How the Bible defines Church and how the Church responds to that definition can often be two different things. It is clear through the scriptures that there has always been a problem with how the Church responds to how it is defined.
Scripture tells us that the Church is a group of called out people, baptised into Christ. These are the ecclesia.
Ephesians 1: 22 -2:10 ….’And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
2 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Galatians 3: 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.
The commission of Christ to His body, is to go out, preach the gospel, make disciples, tend to those who are in need and look after the widow and the orphan.
That’s the work we all must occupy ourselves with. These things bring rich rewards. However, there is a caveat. Believers must remain in Christ and He in them. This tells us that despite our knowledge of God, we can also be in a place where we do not know Him at all. His Spirit must reside and work in us. If this is happening then we will produce the good fruit.
However, are you aware that the world also has its own gospel and its own saviour too? So what makes a Christian different?
It is that the believer in Christ has died and seeks to honour the commands of his Master. His reward is pleasing Him and bringing glory to God.
The gospel of the world focuses upon investment, seeking a return for good works and the betterment of ones self, and thus being embroiled in its own goodness, it is self satisfying and selfish. The flesh likes to feel good when it does something good. Altruism is a great thing but in contrast a believer should never rack up his good deeds on a tally sheet and then exhibit it to others. Only God can decide what is good and acceptable. In all of this I am not for one minute negating any of the good work that the saints continue to do for the Kingdom. We have done or should I say God does through us, amazing things.
The Church is about God through us, because the fullness of God in the body of the Church fills all in all. (Eph 1:23)
The Church must show Christ in this world and not its own agenda. If the Church is not being persecuted in then it is not His Church.
Paul wrote: Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the favour and approval of men, or of God? Or am I seeking to please someone? If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Jesus said : John 16:2
They will put you out of the synagogues and make you outcasts. And a time is coming when whoever kills you will think that he is offering service to God.
It is therefore true that these words will prevail if the true Church is to be manifest. Showing the light of Christ into a dark world therefore comes at a price.
Numbers in the persecuted Church are increasing but at the same time the Church of the age is kowtowing to the authorities of this world. They seek peace through a tolerant and religious message. Messages of blessings and increase, prosperity and the human capacity to achieve more and be successful, pervade the echo chambers of the religious arena. These messages are not saving people. They are causing them to put their hopes in a false gospel.
Where is God’s grace in all of this? His grace comes through His enduring love and His desire for a relationship with those He created. God shed His own blood in order for that relationship. What more should He do? What more should we demand of Him?
When God’s sovereign rule over His Church is removed or ignored, He will remove Himself from her.
Scripture tells us, 2 Timothy 3: 1 But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, 4 traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!
6 They are the kind who worm their way into households and captivate vulnerable women who are weighed down with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 who are always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
The attributes of the Church in the latter days are reflected in this passage. The Pharisees, dressed in religious garb paraded themselves among the people. They were given status and power and maintained through the offerings of Israel, but they denied the truth. Jesus called them white-washed sepulchres, painted tombs that look good on the outside but are full of the stench of death within.
Jeremiah 24 and 25 speaks of God’s accusations against His people. He defines what is good and what is bad, using the imagery of the fig, which represents Israel.
24 The Lord showed me, and there were two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord, after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the princes of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. 2 One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten, they were so bad. 3 Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”
4 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I [a]acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. 6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. 7 Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.
8 ‘And as the bad figs which cannot be eaten, they are so bad’—surely thus says the Lord—‘so will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. 9 I will deliver them to trouble into all the kingdoms of the earth, for their harm, to be a reproach and a byword, a taunt and a curse, in all places where I shall drive them. 10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.’ ”
Chapter 25 tells us of how the people didn’t listen to the prophets who came to tell them to repent.
God is declaring that the wickedness of the people has caused them to be handed over in bondage. He deals with them through Nebuchadnezzar, His servant, forcing them into exile in Babylon for 70 years.
Jeremiah 25: 33 And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground.
34 “Wail, shepherds, and cry! Roll about in the ashes, You leaders of the flock! For the days of your slaughter and your dispersions are fulfilled; You shall fall like a precious vessel.
35 And the shepherds will have no way to flee, Nor the leaders of the flock to escape.
36 A voice of the cry of the shepherds, And a wailing of the leaders to the flock will be heard. For the Lord has plundered their pasture,
37 And the peaceful dwellings are cut down Because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
We are seeing today, that there are men and women in the authority of the Church that simply should not be there. There is the proliferation of aberrant teaching and social agendas that have no place in the preaching of the word. The toleration of abominable practices and beliefs, pervade the agenda of its mandate. There is a great mixture within its walls but the way forward, though hard, is simple.
