Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Historical Survey of the First Century Christian Assembly – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 6, 2017

The following is part two of a four-part series.
Taken from Andy Young’s second session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny

< Part 1  •  Part 3 >



What Did a First Century Assembly Look Like?

Can we all agree that Protestantism has no clue? The exception would be the big dogs at the top; men like Piper and Sproul and MacArthur; leaders of academic institutions and seminaries. It’s clear that the laity is confused about what they believe, but I believe that many pastors are just as confused as the laity.

Their confusion is evident any time you try to have a discussion with any of them. They don’t know how to reason. The only thing they know is how to regurgitate what they were taught in seminary. They all have the same playbook they read from, so any time you ask them a question that requires them to think or honestly evaluate their orthodox position on a matter, they simply double down on the same pat answers.  They revert immediately to some “authority.”

I remember the last conversation I had with a pastor. This would be almost 3 years ago. We left the church in Columbus in 2011 and we started going to a small country church not far from where we live. And so this would be I think January or February 2015, maybe even before that.  We had made the decision that we just needed to get out the institutional church once and for all. So my wife convinced me to talk to the pastor.

I just wanted to leave.  I told her there was no point in talking to them because it wasn’t going to do any good. But I wanted to make my wife happy, so I went. I met with the pastor and the assistant pastor one evening after dinner, and I must have sat with them for about an hour and a half. And I tried to explain what I thought was wrong with the current church model.

They just didn’t get it. They were completely sold out to the authority of the institutional church. They couldn’t fathom any other way of doing things. And the laity is the same way. We had someone comment on the blog not too long ago, “Oh I like the home fellowship idea, but how do you guard against error?” Here is part of his comment:

“You say Jesus is the authority, and He certainly is, but here is the issue: Who decides what interpretation of Jesus’ teaching is apostolic? David Koresh had a home fellowship (please know I am in NO WAY comparing him with you) and he had the same Bible and yet they were full of errors. Where is the protection of sound doctrine if every Christian were to decide to start their own ‘house’ church?”

So when I first read that my initial response was, ok David Koresh was the authority. So this guy is worried that home fellowhships might end up like the Branch Davidians without authority, but they had an authority in David Koresh and they still believed error. So his point is irrelevant because having authority is no guarantee that you are not going to have error. In fact, I would go so far to say that it is error that produces the perception for the need of authority. The authority of Protestantism and the institutional church is actually the logical conclusion of the error they perpetrate.

What has John Immel been trying to ingrain in us for the last 5 years? Assumptions drive behavior. The authority of the institutional church is the product of their assumption. I am going to channel John Immel here – Man is depraved. He is existentially evil. The nature of his existence is evil. He is fundamentally flawed so that he cannot perceive truth. Because he is fundamentally flawed, because his mere existence IS evil, he is he is disqualified from being able to take action for good. He must therefore be compelled to take action for good, and because he must be compelled the take action, that requires some authority to exercise the use of force and violence if necessary.

So you see authority is ALWAYS what you get when you start with the wrong assumption. But what if you start with a different assumption? What if you assume from the beginning that man IS competent; that man DOES have ability? Then that means authority is not necessary. The apostles did not exercise authority over the assemblies. They taught doctrine and persuaded through reason. And if people didn’t believer their arguments, they were free to go live their lives. They were the ones who had to answer to God. The apostles weren’t going to stand in judgment in their place.

Now I am going to say one more thing about authority before I get into what a 1st century home fellowship looked like. I made the case in a blog article a few years ago that elders were optional. 1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications of an elder, and

Bob the Elder: ever vigilant for false teaching on the horizon!

the word is really better translated “overseer.” The Latin form of this would be “supervisor.” First of all the function of an overseer or supervisor is not one of authority. The Greek word is επισκοπος (epi-scopos), and the etymology of the word actually describes someone who stands at the top of a fortress wall as a sentry looking outward for any signs of danger. A sentry has no authority. He has no command authority. His job is simply to send out the warning cry when danger is coming so that appropriate action can be taken.

This is the way it is with an elder (overseer) in an assembly of believers. He might be gifted to teach, but his role is that of a sentry looking out for danger and warning others to take appropriate action. (In the same sense he is a soldier; a warrior!) Note: he has no call to compel the action. He cannot force others to take action. All he does is sound the warning cry.

The other point I want to make with regard to 1 Timothy 3 is that in most of your Bibles you see the expression, “if a man desires the office of a bishop.” The Greek manuscript says nothing like that. The word “office” is not in the manuscript. In fact the word “man” isn’t even in there. The way this verse literally read in the Greek is “if any desire oversight.” Let me say this a different way so that you understand. “If any desire to be overseen.” Different wording, but it communicates the same idea. The desire to have an overseer begins with the assembly. Overseers are optional. The assembly gets to decide if it wants an overseer or not.

Paul goes on to say further that if you want an overseer, that is a good thing. It is probably a good idea to have someone on guard duty. If there is danger out there (and there is) you probably want to have someone who is adept at finding it, seeing it early, and warning others to take action (perhaps even willing and able to engage in battle). But such a person has no call to exercise authority to compel other to take action. And Paul then goes on in the rest of the chapter to list the characteristics of someone who would best be suited for this kind of job.

So what kinds of things go on in a home fellowship? What happens when believers meet together for fellowship? Perhaps the first question should be why? Why do we meet for fellowship? Are we even commanded to? How often? I believe the best example we have is found right at the very beginning.

42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And 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, 47praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the assembly daily such as should be saved.” ~ Acts 2:42-47

This example of believers’ fellowship is repeated for us in Chapter 4:

32And 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. 33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34Neither 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, 35and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” ~ Acts 4:32-35

Actually, if we wanted to we could make the case for an even earlier example of believers’ fellowship at the very beginning of Acts. If you remember on the day of Pentecost you had 120 believers in an upper room. What do you think they were doing? Even before that, you had the Eleven with their family members, probably also in an upper room where they cast lots to decide on a replacement for Judas Iscariot. There was this period of approximately 10 days from the time Jesus ascended into heaven to the day of Pentecost. What do you suppose they were doing for those 10 days?

Just something to think about, you know, because Protestant orthodoxy tells us that the church started at Pentecost. Well, no, believers were having fellowship together before that.

