Misconceptions About “The Church” – Part 3

house-of-god
God is Spirit. John 4:24, and the Spirit of God dwells in our spirits as we obey the WORDS of the Spirit.  Jesus said,  “The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are Life”. John 6:63.  If we OBEY those words, THEN we will have the Spirit of God, and the Life of God, dwelling in us. “Anyone who goes too far, and does NOT ABIDE in the teachings of Christ, does NOT have God. He who abides in the teaching, has both the Father and the Son.”  2 John, verse 9

 

 

 

 

A Spiritual Dwelling of God

 

We as Christians, are a “dwelling of God, in OUR spirit”.  The caption underneath the above picture explains precisely HOW the Spirit of God, dwells in our spirits.   God’s Spirit dwells in us ONLY as we abide in the teachings of Jesus, and obey His commands.   “God is Spirit and those who worship Him, must worship in spirit and in truth.”   John 4:24.   Our worship must come from WITHIN us.  It must reflect how we truly FEEL in our spirit, which is figuratively referred to as our “heart”.  And it must be according to the instructions given to us in God’s word, which IS Spirit and Life and Truth!   When we ABIDE in those words, then, and only then, will we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us.   Then we will have BOTH, the Father and the Son, and we will be “a dwelling of God, in the spirit”.  Eph 2:22

 

You can’t have the Father without having the Son.  Nor can you have the Son, without having the Father, because they are one and the same.  When you DO NOT abide in Christ’s teachings, you do not have GOD!  In other words you don’t have the Father OR the Son.  But, when you ABIDE in His teachings, you have them BOTH.  Why?  Why do you have them both?  Jesus clearly stated why.. “I and the Father are ONE”.   John 10:30.   “In the beginning was the Word (that’s the Son), and the Word was with God, and the Word was GOD!”   John 1:1.   And the Word will always be God, because it is eternal.  “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words, NO NOT shall pass away.”   Mathew 24:35.   Jesus uses a “double negative” in that statement.  That’s exactly how it’s written.  Why does He say that?   “No Not!”  Is Jesus “emphasizing” the fact that His words are eternal?  I think He is.  And since they’re eternal, they will never change, will they?   We learn from  Hebrews 13:8,  “Jesus Christ, is the SAME, yesterday and today, and to the ages!”  In other words, forever and ever.. Amen!

 

 The Father and the Son, are both “manifestations” of the ONE God.  Jesus the Son, is the manifestation of God’s LOVE, listen to this verse..  “By this, the LOVE of God was manifested among us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.”   1 John 4:9.   And here’s the manifestation of that love actually being IN US.  The “fruits of the Spirit”, as outlined in  Galatians 5:22-23, ARE the “evidence”.. they ARE the “manifestation”, of God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, dwelling in our spirit.  Those “fruits” are,  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.   When we “exhibit” those “fruits of the Spirit”, THEN we will be “a dwelling of God, in the spirit.”   Ephesians 2:22

 

 

Jesus is the Only Lawgiver of this “Spiritual Dwelling”

 

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We’re told in  Ephesians 1:22-23,   “And he put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the congregation, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”   God has given Christ to be the head over all things to the saved.  God has put ALL things in subjection to Christ!   Now that’s the very same thing that Jesus said, in  Mathew 28:18,   when He said,  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”  And it’s also the same thing as we just read in  Colossians 1:18,   “So that He Himself might have first place in everything!”

 

No one, has any authority for anything, except that authority which Jesus has delegated to them.  For instance, the twelve apostles had the authority to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature..”  Mark 16:15.   But they certainly didn’t have the authority to CHANGE the gospel, did they?   They didn’t have the authority to ADD anything to the gospel, and they didn’t have the authority to take anything AWAY from the gospel.  Do you believe that any man today, or any man throughout history, has ever had MORE authority, than the apostles were given?  Listen to the words of the scriptures from  1 Peter 4:11,    “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.”   The “oracles of God”, is simply another way of saying the “Words of God”.  The word “oracle” means..  “utterances”.  And so if anyone, speaks anything at all, pertaining to religion, or faith, or salvation, or anything pertaining to God, he is commanded to speak ONLY, as God has uttered!   “Let him speak as the oracles of God”.   Pretty plain, isn’t it?

