Chaos in the Churches
In this chapter my intent is to show why the Holy Scriptures indicate that there will develop among the laity of the world (in a few years ahead of us) a great antipathy and disdain towards Ministers, Priests, Evangelists, Rabbis and Imams who represent religious organizations, whether large or small. Many times in the past I have given scriptural proof to show that this contempt will become acute in the generation just before the return of Christ. The section of the Bible that reveals this is found in Zechariah 13:1–7 and the surrounding context. This is a major chapter that shows the near future to us.
The principal reason this antipathy will develop among the laity is because they will finally realize that religious authorities have led them astray from the essential teachings of the Holy Scriptures. They have been led into idolatrous customs and traditions that come directly from paganism. These heathen customs and religious beliefs have been palmed off on the Christian world as biblical teachings.
The laity will soon understand (according to prophecies in the Holy Scriptures) that the majority of Christian practices as they relate to holy days or seasons, as well as theologies involving the anthropological nature of mankind, are in no way scriptural in origin. Ordinary Christians (that is, non-ministerial) have been led astray by the false teachings of ecclesiastical authorities. The ministers assured them that what the church administrations teach were the prime doctrines of Christ Jesus. But the laity will soon become educated — in fact, in great detail — to recognize that what has been taught over the years and centuries was incorrect and that many doctrines represented heathen teachings, and not those of the Bible.
Some of these false teachings have been encouraged by religious authorities as a means to control the laity. Even the creation of what we today call “churches” (as organizations administered by men) will soon be understood by the educated laity as attempts by past political leaders to control the masses. It worked very effectively over the centuries. They contrived various roles that Ministers and Priests were to perform to keep people subject to their rule. These teachings were inaugurated by strong leaders among the people that the laity grew to respect. Those powerful ecclesiastical hierarchies of the past were successful in planting and nourishing false teachings in the denominations large and small.
The “Chaos in the Churches” prophesied to occur is already beginning. Whether in the major denominations of Christendom or the smaller ones, where are the powerful and natural leaders today who can lead people to a renewed appreciation for the pristine teachings of the Holy Scriptures and abandon the paganism and false teachings that permeate the various denominations? There are some excellent signs of renewal in certain quarters, but in the majority of denominations there is little determination among the ecclesiastical leaders to promote (at any expense) the essential truths of the Holy Scriptures.
In this End-Time generation, where are the Martin Luthers and the John Calvins, two outstanding leaders in the Protestant Reformation? Indeed, I have known people in the past whom I thought would be strong leaders among men and stand solidly for the faith once delivered to the saints. But many of them who obtained a small amount of the knowledge that allows Christians to have freedom from the burdensome duties of the Law of Moses turned from the truth and fled into the arms of paganism. They adopted the very doctrines and ceremonies of the Babylonian system they once abhorred. Others do the opposite and hold tenaciously to antiquated doctrines that God intended for school children in the faith. Yet all say they are the “Church of God” (Ekklesia of God).
As for me, I gave up trying to rule Christians in church groups devised by men. I also got tired of arguments among ministers about who is going to rule the flock and where we will have the headquarters from whence the people can be ruled. Almost 25 years ago, I decided the best way to serve God and His people was to devote myself to theological and historical research, and try to restore as best I could (with the help of devoted friends, brothers, and sisters) the real Gospel of Jesus Christ to this world. I believe we have been successful in establishing an academic arm of the Ekklesia of God to aid all people of God who of their own free wills decide to read my material and support my efforts to restore the real Gospel to the world. Many of the new discoveries made within that period of almost 25 years are some of the very things that will help the laity in the future know for themselves what the truths of the Holy Scriptures are.
Modern preachers, ministers, and priests need to be teaching these historical facts to the laity, but they do not mention a word of it to anyone. They want to maintain the status quo that modern society blithely accepts without qualms. After all, the word “church” sounds good to the ear and now has an ecclesiastical meaning to it (inherited from the Roman Catholic Church). It gives those in charge of churches an authority over the flock, which they do not otherwise possess if one goes solely by the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.
When modern translators of the New Testament meet with the Greek word Ekklesia, they simply translate it with the English word “church.” There is nothing in the New Testament to justify such usage. The word Ekklesia means “congregation” or “assemblage” of people, whether secular or religious. In one place Ekklesia is rendered “assembly” to indicate an unruly crowd of people (Acts 19:32). Look at the several meanings of the word “church” today and how historical and theological circumstances have entered the field to change the whole meaning of the word. I constructed a random sentence of my own origination in which the modern word “church” is used in its various modern meanings.