“All things common”
So if we go back to Acts 2, we have this expression “all things common.” Now, everyone here associated with TANC Ministries are solid individualists. Anyone who follows TANC Ministries is most likely an individualist himself. We believe in the rights of the individual and the notion of private property. The idea of Americanism was founded on the Enlightenment ideologies of individualism. So when we come to a verse in the Bible that talks about “all things common,” I imagine that would have a tendency to make us cringe a little on the inside.

In fact many will point to passages like this in the Bible and use that to make the case for collectivism. But let us not make the mistake of taking the collectivist ideology of “common good” and conflating it with the Biblical understanding of “all things common.” They are not the same things. When Luke wrote the Book of Acts he did not have in mind the “common good”. Luke is describing the characteristics that all believers share in common with each other.

Let’s take apart this phrase “all things common”. First, the word translated “all” is the typical Greek word παντα (“panta”), but it is preceded by an α (“alpha”). Now in most Greek words, the letter “alpha” serves as a negative particle and negates the meaning of a word. For example “a-nomia.” Nomos means “law,” so “a-nomia” would mean “no law” or “lawless.” But in this case, the “alpha” has a breath mark on it, making it pronounced with an “h” sound, so this would be “ha-panta”. What this does is gives extra emphasis to the word it modifies. So when Luke says “all things” he is emphasizing “all” absolutely. It qualifies the extent of the meaning of all. It is all things absolutely.

The word translated “common” is the Greek word κοινος (“koinos”). This same word provides the root for the word κοινωνια (“koinonia”) which is often translated “fellowship”. I’ll talk more about this idea of “fellowship” in just a little bit. Common can be understood a couple of different ways. It can mean common as in shared by all. If you look at the circles to the right, you can see that one is red and one is green. I might ask you, what do these two circles have in common? They are both circle, but we could also say they are both the same size. We could get even more specific and say they have the same radius, the same diameter, the same circumference, the same area.

Question: does their sameness at all take away from their individuality? What if they were the same color? Would they cease to be individual circles? No. Notice that even though they could be the same “absolutely”, they still remain individual circles. Their individuality is preserved. Really the only way to make both these circles absolutely the same would be for them each to occupy the same time and space, and then what you really have is only one circle, and you have effective destroyed both in the process. You no longer have two distinct individuals.

This word for common has a parallel meaning in the Hebrew that is often translated as “profane.” Now we usually associate profane with profanity or foul language. But the basic meaning of profane means common. In my 2014 session we looked at holiness and we learned that the opposite of holy was profane. Throughout the OT there was often this contrast made between the holy and the profane. Profane in this sense carries with it the idea of being ordinary or regular or everyday or just like everything else; common.

This might not be the case so much these days, but when I was growing up we had a set of regular dishes for everyday use, but we had a special set of dishes that we used for company or for holiday meals. In the true sense of the words, the regular dishes were profane, and grandma’s good china was holy. There was a distinction made. Now there was nothing magical or mystical about grandma’s china.  It didn’t have bestowed upon it some dispensation of divine power or attributes.   What made it special was the fact that it was set aside for special occasions. If we used grandma’s china every day it would no longer be special.   This is the difference between holy and profane or common.

So when we say that these first believers in Jerusalem in the 1st century had all things common, we mean that they were all just like each other. They shared certain characteristics that made them just like every other believer. So what were those characteristics?

They are part of God’s family.

What does it mean to be part of God’s family?

  • Born again
  • God is their Father
  • Jesus is their Big Brother
  • They have God’s righteousness (because they are born of God)
  • They are free from condemnation
  • There is no sin
  • They are free to love through obedience to the law.
  • They are part of the Body (εκκλησια “ekklesia” – “assembly”)
  • They have spiritual gifts – edification (well talk about that in a minute)

Now let me ask you this. Does having all things absolutely in common mean that everyone was identical? No. Each person still retained their individuality. Think about their professions. You had merchants, skilled craftsmen, skilled laborers, you had those who were slaves (δουλος “doulos” – bondservants). You had each person being productive in themselves, producing those things necessary to sustain life, each in their own way. And yet they had all things in common. When a merchant was born again did he give up being a merchant? When a bondservant became a believer did he cease to be a bondservant to his master? Incidentally, you often had the situation of masters and their bondservants both in the same assembly of believers who were born again, and yet their earthly relationship to each other didn’t change.

So each person in these assemblies of believers are still productive individuals. Each is pursing a value exchange for the things that are necessary to sustain life. But then you have this line in verse 45 of Acts chapter 2.

“45and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”

The same sentiment is repeated in chapter 4:

“…neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common…34Neither 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, 35and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

“As every man had need”
So what is going on here? Let us put this in context. Here we are in Jerusalem and the immediate area and however far out in Israel the gospel has gone thus far. We learn in a few chapters that is has gone as far north as Damascus. In fact you have this individual by the name of Saul; a devote Pharisee; well versed in the law; studied under Gamaliel. Saul has received written authorization from the Jewish leadership to go out and find believers and put them into prison (or even execute them in many cases).

Now imagine you are a business owner in Jerusalem, or you are trying to sell your product at the local market. People know that the religious leaders are looking to arrest believers. Do you risk your customers finding out that you are one of these believers? Or how is your business affected by the knowledge that you are a believer? How many customers quit on you because of hatred or fear? What if you are a worker and your employer finds out you are a believer? How many people find themselves out of work because of their faith? Try to speculate on all the various circumstances in which believers in Jerusalem immediately find themselves. This is the kind of persecution that was a reality for many believers in these assemblies.

Now despite this persecution, you still need to eat. You still need clothes. You still need a place to stay. You still have a family for which to provide. What do you do? Most people go to family. But what do you do when your family has cast you out? Remember last lesson we talked about getting thrown out of the synagogue and the stigma that goes with that? Where do you go?

And this is where this reality of the Body of Christ being a family is so vital. We are a literal family. We are all brothers and sisters. And when one of your family members is hurting, when another part of your body is hurting, there is this natural desire to care for those who are hurting. And this is what you see happening in Acts 2 and Acts 4. You have the Body of Christ recognizing a need, seeing other members of the Body suffering under persecution, and then taking action to meet that need.

What did they do? They didn’t go to the government and demand everybody pay taxes to confiscate wealth and redistribute it. This is important – of their own volition they sold their surplus and brought it to the assemblies so that it could be given to those who were in desperate need. Why was that? Because they had all things common. Yes, what they sold was the result of their own production, but they also recognized what they had in common; they were a family.

