Friday, January 4, 2008
What is "The Church"?
Just what is a "church?" Strong’s Greek Dictionary, #1570. ekklesia, a calling out. (1b) Ekklesia, from ek, "out of," and klesis, "a calling…" So the church is those whom God has CALLED OUT to be His "called out ones," hence, Jesus said, "So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last [sorry, don’t have time to explain this unique statement of our Lord]: for many be called, but few chosen." I will take the time to explain this second statement, however.
Notice that the "called" and the "chosen" cannot be the same group, as one is "many" and the other is "few." God has given us a general statement as to whom He has called and whom He has not called. We already know the number of those called is "many." Now we will see the two general classifications of those called:
THE "CALLED" AND THE "NOT CALLED"
"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many [some, but not many] wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
But God has chosen the foolish things [many translations do not insert the word "things" in these verses] of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Cor. 1:26-29).
So we see that God calls MOSTLY those who are: weak, base, despised, nothings! Are we to believe that God is going to build a SPIRITUAL ARMY of Sons and Daughters by which He will conquer and SAVE THE WORLD?
Hard to believe, isn’t it? I think we can all agree that there is a great deal of work to be done with and to these "nothings of the world" whom God is calling to such a formidable, once-in-an-eternity task!
But of the "many called," we are told, "few are chosen" (Matt. 20:16). Why is that? God has intended it to be such. We are given the parable of the "sower of seed" where much of the seed fell by the side of the tilled soil, and the birds ate it; some had no depth and withered in the sun; still more fell among thorns and were chocked, but some fell upon good soil and produced much fruit. Many seed are sown, but few seed produce good fruit. "Seed" we see everywhere in the Church; "fruit" of God’s spirit is more rare. These few have the added designation of:
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14).
These are the "very elect" who cannot be deceived any longer by the Great Whore, "Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots, and the Abominations of the earth."
One more important verse regarding our calling, that I will cite out of the Concordant Literal New Testament because I believe they translate the Greek aorist tense properly, whereas the King James uses the past tense:
"Now we are aware that GOD [it is unfortunate that the King James leaves out "God" even though it is in the manuscripts. Most translations do put "God" in this opening phrase. Things don’t just ‘work’ together without GOD doing the ‘working’] is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are [being] called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren. Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls [not ‘called’ as all are NOT YET called, it is the aorist tense] also, and whom He calls, these He justifies, also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also" (Rom. 8:28:30).
Now, pay attention: All which God foreknew, He then designates beforehand (He hand-picks them, if you will). And therefore, since He has already designated them beforehand, when they are born in whatever generation God designates; He then calls them. Now it is true that God calls MANY OTHERS whom He has NOT designated to be "conformed to the image of His Son" AT THE TIME that each generation appears in history.
There are many more "called" in each generation than are actually, "chosen" to be conformed to the image of His Son at that time.
All that are not chosen will be in the second resurrection/white throne judgment/lake of fire. These will go the "broad way into destruction" from which they will await judgment at the great white throne. But, those which God foreknows and designates beforehand, He definitely does call, but these designated ones GO ON to be JUSTIFIED AND GLORIFIED. They are not just the "called," but the "called AND CHOSEN" which will go on to glorification in service with Christ, as the manifested Sons and Daughters of God, in the Kingdom of God, to bring the rest of heaven and earth to SALVATION!
When Jesus says that,
"Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord… Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity" (Matt. 722-23),
He is not speaking of a minority but a majority. The "many" NEVER means the minority!
We will see it conclusively proved from God’s Word that the majority in the Church today are going the "broad way," and not the "straight and narrow way." And I am not just preaching to the choir when I say that only a "FEW" will be in the first resurrection and rule and reign with Christ, I am speaking to all the church and to myself as well. I know these aren’t the "soft" words that tickle people’s ears, but what I am telling you is a "hard saying" of the Scripture that is absolutely true. Jesus Christ Himself said that "THE MANY" must "DEPART from Me." Jesus doesn’t "know" the many, in a spiritual relationship, because they are too carnal to be spiritual.
ARE YOU "CALLED AND CHOSEN" OR JUST "CALLED?"