Leviticus 14 speaks of the contamination of a leper’s house. Leprosy, leaven and mould are synonymous as images for sin.
The Law Concerning Leprous Houses
14:33 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 34 “When you have come into the land of Canaan, which I give you as a possession, and I put the leprous plague in a house in the land of your possession, 35 and he who owns the house comes and tells the priest, saying, ‘It seems to me that there is some plague in the house,’ 36 then the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes into it to examine the plague, that all that is in the house may not be made unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to examine the house. 37 And he shall examine the plague; and indeed if the plague is on the walls of the house with ingrained streaks, greenish or reddish, which appear to be deep in the wall, 38 then the priest shall go out of the house, to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days. 39 And the priest shall come again on the seventh day and look; and indeed if the plague has spread on the walls of the house, 40 then the priest shall command that they take away the stones in which is the plague, and they shall cast them into an unclean place outside the city. 41 And he shall cause the house to be scraped inside, all around, and the dust that they scrape off they shall pour out in an unclean place outside the city. 42 Then they shall take other stones and put them in the place of those stones, and he shall take other mortar and plaster the house.
43 “Now if the plague comes back and breaks out in the house, after he has taken away the stones, after he has scraped the house, and after it is plastered, 44 then the priest shall come and look; and indeed if the plague has spread in the house, it is an active leprosy in the house. It is unclean. 45 And he shall break down the house, its stones, its timber, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them outside the city to an unclean place. 46 Moreover he who goes into the house at all while it is shut up shall be unclean until evening. 47 And he who lies down in the house shall wash his clothes, and he who eats in the house shall wash his clothes.
48 “But if the priest comes in and examines it, and indeed the plague has not spread in the house after the house was plastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed. 49 And he shall take, to cleanse the house, two birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. 50 Then he shall kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running water; 51 and he shall take the cedar wood, the hyssop, the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times. 52 And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and the running water and the living bird, with the cedar wood, the hyssop, and the scarlet. 53 Then he shall let the living bird loose outside the city in the open field, and make atonement for the house, and it shall be clean.
54 “This is the law for any leprous sore and scale, 55 for the leprosy of a garment and of a house, 56 for a swelling and a scab and a bright spot, 57 to teach when it is unclean and when it is clean. This is the law of leprosy.” NKJ
The house must be cleansed and if it can’t be cleansed it must be knocked down. Truth must be preached and wickedness exposed.
Preachers and those who get the opportunity to speak from behind the pulpit curry favour and praise. They search out every opportunity to stand above the people so that their profane words can be heard. God says that this is the fault with the bad shepherd.
There is a passage in Isaiah 29, that reveals an outcome to those who have become indoctrinated in the ways of men. Their trust has turned from God and become aligned to their own thoughts and understanding. Professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools. Romans 1:22
Before we read this passage it is important to understand what Isaiah brought in his message to Israel. There is a constant to-ing and fro-ing in God's charges against Israel and the promise of the restoration. God is a disciplinarian and the defender of Israel. He brings their enemies against them but suddenly becomes their defender. He brings both desolation and fruitfulness. This juxtaposition of justice and mercy, plays out throughout the prophecies. Israel bears the disciplined rod, the staff of guidance and realignment, and is then restored. God brings both severe desolation and fruitfulness. This is the parable of the seed. It must die to bear fruit.
The final passage of Isaiah 29 tells us that those who have heard in spirit will understand and acquire insight, and the complainers will learn doctrine. When we look at the Israelites in Egypt, as they are about to leave their bondage, we see a people embarking on their deliverance from exile and so we see two aspects at work. They have learnt of the ways of Egypt and become indoctrinated in the worship of foreign gods. Nothing is said of the teaching of Jacob and the God that Joseph brought to the land all those years ago. All is but forgotten. Still many must have been aware of some memory of a time prophesied for their release. The people will come to worship YHVH as their God, because God has chosen them out of all the people of the nations. Isaiah 30 proclaims a beautiful restoration that he was told to inscribe upon tablets, so that God’s prophecy will be recorded. Still the opening verses remind us that man still makes his own plans and does things against God’s will. The people will become presumptuous and go to Egypt for shelter and protection instead of turning to God. In Isaiah 29:8 we see a change of direction. God turns the events around — Egypt is not the saviour. The reliance on Egypt for the health and wealth of Israel is grossly mistaken.
The prophets became useless and the Lord makes them prophesy what the people want to hear.