I’m going to talk some more about giving in the assemblies in another lesson, but let me make one more comment on this point. Lest any of us should think that this is an argument for a welfare state, let me remind you of this. In Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, he said this:

“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Do you remember the context of this verse? You originally had a situation where the believers there thought they had missed the rapture. And they were also concerned about what happened to their dead relatives. Would they see them again in the Kingdom? And Paul assured them that death was not the end, in fact the dead are going to be raptured first, in the First Resurrection. And he also gave them a list of things to look for that had to happen before the rapture occurred.

As a result, by the time Paul got around to his 2nd letter to them, what happened is you had a handful of people who decided that they were just going to sit and wait around for the rapture. If Christ could come at any moment, then why bother working? And then these freeloaders would come to the fellowships and mooch a free meal off of everybody.

Now it is one thing to be out of work or in need because you are under persecution. It is an entirely different matter to willingly refuse to work when you are able to do so. It is one thing to be unable to work because of immediate circumstances; it is another to choose not to work because of laziness. So if we contrast these two situations where in Acts you have persecuted believers having their needs met by others in the assembly versus in Thessalonica where you have people refusing to work, I think you can understand the difference. When we say “all things in common,” we are talking about making sure each other’s needs are met because we are a family, and a family cares for itself. But I think the implication is clear that such care is meant to be temporary, and the expectation is that the individual in need will resume providing for himself as soon as he is able.

“With one accord”
We just spent all this time looking at what it meant to have all things in common, and I think this next point relates to it. It should seem pretty obvious then what “one accord” means, but lets take a look at it just for sake of clarity.

The word in the Greek is ομοθυμαδον (homo-THOO-ma-don). It is made of the prefix “homos” meaning “at the same time or place,” and the root THOO-mos meaning “passion”. Literally it refers to heavy breathing or the kind of breathing that results from exerting effort. If you are passionate about something that means you put your all into it. You exert effort. Homothumadon suggests being together for a common purpose, and it was a purpose that these believers were passionate about. They dedicated all their efforts toward it. You can see how this is related to the idea of having all things in common. Not only did they have a common family, but they shared a common purpose.

“With singleness of heart”
There is another expression in Acts 2:46 that is worth noting. It says that when they met for fellowship they still maintained their cultural Jewish heritage by meeting regularly at the temple. But they also went from house to house and shared meals together. I’ll talk more about this in a moment, but notice that they did this with “singleness of heart”.

Now this seems to simply be another way of saying “with one accord”, but look at the word. In the Greek it is the word αφελοτησ (ah-fell-AW-tace). Literally it means “without stubbing your toe on a stone.” Now the picture here is of what in their culture they would refer to as a stumbling block. Jesus was called a “rock of offense” or a stumbling block. The idea is a road paved with flat stones, and as you walk along you don’t see that one of the stones has heaved up a little bit and you trip on it. (You take offense at it).

This word aphelotase refers to a path that is smooth and even, and you don’t trip on it. It refers to simplicity. In this context, “singleness of mind” means that you don’t have any hidden agenda. No hidden motive. You are not “double-minded.”

When the believers met for fellowship there was no false agenda. They were there for one simple purpose.  In part one we talked at length about what the purpose was not. It was not for the purpose of worship. We talked about worship and what it means to worship “in spirit and in truth.” Basically that worship does not happen at a place, so we don’t assemble for worship. Worship is what happens whenever we show love through obedience to the law. Worship is when we show love to God and to others. So we do this every day. When we behave like the children of God that we are, we are worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth because we are doing what He made us to do.

So then if the reason we assemble is not to worship, why do we assemble? The answer can be found in Ephesians.

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
~ Ephesians 4:11-12

The entire epistle of Ephesians is a fantastic treatise on the subject of the Body of Christ. Paul develops a logical progression of thought about the “mystery” that was hid from Old Testament saints; that God would join Jews and Gentiles together into one Body that would be neither Jew nor Gentile. Paul refers to this as the New Man. In chapter 4 Paul details that the giving of spiritual gifts was for the express purpose of edifying the Body of this New Man.

At last year’s conference I talked about the exercising of spiritual gifts in love. I want you to notice how Ephesians 4 closely parallels 1 Corinthians chapter 12. The idea is that every believer has a specific gift. These gifts are analogous to physical body parts and the functions they perform. It should be clear then that the purpose of gifts is to allow the body to function as a whole; to do what it was designed to do. In this case, the Body’s purpose is to go out and spread the gospel and make disciples.

When we gather together with other believers, this affords us the opportunity to use our spiritual gifts. They don’t benefit us directly. We use our gifts to help build up other believers. Building each other up makes us stronger and it equips us to have the skills and the tools we need to go out and tell others the good news of the Kingdom. Therefore, the purpose of the assembly is not to worship, but rather to provide an opportunity for mutual edification of the Body. Let me repeat that. The purpose of assembling together is for mutual edification of the Body.

Now that mutual edification happens through four functions. And Luke lists them for us in Acts 2 verse 42.

1. Edifying the Body Through Doctrine
Not to be accused of “scripture stacking”, let me show you these to make the point about how the believers were taught from the apostles.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” ~ Romans 16:17

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” ~ Philippians 4:9

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” ~ Colossians 2:6-7

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” ~ 2 Timothy 3:14

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions (“paradosis” – precepts) which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:15

“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:” ~ Titus 1:9-10

“That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:” ~ 2 Peter 3:2

Teaching is the major function of the assembly. To have teaching you have to have a teacher, and a teacher is one of the spiritual gifts. One thing about a teacher: He needs to be able to persuade. But the most important job of a teacher is to teach people HOW to think, not WHAT to think, that’s indoctrination. That’s called state sponsored education. Teaching isn’t having people remember facts and figures. Teaching involves training people how to apply abstract concepts to life in a rational manner.

So when you’ve got teaching going on in a home fellowship, a teacher should be taking the apostle’s doctrine and not saying, “Believe this or else.” It is, “Here is why this is so, and here is the best rational argument for why this is so.”


2. Edifying the Body Through Fellowship

I’ve already talked about this notion of having all things common. The word common is the word κοινος (“koinos”). The word fellowship then is derived from koinos.  It is κοινωνια (“koinonia”). It means a partnership. Of course the best partnerships are the ones where the partners have something in common. Common goals, common interests. So the purpose of believers assembling is for fellowship, to share in that commonality, to be an encouragement to each other, to love and support each other, to rejoice with each other, to weep with each other. Look at these verses and think about this notion of fellowship and what it means.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” ~ Galatians 2:9

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”~ Ephesians 3:9 (New man)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” ~ 1 John 1:7

And we could also add all the “one another” passages to this. Take your Bible software and look up the phrase “one another” and then apply those verses to this function of fellowship and you get the idea.

