Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Church and Who It Is and Is Not

It's not my church and it is not your church. It is not even our church. Some believe it's Peter's church, and indeed he is buried under St. Peter's Basilica, the church of the Vatican in Rome, the city-state ruled by the Roman Catholic Pope. It is Christ's Church!

The Church belongs to Jesus as scripture says.
Ephesians 2:19  "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord..."
The construction of the church is not constructed of material things, but of the heart:
 Acts 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands..."
The Church (capitalized because it is God's Church, not the building), is the Lord's holy temple (Ephesians 2:21).

Let's look at the Church. Look right through the bricks and mortar, and through the gypsum and what do you see? A vast array of people. Some who sit there are saints. They sit among others who are not. What you're looking at is a small part of the Church. The Church is the few among the pews who have faith in Jesus Christ and trust him for salvation. They are those born-again with a new nature given to them by the Holy Ghost.

In a typical church (small "c") those are few. However, all over the world whether sitting in a building or not, are millions of others who are born again and have a new nature. All those folks combined are the Church. You each are fellow citizens with the saints. Citizens of what realm? The kingdom of God. God's kingdom is made of all the saints in the world who have the Holy Ghost in their hearts.
1 Corinthians 6:19 "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
So the Church is of three components: 1) Jesus is the Cornerstone, 2) the apostles and prophets are the foundation and that includes Peter, and 3) citizens of the kingdom of God which are the saints. All this is from Ephesians 2:19-20. Each of these are framed together and made the Church (Ephesians 2:21).

In order for the stones to build a solid building there must be mortar. The mortar of the church is love! It's what holds the spiritual building blocks firmly in place. That love is the mortar called "accord" in the following passage: 
Acts 2:1 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."
The Holy Ghost comes unto each saint, and he arrives when love is in the air. Accord is the demonstration of that love. When discord is there, all these temples, each of the saints, are spiritually tearing down the church. All the saints who are temples of the Holy Ghost, when they are in harmony, then accord is the atmosphere in which the Church is built. Right after the saints were of one accord, the Holy Ghost came upon them and the Church was built! Where was Jesus? It was his "Ghost" which was the Cornerstone. The apostles at Jerusalem were the foundation and the disciples were the building blocks, each of their individual temples in unity bonded by love!

Soon after that it was announced:
Acts 11:26 "And when he (Barnabas) had found him (Saul), he brought him unto 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."
In this passage the Church was finally built. All those who followed Jesus and were temples themselves became the Temple of the Lord. There was no building, but the spiritual framework were the Christians, as they were first called here. Thus, the entire body of Christians are the Church.

For those who pride themselves in being of the modern Christian Church or the Churches of Christ, shame on you for excluding other saints from your churches. It's noble that those Christians there endeavor to be like the New Testament Church, but many have removed millions of the bricks from their mortar. All who are born again and are temples of the Holy Spirit are bricks in the true spiritual Church.

1 Corinthians 1:11 "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 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. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"
The Christian and Church of Christ denominations have divided the church! Yes, they too are denominations because they divide the spiritual building by removing some of the bricks, They help crumble the mortar and allow the church to fall apart. However, you folks are no more guilty than are the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox Catholics, or even the Baptists! All those divided from the Church are contentious and prideful and erode the mortar of love which is the accord that binds the Church together. We can't play games with non-denominational sounding names. We all are equally guilty. My own church is included!

As long as the assembly of believers teach Christ and him crucified,  are those who are born again and trust Jesus as their Savior, then they are the Church. They come from all denominations and also from those who claim not to be denominational.

Roman Catholics are prideful that they are the apostolic church. They are not any more than Baptists are not! The catholics (small "c"; the universal church) which existed in the apostolic age are those called Christians at Antioch. The only organization they had were that they were disciples of Jesus Christ. From those few Christians the Church was born, then Satan began to divide!

The first division among the Church was the separation of Roman Catholics from the Orthodox and Coptics. It was because of discord. The bond of love weakened the spiritual mortar.  The Roman Catholics began to place too much emphasis on the apostles and off Jesus Christ. Their focus became works and off grace. Papa became more important than the Father. From there Mary became a human goddess to help out Jesus. Later, saints were bestowed with powers reserved for God. Finally, the Pope became essential for forgiveness and salvation.

We owe much to the Roman Catholic Church because we were all once part of their parent church, the true universal (catholic) Church of God.

Martin Luther spelled out 95 Thesis where the Roman Catholic Church was in error to scripture.  His intent was to correct the errors of his church, not to divide into a new denomination! If the Pope and Cardinals had tested his theses the errors would have been corrected, but that was not the case. A new denomination was formed and the Church was further divided.

As time went on the disagreements continued and denominations were built. The Church was torn down by discord, but it was still there in spirit. Within each of these denominations lies saints who are part of the true church. Their qualifications are being temples of the Holy Ghost and as such have a new nature. They are few among many! Even my own church has bricks without straw and so does yours. Much of the time even the reverend is the least reverent and his (or her) brick is the most hardened and prone to breakage!

If you're a Baptist you come from discord. You separated from the Anglicans. If you're the Church of Christ, you are a product of discord. You separated from the Presbyterians and Baptists. If you're Methodist you are from discord as well! There is one Church and we all are products of discord.

Many who sit in their pew this Sunday will never admit it, but their belief is that their church is the Church, and that those in other churches are confused or heretical. Some churches have doctrine closer to the Church than others, and that is admirable. However, no church and no denomination is without error! I've never seen a perfect doctrine which is in full accord with Jesus's teachings.

It may be doctrine or it may mean apathy. It may be mean-spirited and prideful. It may mean that people are unloving and not compassionate. It may mean that some are not even friendly. That love which is called accord, is not there in many churches. People hate each other and hate other churches. There is even unhealthy competition among churches of the same denomination and splits within the church. Right now there are people in your church who hate you. There are people who hate me! It's not that they despise one another for hate is just lack of love.

The Pharisees had destructive doctrine. Jesus called them vipers because they were of the serpent. They added regulations to the Law which were impossible to keep and enslaving to the people. Rather than believers being led out of bondage, they were ensnared within bondage.

Even today churches have added rules to scripture to further enslave. Many are carryovers from Roman Catholicism. Even some Baptists take pride in Landmarkism, that they are from a direct line from John the Baptist. Truly, that is very Roman Catholic of them since they claim the same from Peter. The Church (saints) is built on the foundation of ALL the apostles and disciples, not just one, and Jesus is the Cornerstone!

If it's not scriptural it's a millstone; it will sink the church and the church is sinking fast! As you sit there in your pew, you can do your part for the true Church. It starts with love and compassion and includes obedience and meekness. As each person loves another, the chinks in the walls of the Church are pointed with accord. Love bonds the bricks of the temple into a spiritual Church on a New Testament foundation!

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