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Joining the church

Query for the Month

of

August 2018

Next up-date: September 1st 2018 (God willing).

Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.

 

This article is available as a PDF file here.    Or as a WORD doc.

Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
Click here to find out!
 

Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read! 

In the meantime, try this site.   

 

Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.

In this reply the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding.  Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.  All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.   


The great mass of professing Christians will meet with bitter disappointment in the day of God. They have not upon their foreheads the seal of the living God. Lukewarm and halfhearted, they dishonor God far more than the avowed unbeliever. They grope in darkness, when they might be walking in the noonday light of the Word, under the guidance of One who never errs (Letter 121, 1903).  {7BC 970.6}

Joining the church?

Query:

    Acts 16:

25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God [while they were in jail for disturbing the peace in Thyatira]: and the [other] prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled [a slow death was the penalty for allowing prisoners to escape]. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm: for we are all here”. [They all stayed where they were for there was no instruction from the Spirit to run.] 

 29 Then he [the jailer] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas [because he had been convicted of his need by the Spirit, and “called out” as in Revelation 18:4], 30 and brought them out, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [And now the reason for their staying became clear.] 31 And they said, “Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ [as the Son of God with power], and you shall be saved, and your house”.

  32 And they spoke to him the word of the LORD, and to all that were in his house [about the Son of God]. 33 And he [the jailer] took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes [he repented on what he had done]; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat [food] before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. 

        Mark 16:16      

“He [she] that believes and is baptized [“in the LORD” Acts 19:5] shall be saved; but he [she] that believes not shall be damned”. 

 So the question is; should I get baptized and join the church?   

 

 

Response:

A thought first:

John the Baptist came in the power of the Spirit and his message suggested that people already in the church should get baptised!  Matthew 3:1-12.

 

However, this is a question which is often asked, the answer to which is not as straightforward as we might think, but let me try.  At the outset let me explain that it is not my intention to persuade anyone not to join the church, for that is their own decision under God, but I do try to warn them what it will be like, and what preparation is necessary for that step.  All we need to know is that there is no God-given church (not one) – God-blessed yes, but not God-given.

 The following applies to the church set up under Moses, but applies, in principle, to any religious organisation.

 The Spirit has spoken to us in many different signs and symbols and I would like to start with one.  The original Passover ceremony took place in Egypt before the exodus, and preceded the organisation of the Hebrew church. 

     Exodus 12:

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 

2 This month [our March/April] shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you [and a sign that you have begun a new life].

 3 Speak you to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house: 4 and if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next to his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating [your capacity to eat all of it] shall make your count for the lamb.

 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6 and you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day [the full moon day] of the same month [to eat it any time after sunset on the 13th]: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening [late afternoon on the 13th]

 7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. 8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night [of the 14th], roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden [boiled] at all with water, but roast with [the] fire [of persecution]; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance [all the edible parts] thereof.

10 And you shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which [if it so happened that some edible parts of it] remains of it until the morning you shall burn [it] with fire.

 11 And thus shall you eat it; with your loins girded [fully dressed], your shoes [not slippers] on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13 And the blood shall be to you [and Me] for a token [a symbol] upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will [cause the destroyer to] pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. 

 It required a lamb (there would have been thousands of them but it is always referred to as One), for it represented the Son of God as a Redeemer. . . . For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us . . . 1 Corinthians 5:7. 

 Its blood was displayed on the doorways of their homes to show that all who were sheltering within were under the protection of His imputed righteousness (this was centuries before His crucifixion). [Consider also Romans 4:11.]  Then they prepared the animal to eat as part of their evening meal in their homes.  This was NOT a church ritual, for salvation is not through the church – it is a family thing, received in your home. [You will note that they did not have to think of a gift to be given sometime in the future, at the crucifixion, but had a very present experience.  That they had to look forward to the cross is a manmade tradition passed along in Protestant circles.]

 There were certain rules for their experience which governed the ceremony, the most important of which was that every male partaking of it would have to be circumcised beforehand.

