It will become necessary to demonstrate, and that to YOUR satisfaction, that since the death of the Apostles, NOT A ONE of the bureaucratic organizations that we have historically called, "churches", has ever conformed to the teachings and example of Our Lord Jesus Christ about how spiritual authority is to be earned and exercised among Christians.
And this will be absolutely necessary: for before you will have the courage to go forth...unto Him, without the camp, and bear His reproach (Heb.13:13), you will need to be assured that The Holy Ghost, as well as the Holy Scriptures, both affirm, and require, that you separate yourself from everything and everyone that claims to be "Christian" while REFUSING to conform to the teachings and the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have it said to us in the plainest language possible that whosoever abideth not in the doctrine of Christ (Grk. the teachings of Christ, Himself) HATH NOT GOD: and that, If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, RECEIVE HIM NOT into your house, neither bid him God speed (don't do anything to encourage or help him). For he that biddeth him God speed is PARTAKER OF HIS EVIL DEEDS (2 John 9-11). Now with this warning, I remind you that the WORDS of Jesus Christ are the heart of the Gospel. The teachings of Jesus, Himself, are not just "equal" to the rest of the Bible, they are the most important: and any doctrine which does not find it's source and authority in the words of Jesus is not REALLY "Christian". The Bible says Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb.12:2); therefore whatever else we find in the Bible must be received and understood in the light of WHAT JESUS SAID. Peter, Paul, David, and Moses are not "equal" to Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we read in the Epistles about how God has ordained apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph.4:11) in The Church, we are not warranted to understand these things in a way that ends up contradicting Jesus Christ: but rather, we are to regard the words of Jesus as the foundation of all Christian doctrine, and all the other words in the Bible as INSPIRED commentary ON THE WORDS OF CHRIST; not lacking in Divine Authority, but SUBSERVIENT to the Words of Christ. Only of His own words did He say, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Mark 13:31). Only of His own words did He say, The words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). Only of His own words did He say, The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48). and.......
|Matt.20:25||... Jesus...said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.|
|26.||But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever shall be great among you, LET HIM BE your minister;|
|27.||And whosoever will be chief among you, LET HIM BE your servant:|
|28.||Even as the Son of man came NOT to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.|
Oh! Dear Reader! HOW can it be difficult to understand what Our Lord has commanded here, unless the "difficulty" is in the fact that this language appears to repudiate most of what is popularly regarded as "spiritual authority"? Consider now, that Our Lord has said that in "the world", "the great" are those who are willing and able to force you to obey their orders. Even when they ask you "politely" to do something, you know that you MUST do as they say..... when they say....and how they say, or THEY will see to it that you are punished in some way! In The World, things can work no other way, for most men neither know nor fear God; they are rebellious, greedy, prideful, cruel, and perverted; and therefore they must be forced to behave. Without the brutal authority that can and does inflict punishments on some of The World's evil doers, mankind would quickly descend into a murderous and merciless anarchy. The fear of immediate pain or loss is the only thing that restrains most men from doing evil. It is for this reason that the Apostle says, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers (here referring specifically to The State). For there is no power (Grk. AUTHORITY) but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God:..... he (the officer of The State) beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil (Rom.13:1-4). Here, the Bible describes the function of The State and the means by which The State preserves decency and order. Consider then what it means for Jesus to have said to His Church, IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU!
They that are great control the money; they have and display all the popular symbols of success; they represent the fulfillment of the hopes and ambitions of most of mankind. They that are great have and use the power to promote their friends, and to scandalize their enemies. They that are great can call up a mob or dispatch the police to do their bidding. The great are those who are highly esteemed among men: and that which is highly esteemed among the men of THIS world, says Jesus, is ABOMINATION in the sight of God (Luke 16:15). But of course, how can you understand THIS unless you already believe that only the Real Christians are of God, and that the rest of the WHOLE world LIETH IN WICKEDNESS? (1 John 5:19)
Here, Jesus says, that if anyone wishes to be great among you, that he must come to you as your minister. He must come as one who intends to meet YOUR needs; to look out for YOUR welfare; to protect YOU from all harm; to secure YOUR happiness FOR YOU. Theword translated to 'minister' here is DIAKONOS, which is usually translated to DEACON. A deacon is an agent, or administrator, who looks out for the affairs of others. So, those who present themselves as ministers to the flock of God are commanded to be disposed towards the total welfare of those they minister to: not in theory, nor in pretense, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). By the words deed AND truth, we are obliged to make sure that in our "ministering", we must always be ready to actually DO SOMETHING FOR the welfare and benefit of those we minister to: while also knowing that there is no true welfare or benefit whenever the truth is shunned as embarrassing, inconvenient, or unpleasant. Jesus also says, that anyone who wishes to be distinguished as chief, or leader among you, must behave himself towards you like a servant. And finally, The Lord sets Himself forward as the example of these things, by saying, the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to GIVE HIS LIFE a ransom for many. Therefore by the words of Jesus Christ, Himself, you are not obliged to recognize any self-proclaimed "religious authority" who treats you and your problems with indifference or contempt......OR is unwilling to bear any burdens or suffer any inconvenience for your sake. JESUS SAID SO. Anyone presuming to "be your minister", who has no genuine empathy for your needs and problems does not intend to help you; but only to use you, or to dismiss you before you become a cost or a burden to him. If it becomes obvious that you are not ready to join his church or support his cause with your time and money, you will be given an abrupt and flippant reply, and sent on your way. There will be no follow-up visits or phone calls: he is not looking for someone to serve, but only for someone who will end up serving him.