I went to church (that is, either to a church service or a church building) and heard the minister teach that the church (that is, the congregation) must pay tithes to the church (the hierarchy of the church) in order, among other things, that the roof of the church can be mended. So, the church paid the church the tithe so that the church could get the roof of the church fixed.
Confusing? Yes! But in the New Testament, the word Ekklesia only means an “assembly” or “congregation, a group, a crowd, etc.” It NEVER refers to a building or to a Christian denomination like we have it today. The truth is, our usage of the word “church” misleads us into a Roman Catholic interpretation that encourages the use of human hierarchy. Hierarchical government for the most part represents a system that the Holy Scriptures call “Antichristian.” It is a way of ruling any congregation of Christians. The word “Antichrist” means to stand in place of Christ. It signifies that human beings (or a single person) should assume the rank of Christ and rule in the place of Christ, or on Christ’s behalf. This teaching is NOT sanctioned in the New Testament. Laity throughout the world will soon realize this fact and begin to hold Ministers, Priests, etc., in contempt for taking away the freedom that God the Father and Christ Jesus give to members of their divine Family called the Ekklesia of God (the Congregation or Group).
We need to be aware that Christ did not build a “church.” He actually built an Ekklesia (Matthew 16:18). Christ said He would build His Ekklesia and that the gates of hell [hades] would not prevail against it. Once that Ekklesia was established, Christ said it would never see destruction. That one Ekklesia is easily found if people will look in the right direction. Anyone serious in their desire to locate the Ekklesia established by Jesus Christ can find it without difficulty. But people must look in the proper place. I have received a number of letters asking me for biblical evidence (or any kind of evidence) to show where the true Ekklesia of God is located. In order to find the right Ekklesia, we must observe at the negative side first: what the Ekklesia is not.
Sometimes it is better to clear the air by eliminating some obvious misconceptions about the matter of the Ekklesia. First, when Christ said He would build His group, He was not referring to a material structure such as a cathedral, a basilica, or a temple of wood and stone. If He did mean an ordinary (or even an ornate) building, where did He construct it? Was it built in Jerusalem by Himself and by the early Christians? Did He build it in Antioch (that is where people were first called “Christians” — Acts 11:26)? Did He build it somewhere else? If so, where is it today? Christ said His “church” would never see hades (a place of destruction). If He built a material structure and it is nowhere to be found today, this means Christ’s promise failed, if that is what He meant. However, we need not pursue this nonsensical point because Christ was not talking about some material church building. He had something else in mind.
Secondly, there is another erroneous notion (very common today) that Christ was going to build an organization of men on this earth — an organization ruled by appointed men while He remained in heaven. This is also wrong. The Ekklesia Christ was going to build was not to be an organization of men. This fact becomes self-evident when one looks at all the factors relative to the existence of the Ekklesia. One point in particular prevents Christ’s Ekklesia from being an organization of men (no matter how holy and righteous the men may appear to be). With His Ekklesia, Christ insisted that “the gates of hell [hades] shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Those Gates of Hades would never embrace it.
But look at a well known fact. All persons who ever lived in Christ over the centuries (whether they were early apostles, or later ministers and laymen) have had hades prevail over them! All have gone to their graves! True, hades will not triumph over them in the end, but hades is certainly in exultation over them now. They must all await the resurrection to occur at Christ’s second advent for their victory over hades to be complete. Hades does presently prevail over them and will continue to triumph until the resurrection. This is a plain and simple fact of history.
The problem with many Ministers and Priests today is that they continue to teach nonsense that the “church” is located somewhere on earth, is governed by men and that the “church organization” will never see death. That is not what Christ meant. The general public will soon be aware of this fact and the Ministers and Priests will be held in disdain for their support of such incorrect teachings. That erroneous doctrine is their belief that man’s “authority” in the “church” would continue among Christians from generation to generation. They acknowledge that humans would die and have hades prevail over them, but they carry the matter further and state that Christ’s authority in their organization (by the appointment of more men) would never see the grave. These people believe that somewhere on earth there would always be a man or some men (and/or women) who would represent the “prevailing authority.”
This concept may look good on the surface but it is wrong! This situation would be similar to the government of Aaronic priests who ruled ancient Israel under the Old Covenant. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was given authority to be a human mediator (along with his sons) between Israel and God. When Aaron died, he went to hades. As a result he had to hand his authority down to the next generation of priests. This changeable authority carried on for generations. But the writer of Hebrews reckoned this type of religious government as being very inferior to what Christ established.
