wo thousand years ago, the Son of GOD condemned the spiritual performance and practices of seven churches (chapters 2-3 in Revelation). Christ demanded an immediate overhaul and swift attainment of His higher Standard of Spiritual Quality —or else.
How did the Church's spiritual quality decay to such a defeated condition —less than 70 years after Christ's ascension? Did the Church heed Christ's exhortation? Has it effectively responded to His warnings?
- The Church - Equipped for Victory
- During His earthly mission, Christ demonstrated His Supreme invincibility over all adversaries. Christ exercised Supreme authority over sickness, death, nature and its laws, demons, Satan, temptation and the World. He vested this power and authority to His Church so that it would be *equally victorious.
"And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matt. 16:19
"Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." Luke 10:19
"verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and *greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." John 14:12-14
Christ intended for His Body to be Invincible —as He is. As such, the Church constitutes the highest authority on Earth - under the Word of GOD. The Body of Christ is not subject to any man, but to Christ alone, its Head.
- Routine Church Operations Supervised by GOD —the Holy Spirit
- In addition, in Christ's physical absence, GOD assigned the Comforter, i.e., the Holy Spirit, to the Church. The Holy Spirit regenerates, convicts, fills, instructs, distributes spiritual gifts and generally supervises the work of the Church.
- The First Church —A Model Example
- The obedience and effectiveness of the first local church, the church of Jerusalem, is recorded in the first ten chapters of the Book of Acts. This local church began its ministry in full demonstration of Christ's vested Sovereignty, Authority and Supreme Power.
- This model church met all of Christ's conditions for GOD's promised outpouring upon the believers for executing its two-fold mission. Obedient to Christ's commands, this church subsequently enjoyed all the blessings that Christ petitioned the Father for in the Gospel of John (chapters 14, 16, & 17).
- The church in Jerusalem was entrusted with Christ's Sovereign authority to do GOD's will and vested with His Power to defeat all adversaries.
The first ten chapters in Acts illustrate how a loving an obedient local church is blessed and empowered by GOD - to do His will. GOD commits His indefeatable army of angels to do battle with the evil spirit forces in high places. Acts shows how there is no force in the Universe mighty enough to withstand a local movement of the Invincible Body of Christ.
Over time, despite major growth throughout the region, the spiritual quality of the Church began to stagnate. Heresies crept in, causing various sins including division, priestcraft (clergy-laity system) and fornication.
The apostles were quick to respond, exhorting local churches for their deviations from Christ's righteous Standard (The Word). The apostles' warnings and encouragement constitute a major portion of the New Testament.
Finally, at the end of the Bible, Christ Himself made a special appearance to the apostle John, over sixty years after His ascension. Christ issued scathing rebukes to seven churches and warned them of the grave consequences of noncompliance.
What brought about this drastic failure in the Church? We know that by virtue of its Supernatural nature and endowment - there is no adversary in Heaven or on Earth that could defeat it. The nature of the problem must have been —as Christ and the apostles identified, from within the Church.
Christ and the apostles explicitly identified numerous problems within the Church —including sin. All of these problems required repentance for and returning to the Standard of Christ's Righteousness - love and obedience to His Word.
- Did the Church bow to its adversaries?
- What happened within the churches that caused Christ to personally issue this dreadful series of warnings recorded in the Book of Revelation? Can we sense Christ's holy wrath and demand for immediate remedial action —as His warriors - to rise up, to overcome, to prepare for battle and engage the enemy?
What has happened to the invincible Church...this mighty move of GOD...Mystery of the Ages, that caused it to result in such decay?
- Did the Church Effectively Respond to Christ and the Apostles' Exhortations?
- Unfortunately, the biblical record of church history ends at the Book of Revelation. We must turn to secular history sources to monitor the Church's progress through the ages.
The 10 Persecutions
No doubt inspired by Satan to stamp out the Church, the burning of Rome in the first century was blamed on the Christians. This triggered the beginning of the persecutions by the Roman Government.
There were ten major persecutions in the first three centuries. However, the persecutions backfired on Satan's plans and produced many martyrs which served to fan the flame of Christianity.
Unable to completely stamp-out Christianity by torture and mass killings, Satan changed tactics. As Satan had caused the fall of man (in the Garden of Eden) and the fall of the Jews, he then purposed to bring about the fall of the Church. As he had done previously with Judaism, Satan wielded his abominable influence from directly within the local churches.
This satanic influence would corrupt the character of the Church into unrecognizably mutant forms of worldly Christianity. These mutants, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodox and the cults, would later attempt to redefine Christianity and the Church to deceive billions.
They still do.
If You Can't Beat Them - Join Them
Because the obedient Church is divinely Invincible, the Roman persecutions could not extinguish the Church. In the fourth century, the emperor Constantine architected a brand new Christian religion based loosely on compromised Christian ideals and Rome's many pagan religions. This blended religion, an admixture heretically touting itself as 'Christian', was called Roman Catholicism.
