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"The church"

Query for the Month

of

February 2009

Next up-date: March 1st 2009 (God willing).

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

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 for free and share amongst your friends.   It's called "Light on the Dark Side of God" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read!

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


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.

Query:               

Acts 11:25-26

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:  And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people.    

And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.     

 Just what is “the church” and how is it organised?

 

Answer:

This is a very big question and will therefore require a long answer, but please persevere, for a lot depends on getting it right.

We should first establish the fact that “the church” is NOT just a New Testament title.  It was used to describe the people who left Egypt with Moses and came to Mount Sinai.  It simply means “a congregation of people”.  See Exodus 12:3; 16:1; and many similar scriptures. 

But this following one says it all.

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 7:

 [Stephen said,] 37 This is that Moses, which said to the children of Israel, “A prophet shall the LORD your God raise up to you of your brothers, like to me; Him shall you hear”.  38 This is he, that was IN THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS with the Angel which spoke to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the living oracles [words] to give to us [the Ten Commandments]: 39 to whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, “Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot [know] not what is become of him”.

***************(End Quote)

From that we should be able to see that “the church” is a term for a visible group of people who claim to be following the LORD and keeping the Ten Commandments. 

What is its primary purpose?

“What advantage then has the Jew [the church]?  Or what profit is there of circumcision [the rituals and procedures used in it]?  Much every way [it has multiple uses, but] chiefly [and most importantly], because that to them were committed the oracles of God [the Scriptures]”.  Romans 3:1-2.  It was as the guardian of God’s word that it was established in Moses’ time, and to the patient work of many copyists and faithful translators we owe our present-day Bible.

The church also has a purpose for the beings in heaven. 

“And [its job is] to make ALL MEN see what is the fellowship of the mystery [an unperceived truth], which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now [also] to the principalities and powers in HEAVENLY PLACES might be [made] known BY THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God, according to THE ETERNAL PURPOSE which He purposed in Christ Jesus our LORD”.  Ephesians 3:9-11.

Part of that eternal purpose was for the Son of God to make man and give him dominion over the earth.  “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.  And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed.  And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  Genesis 2:7-9.  Thus He has been the head of the church from the foundation of the world.  “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden”.  Genesis 3:8.

What distinguishes the true church from other groups?  (Apart from keeping the Ten Commandments.)

***************(Begin Quote)

Matthew 16:

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but My Father which is in heaven.  18 And I say also to you, That you are Peter [the pebble], and upon this rock [that truth about Me] I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.

***************(End Quote)

However, we are solemnly warned that this understanding is being counterfeited by the enemy of righteousness.  “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses [teaches] that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world”.   1 John 4:1-3.  So it’s much more than just saying or teaching that the Son of God came in a human body – it’s what that means!  Either He came as Christians are now in human flesh, or He came in the flesh of Adam BEFORE the fall.  Either He came and did His works as a God, or He came and did all those things which any Christian could do! 

Thus, if He came as Christians are now, then Christians can do as He did because He did His works through the Holy Spirit!

This is not the place to go into a deep theological discussion, but we should be aware that Jesus Christ did NOTHING that had not already been done by other followers of God in the past, and that He said, “Verily, verily, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do: for what things soever He does, these also does the Son likewise”.  John 5:19.

He did NOT come as a natural man with an evil nature, but came as a justified Christian is, for He lifts us to His human level when we become Christians.  

The basic foundation of “the church” is therefore that the people of it believe that Jesus Christ the LORD is the Son of God, and that He came to earth as a Christian man to give Christians an example of justification and sanctification, and has gone back to heaven for a while, from where He will one day return.  It was for this reason that He was baptised.  “Then came Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of him [at the beginning of His ministry].  But John forbad Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized of You, and come You to me?’ And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Suffer [allow] it to be so now: for thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness’.  Then he suffered Him”.  Matthew 3:13-15.

The church is also “the house” of God.