     Exodus 12:

43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance [rule] of the passover: There shall no stranger [non-Jew] eat thereof: 44 but every man's servant that is bought for money [redeemed as a brother, Leviticus 25:47-49], when you have circumcised him [and he becomes part of the family], then shall he eat thereof.

 45 A foreigner and a hired servant [an 8 hour man] shall not eat thereof.

 46 In one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall you break a bone thereof.

47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.

 48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with [live among] you, and will [desires to] keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. [So it is available for all – under conditions.]

 49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and to the stranger that sojourns among you. 

 In the case of those who were not born into the tribes and therefore not circumcised on the eighth day, there was a last-minute four-day period in which this requirement could be satisfied and a recovery made.  The lamb was chosen on the 10th day and killed on the afternoon of the 13th to be eaten on the evening of the 14th.  The “death” was not the important part of this ritual, it was the display of the blood and eating the flesh which mattered.

 The Son of God updated the thought when He was on earth:

    John 6:

53 Then Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.

54 Whoso eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is meat [food] indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him. 

All this means is that today, if we have not heard and accepted the story of Jesus and His life before, we have a learning period in which to make our decision, and a time in which to accept His gift of circumcision and Life, for He says that He will be the father to us, for it was the father who performed the ritual.  The use of the priest or rabbi came later.

     Deuteronomy 30:6:

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live [a good life].

 As mentioned before, this was done in the camp (not the sanctuary, for it did not exist at that time), and could occur anytime in the period between Moses’ return to Egypt with the message of salvation and the days just before they left Egypt on the walk of sanctification, for it was based on the following thought.

     Revelation 18:

4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her [the earthly family], My people, [and join the heavenly one] that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues”. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 

This equates today with us hearing about, believing in, and accepting the gift of imputed righteousness of Christ before we think of joining the church. 

      Romans 4:

20 He [Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 and being fully persuaded [in his mind] that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24 but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our LORD from the dead; 25 who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 

 The added rite of circumcision which was given to Abraham tells us that our “old life” has to go completely, and as we have already read, He will do that for us if we give Him permission.  Then we should prepare for a new Life, which will come when we “eat” the Lamb and receive some of His imparted righteousness. “For we are labourers together with God: you are God's husbandry [produce], you are God's building”. 1 Corinthians 3:9.

     Romans 6:

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid.  How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 

 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: 6 knowing this, that our “old man” is [not, going to be] crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth [from that moment on] we should not serve sin.

7 For he that is “dead” is freed from [the power of] sin. 

 After those experiences we can know that we are baptised by the Spirit with Him, and can now get baptised by water into the church [they are NOT the same thing] without too much risk, but there is never a time when there is no danger.

 The entire “church” was baptised by water during the exodus. 

    1 Corinthians 10:

1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud [which represented Christ and His righteousness], and all passed through the [Red] sea; 2 and were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea . . .  

 We must not confuse God’s true church with the man-made and man-run organisation that claims to be the Church (with a capital “C”).  As you may have read in Ezekiel chapter 16:3, “Thus says the LORD GOD to Jerusalem [a picture of the church]; Your birth and your nativity [country of origin] is of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite” [Pagans have temples and religious organisations and this was copied by Abraham and expanded by Moses.  They even had a place of worship within days of leaving Egypt!] 

 But after the golden calf incident when they went too far:

     Exodus 33:

7 And Moses took the tabernacle [which they had already set aside as a place of worship], and pitched it without [outside] the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation [not the LORD’s].  And [yet] it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. 

 8 And it came to pass, when Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy Pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses [for God comes to where we are, physically, mentally and spiritually].

 10 And all the people saw the cloudy Pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.

 11 And the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.  And he turned again into the camp: but his servant [helper] Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. [He stayed to talk with God too.] 

 In this God disclaims any natural connection with its existence (Abraham is its father, Romans 4:1, 16), but further in the chapter He does tell us that He adopted it because it was so needy (v6) and later still that He married it (v8), so there is a connection, but never what it claims.