Of course there is a negative aspect of fellowship. You have verse like these:

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
~ Ephesians 5:11
 

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
~ 2 Corinthians 6:14

Do you see the logical reasoning behind this? Fellowship has to do with what you have in common. So Paul begs the question, how can you have anything in common with that which is not righteousness? How can light be a partner with darkness? The answer is, it cannot. You cannot “fellowship” with darkness and unrighteousness because you have nothing in common. The whole notion is the antithesis of what fellowship is.

This is why I find the whole notion of bringing unsaved people to church ludicrous. They have no business there. It can be of no benefit to them because they have nothing in common with believers. The strict definition of church is the assembly, the Body of Christ, for the mutual edification of the Body. How can you edify someone who is not part of the Body? You cannot.

This is why believers are ambassadors. This is why evangelism is an individual mandate. Each member of the Body needs to be equipped to go out to the lost, preach to them, and in preaching they hear, and in hearing they believe, and when they believe, NOW they are part of the Body, and they can join the assembly and be edified. That is fellowship.

3. Edifying the Body Through Breaking of Bread
I have a friend who comes from a big Italian family. His “nana” is from the “old country” as you say. And as is the custom with Italian families (and I guess this is true with any large family) it wouldn’t be a family gathering without food. That’s just the custom. You get family together, you eat. And some families can put out quite a spread!

So it should not be unusual that when the believers assembled together in the 1st century that their time of fellowship involved sharing a meal together. This expression “breaking of bread” has become a euphemism for having a meal, but it has its origins with the Lord’s Supper, or the Last Supper, or the Lord’s Table, or whatever you want to call it. So the suggestion here is that the Lord’s table was an integrated part of their fellowship meal. It wasn’t a separate ceremony or “ordinance”. It went hand in hand as part of the fellowship meal. And I am going to talk more about that in detail in part three.

4. Edifying the Body Through Prayer
This one should go without saying. I don’t think I need to mention the importance of prayer. How many references could I cite, countless, where we are instructed repeatedly to pray for each other, pray for he unsaved, pray for our political leaders, pray for peace, pray for healing, pray for safety, pray for deliverance.

I have often found it remarkable as I read through the New Testament all the people Paul mentions in his letters, and all the people for whom he prays. Can you imagine just how much time Paul must have spent in prayer; the number of people he came in contact with? I wonder how big his Facebook friend list would have been? But seriously, how much time must he have spent in prayer and still find time to write to the assemblies, and earn a living, and eat, and sleep, and travel?  I think such a realization would have to be a rebuke to all of us because I know I certainly don’t pray as much as I should.

So there must have been a lot of time dedicated to prayer in these assemblies for all the needs that there must have been. Think about what great prayer warriors these early believers must have been.

So there you have it. The four functions of the assembly, all for the central purpose of mutual edification of the Body. All so that we can go out and make disciples. I don’t think it is unrealistic to have home assemblies once again in the 21st century that function the same way. Really what you see in the home fellowship is brothers and sisters behaving like a family. It’s really that simple. We are part of God’s family. We are his born again children. And this is how He wants his children to behave: loving each other, serving each other, and building up each other.

To be continued…


< Part 1  •  Part 3 >

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12 Reasons Why…

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 23, 2017

Originally Published August 17, 2015

With football season upon us there is a new meme that has been circulating Facebook recently.  You might have seen it.

 

12 reasons

Obviously, this is meant to be a passive/aggressive criticism of those who use these same excuses for not going to church.  And as usual, it gets its share of “likes” and positive comments and “amens” all around.

So, with one of our topics being all the issues wrong with the institutional church, and with our focus being that of home fellowships, and because I have a tendency to be a trouble-maker, I decided to take the above idea and run in a different direction with it.  For your consideration, I am pleased to present to you:

12 reasons why attending a sporting event is better than attending church.


  1. The coach isn’t going to kick you out of the stadium for being critical of his play-calling.
  2. The only people asking you for money are the workers at the concession stand, and at least you get a snack and a cold beverage in return.
  3. You are surrounded by total strangers, but most people will interact with you like you’ve been lifelong friends.
  4. Those same people won’t judge you for what you’re wearing.
  5. There’s no “fan covenant” to sign where you agree to support the team no matter what.
  6. Nobody is going to question your team loyalty if you show up to the stadium late or not at all.
  7. Group participation is not only allowed but encouraged!
  8. You don’t have to worry about the coach showing up at your house the next day asking you why you weren’t at the game.
  9. You don’t have to worry about the coach getting on the P.A. system to bad mouth the season ticket holders who missed last week’s game.
  10. If you get to the stadium early, that’s ok. There’s most likely several parties already going on in the parking lot, and they won’t mind if you crash in, even if you didn’t bring a dish to pass.
  11. If there is ever a team scandal, the coach doesn’t blame the fans for it.
  12. You can be fairly certain that no one will ever tell you that the outcome is pre-determined!

 

Of course, if you have any others that you care to add, you are welcome to do so!

Andy

Love Your Local Institutional Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 18, 2017

Originally published October 29, 2014

One of the advantages of having Calvinist friends on my Facebook friend list is that little gems like this one appear in my news feed from time to time. The article is entitled “Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?”*  It was written by a young man named Mark Perry, former Associate Pastor of Westerville Bible Church in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, and now a missionary candidate to Chile.  Mr. Perry could be considered to be of the “young, restless, and reformed” variety.

The opening caption of the article asks the question, is it possible to love Jesus and not love His church? Obviously, a question such as this establishes the premise that such a thing is not possible.  We are to assume that these two things are not compatible.  If you don’t love the church then you must not love Jesus.  The purpose of the article seeks to first define the “church” and then make the argument of why and how we are to love it.  I have reproduced the body of the article in this post so that I can offer a review of Mr. Perry’s arguments (in italics) and insert my comments to relevant sections that I want to point out to you.

Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?

What is the church?

We use the word “church” in many different ways. How can we pinpoint what that means? In Ephesians we are told that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). We can identify the church by asking for which “church” Jesus died.

The church is not the building in which believers assemble. We often use the word church to refer to the building: “What a lovely church!” or “The church could use a new coat of paint.” But surely this is not the church for which Jesus died. In fact, New Testament congregations met in members’ homes (e.g., Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 1:2). In many parts of the world today, our brothers and sisters in Christ meet in homes, parks, or public locations. It is not necessary to own property or have a physical building dedicated to the regular assembling of Jesus’ body.