Let me first state that there is an order in the process of being called to Sonship. First you are called, and then you are chosen from among the called. And we have already learned that the "chosen" are also the "few." Quite frankly, not unlike a casting call. Many are called to come to the casting rehearsal, but only a relative few will be chosen for the actual performance. Which are you? I will not be your personal judge, however, as we progress in this series, you will be confronted with dozens of Scriptures by which you can JUDGE YOURSELF by the aid of God’s Spirit.
THE CHURCH OF GOD FROM OUR COMMON ERA—YEAR "0" A.D.
Actually there never was a year "0"—there was "1" B.C. and "1" A.D., but no one apparently ever thought of a year "0" for the starting point of our Common Era (anno Domini, The Year of Our Lord). But then again, Jesus was not born on what would have been year zero anyway, do to the fact that Jesus was born a few years BEFORE our A.D. or Common Era which means Christ was born B.C. or (BEFORE Christ). (My friend, the late Dr. Ernest Martin, wrote a book entitled The Birth of Christ Recalculated, which will straighten this all out for your). But, anyway, as our Lord was growing up in His father’s carpentry shop, there already existed a Church of God in Judea, headquartered at the temple in Jerusalem.
The church headquarters in the wilderness was a portable Tabernacle. When they settled the promised land, it was given to Solomon to build a fabulous permanent temple in Jerusalem. It went through various reconstructions, one of which was by king Herod. It was Herod’s temple that existed at the time of Jesus’ ministry. And as we have already clearly seen, Jesus Christ did not speak many kind words toward the leaders of the church of God headquartered in Herod’s temple, in Jerusalem, in the first century AD.
JESUS GOES TO CHURCH
Perhaps you never thought of Jesus going to Church, but He did. The first time that something is mentioned in Scripture, it is often very instructive. Although it was the habit of Jesus to attend local synagogues during His life, the first time the Scriptures mention Jesus going to the temple as a adult is in Matt. 21:12:
"And they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the House of Prayer? But ye have made it a DEN OF THIEVES [Gk: ‘burglars’ cave’].’ And the SCRIBES and CHIEF PRIESTS heard it, and sought how they might DESTROY HIM: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine" (Mark 11:15-18).
What a revelation of the church of God we have in these three verses!
Jesus was so angry with the leaders at the temple for turning it into a money-making flea market, that he:
"cast out them that sold and bought in the temple"
"overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and seats of them that sold doves"
"suffered no one to carry vessels [of merchandise] through the temple"
Jesus said that they "made the House of Prayer a DEN OF THIEVES"!
Say, did you notice that they were buying and selling "…in the Temple?" Do you think that just maybe this has anything to do with the fact that,
"…NO MAN might BUY OR SELL, save he that had the MARK OR THE NAME OF THE BEAST, or the NUMBER OF HIS NAME" (Rev. 13:17)?
We will cover the Mark of the Beast in a later installment.
But this is all ancient history, isn’t it? The modern Church of God has not been turned into a "den of thieves" has it? Were the High priests and Scribes, going against the law of either their own religious beliefs or of Rome? No. No, they weren’t. So they were not "thieves" according to the Church or the Roman government. But were they thieves, nonetheless? Yes, they were, Jesus Christ SAID THEY WERE THIEVES, a whole "DEN OF THIEVES"!
At least the modern Church of God is not a "den of thieves," is it? I’m sure not all; you can be the judge:
One of the major factors in the Reformation was the disdain over the practice of the Church selling INDULGENCES. The American Heritage College Dictionary, "indulgence n. 6. Roman Catholic Church The remission of temporal punishment still due for a sin that has been sacramentally absolved."
Make no mistake about it:
"For the love of money is the [Gk. ‘a’] root of all evil" (I Tim. 6:10).
Before the Reformation, it was thought by some that one could practically "buy" one’s salvation.
Jesus "CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple." Is there, "buying and selling" going on in the Church today? Excuse me…does a cat have a tail?
Now don’t think that I am against money. Jesus Himself used money in his ministry (but he never sold in the temple, neither did He ever collect a penny in tithe money).
