and commandments. Further, the influx of hundreds of translations and versions has lead to division and doctrinal apathy: teaching from the Received Text of centuries leads to being called a bigot or ignorant, when it truly provides more unity and cohesion and sound doctrine.
13. Churches were not meant to be thousand person entities, where one might never interact with over 95 percent of the members. The church is a living breathing body.
14. The breaking of bread and taking of communion was to be every service, though not in a line walking up to a stage, nor passed around in silver tins. The meaning is lost.

We will discuss further differences in the next entry.