 

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Each and every member of the body of Christ, has that same authority to preach the gospel!   Ephesians 3:10    says,  “In order that the manifold wisdom of God, might now be made known through the church..”  The wisdom of God, the oracles of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, they’re all the same thing.  And that’s what we have the authority to preach, the very same things that God has uttered through His Holy Spirit.  No more, and no less.   Will His word ever change?  No it won’t!  Not yesterday, not today, not forever and ever.

 

Once while Jesus was praying to His Father, He said,  “Thy word is truth”   John 17:17.   So then, what would any words be, that are CONTRARY to the word of God?  Would they be the truth, or would they be a lie?  Jesus said in  John 6:63,  “The WORDS that I have spoken to you, are Spirit and are life.”   So again, what would any words be, that are CONTRARY to the words of Jesus?  Would they be spiritual, and would they impart life?   Or would they be fleshly, and would they bring death?

 

We’re told in  Romans 8:13,  “If you are living according to the flesh, you must die! (And that would include living by any WORDS that originate from man, who IS flesh)  But, if BY the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live!”   We’re also told in  Galatians 5:8,  “For the one who sows to the flesh, shall FROM the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the spirit, shall FROM the Spirit, reap eternal life.”   Are “fleshly” words of men able to impart life, or would they, in reality, impart death?   Why would anyone want to speak anything OTHER than the words of the bible?  Maybe a better question is;  Why would anyone LISTEN to any words other than those of the bible?  It seems there’s ALWAYS someone who will preach something different, but are you going to listen to it?

 

i-am-amazedThe apostle Paul wrote in  Galatians 1: 6-8,  “I am AMAZED, that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel!  Which is NOT another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you, and want to DISTORT the gospel of Christ.  But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel CONTRARY to that which we have preached to you, LET HIM BE ACCURSED!” 

 

Wow!  Why has God inspired the apostle Paul, to be SO emphatic about distorting the gospel?  Why is it such a “big deal” to preach something contrary to the original gospel of Christ?  Could it be that “the gospel is the power of SALVATION, to all who believe”?   Rom 1:16.   Even if someone claiming to be an “angel of heaven” should change the gospel,  “Let him be accursed!”   Has man ever “changed” the gospel?  Has man, ever added anything that he thinks would be “good”?  Or has man, ever taken anything away from the gospel, maybe in an attempt to make it a little more “acceptable” to more people?  You know, to make it “less strict”, and “more attractive”?   You might call it a “watered down gospel”, or “a social gospel”.  Well, people have ALWAYS been doing exactly that.  They were doing it in Paul’s day, and they’re doing it today.   And God says..   “Let him be accursed”!  

 

We’re told in  1 Corinthians 14:33,  “For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints.”   We’re told in  V-40,  “But let all things be done decently and in order.”   And this “order” in which all things are to be done, applies to every congregation of God.  In giving instructions from God, as to our conduct, and as to what we practice, the apostle Paul used this phrase four different times..  “..as in ALL the congregations.”   None of the congregations were to practice anything different.  Paul used that phrase in  1 Cor 7:17,  and in  1 Cor 14:33,  and in  2 Cor 8:18,  and again in  2 Cor 11:28.   And he spoke of the congregations of Galatia, saying in  1 Cor 16:1,  “As I directed the congregations of Galatia, so do you also!”  So it’s easy to see, that God’s instructions apply to ALL congregations in ALL places, so that the entire body of Christ can,  “ALL speak the same thing, and that there be NO divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”   1 Cor 1:10    

 

But we don’t accomplish this “sameness” and this “unity” by changing things.  We accomplish it by being content with what God has ordered, and by being diligent in practicing what He has ordered.  And to let us know further, that we, as individual Christians, are NOT ALLOWED to “go along” with any changes that someone else wants to make, we’re given this warning in  2 John v’s 8-11,  “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.  Anyone, who goes too far, and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God!  The one who abides in the teaching, has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, DO NOT receive him into your house, and DO NOT give him a greeting.  For the one who gives him a greeting, participates in his evil deeds!”  The phrase, “give him a greeting” means to condone and accept, the teaching being brought.