|Mark.10:42||But Jesus called them to Him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.|
|43.||But IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:|
|44.||And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.|
|45.||For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.|
Jesus denies that He came to be accounted as one of the great ones that exercise authority upon us: to whom we do public submissions, pay taxes, and render servile obedience in the same way and for the same reasons we obey the princes of this world (1 Cor.2:6): but rather, that He came to be the servant of all. For ye know the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, YET FOR YOUR SAKES HE BECAME POOR, that ye through His poverty might be rich (2 Cor.8:9). He came to give us life more abundantly (John 10:10), and He does so, at the COST of His own.
Jesus said, I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:15); but, alas! Wherever you look, the men of this world are competing with each other, for everything. And, alas! Those who wish to be great among you are competing with each other also, for the chief seats in the synagogues (Matt.23:6) and the right to have dominion over your faith (2 Cor.1:24). These teachings of Jesus Christ are so completely ignored by the whole world of Organized Religion; and they so utterly condemn the social structure of ALL the "churches", that it's almost impossible to face up to the reality of what He said. It's so easy to overlook what has ALWAYS BEEN IGNORED and IS BEING IGNORED by everyone around you, so let's review what Jesus says, again:
|Luke 22:24||And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.|
|25.||And Jesus said unto them, The Kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.|
|26.||But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief as he that doth serve.|
|27.||For who is greater, he that sitteth at the table, or he that serveth? Is it not he that sitteth at the table? But I am among you as He that serveth.|
Please bear with me, for I must repeat these words of Jesus over and over again: BECAUSE we are here confronted with language that does NOT describe the structure and character of the Churches of Christendom! Look, if you will, as long as you like, at the churches in your community: where do you see any evidence that these commands are being obeyed (rather than being explained), or that this description of The Church is truly fulfilled? Even if you consult the testimony of history, in the hope that things were better in "the good old days", you will find that for these past 1900 years, what we have commonly called "churches", have always been bureaucratic hierarchies; organized and managed in exactly the same way that a business or an earthly government is run: even though Jesus has strictly prohibited this. I have no doubt that there were some folks who took these words of Christ to heart; but then, that means that they would not compete for applause, nor did they seek or demand the right to dominate others, and so, they were just pushed aside. The popular history of Christendom is primarily the story of upper-echelon bureaucrats; with only brief and slanderous mention of those whom they denounced and persecuted.
Jesus says, It shall NOT be so among you; but IT HAS BEEN SO in Christendom, and SO CONSISTENTLY, that these words of Jesus could be eliminated from the Bible without making the slightest difference in how public authority is earned and exercised in the churches.
This leaves me to conclude that, indeed, Christendom has been more or less apostate since the death of the Apostles, and that, the men who have perpetuated this bureaucratic structure are just the Pharisees and the Sadducees of the Christian era. Jesus said, If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants FIGHT (John 18:36). To fight is to COMPETE, or struggle for power over other men by debate, or by intrigue, or by brute force: but His kingdom is NOT of this world, and the "rat race" in which men compete with each other for the chief seats in the synagogues and the power to exercise dominion over your faith (2 Cor.1:24) is foreign to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.
NOW let us have it understood HERE AND NOW between us, that I DO NOT SAY that everyone who ever attended, supported, or pastored a typical local church is NOT SAVED. I myself did all of these things for many years. There have been, and yet may be MANY in such churches; who like myself, were simply unable to face up to what The Bible says Jesus said about THIS. I remember when I was myself an "officer" in such churches; I remember reading these words of Jesus Christ in my Bible; I remember how my thoughts ranged....from blank confusion, to fearfulness, to moments in which I couldn't help but regard these words of Christ with ridicule and contempt. One thing was plain to me even then: that these words did NOT describe, but rather, appeared to denounce the entire structure and most of the officers of my own church and denomination! But I couldn't face up to that possibility, no, not even for a moment! I was, after all, hoping to "climb the ladder" myself: AND, since I was very sure that ALL the other "churches" were pretty much the same, there was nowhere else for me to go and get that "full time ministry" that I hoped I was called to. I would be alone: rejected, slandered, and condemned by almost all the people whose love and approval I so desperately wanted. I would also have to cope with the fact that I was claiming to be "more right" than the millions who once did, and still do, SAY they find hope, truth, and the comforts of fellowship in such churches. Worst of all, and most frightening of all, was the terrifyingpossibility that I could somehow be so deceived in this matter, that I would end up as the "evil enemy" of The Church: thereby assuring my own condemnation. All of these frightful considerations would bear down on me at once and together: producing a moment of such horror and revulsion in me, that I fled in desperation from any further consideration of these matters; hoping that God would have mercy on my immaturity.