Roman Catholicism released a flood of heretical Babylonian doctrines, practices and traditions. Its chief contributions to apostasy were the incorporation of a clergy-laity system (priestcraft); changing GOD's sacred Word; and the subordination of their altered Catholic Bible to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This meant that the Word of GOD would now be replaced by the word of man.
This apostasy became the religion of the Roman Empire. Enforced by a mighty army and extensive political influence, the Roman Catholic Church began to redefine to the world a different gospel -in the name of Christianity.
Roman Catholic dominance persisted unchallenged until 1054 AD, when many Catholics broke away from the Pope to form the Eastern Orthodox Church. Roman Catholicism survived the split and continued for another 463 years before any serious challenge to its doctrinal authority. The rebellion, known as the Protestant Reformation, began in Germany in 1517 AD, led principally by the Roman Catholic monk, Martin Luther.
The Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was led by Roman Catholic priests and theologians. While addressing a few of the heretical teachings of Roman Catholicism, neither the leaders nor the followers of the Protestant movement called for a thorough return to Christ's Specification (the Holy Bible). Instead, the Reformation was plagued by a subtle, embedded Roman Catholic orientation to the Scriptures. For example, Roman Catholic heresies such as the clergy-laity system (abolished by Christ's atonement) were unsuspectingly transferred by the former Roman Catholic theologians - into the core of Protestant Reformation doctrine.
One Family Divided by a Common Practice
Within three years of its founding, the Protestant Reformation began its sinful tradition of disunity in direct defiance to the strict commands of Christ and the apostles, as follows:
- Division in the Protestant Reformation Movement
- 1517 - Lutheran Church
- 1520 - Reformed (split)
- 1525 - Anabaptists (split)
- 1534 - Anglican (split)
- 1560 - Presbyterian (split)
- 1612 - Baptist (split)
- 1628 - Congregationalist (split)
- 1628 - Dutch Reformed (split)
- 1639 - British Separatists (split)
- 1683 - American Mennonite (split)
- 1683 - Old Order Amish (split)
- 1727 - Free Will Baptist (split)
- 1774 - Reformed Presb. (split)
- 1784 - Methodist Episcopal (split)
- 1787 - Protestant Episcopal (split)
- 1793 - German Reformed (split)
- 1800 - Church of the Brethren (split)
- 1801 - Churches of Christ (split)
- 1807 - Disciples of Christ (split)
- 1807 - Evangelical Church (split)
- 1812 - Reformed Mennonite (split)
- 1816 - Afri. Meth. Epis. (split)
- 1821 - Afri. Meth. Epis. Zion (split)
- 1825 - Amer. Unitarian (split)
- 1827 - Primitive Baptist (split)
- 1826 - Churches of God in NA (split)
- 1830 - Meth. Prot. Church (split)
- 1843 - Wesleyan Meth. (split)
- 1844 - Meth. Epis. (split)
- 1844 - Meth. Epis. (South) (split)
- 1845 - Northern Baptist (split)
- 1845 - Southern Baptist (split)
- 1857 - Christian Reformed (split)
- 1858 - United Presbyterian (split)
- 1859 - Chu. of God in Christ (split)
- 1860 - Gen Conf. Mennonite (split)
- 1861 - Confederate States Presb.
- 1865 - Defense. Mennonite (split)
- 1867 - Reformed Ch. in Amer. (split)
- 1886 - Church of God (Pent.) (split)
- 1908 - Church of Nazarene (split)
- 1910 - Conservative Amish (split)
- 1914 - Assemblies of God (split)
- 1915 - National Baptist (split)
- 1927 - Disciples of Christ (split)
- 1927 - Beachy Mennonite (split)
- 1931 - Congregational (split)
- 1932 - Regular Baptist (split)
- 1936 - Presby. of USA (split)
- 1947 - Conservative Baptist (split)
- 1950 - American Baptist (split)
- 1954 - Conservative Mennon. (split)
- 1957 - United Chu. of Christ (split)
- 1961 - Progressive Baptist (split)
- 1968 - United Methodist (split)
Within these denominations, Protestants apparently found sufficient cause to disagree and these denominations likewise began to break fellowship and further segregate themselves. Solidarity, a grave and cardinal commandment for the New Testament Church would find no place of honor within Protestantism.
In fact, the seven original Protestant denominations soon began to spawn whole new generations of denominations, e.g., the Pentecostals, Mennonites, Southern Baptists, Episcopalians, African Methodist Episcopal, Holiness, Pentecostal, Adventists and so on...a tradition which continues to this day. (Open any telephone directory under the heading of 'Churches' to witness the awful proliferation of the Protestant practice of segregationalism.)
In fact, Adherents website (http://www.adherents.com) reports that the World Christian Encyclopedia has tabulated 33,830 Christian denominations).
In the interest of denominational superiority, Protestants fight over numerous, non-cardinal interpretations, i.e., dogma. A basic review of Protestant church history in the U.S. records how Protestant's intolerance towards one another has frequently led to acts of violence and murder.
For example, in Pennsylvania Baptists hanged Anabaptists (Mennonites and Amish) for being baptized twice. (Former Catholics, converted Anabaptists felt they should be baptized again now that they were truly born-again. And their Baptist brethren killed them for it).
