ORDER MADE CHAOS
How and Why?
by Ed Stevens
"God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" 1 Cor. 14:33
EXPLANATION OF "CHURCH"
"What church do you belong to?", I was asked.
"I belong to the church that's in the Bible, the one Paul and Peter and the first Christians belonged to", was my answer.
"Oh, yes, but . . . ", and the questioner hardly knew what to say next.
Great is the confusion in the world concerning the church of the Bible. Can this confusion be dispelled? We believe it can for all who have an ear for the truth.
In the original Greek language the word for "church" is "ekklesia", which word means, "a called out assembly of people". This word is used four ways in the New Testament:
1. A called out civilian assembly, as pictured in Acts 19:39, 41, where we read how the citizens of Ephesus were called out of their homes to a public riot in the streets of the city. The town clerk appeased the people and said, "If ye inquire anything concerning other matters it shall be determined in lawful assembly. For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken he dismissed the assembly", or, "ekklesia", as it is given in the original in both these verses.
2. A nation called out of Egypt to the wilderness. mentioned in Acts 7:38, "This is he [Moses] that was in the church fekklesial in the wilderness . . . " Israel was called out of Egypt to the wilderness where they wandered for forty years as a national "church". It is unbiblical to say Israel was a church when settled in Palestine. There they are not so designated in the Bible.
In the above civilian and national "churches" a saved state is not the determining factor as it is in our next two considerations where on'y saved neople constitute the church. Israel was God's relig oas nation, but all were not saved in Israel.
3. A number of Christians called out of their homes to a meeting place in a city or in a home is Christ's church, as: "the, church at Jerusalem", "greet the church that is in their house" (Acts 8:1; Rom. 16:5). Such gatherings constitute an "ekklesia", or "church" in one locality, while "churches", plural, designates many such assemblies in a given area as seen in I Cor. 16:19; 14:33, "The churches of Asia salute you". "As in all the churches of the saints". Please remember, these were not denominations or sects and their assemblies, as now commonly understood by the word "churches" in a given area. Only one kind of church or assembling was then known. It was the assembling of Christ's church, as next explained in the fourth use of the word "church".
4. The whole collective body, or number, of true Christians throughout the whole world is termed in the Bible: "the church of Jesus Christ", "the church which is His body", "the church of God", etc. It is composed of saved people called out of the world of men to Christ their Savior and Head. This universal church began at Pentecost as given in Acts 2. Some sects teach that it began with Adam; but Christ said, 'I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18) — future tense. All other so-called churches sprang up much tater. They still spring up! The description, functioning, and membership in Christ's church is best observed in the following references:
I Corinthians 12:12-27 (we quote in part), "For as the human, body is one and bath many members and all the members of that one body being many are one body: so also is Christ. For by [or 'in', R.V.] one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into [or `receive'] one Spirit. For the body is not one member but many . . . But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased Him. And if they were all one member where were the body? But now are they many members yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you .. . Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular", or severally. Please note here that all the Christians of one city, Corinth, were said to be "the body of Christ" or the church, though they were but a small portion of the universal membership thereof.
Romans 12:4, 5, "For as we have many members in one body and all members have not the same office: so we [believers] being many, are one body in Christ and everyone members one of another."
A BODY, A BUILDING, A FAMILY
We see then that Christ's church is a "body", likened to our physical body with its various functioning members. In I Cor. 6:15-19 believers' bodies are said to be "the members of Christ" and that ones physical body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit". Our attention thus is called to the only church building mentioned in the Bible. After all, a man-made literal building of lumber and masonry is not a "church", an "ekklesia", a called out people. We quote here Eph. 2:19-22:
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens w:th the saints, and of the household of God ['family' of God, in. Eph. 3:15]; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." A spiritual building, alive and growing, you see. So also in I Pet. 2:5, "Ye also as lively [living] stones are built up a spiritual house "And hath put all things under Christ's feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that f Meth all in all" (Eph. 1:22, 23).
"And Christ is the Head of the body, the chit 'et); who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence." Here Christ is said to be the Head of and the "beginning" of a new order of beings yet to be raised from the dead and caught up with the translated living saints, as His eternal "body", the church.
The only portion of this universal church of Christ, called a "body", a "building", a "house", a "family", that is invisible, is that major portion "absent from the body and present with the Lord". All its members still on earth are quite visible, of course.
It surprises some to learn that the common expression, "go to church" is erroneous. Why? Because the saved people who go to a meeting place are themselves called the church, as seen in the above texts. As individuals they become and eternally remain "members" of the one true church, Christ's "body", by having accepted Him as their personal Savior. When assembled with other Christians, even, as Christ said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name" (Matt. 18:20), then they consti,ute a small assembled portion of Christ's church.
Enrolling professing Christians in a so-called "Church Membership Roll" is utterly unscriptural.
