CONTENTS Chapter summaries Feedback Box:
This page contains: Plea to read the Bible <> Book contents <> Warning to "count the cost" <> 1 Corinthians 14, KJV text <> Introduction <> Note to Pastors <> Preview of the book
If you are among the 95% of "Bible Believers" who haven't yet read all the Scriptures even one time through, turn off your TV and radio, stop the newspaper, and get that out of the way before you squander precious Bible reading time on this book. This book may not make much sense if you haven't read the Bible. If you are a journalist who has not read the Bible several times, don't even think about reviewing this book. You are not qualified.
"According to 1 Corinthians 14, today's churches are receiving only about 1% of the blessing God offers them. How we can return to 100%."
A vision of worship services from 1 Corinthians 14. Paul never dreamed of a "church" where only one man does virtually all the talking, and is placed above public scrutiny when he talks! Paul says half a dozen times, and in half a dozen ways, that all should participate in the "preaching". Unfortunately, a format like that would only encourage Fellowship, which, "as everybody knows, always causes fights". Most of the rest of this book goes over Scriptures which are able to keep Fellowship from being Fragile, but let's look at the first such Scripture at the end of this chapter: 1 Corinthians 13, the foundation of chapter 14, about love.
"Did God write 'for men only' on the pulpit?"
Well, all, that is, except for women? In today's churches, it is almost a moot issue, since women and men alike are barred from the pulpit, except for just one or two per church. But a church who dares obey 1 Corinthians 14 and "pass the microphone" will have to resolve whether verses 34-36 exclude women from speaking. There is no way you can guess the conclusion reached in this chapter. You will just have to read it.
"Pastors: God's Job Description".
Scripture study of the duties of the "shepherd" of the church, showing none of the duties suggests doing all the talking. A Shepherd, or "pastor", is supposed to be an administrator, or a moderator; his gift, and the gift of "prophesying", or preaching, are two distinct gifts.
"Bible Discussions in Synagogues".
Bible Discussions in churches were no new idea. That's
the way it was always done in synagogues! It's Pastor-Controlled Pulpits
which are Biblically Unprecedented. Pictures of vigorous exchange of ideas
in synagogues, as painted in the Bible. One man didn't do all the talking,
or even "lead" all the talking. Several led together, and they
invited audience input, even from enemies.
"Categories of Church Workers".
So far we've only looked at the format of a church service. Now it's time to go back to Scripture to re-examine all the rest of church structure. "Apostles" is the Bible word for "missionaries", and God never meant for missionaries to go start a church in another country, which would remain under the influence of their home churches or denominations. Nor did God intend missionaries to go start a church somewhere and then become its pastor. Paul never dreamed of having just one Elder (pastor). And he never dreamed of bringing someone in from out of town to pastor a church!
The One True Denomination
"Central Church Government".
Is there any Biblical precedent for Central Church Government, where anyone has any authority over a church in a distant city? No! The Council of Jerusalem was no exception!
"Heretics: the ones who start denominations over doctrines!".
Christians today, especially Protestants, act as if "Denominations" must be one of the Books of the Bible. They act as if a hair trigger for spotting "false doctrines", which require separation of entire groups of believers from one another, is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. But perpetuating denominations is what a "heretick" does, according to the Greek definition of the word. This age, by contrast, defines "heretic" as someone with really, really unacceptable doctrines, whom we must speedily excommunicate. The "hereticks" we are supposed to "separate" from are the "hereticks" who separate from "heretics" because of their "heresies".
"No Denominations, Please!".
"DON'T TAKE YOUR TOYS HOME AND START ANOTHER DENOMINATION EVERY TIME YOU CAN'T AGREE WITH SOMEBODY, YOU LITTLE CRYBABIES!" 1 Corinthians 1-4.
Yes, Paul really did call the Corinthians a bunch
of crybabies for wanting to form denominations. Paul didn't just mention
it in passing. Paul unloaded on the poor Corinthians for four blistering
chapters before he was satisfied he had made himself clear.
