Paul's Passing Thoughts

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

The New Man is Possible Because the Law Was Ended

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 25, 2017

Originally published April 25, 2016

The list of Biblical terms that Protestantism has hijacked is lengthy. I am not talking about made-up words that don’t even appear in scripture (and that list itself is lengthy). I mean words that actually appear in scripture, the definitions of which have been twisted to fit the orthodoxy. As we like to say here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts, words do mean things.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Protestantism acknowledges this “new creature”, calling it the “new man”, while at the same time professing that the “old man” never really dies but is still present within man. This is the result of a faulty premise of total depravity (including total depravity of the believer) which in turn results in an incorrect interpretation of the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” ~ Romans 7:15-24

Protestantism claims that flesh is “evil”. But the Bible teaches instead that flesh is weak. It describes sin as an entity who seeks to control and master others. It tries to accomplish this by using the law to provoke the flesh to transgress.

Much as Protestantism has unwittingly altered the meaning of the New Birth, it has done the same with the idea of the “new man”. In classic dualistic philosophical fashion, Protestant Gnostic orthodoxy claims that the born again believer actually has “two natures”, the old man and the new man who constantly battle each other for control over the believer. In Protestant orthodoxy, man is nothing more than a spiritual schizophrenic. However, the new birth is a literal death and rebirth. The old man dies (“old things are passed away”, literally, “the old has come and gone”). He is crucified with Christ. This is why the law can no longer condemn him- the law cannot condemn a dead man. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of God!

This same teaching is made clear in Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus.

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:11-22

I want to point out once again how Paul makes reference to the law being ended.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances…so making peace; … having slain the enmity thereby”

The word translated “enmity” is a word that has to do with hostility. What was the cause of hostility between God and man? Verse 15 tells us plainly; the law! Man was condemned by the law which was ended when Christ was crucified and raised again. The new birth reconciles God and man, putting an end to the hostility.

Not only is the hostility between God and man ended, but Paul makes mention of hostility between two other groups- the hostility between Jews (the “Circumcision”) and the Gentiles (the “Uncircumcision”). Paul also uses two other expressions to describe these two groups- those who were “far off” (Gentiles) and those who were “nigh” or “near” (the Jews).   This hostility existed again primarily because of the law and the relationship to the law. For the nation of Israel, the law was a guardian, imprisoning sin until the Promise came which would end the law. (Galatians 3:21-29)

But a wonderful thing is revealed in this Ephesians passage. When Christ died, He ended the law, He ended the hostility between God and man, and He ended the hostility between Jew and Gentile. Why? Because the New Birth brings about the death of the old man, and in his place is a new creature that is NEITHER Jew NOR Gentile. Furthermore, each born again believer is made a part of one spiritual body.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…for to make in himself of twain one new man… that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Notice that Paul refers to this one spiritual body as the “New Man”! According to the Bible, the New Man is not the individual believer, but it is the one spiritual body made up of both Jews and Gentiles, of which Christ is the Head, and of which all believers are members together. To further emphasize this idea of “oneness”, Paul uses a metaphor of a building. Christ is the cornerstone, the very first stone set by which all other stones of the building are laid. The teachings of the apostles are the foundation, and each believer is a lively stone set in this building as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (Romans 12:1, 1 Peter 2:5). This one New Man is a holy temple wherein God’s Spirit now dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

This teaching of the New Man being the Body of Christ is consistent throughout the New Testament. It is the reason believers are given spiritual gifts, for the purpose of maturing the saints to do the work of the ministry, to edify (or build up) the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is the reason why believers are to assemble together for fellowship, for the purpose of mutual edification so that we can perform works pleasing to God and show love to others (Hebrews 10:24). All of this is possible because Christ ended the law on the cross.

Andy

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

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

The New Man is Possible Because the Law Was Ended

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 25, 2016

The list of Biblical terms that Protestantism has hijacked is lengthy. I am not talking about made-up words that don’t even appear in scripture (and that list itself is lengthy). I mean words that actually appear in scripture, the definitions of which have been twisted to fit the orthodoxy. As we like to say here at Paul’s Passing Thoughts, words do mean things.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Protestantism acknowledges this “new creature”, calling it the “new man”, while at the same time professing that the “old man” never really dies but is still present within man. This is the result of a faulty premise of total depravity (including total depravity of the believer) which in turn results in an incorrect interpretation of the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” ~ Romans 7:15-24

Protestantism claims that flesh is “evil”. But the Bible teaches instead that flesh is weak. It describes sin as an entity who seeks to control and master others. It tries to accomplish this by using the law to provoke the flesh to transgress.

Much as Protestantism has unwittingly altered the meaning of the New Birth, it has done the same with the idea of the “new man”. In classic dualistic philosophical fashion, Protestant Gnostic orthodoxy claims that the born again believer actually has “two natures”, the old man and the new man who constantly battle each other for control over the believer. In Protestant orthodoxy, man is nothing more than a spiritual schizophrenic. However, the new birth is a literal death and rebirth. The old man dies (“old things are passed away”, literally, “the old has come and gone”). He is crucified with Christ. This is why the law can no longer condemn him- the law cannot condemn a dead man. In his place is a new creature who is the literal offspring of God!

This same teaching is made clear in Paul’s letter to the believers at Ephesus.

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:11-22

I want to point out once again how Paul makes reference to the law being ended.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances…so making peace; … having slain the enmity thereby”

The word translated “enmity” is a word that has to do with hostility. What was the cause of hostility between God and man? Verse 15 tells us plainly; the law! Man was condemned by the law which was ended when Christ was crucified and raised again. The new birth reconciles God and man, putting an end to the hostility.

Not only is the hostility between God and man ended, but Paul makes mention of hostility between two other groups- the hostility between Jews (the “Circumcision”) and the Gentiles (the “Uncircumcision”). Paul also uses two other expressions to describe these two groups- those who were “far off” (Gentiles) and those who were “nigh” or “near” (the Jews).   This hostility existed again primarily because of the law and the relationship to the law. For the nation of Israel, the law was a guardian, imprisoning sin until the Promise came which would end the law. (Galatians 3:21-29)

But a wonderful thing is revealed in this Ephesians passage. When Christ died, He ended the law, He ended the hostility between God and man, and He ended the hostility between Jew and Gentile. Why? Because the New Birth brings about the death of the old man, and in his place is a new creature that is NEITHER Jew NOR Gentile. Furthermore, each born again believer is made a part of one spiritual body.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…for to make in himself of twain one new man… that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Notice that Paul refers to this one spiritual body as the “New Man”! According to the Bible, the New Man is not the individual believer, but it is the one spiritual body made up of both Jews and Gentiles, of which Christ is the Head, and of which all believers are members together. To further emphasize this idea of “oneness”, Paul uses a metaphor of a building. Christ is the cornerstone, the very first stone set by which all other stones of the building are laid. The teachings of the apostles are the foundation, and each believer is a lively stone set in this building as a spiritual house and a royal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God (1 Peter 2:5). This one New Man is a holy temple wherein God’s Spirit now dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16).

This teaching of the New Man being the Body of Christ is consistent throughout the New Testament. It is the reason believers are given spiritual gifts, for the purpose of maturing the saints to do the work of the ministry, to edify (or build up) the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). It is the reason why believers are to assemble together for fellowship, for the purpose of mutual edification so that we can perform works pleasing to God and show love to others (Hebrews 10:24). All of this is possible because Christ ended the law on the cross.

Andy

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~ Galatians 3:26-28

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