 

headquartersThe denominations of the world want to “govern” themselves and create this unity through the establishment of “clergy” and religious “headquarters”, where decisions are made concerning the conduct of the congregations.  But we already HAVE a “headquarters”, and that headquarters is in heaven.  And the only “clergy” that we need is the one we already have, and that is Jesus Christ “the High Priest”.   God says,  “Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek”.   Heb 5:6.   And our High Priest governs through His word.

 

As I already mentioned, the apostles had the authority given to them by Jesus Himself, to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”   Mark 16;15.   Remember that ALL authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Jesus, by God the Father.  Mathew 28:18.   And Jesus “delegated” the authority to preach the gospel, to the apostles.   And we saw from  Eph 3:10,  that He delegated that same authority to us. 

 

But Jesus also delegated the to the apostles, the authority to “bear witness” of Him.  Jesus told His apostles in  John 15:26-27,  “When the “Helper” comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.  And YOU will bear witness of Me also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”   Denominational people like to use the phrase “witnessing for Christ”.  Do we have the authority to bear witness of Christ?  The apostles did, but do we?  They were ABLE to bear witness, and they were given the authority to “bear witness”, or “to testify”, but only for ONE reason.   Jesus said that reason is.. “because you have been with Me from the beginning”.  What can WE do for Christ?  We can be witnesses of the “written” word.  And we can “testify” to exactly what it says.  No more, and no less. 

 

Jesus went on to say to His apostles, in  John 16:13,  “But when the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into ALL truth, for He will not speak of His OWN initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak, and He will disclose to you what is to come.” 

 

There’s a lot of misunderstanding, about how MUCH authority the apostles had.  Do you think that the apostles had MORE authority than the Holy Spirit had?  Think about it.  Did they have MORE authority than the Spirit of Truth ?   Jesus said that the Spirit of Truth will NOT speak of His own initiative, but whatever He HEARS, He would speak.

 

Now keep in mind that the Spirit of Truth is the very Spirit of God.  Jesus said, “That is, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds FROM the Father”.   The Spirit of Truth, is another “manifestation” of the ONE God.  The Spirit is “manifested” in the revelation of God’s will, which is His word.   And the Spirit of Truth is the very same Spirit that Jesus had, because Jesus is “the Word”.    John 1:1  tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GOD!” 

 

father-son-spiritNow I know this is a bit hard to understand, but the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit of Truth, are all ONE!  But somehow, there are three “roles” that are being accomplished.  God is “manifested” in three ways..  Through the Father, and through the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.  And I am purposefully REFRAINING from using the word “different”, such as by saying “different roles”, or “different ways” of God being manifested.  And those of you who have heard me preach, know WHY, I’m not using the word “different”.   The bible NEVER uses the words, “different, or distinct, or separate” to describe the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Those are men’s words.  The bible uses words and phrases like, “One”, and “the same”, and “in Me”, and “in Thee”, and “proceeds from”.  And so if the bible won’t use words like “different”, and such like, then neither will I.

 

“Authority” has been delegated from the Father, to the Son, to the Spirit, and to the apostles, and finally, to us.  Remember the authority that we have?  Our authority is to “speak as the oracles of God!”  And it’s also to DO as the oracles of God!  But the scriptures say that even the very Spirit of God, would not speak of His OWN initiative, but He would speak ONLYwhat He “hears” from the Christ, “the Word of God”.

 

Did the Spirit have the authority to “change” what He heard from the Word of God?  No He didn’t!  Did the apostles have the authority to “change” what they heard directly from Jesus, or by inspiration, from the Spirit of God?  No they didn’t!  Has any man, who has ever lived, had the authority to “change” anything that they have heard from the Word of God?  No they have NOT!   Not any member of the body of Christ, has the authority to change even one word of what God has spoken.  And not any member of any denomination has the authority to change anything that God has spoken, not even the so called “Pope”!