"Not Even False Doctrines Excuse Separation".
God doesn't give us permission to abandon Christians whose hearts love God, just because their brains are confused by "false doctrines". Doctrines which keep Christians separated from other Christians can't be very good. The time for separation is when "deceivers" preach wrong doctrines even though they know better.
Discerning One True Church "Membership"
"God Invites Everyone to the Feast".
To discern whether one's heart is right with God, we usually use clues from one's head. But when we judge by intellect alone, and forget that only Love endures, while intellect will be "done away" in Heaven, we cruelly exclude Brothers in Christ from our fellowship. God receives people with weaker intellects than ours, and also with less information than we have. The retarded, the doctrinally challenged, even pagans who have never physically heard the name "Jesus", have all, nevertheless, heard God's Call, and some have answered. Not that we have to decide whether to let Hindus into our fellowship. As a practical matter, anyone still confused by Hinduism, even if his heart is, by a miracle of God, "right with God", wonít want in a fellowship which teaches that Jesus is the only Way. (And not that we should "tolerate" intellectual flaws, and not use the opportunity of fellowship to correct them as quickly as we can.)
"Identifying Church Members".
The "Church" in any city consists of nothing more, nor nothing less, than all in that city in whom is the Spirit of Christ (or whose "hearts are right with God"). You can't "join" a real church. If you are a Christian, you are already in the one in your city. (There is only one per city.) We can't admit members, though we must discern members. You ask, "If a doctrine isnít good for keeping others away who don't agree with us, what is it good for?" Well, fellowship is so we can learn together and purify our doctrines. How can we do that if we only let people in whose doctrines are already perfect? When the Bible tells us to confess Jesus, it doesn't mean once, in front of friends. It means with every word we speak, even to people who hate Jesus. We look divided, but we don't have to become "one". We already are one. Just like a family which appears divided to the world, but really is held together by something beyond reason. We just need to get along better so others can recognize our unity! How we get along tests whether our sermons about love, patience, and other Fruits of the Spirit are mere theory.
Applying 1 Cor. 14: Exchanging Ideas
without Spiritual Confusion
"Managing Bible Discussions".
There are baby steps you can take to pull your "church" into compliance with 1 Corinthians 14: bulletin boards, financial cooperation, a simple Church Directory, and a publication. There are baby steps you can take, in your group gatherings, to inch towards Bible Discussion. Bible Discussion is such a forgotten art that the rules which previous generations have had for it are forgotten. But secular groups use Robert's Rules of Order; perhaps they contain principles we can adapt. Surely, if godless, greedy, hateful enemies can come up with rules which enable them to work together in an orderly manner, Christians drawn together by the Love of God can manage it!
"Don't Use Doctrines for Sword Fights".
Romans 14 warns us not to pass off church doctrines as if they were requirements of salvation, which is especially cruel to "those weak in the faith". Bible discussion is supposed to be edifying, not faith-destroying. Doctrines are supposed to be administered like medicine, not guns.
"Case Histories of Actual Bible Discussions in other lands" Case histories. Examples of 1 Corinthians 14 Bible Discussions in Nepal and Sudan. When Prem Pradhan came to the United States from Nepal, he was astonished to find the Catholic and Protestant churches were the same. He explained: "In Nepal, it is only the Catholic church where one man stands against a wall and talks." Letter from Tom White, USA director of Voice of the Martyrs.
"Why the Fuss?"
Some examples of how churches are receiving only 1% of the blessing God offers them, and why this matters. Churches allow individual members to exercise Matthew 18:15 towards their pastors, but not v. 16, and certainly not v. 17! "Church" is "broke" so it's time to "fix" it.
"The 'Pastor's Pulpit' Apostacy in Prophecy"
How could churches so dramatically fall from God's model, for so many centuries, without such a momentous historical event being foretold in Bible prophecy? Perhaps it wasn't. This is apparently the very apostasy described in Revelation 2 as "the doctrine of the Nicolaitans", from what we are able to deduce about this doctrine. Further light may be shed by comparing the messages to the Seven Churches of Revelation 2-3 with the Seven Parables of Matthew 13, and with the Seven Church Ages beginning with the New Testament church and progressing through the present.