“They truly were many priests, because they were not suffered [allowed] to continue by reason of death.”
Aaron and his human descendants had roles of “changeable authority” predominating in their ministries. This resulted in a profound deficiency being associated with it. This is because Aaron and his sons had hades prevail over them. And not only that, but leaders of every Christian denomination on earth have handed their “authority” on to an earthly son (or to a board of men). They all die too. This fact is seen all the time and in no way differs from what happened with the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Covenant. All have a changeable authority. But the Book of Hebrews made a point of the fact that there is something far superior in the Christian Ekklesia. “But this man [Jesus Christ], because he continues ever, has an unchangeable priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). The margin says, “He has a priesthood which passes not from one to another.”
Christ’s Ekklesia is far different because He does not have to hand His authority down from one man to another. His authority is “unchangeable,” permanent and invested in One individual who “continues ever” (Hebrews 7:24). This is why the gates of hades will never prevail against Christ’s Ekklesia. It is not because hades does not have power over all human members of the Ekklesia, because it does! But hades has no power over Christ any more! This is why Christ’s Ekklesia is very different from the Old Covenant “church” which depended upon Aaron and his sons handing down their authority to other humans from generation to generation. Christ is different! He is like Melchizedek.
“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but [as Christ was] made like unto the Son of God; abides a priest continually.”
The truth is, NO “immortal authority” of men exists in the Christian Ekklesia. It is not handed down from one man to another (from father to son). But Christ abides forever and “he has a priesthood which passes not from one to another” (Hebrews 7:23, margin). The simple fact is, “the gates of hades” will not prevail against Christ’s Ekklesia because it cannot prevail against Christ.
This means that Christ’s Ekklesia is not a church building made of stone and wood. It is also not an organization of men with some type of “authority” handed down from father to son (or from leaders to leaders). The Ekklesia of Christ has only one authority and that jurisdiction rests solely in Christ! The Ekklesia is even reckoned as His Body and He is the Head. He gives us the privilege to represent some of its constituents through His grace. “We are members of his body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). The Ekklesia, however, is His Body; it is not ours! And it is Christ who mastered hades, not ourselves. He is the Head of the Body (Colossians 1:18; 2:19). Christ represents the part that controls the whole. Christ is the only part of the Body that never varies. He always remains consistent and perfect.
With a human body the extremities of the body and all parts in between, change from day to day; and so do the extremities of Christ’s Body at present because it is comprised of humans. The human body manufactures new cells to replace the old. Look at your fingernails. They grow outward until they reach beyond the tips of the fingers (as many women prefer them). At some time they must be clipped when they have served their vital function. New cells are produced in the body, while old ones die. And though the body may appear the same, the cells that make up the physical body come and go through birth and death.
So it is with Christ’s Body at present. All of us who represent His present Body come and go, BUT THE HEAD ALWAYS STAYS CONSTANT. It never changes or dies because it is made up of Spirit and that Spirit is Christ himself. It is He who never changes, not we! Only in our resurrections will all the previous parts of the Body be constituted into the one spiritual Body of Christ.
Christ, then, is the Ekklesia. None of us humans on earth represent His Ekklesia in the total sense. Others of the past and many more of the future will make up the one true Body, the Ekklesia. Anyone who teaches that the true Ekklesia of God is now on earth is forgetting those of the past, those of the future and especially, they are forgetting the Head who is not even on this earth.
“And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God.”
Once it is understood that men or their organizations (no matter how “good” they may be) are not the true Ekklesia of God, we can then begin to look for the real Ekklesia. It is easily found once one knows where to look. I wish to show from the biblical revelation where the Ekklesia of God is located.
Almost all who seek for the Ekklesia of God look in the wrong direction and to the wrong people. This does not mean the people they look to are necessarily “good” or “bad,” but it still means they are looking in the wrong direction no matter to what human they direct their attention. Most people seeking the true Ekklesia direct their view to some geographical location on this earth for its headquarters and also to some humans as its head. They almost invariably seek for the Ekklesia in a horizontal direction. As a result, they end up somewhere on earth, where men are ruling.