 

instruction-manualWho governs us?  God does, through Jesus the Christ, the very Word of God.  The bible IS the word of God.  Jesus said, “The WORDS that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are Life”.   Anything LESS than those words are death.  Anything MORE than those words are death.  Anything CONTRARY to those words are death.   But the Gospel, the Word of God, is “The power of salvation to all who believe”!   Romans 1:16

 

This gospel of Christ tells us some specific things that “govern” our salvation.  First, the gospel tells us that we must have faith in Jesus as the Christ.   Romans 10:17  tells us that “..Faith comes by hearing the word of God”.   There’s NO other way to come to faith, except by hearing the words of the bible.

 

Then the gospel also tells us that we must confess publically, the faith that we have in Christ.  Jesus Himself said in  Mathew 10:32-33,  “If you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father who is in heaven.  But, if you deny Me before men, I will deny YOU before My Father who is in heaven.”  We do NOT want to be denied before God, do we?

 

Jesus also said that we must repent of our sins.  He specifically said in  Luke 13:3,  “Repent or perish!”  We must “turn” from sin, and “turn” to God.  That’s what repentance is!  And it’s one of the very first things that Jesus preached.   When He came announcing the coming of the kingdom of heaven, He said,  “Repent and believe the gospel.”   Mark 1:15

 

And Jesus also said in  Mark 16:16,  “He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved”.  So baptism is also a part of Christ’s gospel.   And it’s a very important part too!  Baptism is how we wash our sins away, and there’s nothing any more important than that!   The apostle Paul was told in  Acts 22:16,  “And now, why do you delay, arise and be baptized and wash away your sins. calling on His name.”   Who else’s name are you gonna call on?   “There is salvation in no one else!  There is no other name, under heaven, that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”   Acts 4:12.   Only the name of Jesus. 

 

And the apostle Peter, inspired by the Spirit of Truth, said in  Acts 2:38,  “REPENT and let each one of you be BAPTIZED, in the NAME of Jesus Christ, FOR the forgiveness of your sins..”   We have the AUTHORITY from Jesus Christ Himself, to wash away our sins through baptism. 

 

And then that same apostle Peter, wrote in  1 Peter 3:21,  “Baptism now saves us!”  Not baptism ALONE, but baptism along WITH our faith, and along WITH our confession, and along WITH our repentance.  These things are the “works” that God has authorized us to DO.  But they’re really not “work” at all are they?  They’re so simple, it’s not “work” on our part, its simply obeying what Jesus has said.  He’s “the boss”.  He has ALL authority.  It’s His words that “govern” us.

 

Don’t try to “distort” the simple beauty of the gospel.  Just believe it, and obey it, and continue in it.  That’s all Jesus is asking.   “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life”.   Rev 2:10

 

May God bless you in the study of His word.  In the next part of this study,  MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT “THE CHURCH” – PART 4,  we’ll examine the idea of “creed books”, “manuals of discipline”, and “catechisms”.  And we’ll also take a look at the plea by Jesus, for our unity.  Don’t miss it!

 

 

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This article has 4 Comments

  1. I found your article on the church challenging. It seems to me that you have a strong scriptural base, but I am not sure what you are saying about the church… or the “Church.” We as individual believers are the church. Denominations are simply gatherings of people who interpret parts of faith and practice similarly. Each denomination is flawed yet each, in some way reflects Christ. I was raised to believe that Christian are convicted by the Holy Spirit individually and than conviction is confirmed by the Holy Spirit corporately. The disciples were a group for support and their common experience yet different experiences of Jesus. Virtually, every doctrine, every practice or worship, every act of Christian faith is the product of human interpretation of scripture with an attempt to discern the guidance of the Spirit. As I said, each has something to offer and each is flawed. Your article is very thought provoking. I think this kind of thing is needed today. People may agree or disagree, but you are challenging them to examine their faith and practice and make Jesus central in their lives.
    I would be interested to know what you think of the “church fathers” who since the 2nd century have totally defined everything upon which every denomination is founded. Thank you for this challenging article.