But now, dear Reader, we are living in that last day (John 12:48), as most people are willing to concede. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now He commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness, BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.
|John.12:46||I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in Me should not abide in darkness.|
|47.||And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.|
|48.||He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him IN THE LAST DAY.|
|49.||For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.|
|Luke.22:25||And Jesus said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.|
|26.||But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.|
|27.||For who is greater (in the eyes of the world), he that sitteth at the table or he that serveth? is it not he that sitteth at the table? but I am among you as He that serveth.|
The first thing that should be OBVIOUS from the above passage, is that Our Lord Jesus Christ has given a description of how spiritual authority will be earned and exercised in His Church.
Our Lord compares Himself to a household servant. Servants don't GIVE ORDERS to the people they serve, they wait to be called upon: though they may be asked to make recommendations. So it is in our relationship to Jesus Christ: He is among us as He that serveth, and we may trust in His judgement to bring us what is good, if we truly want Him to make these determinations for us. We then, are not authorized by Jesus Christ to FORCE anyone to become a Christian or to agree with our doctrines, but only to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15). Furthermore, "let him be as the younger", is a COMMAND to OBEY. When Jesus says that the kings of the earth like to be called "benefactors", He points out the HYPOCRISY of those who claim to be "just a servant of the people", when in fact, everyone ends up serving THEM. Those who wish to be accounted the greatest in The Church are COMMANDED by Our Lord Jesus Christ to show that same humility, meekness, and respect for each other that we expect children to show to their elders, or servants to show to their masters. We are commanded to let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, though being in the form of God, did not think this equality with God a thing to be presumptively seized or demanded, but MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION, and took upon Him THE FORM OF A SERVANT, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:3-8). Jesus embraced, lived, and taught The Truth: but doing this did not gain for him the acclamation of most of His contemporaries, nor the power to exercise authority upon them: it cost Him everything, including His life. That struggle for supremacy in which men compete with each other for the chance to exercise dominion over your faith (2 Cor.1:24) has been denounced by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, Jesus has explicitly forbidden his followers from copying the bureaucratic structure of THE STATE.
And so, I conclude that....
During the Reformation, when Luther and others were justifying their refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope, and the pyramid of bureaucrats he sat on top of, they found it necessary to assert that The Church was composed of all True Believers, irrespective of their denominational loyalties. This "Church amidst the churches" came to be known as "The Mystical Body of Christ", and every Reformer KNEW that by this designation, they were denying that the True Church could ever be identified as a single bureaucratic society. There isn't a Protestant Church in the world that dares to disagree with this, for their right to exist as separate and competitive entities is derived from it. They, every one, refuse to submit to any "spiritual authority" from outside their own denomination, no matter how much larger or older the other denomination may be. Furthermore, the world is now full of "independent churches", which submit to no "spiritual authority" from outside the four walls of their own building. The practical principle of The Reformation was that every God fearing man could read and understand The Bible for himself; and that the knowledge of The Bible gave him both the right and the obligation to separate himself from any "church" that he judged as heretical. One can only wonder how it is then, that they are so quick to re-establish in their own churches THE SAME KIND OF BUREAUCRACY that they once revolted against: and then condemn as rebels and backsliders those who refuse to submit to it.
The body of Christ (1 Cor.12:27) IS NOT a BUREAUCRACY, in which authority to represent God proceeds from a TITLE, conferred upon a man by a self-serving gang of other men, who only grant such authority to those whose primary loyalties are to themselves and each other. In a bureaucracy; IN EVERY BUREAUCRACY; men are required to overlook, justify, or ratify the words and deeds of their superiors; no matter how immodest, ungracious, or untruthful those words and deeds may be. Everyone in the world knows, that IN THE WORLD, promotion is usually rewarded to those who can be counted on to support and defend their masters, while the more qualified man who won't play deaf dumb and blind to the sins of his masters is considered to be "disloyal". Even when a man is gifted, useful, dependable, hardworking, loyal, and profitable: but he cannot be trusted to go along with or cover up for the misdeeds of his masters, he is regarded as "untrustworthy". Such a man is not likely to be promoted, and some pretence may even be sought to eliminate him. He is not what they call "a team player"; which term is "bureaucratic-speak" for anyone who will not speak great swelling words, having men's person's in admiration FOR THEIR OWN ADVANTAGE (Jude 16). Those who come in at the bottom of any bureaucracy are ususally required to close their eyes to error and injustice over and over again in order to secure any real prospect of promotion. Moral and ethical considerations are simply ANNOYANCES to any man whose chief concerns are self-preservation and increase. By the time he has reached the top himself, he has already excused his own self-serving complicity with the sins of his masters so many times, that he no longer has any integrity left. His conscience has been put to death; and he now demands the same servile complicity he once groaned under from those over whom he now reigns. Thus, by the process of bureaucratic attrition, the sins and errors of those who are already established become, for all practical purposes, equal to official company policy: and anyone who dares to resist or protest these things will be punished for doing so. You know what I mean.