So far so good. All very well stated. These are all things that Paul and I have both stated on regular occasions. I would agree with Mr. Perry on this point.  Notice how he establishes that the church is not a building.  In fact, he goes to some length to establish what the church is not, thereby framing his argument to follow. Reading on:

The church is not the meetings or ministry programming. Another way we use the word church is to refer to a worship service or ministry program: “Church was great this morning; I really enjoyed the sermon.” “My church has so many ministry opportunities available.” Many people see the church as the sum of services or ministries offered: children’s ministries, fellowship opportunities, teaching and preaching, or other benefits offered to members or adherents. But did Jesus die to secure singles’ ministries, Vacation Bible School, and youth groups? Did Jesus love a certain style of music or preaching so much that he left heaven to give his life? Every generation of believers since the book of Acts has had to work out how to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples in their culture.

Ok, here he starts to drift a little. First of all, we don’t have to “work out” how to obey Jesus’ commands.  His commands are clear.  We either do them or we don’t.  The way we make disciples or “learners” is by teaching them exactly what Jesus said to do.  The message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is not culture-specific.  It is the same for all men everywhere.  We don’t have to “figure it out.”

The other thing I notice in this statement is the implication that evangelism takes place within the confines of the institutional gathering or its ministries. This is patently false.  Evangelism is an individual mandate.  We don’t bring the unsaved to the church through the means of some “program” or “ministry” in order to get them saved.  We as individuals go out to them and preach the gospel to them. When they hear and believe and become saved, we then invite them to fellowship with the assembly for the purpose of edification.

Moving on…

The church is the regular assembly of believers in Jesus. We often say, “The church is the people”

This is correct. Yay! The reason we often say it is because it’s true.

and we are right—almost.

Wait…Huh?  What do you mean “almost?”

On one hand, the universal church includes all believers in Jesus from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture. At the moment of Jesus’ return in the air, the universal church will be assembled for the first time: “those who have fallen asleep” and “we who are alive, who are left” (1 Thess 4:14, 17). But until that time, the church exists on earth in localized assemblies of believers who meet regularly for prayer, Scripture reading, teaching of apostolic doctrine, and fellowship (Acts 2:42). The Greek word translated “church” (ἐκκλησία) means assembly or gathering and sometimes in the New Testament it even refers to groups of unbelievers (e.g., Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

Ok, while I don’t see the NT making any distinction between “universal church” and “local church”, nevertheless his other points here are spot on. And he would have been better served stopping right there, but he didn’t. Read on…

The church is the church when it is assembled.

WHAT? Read that again. He said, “The church is the church when it is assembled”? The logical inverse of that statement would necessarily follow that the church is not the church when it is not assembled. But he just said the word “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “assembly.” The reality of his statement indicates that the church does not exist when it is not assembled. That would mean the church only has relevance when it is assembled.

At the beginning this author made points about what a church is not. It is not a building, it is not a program.  But please notice his emphasis is still on some group entity over the individual.  In Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy, there is no relevance or meaning or existence outside of the group! To them, our relevance as believers only matters within the church. So, when we are not assembled, we don’t matter.

It is those believers who regularly gather in Jesus’ name. Therefore, the church that Jesus loves and for whom he died is the gathering of believers. These local assemblies or gatherings of believers are the only church we can know this side of heaven.

I would dare to ask Mr. Perry that if the church is the Body, and we are individual members of that Body, each with our own function, then do we cease to be a part of that Body when we are not assembled? Are we only part of the Body when we meet on Sundays (or Wednesday, or Saturday, or any other required meeting time/place)? I contend that our relevance as believers extends far beyond that which we do when we gather for fellowship.  And our not being assembled together in fellowship at any given time does not preclude our identity as a member of the Body of Christ.  He continues:

What does it mean to love the church?

We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2). In other words, we are to love the church just as Jesus does. The command to love Jesus’ church is the same as the oft-repeated New Testament command to “love one another” (e.g., Rom 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Pet 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). So we love Jesus’ church when we love the brothers and sisters in our local assembly.

What about other brothers and sisters in other assemblies around the world who are not part of our cult group assembly, who don’t necessarily share all the same beliefs in matters of practice? Are they not a part of the body because they don’t assemble with us?  Is our church somehow better/superior to their church because we don’t “worship” the same way they do, because we “do church” the “right way”?  Are they any less a part of the body of Christ?  Are they part of the assembly because they are born-again believers in Christ or instead because they regularly assemble at our “church”?

And this is where it gets difficult. We may love our church’s beautiful building, we may be enraptured by our favorite preacher’s sermon series, or we may appreciate the array of ministries and opportunities our church offers, but loving these difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people is a different matter entirely! Jesus’ love for us is our example to love his church. What about the sinful people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was a sinner (Rom 5:6–8). What about the cantankerous or antagonistic people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was his enemy (Rom 5:10). What about the people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards in my church? Jesus served others, not himself (Rom 15:3; Mark 10:45).

Mr. Perry must not think very much of the members in his church. Look at what he calls them: “difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people… cantankerous or antagonistic… people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards”. Wow, I sure want to be a part of that church now that I know what the pastoral staff thinks of me!  The view of the continued total depravity of the saints is clearly evident in this paragraph. The Bible does not call believers “sinners”.  That is what we were in the past. Let us not forget the rest of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God…”  Believers are righteous, Mr. Perry, because we have the righteousness of God the Father.  We have His seed in us that cannot sin! (1 John 3:9)

As I continue to read these last points, the emphasis of the church as an institution (…our church’s beautiful building…preacher’s sermon series…array of ministries and opportunities…) vs. a body of individuals is apparent. The “church” is referred to in terms that place the emphasis on this “entity” that is something other than the body of Christ. It is very subtle, but the implications are there.

How can we love the church?

How then can we “walk in love” and serve one another through love (Gal 5:13)? Here are four practical ways.

Meet regularly with Jesus’ church. Don’t turn your back on Jesus’ church because you don’t like the facilities or prefer a different ministry emphasis. Don’t abandon Jesus’ church for something that is not the church. Jesus has promised his presence with his church until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Jesus meets with his church—do you?