No one will ever find the true Ekklesia established by Jesus if He or she looks horizontally. To find Christ’s Ekklesia one must look vertically! One must look to the only place where there is consistency, perfection, continuity, absolute love, concern and where complete authority rests; indeed, where the only authority is established. That place is where Jesus Christ resides at present. Where does Christ now live? Where does the Head reside? His abode is headquarters and that headquarters is in heaven. True, there are frail, human members of that Ekklesia here on earth, but the Head has not dispensed His authority to any human members for them to have spiritual power over members of His Body.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
1 Timothy 2:5
There is not the slightest authority (human or angelic) resident between the individual Christian today and the Father Himself (in the administration of the Christian Ekklesia) other than Christ Jesus. This position of authority is not only the Christian’s privilege, it is his and her legal right! It is only when people refuse to exercise their right that so many get themselves into confusion over where the true Ekklesia is. No one (no matter if he be the most important person on earth, or the highest angel in God’s divine government) has the authority of standing between any individual Christian and the Father of the universe. Only Christ has that single mediatorial authority. Too many people place human mediators between themselves and God the Father. But if they position any other person (besides the only Mediator) in that relationship, they have one too many persons in the hierarchy. They have ruined the intimacy the Father established between Himself and His individual children.
True, in the Book of Hebrews the King James Version speaks of humans having “the rule over you” (Hebrews 13:17, 24). But the translators who chose those words were influenced by the practice of hierarchical government in their church. The margin shows the correct meaning in the Greek. It is: “the ones who guide you.” There is nothing wrong in looking to humans as examples, as long as they follow the precise standards set by the supreme example, Jesus Christ. Even Paul said, “Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Of course, Paul would not want you or anyone else to follow him if he were deviating from the example and the teaching of Christ. Paul’s whole emphasis was in advocating the pattern of teaching established by the Head of the Ekklesia, not that promoted by himself. After all, even the apostles found themselves sinning (1 John 1:8).
James made this clear.
“My brethren, be not many masters [Greek: teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater damnation [judgment]. For in many things we [we apostles, teachers, guides] offend all.”
Look at how the statement of James affects me. Though I [Ernest L. Martin] am one of the nicest guys I know, I realize I have offended people in the past in certain matters and I will offend some in the future, though I am determined not to offend anyone. The simple fact is, I am human. I find myself subject to the weaknesses of normal humanity. My actions do not always produce perfection, either in outward conduct or in spiritual desires. So, I want to apologize for any actions of mine in the future (or the past) that may offend (or have offended) some of you who represent the Ekklesia of God. Now that I have said that, I hope all of you do the same and that you apologize for your offenses.
Certainly, James was right. No man ever lived on earth — or ever will live — who could set himself up as the prime example to follow. Only one has performed that role and achieved it perfectly. That was Jesus Christ! That is why you and I must look to the Head (and to the Headquarters in heaven) for the proper example for teaching and truth. No man on earth (including Ernest L. Martin) can give you the complete truth of anything or provide you with a perfect example to follow. There is only One who can do that and that person is Jesus Christ.
We can look horizontally all we want and discover scores of denominations that call themselves the true “Church of God,” or a facsimile thereof, but we will never uncover the true Ekklesia on earth, because the Head of the Ekklesia is not on earth. He is in heaven. No man on earth at the present is the Head.
“And he [Jesus Christ] is the head of the body, the church [Ekklesia]: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
It is the Head that governs all parts of the Body and there is a direct line of authority from the Head to every part. Recall again: “There is one mediator between God and men: the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). It makes no difference whether you or I are the little finger of the Body, our relationship to the Head is direct without the slightest intermediary coming between. Some might object to this illustration because the little finger (to use an example of one of the extremities of the body) is not attached directly the Head. It is attached to the hand, that is joined to the arm, connected to the shoulder, the shoulder to the collarbone, then the neck and finally (through all those somatic attachments) the Head is reached. Are not all these other body parts to be reckoned as “intermediaries”? No, not at all.
The fact is, there is not one mediator between the Head and the little finger. How can this be? Try a simple experiment. Place your hand in front of you and wiggle your little finger. Now, was it the hand that said to the finger “you must wiggle”? NO, it was the Head that told it to perform. Did the arm tell it to wiggle? No, it was still the Head. Did the shoulder say wiggle? Did the collarbone or the neck? No, it is always the Head! Those other parts of the body have no authority of themselves to tell the little finger to do anything. Read 1 Corinthians 12:15–17 where Paul showed that the foot, the ear and the eye cannot tell each other what to do. Only the Head has that capability.
This direct connection of all members to Christ is also illustrated in His teaching about the vine.
“I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.”