How to get there from here. After we are able to agree on whether "there" is a place we want to "get", we are ready for a plan how we, the miniscule remnant that we are, can bring about a revival that will sweep the world, transforming the churches of the world after the New Testament pattern, simply by a tiny few obeying God. Fortunately God offers us just such a plan! A plan that is practical, reasonable, and plain common sense. The first step is the hardest: believing that God will answer the one prayer which is the most selfless that we have lifted up to Him: our prayer for REVIVAL, even in these LAST DAYS in which, the radio preachers all agree, God has decreed we will "lose"!
Counting the Cost: Warning!
I don't want to mislead you. Comfort isn't the primary feature of Biblical fellowship as proposed here. If comfort is what you want, don't come too near light.
If you are interested in fellowship, forget comfort. Just look at your bitterest, most grievous arguments, the ones that trouble you more than any other: aren't they with the one human you chose to love more than any other? And with your children whom you brought into the world amidst such joy and wonderful expectations?
Divorce judges foolishly imagine divorce is better than subjecting the children to "all those arguments", just as if the arguments are supposed to stop with the divorce, instead of getting far more bitter and expensive!
Pastors, likewise, foolishly kill every chance for fellowship to take root by doing all they can to suppress anything approaching an argument, by removing whoever needs to be removed so passionate discussions won't occur!
Truly, arguments, left unresolved, divide. But they are a consequence of unity! If you have no arguments in your church, it is because your "unity" is external: because nobody knows anybody well enough to be upset with them! Get rid of fellowship, nurture ignorance, and your church won't have any arguments. Just let fellowship start, though, and so will trouble.
But it's worth it!
Broken hearted lovers vow to remain alone the rest of their lives so their hearts will never again be broken. But they will never again be soft and warm, either! They will die cold and hard!
Churches vow to suppress all controversy so there will never again be frowns in the pews. Only polite smiles. It is more important for the warm bodies in the pews to smile at each other than to know anything about each other. But this stunts the growth of fellowship/friendship, too!
Fellowship is worth the risk!
Warning: To the extent you agree with this study, you will immediately want its vision manifested in your church. When it doesn't manifest immediately, you will be tempted to blame people besides yourself, out of frustration. Don't be frustrated! Be encouraged, for three reasons:
1) You would be surprised how many people already understand and pray for similar visions. I have talked with laymen who would love to initiate these changes but are frustrated by the inertia of pastors. I have talked with pastors who would love to initiate these changes but are frustrated by the inertia of their congregations. There is reason for hope here.
2) All the changes contemplated here are only a few short steps from manifestation already. 20 centuries of Christian experience have not been for nothing. A mature, Biblical church is different than the churches you know only in details small enough for you, yes you, to influence! As you read each chapter of the book, you may get the impression each little step is so enormous that this generation will never be able to leap so far. But after you have read the entire book, I hope the vision will come to you which I have: of a "Church Triumphant" which ALREADY exists! An actual "perfect church" in which Christians already can and routinely DO fellowship! For a step-by-step plan of what you can do, read "The Plan!" on our home page.
3) God answers prayer! So what if the vision which weighs you down looks like it could take a lifetime of work and even then seems hopeless but for miracles of God? If your vision required any less than a lifetime of work, just what do you think would be left to fill the rest of your life with meaning?! Get to work and stop whining!
1 Corinthians 14 (KJV text)
1. Follow after charity, and desire spiritual [gifts], but rather that ye may prophesy.
2 For he that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth [him]; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men [to] edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
4 He that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater [is] he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
6. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them [is] without signification.
11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh [shall be] a barbarian unto me.
12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual [gifts], seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue pray that he may interpret.
14 For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
15. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that [by my voice] I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an [unknown] tongue.