***************(Begin Quote)

1 Timothy 3:

14 These things write I to you, hoping to come to you shortly: 15 but if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH [the foundation and strength of faith].

16 And without controversy [there is no doubt] great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, JUSTIFIED in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.  

***************(End Quote)

In that text “the church” is called “the house of God” because He loves to dwell with His Christians, individually and in a group.  (See Matthew 18:20.)  We are also told, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”.   John 1:14.

***************(Begin Quote)

Matthew 16:

19 [After commending Peter on his gift from God, Jesus went on to say] “And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”.

***************(End Quote)

These last words are a bit confusing, for it appears to some that Peter was given the “keys of the kingdom” as the head of the church and that what he “bound or loosed on earth” would stand in heaven too.  He appears to be a favourite in a kingdom which has no favourites!

But the next text helps to explain that. 

When there arose a problem between any two of the church members which could not be solved privately, then they were told how to deal with it.

***************(Begin Quote)

Matthew 18:

15  [Jesus said] Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you [not against God, for that would His problem], go and tell him HIS FAULT between you and him alone: if he shall hear you [and apologise], you have gained your brother.

16 But if he will not hear you [and you are determined to right the wrong], then [go again and] take with you one or two more [people from the church] that in the mouth of two or three [impartial] witnesses every word may be established.  [But be warned, who knows, it may be YOU who is in the wrong!] 

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the [whole] church [make his problem public if you must!!  Why not protect and forgive him?  “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”.  Matthew 6:14-15.]. 

But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen man and a publican [someone who needs educating (nicely) in the ways of God]. 18 Verily I say to you, Whatsoever you [the whole church] shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven [In other words, a record will be kept of what you have done].

***************(End Quote)

However, the “the church” has to have some authority over its members, to the extent of classifying a defiant PUBLIC wrongdoer as not one of them any more, which is called “disfellowshipping”.  Note that they are NOT deciding who is a follower of God, for that they cannot do, but after certain procedures they can decide that the offender should not be called one of them anymore, for he or she has publicly broken the harmony of the group.  But we have been told that a record of each transaction will be kept, which we must face again one day. (God forgives very quickly, and so should we!)

It is God and not men who brings individuals into the church; therefore it’s His church.  He needs a visible institution (with many branches) on earth, no matter how flimsy or faulty, which is the keeper of His words, and in which new Christians can be sheltered while learning through that word the depths of His love.  Therefore “the church” is made up of groups in various cities, all recognising each other, and sometimes banding together in co-operatives for economy of operation.  Where there are not enough believers to have a large meeting house, then they can get together in private houses as the following texts tell us. 

***************(Begin Quote)

Romans 16:

1 I commend to you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea . . . 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.  Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

1 Corinthians 16:

19 The churches of Asia salute you.  Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the LORD, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brothers [and sisters] greet you.  Greet you one another with a holy kiss.   

1 Peter 5:

13  “The church that is at Babylon [a Biblical name for Rome], elected together with you [we are all called by God], salutes you; and so does Marcus my son”.  

***************(End Quote)

Meeting together is important because we NEED to interact.  “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke [encourage] to love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day [of the second advent] approaching”.  Hebrews 10:23-25.

Through a symbolic picture, Christ showed us some background to the church.

***************(Begin Quote)

Revelation 1:

20 [He said, I will explain] the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks.  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.  

***************(End Quote)

Just as there is a guardian angel assigned to each human at birth, so there is a guardian ANGEL for each church group.  It is his job to pass on to the members any information from God that they will accept.  (See Revelation 1:1 and verse 16 where the angel is held in the “hand” of Jesus.) 

As well as this, each church is represented in this vision as being a “light” to the world (Matthew 5:14), a symbol which is also used of the Holy Spirit who is the power behind the angel and the group.  In this particular vision the Spirit is described as being in seven separate “pieces” or “candlesticks”, for His influence was severely limited in the European branches of the church over a period of centuries.  (Europe, from Calvary to the Second Advent, is like Israel from the Exodus to Calvary, a public demo of what the world is like, and how God is working in it.)  