MAN'S ORGANIZING AND JOINING
The Bible shows that church confusion, which has so sadly increased to this day, initially began in the rise of a party spirit among believers, as seen in I Cor. 1:11-13. Here Paul wrote: "Now this I say that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ". The latter dishonored Christ as head of a split-off party, a sect, while others made mere men to be head of a part of Christ's church, in a sect. In rebuke Paul asks, "Is Christ divided?", meaning, "is Christ's body severed into parts?" So it is today—into denominations, which word means "to name apart" ("de", "apart" and "nominare", "to name"). Does not God's Word thus condemn the parking of Christians in man-made organizations as sects, denominations, associations, etc? It certainly does!
Few Christians seem to realize that sects are "works of the flesh" in Gal. 5:19-21, where "strifes. seditions [`disunion'], heresies" are listed along with "adultery, fornication, murder", etc. The word "heresy" is in itself the Greek pronounciation of our word "sect". The A.R.V. reads, "factions, divisions, parties".
The next step onward (historically) in the far reaching evil of church confusion was to start organizing additionally to the Christ-organized "church of the living God", which, as we have seen has already been divinely organized like the human body. Man certainly cannot and need not improve upon that organized organism. The human body has life in itself and normally responds perfectly to the dictates of the head. Likewise, Christ's church, divinely organized and having its life "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), when obediently acting (without interference) in response to its spiritual Head, 'Thrist, manifests perfect order and efficiency. Improve His church? "Reform" it? Re-organize it? Impossible !
Nn imitation head, arm or leg when annexed to a normal human body is conceded by everyone to be a hindering monstrosity, lifeless and superfluous. Similarly, when unsaved persons, who are spiritually lifeless, are joined or yoked to the saved true members if Christ's "body", in man-made religious organizations, such unsaved persons are a hindrance to Christ's members in functioning as His true church. Such unequal yokes are forbidden in II Cor. 6:14-18; 7:1, which does not refer only to marriage as seen by reading I Cor. 7:12-17. Let us remember the hindrance and hurt the "mixed multitude" caused in Israel when wandering in the wilderness and also when residing in the promised land. It was written "for our learning" (Rom. 15:4; I Cor. 10:1-11).
All joining to Christ's church is entirely His work, as seen in Acts 2:47; 5:14, "And the Lord added to he church daily such as were being saved" (R.V.). "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes, both of men and women". This joining occurred the moment they were born again, through faith in Christ. The new birth is the one and only L ode of entrance into Christ's church! Man is to preach the gospel, but Christ does all the joining together of His members. When thus joined "there is [as 'new creatures in Christ'] neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond or free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28; II Cor. 5:17). Is it so in man-built religious organizations? Also, can man definitely know whether those they join together there are truly saved? They must admit, "No", to both questions.
ONE AUTHOR OF CONFUSION
Playing upon man's natural pride, Satan, the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33), persuaded man to do his own organizing. Church history bears this out. In the second century men copied from the Old Testament, priesthood, which was above the people, in Israel, and introduced priestly claims of "the clergy" having pre-eminence over "the laity" (see "Kurtz' Church History", Vol. 1, p. 67, 111, 162).
In Paul's salutation of Phil. 1:1 the Lord's orderly arrangement of His church is given as: "saints in Christ Jesus ... with the bishops and deacons". That "bishop" and "elder" refers to the same man, "bishop" being merely the office of an elder, is unmistakably shown in Titus 1:5, 7. In organizing an office higher than an elder, and calling that office holder a "Bishop", a still higher office was prompted through man's vanity and pride, namely, an "Archbishop", and finally a top office as, "Pope", who, being superior to all officials and laity became "head of the church". What church? Christ's church begun at Pentecost? Of course not! for His church is not so organized and we are not so directed in His Word wherein we are "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3: 16, 17). "Add thou not to His Words [or to His works] lest He reprove thee and thou be found a liar" (Prov. 30:6).
To no man was headship of Christ's church ever assigned. Rome's vain boast of her popes being "Vicars of Christ" and that they come in unbroken succession from Peter is proved false both by history and Scripture.
The humble apostle Peter, himself an elder, exhorted elders not to be "lords over God's 'heritage", but to be "examples to the flock" (I Pet. 5:1-3). This matter of conferring flattering titles on religious leaders is condemned by our Lord's words in Matt. 23:8-10 and John 5:44, which please read. True, the apostle Paul wrote by inspiration that elders be honored and that those who "rule well [i.e., guide well with God's Word] be counted worthy of double honor". By titles? No! but by material support as well as "submitting to such", "esteeming them highly in love for their work's sake" and "receiving not an accusation against an elder but by two or three witnesses" (I Thes. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:7, 17; I Tim. 5:17-19). The modern title. "Reverend", came out of Roman Catholic overlordship. No "reformation" here!
As a result of the brazen tampering with God's perfect order, mentioned above, there gradually cinmerged the so-called "Roman Catholic Church". "Catholic" means "universal"; hence the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the holy catholic church", "Christ's true universal church which is not "Roman", "Greek", or in anywise of man.