20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
21. In the law it is written, With [men of] other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.
22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying [serveth] not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.
23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in [those that are] unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or [one] unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on [his] face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
26. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
27 If any man speak in an [unknown] tongue, [let it be] by two, or at the most [by] three, and [that] by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30 If [any thing] be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not [the author] of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
34. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
36. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
I asked the usher of a large Bible-believing congregation, "Is a Bible discussion held by any group in this church?"
He stumbled over that strange word a moment, and said, "Er, we have a Bible Study."
The usher may not have shared my appreciation of the importance of the difference between a "study" and a "discussion" of the Bible, but he realized there is a difference great enough that the word "study" cannot be substituted for "discussion", at least not without first asking permission.
This book is an appeal to you to champion a Bible discussion in your church. No personal desire prompts me to the labor of this writing. Rather, I am prompted by the plain words of 1 Corinthians 14, which indicate that a "Bible discussion" best describes, not just what Paul expected every church to provide somewhere on its agenda, but the principal activity of fellowship gatherings. However, as a baby step back to Paul's instructions for church, I would be thrilled to see a church sponsor a Bible Discussion even at the periphery of its agenda, in which but half a dozen of half a thousand showed interest.
Paul's letter indicates that when a church with one hundred members permits only one man to do virtually all the talking, and to keep a tight rein on the rest, that church is experiencing only 1% of the blessing God offers it.
I won't ask you to believe anything I say on the strength of mere common sense or logic. I write to you as a fellow Bible Believer, asking only that you be noble, like the Bereans, (Acts 17:10-11), being willing to examine a challenge to your comfortable interpretation of a familiar Scripture, and being obedient to what God commands you through this chapter, after it has been proved what God commands.
Acts 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming [thither] went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
My first task is to establish what this chapter commands. But since discovering this several years ago, I have had time to reflect on how different "church" would be if "church" followed this pattern. I have come to yearn for obedience to this chapter because I long for the exciting, dynamic, Revived Church which would arise.
Later I offer my vision of what such a Revival would be like. It wouldn't be all roses. Fellowship, like romance, isn't all that easy. But it is worth it.
In subsequent chapters I present the testimony of generations more righteous than ours. I interviewed early American Christian historian David Barton to learn how "church" was conducted by our Founding Fathers, in those days when fluency in New Testament Greek was a college entrance test. I present testimony about how "church" is conducted in persecuted churches: from a saint in Nepal, from students from Christian Southern Sudan, and from Tom White, U.S. director for Voice of the Martyrs.
My reason for regarding their testimony is my assumption that doctrine is probably a little purer among people who can't even meet to discuss doctrine until they first determine they are willing to die for the privilege. It turns out that where this is more the case than it is here and now, "church" consists of something more like a "discussion" than like a "lecture". And not only is there more verbal input from all, but sometimes the talk is not an end in itself, but is about what everyone should do.
Most pastors cannot attain their position without many times having faced yet another area of their life they had to surrender to God. Even though it has happened many times, each new time can still be difficult.
And yet here we are. Still committed to God. Maybe we can do it again.
As we look back on the resources, talents, and desires we "gave up" in the past, we realize all we gave up was failure, which we exchanged for success. We gave up doing things by our own power, for doing things by the Power of God. We gave up doing things to fill up time because we weren't really sure what we wanted out of life, for doing things which filled our lives with purpose beyond our wildest dreams. We gave up sensual pleasures, for exhilaration beyond, and longer lasting, than any physical "high". We gave up power to dominate men against their will, thus extorting a small percentage of their potential for our pleasure, for the power to lead men by love and example, thus bringing into God's service, which is now our service, 150% of their former potential.
We gave up being feared, for being loved.
We gave up fear, for love.
This Bible study, to the extent it is true, requires you to surrender one more thing to God. Surrender, this time, will require no less courage than it did the other times. This time, you are required to surrender the single-handed control you have enjoyed, over your church, and allow several others, within your church, to rise to share leadership. In addition, you are required to surrender the pulpit to whomever God inspires to speak, according to 1 Corinthians 14. Your new mission will still be to help keep fellowship services orderly; but that will become much more challenging as the pulpit opens up. In order to accomplish this, you will need the help of many Scriptures you probably never thought of applying to this problem.