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 2: 

47 And the LORD added to the church daily such as should be saved.

***************(End Quote)

It is He who keeps it and looks after it.  When two people LIED TO HIM AND SINNED AGAINST HIM in the early days, He dealt with it in His way. 

There was no need for any church council to deliberate on the problem.

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 5:

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 and kept back part of the price [after publicly promising to give it all to God], his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part [of the money], and laid it, at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

4 While it remained, was it not your own?  And after it was sold, was it not in your own power?  Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?  You have not lied to men, but to God [and you should repent of that]”.

5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” And she said, “Yea, for so much”.

9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the LORD?  Behold, the feet of them which have buried your husband are at the door, and shall carry you out”.

10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people . . .

***************(End Quote)

I don’t believe that God killed them, of course, for He does not hurt, punish or destroy anyone, at any time, for any purpose.  When they heard that the apostles knew what they had done, I believe that they died of some sort of a heart attack or stroke brought on by the anxiety.  But, being a very practical Person, God USED the experience to warn others of the RESULT of sin.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD”.   Romans 6:23.  

After the stoning of Stephen in 34AD there came a time of great persecution which scattered the people of the church everywhere.  They then set up branches of “the church” in the areas they found themselves in. 

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 8:

1 And Saul was consenting to his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a great persecution against THE CHURCH WHICH WAS AT JERUSALEM; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles . . . 3  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, ENTERING INTO EVERY HOUSE, and haling [arresting] men and women committed them to prison.  

***************(End Quote)

Whenever these imprisonments occurred, the church (the people of it) sought God for help.

For example:

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 12:

5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church [in Jerusalem] to God for him [and he was released in a miraculous fashion.].

***************(End Quote)

Now we find that although “the church” was established in many different places, it was still called “the [one] church” (with many branches) and still led by the Son of God through His Spirit.  It is written, “ . . . Christ is the Head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body . . . Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water [with baptism, and] by the word, that He might present it to Himself [and His Father] a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”.  Ephesians 5:23-27.  “And, “[God the Father] has put all things under His [God the Son’s] feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all”.   Ephesians 1:22-23.

Its final destination is explained to us.  “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants, and you that fear Him, both small and great’.  And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia: for the LORD God omnipotent reigns.  Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His “wife” [the church] has made herself ready’.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  And he [the angel] said to me, ‘Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb’.  And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God’.” Revelation 19:5-9.

The various branches are also to be missionary bases.

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 13:   

1 Now there were in THE CHURCH THAT WAS AT ANTIOCH certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  2 As they ministered to the LORD, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”.  3  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

***************(End Quote)

So that all would know that the Spirit had called Barnabas and Saul (aka Paul) to a certain work, the people had a special public ceremony based on the old ritual of a father blessing his son when he grew to manhood.  Jesus had done this for the children who had been brought to Him.  “And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them”, and they continued this practice in every branch.  Mark 10:16.

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 14:

23 And when they had ordained them elders [people of experience] IN EVERY [branch of the] CHURCH, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the LORD [and left them to Him], on Whom they believed. [That He was the Son of God].

***************(End Quote)

That ritual was then extended to all the newly appointed leaders in the congregations, as they were established.  However, there were certain basic rules which gave them an earthly assurance that it was God who had called those who appeared to be “shepherds”, and that they were not self-sent.  Jeremiah 23:4.

Here’s one of the rules:

***************(Begin Quote)

1 Timothy 3:

2 A bishop [the head “elder”] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober [serious], of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3 not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 one that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity [niceness]; 5 (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without [outside the church]; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.  

***************(End Quote)

The “fasting” was a means of lightening any load on the body, especially the stomach, to clear their minds so that they could be sure that they were hearing the voice of God correctly when it came to ordaining the principal men and women.