I couldn’t count the number of e-mails I have received in response to my article on tithing being unscriptural under the new covenant, in which they ask how they should pay their church utility bill if the people don’t tithe? I tell them to pay it with a check backed by money in the bank. All those interested in paying the utility bill should contribute voluntary offerings of money for that expense. This is not difficult. But no one under the New Covenant is obligated by law or conscience to pay ten percent of their salaries to a church! People under the Old Covenant, likewise, were not under law to pay ten percent of their salaries to the Levites. And, Yes, they did have money back then.
UNSCRUPULOUS PEDDLERS OF GOD’S WORD
After Jesus THREW OUT those who "bought and sold" in the temple, did they ever return? Not only did they return to the temple after Christ’s resurrection, but they also came into the very Church, which Jesus said HE WOULD BUILD. The whole temple system in Jerusalem was so utterly corrupt that they corrupted the people of Jerusalem and Judea as well.
In and around 70 AD the armies of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and there was an awful slaughter. You can read of these horrible events in the writings of Josephus. But even before the temple with its corrupt religious system was demolished, it had already spread its ugly tentacles into the Church which Jesus built.
A QUICK HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BEFORE REVELATION
Jesus Christ said,
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a movable stone], and upon this rock [Christ, the immovable boulder] I will build MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell [Greek: hades, the unseen realm of the dead] shall NOT prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
What did Jesus mean that the "gates of hades would not prevail against it?" This word "prevail" was translated from the Greek word katischuo and it means, "to overpower." It is used but one other time in Scripture and here we shall see exactly what this word means:
"And they [the chief priests] were instant with loud voices, requiring that He [Jesus] might be crucified. And the voices of them of the chief priests prevailed… And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they CRUCIFIED Him…" (Luke 23:23 & 33).
The chief priests "prevailed" [katischuo] by putting Jesus Christ TO DEATH. But Jesus said that the "gates of hades [realm of the DEAD] will not prevail [katischuo] against it." In other words, His Church would NEVER be overpowered to death.
And so, the Church that Jesus Christ built is still around today.
On Pentecost, Jesus Christ came back to His disciples just as He said He would. He came back as the Comforter. Jesus said that they absolutely could NOT receive the Comforter until He went away. Why? Because Jesus Christ IS THE COMFORTER, but not in the flesh, but in THE SPIRIT!
It was on Pentecost that the first members of the Church of Christ received the Holy Spirit Comforter, just as He symbolized to them when He blew on them, showing that He Himself would come to them in spirit by the will of God. Now for the first time, His disciples were truly converted, baptized in Holy Spirit, possessing the mind of Christ, lead into all Truth (Jesus) by the Comforter—Jesus was NOW BUILDING HIS CHURCH!
"But the Comforter [Greek, parakletos, also called the Consoler, and in I John 2:1, Advocate in KJV, and Entreater in the CLNT] which IS the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
The Advocate or Entreater in I John 2:1 IS the parakletos, The Comforter or Consoler of John 14:26 IS the parakletos,. and we are told that it is Jesus Christ Himself. Furthermore, the "Holy Spirit" that is said to come AS the Comforter is also Jesus Christ,
"Now the Lord IS that Spirit: and where the Spirit OF THE Lord [Jesus Christ] is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17
THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST GROWS
The next mention of the Church that Christ said He would build is found in Acts 2:46-47:
"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord ADDED to the church DAILY [3000 in one day, Ver. 41] such as should be saved" (Acts 2:46-47).
PERSECUTION COMES QUICKLY
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:11).
Those are the words of Paul, and he should know, HE WAS THE CHURCH’S BIGGEST PERSECUTOR!
"And Saul [Paul] was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was A GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem, and they were ALL scattered abroad through the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).
And just who was behind this persecuting of the Church of God? Answer: The other Church of God that was also headquartered in Jerusalem!!!
"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord [that would be Christ’s Church], went unto the HIGH PRIEST [of the OTHER Church of God, in the TEMPLE—remember back in Acts 2:46 where the Church of Christ was ‘continuing daily with one accord?’ Yes, that temple!]
And [Saul] desired of him LETTERS [letters of authorization from the highest level of God’s Church—the HIGH PRIEST] to Damascus…"
Letters for the purpose of continuing his persecution and slaughter of Christ’s New Church. I told you it is not pretty picture.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his OWN HOUSEHOLD" (Matt. 10:34-36).