Though the vine may stretch thirty feet (and I have seen some wild vines in Oregon reach out over 100 feet), each branch is attached directly to that vine. And so it is with Christians. As with grapes, no matter how far from the central bough, each grape in a bunch has a personal connection directly with the vine itself. And so it is with us. The vine to which each of us is attached is its only mediator. What joy this principle gives when we understand it properly. No matter where each of you happens to be in the world, each one of you is connected directly to Christ without any human or angelic mediator in between.
Look at this plainly. This means that each of you (I mean you and no one else) is positioned to be third in command of this whole universe within the Family of God. Notice this biblical teaching. It tells us through the apostle Paul that the divine hierarchy is centered in God the Father, God the Son, and also in You. Remember that each of you is a Son or a Daughter of God and you are a representative of the Family of God. In our individual relationship with the Father, there is first the Father, second the Firstborn Son (Jesus Christ) and thirdly Ourselves. We are third in rank within the Family of God, along with all other Christians who also have, in Christ, Sonship and Daughtership positions within the Godhead. That is the true “Trinity.” We are a part of the Godhead.
This is a very powerful position in which God the Father has placed you in as an individual, through the merits of His Son Jesus Christ working to secure your position in the Family of God. This is a wonderful and unique privilege you possess through Christ. However, do not get too haughty over the knowledge of it, because all other Christians in the world are in the same position. And in the resurrection, all of us will obtain even greater glory. All of us (individually and collectively) are designated before the foundation of the world (2 Timothy 1:9) to be in an august and divine authority. We are even now (legally) sitting in Christ on the right hand of the Father in heaven (Ephesians 2:6, compare with Colossians 3:1 and Hebrews 1:3). It is time each of us realizes our divine ranks.
What all Christians belong to is the Family of God. It is threefold: the Father, Christ the Head of the Body and then the Body itself as we humans now represent the rest of the Body. When we meet together, it is part of the Family of God meeting in unison. It makes no difference if the number who fellowship together is large or small. Indeed, some feel that the gathering together of two or three people (Matthew 18:20) can constitute a small Ekklesia. This is true in one sense, but it is only a part of the over-all Family of God.
In early New Testament times, it was common for Christians to meet in homes for fellowship (Romans 16:5). There were also communities that apparently had buildings in which to meet (Revelation chapters 2 and 3). But at no time did the writers of Scripture want to leave the impression that the totality of the true Ekklesia was located in one home, one town, or in one city on earth. The real Body of Christ had its Head in heaven with its human members living scattered in various places on earth. The Ekklesia reaches out even into heaven, even to embrace the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23). 1 The Ekklesia, however, is not confined simply to some group or groups on this earth. It is far more vast and it includes us. We are NOW members of the Family of God and soon we will have spirit bodies like God. Then, we will help Him rule the universe.
Since the true Ekklesia of God acknowledges no mediators between each Christian and the Father except Christ, it is obvious that no hierarchical form of government can represent the Ekklesia on earth. This truth can be shown by reference to the Seven Ekklesias in the Book of Revelation.
The doctrinal condition of each of those seven Ekklesia was different from one another. This was not a good thing, but it was a fact. All were independent of each other in government and teaching. This must be the case because if the Ekklesias were supervised by a central Ekklesia authority and dominated by an earthly “headquarters,” they could not have been so deviant from each other, especially since they were so close geographically.
We are all aware today of denominations that are authoritarian and absolute in government. You can go to one of their assemblies in America, Britain, South Africa, Australia or anywhere and there would be an essential sameness in mode of worship, doctrines, social customs and IN ERRORS! All are required to speak the same (no matter if right or wrong) or one would be excommunicated from the group and all members forbidden to contact him. The Seven Ekklesias of Revelation, however, located within short distances of each other, were profoundly different in doctrine, social matters, and spiritual understanding of God. There was much diversity. 2
The aristocratic form of ecclesiastical government, with total and supreme power in the hands of one man or group of men, is the most dangerous form of rule imaginable. Such organizations, especially if they are small, tend to become exclusivist in their activities and usually demonstrate a feeling of superiority over other Christians. They often believe they are the only ones performing God’s will on earth. In many cases they retreat from society around them. Paul, however, said it was perfectly all right to have communication with others who are not Christians (1 Corinthians 5:9–10). In the qualifications of a person maintaining the overseer position in the physical Ekklesia, it was necessary to have a good report from those outside Christian society (1 Timothy 3:7).