There is a veiled threat in this point regarding abandoning the church. What happens to the one who abandons the church?  What is the “something that is not the church”?  Do you not see the equivocation here that if you are not part of the church then you are not a part of the Body, ergo, you are not saved?  Whether or not it is stated plainly, reformed orthodoxy functions under the belief that salvation is found within the institution.

Pray for Jesus’ church. If you see problems [sic] When you see problems in your church, pray for your church.

Yes, by all means, we ought to pray for each others’ needs as we fellowship together. We ought to pray that our fellowship time is efficacious.  We ought to pray that we would be on our guard for wolves who would do violence to the flock and that we would be discerning regarding false teaching.  But that is not what this author has in mind.  His concern here is with the actual institution itself.  Consider report after report of spiritual abuse and scandals that have rocked the religious word in the last few years.  But yet it is these same institutions that must be preserved for the “cause of Christ”, regardless of the problems that exist.  Look at this next paragraph:

Are you concerned about your church? Remember Jesus loves his church—he died for her—and he cares for your church more than you ever could (Rev 1:12, 20). We pray with confidence when we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), and we know what God’s will is for the church—that she becomes like Jesus! This is what God is at work doing (Phil 1:6; 2:13). Pray the God-breathed prayers of the New Testament for your church (e.g., Eph 3:14–21; Phil 1:9–11; Rom 15:5–6; 1 Thess 5:23–24). Jesus prayed for his church (John 17:20–26) —do you?

Notice the collectivist emphasis in terms. The individuals are expendable.  The “church” must become like Jesus, not individuals.  We must pray for God’s will for your “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus died for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus prayed for the “church”, not the individuals.  But consider that last reference in John 17 carefully.  When Jesus prayed that night in the garden, he wasn’t praying for a church, he was praying for you and me!  He was praying for the PEOPLE, the individuals that comprised His Body.

Follow the spiritual leaders Jesus has placed over his church. If you don’t like or don’t “click with” your church leadership, you might be tempted to turn your back on Jesus’ church. In fact, disagreement with the teaching or ministry direction of our leaders is a very spiritual-sounding reason for abandoning the group of brothers and sisters to whom we have committed ourselves

It’s more than just “spiritual-sounding”, it is commanded by Scripture! Come out from among them and be ye separate. Earnestly contend for the faith.  Mark and avoid those who cause divisions because of contrary doctrine.  But somehow this is abandonment?

 But if Jesus was going to show us something new from his Word or to correct a misunderstanding we had about the Bible, how would he do that? Wouldn’t he use the leaders and teachers he has given to his church for that very purpose (Eph 4:11–14)? It seems the Chief Shepherd would use the shepherds he has set up over his church (1 Pet 5:4–5) to “keep watch over your soul” (Heb 13:17). Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, entrusted the church for which he died to your elders (Heb 13:20–21; Acts 20:28)—do you follow them?

First of all, there is nothing “new” in the Bible. We’ve had it for 2000 years or more.  Are leaders and teachers giving us new revelation?  Do they have some special dispensation or gifting that enables them to speak for God?  Has God divinely appointed them (predetermination) to be in a place of authority, and so we must obey them?  No because pastors and teachers are gifts given for the purpose of equipping and edifying the assembly, not for the purpose of authority or speaking for God. There is no mediator between God and man other than Jesus. We don’t need men to interpret God’s word for us.  God gives discernment to  every believer through the Holy Spirit.  Each believer is responsible to test EVERYTHING (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).  We don’t passively wait for some authority to do the testing for us.  Shepherds guard and protect, they don’t rule. They see to the needs of the flock so that each believer can be effective in his own ministry. They don’t dictate to the flock how to think and act.

Put the spiritual needs of Jesus’ church above your own preferences. Often our opinions about how the building should be decorated or the way in which the meetings or programs should be set up are more important to us than the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters.

Mr. Perry keeps bringing up these references to the building and ministries after he made it a point early on to emphasize that the church is not either of these. Why do these thoughts constantly preoccupy our thinking? Because it’s been ingrained into our mindset. This beast has created all of its own problems.  Matters of preference or décor or carpet color or music choice or programs or how much to tithe all become moot when we simply get back to a Biblical model of fellowship.

If anyone could have lobbied for his own interests instead of giving himself for his church, it was Jesus (Phil 2:3–8). Jesus gave up his rights and reputation for his church—do you?

This is obviously a reference to Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation…”, but this same passage also states that Jesus gave up nothing, but instead constantly affirmed His equality with the Father.

Next Lord’s Day, as you gather in Jesus’ name with that group of believers you call your brothers and sisters in Christ, look around and ask yourself this question: “Do I love this church like Jesus does?”

Thankfully, that is the end of the article, because there is much more I could add, but I’d be writing forever. The bottom line here is that consistently the emphasis in the NT regarding the church is the assembly, or the individual members of the Body. We are to love the people, not this thing they call the “church”. Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy equivocate whenever it speaks of “church”, and that is by design. Their double-speak confuses and obfuscates the real matter- their belief of salvation being tied to the institution, and not the finished work of Christ.  When you love the people you are loving the church because we are all members of it every moment, not just when we gather for fellowship. We are individual members of a Body, and no man ever hated his own body.  We have got to be clear what we are talking about when we use the words we use!

Andy
* The link to the cited article is no longer available

What A Home Fellowship Might Look Like

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 8, 2017

The Body of Christ was intended to be a family.  The term “born again” should clue us in to that.  A believer is the literal offspring of God the Father.  We are born into God’s family.  Being children of the Father makes us all brothers and sisters.   The word “fellowship” is the Greek word “koinenia”, and it means “having in common.”  What we have in common as God’s children is being a part of the same family!

So when we gather together, it is nothing more than a family gathering.

Today I am offering you a look inside my home.  The video below shows you what a typical home fellowship in my home looks like.  Right now it’s just my wife and I and our five children.  But we would love to have you come fellowship with us!  It is unfortunate that the miles between us makes it impractical.  I ask that you pray that God will help us to be able to find other likeminded believers in our area who would come and fellowship with us.  I ask that you pray that we would be able to take the gospel to the people around us who need to hear it, so that they too can be a part of God’s family!

~ Andy

“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…And all that believed were together, and had all things common;”
~ Acts 2:42-44

Love Your Local Institutional Church

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on August 18, 2016

 

Originally published October 29, 2014

2016 promo 4One of the advantages of having Calvinist friends on my Facebook friend list is that little gems like this one appear in my news feed from time to time. The article is entitled “Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?”*  It was written by a young man named Mark Perry, former Associate Pastor of Westerville Bible Church in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, and now a missionary candidate to Chile.  Mr. Perry could be considered to be of the “young, restless, and reformed” variety.