    1. I appreciate your comments and the fact that you have taken the time to state your feelings. We all need to respect one another’s feelings, and I feel you have respected mine, so thank you.

      I have called this series of articles, “Misconceptions about the church” because so much of man’s thinking is based on a misunderstanding of the unity that God wants and that Christ prayed for. (See John 17). If we claim to believe the bible at all, then we must agree that divisions are wrong and contrary to God’s will. 1 Cor 1:10 says explicitly, “Now I exhort you brethren, by the name of Jesus Christ (this is by the very authority of Jesus Himself!) that you all AGREE, and there be NO DIVISIONS among you, but you be made complete in the SAME mind and in the SAME judgment.” Please consider those words.. It does not get any plainer than that. Jesus Christ want us to united, NOT divided into denominations!

      Please consider this.. “Now I mean this, that each of you is saying; I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I am of Cephas, and I am of Christ. Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” V’s 12-13. What’s the difference between saying; I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I am of Cephas; and saying, I am of Luther, and I am of Wesley, or I am of a Baptist faith, and I am of a Methodist faith? Do you see the clear point? ALL divisions are WRONG!

      I truly do desire us all to come to “the same mind and the same judgment” When you say that denominations are simply gatherings of people who interpret PARTS of faith and practice similarly; you are exactly right. But that is exactly the problem! God doesn’t authorize us to only believe PARTS of His word alike. And He doesn’t allow us to only practice PART of His commands the same. He commands that we all agree in everything!

      The doctrines of the bible are NOT the product of human interpretation. The doctrines of the bible are the very words of God. The problem is that man has always changed the doctrines of the bible because God’s way didn’t suit him. “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God!” 2 Peter 1:20-21. Men have always thought they had a better way. But Jesus said, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrine, the commandments of men.” Mathew 15:9. Until we do exactly as God has specified, our beliefs, and our practices, and our worship is all vain and worthless!

      The truth about the “church fathers” is that while they did indeed make many defenses of the Christian faith in general, they have always been changing the practices that God has set forth in His bible. Just one for instance.. As early as the year 150 AD, Justin Martyr wrote that the practice of the congregations was to mix water and wine, to use during the Lord’s Supper. That is a corruption of what Jesus had commanded to be used as a symbol of His blood. Jesus took the cup containing the “fruit of the vine” and said, “Drink from it, all of you, this cup is the new covenant in My blood.” Mathew 26:27-28. The fruit of the vine is likened to His blood, not fruit of the vine mixed with water! “Truly I say to you, I shall never drink of the fruit of the vine, until I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” The simple truth is that ‘fruit of the vine” is SPECIFIED by Jesus Himself! Anything other than that is a CHANGE and a CORRUPTION of God’s word.

      I say all these things for the sole purpose of allowing us all to see clearly what God’s word says. We need to plead with everyone, please adhere to the word of God! Pay no attention at all to man’s word, because “It is not within man who walketh, to direct his own steps.” Jeremiah 10:23

      Thank you so much for your comments and for your desire to know God’s word and His will. May God bless you and your family.

  2. The apostles where given the authority to go out and preach the gospel. This piece of scripture speaks to me.

    Imagine the honor that this bestowed upon them. Being given the gospel of the LORD and being given the permission to preach it. As you mentioned, I do not think that any person in History has been and ever will be granted such an honor.

    1. Thanks Michael for your comments. What an honor, I agree. To be the very first ones to ever have been given the gospel! I don’t think many people realize what a great thing the gospel of Jesus Christ actually is. But do you know what? WE have been given the same honor of having the gospel in our possession! We have the word of God, and we’ve been given not only that honor, but we’ve been given the responsibility, to spread that word! Do we realize what we have in our hands? Something so powerful that it can convert the soul! What a responsibility. What an honor! “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all those who believe.” Romans 1;16. Praise God for our blessings. Thanks again and may our God bless you and your family as you study His word.

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