The authoritarian type of ecclesiastical government is extremely vulnerable. Let us look at an example of this. Suppose such an Ekklesia existed in the United States and we were invaded and conquered by a hostile power (perish the thought). In such a situation, the invaders could put the actions of any and all authoritarian groups out of existence with one simple action. Round up the leaders, kill them off or put them in prison, and enlist a few renegade ministers (there will always be some who go along with an enemy). Those who depend on “their ministers” to tell them what to do would immediately do as they were told by the hostile power. Such groups are thoroughly dependent on men and vulnerable to having the “head” chopped off.
On the other hand, if there were people scattered throughout the United States who recognized only a direct communication with God without human authorities to tell them what to do, then if the enemy kills off 50 or even 75 percent of the people, there would still be 50 or 25 percent active for the truth.
The authoritarian type of ecclesiastical government is also the weakest form for individual Christian development. More harm has been done through it over the years than any other type. Perhaps this is one reason that Christ forbade His disciples from ever taking it up.
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them [their subjects]; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. BUT YOU SHALL NOT BE SO.”
Christ said that no one in His Ekklesia ought to set up a government that resembled the aristocratic type of the Gentiles. Christ looked around at all the governments that existed in His time (Rome, Parthia, Armenia, etc.) and He saw authority exercised from the top down. All the Caesars, kings, and other rulers dominated the people under them with a rod of iron. The people served the rulers. But Christ said, “But you shall not be so” (Luke 22:26). Christ forbade such ecclesiastical rule among His disciples. Ministers, however, think nothing about violating these commands of Christ. They go right ahead and establish hierarchical governments over the Ekklesias. They disobey Christ. Of course, the true reason for this is their quest for power. Many love to rule as the Gentiles — with a rod.
How is Christ’s type of ecclesiastical government on earth to work? Christ’s rule is simple and it is NOT hierarchical.
“He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve. For whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serves? is not he that sits at meat? but I [Jesus Christ] am among you as one that serves.”
The word “minister” actually means “one who serves.” God selects men and women to be servants to others, to serve the flock, not to be served by the lay people. The instructions of Christ show that the ministerial positions in the early Ekklesia such as “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors,” etc., (Ephesians 4:11) were functions for service. They were not aristocratic ranks. This was demonstrated by the apostle Paul when he appeared among the Corinthians as one who was base (meek and humble), not as one who should be served by them (2 Corinthians 10:1). Ministers should not be dictatorial rulers of the flock.
Indeed, the apostle Paul scolded the Corinthians for allowing “super-fine apostles” (called “the very chiefest apostles” in 2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11) to come into their midst and bring the Corinthian Christians into a form of bondage — into servility.
“For you suffer fools gladly, for you suffer, if a man bring you into bondage [you allow it], if a man devour you [you allow it], if a man take of you [you allow it], if a man exalt himself [you allow it], if a man smite you on the face [you allow it].”
2 Corinthians 11:19–20
These aristocratic men brandishing their supposed authority were Hebrews (verse 22). They came into the midst of the Corinthians as superfine apostles (as men of rank and authority) and demanded that the Corinthians give full recognition to their exalted ranks that they believed they had.
The apostle Paul countered their attitude by telling the Corinthians they should not put up with such “false apostles, deceitful workers” (verse 13). When Paul lived among them or other Christian communities, he came exalting the members of the Ekklesia, not having the members exalting Paul. “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that you might be exalted” (verse 7). Paul was among them in humility and weakness, not as a superior overlord.
“I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10
Paul went on to show one of the principal evidences of a true apostle. “The signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (verse 12). This shows that a true apostle would also have many marvelous miracles associated with his function as a servant of God.
The essential feature in Christian fellowship is based upon caring, loving, and teaching, and by having only one mediator between each individual person and the Father. That mediator is Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). 3
The prime fellowship is direct association with the Father through Christ alone, essential for all Christians. This represents the principal relationship for each individual. But there is an Ekklesia of association even beyond that. If you, being a Christian (already having the prime fellowship) meet another person who is also a Christian (having the same prime fellowship) then each of you could and should have a horizontal fellowship with one another. However, the spiritual relationship that each of you would have is first upward, that is in a vertical sense, to God through Christ and then back down from God through Christ to the person standing a foot away from you. Your association is first vertical — to Christ.
The true Ekklesia of God that Christ established is made up of individuals (not groups of people) who each has the prime relationship. There may be several million Christians on earth, but each has the privilege of having that personal relationship with the Head of the Ekklesia and also with the Father. True, there is a further fellowship that is also desirable. That is to have associations with other Christians. The majority of Christians would deem it helpful to have a horizontal fellowship with others of like mind on earth. The writer of the Book of Hebrews even recommended it, especially in times of crisis (Hebrews 10:25). Still, however, the prime fellowship should never be abandoned. It is essential. It is the one type of fellowship that links us personally with God.