But if indeed these requirements are not mine, but God's, you know you always get far more than you can ever give! In this case, you give up an easily bored "church" for a fellowship so full of passion that you have to pray the passion doesn't get out of bounds! You give up a "church" where only two or three minds contribute to the knowledge available to the congregation, for a seminary where inquiring minds turn up fresh insights from the unlikliest quarters. You give up a "church" whose community impact is limited to what you and your staff can oversee and approve, to a community impact machine where members work together, in their own name rather than the church name, so that they aren't limited to what won't "offend" the most easily "offended" member.
I anticipate that a few pastors who read this will find a way to dismiss it with the sort of theological sound bites that the Pharisees used to dismiss Jesus. I anticipate that several pastors will have already reached the conclusions drawn here, but will allow themselves to be defeated by the inertia of their congregations. I hope that any reader who can make an honest Scriptural objection to anything herein, will share it with me, so I can correct future editions.
Will a few pastors carry through, and actually reorder their churches after the pattern of 1 Corinthians 14? I have no reason to hope such a thing. Certainly I have no power of my own to bring anything like this about. I do not have sufficient credibility that a pastor or church board will look at me and say "well if he says this is in the Bible, we had better take the time to study it!"
Past movements towards multiple elders, ("elders" are never distinguished from "pastors" in Scripture), and towards Bible discussion, have been small, limited, and fringe.
And yet, I am so desperately anxious for world wide revival,
and the Scriptural case for all these changes seems to overwhelming to me,
and hence related to the potential for revival, and I am so ashamed to pray
for less thatn what I really long for, given Jesus' promises to answer prayers
of faith, that I am forced to pray, against all odds, despite unimaginable
inertia, that the reformation outlined in this book will, beginning with
a few courageous souls, sweep across America and overwhelm the world.
Preview of coming chapters
Here is a sample list of passages which will be examined in subsequent chapters, and a very brief summary of the interpretations of them which will be offered.
There are at least three areas of misunderstanding that will be covered. As you skim over them, remember that scant Scriptural support for these very non-traditional concepts is given in this preview. This is only an overview, to give you fair warning of what later chapters will attempt to prove.
(1) BASIS OF FELLOWSHIP. God commands fellowship with any and all in our local area in whom is the Spirit of Christ. In other words, those who are "going to heaven". The Bible has many tests for this, which we will study, but the doctrines to which others pledge allegience is not one of them! That is explicitly NOT one of them! Today we do the opposite of what Scripture commands: we refuse to fellowship with people in other denominations who are, we have to concede, believers, while we gladly fellowship with members in our own denomination who are, we have to concede, not believers.
There is a universal experience which may help explain why God looks at the Spirit rather than the beliefs. Perhaps the most exhilarating conversation a human can have is with someone who has a different view than ours, but who is listening attentively to our view, and is on the verge of agreeing with us, if we can just explain ourselves adequately. But if the other becomes impatient, or stubborn, or offended, and won't listen to any more explanation, or won't acknowledge irrefutable evidence, then the conversation turns ugly. It would have been better never to have learned our views differed, because now the difference turns into a bone of contention between us, poisoning our future relationship.
The same with church. What makes a relationship with another fruitful or poisonous is not whether our beliefs differ. It's how well we can communicate about our beliefs in truth and love. If we can learn from each other, and become of one mind, then "in a multitude of counsellors" we will realize our goals, Proverbs 15:22. But if discovery of differences only provokes us to hatred, we are better off never to meet each other.
In other words, someone without the Spirit of Christ, but who believes wonderful doctrines, can be a real impediment to Fellowship. The smallest differences, through the mouth of an enemy of Love, will explode into irreconcilable heresies.