Do you think that maybe a man’s foes could even be of his OWN CHURCH?
But Jesus Christ, being the Masterful Genius of EVERYTHING THAT HE DOES, chose His GREATEST ENEMY (Saul), to become His GREATEST APOSTLE (Paul), and to save time, He converted Paul in about two-and-a-half seconds. ONE FLASH OF BLINDING LIGHT! And today’s Church doesn’t think that Jesus can convert such mediocre persecutors such as Hitler in a trillion centuries. Just wait until Jesus puts him UNDER THE LIGHT! I don’t think he will last two-and-a-half seconds.
How then, after getting rid of the greatest sinner and persecutor and turning him into a great apostle, does the church fare?
THE APOSTLE TO ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS
"But the Lord said unto him [Ananias], Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE" (Acts 9:15-16).
"Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that HE IS THE SON OF GOD. But they were all AMAZED… But Saul increased the more in strength and CONFOUNDED the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, PROVING THAT THIS IS THE VERY CHRIST" (Acts 9:19-22).
PAUL’S TWENTY-FIVE YEAR GOSPEL TOUR
Paul taught BOLDLY in the synagogues of the Jews:
From Damascus, going in and coming out of Jerusalem, down to Caesarea, to Tarsus, throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, to Antioch, unto Seleucia, to Cyprus, at Salamis, the isle, unto Paphos, to Perga in Pamphylia, to Antioch in Pisidia, unto Iconium, unto Lystra, and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lies round about, Pisidia, to Pamphylia, Perga, into Attalia, and back to Antioch, and up to Jerusalem again, then back to Antioch, through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe and Lystra, Iconium, throughout Phyrgia, the region of Galatia, to Mysia, into Macedonia, from Troas, to Samothracia, to Neapolis, to Philippi, through Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica, at Berea, unto Athens, to Corinth.
"Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I WILL GO UNTO THE GENTILES" (Acts 18:6).
"And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and MANY of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with you, and no man shall set on you to hurt you: for I have MUCH PEOPLE in this city. And he continued there a year and six months…" (Acts 18:8-10).
Paul continues teaching among the Gentiles, Sailing into Syria, to Ephesus, at Caesarea, down to Antioch, over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia, to Achaia, back to Ephesus, and all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought SPECIAL MIRALCES BY THE HANDS OF PAUL. Paul called unto him the disciples [in Ephesus], and departed for to go into Macedonia, and when he had gone over those parts, he came into Greece, into Asia, Troas, from Philippi, to Troas, unto Assos, to Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, Miletus, unto Coos, unto Rhodes, unto Patara, Phenicia, Cyprus, into Syria,Tyre, to Ptolemais, unto Caesarea where Paul said, ‘for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus, and after those days he went up to Jerusalem, for the last time.
It is not my purpose to freighten anyone or to discourage anyone. Neither do I wish to white-wash the difficulties in walking the walk of faith with our Lord. Hopefully we will not all have to endure everything that the Apostle Paul endured, but rest assured, that if you begin your walk with Christ in earnest, you will have to endure considerable hardships and persecutions.
"Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12).
But always remember that there is a promise attached to this suffering:
"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also REIGN WITH HIM…" (II Tim. 2:11-12).
"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
And this tribulation comes with a promise also:
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord DELIVERS HIM OUT OF THEM ALL" (Psalm 34:19).
Twenty-five years Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well did Paul say,
"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Gal. 6:17).
"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches" (II Cor. 11:23-28).
Remember that Paul was "chief [preeminent] of sinners." God predetermined that Paul was to suffer much, and many things for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul never complained. He rejoiced in his weakness because that is when God used him mightily.
Paul knew that much of his labor in the gospel would fail to bring most of the saints to spiritual maturity. Paul came out of the Great Whore Church, the Mother Church of Judaism. Paul knew that the Church of Jesus Christ would likewise become corrupted and commit spiritual fornication with the world. And so, just as Paul came out of religious Babylon, everyone reared in the daughter harlot churches, must likewise, "Come out of her My people."