Shortly after the Puritans arrived in the U.S. to escape religious persecution, they hung Mary Dwyer in Boston for being a Quaker. (Her statue still remains in Boston Common, Massachusetts). The list of Protestant's commitment to disunity continues to this day.
More Interested in Finding Differences - Than in WHO Makes Us ONE
The cardinal issues of the faith form the basis of the Christian's beliefs, (e.g., Jesus' virgin birth; His divinity; innerency of Scripture; Jesus' substitutional death on the cross for our sins; Jesus' physical resurrection and impending return, etc.).
But Protestants seem more interested in finding areas of disagreement among the brethren than in affirming the common elements of the faith.
Jesus said, "a house divided cannot stand."
|If the early Church was in trouble, barely 70 years after its inception, what spiritual shape might the twenty-first century Church be in — two thousand years later?
- The Church's Current State of Affairs
- There is neither the time nor the space (on this website) to list the abuses of modern day Protestantism (nor would it serve any constructive purpose). Suffice it to say that, if the Lord condemned the weak spiritual performance of those seven, first century churches - what might His attitude be towards today's Protestantism?
Christ's Do's and Don'ts for the Church
During His earthly ministry, Christ provided many teachings on the do's and don'ts for the Christian and for the Church. Many of these stipulations are obvious to any reader of the Gospels. Yet, Protestants have trained themselves to gloss over these awkward biblical areas where they are in blatant defiance.
Here are some examples of more minor deviations from Christ's commands, which may be symptomatic of a deeper rejection of the Word:
No Special Clothing Signifying Function, Position Or Rank
Matt. 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments,
No Religious Status Seating -
Matt. 23:6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues,
No Religious Status Titles -
Matt. 23:7 And greetings in the markets and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Matt. 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
Matt. 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
Matt. 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
No Special Praying
Matt. 6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
No Organizational Authority - All Are Brethren;
Luke 22:25-27 "And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
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.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth."
The list of flagrant abuses of Church authority and purpose is exhaustive, but it is for the Lord to judge. It is perhaps more constructive for us to revisit the Lord's key factors for Invincible Church.
A Call for All Christians to Return to the Invincible Church
To begin with, an obedient church is composed of obedient saints. You must begin with faithful believers who have progressed beyond the believer's initial stage of carnal Christianity (babes in Christ). As the apostle Paul characterized, carnal Christians do not grow spiritually. They remain at the Cross, in the perpetual state of acknowledging Christ - only as Savior. They have not matured to the surrendered spiritual state in which they serve Him as their LORD. In essence, they are still "doing their own thing".
Christ characterized the faithful servant as being loving and obedient. Overcomers must be consecrated to obeying the Lord's commands of the New Testament. This is the criteria that we will all be judged by. We must familiarize ourselves with the Lord's teachings and not deviate from them.
Now, for the details.
Christ's Formula for Victorious Church
In John's Gospel, Christ identified three critical keys to the Church's Invincibility. Immediately following - in the Book of Acts, He provides an example of what can happened when 120 committed believers obediently following His commands —AWESOME RESULTS.
What Christ commanded regarding Church:
1. Brotherly Love
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
(Additional References: John 15:9, 12 and 17).
Brotherly love, which produces the residual and practical effect of authenticating the disciple's credibility in the community.
John 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
(Additional References: John 17:11, 22-23)
Unity modeled after the Trinity (i.e., the unity of the Godhead), which produces the residual effect of authenticating Jesus Christ as the One sent by GOD.
3. Wait for Empowerment
Acts 1:4-5 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
(Additional verses: ; John 14:16-17; 26;15:26-27; 16:7-15; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:17-21; 4:13; 14:11-12; 1Cor. 4:20; 1Cor. 12:11
(Wait to be energized by the Comforter)
GOD'S BLESSING ON THE CHURCH'S OBEDIENCE
Commandment: Brotherly Love, Unity and Wait for Empowerment
Acts 1:13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter and James and John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon Zelotes and Judas the brother of James.
Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brethren.
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
|...and after 10 whole days of these 120 obedient believers —being in one accord, in one place, praying and patiently waiting...
Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Acts 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire and it sat upon each of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
How This Achieved the Church's Internal Mission
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayers.
Acts 2:46 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,
How This Achieved the Church's External Mission (Evangelism)
The Holy Spirit poured out and Peter preached the gospel...
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:47 Praising GOD and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Meeting the practical needs of the community (going about doing good - like Jesus did)
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
Dear brother or sister, you can do this in your community. You do not need a clergy-laity organization. In fact, Christ spoke against it (Matthew 23: 2-12); Luke 22: 24-27; Revelation 2:6). All that's needed are two or more faithful believers who love and obey the Lord. Just follow Christ's commands above (i.e., brotherly love, unity and wait for empowerment). Let the Holy Spirit appoint pastors, teachers, miracle workers and etc. —as HE decides. And NEVER depart from the Word of GOD.
May the good Lord bless your efforts.