Verse 12 Israel has rejected the word and the prophets have become mute and blind. The metaphors in this poem tell us that the weaknesses of the people will bring them crashing down along with what they have put their reliance upon. v19 is a wonderful passage on how their turning to God comes around. They will begin to cry out and God will heal them. They will turn away from their wickedness and their abhorrent idols of silver and gold. They will remove that which has become impure from among them, and they will once again listen to the guides who show them the way to go. This is a message for those who will gather and begin to walk the highway of holiness. The exodus of the people will begin with those who listen and see the way. These people will be led by the Holy Spirit who will empower men to lead. They will take people to safety and the Lord will lead them to high places where their provisions are met.
This is a place of blessing and prosperity. It alludes to the end time gathering of His remnant and it is a time when God will bind up their wounds and heal them.
As the people rest, God tends to the destruction of their enemies.
In Israel we see the two identities of Jacob — the corporeal and the spiritual characters. Jacob the man, struggles with the flesh, and yet knows his relationship with God. Jacob was a man who met with God and angels before being changed to Israel. Israel would embody the two identities but also reflect God’s working out as a separate people and a holy and perfected bride. Here we see the two aspects —Jacob is the real Church today, struggling with God and her identity. The Christian Church has thousands of denominations all with different approaches to doctrine and tradition. Judaism and Islam express various traditions too.
Through it all there is disunity because the Church and Israel reflect the life of the patriarch Jacob. Just as Jacob and Esau were separated, so are Joseph and Judah. When we look at Esau we see a man who never made up with his brother Jacob. Though Esau had abundant wealth and refused to accept Jacob's gift at Mahanaim, his embrace of his estranged brother had another agenda altogether. Esau wanted his birthright, but what he failed to understand was that the birthright and promise given to Jacob was not his.
Nonetheless, Esau wants what Jacob has — not his wealth but his land! Jacob (as in Israel) struggles because he lives in Edom, Esau’s land, metaphorically.
Israel to this day remains scattered among the nations (Esau’s land) just as Christianity is scattered among the nations. The longer God’s people remain out of the land they remain in exile and exile eventually brings forgetfulness and the knowledge of oneself wanes. That's the Church today and because of its embrace of worldly things, she has forgotten her identity for the most part, and a great price has been paid. In order to continue having a presence in the world, she must appease the world and kowtow to its demands. So again we see the spirit of Esau vying to gain control of Jacob’s true identity, Israel.
The true Church will not give up the fight. She does not require position or favour in a world in which she does not belong. There is nothing in this world in fact, that can compare with the promise of her blessed hope and her divine position in Christ in the world to come.
The real Church is the Church in our reality. It presents a relative approach to man’s needs through its traditions and rules. It focuses little upon relationship with God through repentance and holiness, and promotes a socially tolerant agenda against sin. Grace has a slidable scale, and the commands of God are cherry picked because the true doctrine of God and the commission of Christ is misunderstood. It sees that entrance into the kingdom is a cert. It fails to remember the man who was kicked out of the wedding feast and of the fate of the five unwise virgins. The true Church on the other hand, is a remnant representative of Christ’s bride who has been prepared by her servants — the servants are the priests of Christ. Her preparation involves trial and persecution because she testifies of her Christ and lives by His commandments. The proponents of the slidable grace scale fail to see that when it comes to judgement, grace will eventually end.
What do I mean by that? The Bible tells us that where sin abounds grace abounds also.
Romans 5:20 But the Law came to increase and expand [the awareness of] the trespass [by defining and unmasking sin]. But where sin increased, [God’s remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more,
Today sin has risen to such a great height, and it is waiting for the judgement of God. That means the moment will come when God will say, “ No more” and then all heaven will break loose.
When the Messiah returns He will not be returning in the flesh. The millennial reign of our Christ will see the true Church gathered to Him. She will judge wickedness in every high and low place and in all the spiritual places. The judgement of God will begin in His house in both the spiritual and physical realms, and this hour is near. It will come when we least expect it and it will come because of the prayers of the righteous.
This is our challenge today, right now! Which Church do you belong to?
Can you ask yourself, ‘Have I done all that I can in pursuing my relationship with Christ?
Have I settled for a compromised, ignorant, manipulative, man-made doctrine, and neglected to seek the truth? Have I left it up to someone else to feed me when I was quite capable of feeding myself? Have I leaned on the wisdom of men, and bought into the lies of Satan's Church?’
These are not my words friends. God has already spoken of all of this. He is coming back for a perfect bride but only when she cries out for him. The question for us is what we are we doing to hasten His return?
One thing that we can do is to lay down all that we have learned and perceived through the mind of man. The scriptures tell us that only the Spirit can understand the things of the Spirit.
As we search for truth, our consciousness will be wiped clean because we have come to understand that we have absorbed much that is in error. It’s like a spiritual detox. God, however, for His part, will restore to us that which the locust has eaten, but only if we humble ourselves,
repent and pray.