Antioch was one of the main places outside of Jerusalem where the disciples of God congregated, and soon so many of them were there that it became their major city.  They also talked so much about Christ as their Leader that others began to call them “Christians”, which means “followers of Christ”, and “Christ-like”.

The two who had been sent out by the Spirit (aka apostles), came back to Antioch when they had finished their tour.

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 14:

25 And when they [Paul and Barnabas] had preached the word in Perga [and many other places], they went down into Attalia: 26 and from there sailed to Antioch, from where they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. 27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And there they abode long time with the disciples. 

***************(End Quote)

Later, they went up to Jerusalem where the original apostles still were, to discuss a matter of church procedure, because they couldn’t get an agreement in Antioch, for many there were still learning how to live their new lives. 

Membership of “the church” is like a marriage – it is a place to learn how to get on with other people who have different ideas from yours.  It is also like a family where every individual is different, yet tied together by the blood relationship, and therefore sharing the same basic likeness.

***************(Begin Quote)

Acts 15:

1 And certain [Christian] men which came down from Judaea taught the brothers, and said, “Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved”. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation [a big discussion and argument] with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church [with the church’s backing], they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy to all the brothers [and sisters]

4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church [at Jerusalem], and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.  5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees [who were now Christians] which believed [in Jesus as the Son of God], saying, That it was [still] needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep [all] the law of Moses [for that had been done for centuries]. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. [They looked out men of experience and wisdom to pray and read about it.] 

7 And when there had been much disputing [for they still could not agree], Peter rose up, and said to them, “Men and brothers [and sisters], you know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. [Acts 10:1-48.]  8 And God, which knows the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did to us; 9 and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt you God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the [new] disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” . . .

13 And after they had held their peace [when they calmed down], James [the LORD’s brother] answered, saying, “Men and brothers [and sisters], hearken to me: 14 Simeon [Peter] has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles [with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit], to take out of them a people for His name [so He has decided this issue].

 [Then James backed that thought up from the Bible.] 

15 “And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16   ‘After this [i.e. after Calvary] I will return, and will build again the [spiritual] tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 that the residue of [Jewish] men [and women] might seek after the LORD, and ALL THE GENTILES, upon whom My name is called, says the LORD, who does all these things’.” [Amos 9:11.]

[James continued]

18 “Known to God are all His works from the beginning of the world.

19 Therefore my sentence [judgment] is, that we trouble not them [about keeping the law of Moses], which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 but that we write to them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols [purchasing or eating food which had been publicly blessed by false gods, 1 Corinthians 8:10-11], and from fornication [having loose morals], and from things strangled, and from blood [these latter two are health laws]” . . .

[In the end they just followed what God had always asked of His people,

              to be separate, moral, and health conscious!]

22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brothers [and sisters] . . .

***************(End Quote)

Thus we see that there was NO CENTRAL AUTHORITY in “the church”, but that men of experience sought out other men of experience when there was a problem to which they could not see the answer.  Then, in the end, it was all settled for the WHOLE church by a correct understanding of the scriptures. 

And that’s the thought in the next text.

“Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers [shepherds, not bosses], to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood”.  Acts 20:28.

God also organised who did what in each branch of the church:

“God has set some in the church, first apostles [they are sent ones with a particular job], secondarily prophets [those who could tell the church the word of the LORD for their time], thirdly teachers [general Bible expounders, evangelists], after that miracles [to attract outsiders], then gifts of healings [to help insiders], helps [for all kinds of things], governments [guiders in the church], diversities of tongues [when required].  Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing?  Do all speak with tongues?  Do all interpret?  [The answer is NO!  For positions and gifts are given by the Spirit where and when, and for as long, as needed.]  But covet earnestly the best gifts [desire to be great helpers]: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way . . . Follow after charity [God’s way of love], and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy . . . [for] he that prophesies [has the PRESENT truth] speaks to men to edification [learning], and exhortation [enthusiasm], and comfort” [they are great helpers].  1 Corinthians 12:28-31; 14:1-3.