But someone who believes erroneous doctrines, but who has the Spirit of Christ, is absolutely no impediment to Fellowship. The greatest doctrinal differences will do no worse than make the discussion interesting, to the extent our commitment is to the complete picture which we, as a Body, can piece together, rather than to preserving and defending the puzzle pieces we have managed to fudge together by ourselves.
When Fellowship doesn't seem to work that way, there are the verses about love, faith, prayer, and tears (Acts 20:31). And when nothing works, when people get their back up and get stubborn and insist on their version and won't respond to criticism, or stubbornly refuse to acknowledge evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the question may arise whether such people still have the Spirit of Christ.
And yet even then there may be no rush to go through the excommunication procedure of Matthew 18:15-17. Because if the rest continue presenting the truth clearly, in peace and love and without undue pressure, manifesting the Fruits of the Spirit, the stubborn one's fury will typically snowball until HE will be the one to stomp out.
(These are shameless generalities about how relationships work. But their primary purpose is to offer a competing scenario with the traditional generality that a church split is a decisive way to deal with heresy.)
(2) DENOMINATIONS. God doesn't allow denominations. God doesn't allow you to split from other believers. If you think you can divorce your spouse for any little difference of opinion, you will. The same with church. If you know you and your spouse are stuck with each other and you better just make the best of it, you will. The same with church.
Again, it's not that you should just tolerate error. You might have to say "OK we'll agree to disagree" for a little while, (because there is simply not enough time in the world to resolve every difference immediately), but not indefinitely. A difference in one area affects interpretations of other areas, so differences keep coming up.
And remember, although "no denominations permitted" sounds like Ecumenism, Biblical "oneness" is worlds apart from Antichrist's ecumenism, for a reason explained in #3.
Of course, in Pulpit/Pew "churches", the scenario of people interacting with each other to correct doctrinal error does not apply. In such a "church", the only way to take a stand against error is to leave the "church" to go search for a less disagreeable "church"! Under such limitations, splitting a church is the only possible response, and an appropriate, sensible response, to doctrinal error, since Pulpit/Pew "churches" allow no means of identifying errors in members and reasoning with members to correct them. It is the Pulpit/Pew model that makes no sense.
(3) CENTRAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT. God does not allow any group to have authority over any distant church. Catholics are not the only denomination with central authority over distant churches. The headquarters of several denominations, such as Methodists, exercise authority to recall and replace pastors in distant cities, and to build or sell distant church property. Most denominations exercise authority to accept distant churches into their fellowship, or to remove them. Most Bible colleges exercise authority to train pastors for service in distant churches, churches which think it would be presumptious to train their own. Can Protestants hit Catholics for their Central Church Authority without hitting themselves?
God's prohibition against Central Church Government is what keeps God's "oneness" from becoming Antichrist's "ecumenism". Antichrist wants "top down" government run by "experts". He wants central governments in power over churches in distant cities. He wants an ever widening circle of people brought in to hear one man, however eccentric, do all the talking and thinking.
God's system does not permit any authority over a distant church, and even within each Local church, each person with eccentric doctrines is brought under an ever widening circle of Bible students able and willing to scrutinize. "In a multitude of counsellors there is safety". Proverbs 11:14, 24:6. God's "oneness" is safe for the very reason that Antichrist's "ecumenism" is dangerous.
The Council of Jerusalem, Acts 15:13-29. Was this an example of Central Church Authority? Did the Church in Jerusalem enact commandments which all the rest of the churches had to obey? For several reasons, no. The Gentiles had been almost ready to become full-fledged, circumcized Jews, studying and observing every physical detail of Moses' laws. For them to be willing to consider this, there must have been a great deal in Moses' law which they recognized as meriting their obedience. The "Four Simple Rules for the Gentiles" which the Council in Jerusalem came up with were thus well within what the Gentiles already recognized as worthy of their obedience. They essentially said "People from here told you how to apply the Bible in your lives. We didn't authorize them to say that, and we're not going to say that. Just keep doing what you know is right and you will do well." When James proposed this approach to the Council, he told them "the Gentiles have their own Bibles", verse 21, implying his confidence in the Gentiles to study their Bibles for themselves, and take responsibility for themselves to interpret them correctly and live by them.
Offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, Romans 16:17. This traditional excuse for denominations actually begins "Mark them which cause divisions (denominations)...contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid [Gr: "shun"] them." The verse specifically prohibits denominations! Because denominations are "contrary to the doctrine which" Paul's readers had "learned"! It is not people with different doctrines that we should shun by forming new denominations, but it is us whom the church should shun, if we use the differences in our doctrines to form new denominations!
Any other Gospel, Galatians 1:8. If anyone preaches "any other Gospel" than the one I have preached, let him be "accursed". See the similarity with Romans 16:17? The immediate context of Galatians 1:8 shows Paul is not excited by mere intellectual differences, but by greatly "troubling" new believers by telling them they can't become Christians unless they become Jews! The new believers were in great turmoil. They were heavily burdened, and the Gentile Fellowship was probably on the point of collapse but for Paul's vigorous intervention. These Circumcision Fanatics were accursed, not because of their doctrine, but because they were using their beloved doctrines as sword fights to destroy faith and cause the weak to stumble.
Reject hereticks, Titus 3:10. "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject". "First and second admonition" refers to the excommunication procedure Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-17. But Greeks defined "hereticks" differently than we, in this wicked generation, define "heretics". We define "heretics" as people with intolerably wrong doctrines. The Greek language defines "hereticks" (KJV spelling) as someone who causes divisions/denominations. The context of this verse supports the Greek definition.
Speak the same thing, 1 Corinthians 1:10. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing..." This is a traditional excuse for excluding, from our fellowship, those who "don't agree with us", even though the rest of the verse commands, "and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment"!!!
Actually, "speak the same thing" is an unusual translation of the Greek word "autos", which KJV translates "him" or "them" about 10 times as often as it translates it "same".
In other words, a more usual translation would give us, ""Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak HIM -- SPEAK JESUS! -- and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment"!
Paul lambasts the very idea of denominations for the first four entire chapters of this book! Paraphrase of 3:1 "You're acting like a bunch of little crybabies! 2. Look at you, throwing your meat on the floor and grabbing for your bottles! 3. Look at you, separating into denominations! Doesn't that prove how worldly you are?!"
3:16 "You're supposed to be building a Temple, not a shack. That's what YOU are. YOU. (Not "you", singular, as one individual reader, but "you", second person plural, as a BODY.) This particular building, this body, is the very Temple of God! The Spirit of God dwells in this Body! 17. Whoever defiles this Body by trying to make some man, or some man's doctrine, the foundation of your fellowship, will be destroyed by God. 18. It doesn't matter how wise you think some man is! Don't make ANY man your foundation for fellowship! What folly! 19. The rest of the world is impressed by the wisdom of man. How ridiculous! Don't you know what God wrote about that? 21. So enough of following men! God gave you everything! God made you rich, and you want to live in poverty? He put the world at your feet, and you want to starve? God made you free, and you would rather be slaves? 22-23 Here's the order: Paul, Peter, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, your local elders, along with everything in this world and the next, are all at the bottom. We are at your service. We are all here for your use. Mere tools. And you are a tool of Christ, as Christ is a tool of God. 4:1 We are Jesus' servants. We try to communicate God's Word responsibly.
The Doctrine of Christ, 2 John 9-11. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
Pretty strong endorsement of separating from people on account of their doctrines, right? But what is this "doctrine of Christ"? Wouldn't that include such anti-denomination passages as John 17:20-23 and Matthew 12:25-27, or John 13:34-35?
Withdraw from men who consent not to wholesome words, the doctrine according to godliness, 1 Timothy 6:2-5. 1 Timothy 6:2 "...These things teach and exhort. 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
See the similarity with previous passages? But in verse 6, "consent not" implies verbal, or intellectual endorsement, of "wholesome words". Isn't this, then, a criteria for membership based on verbal doctrines?