The historical fact of the rightly named "dark ages" clearly proves that man's religious "works of the flesh" are incapable of producing the "good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Public libraries supply ample description of these dark ages and also of the horrible Roman Catholic Inquisitions, when multitudes of Christians were cruely tormented, burned and butchered simply because they would not assent to Rome's false doctrines. Ask for "Fox's Book of Martyrs", for an example.
After many centuries came the so-called "Reformation". Reformation of what?, we ask. Since Christ's church need not and cannot be "reformed", the Reformation could only be a re-forming of man's Roman Catholic "church", which certainly needed it as does everything of mere man. Christ's true church had existed and functioned right along, since Pentecost, in the lives of humble, believing, obedient Christians. Who are the daughters of "the mother of harlots", mentioned in Rev. 17? Who could they be but the religious organizations of man, patterned after the great religious "harlot" organization we have already mentioned? Since the Reformation, men have organized several hundreds of named-apart denominations, sects and cults (see Mead's "Handbook of Denominations"). Men call these (or their own sect) "the external organization" of the "in visible church". Any sect that claims to be "the true church" is blindly mistaken, for no sect contains all born-again believers—only Christ's church contains them all!
EXCUSES FOR FORMING SECTS
One excuse put forth for denominations is that Christ's church has "branches". This unfounded and fanciful idea is proved false in that Christ's church has "members" and a "Head", as in a human body, not as in a tree. "As the [human] body is one body" (not one tree), "so also is Christ" whose body has no branches. Our Lord did say, "I am the vine, ye are the branches" (John 15:5), but as individuals, not as groups.
"But you have to have a name", and, "You have to organize to carry on", comes from the lips of confused "church members". A simple answering question is, Did the ekklesia, the assembly of rioters of Acts 19 have to organize and choose a name in order to function as an "ekkle&a", a civilian "church"? Likewise "the church in the wilderness", Israel? Is not our Lord's church today sufficiently organized and named by Him and made to function by His indwelling power in its members since its beginning, as "one body" or church?
Because of prevailing confusion and ignorance the question is commonly heard: "What church do you belong to?—what are you?" When one says he is "just a Christian" he is often considered either a fanatic or a "crackpot". Not to belong to some humanly organized "church" is considered heathenish! To belong to two "churches", well, nobody does
that; yet all saved people who belong to a sect are in such a case, for the Lord put them in His church the moment they were saved.
Lo, what confusion is displayed by speakers and writers, to wit: "our church", "their church", "my church", "a church of Christ", "a dead church", "an apostate church", "destroy the church", etc. Christ's true church cannot be destroyed, is never dead, and will never become apostate—"the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Only His church exists beyond the grave! True, its individual members, while still on this earth battling against the old Adamic nature, are not always perfect in behavior or even in theology but they should "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, [church] and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord [Head], one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and in you all"—in all believers (Eph. 4:3-6).
A few lines quoted from "Kurtz' Church History", Vol. 1, p. 115, neatly explains how the early church drifted away from the inerrant guiding truth of God's infallable Word. The key word is "tradition":
"Tradition as preserved in the so-called Apostolic Church served as the rule and test of catholicity in government, worship, and doctrine. Indeed, since the apostolic writings were not as yet neither generally diffused nor acknowledged, this tradition was, previous to and for the purpose of the settlement of the New Testament canon, even placed above the writings of the apostles"! The word, "idea" is conspicuous in this writing on early church history. Men got ideas!
Our Lord's rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees for making "the commandments of God of none effect by your traditions" has keen in order from that day to this day of religious confusion!
THE MARKS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH
At the beginning, when none other than Christ's church was known to exist, the chief characteristic of that church was love, as was witnessed by the heathen: "Behold, how these Christians love each other!" Can that be said of divided Christendom today? Is Christ's declaration of John 13:35 in vogue today, generally : "Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another"?
At first, all "in word or in deed" was done "in the name of the Lord Jesus", the Head of the church, as commanded in Col. 3:17. As the world sees it, all is now done in the name of men's multiplied churches, they getting any credit due, not Christ, who so earnestly prayed before His crucifixion that His people "be one that the world might believe" God had sent Him and that God's love "may be in them and I in them" (John 17:21, 23, 26).
Thank God there are still Christians here and there, and we believe there have always been such, who assemble together merely as Christians, and only in "the name that is above every name", the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. They humbly believe God's Word and that His ways and plans are perfect and workable. Also, that Christian fellowship depends not on dogmas, creeds, or sacraments, but in being members of Christ's church through having believed "the gospel . . . wherein ye stand and by which also ye are saved . . . how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures and that He was seen" thereafter (I Con 15:1-5). That, plus walking "in the light as He is in the light" (I John 1:7), is God's basis and directive "for brethren to dwell together in unity". It is "good and pleasant"! (Psalm 133:1)
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