For instance: among the congregations were opportunities to help those who were sick, and those who were in need.

“Is any sick among you?  Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil [as a symbol of the Spirit] in the name of the LORD: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the LORD shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins [which caused the sickness], they shall be forgiven him”.   James 5:14-15.

[Then Paul wrote:

“Now you Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving [helping with money], but you only”.  Philippians 4:14-15.

As well as using the Old Testament scriptures as their authority, many of the new groups began to recognise inspired words of wisdom sent to them by the apostles and other Christian writers of the time.  The biography of Jesus written by young Mark who had never met Him (he wrote of behalf of Peter), and the other one by the Greek doctor, Luke, who also had never met Him (he wrote for Paul), were accepted as worthy of study, as well as gospels and letters from those who had known Him.  

For instance, Paul wrote:

***************(Begin Quote)

1 Corinthians 1: 

2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our LORD, [who is] both theirs and ours: 3 grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the LORD Jesus Christ . . .

Chapter 4:

17 For this cause have I sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved [honorary] son, and faithful in the LORD, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church . . .    

Chapter 10:

32 Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

And in another place:

Colossians 4:

15 Salute the brothers [and sisters] which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. 16 And when this epistle [letter] is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea [share everything].  

***************(End Quote)

Sadly, there is not always harmony in each branch of the church, because they are made up of new as well as more experienced Christians, plus those who join the congregation without first joining Christ.  They are called “wheat and tares” respectively.  (See Matthew 13:24-30.)  In the early days, many even began to declare that they followed a human leader.  (Nothing has changed much over the centuries since then, for factions still exist in “the church”!)

***************(Begin Quote)

1 Corinthians 1:

12 Now this I say, that every one of you says, “I am of Paul”; and “I of Apollos”; and “I of Cephas [Peter]”; and “I of Christ”. 13 Is Christ divided? 

Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 

Chapter 3:

4 For while one says, “I am of Paul”; and another, “I am of Apollos”; are you not carnal [still of this world]? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers [helpers] by whom you believed, even as the LORD gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that plants any thing [he’s not important], neither [is] he that waters; but God that gives the increase. 

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However, the Son of God uses even this to bring about a good result!

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1 Corinthians 11:

18 [Paul wrote] For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved [by God] may be made manifest [clearly seen] among you. [Heresies, or new ideas, bring out either the best or the worst in us, which can be seen in how we react to the instigator.]  

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New ideas, whether true of false, need to be investigated in the right spirit, and with the right Spirit, so that which is new light can be shared with all. 

But there were (and still are) “bosses” (worshippers of Baal) in some of the branches.

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3 John 1:

9 I wrote to the church [possibly at Ephesus]: but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them, receives us not.  10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words [spreading vicious rumours]: and not content therewith, neither does he himself receive the brothers [travelling Christians], and forbids them that would, and casts them out of the church.  

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 God will take care of  them in His own good time.

 

Conclusion:

“The church” as God set it up, is like a family and each “branch” is separate (like a brother or sister).  As in any family, there is a Father in charge, and the siblings are all equal (Matthew 23:8), with, of course, the usual deference to the firstborn, for it is written, “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Sanctify to Me all the firstborn, whatsoever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is Mine”.  Exodus 13:1-2. 

It is good to get together for family meetings and have a discussion on how the LORD is leading.  And while we should have our own opinions, we shall also have a great respect for other’s opinions, while we recognise that there can often be more than one right way of seeing or doing things. 

What we must avoid at all costs is having a “kingly” attitude, and with it a desire to control others in “the church”, for that can only lead to confusion.


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.

 

Next query. To be discussed from February 1st, 2009.

Revelation 2:

12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things says He which has the sharp sword with two edges; 

13 I know your works and where you dwell, even where Satan's seat is: and you hold fast My name, and have not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.    

 

What is Satan’s SEAT and why did he “dwell” in Pergamos?

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