The Greek words translated "consent not" in the KJV literally mean "does not draw near to". In other words, it is not what people say that concerns Paul, but how they live. Do they draw near to the words of Jesus? Do they live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God"?
More Greek notes: "4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but [has a sick obsession with] [controversies] and [arguments about nothing], whereof cometh envy, strife, [humiliation], [evil surmisings, 5 [Mischief and missed callings] of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
It appears this verse, too, counsels separation from people whose hearts are far from God, not people whose hearts are right but whose words and intellects appear to be in error!
Test false prophets by what they confess, 1 John 4:1-3. 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."
The modern scenario of "confessing" is a ritual verbal affirmation of an intellectual concept in the presence of supporters of that same intellectual concept. For example, standing in front of a church and telling them you agree with their doctrines.
When John said we can identify Christians by whether they "confess" that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, there is no reason to assume John was thinking only of the words one utters in answer to a ritual question before a supportive audience at but one single time during his lifetime. The Biblical examples of the confessions of martyrs, and the Bible's lessons about the power of words, give us reason to assume John was talking about whether every word we utter during our lifetime "confesses", or proclaims, or at least is consistent with, the life-changing wonderful news that Jesus Christ came in the flesh!
Don't use Doctrines for Sword Fights, Romans 14.
Paraphrase/summary/application of Romans 14:
1 When others have mistaken doctrines, but they are "in the faith", fellowship with them; but not just so you can question whether they are saved unless they agree with you.
2-3 Even if the doctrines that divide you are the major issues that divide world religions, don't regard your doctrinal opponents as inferior, and don't drive them away. 4 Jesus is their Lord, and their protector.
5 I don't care if you can't even agree which day to worship! Each of you are individually responsible to determine God's Will. 6 And each of you, whatever you determine, are serving the Lord as well as you know how. 7 We Christians do not live or die to please ourselves (not even a pagan will die to please himself!) 8 but to please the Lord. We belong to Jesus. 9 That's why Jesus died, rose, and ascended, so that we might belong to Him, while we are alive, and after we are dead. 10 How dare we judge any Brother in Christ for his doctrines! How dare we minimize his contribution to the Church! We who ourselves will stand before Him who prayed that we might be as One as He is with our Father! 11 It is Him whom we shall all worship. 12 It is Him whom we must answer to.
13 Let there be no more judgment of Brothers for their doctrines! From now on, let's use our judgment to make sure we don't impede anybody's relationship with God.
14 I, (Paul, the guy who wrote half the books of the New Testament,) KNOW, and have been taught by Jesus, that there is no doctrine which can take anybody to Hell all by itself, no matter how wrong it is. On the other hand, if your brother still clings to an incorrect doctrine even after he knows better, then, in relation to him, the doctrine is dangerous, and can hurt him.
15 But if it is your doctrines which confuse your brothers, you are not walking in love. Don't use your doctrines to destroy your Brother for whom Christ died! 16 Let not your wonderful doctrines become a reproach!
17 For the Kingdom of God isn't freedom to do fun things, or verbal formulas, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 It is in the service of these things that a man is accepted by God and man.
19 A Bible Discussion isn't supposed to be a war. It's supposed to be where we help each other grow up. 20 Don't divide [Gr: "dissolve, disunite"] God's Church over what to eat, or how to baptize, or when to worship, or how loud to shout, or your Rapture Calendar, or whether God still heals.
What takes people to hell isn't bad doctrines, but interference with God's relationship with others.
21 You would be better off starving to death, and sewing your mouth shut, and worshipping on Tuesday, and not being raptured at all, than to do or say anything that will make your brother trip, or doubt God, or weaken.
22 You say your doctrines allow God's blessings to flow upon you? They are between you and God. It is a blessing to not feel guilty over what you do.
23 But if your doctrines make you feel guilty for doing certain things, don't do them! Because if you believe doing a thing is disobedience to God, and you do it, then it has become your intent to disobey God!
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