As a member/citizen you will be asked to give absolute obedience to the authority of the leading men of the council, and you must be ready to handle this.  So we have to be trained to obey what the reader of the Bible quotes to us (a “thus saith the LORD”), but not do as they do or say (which is usually tradition), unless they are obeying the word too!  Matthew 23:1-6. 

 It’s rather like joining a tennis club – it will require a standard of dress, including special shoes on the court, and many other rules, together with support for the organisation.  And we would give that willingly, without surrendering our sovereign right to freedom of thought and action when it comes to playing a game.

 Having understood and experienced all this, we are at that point where we are ready to contemplate joining the church and moving with it, but unlike the Israelite of old, our church is a static unit (they were going to travel to get to their land) and we need to see ours as it is today, a city in a war zone!  A city under siege!  Although it doesn’t always look like it, for many of the leaders can be seen from time to time having friendly conversations with the attackers between battles, because they often think of them as “fellow Christians”!!  

 So we have fought our way through the besieging armies (the opposing doctrines that say we should not become Sabbath-keepers and believers in the heavenly sanctuary doctrine) and are now standing at the gates of the city. 

 

But it’s not a safe place, this city under siege.  Let’s look at it more closely.

 It is surrounded by an enemy in uniform (easily identifiable, for they are Sunday or maybe Friday-keepers or even no-day keepers, but not Sabbathkeepers) who are expert and experienced snipers, with some of them having infiltrated the outer suburbs and who are constantly moving from house to house.

 You will also be living with nervous civilians and loyalists who will fire at anything that moves, often before they can identify it as on their side, for not all have a clean uniform, so you may get killed or wounded under “friendly fire” [i.e. faulty interpretations of scripture, especially in church books or TV presentations, or, personally, criticism of your behaviour]

 On top of that, there are some professed Christians (tares, Matthew 13:24-30) who will deliberately try to injure you.  They usually have the Christian uniform on (or rather, appear to, but they have taken [copied] it from somebody else)!!  But that should only fool the unobservant, for in the parable the servants of the householder could see the difference.

 Then there are self-inflicted wounds, for you are a new chum and not always accurate in what you do or say.

 But in your training period you will have received some of the imparted righteousness of Christ, particularly the knowledge that you must not decide for yourself (or from other people) what any Scripture might mean – you have mastered the art of asking (and listening) only to the Spirit for explanations – at least, most of the time anyway.  Nor do you read the Bible thinking you already know what it means.  And, hopefully, you have learned that taking your problems and temptations to the Son of God and asking Him to take care of them is a “light and easy” way to deal with them.  Matthew 11:28. 

 If you do sin then you know that He will forgive you immediately if you truly repent of what your action has done to Him, for there is no sin which cannot be forgiven, even deliberate ones to others, although they require an apology and restitution to the wronged one as well.  (Leviticus 6:1-7).  This is called “repentance”. 

 This also means owning up to the fact that most of the time you wanted to do it and rejected His offer to save you from it – which makes it doubly hard to confess.  Any sins committed in the life before the Passover have gone with the old life and don’t need God’s forgiveness, (which doesn’t stop us from making earthly restitution if possible).

 So now that you are doing all that (i.e. living righteously), you can face the question of where you should fight the good fight of faith.  Remember that you live in a “tent” as it were, “dwelling in a tabernacle” and can move easily. 

     Hebrews 11:

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles [tents] with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 for he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God . . .    [There were houses in those days, but a tent meant that you were a nomad.]

 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

15 And truly, if they had been mindful of [meaning] that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He has prepared for them a city [we should note that]

 There are many texts that tell us that some were taught and baptised quickly (like our query) and just as many others which show us that some took a long time to decide.  Like Nicodemus (John 19:39), who waited three years and needed to see the seven trials that Jesus went through, and the crucifixion, before he really believed the state of his church as God saw it, so it is not as clear-cut as you would like it.