Many people are looking for a group of Christians on earth that speaks the same things in matters of doctrine, lifestyles, ceremonies, etc. Such unanimity may be wonderful, but on a wide scale it is not possible to achieve in every detail. Only the essentials are obtainable. Those main ingredients are the caring and loving of one another.
“That there should be no schism [division] in the body; but that the members should have the same care for one another”
1 Corinthians 12:25
And though a common doctrinal belief among all people would be ideal, this never was achieved in the early Ekklesia and it should not be expected in the modern one. Some brethren are weak. There will always be weak persons in the Ekklesia. The apostle Paul said that “weak brethren” in the Roman Ekklesia should be tolerated and understood (Romans 14:1–15). And though Paul had to censure the Corinthians for their divisiveness and other deficiencies, he still defined the people as being “the church [Ekklesia] of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Of course, there should be a consensus of conduct relative to what a congregation will allow to be practiced among the group. The one indispensable feature is that an overall harmony and love for one another should prevail, and that the spiritual well-being of the group should be maintained because all are involved in the prime fellowship. If some would not sustain a normal tranquillity within the group, then such persons should be asked to leave, or if this were not done even you, yourself, could leave the group if you felt the group was not displaying proper conduct.
One would think that there would have to be a serious disturbance for such an extreme position to be taken. This would be when people begin to be unruly. If a person resorts to riotous conduct, the Ekklesia should, according to the apostle Paul:
“Note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed, yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
2 Thessalonians 3:14–15
In a word, if a person’s actions are totally abhorrent to the public good of the group, the person could be disallowed from the group with a spiritual adversary being assigned to him by God so that he might learn to adjust his or her ways (1 Corinthians 5:5). Even with that prerogative, no person on earth has power to damn someone to hell fire or to some other judgment reserved by God for Himself (1 Corinthians 4:5). It is God’s responsibility to rectify a person’s spiritual attitude. We do not possess that authority.
By understanding this book, it should now be obvious where the true Ekklesia of God is located. Its Head and Headquarters are in heaven. One’s prime fellowship is your personal and individual association with the Father through the mediation of Christ. There is no other go-between in that personal relationship. There are, of course, other human members of that Ekklesia on earth who have the same prime fellowship. They are represented in various Christian groups on earth or in no denominations at all. When such people with the prime fellowship get together in buildings, in homes, at picnics, etc., they come together for horizontal fellowship or to worship God as a group. Many feel this is good and helpful. It is good, and I strongly encourage it. But the prime fellowship is what counts.
And note this point. Nothing is more wrong than to hear some person say you must go to a meeting sponsored by a “John Doe” or “Mary Smith” if you want to get a healing or spiritual salvation in Christ. If one wants blessings from God, all one has to do is pray directly to God through Christ, and one’s prayers will be powerful in God’s eyes. It is much more effective than going to some man or woman as a mediator. It is perfectly all right, however, to ask others to pray for you. This shows brotherly concern and even James said that older members of the Ekklesia could anoint a sick person with oil. In fact, all Christians are placed in the Body of Christ to be an aid to one another, but no human, or group of humans, can be a spiritual mediator, nor can any person (or persons) take the place of the prime fellowship between the Father and yourself.
In conclusion, all people can know what are the perfect teachings of the Christian Ekklesia. No matter what denomination one may choose to associate with or even if one is not a member of any group, it is still possible to know what the pure, essential doctrine of Christ is. That doctrine is “truth,” and it is “truth” based on a love and respect for all human beings in the manner that was and is shown by Christ Jesus, our Elder Brother. Let us elaborate this final important point.
The apostle John tells us that we can absolutely know truth from error. “Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). How can we know it? John goes on to tell us.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God: for God is love.”
1 John 4:7–8
Paul said “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). The main key to the knowledge of truth and error is practicing LOVE — but that love must be mature, educated, merciful, and biblical. True love is not sown in weakness, but in power. Sometimes love is hard; sometimes love is gentle. When reading about God’s love in the Bible, note that He uses a lot of “tough” love with man.
If you love perfectly, you understand perfect truth. If you are one step away from love motivated by respect and kindness, you are one step into error. If you are a thousand steps away from that type of love, you are a thousand steps into error. On the other hand, if you walk one step towards the love that God and Christ show, you are one step closer to truth.