There is no room for the Holy Ghost in a BUREAUCRACY, in which the only way to gain more authority is to please and flatter those who sit near the top. There is no room for Prophets in a BUREAUCRACY: for Prophets get their commission from God, not from men. There was already a Church in Jerusalem when the Apostle Paul was converted, but, when he is challenged to justify his right to "speak for God", he says this:
|Gal.1:10||For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.|
|11.||But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.|
|12.||For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.|
I guess the Apostle Paul forgot to stop in at the church in Jerusalem and pick up his ordination certificate .........No, he didn't forget; and instead, he says this:
|2Cor.3:1||Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?|
Would the Apostle Paul have been invited to preach in your church? or would he be rejected, because he didn't have "SOMEONE'S" OFFICIAL CREDENTIALS? Truth now....come on......tell the truth!
When Jesus says, Ye shall NOT be so, He has both issued a command which we are well advised to heed, and made a prediction about the nature of His Church. Whatever the True Church is: it is not structured like a corporation; it is not run like an earthly government; and it does not recognize as "authorities" those who have wormed their way through the ranks by pleasing the "right" men.
BUT ALAS! The people of Modern Christendom say:
They wish to be like all the nations; they wish to be recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the affairs of this life (2 Tim.2:4). They recognize how the threat of persecution or rejection by an organized multitude can convince and bully the individual into cooperation or submission. They split up into separate gangs (churches): each one a petty kingdom with it's own king, and it's own officials: and each one a self contained bureaucracy: submitting to no spiritual authority from outside their own little kingdom. They compete openly with everyone else (and all the other little kingdoms) for the right to own and control as much of the world (Mark 8:36) as they can. They assert, of course, that having gained this power, they will only use it for good: but Jesus has denounced even the ambition to gain THIS KIND of power, for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15). Rather, He says, that we should always seek the lowest place, and wait for the Lord to tell us when we should go up higher (Luke 14:10). We are not to allow ourselves to be seen or identified as one of the princes of this world (1 Cor.2:6), but rather to condescend to men of low estate (Rom.12:16). When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, HE DEPARTED into a mountain himself alone (John 6:15). Jesus REFUSED such authority as unfitting for the administration of His kingdom: but the leaders of Christendom today are fighting tooth and nail to gain this kind of authority, and condemning all who will not help them obtain it. That endless struggle to be recognized as a "mover and shaker" in the affairs of this life (2 Tim.2:4), and to wield the brutal authority that forces other men to submit and obey, betrays a heart full of carnal ambition: and no amount of religious profession conceals any secret self-serving agenda from God.
And even though all these bureaucrats love to SAY, that they are not conformed to this world (Rom.12:2), the only thing that distinguishes their "churches" from any other self perpetuating racial, political or cultural society, is their claim to be devoted to propogating a particular version of Christianity. BUT.... The racial, political, and cultural loyalties upon which they pride themselves will be maintained and defended at all costs; the language of their "creed", notwithstanding. How can you not see that most churches now function primarily as cultural self-affirmation societies? There, people whose similarities and connections are wholly natural and worldly can meet, KNOWING that their own peculiar culture and lifestyle will there be justified and dignified by a sprinkling of religion. Some imagine themselves to be "the salt of the earth" crowd, and others consider themselves to be "the dignified elite", while yet others see themselves as "the persecuted racial minority". In any case, most of the people in most of these churches are actually unified around something other than the language of their "creed". They can change churches and even denominations without feeling any guilt or fear of God, as long as they can find "their own kind". There may be a few doctrinal stipulations which they retain in order to keep up appearances in front of their family and friends, but these stipulations are not decisive in their choice: cultural, racial, and family connections; these are finally decisive. The churches of Christendom are still conspicuously segregated along family, racial, cultural, and economic lines: and this clearly indicates that they have rejected the fellowship of the saints in order to preserve the fellowship of the flesh (Col.3:11).
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See part 2 of Chapter 17: THE PHARISEES AND THE SADDUCEES ARE STILL IN CHARGE
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