 You might think of the two most courageous men of God’s army, Daniel and Paul, and how they each operated so successfully as communicators of God’s will in a small group of guerrilla-type soldiers out in the hills.  The one receiving the long term plan of operations while high in the government of Babylon (through no choice of his own), and the other being given the wider vision of HOW it worked while roaming the Roman world.  Neither of them spent much time in Jerusalem although they always classed themselves as being a part of it.  On the other hand, Isaiah and Jeremiah never left it!

 You may even remember that when it came to building the wall around the second city of Jerusalem every one was required to repair and strengthen that part which lay adjacent to his house.  Nehemiah, the one entrusted with the oversight of the job, did not call out from a headquarters what each one should do, but held himself and some others on hand to go wherever there was a call for help.  And how some built while others guarded with their armour on and weapons at the ready.

 But if we have on the armour then God suggests that we may be safe. 

        Ephesians 6:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places [in the church too]

 13 Wherefore take to you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand [all the comments and accusations] in the evil day, and having done all, to [continue to] stand. 

14 Stand therefore, having your loins [lower body] girt about with truth [produce only righteous actions], and having on the breastplate of righteousness [imputed and imparted, on your upper body, over your heart];

15 and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace [going where God wants you to go.]

 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked [they bounce off it]. 17 And take the helmet of salvation [and put it in your mind as a definite belief], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God [your Bible, and put it in your mouth, using it for fighting God’s way (with words), but always looking for a way to share, rather than debating].

 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints [don’t give up on anyone even if you have to separate from them for a while, for you can keep asking is there anything you can do to help the Spirit with them] . . .  

If you have done and received all that, and are asking the Spirit for His advice, then you may be trained sufficiently to undertake the perilous task of living in the city, and He will tell you so if it is His desire.  Then He will guide you as you balance the instruction received by your wireless (spiritual) connection with Him, and the oftentimes conflicting commands received through others via landline (men’s ideas).

 Jesus, the Supreme Commander, has Himself shown us in His own life on earth how He expects us to behave while supporting the morale of those in the city, for sometimes He obeyed the organisation’s rules and at others He was firm on following the Spirit’s promptings. 

 And He passed this attitude on to the disciples.

     Acts 5:

16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about to Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits [to the disciples]: and they were healed every one.

 17 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the LORD by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life”. 21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. 

 But the high priest came [to the council room], and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, 23 saying, “The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within”.

 24 Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them [wondered] whereunto this would grow [this disregard of religious authority].

 25 Then came one and told them, saying, “Behold, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people”. 26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did not we straitly [strongly] command you that you should not teach in this name?  And, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us” [accuse us of His death].

 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men [even the highest authority in the church]”. 

 oooOooo

 P.S.

You may be a little confused from this study because it seems to indicate two opposing directions from the Spirit.  I will not elaborate of that right here, but promise to look at the question later in one of these studies.

 Here is a link to another story called The White Country which is the flip side of this one:

  Conclusion:

It only when you have grown up spiritually that you will be able to survive as a Christian in the earthly church.  It is not a matter of physical age, for Daniel was a young teenager, as was David when they were thrust into their roles but they had learnt at home, while Paul was a mature man, an associate member of the governing body of the church when he was called.  But it does require a definite preparation and training for the job, and Paul had learnt his at the feet of Gamaliel, for his was to be a special position.  Acts 5:34-40; 22:3.

 One final word:

Isaiah 44:

21 Remember these [things], O Jacob and Israel; for you are My servant: I have formed you; you are My servant: O Israel, you shall not be forgotten of Me.

  

Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.  Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.

 Next query. To be discussed from September 1st 2018

Query:

1 Kings 19:

2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.  3 And when he saw [heard] that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to [the south of] Judah, and left his servant there.  4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers

Why did Elijah leave God’s protection and run away from that death threat? 

And what does mean for us who live in the days of the last Elijah?

 

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