Sadly, none of us in this human frame has learned to practice that kind of perfect love, so none of us yet has perfect truth. But, you can know what perfect truth is and you can strive to walk in it. You do not need complex theological textbooks or denominational handbooks of ceremonies and rituals to show you how to walk in perfect truth. The ability to read the Holy Scriptures and apply the parts that pertain to you (2 Timothy 2:15) are all that is necessary. God gives us the ability to know truth (Philippians 2:13).
The fact is, however, many Ministers and Priests today (along with Jewish Rabbis and Muslim Imams) believe they must teach the rituals and ceremonies of their “churches” and “synagogues” and “mosques.” They are “denominational men” who abide by the customs and dogmas of their societies. They continue in the ways of their human fathers who bequeathed them many wrong traditions. But God is getting fed up with these kinds of teachings.
The primary section of the Holy Scriptures that indicates what God is about to do with ecclesiastical authorities in today’s denominations and their religious societies is found in Zechariah 13:1–7. That time mentioned by the prophet — along with a new way of worshiping God, the right and proper way sanctioned by the Holy Scriptures — is just on the horizon. The laity will rise up in revolution (with God providing the motivation), and it will soon come to pass that if a person ordained as a Minister, Priest or Rabbi is asked by a member of the laity if he has ministerial credentials, the man will answer (based on Zechariah 13:5): “No, I am NOT a minister, I am a keeper of cattle.” This answer is a play on words since ministers are often called “pastors” which means “keepers of the flock.” We find this minister in the future admitting that he was a “keeper of the flock,” but wanting his hearers to think of actual living animals, not “human flocks.” It will not be long until this prophecy is fulfilled.
Over the past 45 years I have made many friends and acquaintances. It has been a true privilege for me to have had this experience. And I can say without fear of contradiction that of the vast majority, I know of no group of people with more savvy and abilities to really teach the Gospel of Christ when truly motivated than those of my former denomination. This particularly applies to friends who were in the ministry. Other denominations also have some live-wire ministers who could truly be used to teach the Gospel powerfully, but they need to revitalize their intentions.
It is not a “church” on earth organized by men that needs promoting, it is the real Gospel of Christ that desperately needs to be taught to people in this world. It is time to get out of the chaos now afflicting the religious world and get on the bandwagon for teaching the truth to the whole world. God will bless all those who do so abundantly. I truly believe this.
In the meantime, we fast approach what the Holy Scriptures call the end-time. Get ready for more “Chaos in the Churches.” The prophecies show us in no uncertain terms that the time is coming when respect for the ministerial profession (as we have known it over the past seventeen hundred years) will come to a halt. The Ministers and Priests who will not teach the pristine truths of the Holy Scriptures are going to find it difficult to perform their jobs and I believe that condition will start within thirty years.Idolatry and paganistic teachings that permeate the churches of this world will be jettisoned from society. The clean up will begin in the nation of Israel (see Zechariah 13:1–7 and surrounding context). We are to experience interesting times in the next few years. God prophesies that the ministerial profession will not be very effective in the near future. They have a lot of repenting to do in regard to the wrong teachings they have perpetuated. Ministers will not regain respectability until those religious professionals return to their senses and once again adopt the simple teachings of the Holy Scriptures as their guide and command.
1 Those spirits are represented in it, but are not at present separate personalities since they have not yet experienced the resurrection from the dead. ELM
2 As mentioned in the last chapter, the so-called bad example of the Seven Ekklesias shows that an authoritarian government would have been avoided with all the Ekklesias being taught the same thing. But this could lead to a far worse development. Suppose the Thyatiran authorities took over? All the other Ekklesias would have been forced (by top-down authority) to submit to the teachings of the “Jezebel” that the apostle John said taught and seduced God’s people into committing spiritual fornication and eating things sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2:20). With a centralized government, all would have been Thyatiran. ELM
3 The Holy Spirit is not even a mediator in the sense of being a personal individual. The Spirit is like the electrical power in our homes that can bring a message of comfort or teaching from Christ and the Father through its application of “electromagnetic waves” (as a poor analogy). It is the channel, like a telephone line, that transmits the substance of our personal relationships we have between God and ourselves while God is in heaven and we are on earth. But the Spirit is not the personal mediator itself. That is reserved only for Christ. Indeed, the spiritual conduit (the Spirit) is NOT even a personality. ELM
Order our Book: Essentials of New Testament Doctrine to read all the chapters.
© 1976-2021 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge - ASK is supported by freewill contributions