The opening caption of the article asks the question, is it possible to love Jesus and not love His church? Obviously, a question such as this establishes the premise that such a thing is not possible.  We are to assume that these two things are not compatible.  If you don’t love the church then you must not love Jesus.  The purpose of the article seeks to first define the “church” and then make the argument of why and how we are to love it.  I have reproduced the body of the article in this post so that I can offer a review of Mr. Perry’s arguments (in italics) and insert my comments to relevant sections that I want to point out to you.

Do You Love the Church Like Jesus Does?

What is the church?

We use the word “church” in many different ways. How can we pinpoint what that means? In Ephesians we are told that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). We can identify the church by asking for which “church” Jesus died.

The church is not the building in which believers assemble. We often use the word church to refer to the building: “What a lovely church!” or “The church could use a new coat of paint.” But surely this is not the church for which Jesus died. In fact, New Testament congregations met in members’ homes (e.g., Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 1:2). In many parts of the world today, our brothers and sisters in Christ meet in homes, parks, or public locations. It is not necessary to own property or have a physical building dedicated to the regular assembling of Jesus’ body.

So far so good. All very well stated. These are all things that Paul and I have both stated on regular occasions. I would agree with Mr. Perry on this point.  Notice how he establishes that the church is not a building.  In fact, he goes to some length to establish what the church is not, thereby framing his argument to follow. Reading on:

The church is not the meetings or ministry programming. Another way we use the word church is to refer to a worship service or ministry program: “Church was great this morning; I really enjoyed the sermon.” “My church has so many ministry opportunities available.” Many people see the church as the sum of services or ministries offered: children’s ministries, fellowship opportunities, teaching and preaching, or other benefits offered to members or adherents. But did Jesus die to secure singles’ ministries, Vacation Bible School, and youth groups? Did Jesus love a certain style of music or preaching so much that he left heaven to give his life? Every generation of believers since the book of Acts has had to work out how to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples in their culture.

Ok, here he starts to drift a little. First of all, we don’t have to “work out” how to obey Jesus’ commands.  His commands are clear.  We either do them or we don’t.  The way we make disciples or “learners” is by teaching them exactly what Jesus said to do.  The message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is not culture-specific.  It is the same for all men everywhere.  We don’t have to “figure it out.”

The other thing I notice in this statement is the implication that evangelism takes place within the confines of the institutional gathering or its ministries. This is patently false.  Evangelism is an individual mandate.  We don’t bring the unsaved to the church through the means of some “program” or “ministry” in order to get them saved.  We as individuals go out to them and preach the gospel to them. When they hear and believe and become saved, we then invite them to fellowship with the assembly for the purpose of edification.

Moving on…

The church is the regular assembly of believers in Jesus. We often say, “The church is the people”

This is correct. Yay! The reason we often say it is because it’s true.

and we are right—almost.

Wait…Huh?  What do you mean “almost?”

On one hand, the universal church includes all believers in Jesus from the Day of Pentecost until the Rapture. At the moment of Jesus’ return in the air, the universal church will be assembled for the first time: “those who have fallen asleep” and “we who are alive, who are left” (1 Thess 4:14, 17). But until that time, the church exists on earth in localized assemblies of believers who meet regularly for prayer, Scripture reading, teaching of apostolic doctrine, and fellowship (Acts 2:42). The Greek word translated “church” (ἐκκλησία) means assembly or gathering and sometimes in the New Testament it even refers to groups of unbelievers (e.g., Acts 19:32, 39, 41).

Ok, while I don’t see the NT making any distinction between “universal church” and “local church”, nevertheless his other points here are spot on. And he would have been better served stopping right there, but he didn’t. Read on…

The church is the church when it is assembled.

WHAT? Read that again. He said, “The church is the church when it is assembled”? The logical inverse of that statement would necessarily follow that the church is not the church when it is not assembled. But he just said the word “church” is the word “ekklesia” which means “assembly.” The reality of his statement indicates that the church does not exist when it is not assembled. That would mean the church only has relevance when it is assembled.

At the beginning this author made points about what a church is not. It is not a building, it is not a program.  But please notice his emphasis is still on some group entity over the individual.  In Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy, there is no relevance or meaning or existence outside of the group! To them, our relevance as believers only matters within the church. So, when we are not assembled, we don’t matter.

It is those believers who regularly gather in Jesus’ name. Therefore, the church that Jesus loves and for whom he died is the gathering of believers. These local assemblies or gatherings of believers are the only church we can know this side of heaven.

I would dare to ask Mr. Perry that if the church is the Body, and we are individual members of that Body, each with our own function, then do we cease to be a part of that Body when we are not assembled? Are we only part of the Body when we meet on Sundays (or Wednesday, or Saturday, or any other required meeting time/place)? I contend that our relevance as believers extends far beyond that which we do when we gather for fellowship.  And our not being assembled together in fellowship at any given time does not preclude our identity as a member of the Body of Christ.  He continues:

What does it mean to love the church?

We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2). In other words, we are to love the church just as Jesus does. The command to love Jesus’ church is the same as the oft-repeated New Testament command to “love one another” (e.g., Rom 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thess 3:12; 4:9; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Pet 1:22; 4:8; 1 John 3:11; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). So we love Jesus’ church when we love the brothers and sisters in our local assembly.

What about other brothers and sisters in other assemblies around the world who are not part of our cult group assembly, who don’t necessarily share all the same beliefs in matters of practice? Are they not a part of the body because they don’t assemble with us?  Is our church somehow better/superior to their church because we don’t “worship” the same way they do, because we “do church” the “right way”?  Are they any less part of the body of Christ?  Are they part of the assembly because they are born-again believers in Christ or instead because they regularly assemble at our “church”?

And this is where it gets difficult. We may love our church’s beautiful building, we may be enraptured by our favorite preacher’s sermon series, or we may appreciate the array of ministries and opportunities our church offers, but loving these difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people is a different matter entirely! Jesus’ love for us is our example to love his church. What about the sinful people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was a sinner (Rom 5:6–8). What about the cantankerous or antagonistic people in my church? Jesus loved me while I was his enemy (Rom 5:10). What about the people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards in my church? Jesus served others, not himself (Rom 15:3; Mark 10:45).

Mr. Perry must not think very much of the members in his church. Look at what he calls them: “difficult, obnoxious, unkind, and sinful people… cantankerous or antagonistic… people who have weak consciences or unreasonable standards”. Wow, I sure want to be a part of that church now that I know what the pastoral staff thinks of me!  The view of the continued total depravity of the saints is clearly evident in this paragraph. The Bible does not call believers “sinners”.  That is what we were in the past. Let us not forget the rest of 1 Corinthians 6:11, “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God…”  Believers are righteous, Mr. Perry, because we have the righteousness of God the Father.  We have His seed in us that cannot sin! (1 John 3:9)

As I continue to read these last points, the emphasis of the church as an institution (…our church’s beautiful building…preacher’s sermon series…array of ministries and opportunities…) vs. a body of individuals is apparent. The “church” is referred to in terms that place the emphasis on this “entity” that is something other than the body of Christ. It is very subtle, but the implications are there.

How can we love the church?

How then can we “walk in love” and serve one another through love (Gal 5:13)? Here are four practical ways.

Meet regularly with Jesus’ church. Don’t turn your back on Jesus’ church because you don’t like the facilities or prefer a different ministry emphasis. Don’t abandon Jesus’ church for something that is not the church. Jesus has promised his presence with his church until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Jesus meets with his church—do you?

There is a veiled threat in this point regarding abandoning the church. What happens to the one who abandons the church?  What is the “something that is not the church”?  Do you not see the equivocation here that if you are not part of the church then you are not a part of the Body, ergo, you are not saved?  Whether or not it is stated plainly, reformed orthodoxy functions under the belief that salvation is found within the institution.

Pray for Jesus’ church. If you see problems [sic] When you see problems in your church, pray for your church.

Yes, by all means, we ought to pray for each others’ needs as we fellowship together. We ought to pray that our fellowship time is efficacious.  We ought to pray that we would be on our guard for wolves who would do violence to the flock, and that we would be discerning regarding false teaching.  But that is not what this author has in mind.  His concern here is with the actual institution itself.  Consider report after report of spiritual abuse and scandals that have rocked the religious word in the last few years.  But yet it is these same institutions that must be preserved for the “cause of Christ”, regardless of the problems that exist.  Look at this next paragraph:

Are you concerned about your church? Remember Jesus loves his church—he died for her—and he cares for your church more than you ever could (Rev 1:12, 20). We pray with confidence when we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), and we know what God’s will is for the church—that she becomes like Jesus! This is what God is at work doing (Phil 1:6; 2:13). Pray the God-breathed prayers of the New Testament for your church (e.g., Eph 3:14–21; Phil 1:9–11; Rom 15:5–6; 1 Thess 5:23–24). Jesus prayed for his church (John 17:20–26) —do you?

Notice the collectivist emphasis in terms. The individuals are expendable.  The “church” must become like Jesus, not individuals.  We must pray for God’s will for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus died for the “church”, not the individuals.  Jesus prayed for the “church”, not the individuals.  But consider that last reference in John 17 carefully.  When Jesus prayed that night in the garden, he wasn’t praying for a church, he was praying for you and me!  He was praying for the PEOPLE, the individuals that comprised His Body.

Follow the spiritual leaders Jesus has placed over his church. If you don’t like or don’t “click with” your church leadership, you might be tempted to turn your back on Jesus’ church. In fact, disagreement with the teaching or ministry direction of our leaders is a very spiritual-sounding reason for abandoning the group of brothers and sisters to whom we have committed ourselves

It’s more than just “spiritual-sounding”, it is commanded by Scripture! Come out from among them and be ye separate. Earnestly contend for the faith.  Mark and avoid those who cause divisions because of contrary doctrine.  But somehow this is abandonment?

 But if Jesus was going to show us something new from his Word or to correct a misunderstanding we had about the Bible, how would he do that? Wouldn’t he use the leaders and teachers he has given to his church for that very purpose (Eph 4:11–14)? It seems the Chief Shepherd would use the shepherds he has set up over his church (1 Pet 5:4–5) to “keep watch over your soul” (Heb 13:17). Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, entrusted the church for which he died to your elders (Heb 13:20–21; Acts 20:28)—do you follow them?

First of all, there is nothing “new” in the Bible. We’ve had it for 2000 years or more.  Are leaders and teachers giving us new revelation?  Do they have some special dispensation or gifting that enables them to speak for God?  Has God divinely appointed them (predetermination) to be in a place of authority, and so we must obey them?  No because pastors and teachers are gifts given for the purpose of equipping and edifying the assembly, not for the purpose of authority or speaking for God. There is no mediator between God and man other than Jesus. We don’t need men to interpret God’s word for us.  Shepherds guard and protect, they don’t rule. They see to the needs of the flock so that each believer can be effective in his own ministry. They don’t dictate to the flock how to think and act.

Put the spiritual needs of Jesus’ church above your own preferences. Often our opinions about how the building should be decorated or the way in which the meetings or programs should be set up are more important to us than the spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters.

Mr. Perry keeps bringing up these references to the building and ministries after he made it a point early on to emphasize that the church is not either of these. Why do these thoughts constantly permeate our thinking? Because it’s been ingrained into our mindset. This beast has created all of its own problems.  Matters of preference or décor or carpet color or music choice or programs or how much to tithe all become moot when we simply get back to a Biblical model of fellowship.

If anyone could have lobbied for his own interests instead of giving himself for his church, it was Jesus (Phil 2:3–8). Jesus gave up his rights and reputation for his church—do you?

This is obviously a reference to Philippians 2:7, “But made himself of no reputation…”, but this same passage also states that Jesus gave up nothing, but instead constantly affirmed His equality with the Father.

Next Lord’s Day, as you gather in Jesus’ name with that group of believers you call your brothers and sisters in Christ, look around and ask yourself this question: “Do I love this church like Jesus does?”

Thankfully, that is the end of the article, because there is much more I could add, but I’d be writing forever. The bottom line here is that consistently the emphasis in the NT regarding the church is the assembly, or the individual members of the Body. We are to love the people, not this thing they call the “church”. Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy equivocate whenever it speaks of “church”, and that is by design. Their double-speak confuses and obfuscates the real matter- their belief of salvation being tied to the institution, and not the finished work of Christ.  When you love the people you are loving the church because we are all members of it every moment, not just when we gather for fellowship. We are individual members of a Body, and no man ever hated his own body.  We have got to be clear what we are talking about when we use the words we use!

Andy
* The link to the cited article is no longer available

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